Here are the things I have planned for the second half of the year on my blog.
I’ll start doing a bi-weekly short film review roundup on August 17th. I plan to feature quality short films that are available online so that readers can view them. I have the first eight posts planned with three short films on each post. The first post will feature reviews for the short films He Took His Skin Off For Me, Janciza Bravo’s Eat, and Ari Aster’s The Strange Thing About the Johnsons. I’ll be looking at films that come from all corners of media from classic French shorts (Le Jetee) to Adult Swim middle of the night surreality (the works of Alan Resnick).
Big Hero 6 (Directed by Don Hall & Chris Williams) From my review: Every element of Big Hero 6 feels like a classic Marvel comic. The teenage hero struck by tragedy, using his own wits and intelligence to build what he needs to make things right. A powerful masked villain with personal ties to the hero. Like Brad Bird, the creators of this film understand those fundamental principles of what makes superhero media appealing to kids. One place where Marvel has been lacking was in the musical score of their movies. Big Hero 6 has a beautifully triumphant and classical superhero sound, big heroic themes to highlight Hiro & company swinging into action and sweeping notes to underscore the tragedy. There are genuinely touching moments in the story, and this is not an animated film where everything gets tied up nicely with everyone turning out safe. People die in this story, and the villain is more complicated than the audience will initially realize. Much like the comic books that inspired this movie, the creators respect the intelligence of children and know that, with a well-written script and strong creative choices, a “kids’ film” can be something powerful.
Big Hero 6 (2014) Written by Jordan Roberts, Robert L. Baird, and Dan Gerson Directed by Don Hall & Chris Williams
In 2004, Pixar released The Incredibles, a superhero film ahead of the curve with Iron Man and the MCU not launching until four years later. My first thoughts after the end credits rolled were that Brad Bird and company had succeeded in making the best Fantastic Four film, which would be proven correct when Fox released the groaningly terrible FF live-action movie in 2005. Bird understood the core essence of these characters and about the fundamentals of what drives kids of all ages to lose themselves in an afternoon of comic book reading.
At the beginning of my summer break from teaching, I purchased a Nintendo Switch and have spent the last two months playing it quite a bit. Here are some of my thoughts about the device and the games I have for it.
The Bad Batch (2016) Written & Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
The film begins promisingly. A young woman is tattooed on her neck and tossed on the other side of a fence that spans the U.S.-Mexico border. Signage indicates that this is a no man’s land, a place where the refuse of the United States is now tossed in an unspecified future point in time. The woman finds a run-down car where she takes a bit of respite only to be chased down and captured by a bizarre tribe of body-building cannibals. All of this sounds like it could be the makings a new post-Apocalyptica, refashioning the tropes of Mad Max into something of the 21st century and female-driven. Yet, all of the promises of Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night feels squandered in what becomes an aimless character-deficient story.
Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood (2019) Written & Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Fifty years ago on August 9th actress Sharon Tate and three of her friends were brutally murdered by three people sent to her home by Charles Manson. At the time, Tate was eight months pregnant with her first child by husband Roman Polanski. Polanksi was in London scouting locations for The Day of the Dolphin, a film he would have to abandon when word reached him of the massacre that occurred at his home on Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon. This has become a horror story retold countless times when the dark side of Hollywood is discussed, an allegory for the nightmare that can bubble up to the surface in a town so closely associated with dreams. But, what if…?
The Flash by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar Reprints The Flash #130-141, Green Lantern #96, Green Arrow #130 Written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar (with Ron Marz and Chuck Dixon) Art by Paul Ryan, Pop Mhan, John Nyberg, and Ron Wagner
Mark Waid announced in 1997 that he would be taking a year-long hiatus from The Flash comic. He cited feeling burnt out after penning almost seventy consecutive issues of the series. Waid explained he already had his next story arc planned out but that in the meantime Grant Morrison and Mark Millar would take over the writing duties. Scotland-born Morrison had quickly become a critically-acclaimed writer when he made his American debut with Animal Man. He had a penchant for taking lower tier characters and showing readers while they mattered while recontextualizing the more prominent figures as archetypal, as seen in his JLA run that was happening at this time. Mark Millar, also from Scotland, would go on to great success with his Kick-Ass franchise but at this time he was a protege of Morrison’s, making his name on the comics scene of the late 1990s.