Ant-Man: A refreshingly charming affair

As Marvel methodically scrape the barrel in terms of their increasingly formulaic output, Alex Francis finds a tiny spec of something fresh in amongst the other rotten apples. This is Ant-Man.Ant-Man review cartoon 1

I’ve grown rather cynical of the Marvel films. They just don’t say anything. Each time, the heroes are only motivated out of obligation to save the world and I couldn’t even tell you what the villains’ motivations are. Robot computer man Ultron seemed to be going through some accelerated teenage angst – not very becoming for a super-intelligent machine.

So it wasn’t with very high hopes that I walked into the cinema and surreptitiously upgraded myself to a gallery seat. But Ant-Man was a pleasant surprise: it at least presents its hero as an underdog fighting vested interests, a refreshing change from the tools-of-the-state that are the Avengers. Continue reading

Terminator Genisys: You can’t hug digital children with nuclear arms

A friend of mine said “You know the theory that infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters will eventually write Shakespeare? Well pretty early on in that process they must have written the absolute shitshow that is Terminator: Genisys.” I can’t top that for Ebert-esque snarkery, so if all you need to know is if the film is any “good”, you have your answer courtesy of Aisha Brady. I do, inevitably, have something rather more long-winded about just why this movie sucks though.

This is the film’s one joke. It is played for laughs a good 5 times.

For a film primarily set in the future, this is a historically and thematically regressive film, to the extent you feel as though your very DNA is devolving throughout its two-lighter running time. This film is not so much a futuristic cyborg as it is a single-celled biological accident, flailing haphazardly about in the primordial soup of backwater cinema. In the end, when it is superseded with ease by better made, smarter films, it will only be remembered – if at all – as one of evolution’s cataclysmic mistakes. Continue reading

A cinema worth fighting for: Let’s build a Norwich Radical Film Festival

So our film, Witches and Bitches has been shortlisted at the annual Small Axe Radical Film Festival at Tolpuddle this weekend, meaning for a second year in a row, Hollywood Hegemony will be represented at their screenings. That’s the good news. The bad news, is that for a second year in a row, I will be unable to attend thanks to work commitments. Now I know what you’re all thinking, “poor Jack, he must be devastated, we should probably buy him presents to cheer him up,” but the truth is you needn’t bother… well, maybe you can bother with the presents – but don’t worry about me. You see I feel it’s where I’m supposed to be.

Who doesn't love being crushed by the machine?

Who doesn’t love being crushed by the machine?

Sure, making films is good for a laugh – but really, serving people over-priced coffee and renewing their car insurance is my passion. My calling. Nothing gets me going in the morning like the smell of weak macchiato and the intoxicating click of a thousand computer-mice applying no claims discount to the thankless swinish multitude. No really… really… Continue reading

The Ordinary can be Extraordinary: A Belated Review of Minions

Let’s be frank. Despite gorgeous mixed-style animations, an inspired best-of-the-60s soundtrack, and ingenious slapstick set-pieces that would make Jack Sparrow drool; Minions is not a great film. It’s not even the strongest film in its franchise – that would be Despicable Me which, as an international Super villain adopts three orphans, takes the trope of a cold-hearted careerist warming to the initially dubious joys of parenthood to a new extreme. But while the infamous Gru and his trio of adorable orphan girls might be armed with a genuinely heart-warming story arc, their celebrity pales in comparison to the gang of “balding, jaundiced children” who accomplice their travails. The masters have been totally eclipsed by the rising star of their own servants.

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Ubinam Gentium Sumus? Jurassic World and the Post-Modern Capitalist Cinematic

Essay Benj Beauchamp

O di immortales, ubinam gentium sumus? Quam rem publicam habemus? In qua urbe vivimus?

This is not a review of the latest of the Spielberg franchise film, Jurassic World, but rather a spiel based on the representation of the film through its promotional materials, notably the video trailers, and a examination of how the film reflects the socio-economic and media environment in which it has been produced. Furthermore, the synopsis offered by the trailer may also be more indicative of how the producers and promoters of the film would want it to be seen: highlighting which key components offer the most effective synthesis of the contents of the film that would encourage a potential audience to engage with it at their financial expensive over other content.

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Welcome to Night Vale – Norwich Radical

I have been writing as a regular culture correspondent for The Norwich Radical since January, and it’s been… an experience. I’ve written about the ideological implications of Wrestlemania, the politics of Pulp’s Common People, and the romance of Romero’s zombie films, but I am making a shift into their community section covering local events on our political scene (don’t worry, HH will continue as always). It seems fitting then, that my last -regular- culture piece is about a totally irregular community radio show. You can check it out by clicking the linked sample-text below. Enjoy… -JB

The fact that so much of our ‘escapism’ is into worlds that are literally a living hell says a lot about the disconnect between capitalist ideology and the reality it actually delivers. It’s what game designers describe as an uncanny valley effect, where something is almost human but not quite, and so becomes more unnaturally terrifying than something blatantly false.

Companies that have sponsored the murder of trade unionists, who would sooner put nets up to prevent sweat-shop workers jumping from their rooves than improve pay and conditions, try constantly to convince us they care about our enjoyment —  and it is like being courted by a serial-killer. We are so desperate to escape from the unhinged pseudo-niceties surrounding us that we actively fantasise about the apocalypse — because at least the zombie horde never tried to charge us rent, and triffids never tried to be our friends. Within that realm though, the potential for something quite different, even radical exists. The opportunity to satirise the ills of the real world.

Welcome to Night Vale.

A day of mortality and immortality

On the 11th of June 2015 we saw three entertainment legends exit the stage all at once, but the lasting legacy they leave means that they are as close as it comes to real life immortality.

In that vain, it’s perhaps most fitting to talk first about the man who found fame by portraying the undead on the silver screen. Chrisopher Lee, who died yesterday aged 93, led an extraordinary life, which besides several outings as an unlikely heavy metal front-man, and literally living as a bona fide Nazi hunter during the second world war, will be best remembered for playing some of the most iconic villains known to 20th century cinema.

Whilst modern audiences might better know him as Saruman (Lord of the Rings) or Count Dooku (Star Wars) – Lee initially rose to prominence starring in Hammer Horror films, most iconically, the Prince of Darkness himself (not Peter Mandelson). Lee’s portrayal of Dracula is still seen as unsurpassed, despite the character being reinvented time again long after hanging up his cape – as he so effortlessly encompassed the still-hearted essence of the character. He was capable of bringing a suave air of sophistication to the role but underwrote it with a genuine brutality that meant his screen presence was able to reflect the cultural fear of vampirism – of an exploitative ruling class – in a way never equalled in cinema. As a result, Lee is an essential part of a social myth that will live on in our nightmares long, long after he has left this world.

At the other end of that spectrum, we also heard of the sad news that “The American Dream”, former championship wrestler Dusty Rhodes, passed away at the age of 69. In amongst the history of professional wrestling, there have been many who have modelled themselves on ‘commonality’ in order to curry favour with a global working class fan-base – but Dusty Rhodes was the archetype. Rhodes achieved a colossal popularity in the sport, not through allying himself with some steroid-addled, vitamin swallowing, real American jingoism like the Hulk Hogans of the world, but by placing himself in opposition to “Nature Boy” Ric Flair – an embodiment of the wheeling, dealing, limousine riding bourgeois that was the real natural foe of every worker in America.

I would say that Dusty’s “Hard Times” promo is the stuff of legend – but such is the stratospheric stature of those beautiful three minutes of proletarian rage, that ‘legend’ would fail to do it justice. If you haven’t seen it before, watch it. If you weren’t a wrestling fan before, you will be. “[Ric Flair] put hard times on Dusty Rhodes and his family. You don’t know what hard times are daddy. Hard times are when the textile workers around this country are out of work, they got 4 or 5 kids and can’t pay their wages, can’t buy their food.” Those lilting Southern words, delivered as ever with an unpolished, but unashamed lisp, giving voice to the concerns of millions living through real hard times connected Dusty with his fans, and the world, in a way that can only be described as revolutionary within the industry – and modern every-men Steve Austin and Daniel Bryan undoubtedly owe a lot to Rhodes. But beyond that, we all owe a debt of gratitude to someone willing to put their body on the line in the name of entertainment, night after night, to make our hard times feel like good times. Like Lee’s Dracula, Rhodes’ Common Man will live on, as a part of modern folk-lore, as long as there are folk alive.

Finally, Ron Moody, the ultimate incarnation of Dickens’ Fagin, died aged 91. Moody was iconic in the famous Oliver!, the beloved musical reworking of Oliver Twist, in a part that by today’s standards is riddled with controversy. In Dickens’ book, Fagin is a deeply unsympathetic character, described as miserly, exploitative, and occasionally violent – all summarised by his being referred to as “the Jew”. The anti-Semitism at the heart of the character is summarily skirted around by Dickens’ fans – but the musical is an entirely different beast. Moody brought a pathos to the role that would be incredibly hard to imagine on the basis of the source material – he had a swagger, a gleam in his eye, and a roguish grin that carried the picture to lighter places than the squalor and desperation of the story might otherwise of allowed. More importantly, Moody utterly steals the show with two songs that expose why he behaves the way he does. Without a performance of this calibre, the character might still have fallen flat.

Firstly, “You’ve got to pick-a-pocket or two” we see him question why thievery is seen as dishonest when the alternative is to “break our backs” labouring before being taxed into poverty. Then in “Reviewing the situation”, Moody’s Fagin flits about the grim London skyline whilst imagining the pittiful life he could lead if he ‘straightened out’ he delivers a truly pitiful reprise “There is no in between for me, But who will change the scene for me? Don’t want no one to rob for me. But who will find a job for me?” Moody – self-described as “100% Jewish”, whose birth-name was Moodkin before his father Anglicised the family name – transforms a dislikeable Jewish stereotype into a living character, with feelings, regrets. The writing of the piece might still have reeked of stereotyping for the still plainly “Jewish” caricaturing of the character, were it not for his performance, and whilst it might be wrong to reduce a man’s life to one performance, this one will define him, because it re-defined a previously damaging piece of mythology in plain sight for the public.

Each of these men may ‘only’ have been a performer then, and they may never have controlled the industries they came to the forefront of (though Dusty was an immense booker and promoter in later years). We can take inspiration in our own lives when we feel powerless, because that didn’t stop them impacting on millions of lives in their own way, long, long after their passings. They are all gone now, but they are all still, very much alive too.