Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Essay Day - "Fire Trails on Silver Nights: Representing Wonder and Balance in Three Works by Luis Buñuel, Bruce Springsteen & Steven Millhauser"




It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for ‘Essay Day’ here at Fade to Lack. As explained here, I have written a large number of essays during my time at the University of Colorado as a student in film studies, and I thought it time to share the best of those with my readers, so throughout the summer, I’ll be posting a new essay every Wednesday, all focused on film in one form or another, but often incorporating other research and fields of study.

This week’s selection was written for a Graduate seminar on “Magic, Wonder, & Cinema,” taught in the Spring of 2014. The class dealt with representations of wonder in film and in writing, and the assignment of this essay was to take two specific works shown/read in class – Stephen Millhauser’s short story “The Barnum Museum” and Luis Buñuel’s feature film The Exterminating Angel – and, picking a third work in any artistic medium that explored similar themes, write about how wonder is explored or represented in all three works. I chose Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 album The Wild, The Innocent, & The E-Street Shuffle as my third work, because...well, you know me, and this is what resulted. It is one of my favorite essays in this series.

Read “Fire Trails on Silver Nights” after the jump...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Mad Men" Season Finale Review: "Waterloo" (Season 7 Episode 7) - "The best things in life are free..."



The seventh and final season of Mad Men continues with its mid-season finale, “Waterloo,” and for one last time this year, I have an in-depth review and analysis of the hour for your reading pleasure. To do the episode justice, this review contains spoilers – as always, do not read unless you have seen the episode.

Spoilers for “Waterloo” after the jump...

"Mad Men" Review: "The Strategy" (Season 7 Episode 6) - "Did you park your white horse outside?"


The seventh and final season of Mad Men continued with its sixth episode, “The Strategy,” last week, and I was unfortunately unable to review the episode due to some family commitments on Sunday night. So before publishing my thoughts on the season finale, which just finished airing, I thought I'd put up this brief analysis of the hour for your reading pleasure. As always, this review contains spoilers, and in an hour or two, I will be back with a full review/analysis of the season finale, “Waterloo.” See you then.

Spoilers for “The Strategy” after the jump...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Review: "X-Men: Days of Future Past" brings greatness to an erratic franchise


Since its inception in 2000, the ­X-Men film franchise has easily been one of the most qualitatively erratic blockbuster series of the modern era. It has produced one excellent superhero movies in X2, two very good films in First Class and The Wolverine, the mediocre original film (which has not aged well at all), the abject disappointment of The Last Stand, and one of the all-time worst comic-book stinkers in Origins: Wolverine. It has given us one of the greatest, most enduring pop culture icons of the 20th century in Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, two tremendous interpretations apiece of Professor X and Magneto (Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy and Ian McKellan/Michael Fassbender, respectively), a handful of memorable and compelling supporting characters (Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey, Brian Cox’s William Stryker, Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, etc.), a seemingly bottomless grab bag of throw-away mutants (every character who isn’t Wolverine in Origins, the majority of the first class in First Class), and some total misfires of classic comic-book characters (James Marsden’s one-note, unappealing Cyclops). It has given directors like Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughn a chance to flourish on a big blockbuster canvas, and definitively proven the ineptitude of amateurs like Brett Ratner. It has used its allegorical lens to explore bigotry and hatred in ways both poignant and pin-headed, and it has created for fans an increasingly complex and confusing continuity that is largely impossible to reconcile. It is, in short, a franchise that has progressed in such awkward fits and starts that true cumulative impact – a sense of overall, collective emotional weight to the narrative and characters – has been hard to come by.

Until Days of Future Past, that is.

Bryan Singer has crafted here an absolutely wonderful film, one that is positively miraculous in how it ties the entire history of this series together – good, bad, and everything in between – to tell a story that feels so much bigger and more emotional than a mere summation of parts. For the first time in the history of this series, I felt the collective weight of fourteen years of storytelling and character development represented on screen, and where some franchise films might buckle under such pressure, Days of Future Past instead feels liberated, free to let these characters and their world soar on the energy of artistic pay-off. I never expected to feel so emotional watching an X-Men movie, to see a story that hits so hard because every inch of it feels genuinely earned, but that is what Singer has crafted here, and by the time the end credits rolled, I was on the verge of tearing up. These films have been coming out ever since I was eight years old, and as Wolverine and several other characters reach an impossibly satisfying place of resolution and hope, the weight of my time spent with them hit me, as it had on several other occasions during the movie. Only a great cinematic accomplishment can prompt such an impact. Days of Future Past is a remarkable achievement indeed.

Continue reading after the jump...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Weekly Stuff #87 - Reviewing "Persona 3 The Movie: #1 - Spring of Birth"



It’s time for a special bonus episode of The Weekly Stuff Podcast with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman, a weekly audio show that explores the worlds of film, video gaming, and television. Remember to subscribe for free in iTunes by following this link!
                                      
As fans of The Weekly Stuff Podcast surely know by now, our favorite video game of all time is Persona 3, and with the first installment in the game's multi-part film adaptation having just hit home video, we wanted to offer an in-depth review of the movie. “Spring of Birth” is definitely a different beast than either of us expected, and it makes for an interesting, lively discussion as we go over the animation, characters, story, and how this compares to the video game – all of which are fascinating topics.

The Blu-Ray we purchased to review the film can be obtained from RightStuf in North America, and while it commands a hefty price - $80 – we definitely recommend the set to fans of the video game. Before discussing the film, we go over all the packaging and extras on the box set, so if you’re on the fence about buying, this episode has you covered top to bottom.

Enjoy the show, and make sure to check out the episode we recorded earlier this week, about the new Godzilla film. We will be back in just a couple of days to discuss X-Men: Days of Future Past, and you’ll be able to read my written review of the film tomorrow.





If you have questions, comments, or concerns about The Weekly Stuff, or would like to write in to the podcast to have your questions read on the show, please e-mail dinochow@jonathanlack.com.

The Weekly Stuff with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman is a weekly audio podcast, and if you subscribe in iTunes, episodes will be delivered automatically and for free as soon as they are released. If you visit www.jonathanlack.com, we also have streaming and downloadable versions of new and archival episodes for your listening pleasure.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Weekly Stuff #86 - Discussing Gareth Edwards' "Godzilla" Reboot



It’s time for another episode of The Weekly Stuff Podcast with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman, a weekly audio show that explores the worlds of film, video gaming, and television. Remember to subscribe for free in iTunes by following this link!

One of our most anticipated films of the year is Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot, and as always, we have recorded an in-depth, spoiler-filled discussion of the movie, with hosts Sean – a lifelong Godzilla fan – and Jonathan – mostly familiar with the original 1954 Gojira – bringing two very different perspectives to the table. I have already reviewed the film twice – here and here – so you all probably know my opinion by now. Sean and I have some disagreements on the film’s content, but still recommend it very strongly, and it makes for an interesting discussion. Some talk about recent Halo news and other random video game stuff rounds out the episode.

Enjoy the show, and come back later this week – yes, it’s a two podcast week! – for a bonus episode in which Sean and I review Persona 3 The Movie: #1 Spring of Birth, which just arrived on Blu-Ray. Y’all know we’re Persona fans here. This time, we’ve split the Persona talk into a separate episode for listeners who don’t belong to that particular niche. If you want to skip the Persona episode, don’t worry – we’ll be back next week discussing X-Men: Days of Future Past and lots more!





If you have questions, comments, or concerns about The Weekly Stuff, or would like to write in to the podcast to have your questions read on the show, please e-mail dinochow@jonathanlack.com.

The Weekly Stuff with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman is a weekly audio podcast, and if you subscribe in iTunes, episodes will be delivered automatically and for free as soon as they are released. If you visit www.jonathanlack.com, we also have streaming and downloadable versions of new and archival episodes for your listening pleasure.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A second look at "Godzilla" dives deeper into the plot, characters, and criticisms



I reviewed Gareth Edwards’ new Godzilla film when it was released on Friday, and while that piece certainly sums up my overall reaction to the film, trying to quantify such an intense emotional and sensory experience immediately after seeing the film was tough, and keeping things spoiler-free meant I had to leave a lot of thoughts on the table. The film has definitely stuck with me the last few days, though, rattling around my brain as my thoughts coalesce more coherently, and at the same time, I’ve been seeing some reaction to the film that puzzles me. People are definitely enjoying it on the whole, and I am both happy and amazed to see the film doing so well at the box office, but the general tenor of the negative reaction baffles me, and I wanted to return to the film one more time to discuss it in greater depth, tackling some of those criticisms head on and getting deeper into my own thoughts on why the film works so well.

This piece contains heavy spoilers, and assumes readers have seen the film, so don’t read any further if you haven’t (my original review remains spoiler-free). Otherwise, continue reading after the jump...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Review: Gareth Edwards' "Godzilla" is miraculous and awe-inspiring


Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is nothing short of a miracle: A monster movie that is both a genuinely thoughtful, consistently engaging human-scale drama, and a gleefully destructive, viscerally satisfying exercise in daikaiju mayhem, each side of the film stemming organically from the other. It is a complete package, the rare summer blockbuster that features characters, ideas, and a story worth investing in, and is truly, powerfully awe-inspiring on top of that, a blisteringly realized exercise in tension, atmosphere, and scale. The film is a major statement of artistic voice and ability from Edwards – here directing his first Hollywood production – a film smart and rich enough to attract a wide, diverse audience, but which does not feel studio manufactured or mandated even in the slightest. Equally likely to please longtime fans of the character as it is to enrapture the uninitiated, Edwards’ Godzilla is an absolute triumph, and throws down the gauntlet for every summer spectacle yet to come this year.

Continue reading after the jump...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Essay Day - "Louis Malle’s 'Damage,' Lars von Trier’s 'Melancholia,' and the Circularity of Transgressive Energy"



It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for ‘Essay Day’ here at Fade to Lack. As explained here, I have written a large number of essays during my time at the University of Colorado as a student in film studies, and I thought it time to share the best of those with my readers, so throughout the summer, I’ll be posting a new essay every Wednesday, all focused on film in one form or another, but often incorporating other research and fields of study.

This week’s selection is one I never intended to be seen outside of a classroom setting, as it was written for an in-class exam in only one hour. But the Professor’s comments were very positive, even going so far as to suggest expanding the essay and submitting it to a journal. I haven’t had time to go to those lengths with it, but I thought the original version (lightly revised for publication) would be of interest to readers. The course was called ‘Cinema and the Poetics of Transgression,’ exploring issues of transgressive behavior in a variety of foreign feature films, and the essay prompt was, I believe, to use two films viewed in class – specifically, Louis Malle’s 1992 film Damage and Lars von Trier’s 2011 film Melancholia – and discuss the social transgressions explored in both. As this was written for an exam in a classroom setting, there is less of the usual shorthand plot synopsis for those who have not seen the films, so you may wish to seek them out before reading this, though it is not necessarily essential. Otherwise, enjoy...

Read “Louis Malle’s Damage, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, and the Circularity of Transgressive Energy” after the jump...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Weekly Stuff #85 - Taking down the atrocious 'Amazing Spider-Man 2'



It’s time for another episode of The Weekly Stuff Podcast with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman, a weekly audio show that explores the worlds of film, video gaming, and television. Remember to subscribe for free in iTunes by following this link!

As promised, this week’s podcast is devoted to tackling the disgusting monstrosity that is The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I expressed my unending hatred for this so-called ‘movie’ in my written review last week, and now that Sean has seen and hated the film as well, we spend the majority of this week’s episode tearing into all the ways the movie fails simply as a piece of filmmaking, along with exploring how the film fundamentally misunderstands Peter Parker/Spider-Man as a character. This is, as we explain in the episode, the worst film we have ever talked about on the podcast – yes, we hated this even more than Prometheus – so it makes for a fairly epic rant.

Before the in-depth movie review, though, we also expand on our discussions of Hearthstone and Titanfall from last week and cover some recent gaming news, including Microsoft’s inevitable decision to unbundle the Kinect from the Xbox One.

Enjoy the show, and come back next week for our review of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, which will hopefully be much better than The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Not that making a better movie would be in any way difficult.





If you have questions, comments, or concerns about The Weekly Stuff, or would like to write in to the podcast to have your questions read on the show, please e-mail dinochow@jonathanlack.com.

The Weekly Stuff with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman is a weekly audio podcast, and if you subscribe in iTunes, episodes will be delivered automatically and for free as soon as they are released. If you visit www.jonathanlack.com, we also have streaming and downloadable versions of new and archival episodes for your listening pleasure.