Nostalgia is a powerful tool – but what if the tool becomes a crutch? Fans question Hollywood’s approach to superheroes, story-telling and more in this batch of letters …
Action films and franchises sure to get 2021 off to a fast (but not Furious) start.
I hope yourself and the fabulous and inclusive members of the Post Geek Singularity have experienced a wonderful Christmas are looking forward to a, hopefully, more positive 2021.
This letter continues the look at my favourite action films of all-time. So, lets settle straight into it.The Man from Nowhere (2010) is a South Korean action film that centres around a manager of a pawnshop who is forces to use his experience as a South Korean Army Intelligence officer to protect a little girl named So-mi after her heroin addicted mother is murdered and her organs are harvested by a brutal local crime syndicate. Directed by Lee Jeong-beom, the film moves along at a good, energetic pace and the cinematography and intense fight sequences are great.
However, a major reason for why the film works is at the heart of the story of an unlikely friendship that allows for some truly poignant moments between Won Bin’s Cha Tae-sik and Kim Sae-ron’s So-mi. Distributed by CJ Entertainment, The Man from Nowhere was a commercial success earning USD$43 million from a budget of USD$4 million. The film won numerous awards including five Grand Bell Awards, seven Korean Film Awards, three Blue Dragon Film Awards and the Baeksang Arts Award honour for Best Film.
First Blood (1982) is the action film that introduced the world to the iconic character John Rambo played by 1980s action film heavyweight Sylvester Stallone and one of my favourites. Directed by Ted Kotcheff, the film is the best of the Rambo franchise because the heart of the story is how a returning Vietnam War veteran is treated by a local sheriff and his deputies of small town of Hope, Washington. Perhaps this was due to the fact the film was an adaptation of David Morrell’s successful 1972 novel First Blood.
The narrative was timely as America was still recovering from the fallout of the Vietnam War. The wounds of this war had just begun to heal and many veterans were dealing with psychological scars of the war and their initial treatment upon returning home. In light of this, it is the film’s story actually gave Stallone a chance to act as much as flex his action muscle and remains one of the best performances of his career. His monologue at the climax when confronted by Trautman while holed-up in the sheriff’s office is deeply moving. He assisted by outstanding performances from Brian Dennehy as Sheriff William Teasle and Richard Crenna as Rambo’s special forces commander Colonel Samuel Trautman.
The action set pieces are terrific and the cinematography by director of photography Andrew Laszlo services the tone of the film wonderfully. Surprisingly, reviews for First Blood were mixed prior to the film’s theatrical release. However, positive reviews were given by Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and The New York Times’ Janet Maslin. Ebert remarked how First Blood was “a very good movie, well-paced, and well-acted not only by Stallone … but also by Crenna and Brian Dennehy.” Maslin praised the film’s story for its “energy and ingenuity” and Stallone’s portrayal for making Rambo “tormented, yet amazingly resourceful” as opposed to a straight-out villain.
Today, numerous retrospective and contemporary reviews highly praise the film and consider it one of the best films released in 1982. In 2008, Empire Magazine selected First Blood in position 253 in its list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. After its theatrical release on 22 October 1982, First Blood became a resounding commercial success earning USD$125.2 million against a budget of USD$15 million.
The John Wick films starring Keanu Reeves have captured the attention and imagination of everyone who love action films. The films have reignited the actor’s career, which is great to see as he is one of most likable and genuine gentlemen of Hollywood. John Wick 2 (201) is my favourite of the franchise. The stylish film features atmosphere inducing cinematography by and slickly edited by Elísabet Ronalds as it moves along at a brisk pace. The fight sequences are intense and brutal.
However, it is the performances that make John Wick 2 as much as the action. Keanu Reeves is perfect giving a measured approach as the stoic assassin John Wick whose actions speak louder and more profoundly than words. He receives solid support across the board with Laurence Fishburne as underworld crime lord The Bowery King, Ian McShane reprising his role as Winston leading the way.
Prior to the film’s theatrical release on 10 February 2017, the response from critics was overwhelmingly positive with The New Yorker, Screen Rant and Time magazine amongst the publications to praise the film. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine labelled John Wick 2 “pure cinema”. Distributed by Summit Entertainment, John Wick 2 was commercial success earning USD$171.5 million against a budget of USD$40 million.
Die Hard (1988) is one of the quintessential action films of the 1980s. Directed by John McTiernan, its established Bruce Willis as an action film star. However, Alan Richman stole every scene he was in as the film’s antagonist German terrorist Hans Gruber. The film achieves the right blend of action, suspense and subtle touches of humour. The film features white-knuckled and suspenseful action sequences and many memorable quotes such as “Welcome to the party, pal.”
Surprisingly, the film received mixed reviews from critics but became a commercial success earning USD$141.5 million against a budget of USD$30 million after its theatrical release on 15 June 1988. Contemporary directors Darren Aronofsky, Gareth Evans, Barry Jenkins and Colin Trevorrow are amongst those that have cited Die Hard as an inspiration to pursue a career in filmmaking. The film spawned many sequels, Died Hard 2: Die Harder (1990), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013). Although, I believe many people would prefer that A Good Day to Die Hard never existed.
I love the first film of the Transporter trilogy simply known as The Transporter (2002). This is the film that firmly established Jason Statham as the newest action star on the horizon. Former British competitive diver, who has martial arts experience having trained in and Brazilian jujitsu. With his rugged looks, chiselled physique and ability to carry off the fight sequences with energy and swiftness.It is no wonder he has become a favourite of fans of the action genre. However, there is a coolness and charm to Statham that allows audiences to engage with his character of Frank Martin. The action sequences, such as the opening car chase, are expertly staged and are thrilling and the fight choreography is of equal quality and filmed so the audience can see appreciate all the action in its white-knuckled glory. The infusions of humour are subtle and correctly services the film to provide levity when required and compliments the action.
All this provides the opportunity for the film to be an enjoyable thrill ride. The film holds no pretentions to be anything other than what it is. We all know the story of former British special forces officer Frank Martin who has become freelance courier of wealthy and exclusive black-market clientele. He discovers a client Mr Kwai (Rick Young) is responsible for human trafficking. He is assisted by his client’s daughter Lai Kwai (Shu Qi) to bring down her father’s operation. I love Shu Qi ever since I first saw her in the Hong Kong action flick So Close (2002). She was the female lead in the 2015 Chinese wuxia film The Assassin, which was directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien.
So, there is the completion of my look at my favourite action films. To yourself and all the groovy members of the PSG enjoy the weekend.
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SPY GAME is one worth playing
Hi Rob, moderators, and Post Geek Singularity,
I have another review to share with the Post Geek Singularity.This is for the 2001 Tony Scott movie, SPY GAME, starring Brad Pitt and Robert Redford.
Overall, I liked it, thanks to the performances from both Pitt and Redford, as well as some twists and surprises in the story. On a side note to that, before watching the film and just looking at the poster, I originally thought Brad Pitt would play a young Robert Redford in flashbacks, since I think they look a bit alike, but then watching the film, I realized they were two separate characters.
If you are going in thinking this is an action movie, it is not, as while there is some action here and there, it’s really more of a talking movie. Also, like all Tony Scott movies, SPY GAME is visually great to look at, thanks to the cinematography and stylish color palette.
All in all, I enjoyed SPY GAME, and recommend it to those who haven’t seen it.
Thanks, live long and prosper.
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Remembering an earlier Wonder Woman – as pretty wonderful
Greetings and Felicitations Rob,
Long time lurker from the early days of Robservations. I have to say while I love the Robservatory, at times I do miss the laundry room and when you fed your cute dogs their cookies.
With the release of Wonder Woman 84 and its Lynda Carter cameo, it prompted me to revisit her old TV show as its now streaming as well on HBOMax. Of course, the show is a major nostalgia trip for me as I viewed it first run as a kid and now as an adult I can equally cringe at its cheesy elements. It contains a mix of camp inherent in most 1970s genre productions and camp from its basic premise of a 2000-year old Amazon in a bathing suit tossing bad guys and never hitting them.
I’ve also rediscovered something interesting I noticed decades ago about what a strange beast the show actually was. While at first glance it comes off as a campy 70s kids’ show, it also contains moments that are cerebral and well-acted, and elements of dramatic storytelling that hint at a much more adult show beneath the surface.
Take for example the season 1 episodes, “Judgement from Outer Space, Parts 1 & 2” that guest starred future Buck Rogers’ cast member Tim O’Connor as, Andros, a member of an alien species that came to Earth to judge if humanity should survive or be destroyed because of their destructive tendencies. Of course, Andros arrives during World War II which is not capturing humanity at its best. The two-parter contains the usual cartoonish Nazis with equally cartoonish German accents and some disco outer space outfits.
What it also contains is a dramatic conflict between Diana and Steve Trevor with a Revolutionary War, political reference. As an army officer, Trevor wants to arrest Andros as danger to the U.S. and Diana instead defends him. It climaxes with Diana, in disguise as his military subordinate, calling out Steve for his knee-jerk national security stance with a line from Samuel Johnson: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” This is a nod to where patriotism is used as an excuse to imprison anyone and deny them their civil liberties.
The episode also contains a debate between Wonder Woman and Andros about the best and worst of humanity. Pretty cerebral stuff for an episode where you can easily sneak into a top-security Nazi base with the right accent and uniform.
Another example is the episode, “The Man Who Could Move the World.” Here a man, who lived in a Japanese internment camp as a child, believes that Wonder Woman is responsible for killing his older brother during the war. He develops telekinetic powers and revisits the camp where he lures Wonder Woman to exact revenge. An exploration of Japanese internment during World War II and its lingering emotional scars and a revenge plot on a kids’ show in 1977.
Or a plot that feels like it could easily fit into a modern sci-fi show in “The Starships Are Coming.” Tim O’Connor again guest stars, this time as another character. He plays a general who is duped almost into starting World War III by what can easily be described as an alt-right activist who fakes an alien invasion so the US will launch its nuclear arsenal against supposed alien ships in Russia and China. Its only stopped when the general weighs the morality and the human cost of launching the missiles.
Even from a horror movie perspective, the psychic kid and faux ghost plot from the episode “Séance of Terror” would fit right into a John Carpenter outing. Or the aliens who take over the minds of an entire small town to defeat an alien assassin in “The Boy Who Knew Her Secret” would easily fit into a Twilight Zone episode.
For a show that was developed by the same writing team that also wrote the Adam West Batman series, Wonder Woman has its moments of intentional and unintentional campiness, however, its laced with seriously acted adult moments and plots. Several of the show’s well-acted and adult moments come from Lynda Carter herself.
Even when she has to play a campy moment or deliver cringy lines, she has an effortless grace that elevates the material. The show’s duality is even more interesting when it is compared to Wonder Woman 84. The movie is tonally all over the place, contains intentional and unintentional contrivances but is laced with characters and moments that appear to come from a much more serious and grounded film. So, wondering if the reason for WW84’s disjointedness is really just Patty Jenkins trying to recapture the spirit of the TV show?
For the TV show it makes me wonder what sort of more politically nuanced and emotionally satisfying sci-fi we could have had with Lynda Carter under a showrunner that went in a more adult direction. For the film series, I can only hope that Jenkins has gotten the nostalgia out of her system and returns to the drama and character work that shined in the first WW movie.
Seeing Lynda Carter on screen made me hopeful that Jenkins can use her than in just a cameo role and give Carter material which can show her acting chops. Also, Carter’s appearance in the film makes me wish that a producer had had the foresight back in the early 80s to greenlight a Christopher Reeve/Lynda Carter team up movie. Imagine a Superman 3 that featured a team up with Carter’s Wonder Woman as opposed to the terrible Richard Pryor version. Oh well, maybe that happened in an alternate universe.
Live long and prosper.
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Super hero movies are too much alike – and that’s a problem!
What I think people get wrong about modern super hero movies.
I think there is a trend in the cultural zeitgeist that at least I love, all those comicbookmovies, that I think is really flawed and I want to bring it up and my reasoning as to why I think so.
I didn’t even grow up reading comics, I just hopped on board the bandwagon and fell in love with super heroe movies like 99 percent of the rest of planet Earth.I don’t have a particular type of those movies I like, my favourite is Batman Begins, the one I think is best is the Amazing Spiderman 1, I really enjoy Man of Steel and Watchmen and I’m hooked on the MCU like it’s a drug.
I think the MCU has been very successful, that’s sort of a fact at this point, and I think the main reason for that is probably Mr Feige.
What I think most people making these stories get wrong, is that they want to reach the same success.
I know that sounds weird but let me explain.
It’s easy to chase trends, you see something work and then you want to copy and paste that sou can also join the fun.
HOWEVER, I believe that the biggest mistake super hero movies have made, is that they tried to copy Kevin Feige.
If everybody wants to do something you do well I’m sure that’s a nice compliment but that’s not what people should be doing.
Ever since like 2012 cinematic universes with outstanding characters has been really sexy, but look at what has happened, where is the dark universe?
Where is Netflix the Defenders?
Where is the cross over between new mutants, fantastic four and the xmen?
Where is Sony’s Spiderman universe?
And where the hell is the Justice League right now?
See, if Kevi Feige would at this moment in as in imaginary concept do what he wants to do, to the best of his capabilities but not build a super hero universe with marvel comics, enabled by Disney and all that resources and cash but with WB and the DC pantheon.
Would that REEALLLY work out?
He has already said that he if was in charge of Superman, he would follow suite with Richard Donner, an opinion which is fine, but is that REEEALLLLY what people want to see? Now that we have Man of Steel and all of that?
The point I’m trying to make is that I don’t believe copying the trend is the right move, I believe for super hero movies as a genre to thrive in the future, people need to stop doing the same thing.
The future is not where DC, Marvel, Frankenstein and frickeh Hasbros all give you the same content because they seem to be playing in the same sandbox.
For the future of superhero movies to look bright on not just one franchise like the Avengers, I believe people need to start coming up wih original content. NOT Copy and Paste.
We all have emotional opinions about what should and should not happen in these movies and behind the scenes, I know you have said DC needs a Kevin Feige or something and not to have this rift between comicbook enthusiasts and corporate people in charge, sorry if I get you wrong.
But I don’t believe DC does need a Kevin Feige at all.
I genuinly think that they CAN and Will reach much success without being the mcu, but finding their own identity.
I do not believe that the JL last minute changes were due to mr Snyder’s tragic family death, but I believe it was creative differences.
And I belive that WB wanted to chase the trend and be like the mcu.
More so then build everything based on what is canon according to Zack.
And I hope that to some extent these higher up people who actually get to play with those toys reach this conclusion as well, because even if I have my gripes with the mcu, I understand that if Feige came down from his cloud and let me make the decisions for him, the mcu would be in the same danger that Justice League was in.
The directors cut that they somehow granted reality on HBO Max, I belive will not be anything like the mcu, and perhaps since that might be a goldern standard now, alot of critics will be divided again, on whether or not it’s a good movie, but I think it CAN be successful.
And satisfy alot of people anyway.
That does NOT mean mr Feige needs to hire mr Snyder to do a marvel movie, so that they can copy his success.
It just means the future of superheroes is “difference”, not “all the same”.
Perhaps the super hero genre will break up into subgenres, I don’t know, but those are my thoughts, live long and prosper.
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Could this one trailer trick save the movie business?
Over the last few decades and it’s been a trend for a while, marketing in movies has gone down hill. I watch you and John Campea talk about this often, even going back to the Collider days. I think what has gotten lost with trailers is narration. I see you and John say all the time, what is this movie about such as Dune or any other movie that needs explanation.
I am sure that I am not alone in wishing the trailer voice would come back in a big way. In times like these with everything being splintered into a thousand different platforms and target demographics, having someone narrate a trailer is definitely needed. I see on TV that narration has never changed, whether it be selling products in commercials or introducing the nights’ schedule, it has someone in a booth informing the audience.John Campea has recently released a doc dedicated to trailers and am sure he would agree that all the classic trailers from the 70s, 80s and 90s would not be as memorable today without the droll voice setting the tone for what would later be released in theatres. In comedies they had that tongue in cheek narration and in horror, they had that foreboding narration.
If I was marketing for a major studio, I would mandate that all trailers from now on have some form of narration. I understand a lot of trailers don’t need it as the characters can basically narrate the plot through dialogue in the trailer, like a sports movie where the head couch talks to the team and tells them what they need to do in a game giving the basic outline of the movie.
I also think that bringing trailer voices back in a big way would give thousands of voice over artists steady work again, taking pride in knowing their work is being used to market major releases and the actual marketing of said movies would am sure be on point again instead of leaving it all down to guess work, hens bombing in theatres without even selling it properly in the first place.
I was wondering what you think about this from a filmmaking standpoint and someone who has worked on special features for physical media, do you think that having trailer voiceovers would be welcomed now more than ever when so many great movies and ideas are butchered by poor marketing?
I wonder what John Campea thinks as well?
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