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Saturday, 21 April 2018

REVISITING THE FIFTH ELEMENT


I've found myself in one of those REVISIT ALL THE THINGS moods of late, so naturally my default for the that is the period of genre cinema that covered my teenage years – the nineties. There was a lot of junk released then, but there are a few classic that have really stood the test of time. I span The Fifth Element again last night and was astounded how well it holds up.

Visually it doesn't feel far removed from the current level of CGI and film making, the script it still wonderfully inventive, the cast are still uniformly excellent (even the squealing monstrosity of Chris Tucker's Ruby Rhod), and Luc Besson's direction helps it to look like absolutely nothing else that was being made at the time. The Fifth Element is a thing of beauty.

There's so much going on visually and plot-wise throughout its two hour running time that it's easy to forgive some of the less believable elements (as it were) of the script, such as Bruce Willis' Korben Dallas falling in love with Milla Jovovich's Leeloo seemingly over a period of hours. That aside, the script moves along at quite a pace, and remains engaging throughout.


One of the most incredible things about The Fifth Element isn't the groundbreaking effects, the costume design from Jean-Paul Gaultier or Gary Oldman's bizarre accent (which, in my opinion,wasn't bettered for weirdness until Tom Hardy played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises).

It's the innocence and wide-eyed naivety of Leoloo – and her subsequent transformation in the third act into the godlike weapon that saves humanity – which is captivating. Milla Jovovich managed to put across a truly alien quality to her, mixed with a childlike wonder and a nervous curiosity that was just electric to watch.


Bruce Willis gets his action scenes, Gary Oldman and Ian Holm out-act everyone and there are stunning set-pieces, but it's Milla that still stuns. The iconic opera scene, inter-cut with action scenes and exposition, remains beautiful even with the clear limitations of the practical make-up for the diva being so obvious during the close-ups. The practical effects on the Mangalores (the big alien mercenaries) look iffy here and there, but heck, modern effects still often look ropey.

Did revisiting The Fifth Element have the desired nostalgia effect? Pretty much, but I also found myself engrossed in it all over again. Luc Besson tried a big sci-fi concept piece again recently with the critical and commercial punching bag known as Valerian (everyone seems to say it looks amazing but the cast stink), but I don't think we'll ever see something so aesthetically gorgeous and strange as this again. I'm enjoying the nostalgia again.


Sunday, 15 April 2018

DCU: HOW THE DC CINEMATIC UNIVERSE COULD BE SAVED


The DC Cinematic universe has had a bumpy ride since its inception, with some odd choices made and directions taken that didn't entirely work in its favour. Look at Suicide Squad as a major release prior to the big names getting together, Batman Vs Superman's of the Doomsday concept and story, Justice League winding up looking like a video game cut scene in places, for example. Each of the DC movies has had its elements that worked really well, but the output thus far has seen critics and fans less than impressed with most releases. The exception to this is Wonder Woman, the gigantic hit that turned Gal Gadot's Diana brought to the forefront of the DCU as its star, way in front of both Superman and Batman.

This is quite understandable, as Gal, Patty Jenkins, Chris Pine and everyone involved in the Wonder Woman movie brought us a film which adhered more to traditional adventure elements instead of grim brooding and shots which look great in trailers but out of place in films. The Wonder Woman movie gave audiences what they wanted from a DC film – an engaging story, real heroism and genuinely charismatic main character. It looked fantastic and felt complete, unlike movies such as Batman V Superman or Justice League which could certainly have benefited from being shorter and more to the point.

 All of which has lead the shared comic book movie universe throne occupied by Marvel alone. They built the MCU over the space of a decade, adding layers, ongoing storylines and embellishing it all with new characters and quite a direct style of film-making which managed to ground the fantasy elements in, if not reality, at least an internally consistent and believable context. Even in the case of movies like Doctor Strange or Thor: Ragnarok.


So how can the DCU be saved from the uneven start it has had? Rebooting it? That seems like the most sensible option, but how about taking a sidestep for a couple of years – or maybe even two sidesteps which have never been done before? What I'd suggest is offering two DC animated movies on the big screen – in current DCU canon – as a palate cleanser, and a DCU themed TV series running alongside them.

The TV series and animated movies could weave in and out of each other, creating the shared universe feel that Marvel spent so long building but within a far more condensed period. I feel it was a bit of a misstep for the DCU to ignore the DC television properties already ongoing, as including elements like Grant Gustin's Flash or Melissa Benoist's Supergirl would have given the DCU a shared universe straight away.

Hell, Flashpoint could have been a story idea to mix the universes, which could then be unified in a Crisis on Infinite Earths style project. Between DCU movies the Arrowverse characters could continue on their adventures, saving the big stuff like Darkseid for the big screen instead. But why animated movies? My reasoning for that would be that the Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman (until Gal Gadot, of course) have worked best on the small screen in their cartoon counterparts.


The development of the characters throughout things like Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League: Action, Batman The Brave and the Bold and even DC Superhero Girls have been far more attuned to the foundations of the characters than the films. Following in their footsteps – voiced by their Justice League movie star incarnations, perhaps – may add another dimension to the DCU and bring a unified tone that could then be replicated in future live action films.

It may not work, but I'd say it's worth a shot and would offer some DCU entertainment that the whole family – and thus larger audiences – could enjoy. Take out the swearing. Be true to the characters that have been icons for seventy years, and be true to the audience that bought into those characters for so long as well as audiences who are just now discovering them. Heroes are for everyone, after all, and I'd love to see my heroes save themselves just as much as I want them to save the world.


Wednesday, 4 April 2018

READY PLAYER ONE – NOSTALGIA IS HERE TO STAY


Ready Player One was a glorious book. In fact, it was so wonderful that I was truly upset when I got to the end of it. I was commuting at the time and as the last page ended I felt a void open up. I wanted more. I wanted to be in the Oasis with Parzival, Art3mis, Aech and the rest. I wanted to be in there, helping to kick IOI's ass on an epic level. I wanted to be piloting Voltron or a Megazord or SpectreMan or the Enterprise D, joining in with the gigantic sea of pop culture references that came together to storm Halliday's castle.

When the movie was announced, I couldn't help but wonder how the hell it could be brought to the big screen. Here was a story about a videogame universe packed with so much in the way of licensed pop culture gold that it had to be impossible to make it work out for everything to show up in the film. Actually, more than that I was probably concerned that the version of Ready Player One I had in my head wouldn't be the one that I'd see at the cinema.

The name of a certain Steven Spielberg was attached, which vanquished a lot of my worries. I mean, the man was responsible for bringing so much of the pop culture that we know and love into being that him directing Ready Player One was something of a no-brainer. The trailers came and I was cautiously optimistic, then this week I saw the movie and despite it leaving out a lot of stuff (including one major plot element that was teased in the trailers), it wound up being a ton of fun.

It took a little while for me to warm to the film, maybe 25 minutes into its running time, but it won me over and raised a huge pop-culture-nerd grin. The visuals will have me picking references out for years to come, and there was the right level of Spielberg sentimentality and adventure to give the CGI universe a human edge, even when all we see of the characters are their game avatars.


The big thing that the Ready Player One movie has working in its favour is the pull of nostalgia. Not just nostalgia for those who lived through the times that spawned the pop culture giants that are referenced. But also an odd modern nostalgia for simpler, more fun times perhaps. The enormous love for the eighties and nineties at present seems to be the same sort of thing those of us who lived the eighties and nineties experienced from our own predecessors and how they felt about the sixties and seventies.

Life is incredibly complicated and nuanced now, and while I fully acknowledge that life was strange and uncertain back then (I was born in the very late seventies, remember much of the eighties and came of age in the nineties), the pull of other eras is incredibly attractive. Retro games and media remain fun now because they were fun then, too.

The pervasiveness of the internet and how it has shaped us culturally and socially seems to have resulted in some kind of cultural impasse where everything is happening all at once, all content is current, everything has its audience and its place. Pop culture is fragmented to an incredible level now, but when a project like Ready Player One – in both incarnations of it – brings a ton of familiar and fun things together, the best thing to do is just bask in its glow.

The Ready Player One movie isn't a perfect translation of the book (that wasn't possible after all), but it does give us what we wanted in terms of visuals and pop culture nostalgia along with a fun adventure story worthy of the classics it pays homage to.


Tuesday, 3 April 2018

DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT - ARISE FROM YOUR TOMB!!!


BRAAAAAIIINNNSSS!!!

Yes indeed. The diary has dug itself out of its final resting place and will soon be returning in a new and improved form so I can spew my guts out about geek life, genre films, TV, comics, books and the like in a safe place that doesn't require the jacket with the straps up the back, as they do tend to chafe.

BRB.

You can also follow Diary of a Genre Addict on Twitter as @genreaddict

Monday, 7 April 2014

TRICK OR TREAT (1986)

Note: here it is, the final review to be posted on DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT, and it's the perfect film to sum up the whole site. TRICK OR TREAT. Read on, and thanks for years of addiction alongside me!   


This film brought my appreciation of genre cinema to a whole new level when I first saw it as an impressionable kid way back in the mists of time. Mixing together 80s horror tropes with 80s hard rock and metal, a misfit outsider kid and cameos from Ozzy and Gene Simmons, Trick Or Treat blew my mind. It comes in for some flack from some people due to some script inconsistencies and a fair few cliches, but I love it so damn much I don't care about what the naysayers may think of it.

Very much in the vein of a Nightmare on Elm Street movie, Trick Or Treat feels very much like the makers were trying to set off a franchise, but that didn't pan out. However, the mix of comedy, horror and rock music works perfectly for me and still to this day provides me with a huge amount of entertainment value. From the second the film starts and we hear the opening notes of Fastway's awesome soundtrack, Trick Or Treat drags me in and makes me its own for the duration.

The plot was the perfect concept for my young mind at the time - a young metalhead invokes the demonic version of his recently-deceased musical idol via subliminal messages on an album, and chaos ensues while the demonic form of Sammi Curr (Tony Fields) wreaks havoc on all and sundry.


It starts out as Sammi giving our hero Eddie Weinbauer (Marc Price) what he wants, in the form of entertaining revenge against high school bullies, but things soon take a much more sinister turn and people start to die. eddie ends up waging war against Sammi, resulting in a climactic showdown at a radio station studio after a Carrie-esque massacre at the high school.

There are so many things about the film that I connected with as a kid, and those things still resonate with me now. Eddie Weinbauer is an unpopular metalhead, a bit of a geek, and thoroughly despised by the cool kids at school. That was me in a nutshell back in the day. As soon as I saw Eddie's bedroom (an awesome attic room stuffed with metal albums, metal posters and believable clutter) I could relate to Eddie, and I could also relate to the esteem in which he holds the rock star Sammi Curr.

Like many young and impressionable rock fans, I believed that rock and metal would never die (a thought I maintain and am constantly justified in), and often dreamed of getting caught up in some supernatural battle for survival (don't we all have days like that?). Plus I always also wanted to meet a girl like Leslie (Lisa Orgolini) because she's actually a pretty nice character, and I was a sucker for 80s teen movies in my own teens during the bland and annoying 1990s. For me, Trick Or Treat has everything – horror, comedy, metal, a geek as the main character, comeuppance for the jocks, lightning effects, cameos from rock legends and a tale of the underdog overcoming the odds.


Of course, the film is absolute fluff of the highest order and in no way a masterpiece of cinematic artistry, but dammit, I love this bloody film so much I have a shrine to it in our house. Seriously. I have the vinyl soundtrack framed, the VHS release poster framed, the original big-box rental VHS and the soundtrack on CD, as well as clippings and posters from horror magazines of the era.

The film has some weak parts, such as the tacked-on scene in the second act where a girl listens to Sammi's possessed tape and somehow her clothes vanish, followed by the appearance of a demon flicking its tongue over her. This wasn't just needless- it wasn't even in the script! It suffers from a few plot inconsistencies and the fact that Sammi, as awesome as he is, just isn't scary in the slightest. You just kinda see him and think he's cool.

Trick Or Treat is the perfect film for my addiction, and remains a firm favourite of the VHS era and the 80s metal scene that I have always loved so much. Trick or Treat is mostly a treat, and I will always love it for what it is – fun. Now you must go and watch it and appreciate it for the piece of perfect trashy art that it is. As I bid farewell at last to Diary Of A Genre Addict, I shall go and do the same in celebration of the film, the Diary, you brilliant people reading this and everyone like us.

Andrew Hawnt, 2014

TRICK OR TREAT - TRAILER


FASTWAY - "TRICK OR TREAT" with clips of the film


FASTWAY - "AFTER MIDNIGHT" From the soundtrack -  Starring Sammi Curr!

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Thank you all so much for joining me on this journey. Thank you for fuelling my addiction to genre cinema. Thank you all for being just as screwed-up as me. Thank you for reading. I hope we meet again.

Andrew Hawnt

Thursday, 3 April 2014

SCANNERS (1981)

 Scanners is one of the most perfect examples of how science fiction and horror can mix to great effect. Written and directed by David Cronenberg, the film features one of the most memorable (and still one of the most shocking) moments in genre cinema - the notorious exploding head. That scene happens quite early in the movie, but from that second onwards, the film grips you to the very end.

A masterpiece of low-key sci-fi and horror in both the physical and psychological sense, Scanners is a bleak and atmospheric thriller with big ideas (and a wonderful score from Howard Shore) which are strong enough to overcome the budget limitations.

With a solid cast featuring Michael Ironside and Patrick McGoohan, the film follows the emergence of a new breed of human, the Scanners, people with potentially dangerous psychic powers. A shady company, ConSec, is seeking out Scanners in order to weaponize them. A Scanner named Revok (Michael Ironside) is waging war against the company, who send another Scanner named Cameron Vale to fight back.


The film had some productions issues (it started shooting before the script was finished, for starters), but the final outcome of the crew's endeavours is excellent, thanks to some creative cinematography throughout and the show-stopping Scanner battle at the film's climax.

While imperfect, Scanners grabbed me straight away thanks to its stunning poster artwork and THAT exploding head scene (how can you not love an exploding head in a movie?), but the film's unsettling story of a hidden war and underlying feeling of unease held me from start to finish. It's a beautiful example of science fiction ideas mixed with an everyday city setting, and the outcome is just wonderful.

There were two direct sequels plus two spin-off movies, and a TV series is still apparently in development, but nothing will match the power, the grime or the impact of that first movie. One of my favourite genre films of all time.