The Shape of Water, A Filet or A Flop? (Cross Talk EP 35)

 

This should be a fairly straightforward post.

I’ve already written a fairly in-depth review on the movie The Shape of Water – and I made my love of the film known pretty clearly there. But too be perfectly honest, Chris doesn’t care for the movie, and I value his opinion a lot, so we decided it would be fun to put together a deep dive episode on the movie and talk about our differing opinions. Which as some of you know, is one of the reasons why I started Cross Talk in the first place.

To discuss movies, music, board games etc. and present topics in a more meaningful way then your average review or criticism video.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of great channels out there where the presenters have a degree in film criticism, others where the reviews are purely based on if the movie is enjoyable or not, and still others where the film is dissected and all of the symbolism is put on display. But that’s not how people really talk about movies necessarily.

When you are chatting about a movie like The Shape of Water with your friends, you’ll get lost in incidental details like the way the government facility looked, or the musical score choices, or whether Doug Jones did a better job playing Abe Sapien, the Faun, the Pale Man or  “the Asset.” And if you’re a movie geek like us, you might even start entertain interesting theories about why the movie is a fairy tale, and not an alternate reality where mermen exist.

Or maybe you’ll point out how there are so many more movies that do star-crossed lovers in a better way, with more compelling characterizations. And you’ll get passionate about it. Wondering why an amazing film like Get Out only got attention for it’s screenplay.

And so this is episode thirty five of Cross Talk.

theories Summarized

Do you think my theory about Giles having invented the majority of the story is right? Or am I completely off the rails with this one dear readers? Chris has a better appreciation of why I relate to the story so well now, but maybe I’m projecting, and the movie isn’t anything more then what you see on screen.

In that case, maybe the submerged bathroom scene is completely ludicrous.

But that doesn’t mean the film isn’t worth talking about, we managed to fill a 20 minute space talking about it, and you didn’t even see all of the outtakes we have! Until next time, please like and share the content! And subscribe to the mailing list if you haven’t yet. I’ve got a blue review on Jack White coming up tomorrow!

Tim!

Why Did Batman Cross The Road? Because We Were Sick of His Clucking (The LEGO Batman Movie review)

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na nah. Just kidding. It’s like a 1000x yeah instead.

 

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

Cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifanakis, Jenny Slate
Director: Chris McKay
re-released on blu-ray June 13, 2017
********** 10/10

IMDB: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Audience Score 81%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Chris McKay also know as Chris Taylor, is an American director and animator of film and television. Best known for his work directing and editing the shows Robot Chicken and Moral Orel, The LEGO Batman Movie is his first film. He is also set to direct a live-action Nightwing movie which has yet to be scheduled.

Having spent most of his early career involved in video production, McKay learned about editing and eventually landed an editing job with ShadowMachine, which allowed him the opportunity to work on what would become the hugely successful Robot Chicken stop motion animated sketch comedy show. Which led him to help co-direct animation for The Lego Movie and giving him the opportunity to direct the film of today’s focus.

A little flavour on the film

Taken from Wikipedia and edited down –

The Joker (Zach Galifanakis) has plans to destroy the city, then Batman (Will Arnett) hurts his arch-rival’s feelings by telling him he is not as important in his life as he thinks he is, leading Joker to seek the ultimate revenge on him.

During the city’s winter gala, which also celebrates the city’s new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), Bruce Wayne falls head over heels, only to be infuriated by Barbara’s plans to restructure the police to function without the need of Batman. Joker then crashes the party with all of Batman’s rogues gallery, and oddly enough surrenders, with the exception of Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate), who disappears during the confusion.

Suspicions now raised, Batman plans to steal Superman’s Phantom Zone Projector, a portal to a prison housing some of the most dangerous villains in the Lego multiverse.  Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) intervenes and involves Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), whom Bruce unwittingly adopted as his ward during the gala. After the heist, the pair break into Arkham Asylum and send Joker to the Phantom Zone, but Barbara locks up Batman and Robin for their reckless actions.

Harley steals back the project and frees Joker, with all the Phantom Zone villains in tow. Barbara has a change of heart realizing what has happened. She frees Batman and Robin, and along with a suited up Alfred, the four of them team up to stop Joker. When they meet one-on-one again, Joker confronts Batman, stating they are arch-rivals, but Batman baulks at it and Joker zaps him with the projector. In the Phantom Zone, Batman accepts that even he needs help, and makes a deal with the Zone’s gatekeeper, Phyllis (Ellie Kemper), to retrieve the villains so that he can stop the destruction of Gotham.

Joker intends to blow up the city’s Energy Facility, forcing the thin floor of the city apart and be destroyed, and so Batman assigns Barbara a Batgirl costume, and recruits the other villains Joker has left behind. It’s too little too late, and the bomb rips the city apart. Knowing this was his fault, Batman reluctantly convinces Joker that he is the true reason for being the hero he is, before they, their friends and allies, and the city’s inhabitants, chain-link themselves together and pull the plates back together, saving the city.

Phyllis decides that Batman can remain after seeing how much he had changed in order to save everyone. Batman then allows Joker and the rest of his rogues gallery to temporarily escape, with the confidence that whenever they return, they will be no match for his new alliance with Robin, Batgirl, and Alfred.

Now, what the synopsis I have provided doesn’t tell you is how self-referential and hilarious this movie is to experience.

It is at-once a biting satire of previous Batman franchise outings, teasing the ever-popular use of Bruce Wayne’s backstory as plot motivation, as well as directly addressing the eternal dance between The Joker and The Batman. And yeah, it’s great that The Batman wants to fight around, but The Joker wants him to commit to him as an arch-villain. And rightfully so, they’ve only been at it for over seventy years!

The zaniness of Lego also fits well with Batman’s wonderfully odd and sometimes embarrassing tacky history of stories, costumes and villains. Think Disco Batman, Eraser and Clock King. And yes, you get to see King Tut, Polka Dot Man and Egghead make appearances too.

Pros: It is surprisingly sophisticated in it’s exposure of Batman, how pop culture has appropriated him, and core issues we’ve all been thinking about for what seems like decades. Top it off with a smart bow, riddled with fun for kids, and this is a movie not to be taken for granted. Michael Cera is heartwarming as Robin.

Cons: It does become a bit difficult to swallow all of the bricks towards the end, surprisingly enough because the story works so well to disengage us from the kitsch of the format it’s presented in. And the happy Bat family moment feels a bit shoehorned.

Runtime: 1 hour 44 minutes

Points of Interest: In a blink and you’ll miss it moment, Batman references the 1989 movie when he says  “You want to get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” to the Joker. Billy Dee Williams voices Two-Face for the movie. He also portrayed Harvey Dent in the 1989 movie, but never got to play Two-Face in the third movie because Joel Schumacher recast Dent with Tommy Lee Jones.

I cannot say enough good things about this movie. It is so reinvigorating to see DC poke fun at The Batman for once. Acknowledging all of the missteps over the past few years, *cough* Suicide Squad, Batman V Superman, and Man of Steel *cough* it’s great for them to realize that Batman is their best character, but that people are sick of seeing the same old Bruce Wayne.

The LEGO Batman Movie gives the people something to look forward to. It’s fun, interesting, and even humanizes the Bat. Go Will Arnett go.

theories Summarized

Maybe it’s my fine art background or maybe it’s simply my love deconstructing and reconnecting the LEGO assemblages I made as a young boy, but this is exactly what postmodernism should have been doing with Batman in the 1990s, not making him a goof with big nipples, but a caricature worthy of dissection and primed for exploration.

That said, you should also check out this cool vid we did for episode three of Watch Culture!

Out of theories for now creative cuties, tune in tomorrow for some wisdom. Same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Tim!

Holy Cross, Adam West (The Ongoing History of New Music)

I live by a set of immalleable valuables

– Adam West, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

When you decide once and for all that you’re gonna be what you want to, and not let anybody stop you, the next step is pretty simple: have a little understanding, dig in and fully commit to it.

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Take for instance, the 1960s Batman live action television series, which is incredibly campy, has some pretty silly moralistic themes, and an ever present sense of humour. Over the course of three seasons and one film, Adam West and Burt Ward managed to seep their way into the lives of countless North Americans. They owned their terminology with the constant string of “holy …, Batman,” referring to every piece of tech as “bat (insert equipment name),” placing graphics over sound effects during fist fights, and the never-ending flirtations between Batman and Catwoman. There were other constistent tropes of the series, but Batman never broke ranks.

Except for last year, when DC finally decided to revisit those characters and create an animated film voiced by Adam West and Burt Ward. In the film, we see many of the characters playing off of the tropes which made the show ever-so popular and memorable.

Playing off what we loved about that TV show was a smart move on the part of DC, and as I finish off this introduction, I’ll tell you why. We know the stories are tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t stop them from being entertaining and expected. As audiences have evolved and humour has changed over the decades, it was necessary for DC to acknowledge that in their story, breaking some walls along the way but never knocking the foundation.

Syndicated For Your Listening Pleasure

And Adam West has owned his persona ever since – by always willing to demonstrate this campy quality which has made him much beloved.

Which brings me to another hero for the ages.

Someone who had humble beginnings as a radio disc jockey, but a personality much greater than the sum of his core job responsibilities. One of my personal heroes and someone who I can only hope to emulate in my much broader tastes of all art forms, fellow Canadian and downright cool guy, Alan Cross.

Alan Cross is the originator of The Ongoing History of New Music (TOHONM), Canada’s longest running radio show documentary.

The purpose of the show is to explore the alternative rock world, which is a vast thing, believe me. Cross profiles artists, explores genre changes, looks at themes of culture and politics, and always always provides a well researched show.

Over the course of it’s hundreds of shows some of my favourites have been about the definition of indie rock, the evolution of punk, and the history of Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band I never cared much for, at least until Alan Cross taught me different.

It all started with Cross hosting an afternoon show on CFNY-FM, better known as 102.1 the Edge, then a morning show, and eventually moving back to an afternoon show in 1993. This is when he took on the additional project of TOHONM. As his career evolved, Cross took on different roles and moved around, but he never quit the show, not until he officially left Corus Entertainment in 2011, TOHONM was cancelled as Corus owned the show.

A Different Tune

After that happened, Cross started another program called The Secret History of Rock, which was produced by Astral Media. It lasted for about 100 episodes and was pretty cool. Then in 2014 Cross decided to go back to Corus and TOHONM was revived once more. Unfortunately neither TOHONM nor The Secret History of Rock are widely available for download, the first because of music licensing issues and the second because Cross is looking for global syndication.

But that shouldn’t matter, because you can listen to recent episodes of TOHONM on the Edge’s website and Cross has a series of audio books on The History of Alternative Rock, which are pretty cool.

This guy seriously knows a ton about music. I’m recommending him to you because if you know nothing about music, he’s a fountain of knowledge, and if you know tons about music, I can assure you that you know nothing compared to Alan Cross.

04f

Just saying.

theories Summarized

Will listening to Alan Cross change your musical life? Maybe.

But I will commit this to you, if you listen to him, and I mean really listen to what he says, you’ll realize that he is a lot like Batman. A geek at heart, with an immalleable set of values when it comes to work ethic, and keen sense for information. Plus he’s pretty funny too. I think he could teach you a thing or two about the arts, for sure – and I’ll commit that theory to vinyl.

Tim!

Rules Were Made To Be Broken (Ouija: Origin of Evil review)

I haven’t had a lot of experiences with ouija boards. My upbringing saw quick to that resolution. If you’re Catholic or any other kind of Christian denomination and your family is serious about their beliefs, it kinda sticks with you.

That being said, I was a teenager once, barely out of elementary school, headed straight into puberty town. And yes I did play with a ouija board, but thankfully, I didn’t get these results.

 

 

 

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

Cast: Annalise Basso, Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Henry Thomas
Director: Mike Flanagan
released on blu-ray January 17, 2017
***** 5/10

ouija-2_poster_goldposter_com_1

IMDB: 6.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, Audience Score 59%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Mike Flanagan is an American film maker. Already known for making horror films, of which he directs, writes, and edits himself, Flanagan has released Absentia, Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Before I Wake all within the last five years. His next planned film project is an adaptation of the Stephen King novel, Gerald’s Game.

Flanagan originally started making dramas as a film student, but had written Oculus with horror film elements, and so he shot a portion of the film which included a back story to demonstrate his greater range. The move paid off and got him attention in the industry, though no major studios wanted to give him the reins or produce the film under his full direction, so he launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce Absentia. Absentia eventually made its way to Netflix, and after that Flanagan was able to get Intrepid Pictures on board to produce Oculus, which paved the way for his next four films.

Ouija: Origins of Evil is one of four films that Flanagan has released in 2016. A prequel to the 2014 flop Ouija, this movie gives context to the reason why the Ouija board is evil and what the motivations of Paulina Zander are.

Origins of Evil is set in the 1960s, where widow Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) works as a medium, supported by daughters, Paulina “Lina” (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). Alice stages her seances, but really wants to help people move on. When Lina suggests adding a Ouija board into the routine, Alice unknowingly contacts a spirit named Marcus. Marcus poses as her husband Roger and even helps the family find money in the house to prevent a foreclosure, but he eventually possesses Doris because she unknowingly breaks all three rules of the ouija board – never play alone, never play in a graveyard, and always say goodbye.

Lina notices the change in her sister and brings it to the attention of Father Tom (Henry Thomas) at school, hoping he will interpret her sudden knowledge of Polish. Father Tom visits the family and pretends that he wants contact with his dead wife Gloria. He tricks the spirit into repeating answers he was thinking, proving it is not Gloria. He reveals this to Lina and Alice, while possessed Doris is left alone. While this is happening Lina’s boyfriend shows up and Doris kills him.

Father Tom, Alice, and Lina decide to burn the ouija board and then Father Tom discovers that the house is an unofficial graveyard for a doctor that captured people and experimented on them during WWII. Father Tom is possessed by the spirits in a hidden room of the basement, is possessed, regains consciousness, and is then killed by Doris.

Alice is captured and Lina knocked out, but Lina has a vision where she learns from her father that Doris’ mouth needs to be stitched to shut out the voices. Lina wakes, pins Doris and accomplishes the deed, killing her in the process. After this, Lina is temporarily possessed and stabs Alice. Alice dies, but sees Roger and Doris together and heads towards them. Fast forward two months, Lina has been committed and is suspected of murder. The doctor cannot get much out of her, and leaves. We learn he is still watching Lina and witnesses her attempt to summon her sister. Behind the doctor, Doris crawls across the ceiling.

Pros: Skillfully presenting the period in which it is set, this film is visually appealing, and the premise is interesting. Definitely more successful of what it presents then its predecessor.

Cons: It manages to be both derivative and wildly disruptive in it’s pacing, building slowly at first and then running at a breakneck pace to tie up lose ends and force a plot. It is difficult to watch at times, but mostly because there is nothing there.

Runtime: 1hour 39 minutes

Points of Interest: The Universal Pictures 1963-90 title design was used to add to the retro feel. The real Hasbro Ouija board does not contain the 3 instructions portrayed in the movie. Doris isn’t possessed in the traditional sense… the spirits break her back when entering it, killing her. For the rest of the film it is just her possessed corpse housing the spirits.

Ouija: Origin of Evil might not be a perfect take on the horror genre, as it duplicates a lot of what has preceded it, however it does feature some interesting moments of exploration, not enough to spare us from the  timewasting qualities found in cookie-cutter horror. That said, it is definitely better than the original and visually appealing. You might find yourself taking up that planchette and hovering around.

I’m glad no one in my family got possessed after that encounter with a ouija board as a teenager, though admittedly my cousins and I did scare the shit out of my baby brother, and now he scares everyone whenever he can. So maybe there is a lesson to be learned from this movie. Don’t mess with stuff you don’t understand. At least that’s my theory.

Tim!

I Wanna Be Like You (The Jungle Book review)

In computing language, source code is meant to be instructions for computers, often in an executable format. But sometimes a programmer will include the source code so that other users and programmers might benefit from the information – to study it and hopefully modify the results.

Where technology intersects with human biology, that’s when it gets interesting. And conveniently, that’s what today’s film review is all about.

 

 

 

The Jungle Book (2016)

Cast: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong’o, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito
Director: Jon Favreau
released on blu-ray August 30, 2016
********* 9/10

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IMDB: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Audience Score 88%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Jonathan (Jon) Kolia Favreau is an American actor, director and comedian. He’s acted in many of the films he has directed, with the exceptions of Zathura and Cowboys & Aliens. Favreau has also directed Chef, Elf, Iron Man 1 & 2, and most recently The Jungle Book remake – If you haven’t seen him acting in any of those movies you might also recognize him as Monica Geller’s boyfriend Pete from TV’s Friends. Favreau also produces movies under the banner Fairview Entertainment.

He’s been in the film industry since the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until his first financial success directing Elf that Favreau really became a big name. Which is why it’s not that surprising that he was able to land the directing role for Disney’s live-action/CGI reboot of The Jungle Book. Especially after having a hand in launching the MCU.

Filmed mostly with digital animation, and featuring a real-life Neel Sethi roaming around the jungle as Mowgli, this movie takes some cues from the book, but quite a number from the original animated adaptation from the 1960s.

I’m not going to spend a bunch of time hashing out the story as you’ve likely already seen the original movie. I mean who hasn’t? One of the major differences is that the animations are stronger and more tied into real depictions of animals – with the exception of King Louie who is much larger than life and definitely took me out of the story, even if Christopher Walken did an excellent job voicing him. On the positive side of things, the danger is made more real and the movements of Mowgli inside this world are so fluid, that you sometimes forget it’s all made up.

Pros: It manages to retain it’s humanity, while having almost no elements that exist in the real world. Exploring nature and the laws of the jungle haven’t seemed this fun in a long time.

Cons: There are some moments where the story feels mechanical, and I suspect that has something to do with the absence of ties to real environments, and when you see a 30ft ape, it’s a little disappointing.

Runtime1 hour 46 minutes

Points of Interest: Kaa the snake is portrayed as a female, rather than a male, which is a first and intentional as Jon Favreau felt there were too many male characters in The Jungle Book. Reference shots of remote jungle locations in India were used to help construct the settings for the movie.

I went into this movie somewhat sceptical that it could recapture the entertainment value of the original film, and when I heard “The Bare Necessities”, “Trust In Me” and “I Wanna Be Like You” I was quickly comforted, though it could have easily been the opposite. These riffs off of the original Disney movie were important to take, because the nostalgia factor remained high throughout, evening knowing how the story was going to end. This is an example of a movie where the remake is both excellent and respectful, allowing us to revisit the original or perhaps even expose new viewers to the source.

 

 

 

This technology driven re-imagining of The Jungle Book is amazingly faithful and yet it is a distinct property which can be consumed and shared with all of it’s strengths intact. As a case study of where animation is come from and where it’s headed. Much like how life cycles through and changes with each new generation, never changing so much that it is unrecognisable, but that it is distinct and authentic. You should definitely watch this movie, it gives I Wanna Be Like You a new meaning.

Tim!