Review: Antboy 3

To say simply that DC/WB can take to watching this Danish mini-franchise to learn a thing or two, and leaving it at that, would make it a backhanded compliment to a film deserving of plaudits on its own merits and not just those at the expense of a financial and marketing juggernaut that should know and do better.

The successive build in the Antboy series has been absolutely outstanding. Not only have themes, reversals, and evolution of characters springboarded off the prior installment; but the coalescence of the trilogy here results in a film of breeze-like efficiency of pace, seamless incorporation of themes, and true emotional resonance that can be enjoyed by audiences of any age. By taking two cinematic tropes, kids and superheroes, that are quite often fodder for building characters that are thinly developed and under-served, these films have faced uphill battles but each time taking the climb haves succeeded more resoundingly each time out.

Rather than over-crowding the film with new-to-the-series characters it instead focuses on the change of circumstances and heart of personae who are already well known to the audience, or so we think. Moreover, similar to other “Watching These Kids Grow” series that have become more commonplace in the 21st Century, the growth as performers by Oscar Dietz, Samuel Ting Graf and Amalie Kruse Jensen has been spectacular over the course of these films.

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The ensemble is bolstered by the returning Astrid Juncher-Benzon and among the older set Nicholas Bro and joining for this film Paprika Steen (2008 BAM Award Nominee – Best Ensemble The Substitute).

If you’re jumping in at this point, some impact will be lost of joining the series here, but it’s still enjoyable and communicates well as a standalone. It is also a film that succeeds in large part because its focus is narrow (these heroes are concerned with their hometown only not the entire world), and then it narrows it further focusing on these characters struggles both within their alter ego and without. It’s a tremendously refreshing breath of fresh air.

While the Antboy series of books total six numbered editions and a follow-up, similar to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, three seems to be the logical end for this series in narrative terms and in logistical ones. Where as this series has wiggle room as a new phase of life is embarked upon, if that should not happen a chapter has closed and the films have been a rousing triumph.

10/10

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Film Activism: Jan Švankmajer’s Final Film Insects

Sadly, the last Film Activism title I featured did not get fully funded. Since I was a backer, this is especially disheartening and  I hope Kamikaze ’89 finds its way to a new audience by other means.

However, i just learned of a new worthy project that is already well on its way to being funded. I have featured the works of Jan Švankmajer on this blog a few times. Now he’s taken to crowdfunding, this time via a flexible funding Indiegogo project to make his last feature. There are quite a few great perks. Furthermore, with how close it is with 20 whole days left there may be awesome stretch goals. Check it out.

 

UPDATE!

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It is 0ver 100% funded. However, stretching past its goal will expedite the process and take care of more of the costs involved in making this film. Read the update!

 

Short Film Saturday: The Birth of the Goalie of the 2001 F.A. Cup Final

Mike Leigh’s improvisational filmmaking style did not come to him out of thin air. It was developed and one way in which he did is through short films. This one movies and tells a simple story quickly and economically. Here is Open Culture’s take:

The short, which consists of ten vignettes spanning a half-dozen years, is about a couple deciding whether or not to have a baby. The nameless bloke repeatedly asks his reluctant partner, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a kid?” At the end of the movie, he’s kicking the ball around with his young son. The end. It is almost as if Leigh wanted to see how little backstory and character psychology he could get away with.

 

 

Rewind Review: Brüno

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Brüno 

I think the most common mistake reviewers will make is to try and compare this film to Borat. While it stars the same man and follows in the same style & formula it needs evaluating on its own merits; just because Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright both joined forces for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz doesn’t necessarily mean those two projects should be compared either.

Every one falls victim to it on occasion but comparative analysis and film criticism should be separate.

While that’s easy to say I think Brüno does pale slightly as compared to the burden of expectation I and others have placed, whether rightly or not, upon it. However, while it might not achieve the title of “Funniest Film of the Year” upon first viewing it is the kind of film for which time will be the ultimate barometer and not knee jerk reaction.

Sacha Baron Cohen does not just seek to make us laugh he seeks to provoke thought, reaction and discomfort both in those he encounters and in the audience.

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I know some might argue the merits of a straight man doing this kind of “exposé” but that fact is commentary on society as well. For example, the issue of racism garnered national attention on a very wide level with the publication of Black Like Me in which a white journalist went undercover as a black man.

 Lastly, whether or not any part or more of it was scripted than previously also doesn’t concern me because as much as it masquerades as a documentary it is a piece of fiction.

Now that all the disclaimers and social commentary questions have been addressed moving on to the actual film, which when all is said and done will either be remembered as a film people find funny or not. 

It doesn’t just push the boundaries of good taste but far surpasses them. This reviewer personally found the film quite funny.

 Brüno does follow the same formula as Borat as noted earlier, specifically – a foreigner coming to USA and finding his own American dream, both rather vacuous is commentary in itself and a lightning rod for comedy.

The situations created in this film are memorable: the focus group, the gay converter, the boot camp, the music video, the swinger party, The Richard Bey Show, the Ron Paul and Paula Abdul interviews, the hunting trip, Mideast peace talk, photo casting and the psychic. The wrestling scene is great social commentary if one steps back for a moment and examines the situation. The audience reacted as if someone had died, and the ignorance displayed by the on-screen audience who actually believed the Straight Dave character was appalling.

Ultimately, it was an enjoyable and outlandishly funny film.

9/10

Suggested NBA Stars for the New Space Jam

So, it would seem that the long-rumored Space Jam sequel starring LeBron James is finally happening. Of course, once this started making news sports talk radio, most notably Mike & Mike, started speculating on which NBA players would be joining King James’ team in this film.

Now, the approach the Mikes, who I have enjoy greatly, took is the obvious one of matching the player in the original to a modern-day equivalent as best they could.

Two things I realized made this approach ineffective: firstly, only the most notable players were mentioned in their debate.

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Here were the non-Jordan players in Space Jam; firstly, those credited:

Charles Barkley
Patrick Ewing
Muggsy Bogues
Larry Johnson

Some lesser caliber players were also credited:
Shawn Bradley
Vlade Divac
Cedric Ceballos
Danny Ainge
A.C. Green
Charles Oakley
Derek Harper
Jeff Malone
Anthony Miller
Sharone Wright

Then there are a few who were uncredited:

Bill Wennington
Brian Shaw
Scottie Pippen
Luc Longley
Steve Kerr
Horace Grant

If you have any familiarity with basketball you’ll most likely note that some of these names were more relevant in 1996 than they are now and have faded into obscurity. Now you can’t exactly cast hoping to be timeless only hoping to make it as relevant as possible to the audience you’re appealing to. However, it seems to me, even bearing in mind the league in 1996 that some bigger names could’ve been found.

Furthermore, the fact that LeBron is a player of a new age, and is more gregarious with opposing players than Jordan was could make casting easier. That and the proliferation of media and advertising could bring many more recognizable names into a film this time around. Here are my ideas:

Firstly, I think some of the funniest ads around now featuring athletes are the State Farm ones most notably the Hoopers. That’s a nucleus of actor/athletes right there, droppin’ dimes!

Damian Lillard
Kevin Love
Chris Paul
DeAndre Jordan
Kevin Garnett

Not only do they already work together in a popular campaign but DeAndre Jordan playing the sitcom mom of the bunch is a good link to Larry Johnson’s Grandmama persona, which is hard to fill.

That makes five players. The original included 20 players, but I will explain why I think half that number is suitable for this film.

Kobe Bryant’s recent ad with Michael B. Jordan make him a strong contender. The original film didn’t have retired or about to be retired players but in this day and age I feel players stay in the public eye a bit longer so it makes sense to do.

Some players whom LeBron has shown a bond with in his career could also join the cast so add Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.

Not just trying to match one European-born player for another I suggest Kristaps Porzingis mostly due to his FIFA-loss reaction.

Maybe being the 21st century it’s an opportunity to give Crying Knicks Fan a cameo, and while we’re on Internet sensations, can we possibly include Crying Jordan memes?

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In fitting with the soon-to-explode NBA salary cap, clearly this sequel will have more big name talent and require Warner Brothers to shell out more for the basketball talent involved. However, one issue Warner Brothers needs to address from the first film is giving the Looney Tunes more to do, especially the characters introduced in Space Jam and not re-incorporated since.

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Therefore, cutting the number of basketball stars will allow that focus to be more on LeBron and his animated cohorts, especially the ones that existed prior to Space Jam who WB has done little if anything to keep relevant within the past 20 years. I was not, and am not, a big Space Jam fan. However, anything that can help Bugs and co. attempt a comeback would be most welcome at this point.

Film Thought: Train Wrecks of Nostalgia, or News Film Fans Aren’t Owed

On the Internet, I do not believe timing is everything. Quite frankly I found it emotionally exhausting to keep my ear pinned to the proverbial ground waiting to hear the next thing I “had” to have an opinion about when my postings needed to be more current event based on the Site That Shall Not Be Named.

Due to this, when I first heard of Jake Lloyd’s arrest following a high-speed chase in South Carolina I didn’t comment on it in any way, shape, or form.

That brings me around to the most recent time he made the news. Nearly a month ago (4/10), after almost 10 months in prison, he was transferred to a psychiatric ward to better treat his schizophrenia.

Episode 1 Teaser

The reason I’ve taken my time both in winding my way to the meat of this story, and also in terms of time elapsed since having heard it are as follows:

  • This is by no means intended to be yet another morbid “Where are they now?” piece.
  • Nor is this attempting to pin the ills of society or individuals on what some refer to as the necessary evil of child actors in film and television

Instead the three points I want to make citing this and a more recent story are:

  1. The need to make correctional institutes as rehabilitative as they were once intended to be rather than merely punitive money pits that either re-release criminals or breed career criminals.
  2. What should occur instead is: if there is a clear diagnosis that needs medicating, and in some extreme cases relocation, that must occur. It’s bad enough that stigma contributes to too many people with mental illnesses being unaware, undiagnosed or unmedicated in society.
  3. For prison officials to be dubious of, or callous to, inmates’ needs while they’re incarcerated can only result in their continued mental degradation and possibly those around them, both on the inside and on the outside.

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As for the ills of society or individuals:

There are a vast array of mental illnesses. Even with schizophrenia being one of the most difficult to diagnose, and even though some attribute environmental and substance abuse factors into its development or accelerated onset, there is still a genetic component in it as well, just as there is with things as common as depression or more severe like bipolar disorder.

It is far to simplistic to state things like: “This never would have happened if he wasn’t Anakin.” Episode I was released 17 years by now. If you were making a biopic it’d be jarring to cut from behind the scenes on a film set to that individual’s low-point in life. A narrative feature would also then work to fill in those gaps and then “explain” everything.

Sometimes there is no explaining something because as Forrest Gump famously insinuated “Shit happens.”

Stuff-Happens

That’s where cognitive dissonance comes in, and the recent news that Joey Cramer, of Flight of the Navigator fame, was arrested after a series of bank robberies. Basically, you can’t have seen this story reported without his mugshot being spliced next to a still from the 1986 film.

It’s understandable since that film has more of a cult following, and a few passionate fans who have been vocally anti-remake (at the moment that project remains in development), as opposed to Lloyd whose breakout role was in a film that was the first virtually guaranteed to gross one billion dollars. However, the cognitive dissonance that’s being implied is the same: that can’t be him. He’s still 12 years old not in in his forties, and much less in his forties with a rap sheet. That dissonance is further exacerbated by the fact that relative time travel plays a factor in the plot of that film.

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However, that shock one can feel is because their limited frame of reference in that story is an A to Z view and not the A to B straight line many people see. Which is how media reports many stories. Consider for example how simultaneous the media made Diablo Cody’s work as an exotic dancer and as a screenwriter.

Crime stories are bound to make the news anyway whether the perpetrator is mentally ill or not, had a three-year-acting-career or not. But the amount of attention it gets makes me wonder the following:

  • Is the schadenfreude that rewarding?

and

  • Is the aching nostalgia of childhood “dying” among the hottest commodities on the Internet?

In the end, in either scenario, all I end up feeling is empathy and sadness, and a wish not to see the stories going viral lest they can do some good. Reporting Lloyd’s transfer may give a slight push to criminal justice reform, may highlight mental illness just a little more during Mental Health Month. On the other hand photos of Macaulay Culkin while he’s just wandering down the streets of New York designed only to create “is he or isn’t he on drugs?” speculation is the kind of frivolous invasion of privacy that anti-paparazzi laws are for.

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The lines between celebrity and anonymity, reality and fiction, are constantly being blurred now, when they ought not be. These people are not their characters or personae, they’re only human. One should not take into consideration a person’s life in evaluating their art, and one’s art should never be an indicator that their life will or will not go according to plan. Fame or failure as a young person onscreen is not an oracle of future good fortune, unfortunate circumstances, mental illness or poor decision-making.

My advice on these child actor crime stories can be summed up in a callously succinct New York compound phrase: It is what it is, so fughettaboutit. By which I mean, just because you spent umpteen hours watching someone on the silver screen or TV when you were a kid doesn’t mean you are entitled to:

  • Excruciating minutia in regards to their low point.
  • An explanation of how they got there.
  • To incessantly assault them with your miniscule-in-the-grander-scheme vile opinion of what they “did” to a property you profess to love.

Just as mental illness is not something catching or to be scoffed at nor is excessive information on one’s downfall owed to anyone because they had the gall to audition for, and land, a role when they were merely a child, as you once were.

In Memoriam- Corey Haim

Granted train wrecks of nostalgia are jarring because images on film are eternal and crystallized whereas time goes on and we all age and things change. Sometimes in the glacial moments of life it can seem like things don’t change but then stories like this remind us time does move along, at times cruelly.

However, the sense of ownership we seem to feel over such stories is a fallacy. Jake Lloyd is hopefully getting his help now. Hopefully, Joey Cramer can too, whatever help that may be. Internet trolling doesn’t breed mental illness, but one has to wonder what it says about humanity that even in light of that news some still feel the need to pile on.

The Internet and social media can make things that once would have been mere footnotes bigger than they once would have been. One person thinking “This story matters,” sharing it, without comment, is, in terms of pixels and space on a feed, much larger than a small column in a traditional newspaper. If we feel the need to feel an excess of emotion for people we never met because they’ve died because they marked a significant moment in our childhood or life, then perhaps it’s time to show a bit of empathy for those who may have made a mark on us whom are still here but have fallen on hard times.

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Having been in some films a decade or more ago and then going on to try to live a normal existence after you move on for whatever reason does not mean you’re in the public eye anymore. Those in entertainment at current know that’s part of the deal. Those who have tried to move on to a new phase who may have not been entirely successful deserve a bit more consideration and a chance to rehabilitate without public scrutiny.