It seems as if we’ve been getting a new entry into the Marvel film canon at least once or twice a year for the last little while now. And with rumours swirling that the filmmaking titan has its universe mapped out until the year 2028, you either get on board now or be forever lost in the immense, intertwining reaches of this comic book behemoth. Hell, Marvel Studios even has Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox undertaking some of the responsibility! Yes, with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” breaking the box office opening weekend record for April, the television show “Agents of Shield” going steady, “Guardians of the Galaxy” picking up steam on all social platforms, and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” production well under way, it looks as if there’s no stopping this superhero juggernaut.
Conversely, all positives aside, lately the films have been hit and miss. Take for example the underwhelming sequel “Thor: The Dark World” and the polarizing finale to the Iron Man trilogy. While both found financial success, there are those beginning to question the stability of Marvel’s universe. With Marvel’s success came demand, and as this thirst grew, Marvel set in motion a strategy that fulfills the demand which simultaneously secures funding for future need. And this will continue in an infinite loop enabling Marvel to produce with the mindset of quantity over quality. This will eventually result in a consistently declining level of interest that will ultimately lead to less funds for future projects, thereby effectively extinguishing Marvel’s ambitious blueprint for a big screen legacy…but this is just a theory.
What do you think of Marvel’s course of action for the big screen? Is Marvel sacrificing quality for quantity and reward? Are they looking too far ahead or simply giving the viewers what they want? Will their courageous endeavour into the future sacrifice the integrity of their characters or help to better define them? Be sure to let me know what you think in the comment section below. Nevertheless, regardless of what you feel towards Marvel’s aggressive inflation, there’s no denying that if their future projects are anything like their latest, “Captain America: The Winter Solider,” Marvel will be going strong and steady for a long time to come. Directed by the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, and written by Marvel veterans Stephen McFeely Christopher Markus, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is without question the best solo Avenger film to date.
I’ve always felt that Captain America was cut from a different cloth than his Avenger teammates. Despite being a super soldier and carrying around an impenetrable shield, there’s nothing that really distinguishes Captain Rogers from the rest of us. He’s the most humble, vulnerable, human of all the Avengers, and that really shows in every film he’s a part of. Whether it be struggling with his misplacement in time, trying to overcome being deprived of an existence with his beloved, or fending off evil with nothing exactly superhuman to defend him, Captain America truly is the best of humankind amplified.
We catch up with the Captain not long after the events that took place in New York. He’s living in Washington, D.C., running espionage missions for S.H.I.E.L.D and still struggling to fit into modern society. However, when Nick Furry is on his way to a previously arranged rendezvous, he’s ambushed by unknown assailants lead by an assassin known as the Winter Solider. This abruptly puts an end to Captain Roger’s steady routine and thrusts him back into action. Upon learning that the Winter Soldier is working for Hydra, Captain America sets out to defeat the Winter Soldier and put an end to Hydra once and for all.
Look, no disrespect to “The Avengers,” it’s a great flick, action-packed, oozing with quotable dialogue, and frequently amusing. That being said, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is Marvel’s best outing to date. Where chaos controlled and ultimately lead to “The Avengers” reach exceeding its grasp.
Marvel’s latest is controlled, paced, and executed with pure brilliance. The story is engaging, the action is breathtaking, and the performances tower over any other portrayal given in the Marvel universe. And although it might not take place on the grandest scale, it certainly tackles socio-political issues that are extremely relevant in today’s world, hitting closer to home than any of its predecessors. And yet, perhaps what is most impressive and admirable about the film is the serious mentality taken by the Russo brothers whilst executing and capturing the action sequences, whether it be hand-to-hand combat between Rogers and the Winter Solider or larger scale battles and explosions. Not to mention the drama surrounding our hero Captain America and his enemy, the Winter Soldier. It’s as compelling and entertaining a battle between good and evil since Marvel’s nemesis’ D.C Comics unleashed Batman and The Joker…okay…maybe not that illustrious, but they’re working on it.
Returning to the Marvel screen is Chris Evans who reprises his role as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as the always deadly and sexy Natasha Romanoff, Samuel L. Jackson as head honcho Nick Furry, and Sebastian Stan who portrays his alter ego this go around, the Winter Soldier. Joining these vets are newcomers Anthony Mackie, and Robert Redford, who tackle Falcon and Alexander Pierce respectively. Additionally, there’s a terrific supporting ensemble comprised of Frank Grillo, Hayley Atwell, Cobie Smulders, and Toby Jones. If this all-star cast isn’t enough to entice you, I don’t what is!
The insanely talented Chris Evans never ceases to amaze me, I sincerely hope the rumours floating about regarding his early retirement from acting are false. I mean, the man is a machine! Whether he’s knocking the baddies on their rear end or bursting with an unfathomable spectrum of emotions, Evans makes it look all too easy. Now, for those who have been clamouring for an independent Black Widow film, I apologize, I could not see the potential…but all that’s changed now. Scarlett Johansson quite possibly provides the best performance this flick has to offer. She’s sweet, stunning, funny, smart, and sexy. A lethal combination and something you wouldn’t expect from an Avenger afterthought. Sebastian Stan, who’s work I’m not exactly familiar with apart from the original “Captain America” film, gives the best villain performance I’ve seen since Tom Hardy’s Bane or Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Every time this badass stud hit the screen sporting his menacing black mask and mechanical arm, I got chills.
Easily the most surprising aspect of the film is Anthony Mackie’s Falcon. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy his character and alter ego so much! I originally thought he would provide nothing more than a few comical quips and mid-air somersaults, but he does so much more. So much so that I’m actually looking forward to Falcon’s next Marvel appearance. Additionally, Robert Redford…wow. Although he’s only on the screen here and there, he controls the moments he is with an abundance of charisma and villainy.
Shedding the cartoonish hue and predictable comedic relief that has plagued previous Marvel outings, it looks as if the illustrious comic book organization has finally gotten it right. With an incredibly strong script, potent humour, and massively memorable performances, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is as strong as they come.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: 9 out of 10.
Ruairi Robinson’s “The Last Days On Mars” sure picked one hell of a time to unveil. With sci-fi stunners like “Europa Report” and Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar heavyweight “Gravity” already lighting up the screen so far this year, it appears this horrific space adventure is a tad too late to the party. That being said, although it certainly doesn’t measure up to its brethren’s immense successes, this little tale about a group of astronauts fighting off their colleagues turned space-zombies offers up a few moments of pure brilliance and one heck of a soundtrack. Make no mistake, this flick is only related to the previously mentioned gems by label only. Their content, premises, and aspirations are in no way alike. While all three are technically science-fiction, their sub-genres greatly differ. “Gravity” is more of a thriller, “Europa Report” a mix between mockumentary and drama, and our current subject “The Last Days On Mars,” is without question, a horror. So one must critique accordingly.
Reading through some of the more harsh reviews out there, I noticed terms like “over-saturation” and “generic” getting tossed around, not to mention the opinion floating about that another perfectly sublime sci-fi epic was ruined by falling back to convention and common ploys. Then you have those claiming that “The Last Days On Mars” failed when compared to the genre’s efforts this year, and to their credit, they’re idiotically accurate. Of course it crumbles when lining it up alongside films like “Gravity,” the two aren’t even in the same league! All this criticism does is make it easy for those on the fence to get caught up in the negativity surrounding “The Last Days On Mars” and disparage it all together. When in actuality, it’s anything but your run-of-the-mill space horror. The acting is strong, the visuals breathtaking, and the soundtrack rivals those of past, great sci-fi epics. There is value here, one just needs to look beyond the mistakes.
“The Last Days On Mars” is a lot like a plate of food you receive at a fancy banquet hall or that someone has ordered for you…instead of throwing it away, just pick around what you don’t like. Sure, you could be a baby about it and toss the whole meal out all together and miss out on something spectacular, or you can live a little and swallow the occasional bitterness just to say you had. This film, this plate, this smorgasbord of space, spectacle, sensation, and slaughter might be chaotic, inconceivable, and tired, but it’s also beautiful, stimulating, and rewarding. I can tell you in confidence that there is a hell of a lot things I genuinely loved about “The Last Days On Mars,” and yeah, a few that didn’t sit well with me. Yet, I’m not going to throw something away just because I don’t particularly like or agree with all of it, which is what a lot of viewers seem to be doing with this polarizing look at exploration and discovery.
Director Ruairi Robinson makes his full-length feature debut with “The Last Days On Mars,” and for the most part, it’s a reassuring, impressive one at that. He’s a little shaky from time to time, but doesn’t get too comfortable in his mistakes. At times, his quick movements and jumping around will nauseate you a tad, but other than a few questionable scenes, it’s a successful outing. There’s moments he captures of such beauty and atmosphere that they’ll leave you shaking your head in disbelief. If there is a weak spot in the film, it’s the screenplay. Scribed by Clive Dawson, the structure can seem nonexistent at times and the story a little worn out. That being said, there are some lines of dialogue that blew me away and moments of excellent substance that make up for any wrong doings.
Max Richter, who’s probably best known for his musical contributions to Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island,” composes the original score for this flick…and what a score it is. I mean, What can I say? After I finished watching “The Last Days On Mars” I went and bought the soundtrack…that’s probably the best summary I can give. Go and give it a listen, you won’t be disappointed. As for the cast, led by Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, and Romola Garai, I felt they really grounded the film, gave it that human element is desperately needed. They frequently executed Dawson’s dialogue to heartbreaking effectiveness and melded into a dysfunctional, occasionally funny family on the edge of collapse and death in the middle of nowhere. Granted, things could have been a little stronger and consistent on the acting front, but for what they’re given, this cast does a respectable job.
Look, this ain’t Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine,” Duncan Jones “Moon,” or Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity.” It has similar themes, motivations…you know, some fragments of those films, but not to the same extent, nor is it as thoroughly executed. Odds are if zombies in space isn’t a flavour you prefer, this film isn’t for you. That being said, its stunning visuals, transcendent score, and powerful characters make “The Last Days On Mars” a notch above the genre’s drivel, enough anyway to make it recommended viewing.
The Last Days On Mars: 7.5 out of 10.
Well, it might be only the third edition of The Guest List, but I think it’s already a huge success. It’s accomplished exactly what I had hope, introduced fellow film lovers to one another, spurred on some debate, and definitely stirred the pot. And I can already tell that this week’s edition featuring James from Mr. Rumsey’s Film Related Musings is only going to improve upon the segment. If you don’t know who James is or haven’t already followed/subscribed to his website, I highly recommend you do so right now. You’ll find some solid reviews, terrific articles, and a lovely segment entitled “Who’s That?” when you head on over. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!
Now, I have to get some administrative stuff out of the way. For those of you who have signed up for The Guest List segment, could you please post a comment below on when I can be expecting your article. I am very organized about my posting and would love to get a schedule going with this segment.
If you’d like to submit your very own top 10 to The Guest List, here’s how to do it! First, shoot me an e mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your name, website info (if you have one), and the topic you have chosen for your top 10. If I like what I see, I’ll give you the all clear and you can begin composing your entry. Make sure to include a descriptive, yet brief introduction and a picture or clip for every entry in your top 10. Use my own top 10s as references. Then, send it back to me and we will discuss a date of publish.
Also guys, please if you haven’t already, check out my TIFF 2013 reviews. I wouldn’t usually beg like this, but I worked extremely hard on them. It is totally worth your while, there are a bunch of films reviewed that haven’t even be released yet with plenty more write-ups to come. So head on over to a review or two by clicking on the picture under the sidebar entitled TIFF 2013.
Okay, now that the boring stuff is all taken care of, I am going to turn things over to James, enjoy!
Top 10 Films of the 2000s: by James
Thanks Joseph for allowing me to spread my opinions out across your blog here! This is my pick of the top ten films of the last decade. There are endless films which could have made it into here but didn’t, such as Oldboy, so feel free to criticise, praise, rant or rave at me and my choices in the comment section below! For now though, take a look at what I did pick out:
10: Spirited Away
This charming tale of a young girl who ends up in a mysterious place inhabited by gods and monsters is the only animated film to make it onto this list, and it truly deserves its place here. It’s some of the finest animated storytelling of all time, and a personal favourite to re-watch.
9: Battle Royale
Shockingly different to the previous entry; Battle Royale has kids killing each other off in all sorts of ways after being forced into a nightmarish situation. For its satirical commentary and also sheer entertaining spectacle Battle Royale makes it onto this list.
One of the first films that introduced me to Almodóvar, Volver quickly became one of my favourite films for it’s well handled and performed story of loss and redemption. If I said any more I would spoil it, but please do seek it out if you haven’t already seen it.
7: Kill Bill: Volume 1
I often describe the final third of this film as being perfect cinema; and anyone who listens long enough will hear me rant and rave about the use of colour and music, the well-handled action, and the enormous sense of fun that Tarantino seems to be having which then crosses on over to the audience. The rest of the film isn’t too far off this level of entertainment either, making Kill Bill an obvious entrant into my list here.
6: The Pianist
Adrien Brody is incredible here as he takes us through the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. This isn’t an easy or an uplifting watch, but it’s certainly one that lingers in your mind for a long time after the credits roll.
This is one stunning film. The focus on the splendour of the visuals may not be for everyone, but Hero really deserves more praise than it often gets. It is not a fast paced action film; rather it’s an exploration of movement.
4: City of God
Now this is where the list becomes really tricky, I can play around with the ordering of these last four movies endlessly and quite happily put any four of them in first place. City of God is a tale of violence set in Rio de Janeiro and is essential viewing if you haven’t already seen it. The directing style and rawness to the film makes it a pretty special watch.
3: No Country for Old Men
Javier Bardem is an unforgettable presence in what is arguably the Cohen brothers’ best film, and yet its success is not all down to those three. Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Kelly Macdonald all contribute fantastic work and collectively make this one of the best and most important films of the decade.
2: Lost in Translation
My personal favourite out of all the films on this list, or in this decade, Lost in Translation is the deceptively simple story of two people who meet in Tokyo and form a relationship that’s more meaningful than they could have previously imagined. It features excellent performances by both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, who have brought characters to life here that I have grown far too attached to and fond of. This is easily one of my absolute favourite films.
I know of no other film which so confidently, nor so successfully breaks itself apart and exposes itself. This is unquestionably a fantastically handled film that is about film; it’s about itself, the creation of itself and then the evolution of itself. Not only is it incredibly clever though, it doesn’t come across as pretentious but is instead warm hearted, funny and occasionally touching with great performances given by Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper. I cannot recommend Adaptation enough.
What an outstanding list. A BIG thank you to James for contributing his list this week. Remember, check out the criteria for submitting your own list above. Have a great weekend!
Visually striking, unfathomably straining, and performed to near perfection. In space, no one may be able to hear you scream, but the Oscar buzz surrounding Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” travels infinitely and is completely deafening. It’s consistently destructive, awe-inspiring, and unbearably tense. The flick’s climactic nature makes for a non-stop thrill-ride that will leave you craving the solidarity and silence of the void, when or if you are able to survive. Undoubtedly, this will be the most physically and mentally draining 90 minutes you’ll ever spend in a cinema. If you’ve never felt the insignificance of your own life, you’ll surely feel microscopic against the staggering backdrop that is our universe. Cuaron’s visual effects and relentless action are tremendously enthralling, but are a mere bonus to “Gravity’s” true brilliance… Which is the inevitable, disconcerting truth that no matter how far we stretch from the bounds of Earth, we will never truly leave the atmosphere.
Engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is on her first space shuttle mission. Accompanying her is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) who is on his final expedition. During a routine spacewalk to issue some repairs to the Hubble telescope, debris from a satellite collides with the space shuttle Explorer. The impact delivers catastrophic damage to the ship, kills the other astronauts on board the ship, and leaves Stone spinning alone in space. Now, with no means of communication to Earth, Kowalsky must retrieve Stone and the two must figure out a way to return to Earth.
Listen, I’m a sucker when it comes to specific sub-genres, and none more so than sci-fi driven by actual science, space, and drama. Granted, there isn’t exactly a name for this particular tangent, but we all know the films that fall into the category. They are astonishing feats of cinema that reach out and connect with our humanity, leave us in awe of the universe and marvelling at our technological advances. Films such as Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine,” Duncan Jones’ “Moon,” and more recently Sebastian Cordero’s “Europa Report.” These films capture the very essence of science-fiction while never forgetting our benevolence, flaws, and irrelevance. The visuals are unprecedented and leave the audience winded. It’s nearly impossible to find a cinematic experience that rivals this strand’s immaculacy and for good reason. I can tell you with pure confidence that “Gravity” is the newest and possible best member of my favourite genre.
Now, you might think that my passion for this very precise sub-genre hampers my ability to distinguish the truly brilliant from the utterly lacking. When in actuality, it’s quite the contrary. If anything, my fascination has made me even more skeptical and critical of new entries. I respect the art too much to compromise it with childish crushes. So when I tell you that Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” is resplendent, heart-stopping, and impassioned…you better believe I am telling you the truth. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever witnessed on the big screen. Which is why I can deem it the best film I saw at TIFF 2013 without hesitation. And the argument could be made that I attended a majority of the screenings for Oscar favourites at the festival, such as “12 Years a Slave,” “The Fifth Estate,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “August: Osage County,” and “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” So it’s not like I’m comparing it to mediocrity. There’s no doubt in my mind that you will not see a better film than “Gravity” released so far this year. As for November and December releases, only time will tell, but I can’t see it being trumped.
The film itself literally has no weaknesses. From the soundtrack, the story, its graphics and performances. “Gravity” is as completely and structurally sound as they come. Even more astonishing is the scientific, visual, and technological authenticity. And of course with astronaut Chris Hadfield on hand to verify the film’s successes at the screening, I rendered it pointless to argue. The story is not overly complex, but it is real and believable. Which is why I feel it is so effective and relatable. With “Gravity,” Cuaron definitely understands that less is more. Once you’ve settled in for the ride, there is no escaping. You might as well strap yourself into a spacesuit, buckle up, and prepare for the physically and mentally draining journey that is “Gravity.”
From the get go, two things hit you, the music and the imagery. And there’s this beautiful dissonance between the two that you have to experience to believe. The original score shifts, swiftly I might add from a sweet, atmospheric hum to a terrifying, exploding, tense onslaught that wreaks havoc on your nerves. It’s similar to an ascending, ear-piercing rumble that, at a point becomes impossible to withstand. It is undeniably one of the most definitive, creative soundtracks I’ve ever heard. Alongside the score in this intoxicating concoction is Cuaron’s stunning, panoramic imagery that’ll leave you breathless and in disbelief. All I can say is that it’s sure to resonate with you long after the closing credits. Above all however, is the genuine interpretation of the space just outside our planet. All the beauty that the universe has to offer present in “Gravity” is no substitute for the authenticity on display here.
As revolutionary, engaging, and stunning as Cuaron’s sci-fi thriller is, the fact of the matter is that “Gravity” would be totally lost without its two phenomenal stars. Leads George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are thoroughly outstanding and remind us all of their deep talent and why they are so revered in the first place. The truth is that it’s been a while since either have tastefully and fully wowed cinephiles, but no longer. Even more remarkable is what makes their performances so compelling and down-right impressive. It’s not merely the conventional dramatic element, although they do provide that abundantly. The duo’s physical maneuvers and delicate mannerisms in the vacuum is what really stupefies. It is immensely strenuous and difficult to make it look like your floating and working in space. Yet Clooney and Bullock pull it off with sheer immaculacy and make it look so easy. Their performances are just another facet in “Gravity’s” long line of sublime accomplishments.
As totally immersive of an experience that you’ll likely ever be apart of in a cinema. Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” is performed flawlessly, visually impeccable, and as a whole, matchless.
Gravity: 10 out of 10.
C’mon guys, we all know the truth. As cinephiles, we are apart of a very select group that don’t joke around about movies, unless they’re directed by Michael Bay. The sad truth is that not everyone is as inclined to obsess over cinema as we are. At times they can’t differentiate what is a truly good film and which is bad. After recently speaking to people I know at random about the film industry, I realized that not a lot of people are familiar with the actors on screen, let alone the people behind the camera. This list is for all of you out there who have better things to do than compile a cinematic top 10, essentially those who have a life, unlike me.
This list isn’t about household names like Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg. This list is about the up and comers, those who’ve solidified a base for themselves and that we look forward to seeing add and build on top of it. Again, as always this is my personal list, not the opinion of the general public. So, let’s get started.
10: James Wan.
Why you should know him: Saw (2004) and Insidious (2010).
What to expect from him: The Conjuring (2013) and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013).
9: Ben Wheatley.
Why you should know him: Sightseers (2012) and Kill List (2011).
What to expect from him: A Field in England (2013).
8: Rian Johnson.
Why you should know him: Looper (2012).
What to expect from him: Nothing in the works as of the moment.
7: Joss Whedon.
Why you should know him. The Avengers (2012) and Much Ado About Nothing (2012).
What to expect from him: The Avengers 2 (2015).
6: Edgar Wright.
Why you should know him: Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007).
What to expect from him: The World’s End (2013) and Ant-Man (2015).
5: Derek Cianfrance.
Why you should know him: Blue Valentine (2010) and The Place Beyond the Pines (2012).
What to expect from him: Nothing scheduled as of the moment.
4: Duncan Jones.
Why you should know him: Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011).
What to expect from him: Warcraft (2015).
3: Nicolas Winding Refn.
Why you should know him: Bronson (2008) and Drive (2011).
What to expect from him: Only God Forgives (2013).
2: Steve McQueen.
Why you should know him: Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011).
What to expect from him: Twelve Years a Slave (2013).
1: Jeff Nichols.
Why you should know him: Shotgun Stories (2007) and Take Shelter (2011).
What to expect from him: Mud (2012-2013).
If you feel that I’ve overlooked someone or have an issue with the top 10 feel free to comment below. Actually if you have anything to say comment below. Have a good weekend :).
One of the most eerily stunning science fiction dramas of all time. Moon is a superb cosmic journey with unique circumstance and family drama at its core. Directed by Duncan Jones, who is emerging as an unstoppable force in the sci-fi genre with this directorial debut and his follow up, Source Code. Moon is bolstered by Sam Rockwell’s towering performance of a homesick mining astronaut on the dark side of the moon. Moon also features Kevin Spacey as the voice of GERTY, a friendly computer who assists in the running of the lunar base, as well as serving as company to Rockwell’s character.
Sam Bell (Rockwell) is counting down the final weeks until the three year contract he agreed to with Lunar Industries expires. Bell, who is silently lonely, longs to return to Earth and be with his wife and daughter. Bell is the only employee aboard the base aside from an intelligent, speaking computer named GERTY (Spacey). With direct communication to Earth disabled, Bell may only send and receive messages, no live contact. Bell is used to transport helium-3 harvested from the moon back to Earth. Helium-3 is the most abundant, clean, sustainable resource used to provide the Earth with energy. On a casual venture to perform maintenance to one of the harvesters, Bell accidentally crashes into the machine. When Bell wakes, he is faced with painful symptoms and slowly comes to the realization that he may not be alone.
As angelic as it is depressing, Moon soars over its low budget to bring a thought provoking, universal epic to the big screen. Sublime directing from Duncan Jones turns this one man show (performed perfectly by Rockwell) into a multidimensional, emotional roller coaster. Capturing the grand scale of space and the significant details in our insignificant lives (in comparison). Jones achieves incredible feats with limited resources. Without playing the role of spoiler, Rockwell gives a must see performance, in my opinion, one of the best ever. Rockwell distinguishes his character from content, optimistic to severely blurred and in authentic anguish. Unfathomable range and literal pain is the best way I can describe Rockwell’s acting in Moon.
Moon: 9 out of 10.