Friday, February 27, 2015

Going to PAX East! And Other Business

So Space Monkeys, here's some assorted news. I will be attended PAX East in Boston next weekend as a guest of Wikia, those damn fine Americans and damn fine foreigners who took me along to E3 last June.  If you ever need to wiki or need to know arcane fanboy knowledge of anything, use a Wikia wiki.  Anyway, I will be a part of some events, probably nothing too fancy.  Might be on Internet TV for a moment, I'll have to share all that biz with you fine folks.  Kinda excited.  Gonna have to make reaction posts and stuff for you guys here.

If you're going and want to find me:  I'll be a human male wearing clothing.  That should narrow it down.

Other Business:
  • I really wanted to review the new Razzie Winner for Worst Picture of 2015, Kirk Cameron's "Saving Christmas".  However after trying every means both legal and highly illegal, I cannot find this movie anywhere.  Nothing.  I was even willing to pay real US-backed currency to see it, but no.  So the review will be delayed until I can find a source.  Though if I were Kirk Cameron, I would leave the film buried forever, so I can't blame him.  But it does ruin my plans, I was really excited about writing about a truly bad movie.  Oh well.
  • Today the new David Cronenberg movie "Maps to the Stars" was released in theaters.  I already saw it at the New York Film Festival last fall, so I don't have a review to write about it.  Instead I'll just repost (or first post, don't remember if I ever shared this here) my article about Cronenberg and his movie that was published on Criticwire.  This piece received such stellar acclaim as "I hope to god the author of this review ceases to write about movies." and "Has no one noticed the misspelling in the title of this article??"  "Maps to the Stars" is a great film, really worth your time, go see it - and read the article.
  • The Final Fantasy Wiki's LP of "Final Fantasy VII" will be wrapping in a few weeks after many criminal delays.  I'll be in the finale and was in about every other episode.  Our next project is going to be "Final Fantasy V", hosted by a man only known as "Hexedmagica".  I'll be taking part in that project as well.  If you find my voice as sexy as I do, please watch
  • I know months ago I said I would be changing the blog's name, I'm not doing that.  Five years of investment in one name is just too much to give up on.  Sorry if you were looking forward to a change.  Planet Blue will keep on turning, forever.  No matter what.  And nobody will ever stop us.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kingsman - From Irreverence With Love

In 2012 Matthew Vaughn, fresh off of saving 20th Century Fox's biggest superhero cash cow with "X-Men First Class", was given his chance to make a sequel.  That film would be "X-Men: Days of Future Past", a huge time travel epic.   However, Vaughn, despite being offered a mountain of gold and several virgin concubines by Fox, decided not to make "Days of Future Past".  He was more inspired by an obscure comic book series called "The Secret Service", created by David Gibson and Mark Millar.  So what has Vaughn's gamble given us?  What kind of a movie was worth giving up the chance to direct Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence in a tight blue body suit?

Having seen "Kingsman: The Secret Service", I can say that Matthew Vaughn made the right choice.  Powers greater and more unfathomable than myself for some reason have declared that 2015 will be the year of cheesy 1960s espionage throw-backs.  After "Kingsman" will come "Spy", an ugly Melissa McCarthy parody that appears to be mostly fat jokes.  Then comes a film remake of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E", which was a TV series that your parents or grandparents might have seen, directed by Guy Ritchie.  And then in comes the granddaddy of all them, the new James Bond movie, "Spectre".  Everybody wants to put a modern spin on classic secret agent narratives.  But if your new wave spy film is aiming for cheesy un-serious action fun, you have already lost, because "Kingsman" has won that battle.

"Kingsman" has a simple kind of formula:  action, flash, more action, and sillier flash.  This is not a deep interpersonal character narrative.  Vaughn creates a nice tempo with just enough self-aware lightness to not be a biting satire, and just enough ridiculous action while not being a circus.  Veteran British actors such as Colin Farrell, the ever-awesome Mark Strong, and the ever-slumming Michael Caine mix well with the new-comers, Taron Egerton and Sophia Cookson.  This cast of good wholesome British Whiteness must fight a very hammy Samuel L. Jackson with a lisp who seems to be conjuring Steve Jobs by way of Spike Lee.  This is the sort of movie that room for a patently ridiculous role such as that.  Altogether "Kingsman" is an energetic piece of action fluff:  humorous, comfortable with it's own ideas of cool, and topped off with an irreverent wit.

Freelancin': Oscars Post-Show Rant

Well, it's just a day too late for this post to be relevant in any way, but whatever, here is the Post Show Oscar post.

My predictions were... wrong.  A lot wrong.  But that's not what I'm annoyed about.  This was not a good Oscars Show, and I do not have much good to say about.  I'm glad "Birdman" won, but otherwise, there were not many great moments to speak of.  This was a great Best Picture field, and there were many great nominees, 2014 still was a fantastic year for movies.  But goddamn was this show boring.  Really mad that Michael Keaton lost.  It really hurts when a slogging show needed a great spark like that.

For giggles, here are my (almost certainly wrong) Predictions for the 2016 Academy Awards Best Picture Nominees:

1. In the Heart of the Sea, Ron Howard movie about an 18th century boat sinking
2. Joy, David O. Russell ("American Gangster", "Silver Linings Playbook") with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, AGAIN
3. The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino movie, all you need to know
4. The Revenant, Inarritu Makes Western
5. The Sea of Trees, Gus Van Sant, McConahhey, suicide forest Japan
6. Brooklyn, Sundance favorite, Irish romantic comedy starring Saoirse Ronan
7. Untitled Speilberg Spy Thriller
8. Carol, Cate Blanchette and Rooney Mara are totes lesbians yo in the 1960s
9. Steve Jobs, biopic starring Michael Fassbender
10. Queen of the Desert, Werner Hertzog, he's overdue, critics will love it.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Planet Blue Rambling Shambling Oscar Post Pre-Show

As time continues it's inexorable slide forward towards our inevitable doom, we have once again arrived at the most important weekend of the movie-watching calendar:  Oscar Weekend.  Yes, it is the Academy Awards, the very sanctum of cinematic excellence, the highest honor any filmmaker can receive.  It is also an award show constantly mocked for irrelevance in the modern world, boring slow pace, and inability to ever pick either movies that matter to real people or the truly best movie of the year.

As always, I'm not having any of that cynicism.  Yes, winning Best Picture is probably the best way to make your film no longer matter and be completely forgotten in a year.  (Remember "The Artist"?  No?  Me neither.  Hell, do you even remember "Argo"?)  Sure, Academy voters are overwhelming White male old people who can easily be bought by Harvey Weinstein - and if you're a Republican, you know they all hate America and are communists and are Muslims and are gay.  But still, there is a reason the film media, myself included, are overwhelming fascinated by the Academy Awards.  Because it is a legitimate forum for great movies to be presented to a mass market that really would just rather watch a superhero film or something with Melissa McCarthy.  Compare to the Music Awards.  Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" is a miserable shallow excuse for Gospel, and yet it is the Song of the Year according to the Grammys.  You do not find that kind of selling out with the Academy.

However, this post is not to reinforce what we already know, it is the big Oscar Prediction post!  Last year I did the Oscar Prediction game and if you recall, was right about everything.  Then again, last year's show was probably the most easily-predictable Oscars of my lifetime, and the only surprise was Alfonso Cuaron winning Best Director for "Gravity" over Steve McQueen for "12 Years a Slave".  I was wrong that one time.  Can I beat that record in 2015?  No.  I can't.  This year is a much more difficult race, with two clear rival frontrunners battling for the Best Picture position, and several fantastic movies and performances dividing up the show.

Anyway, let us begin.  These are Blue Highwind's 2015 Oscar Predictions:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey - Gray is the Blandest Color

There are not many rules that I follow here on this blog.  I will willingly review anything as long as it is a legitimate artistic product.  And not made by Adam Sandler.  But one rule I do keep is this:  never review porn.  I've had great times with porn, do not get me wrong.  Porn is great.  But porn does not exist to tell a story, it exists to make its audience cum.  I might as well review a vibrator.  It is a product, not art.  That puts me in an extremely awkward position with "Fifty Shades of Grey", the first attempt at mainstream pornography since "Showgirls".  But this is the biggest release (pun halfway intended) of February, so really I have no choice.  Here we go:  Planet Blue's first pornography review.

"Fifty Shades of Grey" is already a notorious book series extremely popular amongst bored housewives taking an unusually long time in the bathtub.  This movie has been released with the air of naughtiness, as if this is every woman in America's doorway into some illicit realm of kink.  Turns out, of course, that to hold onto the R-rating, "Fifty Shades of Grey" is as softcore as it gets.  You turn on Cinemax any night of the week at approximately 11:30 AM, and you'll see harder sex than this.  For America's first major BDSM motion picture, it's probably tamer than the fondling some high school couple is having in the back rows for Valentine's Day.

But a tame porn is still a porn, nonetheless.  Sure, the audience is going to have to wait until they go home to get their rocks off, but the point of this movie was not to tell a coherent story.  Or God I hope it wasn't.  Because if "Fifty Shades of Grey" is not the meekest most vanilla eroge ever, then it is simply an incredibly boring plotless romance movie, and that is so much worse.  I'm giving this movie the benefit of the doubt by calling it a porn, that means it is actually accomplishing something.  If it's a romance, then it is brutally terrible.  "Fifty Shades of Grey" is far better made than it really deserved, being a tightly-crafted movie about two leads with no charisma having a bland emotionless courtship.  At least if I were masturbating I would be getting something out of this.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jupiter Ascending - Forget Quality, Long Live Camp

"Jupiter Ascending" is everything that is wrong with the modern effects-driven Blockbuster.  Letting the Wachowskis out with a blank check to create a maddening circus-like CG festival was a massive mistake.  If anybody is style over substance, it is the Wachowskis.  Sure they have interesting ideas, but mostly they resort to completely generic storylines with nondescript charmless leads.  "Jupiter Ascending" is seemingly an adaptation of some preteen SciFi fantasy series that existed only in the minds of its sibling directors.  A story ridden with predictable choices and a main character with no agency.  Throw it together with a film that can barely take itself seriously, you have to wonder if the Wachowskis and even their overlords at Warner Bros were just making some kind of huge joke.  If you care for quality, do anything but watch "Jupiter Ascending".

...But on the other hand, if you actually like movies, you cannot possibly miss this film.

I am going to accept on face-value that "Jupiter Ascending" is not a good movie.  However, quality is not everything.  In fact, quality might not even matter.  If you want quality, go watch "Mr. Turner", a completely solid but entirely unwatchable sophisticated drama.  What I'm talking about here is the compelling power of being completely up your own ass and throwing every insane idea you can onto the screen.  "Jupiter Ascending" offers barely anything in terms of characters or story, but when it comes to visuals, imagination, and fun, it has everything.  The narrative is a weak excuse for the experience.

"Jupiter Ascending" belongs to (and even is full of references to) a long line of badly imperfect SciFi/fantasy films, all of whom are charming in their deficiencies.  That inspiration is a pretty eclectic list varying from films now regarded as brilliant classics ("Brazil") to the so-bad-it's-good camp standards ("Flash Gordon") to the barely watchable ("Krull").  Audiences of the past mostly ignored these films which nearly all flopped, and are ignoring "Jupiter Ascending" for the same reason:  they hate fun.  Audiences say they like fun, but only a very marketable pop song kind of fun, with a very basic rhythm and only four cords.  "Jupiter Ascending" is not a pop song, it is a giant ridiculous anthem defying all definition and structure.  Quality means little compared to the sheer audacity of glorious spectacle.  That's what movies like David Lynch's "Dune" had, that's what "Jupiter Ascending" has.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Predestination - Time Travel Gets Weird

So I thought that the best way to start off 2015 posts would be with something really really weird.  Sure January brought us plenty of wretched releases, almost none of which are even worth considering.  Because, yes, they're terrible, but they are terrible in a very standard, predictable way.  Theoretically nobody sets out to fail, but when so many cinematic vessels keep crashing into the same Failure Rocks after taking the exact same obviously wrong route, you have to wonder if this wasn't somehow part of the plan.  And if they don't care where they're going, why should I even bother to steer them?  Just sail on past into the bright horizon of bizarre Australian Time Travel movies inspired by one of the most nutty science fiction writers of the 20th century.  Hey look, here's a good landing spot:  "Predestination".

"Predestination" is either a time travel action thriller as the trailer promises, or it could be framed as a stirring introspective drama:  one woman's through her memories journey to find herself and her future.  Or maybe it is simply a romantic biopic.  The unique thing about "Predestination" is that it lends itself to many different interpretations of it's storyline.  This plotline loops around again and again, each time seeming more strange and perverse than the last time you almost came to fully understand it.  Infamous SciFi author, Robert A. Heinlein wrote the original short story "-All You Zombies-" which despite being a sparse twelve page narrative, is very faithfully recreated here.  Time travel is already an unlimited license to absolute madness, and this is a film that makes the most of the weirder possibilities of the concept.

Ethan Hawke stars as a Time Cop living in the far distant future of... 1993*.  While in the 70s, his face is blown off trying to stop a terrorist known as the "Fizzle Bomber".  Now that his voice and features are so different that "even his own mother wouldn't recognize him" Hawke is sent on one last mission.  While serving as a bartender in early 70s New York he meets Jack (played by the female Sarah Snooke).  Jack is a post-op transsexual, having been transformed after a series of disasters in his former persona, Jane's life.  At this point, Hawke's nameless character recruits Jack to help him find the mad Bomber.  The Bartender/Cop and Jack/Jane then move together into the nightmare that is Heinlein's vision for their characters, discovering terrible secrets about their pasts and each other.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Reaction

So Sunday was the Super Bowl.  The 49th Super Bowl to be exact.  It was a fun night of great football, dancing sharks, Danny Trejo with an ax, Russell Wilson blowing the game, Vin Deisel in a flying Lamborghini, Kate Upton shilling a free-to-play game made by people more evil than ISIS, and Nationwide killing children to make... some kind of a point.  Who knows?  The commercials let us down but the Seahawks vs Patriots game was fantastic.  Here are my thoughts:

Richard Sherman's look of utter defeat made my year.  Finally revenge for last Super Bowl.  Suck it, Seattle!

If perchance you have any thoughts of your own, share them below.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February 2015 Look-Ahead

So January was a month. Now there is February, another month.

This month of course, I'm going to have to actually review something from 2015.  Since I pretty much wrote off January, I am now finally caught up, more or less.  February is the true start of the year for Planet Blue.  We have a nice selection of delayed blockbusters, blockbusters the studio had no faith in, and sleazy Valentine's Day SnM porn for women.  But even so, there is still unfinished January business to begin the month with:  "Song of the Sea", "Predestination", and one film that has surprised me, the embarrassingly awful "The Loft".  "The Loft" has put back gender relations so far that humans now reproduce asexually.  Other business will be a Superbowl review, a list of the Worst Romantic Movies to watch on Valentine's Day, and I might even manage to get a video game or anime post out this month, who knows?

Anyway, let's now Look Ahead at the movies and video games of February 2014.  (Video games back by reader demand.  ...One comment, but that's a lot of demand for me.)

"Jupiter Ascending" (February 6th) - Mila Kunis is an Earth girl.  Channing Tatum is an elf from Jupiter.  They are going to bang in space for freedom.  Just while Eddie Redmayne is trying to win the Oscar for Best Stephen Hawking he is now hamming it up as the Emperor of Space, or something.  You can count on a huge visual spectacle, you can count on the film being a tad pretentious since the Wachoswki Siblings are making it.  And Sean Bean's character is going to die for the sin of being played by Sean Bean.  Lasers, spaceships, sexy White girls, all of it inevitably to be overshadowed and forgotten by later bigger releases in 2015.
--Chances to be Good:  50%.  This film was supposed to be a July 2014 release, and was pulled back to fight for an easy weekend in February.  Not a great sign.  A silly space opera always catches my eye though.