Tag Archives: video

How not to wrestle a pig: Batman v Superman review

26 Mar
batman-v-superman.jpg

Cape expectations: Batman v Superman

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has received a bit of a kicking in the fan press, resulting in this cringily hilarious video of Ben Affleck undergoing an existential crisis in interview. It doesn’t deserve that degree of opprobrium, but the kindest verdict one can give is that it’s “adequate”. It both lacks the lighter touch of rival Marvel films, and the real grit of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films whose style it mimics in the most superficial manner.

Part of the problem is the inherent mismatch between Batman and Superman. Not in the fight stakes (obvs Superman could win, but then he wouldn’t want to kill, plus there’s the matter of his green Achilles Heel), but in tone. Batman lives mostly in a skewed version of the real world, his fantastical villains lacking superpowers; shoehorning him into Superman’s sci-fi universe feels wrong, just as giving Superman darkness and grit is like trying to turn the Coke logo blue.

The whole enterprise needs a director with a sure touch and some intellectual heft. Zack Snyder attacks it with a sledgehammer. Despite the lip-service paid to the conflict between “god and man”, there is no genuine attempt to engage philosophically, intellectually or emotionally with what it would really mean to have an all-powerful being walk on Earth. No lessons have been learned from Alan Moore, who mined this seam in The Watchmen, Miracle/Marvelman and even in Superman (the brilliant For the Man Who Has Everything imagines the clash between two superpowers: “Their enmity can only be measured in the skipped beats of distant seismographs. Both indestructible, each damages the other. Both irresistible, each finds himself thwarted”).

You also know you have problems when the script is so unengaging, the director feels the need to add dream sequences in which more exciting shit goes down. Batman has no less than three of these. Explicable, at least, given that he’s a troubled soul. But then Superman goes and gets one of his own, too.

The cast do their best, and Gal Gadot in her brief fight scene makes a convincingly Amazonian Wonder Woman, but they’re given nothing to work with: no real conflict beyond “My god I have to save him/her before they are killed”; no real emotion; no line of dialogue that speaks to their inner character. The sole exception is the always brilliant Holly Hunter as a senator hostile to Superman, but still not willing to play ball with Lex Luthor. “I grew up on a farm,” she tells the evil mastermind after another of his veiled threats. “I know how to wrestle a pig.”

If only you could say the same of Zack Snyder.

Video

A Hollywood horror: the video behind America’s latest mass shooting

25 May

America’s latest mass-shooting atrocity has to be the strangest yet, by virtue of the seven-minute video left behind by the killer, Elliot Rodger. In it, he complains of the pain of being 22 and never yet kissed.

“You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you have never been attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime, because I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy… the supreme gentleman.”

Here’s a clue as to why: this “perfect guy” then went on a shooting spree that left seven dead, including himself. Which might just indicate that these girls have more taste and discernment than he realised.

There are so many strange things about all this, quite apart from the abject horror of his indiscriminate killing.

Foremost is Rodger’s laugh: several times in the clip he laughs in a very deliberate and stylised way, as though playing the part of a villain in a bad Hollywood movie. It is the most contrived and least honest-sounding cri de coeur I have heard. The only hint of real emotion comes at 1.30 mins, “it’s not fair”, though the emotion it conveys is petulance more than pain. [Update: it was announced more recently that he was diagnosed in childhood with Asperger’s, and he was being seen by “multiple professionals”.] His father, incidentally, is the Assistant Director of The Hunger Games, which gives a peculiarly Hollywood twist to the tragedy.

Second, Rodger is rather good-looking; not the usual image of the despised nerd or goth. Which, again, might indicate that the reason he struck out with the girls was less to do with looks than character. To reverse Mrs Merton, “What is it about this woman-hating spree-killing psycho that you find unattractive?”

Third is that he posted on PUAHate.com. This is a website devoted to people who have subscribed fruitlessly to an odious school of thought on how to pick up women using tricks such as “negging”, ie putting them down rather than complimenting them. Presumably Rodger was one its adherents, and we can only hope that this most spectacular and public failure of this peculiarly unpleasant discipline will put off other potential followers.

Other than that… I don’t much want to stray into another country’s politics, but surely, finally, yet again again again, America could listen to the heart-rending plea of Christopher Martinez, father of one of the dead, who in a highly emotional press conference blamed politicians and the NRA for the lack of gun control. “When will this insanity stop?” he raged. “We should say to ourselves, ‘not one more’.”

Footnote: Also on Saturday, it was announced that John Waszynski, from Connecticut, has been charged with murder after living for months with the rotting corpse of his strangled mother. Norman Bates, anyone?

Video

The Presence LDN: a Cosplay post-punk rockapocalypse

5 Jul

Sometimes, a critic must set subjective judgement aside, and just say: this is TOTALLY FREAKING AWESOME!

The video above, released just today, is one such time. It’s a compilation of Cosplay footage that will get any comic-book fan pressing the Replay button again and again, set to a two-minute hit-seeking missile of a song. It’s put together by the frontman of new band The Presence LDN, a man who seemingly now wants to be known as just “SWP”, though my personal nickname for him is “Occult Steve” due to his habit of… how else can I put it… materialising in unexpected places.

A former horror film director and composer whom I first met thanks to omniscient film critic Kim Newman, SWP has since manifested at three club events I attended as well as a Shoreditch street corner. Usually while I was thinking of him.

Ageless under a shock of white hair, resembling a much handsomer brother of Johnny Rotten (indeed, former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock played bass in his last band, King Mob), SWP and The Presence have even been immortalised on their website by cult comic artist Shaky Kane…

As I say, totally freaking awesome.

‘Like’ the band on Facebook here: http://on.fb.me/17SpmDo

Video

Bullied to death: the last testament of Amanda Todd

12 Jan

amanda-toddI cry easily at movies. Not just Schindler’s List or the ending of Titanic, but Lord of the Rings or The Lion King. But I’ve never cried at a short, not until today. The story of Amanda Todd will break your heart in nine minutes flat.

Her death, and the video she made six weeks before her death, were reported three months ago, but they passed me by until I read about them just now on cult musician Amanda Palmer’s blog. The video is stark, and beautifully simple: a 15-year-old girl tells her story by holding up hand-written cue cards, in the manner of Bob Dylan on Subterranean Homesick Blues. Fixed camera, black and white, no frills. Yet it’s had 25 million views on YouTube.

She tells of the adult cyberstalker who duped her, aged 12, into flashing him in a video chat, and then blackmailed her with the pictures. Of how her whole school found out, and bullied and ostracised her for it. Of how, when she moved, the whole of her next school found out. And then…

Well. Watch the video. It’s even more heart-wrenching to know that it is effectively her suicide note. The opening cue-card reads, “Hello. I’ve decided to tell you about my never-ending story.” In fact her story ended six weeks later. (Blog continues under the video.)

The manner of filming is as powerful as the message. There is no distraction; the cards demand your concentration. Crucially, Amanda’s full face is never seen: only her mouth and her ringleted hair. By not putting a specific face on her suffering, she becomes the Everywoman of bullying victims. This story is not just hers, but that of anyone who has ever put on a brave face in public and cried alone.

It would be nice if Amanda became Malala, the Pakistani teenager who narrowly survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to attend school; or the unnamed 23-year-old victim whose horrific rape and murder in Delhi has stirred India to action; or the Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire to protest persecution in south Vietnam or the Chinese occupation of Tibet. It would be nice if her death were not wholly the futile, senseless, tragic waste that suicides are. It would be nice if something positive were to come of her suffering. If in death she had the power to change minds that in life she lacked.

We should all try to make it so.

Hatred can only survive without empathy, and it’s a hard heart who could not feel for this lonely, persecuted girl. And all the millions out there just like her.

Her mother has said, “I think the video should be shared and used as an anti-bullying tool. That is what my daughter would have wanted.” It should be required viewing for all teenagers, hard as it is to watch. And if in future they see someone being bullied, or reaching out in any way for help, I like to think they will not so easily turn aside.

There are, tragically, many other stories like Amanda Todd’s. Read my second blog on the subject here