I didn’t just watch that film (you know the one) this month. I made good use of my Easter holiday to check out some famous, and not so famous, films.
The Silence of the Lambs
Had I seen it before? No.
How did I watch it? Netflix
Famous for being the only horror film to ever win Best Picture, The Silence of the Lambs is an iconic film for so many reasons, chiefly the spine-tingling performance of Anthony Hopkins as the immortal Hannibal Lecter. And no, I will not say he is the lead actor, he is a supporting actor. A well deserved Oscar in the wrong category. The lead character is Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling, an phenomenal film hero who stands up to the most disturbed minds on the planet and still survives. The film is a masterpiece of pacing, writing,acting and directing and nearly thirty years on it still has such a strong impact and effect. The film is primarily a psychological battle of wits between Lecter and Starling, with the two trying to one-up each other at every turn, resulting in riveting viewing. Even though I know a lot of the twists and turns the film still gripped me, which is a credit to the talents of Jonathan Demme. His use of close ups and shot composition have gone down in film history and he masterfully directs the extended sequences of Lecter and Starling talking to each other to create some of the most intense dialogue scenes of all time. This film deserves every award it ever got and more. It’s truly spectacular.
Eleven years ago a film by an untested studio, directed by an indie director with a star who was no longer seen as bankable and based on an obscure comic book character from a company that went bankrupt a decade before was released. From this singular film came the biggest, most ambitious and risky endeavour ever put to film- make Marvel comics cool to the mainstream. Obviously Blade, the X-Men and Spider-Man were all successful but Iron Man kickstarted a decade of interconnected films, bringing obscure comics into the mainstream and changed Hollywood forever. All this leading to the Endgame. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is my generation’s Star Wars, and the hype and anticipation for Endgame has been unprecedented, eclipsing even that of Return of the King and Deathly Hallows Part 2. In my lifetime, only The Force Awakens had this much riding on it. Was it worth the wait? Was Infinity War too high of a bar?
In short.. Endgame surpasses expectations. It is the perfect ending for this journey that started with Iron Man. It’s three hours long but is perfectly paced, never dull and an experience that has to be seen on as big of a screen as possible. Watching this film with a group of Marvel obsessed friends, at midnight, surrounded by a full cinema, in 3D is an experience I will never forget. It is my favourite film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I will have to watch it a couple more times to see if it reaches the heights of my Holy Trinity of Comic Book films (Batman Returns, Spider-Man 2 and Logan if you’re interested).
One of my favourite characters is Hellboy, created in 1994 by Mike Mignola. A demon born in the pits of Hell to destroy mankind, Hellboy (or “Red” to his friends) rejects his purpose and instead dedicates his life fighting demons and other paranormal threats. He joins the BRPD (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) and leads a squad of other magical beings to defend humanity. I love the comics, but I wouldn’t have read them had I not seen the films by Guillermo del Toro first. With the reboot coming out (I will give my thoughts on it at the end of the post), now would be a great time to look back on the two films, and why they remain one of the best adaptations from a comic book.
The character of Shazam- sorry, Captain Marvel, no not that one… whatever, is a long and complex one. The character who is mostly known as Shazam predates the creation of modern day DC and Marvel. In 1939 Fawcett Comics conceived the character as, ironically, a rival to Superman. In fact, Captain Marvel was given a film in 1941. In response to the adventures of the Marvel family outselling the Man of Steel, Action Comics chose to first sue then eventually join forces, with DC Comics buying Captain Marvel in the 70’s. Unable to use the name due to obvious reasons, his comic book was renamed Shazam! and his backstory altered, giving the character more distinction from Superman. Within mainstream continuity he was still referred to as Captain Marvel due to Marvel’s Captain Mar-Vell having been killed off. The New 52 relaunch in 2011 however officially christened the character Shazam after Carol Danvers became Captain Marvel, and no one but the die-hard fans know DC even HAD a Captain Marvel. So that’s the backstory. And as I said in my Captain Marvel review, there is no need to compare the films. They are completely different films with two very different characters.
With Endgame just around the corner, one key Marvel character has yet to be introduced- Carol Danvers. A very long and complicated comic book history including an alien who dies of cancer , a period in a coma when Rogue of the X-Men steals her powers, multiple identities and a long stint with the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Carol Danvers FINALLY became Captain Marvel only recently in the comics, leaving her former moniker of Ms Marvel to be inherited by Kamala Khan. Carol Danvers is one of Marvel’s most high profile and important female characters and no matter what the comics are trying to do to her (Civil War II? Really?) the fact remains that a film with this awesome character is long overdue. The latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe does an excellent job streamlining the insane and convoluted backstory of the character into an accessible film and the result is a really fun time at the cinema that leaves you wanting more. And with Captain Marvel set to appear back on our screens in just over a month’s time, it’s great that her solo film has given audiences a taste of what Thanos will be feeling.
As we are enjoying the golden age of comic book adaptations, it’s worth remembering not every superhero property is Marvel or DC. We have the Incredibles, Hellboy, Dredd and many more making the genre interesting and diverse. Netflix’s latest smash hit (you can how much of a success a show is based on the amount of memes, which this show has lots of) The Umbrella Academy is such a property, based on the Dark Horse comic book by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba that presents a family of super-heroic characters who are so dysfunctional the X-Men look like a perfectly functioning team in comparison.
In case you missed the heading, this review will contain HUGE spoilers for the Doctor Who New Year’s Day special, Resolution. If you haven’t seen the episode yet then watch it before coming back. Trust me- it’s more satisfying.
For over seventy years Aquaman has been DC’s resident joke character. Thanks to some silly interpretations and the cheesy nature of the early comics the character, despite being one of the founding members of the Justice League and a constant in pretty much every lineup, has been seen in pop culture as “the fish dude”. This is in spite of his rich mythology and rebrand as a fighter and a warrior in the New 52. One of my primary concerns about the DCEU tackling Aquaman was built on the awkward attempts to make everything ultra serious yet still trying to make Aquaman a joke- in Justice League he made no impact as he simply stood around making jokes about how he talks to fish whilst the film tried desperately hard to make the audience take this inherently silly character seriously. It just didn’t mesh well. Jason Momoa was a good choice for the character but unless Aquaman’s world was treated with respect he simply wouldn’t translate well to the big screen. Well, the fears have been washed away (ooh, water puns, how original) by James Wan’s brilliant film that embraces the comic book campiness and adventurous tone of films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark whilst balancing it out with actual respect for the mythology and world building, creating a film that’s both immensely fun yet also being quite serious. See DC, this is what you should have been doing from the start!
Do you know why I love Doctor Who? The ideas. Over 55 years this show has always striven to be the most imaginative, daring and bold television show on the planet. Stories that focus entirely on ideas are among my favourites- Tom Baker’s Warrior’s Gate is a wonderful piece of science fiction, Kinda and Enlightenment are my two favourite Peter Davison stories, The God Complex dissects the Doctor’s character by forcing him to battle the very idea of narrative and Ghost Light, the infamously complex and divisive story from the original run’s final season, is one of my all time favourite stories in anything ever. Whilst Series 11 has so far been strong on character and stories, in terms of pure ideas it’s been a bit behind. Until tonight. It Takes You Away (I assume the title refers to how the episode blows your mind) is not only the best episode of the series by a long shot (and remember, I consider both Rosa and Demons of the Punjab to be masterpieces and like everything else barring Tsuranga Conundrum) but one of the most original, bonkers, crazy, delightful, imaginative, complex and heartfelt stories the show has done in a looooong time, perhaps ever. Ed Hime, take a bow.
Whoops, I missed a week. Events such as college, college and college prevented me from writing a Kerblam! review but in short: loved it, most fun episode since The Crimson Horror, bring Twirly back as a companion, Pete McTighe needs to write more episodes and it should have been episode 5. Now onto this week’s episode, The Witchfinders, which I’ve been anticipating for a while. I love historical episodes and the witch trials are a fascinating period of English history. With a female Doctor this premise promised great things and the episode even secured probably the biggest guest star since John Hurt with Alan Cumming (known to nerds like me as Nightcrawler from X-Men 2) as King James I & VI (it’s complicated). Fortunately this episode lived up to the hype by being a return to traditional Who- monsters, history and horror combining in a gloriously entertaining episode with one amazing guest role. Chris Chibnall may be an excellent showrunner, but he should really leave the majority of the writing to guest writers. Joy Wilkinson gets Who.