Myself in five characters

Inspired by Life and Other Disasters' Kat Impossible

Larry David

Appears in Curb Your Enthusiasm (showrunners: Larry David, Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer)
Portrayed by Larry David

David is an identification figure due to him being the voice in our head. All of us, at some time or another, have wanted to openly call-out someone who thinks only for themselves. Ultimately, David’s problems are caused by him actually doing so, which is why David keeps that voice in our head inside our head. Though I feel I should acknowledge here that I don’t hate Michael J. Fox.

 

Buffy Summers

Appears in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (showrunners: Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt and Marty Noxon)
Portrayed by Sarah Michelle Geller

Summers’ development through Buffy the Vampire Slayer is her journey through school and eventually toward graduation – something we’ve all faced. The difference is, Summers’ connection to me is that I liked to imagine myself as a slayer, as Summers really is. Only, instead of slaying vampires, I’d slay sycophants (effectively social vampires anyway), because why you slay vampires? Vampires are cool.

Plus, the town in-which I was living at the time is a place I still believe to, like Sunnyvale, be founded on a gateway to Hell. When Summers ran away from Sunnyvale in Becoming (Part 1) (season two episode twenty-one), that was a moment that spoke to me. And then Summers went to college; the natural path of life. One of the great existential metaphors of Summers’ life is how her friends resurrected her, thus removing her from Heaven, having believed her to be in Hell. The revelation of this sends Summers into a downward spiral of insanity, which alienates her friends and family. Nobody was truly alone in school, because Summers was there with them. Every step of the way.

Alexander Harris

Appears in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (showrunners: Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt and Marty Noxon)
Portrayed by Nicholas Brendon

The first success in writing Harris was Whedon’s decision to make Harris an every-man, based on Whedon himself; nerdy, funny and overly-wordy, not unlike myself.

Chandler Bing

Appears in Friends (showrunners: David Crane, Marta Kauffman, Michael Borkow, Michael Curtis, Adam Chase, Will Calhoun, Scott Silveri, Shana Goldberg-Meehan, Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen)
Portrayed by Matthew Perry

Bing doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But then claiming that as a loose connection would only be because I’m not American. In The one With Rachel’s Date (season eight episode five), Bing’s middle initial M is an important plot device. My middle initial is M. But that shouldn’t be claimed as a loose connection, either. Ultimately, Bing quits his job to become a freelance writer, which is basically what I do.

Willow Rosenberg

Appears in Buffy the vampire Slayer  (showrunners: Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt and Marty Noxon)
Portrayed by Alyson Hannigan

There’s a reason that Rosenberg resonated with Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s audience: Rosenberg isn’t confident, nerdy and dependent on friends; as were the audience, as was Whedon, and as was myself in school (this was before I metamorphosed into the fabulous butterfly I am today). Not to mention the same-sex relationships (which isn’t just a fantasy for Rosenberg). We’re both bookish and intimidated by the idea of popularity. Hannigan described Rosenberg as:

…the only reality-based character. She really is what a lot of high-schoolers are like, with that awkwardness and shyness, and all those adolescent feelings.

In fact, the most realistic Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode is The Wish (season three episode nine), in-which Rosenberg’s an aggressive bisexual vampire. Both of which are real things.

Hellboy — single drama review

Premièred by Columbia Pictures
Hellboy
By Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro fans asking about Hellboy III seems to be an inevitable factor of this industry. Hellboy is very much like Marvel’s the Avengers (Joss Whedon) in that it’s not just part of a comic book franchise, but also a crossover between it and the auteur’s own personal franchise.

Having seen both El espinaza del diablo (Toro, Antonio Trashorras and David Muñoz) and El laberinto del fauno (Toro), Hellboy has the same elements as other Toro productions, particularly because he’s very familiar with how to speak the language of film. El espinaza del diablo is definitely one of the most intellectual horror films, but Hellboy follows the same path as taken with El laberinto del fauno, which is roughly what happened when Tim Burton directed his own version of Alice in Wonderland – there’s so much substance that it collapses-in on itself and becomes totally stylised to the point of making the audience apathetic.

Hellboy’s a very interesting character, but unfortunately, that’s the only word I have for him. A guy who has to file-down his horns every morning to hold back his own inner evil. That’s even addressed in one part, when his horns become complete and he turns totally demonic. Clearly, this is a guy who has issues and an internal darkness to fight. But none of that is ever brought-up. Instead, the character of Hellboy is a wise-cracking dead-pan everyhero. His origins are an imaginative twist on his genre, and his appearance is the most well-realised element of Hellboy. But the origin is extended out over such a long period, and the prologue spends so much time introducing characters that there’s no time for anything other than an adventure that feels like an extended episode of a television series, having now done a miniature pilot. Toro approaches the Hellboy mythology with such a check-list style that he forgets when to begin the story.

Feature film’s future

Recently, a lot of debate’s arisen over the state of modern cinema and whether it can provide the kind of quality people are prepared to pay for and sit in an auditorium with other people.

Personally, I find this is still the best way to watch a feature for numerous reasons. Mainly because doing it alone is still fun, but it’s even better when there are other people involved. It’s a better way to gauge the reaction from the audience, and if a film’s good, you find yourself feeling it together. And that’s what cinema has the power to do; bring people together.

Gone With the Wind is the highest-grossing film when adjusted for inflation, meaning that it’s the feature film people were most interested in seeing. To this day, no other feature has beaten the number of tickets sold. But that was 1939, and the industry’s moved-on since then. Now, cinema has to compete with television and videogames. Nobody expected videogames to become popular enough to legitimately challenge entertainment consumers’ attentions. Within three days of release, Grand Theft Auto V became the highest-selling and fastest-selling entertainment product. And that was only two years ago. Television is also now a legitimate threat; Games of the XXIX Olympiad is officially the highest-rated television broadcast, with an estimated peak of five billion viewers – nearly seventy percent of Humanity. Compare that with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs Manny Pacquiao, which became the highest-grossing pay-per-view television event, to the point that Avengers: age of Ultron, the fourth highest-grossing feature film of all time and third highest-grossing feature film of 2015, opened to less numbers than expected because of the audience divide caused by television.

So what’s to be done? Is the public going to be divided into those that game, watch television or go to cinemas? Will cinema become less of the phenomenon that it once was, and now becomes smaller compared to the competitive media? The answer to that is to be determined by whether cinema can be innovative than those other three. Whereas before different distributors and feature films would compete with each-other for what would generate the highest opening weekend, cinema itself is if anything united by the other media it needs to compete against. Cinema needs to offer something videogames and television cannot, or… television and video games themselves.

My local cinema allows customers to book console parties, where they can bring a games console and a video-game and play on the big screen. And it’s been announced that Sherlock Special will be livestreamed in cinemas worldwide. But it’s more than that. People are no longer able to just experience feature films, television and video-games in cinemas, because cinema is adapting those things into feature films. This April, Focus Features brings us Ratchet & Clank, based on the PlayStation 2 video-game Ratchet & Clank. And this month will be closed-out with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, based on the television series Mission: Impossible. But is there anything that’s soon to exist across all three media? Is there a feature film coming soon that’s also a videogame and television series?

Probably not. But there are still adaptations of at least one of those things. Coming soon is:

  • Warner Bros. Pictures’ The man From U.N.C.L.E. (Guy Ritchie) based on NBC’s The man From U.N.C.L.E.
  • 20th Century Fox’s Hitman: Agent 47 (Aleksander Bach) based on Square Enix’s Hitman: Codename 47
  • Universal Pictures’ Jem and the Holograms (Jon M. Chu) based on Claster Television’s Jem
  • BBC Films’ Dad’s Army (Oliver Parker) based on BBC One’s Dad’s Army
  • Columbia Pictures’ The Angry Birds Movie (Clay Kertis and Fergal Reilly) based on Rovio Entertainment’s Angry Birds
  • Columbia Pictures’ Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune based on Sony Computer Entertainment’s Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
  • Universal Pictures’ Warcraft (Duncan Jones) based on Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft: Orcs and Humans
  • Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek Beyond (Justin Lin) based on NBC’s Star Trek
  • 20th Century Fox’s Assassin’s Creed (Justin Kurzel) based on Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed
  • Lionsgate’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Dean Israelite) based on FOX’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
  • Paramount Pictures’ Baywatch (Seth Gordon) based on NBC’s Baywatch
  • Farscape creator Rockne S. O’Bannon has said he’s adapting the Nine Network series.
  • Battlestar Galactica (Bryan Singer) based on ABC’s Battlestar Galactica.

So where does this leave us? Is the future of feature films in adaptations of video-games and television? It’s not as if it’s anything new, but is it the future? That will be determined by the relative success of these feature films, and nowhere else than 2016. The current dominating trend in feature films is comic book adaptations, Fantastic Four (Josh Trank) being the next upcoming release. But in 2016, with Warcraft and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune currently releasing on the same weekend, it’s an in important question, especially given the upcoming Hitman: Agent 47, coming out in the same month as Fantastic Four. All trends end, but in their place something new will begin. What’s more interesting is the behind-the-scenes story. How do these videogames and television series make it to being a feature film, and what kind of brand recognition is required for it to work?

One of the major differences between directing a television episode and a feature film is the creative control a director has. In television, the showrunners have that control, in feature films, the director generally has control and will be hired based on his vision, which he’ll create for the producers. In a Breaking Bad episode, the director will have been overseen by showrunner Vince Gilligan, whereas a feature film would give the director more control (although in Breaking Bad‘s case, Gilligan would probably be directing anyway). If a television series is to be adapted well, it requires a director with cinematic creativity, who won’t just direct a feature-length episode. Universal Pictures’ Serenity (based on Fox’s Firefly) scored high critic ratings but low grossing, despite being directed by creator Joss Whedon. A popular choice of adaptation amongst television audiences is The CW’s Supernatural, and Ron Howard claims to have been signed to direct a feature film of Netflix’s Arrested Development. The BBC One series Doctor Who‘s already had two feature film adaptations: Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (directed by Gordon Flemyng), but at eighty minutes, these were arguably not feature-length. Nevertheless, they were adaptations of two original serials, rather than connected to the television continuity. This is often seen as necessary in feature film adaptations, as it would be the best way of being accessible to a wider audience not familiar with the television series. That said, some Game of Thrones fans claim that a feature film set during the early years of the show’s mythology could be so far removed from the television continuity that it wouldn’t matter, while also introducing new audiences to the television series. But it would still require a cinematic director to work.

In terms of videogames, popular selections to become feature films include Dead SpaceAlan WakeTomb Raider and The Last of UsTomb Raider‘s already been adapted into Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Simon West) and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life (Jan de Bont) with a reboot planned by GF Films after the videogame series was rebooted with Tomb Raider, and an adaptation of The Last of Us has already been announced by Sony and Screen Gems.

What this is doing is putting the feature in a similar situation to the early 2000s, when comic book adaptations were on the rise. The comic book adaptation is the highest box office draw currently; Marvel’s the Avengers (Joss Whedon) is the highest-grossing of them. Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi) and The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan) are those often considered the best. But this was not always the case. There was a time when comic book adaptations were considered a bad idea. But this wasn’t out of ignorance. The track record showed why – Howard the Duck (Willard Huyck), Superman IV: the Quest for Peace (Sidney J. Furie), Batman and Robin (Joel Schumacher) – Catwoman (Pitof)! But comic book feature films are now, arguably, the most anticipated.

Video game feature films currently hold the reputation once shared with comic book feature films. Alone in the Dark (Uwe Boll), for instance, is considered the worst of them all. The two Tomb Raiders are also thought of as being inferior to the source material. No video game adaptation has ever been successful. But there’s hope yet. WarcraftHitman: Agent 47Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is amongst those coming out soon. Pixels may have underperformed and yes, The Angry Birds Movie will probably be horrible, but the rich source material of these adaptations have such potential that eventually all videogames will be trying to get themselves adapted.

With comic book fans wondering what the next line to be adapted will be, eventually video gamers will be anticipating the announcement of their favourite video game’s adaptation. I myself have an idea for how to adapt Grand Theft Auto V, which I’d love to write into a treatment for the property’s Rockstar owners. The series itself is becoming the subject of a feature film, Game Changer, about creator Dan Houser and the video game lawyer who accused him of making them too violent. If there’s a popular video game, it will be adapted into a feature film, and it will probably be good. Jones is a very good director, and someone like him working on Warcraft is a good sign. All that’s required is for publishers to understand that a feature film adaptation will make even more money when it’s good. Yes, filmmaking is an art, but cinema is a business. And if those two things can be combined, drawing from the interactive art that is video games, feature films could be transformed.

And as for television? That looks less certain. A feature film is a different style of storytelling, which requires a narrative to be established, developed and resolved in some form between ninety and one-hundred-and-fifty minutes. Ninety minutes is generally considered the minimum duration to be “feature length”, but that doesn’t mean a television series can create two episodes and just combine them. This year, we’ve had

  • Warner Bros. Pictures’ Entourage (Doug Ellin) from HBO’s Entourage
  • 20th Century Fox’s Spooks: the Greater Good (Bharat Nalluri) from BBC One’s Spooks
  • Paramount Pictures’ The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water (Paul Tibbitt) from Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob Squarepants
  • StudioCanal’s Shaun the Sheep (Richard Starzak and Mark Burton) from CBBC’s Shaun the Sheep.

But the reason so many television series aren’t adapted into feature films is because there needs to be enough substance. Most television series wouldn’t work as feature films, and many that do are already part of a franchise that includes the feature film medium.

Rotten Tomatoes criticised Entourage for feeling “less like a film than a particularly shallow, cameo-studded extended episode of the show”. Of note is that the television series had already been cancelled, and that was for a reason. That’s a good point, and one that Wittertainment’s Mark Kermode said of comedy actor Harry Hill vehicle The Harry Hill Movie (Steven Bendelack): “It is funny how small screen comedy works on the small screen, and when you take it and transpose it up on to the big screen, it’s like watching an articulated lorry trying to do a three-point turn. There’s something about the mechanism of cinema, which is so much weightier … just to do with the scale. All that stuff that Harry Hill does – the asides, the strange little surreal interludes, the puppets, the catchphrases – all that stuff is perfectly suited to the medium of television, on which he does brilliant, and on which he is, and quite rightly so, very successful. In the case of a film, it was just like going behind a tapestry and seeing all the bits hanging out from behind it. It was suddenly, you become crushingly aware of the mechanism.”

Spooks: the Greater Good was met with more positive reviews, but still received a mixed response. Many critics felt that its weakness was in the elements carried-over from the television series. Scotsman’s Alistair Harkness said, “The big screen proves an unforgiving canvas: for both the show’s hitherto high-end production values and its topical urgency”. The Express‘ Allan Hunter said, “it does not feel much different from an above-par television episode but then that is probably no bad thing”. Radio Times‘ Andrew Collins said, “the first big-screen spin-off, which revisits familiar Central London locations and similar dramatic territory, is essentially an extended bonus episode that will please fans but may leave cinemagoers spoilt by Bond and Bourne”. IGN’s Leigh Singer said that it was, “neither big nor smart enough to justify its big screen incarnation”. List Film’s Angie Errigo said, “this is very enjoyable, but cinematically pedestrian, looking and feeling like a long TV episode”. And that’s the main problem with Spooks: the Greater Good – in a world where Spectre‘s released next October and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation‘s released next week, a television series in the same genre can’t justify itself just for being in that same genre – it actually has to be good. A Game of Thrones feature film could happen, but it would need to work as a fantasy piece capable or rivalling The Lord of the Rings. Just because something’s the best of a genre on television, remove the medium from the equation and it just comes across as weak imitator.

And of The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water, Rotten Tomatoes said, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water won’t win over many viewers who aren’t fans of the show”.

And yet, Shaun the Sheep scored 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Irish Times’ Tara Brady saying “The gorgeous big-screen version of Aardman’s TV hit has been carried off with faultless professionalism”.

Clearly, then, television feature films are rarely of a quality to be considered legitimate in their own right. Unlike video game adaptations, which are considered to just be bad films. Television feature films are more common, but video game feature films are going to become the next trend based on the expected quality of Hitman: Agent 47Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed. The difference is that television is already a motion picture, and therefore has a guaranteed level of quality, even if it isn’t very high, whereas videogames are interactive motion pictures, and that’s the difference. With a television feature film adaptation, the way it’s consumed is only a difference of situation; you have to pay for a ticket and go to a cinema, and watch it on a big screen with other people. Video game feature film adaptations don’t have that interactivity, but the desire to recreate it is often the downfall. There are video game “movie”s on YouTube which are perfect playthroughs in feature-length videos, but that’s not what a motion picture should be. It’s like comparing a novel with a comic book – totally different thing.

But there’s still no denying that video games and television series are now challenging feature films, and to catch-up, there’s going to be a lot of adapting to do. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Art builds on art, and since the largest feature film draw was from a novel, it’s clearly what the people want. And what the people want is what the feature film needs…

All-New X-Men Vol. 1 #41 — comic book review

Written by Brian Michael Bendis.

With these things, I should probably explain how my comic book reading system works again. There are two “series” that I follow: the first is the latest issue of whatever adaptation is being released next, such as Ant-Man. The second is a regular series that I follow with every issue.

That series is All-New X-Men. Marvel Comics have announced that Vol. 1 #41 is to be the last issue of All-New X-Men, and that’s followed-through here with the announcement that the story arc will be concluded in Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 #600.

Uncanny X-Men is the rebranded name of the original run of X-Men comics. In 2011, that issue went into hiatus so Marvel could focus on this new series. Now, they’ve decided it’s time to take the X-Men back to their source by making Uncanny X-Men the flagship X-Men series, which means ending All-New X-Men.

Which is a shame, because I’ve really come to like this series after one two issues. I started with #40 last month, and my review of that at the time was glowing, particularly for the way it focused on the characters and their intimate relationships with each other were so accurately portrayed in such a small way. Also at the time, I said that the Utopian mystery had me intrigued and that the characters of All-New X-Men were so appealing that it would make finding out worthwhile, as the journey to it would likely be more interesting than arriving.

This issue continued that. It’s written by the same person, so that’s to be expected. I’m told he wrote the whole series and even conceived it, which makes sense, because the love of it shines through these characters and their insecurities.

It’s only when the All-New X-Men meet the Utopians that it suddenly grinds to a halt because the action starts to distort the characters. That final battle is a bit of a slugfest and there’s no personality to it in the way that, say, Joss Whedon brought personality to the final battle of Marvel’s the Avengers. There are so many characters that it all becomes a bit much when it happens at once, and some of the them looking so similar doesn’t help, especially when they wear the same uniforms. What powers are being used are, at times, implied by what’s happening around another character somewhere else. For a final issue, it would’ve made much more sense to show them using their mutant abilities before they can’t anymore.

But when that’s not happening, it’s the character stuff that really works. I chose X-Men to be my regular series because it’s the most popular and well-known team and has the most diverse range of characters. Which is why I’ll be moving with the All-New X-Men to be with the Uncanny X-Men, since I still enjoying spending seven minutes a month with them.

It might not be as good as last month’s, but that’s the only other one I’ve read.

Avengers: age of Ultron — motion picture review

Written by Joss Whedon.

Avengers: age of Ultron kicks-off Phase Three. Not Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but of this blog, as I explained in the previous post. That means I now credit writers, not just screenwriters, and posters are used in place of title cards.

But Avengers: age of Ultron does serve as the penultimate installment of Phase Two. Why Marvel chose to make Ant-Man the finale is a complete mystery, but I’m sure we’ll find out.

And that’s the key point with Avengers: age of Ultron. Some view the Avengers as the main events of the series, others as fun get-togethers after every few installments. Whatever they are, Whedon’s treating this one as a briefing on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s current state. There are a lot of things to tie together of Phase Two, and lots of things are set in place for Phase Three. It’s the task here to provide each Avenger with some character development, and then give them a reason to depart, remain in or join the New Avengers, who are established at the end.

In Marvel’s the Avengers, the Avengers consists of Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America. By the end of Avengers: age of Ultron, the New Avengers are Captain America, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, War Machine, Falcon and Vision. Plus, there’s the villain, Ultron. So that’s a lot to talk about.

It’s really Ultron that binds these characters together. The most important thing in a sequel is an antagonist that’s more personally connected to the protagonists, in order to impact them more and give them the most character development.

Ultron’s created through a combination of things which aren’t that thematically important, but the result is those things creating a solution to the world’s problems: a diagnosis. Nobody really knows what they’re doing, and an understanding of why could help the world. Unfortunately, Ultron decides that helping Humanity means giving it a boost; creating an environment of Darwinist competition to help Homo Sapiens evolve in a survival-of-the-fittest type scenario. After the Avengers help keep the world’s nuclear missiles from launching, Ultron figures that the next best way of evolving Humanity isn’t by turning their own technology against them, but by causing a global natural disaster.

Which is where the pacing issues come into it. Ultron takes a LONG time to get to this stage, but none of it feels like it’s there for a reason. He only starts to execute his idea at the end, but nothing in there actually shows why it took him so long. Or, indeed, why he was able to build his weapon so quickly. A device which can lift an entire city into the sky. It was glossed-over and exactly how he did that was never explained. And the final confrontation felt overly long, with the constant bombardment of Ultron Sentinels eventually being too present to notice anymore. After a while, it just becomes more action and it no longer has the emotional effects that it could have done.

Emotion is what Whedon’s best at. He understands these characters, and it’s obvious. The conflict between Iron Man and Captain America works because you find yourself genuinely struggling to decide who’s argument holds-up the most. But a problem with that is that it never plays into anything, it’s just there as setup for Captain America: Civil War. And it does become important when Iron Man creates The Vision, but the background behind that is also very rushed: Scarlet Witch’s mind-meld has given Thor a dream about the Infinity Stones, even though I thought only the Guardians of the Galaxy knew about them? When did Thor become aware of the Infinity Stones, exactly? Is it an Asgardian thing? Cause that would have been some nice, relevant information. Thor then figures that the Tesseract and Loki’s sceptre are also Infinity Stones, like the Aether. And so Thor finds Erik Selvig very quickly, who knows exactly where to go find mystical water that can help him understand these dreams. Meanwhile, the rest of the Avengers are busy fighting Ultron, who’s taking a very long time to do something. Iron Man then figures that if Ultron was programmed by the sentient core of Loki’s sceptre, which contains the Mind Stone, then he should use that to create a purer Ultron, The Vision. But how was Ultron programmed by the sceptre without directly using the Mind Stone? And how would the general audience recognise Selvig? And how does he just happen to know about the “waters”?

But The Vision is a very interesting character, and it’s nice to see Paul Bettany putting flesh to the role, even if the character’s only there to introduce another Infinity Stone. After Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought they’d only be brought-up when Thanos actually makes an attack on Earth – his plan’s developing even slower than Ultron’s. But that mid-credits tag was a cool highlight. It didn’t feel like a sequel until that happened. Although where he got the Infinity Gauntlet is another question that needs asking and answering.

Plus, S.H.I.E.LD. How did Nick Fury just happen to save some helicarriers, and why couldn’t they have shown-up earlier? Why did he choose to only appear when the Avengers were effectively hiding from the enemy to reveal himself? Cause it would have been useful!

Ultimately, all of this plays to a very repetitive action sequence that lasts for too long for it to be effective, with all of the character stuff like Hulk and Black Widow’s romance and Hawkeye’s family suddenly disappearing behind what can only be described as a slug-fest with maximum Ultron. Whedon clearly wanted to make this a sequel, but didn’t realise that the conflict only has to be more meaningful. Instead, it’s just “more”. What’s the point in giving these characters the most development they’ve ever had, only to make the finale something that does the exact opposite?

Really, the problems are length and content. The original cut was nearly four hours long, and a lot had to be cut. But perhaps the cool moments should have removed instead, allowing us to really dig deep at the heart of what’s really going on here, which is essentially a story about political paranoia, societal hypocrisy and morality and responsibility using a robot as an analogy. If tangential elements were cut-out, and that subject given more screentime, this would be almost flawless.

What the Marvel/Sony deal could, does and should mean…

Marvel Entertainment released a press statement today, confirming that, after a long series of negotiations with Sony Pictures Entertainment, who own Spider-Man’s live-action rights, the character was finally to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, alongside characters such as Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

First, it’s been confirmed that this Spider-Man will be a new incarnation, which will likely require a recasting. The top names reported are Logan Lerman – Sony’s second choice after incumbent Andrew Garfield – and Zac Efron, though America’s Matt Smith, Donald Glover, is a popular choice as well. If Glover were cast, it’s possible Sony would have chosen to start a new Spider-Man series with the Miles Morales identity rather than Parker. Personally, I find that unlikely, since it’s probably a soft reboot with little continuity than the basics, and that would mean the new Spider-Man will still be Parker. Which isn’t to say the series won’t develop into Morales being involved, but that’s only likely to happen once the new Parker’s already established. If Morales were to be featured eventually, I wouldn’t say no to Glover being cast. But I would protest to him being cast as Parker, because he’s much more suited as an actor to Morales. He’s a much more interesting character, and Glover’s probably a decent actor, so it would be a shame to miss that opportunity for combination by wasting the potential just to cast Glover as the de facto Spider-Man, rather than a character far more suited to him. Regardless of who’s cast as Spider-Man, there are a lot of actors capable of doing it. Someone we’ve seen before isn’t necessarily a stunt cast, but could help ease the transition to a new version. And a name we haven’t heard before could work, but Sony might not expect the audience to accept a completely new face. SPE Motion Picture Group President Doug Belgrad said,

“This new level of collaboration is the perfect way to take Peter Parker’s story into the future”,

implying Parker will still be the cinema version of the character.

But that doesn’t mean we’ll have to experience his origin story for a third time. The press release states the new Spider-Man will first be seen in a Marvel Studios production as part of the Cinematic Universe. The implication seems to be that he’ll debut in the solo release of another character. The next MCU release, Joss Whedon‘s Avengers: Age of Ultron, has finished principal photography, so it’s likely this appearance will be in Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely‘s Captain America: Civil War. Leaked Sony emails reveal negotiations were already in place for Spider-Man to appear at that point, given his significant role in the comic book storyline Civil War. As these negotiations have finalised, it’s likely to still be the case, especially as it isn’t too late to rewrite the screenplay. Black Panther’s already been confirmed to debut there as well, as it was speculated that the character’s presence was a Spider-Man substitute. Would there be space to add Spider-Man as well? Maybe not and maybe so, but if it turns out to be true, it would be interesting to see how accurately it follows the source material. From what I hear, Civil War‘s major event is Spider-Man revealing his secret identity to the press, which would be a difficult event to reverse if Sony change their mind. What is confirmed about this release is that it’s going to happen before the 28th July 2017, which means, if not Captain America: Civil War, it would be either Jon Spaihts‘ Doctor Strange or James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Making his debut Doctor Strange would be a good idea, as Benedict Cumberbatch would already have attracted audiences, and that would provide maximum exposure. I honestly can’t see it being Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which takes place throughout the Milky Way and far from Earth. I like to think they won’t come to Earth because we already lots of other characters for that. Doctor Strange would be the most effective, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 would be the most unlikely, Captain America: Civil War would be the most likely, but there’s still the possibility of a post-credits cameo in Avengers: Age of Ultron. If the MCU Spider-Man’s pre-established, he’ll have already experienced his origin story. But there should still be one for clarity’s sake, and a post-credits sequence would be the best opportunity for that. We’d be able to see it, it would officially introduce the character, but it wouldn’t take up any unnecessary time in his solo release.

Which is what the 28th July 2017 date’s now reserved for, shunting future MCU releases along futher into the future. There was a five year wait between Sam RaimiIvan Raimi and Alvin Sargent‘s Spider-Man 3 and Steve VanderbiltAlvin Sargent and Steve Kloves‘ The Amazing Spider-Man. Following Alex KurtzmanRoberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner‘s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there’s now a five year wait again. As it happens, we’ve only discovered this with two of those remaining, so that’s something. Plus, Marvel Studios are very efficient at manufacturing an assembly line of releases, and two years seems like a good length of time before releasing it, because that’s the average between announcement and release.

What’s pleasing is that Spider-Man‘s being produced by Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Sony’s Amy Pascal. They tend to be the equivalents of each other in their respective companies, and actually having a face to the discussions is comforting. I already know them, and respect them, and the fact that this blog post is even being written is testament to their ability to work together.

That being said, Sony still own the character’s cinema rights, and will be financing and majorly controlling future cinema releases for Spider-Man, which is slightly worrying. Sony aren’t as big a company as Disney, and from the way the agreement’s worded, it sounds as if Disney legally can’t fund any Spider-Mans because of Sony’s ownership. If Disney fund it, that gives them a right to grossing shares, and that changes their agreement. The last thing that needs to happen at this stage is for Marvel to violate that agreement, even in a small way, because that would give Sony the power to revoke their agreement. And the fact that Sony still own the character is quite disappointing, but then that’s how it would inevitably turn-out. Spider-Man’s the highest-grossing fictional character, and the MCU’s the highest-grossing cinematic series. It makes sense to unite them. But it’s for that same reason that Sony wouldn’t want to just give up the character, so them coming out of negotiations still owning him makes sense, even if I wish they’d just leave it alone and let Marvel use him how they want without having to stick to any guidelines. It’s this same agreement that says Marvel can’t fund it. And even worse, there’s Sony’s ability to overrule Marvel on any decisions made regarding the character. How Marvel expect to ingratiate the character into their own continuity while also letting Sony have the final say on that character’s releases’ creative decisions is worrying. Can this really work? I don’t know. But I’m just hoping it does. Generally, I think, since Sony need this investment, but Marvel are better at handling their properties, Sony’s only interest will be in making money. So that should mean that the only decisions they’ll be overriding are ones they think will compromise a Spider-Man‘s grossing. But given Marvel’s also a part of it, I can’t see them making the kind of decision that would do that. Hopefully, this will be a case of Sony letting Marvel do their own thing, but overruling them whenever they consider it necessary. And that kind of relationship works for me. If Sony are wise, they’ll use their major creative control to let Marvel do what they know they should.

Interestingly, the agreement specifies that Sony will only have that control over the new Spider-Man series. What that sounds like to me is that whenever Spider-Man appears in a non-Spider-Man, Marvel can use him how they like. So when Spider-Man appears in his debut, which will be part of another series, Marvel have full control. The solo release will then be controlled by Sony, but if Spider-Man then goes on to feature in Avengers: Infinity War — Part I, Sony won’t be involved in that. Which also works for me. A character in the MCU is two things – their own character, and crossover potential. Marvel are likely to care about the crossover potential more than that character’s own solo outings, which makes their compromise more satisfying than it could have been, and also more realistic.

The release also states other MCU characters will appear in the Spider-Man series. How this works between Sony and Marvel is anyone’s guess, but it could be the reverse of what we already have here. Meaning that if Sony wanted to include Antony Stark in Spider-Man 2 (which would be a good move, he’s the MCU’s highest-grossing individual character), he’d only appear on Marvel’s terms. I don’t really see that being a problem, since this agreement has already happened, and I believe in the combined power of Feige and Pascal. They’re like the Infinity Gems and the Infinity Gauntlet – put them together, and you unlock literally endless possibilities.

BAFTA Film Awards – 2015 Original Screenplay nominations

The BAFTA Film Awards airs tonight at 21:00 on BBC One HD, and will announce, among other things, the winners of the Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay awards.

Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s screenplay for The Grand Budapest Hotel takes place, for the most part, entirely within the titular building, where a murder occurs, prompting concierge Gustave H. to prove his innocence, which takes him through the various parts of the hotel. Inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig and his real-world travels, Anderson planned the story with Hugo Guinness, which is divided into six acts: PrologueM. GustaveMadame C.V.D.u.T.Check-point 19 Criminal Internment CampThe Society of the Crossed KeysThe Second Copy of the Second Will and Epilogue.

The character H. was inspired by someone Anderson and Guinness both knew. When creating him, the original screenplay draft was a short, and not set in the past or a hotel. Anderson was inspired to revise it when discovering Zweig’s writings. Beware of Pity influenced the opening scenes, which Zweig used in his other writings, in-which a character living on the edge of society meets an equally interesting character, which is how The Grand Budapest Hotel begins. Zweig’s further influences in the screenplay involve the decline of an empire, developing division and declining independance.

Anderson’s previous nominations include The Royal Tenenbaums with Owen Wilson.

Damien Chazelle‘s Whiplash

Chazelle’s Whiplash was nominated by The Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, whereas The BAFTA Film Awards have nominated it for Best Original Screenplay. To encourage interest and funding, Chazelle produced a short film from an extract of the screenplay, which The Oscars determine to make the finished product an adaptation. The BAFTA Film Awards determined it to only be an adaptation of itself, and therefore be considered an original screenplay.

Artistic inspiration behind Whiplash can be found in Chazelle’s previous work, Grand Piano, in-which a pianist will be killed by a sniper if he plays a wrong note. This situation is threaded through Whiplash, with playing out-of-time causing music teacher Terrance Fletcher to become violent and aggressive. Writing Whiplash began as reaction to writing another screenplay, which wasn’t working. Chazelle instead began focusing on his other idea of being a jazz drummer, based on his own experiences with a real teacher. It was for this reason that he initially didn’t want to share the screenplay, which felt “too personal”, and for a long time it was in a drawer. It eventually gained interest from producers, but not enough for any to fund it. The Black List ranked it among the top unproduced screenplays of the year, leading to it being greenlit.

This is Chazelle’s first nomination.

Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler

Gilroy’s aim with Nightcrawler was to write a screenplay with a “moral darkness” that would highlight Los Angeles’ best aspects. In that way, it counterbalanced the sociopathic tendancies of Louis Bloom with news media’s own sociopathic nature. It works as a form of alternative psychology, by presenting sociopathy as a scale, and presenting the numerous ways it can manifest in all people. The vulnerability of the characters is another key element to it, which also balanced the sociopathic themes, which both bring-out each other.

Nightcrawler was inspired by Arthur Fellig. the first crime photographer to follow events with a police scanner in his car, who inspired others to do the same. Part of Bloom’s character was inspired by Weegee’s biopic, Howard Franklin‘s The Public Eye. Gilroy based Bloom on a coyote, nocturnal animals often seen around Los Angeles late at night that are never. From there, he wrote Bloom as never being fed spiritually, with his hunger extending itself with every feeding. Bloom’s addicted to the scenes he photographs. This hunger’s the catalyst of his success story, which Gilroy says made him not want to label Bloom with a label that reduces his character. He has sociopathic tendencies, but from a desire to be a self-employed business owner, which is also a very Human feeling.

This is Gilroy’s first nomination.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo‘s Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The majority of praise for Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has focused on its metatextuality within 2010 cinema. During the peak of the superhero genre trend, it presented the audience with an out-of-work Michael Keaton, who’s career was made with Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren‘s Batman and and Daniel Waters‘ Batman Returns. Here, Keaton’s Riggan Thomas attempts to stage a comeback through directing a production of When we Talk About When we Talk About Love. Along the way, he encounters Edward Norton of Zak Penn‘s The Incredible Hulk. In this version, Norton is an actor in a similar situation, not only being a further reflection of Keaton’s declining career as a former superhero, but as Norton’s own status as having been replaced as the character in Joss Whedon‘s Marvel’s the Avengers by Mark Ruffalo (also nominated for Best Supporting [Male] Actor as Dave Schultz in E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman‘s Foxcatcher). Also appearing as Sam Thomas is Emma Stone, who’s most famous role – arguably – is Gwen Stacy in James VanderbiltAlvin Sargent and Steve Kloves‘ The Amazing Spider-Man, before being killed-off by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s Stone who’s nominated for Best Supporting [Female Actor], due in part to a scene in-which she talks of how nobody really matters. It’s this theme of being dispensable that makes it a story of people who are existing on the edges of their own existence. It may be a meta-parody of the superhero genre, but more than that is it a Human interest.

This is their first nomination.

Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood

Though showing the life of a family over twelve years, Boyhood was scripted and followed a pre-constructed narrative that was altered with every year’s filming in collaboration with the cast. Linklater called it a document of time, though it resembles a documentary to show the indistinction between fiction and non-fiction. The screenplay’s a compilation of smaller screenplays written every year that follow-on, like an inconsistently-lengthed serial. But it still feels like one story, with each year’s segment remaining part of the same thing, rather than seguing into tangents. This was largely a result of the collaboration with the actors, who also began to know where the characters were themselves going. Linklater wanted each year not to noticeably transition, but to only exist through perception, with the effect of the film being emotion created by realising the passage of time. It relied on the audience’s nostalgia, and the emotion that comes that hindsight.

This is Linklater’s first nomination.

Marvel’s the Avengers — review

Adapted by Joss Whedon from The Coming of the Avengers!, by Stan Lee.

 

Marvel’s the Avengers is the most important release of this decade, because of how mimicked it’s become. In its time, bringing together the protagonists of previous releases was most famous for the Universal monsters from the dawn of sound, but as cinema’s become more culturally important, trends have emerged and right now the top trend is superhero teams. The superhero genre is the most successful currently, with next year seeing the return of such teams like X-Men, and even Marvel’s the Avengers‘ sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron. When students study cinema, it’s divided into eras of trends, and right now, we’re in the middle of the superhero trend, and we have Marvel’s the Avengers to thank for that. Because it made a point about the genre – these characters are already interesting, but we appreciate them because they’re together. Had the Avengers not formed a team, the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t be nearly as popular as it is. Each character might be loved, but without Marvel’s the Avengers, they wouldn’t be loved together.

In the same way as The Expendables is considered the most important of the action genre, Marvel’s the Avengers is the definitive example of the superhero genre. Which isn’t to say it’s the best, but the definitive. Superhero teams are underrepresented in the genre, and this particular team has enough of a wide range to make it a microcosm for the other conventions of its own genre. Every stock character type is present in the team, and that makes it the go-to for lessons in superhero writing. Because of Marvel’s the Avengers, viewing a great number of genre pieces is unnecessary, because everything in them is presented in a singular piece here. By combining each extreme of the superhero colour wheel, Joss Whedon has eliminated competition. It’s almost to say “you don’t need to see that, we already did it”. Only that statement applies multiple times over.

By bringing these characters together, we learn about the kind of storytelling that brings them to life. Whereas many superheroes could be used as examples of the best, Marvel’s the Avengers makes a very important observation: they’re better together. What’s the point in there being a superhero if they exist all alone? And the good thing about that is that some of these characters arguably aren’t superheroes. Stark created a battlesuit, Banner has a psychological condition, Romanova has gun skills, Odinson has a unique weapon, Barton is good at archery and Rogers has gymnastics skills. None of them have super powers per se, but the idea of the Avengers Initiative is to bring together “remarkable” people. At no point is “super” mentioned. The reason it succeeds so well is because it isn’t trying to be a superhero story, it’s just treating these people as unique examples of humans. And that’s the best way of doing it, because then it becomes a story about characters, not their powers.

Whedon’s greatest strength is his ability to write characters, and in writing superheroes – not his best genre – he just applies the same skills, the same approach, and the result is characters you want to succeed, that you want to do well and that you find yourself liking immensely. Where you care more about what they’d get at a drive-thru than whether they can fly a jet, or what video-games they prefer than their scientific knowledge, or what their personal interests are than who can best the other in combat.

Marvel’s the Avengers shows other people how to write not just superhero teams, but ensemble casts, and characters. It shows that we should care more about how they make us feel than what the plot was. The reason Marvel’s the Avengers is so enjoyable to watch is purely because of the way the characters are respected enough to not be treated as the superheroes they only technically are.

 

Marvel’s the Avengers: superheroes treated realistically with respect. 7/10

BBC features – Friday 9 to Sunday 11th January 2015

Saturday 10th January 2015

06:00 Apache Territory (Frank L Moss/Charles R Marion/George W George)

Western. Cowboy Logan Cates (Rory Calhoun) is caught travelling through Apache territory. He must fight his way out and rescue a woman on his way.

 

07:10 Private’s Progress (John Boulting/Frank Harvey)

Lighthearted comedy about an upper-crust chap who joins the army and has problems coping with the regimented lifestyle. He soon becomes known as a misfit, only to find a little salvation in the form of his uncle, who has been looting German art treasures from behind enemy lines.

 

08:45 The Maggie (William Rose)

An Ealing Studios comedy-drama from 1954 depicting a clash of cultures between a hard-nosed American businessman and a crafty Scottish sea captain, inspired by Neil Munro’s stories of the Vital Spark and her captain Para Handy. The Maggie is a small, ageing Clyde puffer boat and her Captain, the wily Mactaggart, is desperately in need of £300 to renew his license. A chance meeting at a shipping firm office leads to a mistaken commission to transport furniture for an American businessman, Calvin B Marshall. On learning of the reality of how his goods were being transported, Marshall takes matters into his own hands. A plane and car chase ensues with numerous colourful adventures en-route to the Maggie’s final destination.

 

13:45 The Ipcress File (Bill Canaway/James Doran)

Spy thriller in which an agent is assigned to investigate a bizarre brain drain among scientists, and finds himself embroiled in a world of espionage where nobody can be trusted and nothing is what it seems. Based on the novel by Len Deighton, it has spawned two sequels.

 

21:00 Marvel’s The Avengers (Joss Whedon)

Comic book action adventure. The director of peacekeeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D. gathers an elite team of superheroes including The Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, Iron Man and Thor when the Norse god’s evil brother steals a cosmic cube from an underground base. The group must work together to protect the Earth from the leader of an extraterrestrial race and it’s army intent on harnessing the cube’s power.

 

22:00 The Other Boleyn (Peter Morgan)

A passionate story of love, rivalry and a family torn apart by ambition, based on Philippa Gregory’s novel. Against the epic backdrop of a defining period in English history, this is an intimate study of a relationship between a man and two sisters: the youngest replaces her sister in the man’s affections, starting a chain of events that lead ultimately to her death. The man is Henry VIII, King of England, and the two sisters Mary and Anne Boleyn. Mary is the first to catch the King’s eye, but is cast aside in favour of the dazzling Anne, whose passionate nature and relentless pursuit of the crown propel her towards her doom.

 

Sunday 11th January 2015

00:40 Lady Caroline Lamb (Robert Bolt)

Caroline Ponsonby, the highly strung daughter of Lord and Lady Bessborough, rushes into marriage with William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne. Growing bored with her placid husband, Caroline is drawn to the undeniable charms of fledgling poet George Byron and they begin a torrid affair, but since neither of them are prepared to play to the rules of Regency high society, their indiscretion leads to tragedy.

 

01:20 Kevin and Perry Go Large (Dave Cummings/Harry Enfield)

Comedy featuring characters from Harry Enfield’s sketch programmes. Kevin and Perry, the ultimate stroppy teenagers and aspiring DJs, are fed up with their ‘virgin’ status. They want action, so they decide to head to Ibiza, which they believe is home to the best clubs and carefree sex. There’s just one catch: Kevin’s parents want to come too.

 

02:40 Love (William Eubank)

Drama. An astronaut finds himself stranded on a space station in a constant orbit around the Earth. Contact with the outside world is impossible.

 

06:10 Shrek 2 (Andrew Adamson/Joe Stillman/J. David Stem/David N. Weiss)

BBC One Animated sequel following the grumpy ogre and his bride as they head for the land of Far Far Away to meet her parents. As Shrek contends with his new in-laws, the wicked Fairy Godmother sets in motion a dastardly scheme to scupper his marriage to Fiona. And will any of them survive at the hands of dandy assassin Puss in Boots?