Author Archives: Luke Sneyd
If the world was made of LEGO, our world, the real one, you’d smash it to bits. You know you would. I would. Who wouldn’t? Mahatma LEGO Gandhi maybe. But they haven’t made that movie into a hilariously enjoyable video game just yet. And that’s probably fine. What has made it to the LEGO gaming world is a great collection of pop culture franchises, all ready to splinter and fly apart into glorious bouncing multicoloured cubes. My girlfriend and I have played the LEGO Batman games, which are wonderful fun. Star Wars, The Hobbit, The Avengers, Harry Potter and Indiana Jones have all gotten the LEGO treatment. So with the ripping success of this summer’s Jurassic World, it’s only fitting that Spielberg’s dinosaurs should be bricked too.
Well Mat’s posted about playing the game, which is a sweet, sweet thing. I thought I’d give you a gander at the Batman: Arkham Knight Limited Edition Sony PS4, too. Couldn’t resist making an unboxing vid, but I kept it a little shorter than some. Let’s you and me swing from the rooftops, crusader, after the jump.
BASE jumping is back, baby. The acronym stands for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth. In practice, it means strapping on a parachute and hurling oneself off a tall, fixed place, whether a skyscraper, communications tower, bridge or forbidding mountain cliff. The rush is real. And so is the folly. As part of the promo leading up to the Pan Am Games in Toronto this summer, a duo of BASE jumpers leapt off the CN Tower a few weeks ago. Footage of the feat will be part of the Games’ opening ceremony. At the other end of the spectrum, veteran jumpers Dean Potter and Graham Hunt died in May BASE jumping with wingsuits in Yosemite National Park. Between success and failure, the experience is truly extreme. Marah Strauch’s Sunshine Superman (2015) takes up the life of one of the sport’s most charismatic pioneers, Carl Boenish (rhymes with “danish”). Let’s take a look over the edge, but careful, it’s a long, long way down.
Great artists are kinda fucking nuts. They don’t always seem that way. Sometimes they come across completely normal, as normal as you or I. (Well, you anyway.) Sure, some have their tics and rattles, but it’s the work that really shows where their compulsions lie. To look at his work, Hans Rudolf Giger must’ve been batshit crazy with all manner of body and technological loathing. His prodigious output is among the most distinctive art of the late twentieth century, from paintings to sculptures to the all-time creepiest xenomorph ever to smash its double-hinged projectile jaws into a human skull in Alien (1979). The documentary Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World (2014) finds Giger in the final fade of his twilight years, ailing but affable, presiding over his legacy with the creation of the Giger Museum in his home Switzerland. It’s an uneven doc, but Giger’s shadows are impossibly compelling. Grab a ticket. If the ride makes you sick, well, isn’t that what you paid for?
Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected: The Gold Rush – The Marvel Cinematic Universe Hits the Motherlode
There’s gold in them thar hills. Nuggets the size of your bulbous head. Great seams of it riven in the rock, opening up gleaming veins for the sun to bedazzle. Each one of those nuggets is a hero, and each hero is serious bank. Marvel’s got a sack full of nuggets, hell a whole damn trainload, all bound from the coast to amaze with their shinings at your local thee-ate-er and thousands more worldwide. And we all know money begets money, except when it doesn’t. Hell, many’s the time it doesn’t. But since the inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man in 2008, there’s been a conscious plan to make the most successful pantheon of interconnected movies this planet has ever seen. And gosh goldarnit, that plan is working. I don’t even know why I’m talking like a snaggletoothed prospector from 1849, but it seems pretty clear. While DC’s been panning in the river, Marvel’s built the mine, and those cars just keep coming up with their golden freight. Not every movie’s a major claim, but together, sons and daughters, together they’re the motherlode.
Savage and beautiful, Toa Fraser’s The Dead Lands (2014) is a gripping warrior’s tale. A tribal chief’s young son finds himself the only survivor of a massacre, and vows vengeance. But to have any hope of repaying the grim blood debt, he must enlist the help of a mad warrior, feared by all. So begins a remarkable Maori action epic, featuring the little known art of mau rakau, a Maori martial art based in part on the brutal wielding of a serrated paddle called a patu. Kind of like a nasty ping pong paddle, properly wielded it can slit your throat or bash your brains right the fuck out. I was fortunate to be able to interview director Fraser, from a safe distance. Let’s leap into the fray, after the jump.
There’s a traveling retrospective of Ruben Östlund’s work going around; it was in New York earlier this year, and lands at TIFF in Toronto starting tomorrow. While four films is a bit light for a retro, the Swedish director does have a definite perspective, and seems on the verge of something. The same words keep cropping up to describe Östlund’s films: unsettling, provocative, audacious, perceptive. And the critics aren’t wrong. This guy likes pushing your buttons. Hard. He knows where they are and he goes after them with slow determination. So with his static camera and glacial skewering of public mores is Östlund a sadist or a satirist? You say tomahto, I say let’s make some soup after the jump.
You know how it goes. We all do it. The barista gets your name wrong, it’s awful. Rogers raises their internet rates again, it’s terrible. Kanye acts like an idiot at an awards show, again again. It’s appalling. But really, these complaints are the frills of cushy Western living. We’re pretty lucky to live in a society where we can freely bitch about these things (just don’t talk about the environment if you’re a Canadian government scientist, but nevermind). And it’s both astounding and so very depressing to see how easily such cherished freedoms can be tossed aside by governments ostensibly founded on those very principles. What’s awful is being persecuted for your beliefs. What’s terrible is being unlawfully imprisoned for years without representation, a trial or even formal charges. What’s appalling is being held prisoner by a nation founded on basic rights, when that nation itself acknowledges your innocence, but then lacks the will to set you free. That truly is absurd, and it’s the unsettling reality that the documentary Uyghurs: Prisoners of the Absurd sets out to reveal.
TIFF’s got a retrospective of Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-Hsien on right now. Which could make you swoon, if you love lush cinematography, oblique story-telling and very long takes with a free-wandering camera. Or it could be as exciting as a long night with your second cousin’s family, driving around aimlessly, wishing these people you barely know actually had something to say. Beautiful, meditative, complex, tedious, distant, and meandering are all words that could apply to Hou’s mesmeric take on movies. Sometimes the spell works. Others… Join me after the jump to find where you fall on the Hou scale.
Heard of her? Probably. Name a film she’s done? Not so easy. Barbara Stanwyck earned a deserved spot in the A-List of classic Hollywood celebrity in her day. She played in 85 films over the course of 38 years, a Nick Cage-like pace punctuated with terrific range from comedies to tear-jerkers to hard-boiled film noir. She was nominated four times for Best Lead Actress but never won (though she did take home several Emmys for her later work in television), and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. To contemporary eyes she’s in a bit of a fog, not as clear a classic figure as the sharp-witted Katharine Hepburn or the tough gravitas of Bette Davis. Part of that haze is due to Stanwyck’s chameleonic range, the ur Meryl Streep if you will, as she tackled so many different kinds of roles with fluid aplomb. For the next two months, TIFF Cinematheque shines a light on Stanwyck’s wide-ranging career, revealing a fierce, independent icon from a bygone era. Bold and brassy, she’s all the reason they’re calling the program Ball of Fire.