AVENGERS : INFINITY WAR REVIEW AVAILABLE AT BUZZ MAGAZINE

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I am very lucky to have had my review for Avengers: Infinity War published at Buzz Magazine. I am fortunate enough to have a lot of reviews of big blockbusters published over at Buzz and they don’t come bigger than this. Please feel free to click here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/avengers-infinity-war/ to read my thoughts and offer any of your own. I hope you enjoy.

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’m very excited to say that I’ve reached a new milestone with this review at Buzz. This is my tenth review published with them following on from Black Panther, Star Wars: The Last JediBlade Runner 2049, Five Came Back, Atomic Blonde, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Wonder Woman, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Let me know if you had particular favourite.

-Lloyd Marken

 

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10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART VIII: GOMA UPLATE MARVEL EXHIBIT

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The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art opened in Brisbane on the 2nd of December, 2006. Often my friends and I have gone to it and the Queensland Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery for various exhibits over the years. Between all 3 there has been an Andy Warhol exhibit, a David Lynch exhibit, an exhibit of 20th Century art and architecture and a retrospective collection of Valentino’s collection. There has also been an Exhibit about lingerie which was just the best! But we’re not here to talk about that today, we’re here to talk about the recent Marvel exhibit.

There is a program called GOMA Uplate which my gang regularly attend where the Gallery will be open on a Friday night and have entertainment and booze. I enjoy these because often the exhibits as less crowded than during the day on weekends and there is a different vibe in the air. Can still get pretty busy.

20170811_201159Throughout last year filming of Thor: Ragnarok took place in my home state of Queensland mostly at the Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast but also for a few days in the Brisbane CBD. People from London, New York, L.A., Chicago and Toronto will attest what a pain in the arse this can be for locals. I was working out in the burbs at the time and felt a little sad to miss the commotion. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston went and greeted crowds warmly on the streets where production had closed off traffic. Later they went in costume to the Children’s hospitals to spend time with sick kids. I can agree with cynics that this is good PR that would have melted any curmudgeon’s complaints about traffic issues but anybody who has spent time around sick children will tell you there’s no way in hell Hemsworth and Hiddleston didn’t genuinely enjoy giving something back and I think there can’t be enough of such things being done. This follows Johnny Depp and Christian Bale doing similar things and the value it will bring to a child’s joy you can’t put a price on.

The scenes shot in Brisbane are standing in for New York city and I chuckled when I saw the film. I don’t care how many New York yellow cabs drive by in the background, I know those pavements and what a thrill to see them on the big screen. 750 Queenslanders were employed in the making of Thor: Ragnarok. I don’t know how much this played into GOMA getting the Marvel exhibit which featured so many props and costumes from other Marvel movies but it was real joy to have it at Brisbane.

Ten Pics from the Sticks has traditionally been about hiking but we’re branching out with this and maybe subsequent entries which may make the title a little odd but so be it.

Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe Exhibit ran from the 27th of May to the 3rd of September, 2017. It featured various props from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, certain classic comic book issues in glass shelves (this included the first Spider-Man comic from 1962 and I believe the first Captain America comic book from 1942), a lot of costumes and pre-production artwork. This included concept art of the Guardians of the Galaxy that was shown at San Diego Comic Con. 20170811_201902People forget how Guardians of the Galaxy was seen as a risk because it was such an unknown title at the time. That concept art which looks quite a bit different from the eventual look of the team is what sold me on the idea. When the teaser trailer came much later I was all in telling friends this could be the Star Wars of a whole new generation. So I got a picture of me with the concept art. One exhibit showed the artwork, the storyboarding, the pre-viz animation and then the finished product. Another part played a scene where you could dial up or down various sounds effects and music to see how all of those things are layered onto the final soundtrack and how each component plays a vital part. Other areas allowed patrons to stands on mats and appear on screens as various Marvel characters controlling their movements although this was a bit wonky in its execution. Guardians Karen and LloydOne part that I got a real thrill out of was dressing up in props and appearing in front of a green screen where we were overlaid one of the movie posters. We got a really fun group shot of us as the Avengers but out of deference to my friend’s privacy I won’t post this on a public forum. We also ate some snazzy meals down at the Café. While I didn’t take part there was a place for people to draw their own comic books.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

There are usually speakers at GOMA Uplate and our night was no exception.  Local artist and scenic painter Camille Serisier did her talk titled ‘All In The Details’. Some speakers had worked on Thor: Ragnarok and some had not, Camille being one of the latter but she had done for the Australian ballet and various other productions. Her talk took place in the Asgard throne room area of the exhibition (which sounds dodgier than it was – get your minds out of the gutter people) and pointed out various things. She talked about a lacquer of props to make them appear aged, the throne itself was made out of wood but a lot of other elements were plaster applied over Styrofoam blocks. She also talked about the themes of stories and how production design can support this. It was very interesting to hear her speak and I found myself nodding in agreement at some of her insights. I had just come from my interview with Palace CEO Benjamin Zeccola for the Italian Film Festival and was on such a high from that I uncharacteristically approached her after the talk to ask one further question or too. She was lovely to speak to.

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You can see much better pictures of the Exhibit form QAGOMA’s website here https://blog.qagoma.qld.gov.au/tag/marvel-creating-the-cinematic-universe/https://blog.qagoma.qld.gov.au/tag/marvel-creating-the-cinematic-universe/

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Having worked on smaller scale film productions I was not surprised to find this out but everything you see on film looks vastly different in real life than it does in the movies. Unlike say the dresses from Valentino which looked gorgeous in real life the costumes for films even ones as expensive as this are made with functionality always in mind. How they look under lights, how they will appear in close-up, how the stunt man can do his work in them is always of high priority. That’s why multiple versions of each costume are made for different purposes. Amazingly through the power of movies you often don’t notice these things even when you know about such tricks. That’s not to say these costumes and sets are not made by artists far from it. The level of thought and creativity that goes into this work is really moving. 20170811_203100It was also neat to see the original costumes worn by such stars as Hayley Atwell and Scarlett Johanson and also um gee what are their names uh Greg Evans, uh Greg Humpdump, Joey Rendering, um Bobby Down Senior and Mick Buffaolo. I don’t know I mean Hayley Atwell is the big star I remember. It was also quite a thrill to see so many props form the film Thor: Ragnarok which had not yet opened in cinemas worldwide at the time. This included various weapons, Hulk’s bed from the movie and as a centrepiece the Throneroom from Asgard.

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After our tour through the giftshop where I will rue not getting a door mat that said “I Am Groot’ on it with a picture of Baby Groot I caught up with my friends who were observing the live band performing that night. A Melbourne duo called Habits had a certain group rocking away to electronica. My friends and I kept our distance from the gender fluidly dressed boy and girl who conveyed such raw sensuality. Nothing made me feel more 36 then my lack of free spiritedness compared to these youngsters but the truth is this wasn’t my bag when I was 17. When I was 17 Billy Joel hadn’t released an album in 4 years and he was my favourite while others rocked out to Frenzal Rhomb etc. They may not have been my bag but they were talented as fuck, absolute jets playing their instruments and working the crowd. Something else too, they were appreciative of the audience and engaged with them, the lead singer going down into the crowd and writing on the floor provocatively. There was an older man getting into it and I couldn’t help but admire them for their joy in the music and their commitment to be themselves.

That about wrapped it up for us as we stole away into the night having had a wonderful night with cherished friends at a rare movie themed exhibit in my hometown.

-Lloyd Marken

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR IS MORE OF THE SAME WHICH IS AWESOMENESS

Marvel Studios can do no wrong or at least have not so far. Their slow world building towards their team up movie The Avengers has changed the landscape of blockbuster entertainment. Studios no longer want a trilogy they want a franchise. Why lock yourself into one star with one character when you can have various ones all part of the same franchise allowing you to release not one hit film every two years but at the bare minimum two films every year. As comic book adaptations continue to reign supreme they have a sizeable chunk of the market with their line-up of characters. Cynicism aside like Pixar before them part of the success comes down to the reliability of their brand. The studio is run by comic book people who love comic books and their characters. Whatever changes they’ve made in adapting to the big screen they’ve always strived to service what was likeable about a character or storyline. If you think about it, the spin offs before Avengers didn’t make as much money as their sequels, it’s easy to forget how much of a gamble this all was way back in 2008 but if you’re worst film is Thor: The Dark World you’re batting average is likely to be game winning. So the question becomes how long can this success last? If Avengers: Age of Ultron didn’t quite deliver on high expectations Captain America: Civil War suffers no shortage of anticipation. Last November when trailers for this summer’s blockbusters debuted Civil War stood out for its more polished editing. The closing shot Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) looking emotionally pained as he slammed his shield down on Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) stood out to me. That close up communicated instantly what is at the heart of this story and also the success of the Marvel brand. They bring it back to the characters and what they are feeling rather than just straight spectacle.

Captain America: Civil War delivers on every front we’ve come to expect; there is a spectacular joyful smack down in an airport that has already become an instant classic. civil war trailer captain america civil warThere are multiple characters with their own motivations, story and stand out moments juggled effortlessly. Amidst all the special effects are some effective practical stunts, witty dialogue and heart. Heart first and foremost always in the telling of the story. If any of these films have flaws it is not for lack of heart which is an even grander achievement when you consider the assembly line production of them. There are pay offs here that are built on history that has been developed over 8 years and 12 films.

The film opens with the latest line-up of Avengers Africa to take down Cross Bones (Frank Grillo) but in the ensuing melee there is collateral damage and this raises the possibility of whether the Avengers do more harm than good. Enter the Sokovia Accords which would effectively mean only the governments of the world could approve the use of the Avengers unilaterally and could effectively lead to the misuse of the Avengers for those countries own ends. Captain America does not trust oversight given Hydra’s recent infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Iron Man can no longer stomach not taking some responsibility for their actions in a similar vein to when he ceased arms productions at Stark Industries. The rest of the team for various reasons fall down along these lines, neither is particularly wrong or right but as a fellow blogger pointed out there are more fascinating avenues this line of thought could have been developed beyond just collateral damage. In the end the film while being a powerful parable about the cost and cycle of violence is ultimately an elaborate excuse to see various heroes fight each other. Which is fine because the film is not really about the Sokovia Accords, it is about Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and what lengths Steve Rogers will go to protect his friend and fellow veteran while at the same time Tony Stark is trying to protect the Avengers as best he can. Stark and Rogers have always been at odds with their contrasting personalities and world view points. There is an extra layer there in the sense that Rogers is partially a creation of Howard Stark’s and a friend of Tony’s Dad. He’s perversely both father figure and rival son for Stark Senior’s approval. The ground work for this had been laid previously and in this film finally gets paid off.

With that in mind it is remarkable how two major new characters are introduced and immediately feel right at home in this universe and have their own storyline. Spider-Man is introduced with hot Aunt May Maries Tomei and features only in two scenes. One his introduction is a remarkable feat of economic storytelling in setting up his character and the second an unadulterated celebration of what we love best about that character in the airport scene. We know everything we need to know about this Peter Parker (Tom Holland) from those two scenes and we’re hungry for more. Featured more prominently is Black Panther who has his back story partially told and is set on a path for vengeance against The Winter Soldier which brings him into direct conflict with Captain America. He is not the only one and it says something about this franchise in where they are prepared to go with their lead characters. Certain characters may not get much to do, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have certain moments that hark back to the comic books, Falcon gets a lot to do but is still mostly defined by his friendship to Rogers, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) looks great and is cool but doesn’t have a lot going on and the same goes for Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Black Widow though is this solid link throughout the story. Rogers and she have been through a lot, she may not be on his side but she looks out for him as best she can. Performances are all uniformly excellent.

If the film has a flaw it maybe that it kinda lacks a strong ending, the villain has been cited as weak even by Marvel standards but to me it fits given that in this film the enemy is within. Daniel Bruhl’s performance is effective at showing that character’s pain and it is an interesting idea for a villain.

Production values are great across the board; the directors Anthony and Joe Russo continue their impressive staging of action even if an early chase does employ some disconcerting shaky cam. While most scenes seem to be set in technology parks or airport hangars perhaps reflecting the need to maybe switch up the locations more in these films these really only are nit-picks. This studio has delivered for us again and again, that at this point a superior production in every way to their rivals is not enough for some fans. There is a hint of franchise fatigue with this entry, a little bit too much familiarity even if the quality remains high-people inevitably seek out something new and fresh. Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man delivered on those fronts and even Iron Man 3 because it remained steadfastly a Marvel and Shane Black film. Getting more strong auteurs in there may not be a bad idea but for now the future looks bright with a focus on new characters with Dr. Strange and Black Panther coming next. For now this is arguably as good as anything Marvel has done, check it out.

-Lloyd Marken