On the weekend I finally watched Disney’s Tomorrowland. I sort-of remembered its theatre run, which was underwhelming (apparently it lost over $100 million dollars, based on its production and marketing costs vs. its box-office take).
The story in a nutshell: As a boy, Frank Walker goes to live in a retro-future paradise, till he’s booted out for some crime that remains unspecified until nearly the end of the movie. He grows up into a bitter, bitter man (played by George Clooney). Meanwhile, Casey (Britt Robertson) might be the key to Frank’s return to Tomorrowland, and also the key to, you know, staving off the seemingly inevitable end of the world. Facing off against them is Nix (Hugh Laurie) and his army of
skinjobs Audio-Animatronic robots.
I thought it was a decent movie, worth a watch, even if it was unsubtle. The scene in the Texas collectibles store (Blast From the Past), where Casey squares off against evil AA ’bots Hugo* and Ursula, was chockablock with reminders that Disney bought Star Wars. Some of the AAs were pretty creepy, especially the manically-grinning leader of the Men-in-Black–styled “Secret Service” squad.
In a world that seems to prefer its entertainment on the grim & gritty side, optimistic SF is a hard sell. It has a tendency to come off preachy or heavy-handed, and this movie didn’t manage to evade those pitfalls. I’m still glad I watched it, though.
It’s an interesting companion to Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays, which I read a few months ago, in that both explore the idea of alternate futures, especially the sorts of futures we seemed to expect in the 1950s (flying cars! shining towers! personal jetpacks!).
* Hugo Gernsback, because of course.
Oh hi Winnipeg. Just noticed this on my Rogue One ticket.
So what is the municipal tax? It’s not the provincial sales tax, which is 8%. This one seems to be 10%.
Also, on the topic, there’s a discrepancy between the Ticket Total and the Package Total. What’s the rest of the package?
Capsule review of the movie: Finally, a Star Wars prequel that doesn’t suck.
Capsule review of the mall parking lot on the Saturday before Christmas: Don’t. Just don’t.
I went last night to the Evans Theatre to check out Anomalisa, which was an Oscar nominee in the Animated Feature category.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect what I got. The story is pretty simple, in a way, but trippily complex in another way. The way it’s told leaves it up to the viewer to figure out certain things, which I prefer to hand-holding and spoon-feeding. The puppetry / animation was amazing; sometimes it was solidly in the uncanny valley, other times it was so lifelike that I forgot these were puppets.
If you’re looking for a movie that makes you think, that makes you wonder, check it out. If you’re looking for the feel-good hit of the summer, this may not be for you. (I’ve seen it called “hilarious” and “laugh-out-loud funny”; I don’t agree. I did find some amusement in it, but mostly in the small details (“Try the chili!”, for instance), not in the broader story.)
Tonight I watched about half of Man of Steel and all of WALL•E. I had never seen the former; I saw the latter at the cinema.
The end credits of WALL•E are a better movie than Man of Steel, IMHO.
Earlier this week I read an article on io9 about why you shouldn’t write action scenes, an article aimed at screenwriters, especially those making big-budget action movies. Then this afternoon, I went to see one of the biggest action films currently in theatres: Avengers: Age of Ultron.
From the article:
You don’t do an action sequence for the sake of doing a damn action sequence — you do an action sequence because it’s a new or more effective way to advance your character or story.
Ultron featured a lot — a lot — of action sequences. The bulk of them, to my eye, were action for the sake of action. A few of them — the mass fight at the start, for example — featured some character building. Among other things, it established the team as an actual, cohesive team, and it showed the start of the Widow/Hulk storyline. But a lot of the later action sequences were there, it seemed, to Make Things Explode. More than once I found myself wondering when they were going to get back to the story. (That, or trying to calculate just how much money Stark’s rebuilding fund must burn through in a year. It’s got to be a lot.)
This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the movie. I liked it. It was a pleasant diversion. For a big stupid fun movie, it was decently smart (though the whole plot hinged on a couple of supergenius scientists making some pretty boneheaded decisions).
Once more, quoting from the article:
Don’t write action sequences. Write suspense sequences that require action to resolve.
We’ll call Ultron a partial success there. Here’s hoping that the next film I see — slated to be Mad Max: Fury Road1 — does as well or better.
Update: I watched Mad Max: Fury Road on the holiday Monday. Even though the movie is one protracted action scene (or maybe it’s more like a dozen or so action scenes, linked together with brief pauses so the audience can catch their collective breath), it had more character development and sense of story than Avengers: Age of Ultron. So that’s a win.
Tonight, I watched a pair of amazing home-grown documentaries at the Evans Theatre: the 3rd film in the Warpaths trilogy, subtitled Silver Crosses, for the memento received from the government by mothers and wives of the men killed in action during the First World War; and Shaun Cameron’s Tales from the Eddy, a look back at Brandon’s famed Prince Edward Hotel, whose opening was delayed by the loss of its furniture in the Titanic disaster, and whose ignominious end could have (perhaps) been averted if the list of proposals before City Council had been ordered differently.
Warpaths: Silver Crosses, like its two predecessors, was an amazing look at the effects of a global conflict on the lives of local folks (specifically, the Bowes family of Boissevain, MB). I enjoyed it immensely, as I knew I would. Kudos to Marc George and Graham Street for a fitting capstone to an important series.
Tales from the Eddy was an eye-opening experience. I moved here years after the hotel was demolished; I never knew a skyline with its imposing bulk in it. For the last two decades I’ve heard people reminisce about the Eddy, usually with that faraway look in their eyes, and I must admit, I rolled my eyes a little (inwardly, anyways). It’s just a hotel, I would think. How grand could it be, really?
I learned a lot about Brandon’s heyday in the hour-and-change that the documentary was up on the screen. Dozens of still frames of the hotel’s interior and exterior showed me just how amazing the Prince Edward was in its day. For whatever reason, seeing the skate park that has been built where the hotel used to stand — complete with helpful painted labels marking LOBBY and PLATFORM to indicate roughly the extent of the building’s onetime footprint — struck me quite hard.
Entropy grinds away at us. That could be tonight’s theme, I suppose. But we keep pushing back against it, and I think I like that theme better.
Watching Shaun’s documentary, I felt a strange emotion, a nostalgia for something I never knew. If the Germans don’t have a name for it, surely the French do.
Years and years ago we showed a film at the Evans called Hard Core Logo, a mockumentary about a punk band that reunited for one last tour, and spent the bulk of the tour re-hashing all the reasons they’d called it quits in the first place. (Spoiler: It doesn’t end real well.)
The soundtrack was a “tribute album” to a non-existent band (the eponymous Hard Core Logo), and as such it contained some great compare & contrast moments, where two bands with radically different sounds covered the same song.
My favourite contrast was the two versions of “Son of a Bitch to the Core”:
I love both versions. If pushed to pick a winner, I’d probably give the edge to the Lugen Brothers’ country/roots version — their version of the character seems more bad-ass than the hard-rockin’ woe-is-me one in the Headstones’ version (I think the defining moment is “If you take me on, you’re gonna lose” vs. “If you take me on, I’m gonna lose”).
I’m still learning how to do time-lapse properly. Here are my two most recent efforts.
Aurora Borealis (Photos taken May 4, 2014)
Storm movin’ in (Photos taken May 25, 2014)
I have this single scene for a film in my head, very Canadian: a shot of a southbound V of geese, moving across a pale blue sky. The camera pans down to a solitary person on the ground, standing in the middle of the street, yelling up at them, “Quitters! Get back here!”
Filmmakers: If you’d like to use this in your film, please let me know. I’m sure we can work something out.