This Week in Geek (10-16/07/17)


In theaters: In Spider-Man Homecoming, we get a pleasant remix of the Spider-Man story that, for all the changes made to characters, is true to the themes of Peter Parker's world. The film is very definitely about CONSEQUENCES and thus RESPONSIBILITY, right down to the Vulture's motivations were are a direct consequence of the way the Avengers have changed the status quo. The old Parker luck is in rare form, and the inexperienced Peter ends up causing a LOT of trouble for himself in a script that isn't really about fighting villains (thus avoiding the "boss fight" trope that often seems to have a stranglehold on the genre), but about saving people (even the villains) and fixing one's own mess, all without having to invoke the too-often-told origin story. While I do think the film could have been little tighter (some gags are unnecessary) and that I'm starting to think Robert Downey Jr. phones it in at this point (and yet, I was relieved to see Iron Man NOT take as big a place as he appeared to in the marketing), the movie did have some great twists and turns, set pieces I'd never seen before, an ethnically-diverse Queens, clever fan service, and in Michael Keaton's Vulture, the best Marvel Cinematic villain since Loki. A lot of my friends are already putting it in their MCU Top 5 and I don't think they're wrong to do so.

War for the Planet of the Apes completes the prequel trilogy to the 1968 original, smartly connecting the dots between eras and explaining some of the elements that, I'll have to admit, never really made sense until now, though I found one or two pieces of dialog a little on the nose, "forecasting" the future. A very small complaint, as this film, of a piece with Dawn, follows Caesar and his crew of apes, facing off against a charismatic general (Woody Harrelson) bent on exterminating his kind. Shades of Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan and The Great Escape, as writer-director Matt Reeves references his favorite war films in plot and visuals. The Apes films have always been political - all the good ones anyway have been about how we treat the "other" - but this one, without focusing on a single metaphor, feels very contemporary. The Trump era casts a dark shadow over it, a shadow that reaches back in time to the Civil War, and makes the film more potently about race relations in America. I don't know where film makers go from here if they want to keep the franchise alive (interstitial films? straight to a third remake? look beyond the Heston timeline?), but it's almost a shame it has to end here. (Then again, I'm all for going out on a high.)

Netflix: Based on true events, Christine tells the story of 70s television journalist Christine Chubbuck whose tragic story I didn't know at the onset. While the events of the film do lead us to a logical end, the way it unfolds feels like there are too many disparate threads and leaves the whole unfocused. Is it about an ambitious female reporter trying to come up in a Man's world? Is it about struggling with both physical and mental illness? Is it about the rise of sensationalism in journalism? Yes, all of those, but while Chubbuck - very well played by Rebecca Hall - needs to be overwhelmed to get where she eventually goes, the film's presentational style doesn't give its audience enough clues as to what's important, and perhaps relies on one knowing of the original events to create suspense (events which, at this point, are more than 40 years old). I might say it'll play better on second viewing, but the depressing subject matter and treatment don't make that endeavor particularly easy.

Doctor Who Titles: 1949's Reign of Terror AKA The Black Book (on YouTube) is a tense and absorbing French Revolution movie made on a shoestring budget, that despite its fairly simple sets, or perhaps BECAUSE of them, turns out to be a master class on how to fill the frame with textured shadows. Quite simply, it takes the lessons of film noir and applies them to the historical drama, and turns Robespierre's machinations and patriots' attempt to prevent him from being named dictator into a crime thriller by virtue of its look and performances. Well worth a look. (And may I add, FINALLY a good film in this silly little movie-watching project.)
#The TARDIS lands in the film... The first Doctor and Susan get involved in finding Robespierre's black book in the paranoid streets of Paris. This might in fact be the origin of why it is Susan's favorite bit of human history.


snell said...

I will say that, while War For The Planet yadda yadda was quite good, I was distracted by a couple of very deus ex machina-y plot devices that didn't really feels so much earned as "well, this is the only way we can get from point A to B." Still, good movie.

Siskoid said...

You're quite correct. In the final analysis, didn't bother me so much.

Anonymous said...

Jodie Whittaker!

Why is there so much overlap between "Doctor Who" and "Broadchurch"? Is eerie.

Siskoid said...

That Chibnall would cast from the show he created is no surprise, but I thought it would be Olivia Coleman. Anyway, I'm posting about that tomorrow morning, let's talk then.


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