Indie Scifi-Western Prospect

I saw this a couple of months ago and meant to write about it then, but apparently stored *cough cough* the link somewhere really effectively and only now rediscovered it. Anyway:

A feature-length indie scifi-western Prospect, written and directed by Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell, premiered at the SXSW festival in March 2018.

An official teaser trailer is available on YouTube:

Prospect 2018 SXSW Teaser Trailer OFFICIAL by Prospect on YouTube

“A teenage girl and her father travel to a remote alien moon, aiming to strike it rich. They’ve secured a contract to harvest a large deposit of the elusive gems hidden in the depths of the moon’s toxic forest. But there are others roving the wilderness and the job quickly devolves into a fight to survive. Forced to contend not only with the forest’s other ruthless inhabitants, but with her own father’s greed-addled judgment, the girl finds she must carve her own path to escape.”

The movie stars Sophie Thatcher, Pedro Pascal (whom I’ve seen in Game of Thrones and Kingsman: The Golden Circle; he is also slated to appear in Wonder Woman 2), Jay Duplass, Andre Royo (appearances in Agent Carter, Elementary, and Fringe), Sheila Vand, and Anwan Glover (also visited in Elementary). The runtime is about 1 h 40 min.

About a month ago, in early May, Variety announced that Gunpowder & Sky (who bought worldwide rights to Prospect) will release the film theatrically in the U.S. later this year. It looks also to be available for streaming on SingularDTV at some point. Until then, according to the movie’s Facebook page, it looks like Prospect will be playing at select film festivals and/or independent theaters.

An article in Ars Technica says that

Prospect thrives more as a character-study due to the strength of its performances. In particular, Thatcher as Cee makes you feel each step of her transition from book-reading, punk- listening teen to cunning, hardened survivor […]”

Sounds intriguing—has anyone seen this yet? Thoughts?

Found via File 770.

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All-Female Ocean’s 8 Trailers

An all-female installation in the Ocean’s heist series opens this Friday, June 08, 2018! IMDB’s description is short and sweet:

“Debbie Ocean gathers a crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala.”

Here are two trailers:

OCEAN’S 8 – Official 1st Trailer by Warner Bros. Pictures on YouTube

OCEAN’S 8 – Official Main Trailer by Warner Bros. Pictures on YouTube

Looks like so much fun! Not everyone in the cast is a favorite, but you never know, they might become a favorite after this… 🙂

And, OMG, Ocean’s 8 is so gonna bust the Bechdel test out of the water and use it as a flotation device!

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In Defense of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy

There’s a lot wrong with Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, make no mistake. It is an overstuffed, poorly structured jumble of unnecessary action sequences, juvenile humor, and tedious subplots, all ending in an interminable final battle that makes neither narrative nor tactical sense. Still, not all the problems are of Jackson’s making, and there are some things it does right that deserve notice.

Many of the structural weaknesses in the plot come from Tolkien’s original. The Hobbit was a children’s book about Bilbo Baggins and a band of Dwarves having a series of random encounters on their way to a spectacularly poorly planned heist. The characters are for the most part so flat as to be interchangeable and the plot is little more than an excuse to trundle from one retold Nordic folktale to another. I loved the book as a child and I still have a great fondness for it, but it does not have the depth or cohesion of The Lord of the Rings. Jackson’s writing team put in heroic efforts to make thirteen distinct characters out of Tolkien’s lyrical list of Dwarf names and to fill in much of the background story that makes sense of Bilbo’s disjointed adventures. (On the other hand, this fleshing-out work is also the source of many of the movies’ problems. On one hand, developing the Dwarves’ characters too often just provided more opportunities for out-of-place slapstick. On the other hand, filling in the gaps in Tolkien’s plot led to inventing new characters, which Jackson’s team too often fell in love with and allowed to take over the story.)

Despite these problems, some of the best moments in the trilogy are iconic scenes from Tolkien’s original that were put on screen with very few changes. Scenes like Bilbo’s riddling contest with Gollum in the depths of the Misty Mountains, Gandalf’s wily approach to Beorn, and Bilbo’s conversation with Smaug are rendered with a fidelity that shows a real love and respect for Tolkien’s creation. They are a delight to watch, even if they can’t make up for the rest of the films around them.

Even the less authentic scenes are often elevated by the quality of the performances. Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, and Christopher Lee reprise their roles as Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Saruman with intelligence and gravitas. Andy Serkis gets to present a less desperate, more playful version of Gollum while Orlando Bloom performs a younger Legolas who is, as Tolkien said of the Mirkwood Elves, “more dangerous and less wise” than the character we remember from The Lord of the Rings. The newcomers to the series give it their best, too. Martin Freeman shows us how Bilbo finds his courage and taste for adventure without ever losing his Hobbitish love of home and comfort. The Dwarf actors, for all that they mostly get used for broad comedy, give their characters an individuality and personality that Tolkien never did. Benedict Cumberbatch is smoothly menacing as the voice of Smaug. Sylvester McCoy’s Radagast does a bit too much slapstick, but he also gives us a wild fresh take on wizardry that sits at the other end of the spectrum from Saruman’s aloof grandeur.

The sets, props, costuming, and other art direction live up to the high standards set by Weta in the first trilogy. From the ancient depths of Erebor to the workaday fishing village of Lake Town, from the rugged traveling gear of the Dwarves to the cold glamour of the Elvish king Thranduil, there isn’t a place, character, or object on screen that doesn’t show the art department’s commitment to creating a world that feels real and lived-in. Over it all, Howard Shore’s music is as rich and operatic as ever.

But the best thing about the Hobbit trilogy, though, the thing that redeems the whole troubled production and its many missteps, is not the films themselves but the discs full of extras that come with the extended editions. Most studios are content to slap in a few deleted scenes, a handful of trailers for unrelated movies, and maybe a couple five-minute promo interviews with the big-name stars talking about how awesome the movie is (seriously, movie studios, you don’t need to market your movie to the people who have already bought the DVD), but not Jackson & Co. Each of the Hobbit films comes with hours upon hours of in-depth documentaries on every aspect of the production, from concept art to final edits. These documentaries do more than go behind the scenes in the usual self-promoting Hollywood way. They also show us the false starts, the mistakes, the ideas that went nowhere and the things that went seriously wrong. You get a fuller appreciation of the good things in the movies when you see how hard it was to get some of them on screen.

The extra features are also well designed for usability. Everything is subtitled, which is great for those of us who don’t always hear well. The menus are easy to use and it’s obvious which item you’re choosing, unlike some discs which make you do a lot of tedious scrolling back and forth and use only a slight difference in color to tell you what button you’re about to hit. Every section tells you how long it is, so you can plan your watching accordingly. The Hobbit extras are the gold standard of how to do bonus features and I wish that more studios and franchises would take as much care both in what they offer for extra material and the functionality of their products.

The Hobbit trilogy is not great cinema. The whole does not measure up to the sum of its parts, but some of those parts are in themselves fascinating and beautiful. They make it worth going there and back again.

Image: Promotional still from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Gender-Flipped Black Panther

One of the great things about Black Panther is that it allows plenty of room for both male and female characters, but what if we flipped them? Here’s our imaginary cast for a gender-flipped Black Panther.

Halle Berry as T’Challa / Black Panther

Taraji P. Henson as Killmonger

Jon Michael Hill as Nakia

Idris Elba as Okoye

Emily Blunt as Eve Ross

Alfre Woodard as W’Kabi

Donald Glover as Shuri

LA Weekly Donald Glover

Ann Wolfe as M’Baku

IMDB Ann Wolfe in Wonder Woman

Whoopi Goldberg as Zuri

IMDB Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost

Denzel Washington as Ramonda

IMDB Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli

Amanda Abbington as Penelope Klaue

Fandom Observations Amanda Abbington in Sherlock

Viola Davis as T’Chaka

The Hollywood Gossip viola-davis-at-the-2015-oscars

Images: Halle Berry in Perfect Stranger via IMDB. Taraji P. Henson in Empire via IMDb. Jon Michael Hill in Elementary via IMDb. Idris Elba in Pacific Rim via IMDb. Emily Blunt in The Five Year Engagement via IMDb. Alfre Woodard in Luke Cage via IMDb. Donald Glover via LA Weekly. Ann Wolfe in Wonder Woman via IMDB. Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost via IMDB. Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli via IMDB. Amanda Abbington as Mary Watson in BBC’s Sherlock via Fandom Observations. Viola Davis at the 2015 Oscars via The Hollywood Gossip.

Creative Differences is an occasional feature in which we discuss a topic or question that we both find interesting. Hear from both of us about whatever’s on our minds.

Trailers for Solo: A Star Wars Story

Another Star Wars franchise singleton movie is about to hit the big screen: Solo: A Star Wars Story opens May 25, 2018. Here’s the first trailer (from February):

Solo: A Star Wars Story Official Trailer by Star Wars

And the second (from April):

Solo: A Star Wars Story Official Trailer by Star Wars

I’m not entirely sure what to think on the basis of the trailers. Alden Ehrenreich sure ain’t got Harrison Ford’s charisma, but perhaps that’s because we are only seeing very short snippets. It’s also impossible to tell how big of a part Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian will have; I hope the writers are not only using him for a quick and dirty “this is how Han got the ship now bye” scene. Emilia Clarke’s Qi’Ra seems both competent and charming. And I believe this is the second time my fellow Finn Joonas Suotamo gets to portray Chewbacca on his own (without coaching by Peter Mayhew).

Solo: A Star Wars Story | “190 Years Old” Clip by Star Wars

Yay, Joonas!

Like with Rogue One, the special effects and directing look stunning, so at least there’ll be that. Here’s hoping the writing will also work.

Two more weeks!

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Some Random Thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War

In no particular order. Spoiler warnings in effect.

Eppu’s random thoughts:

I went in knowing nothing for sure and having read only non-spoilery impression pieces and bits of barely-even news. A heads-up: half-baked musings to follow, plus at least one f-bomb.

  • You must know the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to follow the Avengers: Infinity War story—none of the characters or their histories are introduced. Which makes sense: the previous movies are all in their way leading to AIW, and there’s no way you could introduce everyone and still have enough time left for a new story. Good for fans, not so good for regular moviegoers.
  • Superhero stories aren’t fully my cup of tea, not like for instance Jane Austen is, but my inner nerd is very pleased to have such an unprecedented series of high-quality movies like this.
  • I knew AIW was going to be stuffed to the gills with details, dialog, and derring-do, and indeed it was. Yet, strangely, it felt like we were in a holding pattern throughout the movie. You can tell it’s just the first act of a two-parter.
  • I missed so many lines among the sound effects. How about some subtitling in the theaters, USA? They’re helpful for all sorts of people, not just the deaf and hard of hearing.
  • The death toll started climbing earlier and got higher than I thought, even before the ashing at the end.
  • The writers started pushing Vision and Wanda Maximoff together already in Civil War (which they also co-wrote) but I never could buy their relationship. It felt forced then, and it still feels forced in AIW.
  • My favorite scene is when Black Widow, Captain America, and Falcon turn up to help Scarlet Witch and Vision in Edinburgh. Such seamless teamwork—so awesome!
  • Another awesome thing: Spidey got a nano suit.
  • I know it’s not what the movie actually did, but there was so much of it that the fighting felt almost unending. On the other hand, they did a fairly good job balancing the multiple storylines / locations for such an overstuffed movie.
  • There’s still way too much Stark. Like Civil War, AIW‘s not supposed to be yet another Tony show but of course that’s what they’ve made it into. On the other hand, Iron Man and Doctor Strange worked pretty well together despite—or maybe due to?—both being rich entitled jerks. In a way, they almost canceled each other out.
  • Also, the annoying git otherwise known as Peter Quill was pleasantly diluted by the presence of so many other characters. That man-child needs to fucking grow up. (Unpopular opinion: the Guardians of the Galaxy movies barely made it to “Meh” and certainly didn’t rise beyond.)
  • AIW did some unusual character pairings that worked really well: Stark and Strange plus Thor and Rocket come immediately to mind. Rhodey and Sam had a few promising moments while handling air defence during the Wakandan fight, but it didn’t amount to much.
  • Sadly, pretty much all of the Black Panther characters felt tacked-on and not properly integrated. However, it was marvellous to be back in Wakanda. We barely saw Shuri, though, and that’s just plain wrong. (Imagine her and Peter Parker geeking about tech together!)
  • OMG, Nat and Okoye and Wanda teaming up! Give me a buddy movie for those three any day! And throw in Maria Hill, too, please!
  • Another great thing was the deliberate refusal to overuse the Hulk. Instead, they gave Banner a suit version of Veronica the Hulk-buster.
  • Others have noted this, too, but some of the special effects looked clunky and unfinished (especially next to the finished ones). Many of Proxima Midnight’s scenes were affected, for example. (Speaking of her—was anyone else reminded of demon hunters from WoW?)
  • Considering how much Doctor Strange did in his eponymous movie, he contributed seemingly little to the world’s defense. I suspect we’ll see a lot more of his magic in part 2; what shape that takes remains to be seen. Especially since so many popular characters were turned to ash (like Spider-Man who we know will return in a sequel of his own next year), we cannot but see a lot of un-ashing.
  • What ultimately turned me off reading super comics is what I call the escalation-squish cycle: the tendency to time and again up the stakes ridiculously high, kill or shelve multiple characters, destroy cities or planets or whatnot, and then undo everything with a gimmick of the month. There’s only so much of it that I can take. Unfortunately it seems MCU may be headed in that direction. I hope not.
  • Major grumble here: Whose stupid-ass idea was it at the this-really-is-the-end fight to have our heroes go at Thanos one at a time, in a stupid-ass single-file? They’re not that dumb. Stupid-ass, lazy railroading. *grumble!*
  • I knew beforehand that AIW would end with a cliffhanger. I guess I was expecting the ending to be a bit more explosive and not as quiet as it was.

In the end, AIW just wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. Here’s hoping part 2 will pick up the slack.

 

Erik’s random thoughts:

To a certain extent, it feels unfair to be critiquing Infinity War at this point, since we’ve only seen half the story. Still, my overall reaction is disappointment. There are some particular reasons for this feeling, which I’ll try to lay out here.

  • Most of the movie is spent watching characters flail around, trying to respond to a desperate situation and not accomplishing much. Even when it looks like one character or group of characters has taken a small step towards posing a meaningful challenge to Thanos, their gains are quickly nullified. While it’s true that some amount of failure is necessary for drama and there’s nothing interesting about watching heroes who only ever succeed, there’s nothing interesting about watching heroes who only ever fail, either.
  • A lot of the heroes’ failures feel unearned. Again, while it’s more common to complain about unearned successes, dramatically interesting failures need to be warranted by character and plot. Too much of the failure in Infinity War feels like it is driven by the writers’ desire to build up Thanos as a villain. It feels cheap.
  • Put these observations together with the fact that for there to be any MCU at all after part 2, much of what happened in part 1 will have to be undone, and a lot of the movie ends up feeling pointless. Why did we sit through all of this if none of it matters in the end?
  • Thanos is interesting as a villain. His motivating emotion is not anger or greed but sorrow and the desire to spare other people the anguish he and his planet went through. Still, we spent too much time listening to him monologue. In a movie already packed to overflowing with other characters, he took up too much air.
  • I never liked the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but the way the team was written in this movie, I could see their appeal. Except for Peter Quill. He is still just as much of an impulsive, self-centered man-child as ever and I cannot stand one second of him. (To be fair, world events in recent years have severely depleted my patience with impulsive, self-centered man-children.)
  • For a movie that had such serious problems with its overall story, many of the individual scenes were beautifully written and perfectly acted. At the small scale, this movie works like a charm; it’s at the large scale that it falls flat.

Image: Avengers: Infinity War screenshot via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Our Top 5 MCU Movies to Date

Roxi tweeted a question, and we have answers!

 

Eppu here. My top five Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to date are:

  1. Black Panther
  2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  3. The Avengers
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

My honorable mention is a tie between Ant-Man (which surprised me positively but ultimately won’t make the list due to the annoyingly large serving of ham for a villain) and Thor: Ragnarok (Jeff Goldblum was a fun villain but he shouldn’t overshadow the rest of the fantastic ensemble).

I see quite a bit of Captain America on my list. I didn’t think I’d be team Cap. I have to say, though, there’s an appeal in stories of someone trying to re-gauge their moral compass in a fast-paced, fast-changing world they’re scrambling to understand. (Hold on. That sounds like I might be… middle-aged?!? *LOL*)

Our Fav MCU Movies Poster Collage Sm

 

Erik here. My top five are:

  1. Avengers
  2. Black Panther
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger
  4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  5. Spider-Man: Homecoming

All of these movies have a clear and relatively straightforward narrative concept which is backed up by excellent design, direction, and acting. They are also all definitively superhero movies, unlike some of the other Marvel movies which are heist capers, space operas, or character studies that happen to have superheroes in them. As a whole, I think Marvel’s cinematic corpus is stronger for having the variety, but the movies I like best are the ones that face the superheroism of their main characters head on. (Also, as much as I appreciate Iron Man’s role in getting the Marvel Cinematic Universe started and holding the first couple of phases together, there’s only so much Tony Stark I can take at one sitting.)

We suspect our lists will look quite different after this summer (with AIW now and Ant-Man and the Wasp due in July), but we’ll see.

Want to chime in?

Images via IMDB: Ant-Man. The Avengers. Black Panther. Captain America: Civil War. Captain America: The First Avenger. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Spider-Man: Homecoming. Thor: Ragnarok.

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Avengers: Infinity War Opens This Friday and There Are Trailers

Good grief, I’ve completely lost the track of time—here in the U.S., Avengers: Infinity War opens this Friday (April 27, 2018). Eeeeek!

Here’s the first trailer (from November, 2017):

Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

The second trailer (from March, 2018):

Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War – Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

And, finally, a tv spot from early April:

Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War — Chant TV Spot by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

I know virtually nothing about the Infinity War, except that it involves the infinity stones and that Thanos is (in some form or another) pulled from comics. (I was an X-Men reader in my youth, and even though my sister read some Spider-Man, those were translated and published very spottily back home.)

However, it looks like we’re possibly in for quite a treat. I cannot see a mashup of all of the super-and-super-adjacent-heroes being anything but a Learning to Work Together story, at least to some extent. The setting of AIW also looks a lot like the setting for The Avengers, which I liked quite a bit (even despite its Smurfette-action). There’s nothing quite like repelling a force with unknown capabilities more numerous than yours to have our heroes pull together.

I’ve liked the Russo brothers’ Community episodes and previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies from well enough to a lot, so I doubt I’ll be disappointed in the directing. The same more or less goes for dynamic screenwriting duo Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely: the Captain America movies The First Avenger, The Winter Soldier, and Civil War are at the top end of their work even if I’d prefer a lower amount of testosterone in my superhero stories.

One thing’s sure: it will be fabulous to see people from the Black Panther again (especially Okoye and Shuri!). I’m also curious to see how they’ll integrate the Guardians of the Galaxy characters. And we know already that there will be humorous quips!

Tumblr Daily Marvel Heroes Open Wakanda1Tumblr Daily Marvel Heroes Open Wakanda2Tumblr Daily Marvel Heroes Open Wakanda3

Images: When you said we’re going to open Wakanda to the rest of the world gifs via Daily Marvel Heroes on Tumblr.

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Fahrenheit 451 Reboot Trailer

The rebooted Fahrenheit 451 trailer is out:

Fahrenheit 451 (2018) Official Trailer ft. Michael B. Jordan & Michael Shannon | HBO on YouTube

This new movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel is by writer, director, and producer Ramin Bahrani. The flick stars Michael B. Jordan (lately appearing e.g. in Black Panther and Fantastic Four) and Michael Shannon (e.g. The Shape of Water, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Man of Steel). It’s set to come out May 19, 2018.

My first snarky comment solely on the basis of the trailer is “Do you think this movie has something to do with fire?” and the second “My goodness, so many men doing man things—where are the women?” Then again, I know that trailers always lie, and that may be the case here. According to IMDB, at least, the cast does have a number of women, including Sofia Boutella, whom I remember from Kingsman: The Secret Service. It remains to be seen how much of a role they’re given. And I hope Michael B. Jordan is given space to show his depth.

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80s Pop Improved by Fight Scene from Thor: Ragnarok

Incredibly, a fight scene from Thor: Ragnarok kind of goes with an 80s pop track:

Thor Ragnarok – I NEED A HERO!!! FUNNY via Locus on YouTube

The song in the background is “Holding out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler. Impressive job matching some of the punches on screen to the music.

Then I made the mistake of looking up the original music video. Oh, boy…!

WTF Is This Cat

Found via N. K. Jemisin on Tumblr.

Image: Confused cat via Meme Binge on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This post has been edited to correct a typo.

Some things are just too silly not to share!