Category Archives: movie review
Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected: Golden Glitter & An Underlying Darkness-The Legacy of Tony Stark In The MCU (Part 2)
Part one of Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected: Golden Glitter & An Underlying Darkness-The Legacy of Tony Stark In The MCU took a close look at the similarities between father and son, Howard Stark and Tony Stark, including their personalities, business interests and shared legacies. At the same time, it laid the groundwork for the younger Stark’s role as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s greatest purveyor of malice.
Tony Stark and his Stark Industries conglomerate create weapons of mass destruction. This is known.
Midway through the first Iron Man (2008) film, after being tortured and, after seeing his company’s products sold to terrorist organizations and used for evil purposes, Stark comes to a marked and important turning point in his life wherein he states: “I don’t want a body count to be our only legacy.” An altruistic statement, to be certain, by a man who’s bravado is only surpassed by his bank account. Still, it’s a significant distinction to make that, at this time, Stark truly sets out on the path to becoming heroic.
But in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, everything that Tony Stark creates for noble, upstanding and heroic purposes always gets twisted in ways that transform that sense of benevolence into objects of mankind’s destruction.
Mia Donovan’s cerebral Deprogrammed, is a film about empathy. She shows the viewer what can happen when interpersonal understanding fails. This Hot Docs 2015 documentary shows the audience that what you don’t know is sometimes more important than what you do. Most importantly, we are asked where to “draw the line between personal expression and undue influence.”
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.
I was fortunate enough to watch a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2014 Australian film called Predestination. This science fiction story is about time travel and it was written and directed by Spierig brothers, Michael and Peter. The film is based on a short story called “All You Zombies” written by Robert A. Heinlein and stars Ethan Hawke, as a Temporal Agent (time cop) on the search for a terrorist known as the Fizzle Bomber. Noah Taylor plays Mr. Robertson, the head of the Temporal Bureau and, the fabulous Sarah Snook plays a male writer named John. Using the pen name of “Unmarried Mother”, John is famous for writing confessional testimonials in a magazine. Sarah Snook gets to play two different versions of her character, starting out as female and ending up as a male. Sound confusing? Thanks to the wonderful acting of the two main stars, I was able to keep up to all the time jumps and gender switches. I was very excited to speak with Sarah Snook about her role in Predestination. Read the rest of this entry
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.
If you’re living in the world of genre love like so many of the writers at Biff Bam Pop are, you’ve no doubt heard all the worries about the upcoming Fantastic Four film, directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle) and starring Jamie Bell, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller. On set strife, new origin stories, yadda yadda yadda. Hopefully, the trailer from a few weeks ago has helped allay some of your fears. It certainly has me jonesing to see what everyone involved can come up with. And now, having watched Miles Teller in the absolutely fantastic film Whiplash, I’m even more excited and optimistic about the new Fantastic Four.
The Oscars are coming up, airing Sunday, February 22nd for over 40 million people. Yesterday I looked at one of the hardest to follow Academy categories, the award for best live action short. Today we’ll take up another short category, certainly the most fun, the Oscar for best animated short. TIFF in Toronto is showing these for at least the next week, as well, and if you’re in the States, you can find listings for the Academy Awards short programs here.