SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING AND ATOMIC BLONDE REVIEWS AVAILABLE AT BUZZ MAGAZINE

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Recently I went and saw the new Spider-Man movie and my wife took me to a preview screening of the new Charlize Theron actioner Atomic Blonde. I’ve also watched Baby Driver, a film that has been carrying a lot of buzz. Alas I may not share the same enthusiasm for it that many do but there are things I appreciated about it. Maybe I’ll get to a review in time. I also hope to write about the return of the Brisbane International Film Festival which trust me is a cause for celebration. In the meantime I’ve been lucky to have Buzz Magazine publish my reviews for Spider-Man: Homecoming and Atomic Blonde. Links can be found here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/spiderman-homecoming/ and here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/atomic-blonde/ and I hope you enjoy.

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Based out of Victoria, Buzz Magazine was one the longest running street press magazines in Australia being published in print from 1993 to 2010. Some fine writers have worked for Buzz over the years and gone onto successful careers in media since and there is simply no way to measure the contribution the mag made to local music over its print run. With such words and minimal advertising on the website the impression could be taken that Buzz is now semi-retired. Yet the site is quite prolific with new write-ups on a daily basis, the ongoing interest of fans old and new and contributions from some very talented people indeed.

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I count myself very fortunate to have been able to submit 5 reviews there for the blockbusters Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Wonder Woman and now Spider-Man: Homecoming and Atomic Blonde.

Hope you’re all well.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

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ALIEN CONVENANT SURE WON’T BE MISTAKEN FOR ALIEN: COVETED

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Alien: Convenant has opened to mixed reviews and solid if not exciting box office. Such a reaction may spell the end of Ridley Scott’s plan to close out a new trilogy of Alien films for this decade but will this film grow in prestige with time. Setting out to serve two audiences it may fail to completely satisfy either but there’s no denying there’s good stuff here. Is it enough?

GenXers growing up in the shadow of the first two films were always keen for more go arounds when rumours would arise of James Cameron or Ridley Scott returning to the franchise. At one point long before Avatar took up his time there were even rumours Scott would direct a film written and produced by Cameron but alas that was not to be.

in 2012 though Scott returned to science fiction for the first time since 1982 with Blade Runner to make a Prometheus that would deal with origins of the Aliens and answer finally who was that infamous space jockey. The infamous space jockey turned out to be a giant, bald grey humanoid who took a shot of tequila and made human kind. Or at least one of his ilk did a million years ago. Beyond that we didn’t learn much about them but the ending of Prometheus promised us we would find out in the next film. We don’t.

Prometheus saw the Hollywood debut of Noomi Rapace who did a solid turn as Elizabeth Shaw and before heading off on a new adventure at the end setting up a compulsory sequel. Don’t expect to see much of her in this sequel.

Prometheus sported some incredible visuals but its weak point were fucking moronic characters who played cute with space cobras and took off space helmets for no good reason so they could propel the narrative forward, felt ill and possibly contaminated but still had sex with their girlfriends and in a panic ran in straight lines ahead of rolling giant objects bearing down on them.

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Thankfully there were bright spots and not just some neat sexual tension between naked push-ups champ Charlize Theron and handsome Idris Elba. There was Michael Fassbender as peroxided android David. A character you definitely couldn’t trust but was endlessly fascinating whom with a mix of intelligence and naivety engaged me.

I had time for some of the human characters in Prometheus, but I wanted to find out what happened next to David. To this end Alien: Convenant is more of the same. Michael Fassbender returning as David and also starring as Walter a newer model android is easily the most engaging performance/s of the film. Nothing against Katherine Waterston or Danny McBride who acquit themselves well but they’re types and also lambs for the slaughter. Nobody is still wearing a space helmet again but at least the word quarantine comes up in conversation and it just seems like the momentum is always against the human characters here that you understand why mistakes are made even if they are still clearly mistakes.

I guess you want to hear the plot right? Okay people on a ship in cyrosleep going to a planet. Fire on ship, people wake up. Get signal from other planet. Decide to go there because it is habitable and just had people die on fire on ship. Get there and….aliens. Sort of.

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There-done. I can’t state this enough Fassbender and Guy Pearce having a conversation in a white room at the beginning of the film was far more thrilling for me than an Alien tearing down spaceship corridors in the third act. Everything with David and Walter was far more fascinating to me than the alien scares and I suspect the same for Ridley Scott. Despite this though I do think the venerable director has had a red hot go at making the xenomorph scary again and giving us fantastically gross deaths to try and top the chest-bursting scene of the original. Creatures in long grass leaping out at dusk illuminated by nearby burning wreckage. Bursting open backs rather than stomachs. Neomorphs braying quietly an inch from you like a horse. The classic cliché of a shower sex coupling interrupted by other appendages moving in are memorable images as are pathogens moving through ear canals. If there is any complaint it is that it would have been nice to up the creep factor a bit with some of these sequences. Sadly the creatures themselves often move too fast and with little weight obviously rendered by computer their movements are now too sleek compared to the haunting creature in the earlier films. However the scene much touted in the marketing where a belayed Waterston does battle with the classic xenomorph on top of a careening space vehicle while packing a modified Steyr assault rifle is the kind of sequence that couldn’t have been done 20 years ago the same way and makes great use of modern technology.

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The film itself is less pretty than Prometheus sporting harsher colours, the planet in this film replaces the bare black volcanic rock with forests and medieval like structures but the sky is darker, the colours even more muted adding up to convey a nightmarish quality of a ruined world. Positively gothic. Which is kind of the point and maybe why this may struggle to find a huge audience. This is a dour film offering no real easy answers. There’s plenty of horror and action in it but its more interested in bigger themes. Yet saying that big themes and moodiness is why this film won’t click with some is just an excuse. Plenty of dour films can still entertain you with their effectiveness. There are interesting ideas in Alien: Convenant, some neat deaths and two compelling performances from Michael Fassbender. I was angry about the idea of having already waited five years for answers when Convenant was only going to leave me hanging for more but I am now intrigued to see where Scott takes this. Yet that does not a satisfying film make and Alien: Convenant is far from satisfying. Wait for it to come out on Disc or streaming. While Alien: Convenant seeks to address some of the criticisms of Prometheus I would argue the latter is still the better film. I’m also putting it out there in this corner of the internet, Sir Ridley I’d like to see Alien 5 with Ripley, Newt and Hicks more than I ever wanted to see this.

-Lloyd Marken

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THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS REVIEW ON SCENESTR

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Recently I have been fortunate enough to do some work with Scenestr Magazine. This week I was lucky enough to attend the Queensland premiere of the movie The Fate of the Furious and my review of the film has gone online here http://scenestr.com.au/news/movies-and-tv/the-fate-of-the-furious-review-20170412

I appreciate people taking the time to click through on the link rather than the convenience of reading a review from here. The actioner starring Vin Diesel is a fun way to spend two hours but I’m most excited about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opening later this month although Thor: Ragnarok’s stocks have gone through the roof this week. 🙂

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr. is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. With over twenty years of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They also publish Scene magazine in print every month focussed mostly on music gigs, festivals, stand-up comics, fashion and interviews with local and international bands. If you’re into music they’re a great read but they do cover all of the arts and fortunately for me I have had 3 reviews published by them for Queensland Ballet’s Raw, Logan and Hidden Figures.

-Lloyd Marken

THE HUNTSMAN: AN UNNECESSARY SEQUEL THAT IS NOT NECESSARILY BAD

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a completely unnecessary prequel, sequel and spin-off but that is not to say it is not without merits. Snow White and The Huntsman was a big hit for Universal but bad press followed when it was published that the married director Rupert Sanders and young starlet Kristen Stewart had been involved in an affair. Sometimes the public doesn’t care about such things but sometimes it causes issues and given it ended the relationship between Stewart and her Twilight co-star Robert Pattison the media interest was going to reach fever pitch. Snow White had proved a bona fide hit for young Stewart offering her chance to get work beyond the Twilight franchise and quirky indie hits. So what to do after shitting the bed? movies kristen stewart ms snow white swathThe inevitable follow-up went through a stilted development with whether Sanders would return (he didn’t), Stewart would reprise her role (she doesn’t) and whether the film that followed focussing on The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) would be a prequel? (hmm kinda).

Following the events of the first film we get into the back story of Eric, The Huntsman which turns out to be quite a tale requiring us to look back at events involving Ravenna (Charlize Theron) many years before Snow White. Freya (Emily Blunt) a younger sister of Ravenna following a personal tragedy left for the icy north where she raised an army out of soldiers captured and trained to fight from childhood. Her finest soldiers are Sara (Jessica Chastain) and Eric who plan to escape and marry which is forbidden in Freya’s Kingdom. When Freya learns of this Eric sees Sara murdered before him and barely escapes to the southern kingdom where he will take part in the first film’s events. Now in present day a darkness has taken over Snow White’s Kingdom and Snow White herself (the great triumphant female heroine from the first film reduced to a shot from behind of her sick and knelt in front of her nemesis’s Magical Mirror) and maybe only the mighty Tho-sorry Eric can save us.

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On paper The Huntsman appears like a poor cash in, the focus has shifted to a side character, the original’s visual effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is making his directorial debut with this film and seven dwarves have shrunk to two (we get four in the end). The budget of the original was $170 million dollars and this sequel cost $110 million dollars, while the film looks good and sports great effects, sets and sequences it lacks the large scale set pieces with extras and real locations that the original sported. Despite what the marketing would have you believe, the franchise’s biggest star Charlize Theron is mostly absent from proceedings essentially showing up in the third act with a glorified cameo as if the filmmakers didn’t trust their own tale to carry enough impact without her. Which given how much the film lifts when she appears may just be good common sense on their part. Balancing this out is newcomers Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain who are two of the hottest young actresses working in Hollywood at the moment. Hot in the sense

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but also hot in the sense that their proven talent and previous work makes them highly sought after. Their casting lends a lot of prestige to this sequel which at times often feels like half measures compared to the original. Blunt conveys a steely bitter resolve that you never quite trust will not crumble (she’s been better in other films but it makes sense for her not to quite have the presence of Theron) and Chastain is suitably kick-ass.

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Chris Hemsworth enjoys his opportunity to be the lead albeit in yet another ensemble, sporting a fake Scottish accent, smiling charmingly and filing out leather pants as good as Chastain does (why doesn’t she gets sleeves too or perhaps the question should be why does he have sleeves?!). The previous film allowed him in one scene to really stretch his acting muscles too, I’m not sure this sequel did but his performance is fun enough. That’s the entire film in a way, completely unnecessary but fun enough. There are wisecracks, loved up couples all around, castles, sorceress’s, monsters, fights, and all shot effectively, all told with a wink and a smile. Hey, I’m not complaining.

-Lloyd Marken

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MAD MAX: FURY ROAD ROCKS BECAUSE GRANDPA MILLER KNOWS ACTION

fire explosion mad max mad max fury roadMad Max: Fury Road arrives with a bang easily the best blockbuster of the whole American summer. Like a howling breath of fresh air for the action genre, this fourth entry in the franchise both paradoxically shows how films could be shot going forward and revels in old school practicality. George Miller at 70 has led a cast and crew of all ages in the reinvention of a franchise and a genre with the kind of energy and zeal a man half of his years would shudder to muster.

Skipping an origin story with what is effectively a reboot we are plunged head first into this dystopian post-apocalyptic world with little water or petrol. Reducing all back to tribal loyalties and feudal pecking orders, those with muscle are the ones who wield power. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) himself is a man with capable skills and physicality but is subject to attack due to his loner status. His vulnerability shown up in the opening scenes where wandering the desert he is chased and captured by a group of thugs and taken to The Citadel where dictator Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules supreme. Tellingly Max and Joe never meet, Max even following an escape attempt is never seen as truly remarkable but strung up to be used as a blood donor.

angry charlize theron mad max annoyed mad max fury roadThe lead character is arguably not even Max but Imperator Furiousa played by Charlize Theron who serves Joe as his best convoy driver for fuel or ammunition runs in her War Rig semi-trailer truck. Furiousa hides a secret though, she was taken as a child from a more peaceful place and she is planning her escape to get back there and to take with her the young healthy women that Immortan Joe has taken for his brides.

The film is effectively a chase film with character motivations and interactions taking place often on the run. Yet the story is deceptively deep as Immortan Joe clearly at the end of his life prizes women to possibly breed healthy children as more important than how many guns and wealth he can acquire. One powerful shot shows a pregnant woman placing her belly in front of Furiosa rendering a gun toting Joe impotent to fire.mad max mad max fury road immortan joe the splendid angharad hugh keays-byrne

Tom Hardy has always created tremendous physical presences in his films and he is no different here but his Max is a little chattier than Mel Gibson’s. mad max mad max fury road fight me because apparently i am the worlds tiniest puff pastryNonetheless he till mostly grunts through the film and like previous efforts, Hardy nicely conveys the theme of Max learning to co-exist and even rely on others. Charlize Theron packed on 9 kilograms of muscle to her frame for the film and here covered in grease and rags with a mechanical arm she is the most beautiful thing in the film. Conveying so much with glances from her shining green eyes she is unequivocally a fucking movie star but also one of the best actresses working today. Being liberated are the Five Wives some played by former models who all convey subtle personality traits that define each of their characters and make them all unique. movie film love couple sci-fiNicholas Hoult portrays a War Boy named Nux originally loyal to Immortan Joe and eager to die a glorious death hunting down Furiosa. He has possibly the biggest arc as a character and Hoult conveys a growing revelation that War Boy has always wanted to be liked and have friends. This need and its lack of gratification shows up the harshness of his world.

2015 behind the scenes mad max mad max fury road chromeThe music could be my favourite score of the year, certainly of any blockbuster. So much thought has gone into production design right down to things that may not even appear on screen in terms of gear sticks and interiors of certain vehicles. Such details inform about the characters reflecting their personalities and status as well as how they live. While a stunning array of real stunts were performed in shot, various rigs and wires are CGI’d out and the palette of the colours has been dramatically changed in post. It creates an epic new look for the film not dissimilar to comics and distancing the film from the original trilogy to stand on its own.

mad max mad max fury road fury roadSpecial shout out to this film’s Supervising Stunt Coordinator Guy Norris who performed many stunts on Mad Max 2 most famous of which was the bicycle stunt when he flipped over several times in mid-air after a crash and broke his femur. Now 54, Norris book ended the stunts of this film by first rolling Max’s Interceptor as seen in the trailers and at the end of filming driving a sixteen wheeler truck into the wreck of another at 60 miles per hour. Cinematographer John Seale also came out of retirement to do this film and his work is magnificent.

George Miller is making the best use of all modern technology can afford him but he has wisely foreseen that there is a growing recognition to feature women as more than love interests in genre pictures on a regular basis and that nothing beats the thrill of real stunts in an action film. This is a great movie.

-Lloyd Marken

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