Future Template: Snowpiercer (2013)

Future Template: Snowpiercer (2013)

In Future Template I want to look at stories that depict our future and analyze the pattern that most of them follow and what this tells us about our culture.

(spoilers ahead)

Snowpiercer is a fascinating and breathtaking science-fiction movie that has an intriguing premise which is explored to the fullest. The movie works so well because you feel how the filmmakers really dig into their idea, which makes the movie very rewarding since you never know what to expect next. From the outside it looks like some B-movie but the production values are excellent as the cinematography and the visual effects really work well. The acting is great, too, all the way through. Chris Evans might be at his best here, Tilda Swinton is just amazing, Ah-sung Ko is really good too and besides all the other great people here, Ed Harris and Alison Pill have short but very striking moments too. This is a fun, clever and exciting movie.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

(spoilers!)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has an appropriately silly title for a movie that is so bad, it could easily work as an unintentional comedy or a drinking game or a thesis on how not to make a comic book movie. It is that bad, one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a cinema in a long time. Granted, I expected not to like it but had to see it anyway, mainly because its predecessor Man of Steel was one of the kickstarters for this blog. I’m not sure BvS:DoJ can solicit as deep an analysis as Man of Steel did, but there is plenty to discuss anyway. But let me stress one more time: this movie is really, really bad, worse than Man of Steel, incompetently bad and a really bad sign for DC’s attempt at creating a movie universe. And I say that as a confessing comic book and superhero fan. This movie is stupid, incoherent, annoying, laughable and boring. I’ll keep my bets on Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse even more than before.

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Divergent (2014)

Divergent (2014)

(spoilers!)

Divergent is exactly what you think it is: a second-rate Hunger Games with a similar story that’s less appealing and actors that are less interesting. It’s an incredibly silly movie that is still somewhat entertaining but filmed with a great lack of skill (other than its sequel Insurgent which is still silly, less entertaining but better filmed), especially in the last third where action sequences almost seem amateurish as the editing mostly renders them incoherent (can this movie really be edited by Se7en's Richard Francis-Bruce?). Only Kate Winslet somewhat elevates the material, if maybe only because it is refreshing to see her as a (spoiler!) villain. Still, it’s mostly a forgettable film where it is hard to believe that is stretched to another four movie series.

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Noah (2014)

Noah (2014)

Noah is a movie that has a certain fascination with it, but ultimately fails, but mostly ideologically. Cinematically, it is often impressive but also gets lost in CGI and awkward plot threads. It has an unusual protagonist that is very hard to like, which makes it a perfect role for Russell Crowe. The movie is… I don’t know, it certainly has its appeal and you can see some of the interesting thoughts that went into it, also not trying to make it a dumb faith-movie (it really isn’t) and treating it simply as a compelling story. But for whatever reason, the movie doesn’t really work. As a fan of Darren Aronofsky this is hard to watch even if you see his touches here and there. But in the end, my biggest problem with the movie is its message, which I’ll further analyze below.

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You Belong on the Radio - German Music Charts (3)

You Belong on the Radio - German Music Charts (3)

I don’t know how I slipped into a weekly (instead of my intended bi-daily one) routine, but that’s what the holidays sometimes do. Anyway, before I linger more and contemplate what to write about, here’s some songs from the German charts again, because that always works.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron is basically what you want it to be: an entertaining movie based on comic books that has exciting action and fun Joss Whedon dialogue. The movie delivers on all those promises and that’s enough for an enjoyable comic book movie for me. It doesn’t go that extra step that Guardians of the Galaxy went, but on the other hand it has a much more fascinating villain and a more coherent plot overall. The character interactions are fun and this, unlike the first movie, every character gets enough opportunities to shine. It is amazing to see how many actors these movies are able to gather. It’s hard for me to tell how much fun such a movie is without having the background knowledge of the comics, but as a comic reader it is hard to deny how much fun it is to see those characters come alive and do their thing. Not everything makes complete sense and, just to be clear, this is no masterpiece of moviemaking (despite some great shots). It’s a fun movie, a million times better than the dreadful Man of Steel, proving (likes Guardians) that comic book movies are not all alike. It was mostly what I wanted it to be.

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Go Play: Resourcing, Exploring, Upgrading

Go Play: Resourcing, Exploring, Upgrading

The last time I wrote about gaming, I wasn’t really playing anything anymore. Since then I decided to spend some more time with games again, because it was an itch that needed some scratching. I had been playing many games in the past (something I will get back to eventually), but because of my luxury problem of being interested in too many things, gaming was relegated to the back seat. Until now. Anyway, since I’m always so critical of anything, I still enjoy watching blockbuster movies and playing video games. I’m always aware of the issues hidden there, though, and I thought today I try to explore some them in more detail here.

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Soylent Green (1973) [1973 Week]

Soylent Green (1973) [1973 Week]

Soylent Green is one of those sci-fi-classics where people rarely talk about the actual movie and much more about its famous final line of dialogue. The movie is really fascinating because it is such a dark, extremely dystopian future that is relentless in its hopelessness. It tries to alarm people at the time, to avoid this future, but then again, the way people act here, you couldn’t believe that anyone is able to change or do anything good. I really liked this dark atmosphere, the special effects and some of the ideas about the future. The movie is set in 2022, so there is some of that fun of how much the movie is wrong about the future. And how much it is right. It is not a perfect movie at all, the plot doesn’t really move forward much and is obviously just there to reach the shocking conclusion. The misogyny is almost unbearable (more on that below) and Charlton Heston does not play a very appealing main character. But there is Edward G. Robinson’s amazing final performance and many fascinating little details that keep you entertained.

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After Earth (2013)

After Earth (2013)

(spoilers for a movie without surprises)

After Earth is a movie that earns my respect for being incredibly bad. A $120 million budget, a big name star and a script revised many times by some big names (that don’t appear in the credits), and this movie still looks and sounds like no one knows what they’re doing. It’s an amateurish, convoluted and silly attempt of pretending to be a movie. It is incoherent in its excuse for a plot, ridiculous in coming up with a future world where nothing is practical and delivers a message that is incredibly dangerous and stupid. I know, if you just squint a little, this might look like a harmless sci-fi movie, but if you really look at it, it is a total mess that made me laugh out loud several times. And let’s not even talk about the (non-existent) acting or that it’s directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

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Kids with Guns (1)

Kids with Guns (1)

When I wrote about the Marysville School Shooting two weeks ago, I discovered this list on school shootings on Wikipedia and it fascinated me endlessly. I wasn’t sure why until I started doing research because I wanted to write more about this topic. It’s fascinating to see that while almost all of those incidents are reported in the news, it often isn’t more than the initial “someone has been shooting at a school” report, but rarely any follow-ups. So it’s very hard to learn what was behind those shootings, to read about motives or reactions. I guess that’s not surprising for our media that it is only interested in the shock value of such news and doesn't dare to dig deeper. Still, there are some follow-up articles and as I realized I might get obsessed with this topic because I endlessly wanted to look up everything, I decided to turn this into a series, focus on a couple of incidents and come back to that long, long list again (and again).

 

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Knowing (2009)

Knowing (2009)

(spoilers ahead)

Knowing is a hokey sci-fi-thriller but a very entertaining one. Its concept and often the execution are very over the top, but for some reason the movie still works. One reasons is Nicolas Cage, I think, who is quite good here. But whenever the movie drags a little with its somewhat clunky story, there is a set piece of a disaster that looks amazing and is very intense, especially the two-minute take of a plane crash. It’s disaster porn, sure, but it’s effective. The research scene of Cage finding out what the numbers mean that his son found is also compelling. I’m sure this movie has a smaller impact on a second viewing, but for what it is, it’s quite good and could have been much worse.

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Go Play: Escaping, Assassinating, Warring

Go Play: Escaping, Assassinating, Warring

I realized I look at so many different things here, movies, music, books, comics, etc., I should include something else. Sure, I could also narrow my focus, but I’m not good at that, I want the big picture, all of it. So, today I want to look at video games. Why? Well, just like all the others, they are an essential part of our cultural canon, especially (but not exclusively) for younger people.  More than all the others, they engage you actively in an activity, thereby shaping your ideas and values in a different way than other mediums. I’m not saying they have a bigger impact, but it is a more unique impact than just consumer media. Anyway, I think video games have a different way of portraying and transporting cultural ideas. So, I thought I face them now. Here’s my plan: I look at the list of upcoming games (from Wikipedia, all the quotes are from there), pick some games and see what’s there to see.

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Comics Are for Everyone: 2012 Edition - Occupying Jokers, Transgender Aliens and the Web of Life [2012 Week]

Comics Are for Everyone: 2012 Edition - Occupying Jokers, Transgender Aliens and the Web of Life [2012 Week]

As I mentioned before, 2012 had a lot of comics in it and I read many of those. So I thought today I spent some time flipping through more than 1,000 issues to see what is noticeable in those comic books. What, you say that’s crazy? Too much? You’re right, actually. I’ll try to focus on which current events were portrayed in some of those comics and also look at some interesting messages regarding humanity. So, the usual.

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Comics Are For Everyone: The Last of the Greats/Avengers vs. X-Men #6

Comics Are For Everyone: The Last of the Greats/Avengers vs. X-Men #6

“Humans are flawed and this is why they destroy the earth.” Would anyone doubt that assumption? Probably not. I do because I think it’s not humans but culture that is flawed. Anyway, I want to look at two comic books today that ask the question: What would happen if all the problems in the world could be solved? What would humans do then? Those are intriguing questions that revolve around the notion of humans being flawed or not. If they are not flawed, solving all the problems would save the world. If they are flawed, all the problems will just come back. Looking at these questions are Joshua Hale Fialkov and Brent Peeples in their mini-series The Last of the Greats, published by Image in 2011 and 2012, and Jonathan Hickman and Olivier Coipel in the best issue of the event comic Avengers vs. X-Men (or just AvX because it’s so cool), published in 2012 by Marvel (which was written by every major Marvel writer but was quite a mess overall).

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