‘Fatherhood’: Touching, Hilarious Film About a Single Dad

Two Kisses for Maddy fatherhood book“Fatherhood” is a heartwarming and humorous film about a single dad doing his best to be a good parent to his daughter. Between the laughs, there are nuggets of wisdom about the parenting journey and the irreplaceable love and care of a father.

Recently on a flight — my first flight with my baby son — I was able to catch the 2021 comedy-drama Fatherhood, starring the irrepressible Kevin Hart of Jumanji fame. The film centres on single dad Matt Logelin, left alone with his baby daughter Maddy after Matt’s wife Liz unexpectedly dies following childbirth. It is based on a true story by the real Matt Logelin, published under the title Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love.

Matt’s mother-in-law Marion hovers around after Liz’s funeral, not trusting that Matt can actually look after her granddaughter. “What would I look like goin’ home before I know that you are capable of taking care of my newborn grandchild?” she asks.

Exasperated, Matt retorts: “How are you ever gonna know if you don’t let me do it?”

Community is Key

The story unfolds with Matt succeeding against all odds at being a single dad as well as the sole breadwinner. His buddies rally around to support him, despite their own lack of childrearing experience, and provide the friendship (and levity) that he needs to get through as he tackles cot-building, nappy-changing, and baby-soothing.

Unable to get the baby to sleep, Matt barges in on a parents’ group full of mothers and begs for advice. Armed with new pearls of wisdom (white noise!), Matt finally manages a good night’s sleep with the aid of the vacuum cleaner. He brings the baby to work, and along comes the vacuum too…

A work presentation turns topsy-turvy when the baby started wailing in the distance, but the clients, who happen to be parents as well, all chime in with their parenting tips. His boss Howard contemplates firing him: “This is a place of business, right? It’s not a place of babies.” Thankfully, Matt manages to keep his job and impress the clients.

Dads are Vital

In a vulnerable moment, Matt sighs, “You know Maddy, if you could have only one parent, I wish you could’ve had your mom.” Indeed, childrearing often comes more easily to mothers, and fathers can feel like a spare tyre at times, particularly during the early years — especially if the child is mainly breastfed.

However, research shows that the more hands-on a father is during his child’s infancy, the higher the child’s IQ and eventual chance of success in life.

Lacking a dad of his own, Matt turns to his father-in-law, Mike, for parenting advice. “Welcome to not knowing the right thing to do. That’s a dad speciality,” quips Mike. He is a friendly mentor for Mike, encouraging him through the tough times.

Precious

Marion turns up uninvited for the baby’s first medical appointment, which the child thankfully passes with flying colours. “Matthew, today was a good day for you as a parent. You keep all these little victories like you had today in a little box inside you. They’ll be your most prized possessions,” she tells him.

The movie depicts how Matt and Maddy develop as a father and a daughter, through her first years in school, navigating dress codes and dealing with bullies. They also have to adjust to new dynamics when Matt’s colleague introduces him to a lady to whom he takes a fancy.

Parenting is a challenging journey. At the same time, it is very rewarding and full of fun. Fatherhood portrays this wonderful mix of emotions and the personal growth of the main characters, with the single dad learning how to tend to his daughter’s needs and realising that, although his parents-in-law may be able to provide a good home for his daughter, they can’t quite replace him.

The film is full of poignant moments and well-timed hilarity. Available on Netflix, it makes for a good show for parents to laugh over together. Unfortunately, with several instances of swearing and some politically correct plot points (Maddy’s Catholic school is portrayed as archaic for insisting that all girls dress in the appropriate attire, and Matt makes some passing comments supporting transgender ideology), it is probably not advisable for younger children to watch.

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First published at Dads4Kids.

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‘Top Gun – Maverick’ is Action-Based “Dad Cinema” At Its Very Best

‘Top Gun – Maverick’ is Action-Based “Dad Cinema” At Its Very Best

The moving story in “Top Gun: Maverick” of a fatherless son’s journey toward healing is proving popular with audiences worldwide. This is a film highlighting the importance of fatherhood, portraying a tale of reconciliation and redemption.

Top Gun: Maverick is smashing box offices, and it’s easy to understand why.

The film is spectacularly outpacing its weak-because-they’re-woke counterparts, because the film’s unapologetic dad themes resonate.

Alongside the gutsy F-18 camera shots, audiences are in love with the Tom Cruise/Joseph Kosinski sequel because its father-son backstory hits home.

Even the, “it’s all flag-waving, MAGA propagandist tripe” critics are applauding the sequel for keeping to the consistency of the first film’s deep relational backbone.

As The Atlantic’s David Sims explained, the film’s ‘emotional weight rests on Pete Mitchell (Maverick) fighting to earn the respect of Goose’s son (Rooster), who blames Maverick for the tragic loss of his father.’

Childhood Memory

For me, Top Gun: Maverick cut deeper.

My family and I recently saw the film for a birthday bash. The only thing missing was my dad.

Watching the first Top Gun at the cinema with my dad was to be one of the only long-lasting positive memories I would have of him.

It was 1986, I was 9, and we’d turned up late to the cinema.

Missing the iconic afterburner intro of the first Top Gun, dad and I slid into our seats in rhythm with Tony Scott’s smooth golden orange sunset, shot high above a lone F-14 landing on the silhouette of the USS Enterprise.

It became a shared interest, a mutual pursuit, a common bond solely shared between father and son.

From the soundtrack, which always seemed to be on repeat in our broken-down housing commission home, to the old-school Amstrad computer game, the movie connected us.

This was true, right up until my dad’s final week, when, knowing he would never get a chance to wear it, I gifted him a T-shirt with the Top Gun logo on it.

Now covered in dust, I still hold onto the volumes of Warplane magazines he’d chosen to buy me, instead of paying “through the teeth” for participation in a weekend sport.

Healing

I related to the second film because of the first.

Similar to ‘Goose’s’ son in the film, I was confronted by what was lost, what might have been, and what my dad chose to abandon somewhere along the way.

The sequel made the memories all the more material when Val Kilmer (Iceman), tells Maverick — still haunted by the death of ‘Goose’ — “It’s time to let go.”

Seeing the first film at the cinema in 1986 with my dad was an oasis event, an anomaly of normalcy in a wasteland of ash.

This explains why, in almost every scene of Top Gun: Maverick, I heard, and felt my dad’s absence, and choked up at Hans Zimmer’s rendition of Faltermeyer’s iconic Top Gun anthem.

We’re taught in The Good Book to raise up thanksgiving in the face of suffering. Even the smallest object or event that is worthy of our gratitude puts points on the board when it comes to healing trauma.

In retrospect, watching Top Gun with my dad in ’86 was the first, and only time he offered me a healthy introduction to manhood.

His wasn’t perfect, but that was a perfect day. That day my dad did good, and for that I thank him.

For me, the only thing missing from Top Gun: Maverick was the man who took me to see the first one, sitting, at his best, beside me and my uber-impressed family.

Top Gun was, and is, about loss, grief, and recovery; fatherhood, and fatherlessness — as much as it is about courage, defiance, and the determination to overcome obstructions encountered along the way.

The sequel builds on its original father-son backstory. It is “dad cinema” at its very best.

To lean on Miles Surrey’s review in The Ringer,

‘Every single dad — past, present, and those who are expecting to be dads in the near future — should check out Maverick, if not for the sanctity of ensuring Dad Cinema doesn’t fade away, then for experiencing a blockbuster that surpasses its predecessor in every respect.’

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First published at Dads4Kids.

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Home is Where the Heart Is — Belfast, the Movie

The movie Belfast is a powerful family movie brimming with joy and hope in the middle of the most difficult and tenuous of situations. This indie film received seven nominations at the 94th Academy Awards, including Best Picture. This is a staggering achievement for an indie film.

I honestly thought it could win Best Picture. The bookies had it as the early favourite, but in the end it was pipped at the post for number two. Thankfully, Belfast at least received an award for Best Original Screenplay. It was named one of the best films of 2021 by the National Board of Review.

Belfast has won dozens of awards at film festivals around the globe and just as many nominations. But why are you so excited about this movie, Warwick?

Well firstly, it features the story of a family in a turbulent period of history through a child’s eyes. Children by nature are hopeful and inquisitive. It is something we forget as adults, but we do well to remember.

Perhaps it is best for you to see this movie through someone else’s eyes first. Wenlei Ma tells the story well in her article titled “Belfast: Kenneth Branagh’s deeply personal ode to a time, a place and a people.

“Even if no one told you Belfast is a personal story for filmmaker Kenneth Branagh, it would become patently obvious pretty fast.

There’s an air about it, an authenticity and poignancy that feels viscerally personal, as if it was plucked from the long-ago memories of someone with genuine affection and love for a certain time in their lives.

That someone is Branagh, and Belfast is the semi-autobiographical story of his childhood growing up in a city torn apart by sectarian violence as families struggle to make sense of their home and where they belong.

But even with that fractious backdrop of 1969, Belfast is a story with grace and humanity – and above all, it’s about family.

Branagh’s onscreen stand-in is Buddy (newcomer Jude Hill), a sweet and playful nine-year-old whose world turns when his street is besieged by a group of Protestant rioters targeting the Catholic side of the street.

Tanks and barricades litter the street as standover men pressure Buddy’s father Pa (Jamie Dornan) to join the cause. Pa has been working in England and the ongoing violence at home plus the family’s never-ending debt leads to him to think about migrating to Australia or Canada.

But Ma (Caitriona Balfe) isn’t into the idea, anchored by the overwhelming feeling that no matter what’s happening, Belfast is home.

Those ideas of home and family are so intricately linked in Belfast and it’s what fuels this captivating and emotionally resonant film that would speak to anyone who’s ever had to grapple with belonging.

Belfast is brimming with heart, tinted with this great love Branagh clearly has for his hometown and his early years. Maybe that means there’s a rose-coloured glasses effect over Belfast, but the film never declared itself as some warts-and-all exposé about the (political/religious) Troubles.

Those films already exist. Belfast is about how people can still experience beauty and love in the face of the chaos around them.”

This is what Don Shanahan, a respected Rotten Tomatoes film critic, had to say about the film:

“The movie warms you with mirth and destroys you with punch, just as a proper Irish creation should.”

Film critic Christy Lemire had this to say about the film,

“Belfast” is unquestionably Kenneth Branagh’s most personal film to date, but it’s also sure to have universal resonance. It depicts a violent, tumultuous time in Northern Ireland, but it does so through the innocent, exuberant eyes of a nine-year-old boy. And it’s shot in gentle black-and-white, with sporadic bursts of glorious colour.”

Another critic Steve Pond also said,

“Visually stunning, emotionally wrenching and gloriously human, “Belfast” takes one short period from Branagh’s life and finds in it a coming-of-age story… Plus it’s funny as hell – because if anybody knows how to laugh in the face of tragedy, it’s the Irish.”

So you can see, I am not alone in my enthusiastic recommendation of this film. As to the suitability of this film for children, you be the judge. It has an M Rating for Mature Themes & Coarse Language, but I have seen worse M films. If I was rating the film, I would give Belfast a PG rating, or in other words, Parental Guidance. It’s your call.

The reason I am so passionate about Belfast is that it is a celebration of family, motherhood and fatherhood. It is also a profound celebration of childhood. Belfast has an underlying redemptive theme — a moral tale, if you like. Yes, it has some gritty moments, but so does life.

Lovework

The good news is, Belfast is almost still in many cinemas across the country. Belfast is still in the top ten movies in Australia at number seven. Just like most of this year’s Academy Award nominees, Belfast is available to stream at home. You can currently rent the film online via Amazon PrimeApple TV+YouTubeRedbox or Vudu. You can also rent the movie via AMC On Demand or Alamo On Demand.

Yours for More Family-Friendly Movies,
Warwick Marsh

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First published at Dads4Kids.

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On “Battleground Melbourne”

On “Battleground Melbourne”

This is a depressing but must-watch documentary on the lockdowns in Melbourne and their terrible impact. Hear from a whole range of people who lived through them, and consider what unfettered government control has wrought.

Anyone who has lived in Melbourne over the past few years, as I have, knows what a battleground it has become. Once known as the world’s most livable city, it has become in many ways the most damnable city. It certainly has been hellish for me and millions of others.

Under the rule of Premier Dan Andrews, the city went through the longest, harshest lockdown of any city anywhere in the world. This new 100-minute documentary has been put together by Melbourne filmmaker and political commentator Topher Field to examine all this.

Trapped

It tells the depressing but necessary story of how very horrible things became for some 5 million hapless citizens under this dictatorial regime. Yes, other cities and states have experienced terrible policies of lockdown madness, but Melbourne seems to have led the pack.

As always, we must learn the lessons of history. We must never forget. Thus we all owe Topher Field our heartfelt thanks for making this film. Only up for less than a week, the new documentary has already been viewed well over 300,000 times.

Many Voices

It features a number of champions for freedom and democracy: David Limbrick MP, Monica Smit, Catherine Cumming MP, Rushkan Fernando, Avi Yemeni, Millie Fontana, as well as doctors, mental health workers, business owners, former police officers, arrested grandmothers and pregnant housewives, victims of police abuse, and plenty of other concerned citizens.

Their website says this about the film:

The last 18 months has seen Melbourne, Australia, fall from ‘Most Liveable’ to ‘Most Locked-down’ city in the world. It’s an astonishing fall which has brought with it previously unthinkable levels of civil unrest and government repression and sparked protests around Australia and throughout the world as scenes reminiscent of the USSR or CCP have gone viral.

The fact that these scenes are playing out on the streets of a city in a wealthy and ‘free’ country makes this an ominous warning for all. If it can happen here, it could happen anywhere.

Battleground Melbourne tells this story from the perspective of the activists and journalists who tried to save the city of Melbourne.

This is our story.

The Government and the media have already told their twisted and dishonest side of the story; Battleground Melbourne is our reply. This is how we set the record straight and ensure the world will forever know the truth.

We have been smeared with false accusations, called every name you can imagine, assaulted, arrested, imprisoned. But even after all this, they haven’t defeated us. Our love for freedom, and our love for our once wonderful city, compels us to battle on.

Battleground Melbourne is a story of men and women who love freedom. It’s a story of courage in the face of fear, of triumphs and failures, and ordinary people giving everything to change the course of history for the city they love.

Covid-19 has sent shockwaves around the world, but nowhere has the political reaction to the virus been more extreme or more repressive than in the ‘free’ city of Melbourne.

Heavy going

One good friend and fellow Melbournian said this on social media about the documentary:

A number of people have said that they found Topher Field’s Battleground Melbourne “dark”, “depressing”, very hard to watch, caused them to weep, etc. This was not our initial reaction, because we had lived right through it and so it had become our “normal”.

But I can now appreciate how the film’s content could be quite disturbing to interstate and overseas people looking in from outside, who don’t have our first-hand experience. This is the main, uplifting scene from near the end of the film. It might be easier for some people to watch this first, and then go back to the beginning and watch the whole thing through.

I said this to him in reply: “Actually I lived through this hell-hole for the past 2 years, but even just watching the trailer for the film depressed me and brought back a lot of bad memories! It really was an evil period, and it is not over yet!”

Suffer the Children

Thankfully I am one who has survived this nightmare. But many have not. Many people have suicided over the past two years. Mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, domestic violence, and even animal abuse have all spiked during this period. And it is our children who are suffering the most.

One gal who works in this area told me that the children she talks and ministers to are utterly discouraged, depressed and without hope. They really see no reason to go on. There is nothing worth living for. These lockdowns, curfews and draconian and irrational mandates have devastated these children.

Indefinite Control

And it is NOT over. Andrews has extended and amplified his power and control over this state, and at any time he can again turn Melbourne into the world’s most miserable prison. The government has extended its “emergency powers” indefinitely. And when you have such powers that last for years on end, you do not have a free and democratic state — you have a dictatorship.

We have learned over the past two years that this Labor government and its unelected health bureaucrats cannot be trusted. Their lust for ever more power and control knows no bounds. Our leaders have become completely drunk on their newfound powers, and they will NOT relinquish such control without a fight. So in one sense, nothing has changed, and we are still in a battleground.

Marches for Freedom

I have since watched the entire documentary. My friend is right: The closing portion of the film is the most uplifting and inspiring part of it. It features scenes of the mass freedom marches held week after week late last year, featuring hundreds of thousands of Victorians taking a stand for freedom and denouncing tyranny and health fascism.

I have joined in with these marches. They continue this year — I hope to be at another one this Saturday. The fight for liberty is ever ongoing. As long as political tyrants want to steal away our freedoms and basic human rights, we must all resist and stand strong for what is right.

This film is part of this struggle. It can be seen here:

[embedded content]

Please watch it and share it far and wide.

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Originally published at CultureWatch.

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Identity Politics Completely Ruined ‘The Eternals,’ And Superhero Films In General

Identity Politics Completely Ruined ‘The Eternals,’ And Superhero Films In General

This past weekend, Marvel’s new big-budget superhero movie “The Eternals” proved to be a super disappointment, earning $71 million domestically and $90 million internationally—the lowest opening for a Marvel movie this year, a bad sign of things to come.

“The Eternals” seemed to have all the right elements: great special effects, a formerly quarantined fanbase eager to consume Marvel blockbusters again, and a multiracial cast that ought to appeal to everyone. Moreover, its story was the familiar setup: superheroes fighting supervillains to save the world yet again.

So what happened? Many critics think there has been a burnout on superhero movies. With so many movies and television series scraping up the dregs of Marvel source material still untouched, there is little left to revive the superhero genre.

Coupled with this is the obvious leftist ideology incorporated into each new Marvel and Disney iteration. The movie made news with its inclusion of a large multiracial cast, a Chinese-American female director, and a kissing scene between two nonwhite men. All this seemed like cheap leftist virtue signaling and suggested the movie was checking boxes rather than entertaining audiences.

On their own, however, neither the apparent burnout or ideological overreach sufficiently explain the declining interest in the superhero genre or the lackluster reception of “The Eternals.” When put together, however, they do indicate what’s really happening: the burnout isn’t with superhero movies, but with what leftism is doing to today’s movies in general.

As with most things in life, leftism will ruin a good story, even the stories of well-funded superhero movies. Fundamentally, this is because it substitutes a utopian, simplified vision of the world for the world as it actually is. Instead of characters and plots that are relatable, complex, and thus interesting, a story infected by leftism features characters and plots that are unrelatable, predictable, and thus boring.

“The Eternals” is a great example of how this works. First, it attempted to feature characters of as many different races as possible. Rather than add to the richness and uniqueness of these characters, this decision seemed to do the opposite—they were flat and unmemorable.

As the YouTuber Critical Drinker explains in his review of the film, this is the result of too many characters competing for screen time. Even with a nearly three-hour runtime, there is not enough time to develop so many characters sufficiently. Instead of seeing a handful of characters interact with one another, work through internal conflicts, or grow in any meaningful way, you simply have a pageant of individuals showing off their muscles and superpowers against an equally shallow supervillain.

This is also why the X-Men movies tended to fail more than succeed, even though the source material is among Marvel’s best. Despite having great characters with interesting backgrounds, there are simply way too many of them. The best X-men movies, like “Logan” or “Days of Future Past,” are the ones that contain their multitudes, and the worst X-Men movies, like “Dark Phoenix” and “X-Men: Apocalypse” quickly become messy and chaotic.

The Avengers movies handled this problem by giving each Avenger his own origin story, allowing audiences to become invested and informed about each character. Audiences these days sometimes forget how most of the characters that eventually appear in “Avengers: Endgame” were completely unknown to most people before each had his or her own movie. “Antman”? “Guardians of the Galaxy”? “Dr. Strange”? They were once as unfamiliar to people as the Eternals are now.

Another problem with infusing identity politics is the inevitable tokenism, the inclusion of different minorities for the purpose of virtue signaling and nothing else. In one way, tokenism makes too much of identity, assuming race or sexual orientation can make up for an undeveloped, unrealistic character. They are simply included because it’s politically correct to do so, nothing more.

Paradoxically, tokenism also makes too little of identity by purposefully limiting a character’s personality to an incidental quality. If a character is a token person of color or homosexual, the only thing that matters is his skin color or kissing a person of the same sex. In every regard, they are just like everyone else or generally superior since the goal is to normalize and celebrate, not to show any kind of growth or struggle—for that would imply weakness, which then implies some kind of prejudice.

“The Eternals” adopts the very worst aspects of tokenism. The main characters fight, and they look good doing it. That’s it. Their personal struggles are minimized and their growth is nonexistent. Like Rey from the latest Star Wars trilogy or Captain Marvel, they have nothing to learn because they are awesome already. And if audiences have a problem with this, they better check their privilege and stop being prejudiced.

In addition to the paper-thin characters, the infusion of progressivism also leads to simple, predictable plots. The conflict is always external with some antagonist always trying to destroy or take over the world. The good guys are fighting the bad guys, and nuance is nowhere to be found. The difficult questions of responsibility, freedom, the nature of evil, and even identity are minimized. It’s basically the narrative form of “punch a Nazi.”

That’s why one doesn’t even need to watch “The Eternals” to know what will happen. They are superheroes who will fight a supervillain in order to save the world. Why now and not before? Why don’t they just take over the world themselves? What makes them good and the other side bad? Where do they come from and what is their purpose? And how do they feel about it? None of this is answered because it would complicate the narrative and challenge simplistic leftist thinking.

By contrast, other Marvel movies seemed much more open to these kinds of questions, like “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” “The Avengers: Infinity War,” or even “Spiderman: Homecoming.” Good and evil were not so obvious, or at least the villains seemed to have a point and heroes had to pay their dues. None of it seemed so simple—and the plots of these movies were so much better as a result.

Unfortunately for those movie critics desperately hoping otherwise, the superhero genre is not dead. It can be revived at any time, and probably will be once moviemakers in Hollywood decide they want to make money again. Just as the superhero genre came to the top two decades ago when filmmakers decided to abandon the childish campiness that formerly characterized the genre, it can emerge supreme once again when it abandons the childish leftism infecting it today.

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‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World’ Ten Years Later: A Look Back At The Best Video-Game Movie Ever Made

‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World’ Ten Years Later: A Look Back At The Best Video-Game Movie Ever Made

The best video game movie ever made was not based on a video game. This weekend, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” celebrates its 10th anniversary, with a Dolby re-release to AMC theaters. The film performed poorly when it was first dropped, but has since developed a cult following for its innovative visuals, creative storytelling, winning performances, and likable characters.

“Scott Pilgrim vs the World” was based on the comic series of the same name by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It tells the story of Scott, a 23-year old slacker and bassist in a “terrible” garage band who skates through life without ambition, reeling from heartbreak and dating a high schooler. His life changes when he meets Ramona Flowers, the girl of his dreams (whom he first saw in a dream).

However, there’s a catch: in order to date her, he needs to defeat her seven evil exes, who are successively coming after Scott to prevent Ramona from moving on. He must face the league of evil exes, while coming to terms with his own past to earn a happy ending.

Edgar Wright directed the film adaptation, which was in development alongside the comics’ release. Michael Cera played the eponymous character with Mary Elizabeth Windstead as Ramona. The supporting cast was likewise filled out with great talent, including Chris Evans as a famous actor and one of the evil exes, Anna Kendrick as Scott’s sister, Aubrey Plaza as the mean friend, Kieran Culkin as Scott’s “cool gay roommate,” and Brie Larson in her only likable role to date as rockstar – and Scott’s own evil ex – Envy Adams.

The action set pieces are spectacular, using creative visuals, a video game sensibility, and comic-panel style framing to bring the action to life. Defeated opponents burst into coins rather than die and multicolored lights trail the characters’ weapons. A film with this many fights could drag or feel repetitive, but the unique imagery injects new life into every battle.

However, the video game and comic book aesthetic is not relegated exclusively to the action. It influences the look of the entire film. Meta-jokes, from the breakdown of ownership of the content and Scott and his roommate’s apartment, frames detailing characters’ nicknames and salient traits, and neon depictions of emotional states permeate this world.

In a market oversaturated with comic book adaptations, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” truly stands apart. The majority of the current output tends to fall into one of two categories: either hyper gritty and realistic, like DC’s frequent output; or quippy and fun action fare, relying on huge CGI armies attacking each other, like the majority of Marvel movies. Both of these formats have created excellent products, including “The Dark Knight” trilogy or “Watchmen” for the former and films like “Thor: Ragnarok” or anything featuring Iron Man for the latter.

As wonderful as they are, a good visual aesthetic alone does not make a film great. A strong central story saves “Scott Pilgrim” from being all style, no substance. At first glance, the plot appears to follow standard romantic adventure conventions, where the hero must accomplish a task to win the girl. However, the movie ultimately averts this accomplishment-based attitude towards relationships, where the love interest is the prize at the end of the journey.

Yes, Scott must literally destroy seven evil exes in order to be with her, but this quest only provides him the option of dating Ramona; it doesn’t guarantee their relationship. The real victory does not come until he is able to come to terms with himself, his own past, and the wrongs he’s done in his life. For a standard romcom plot, depicting ultimate victory as the hero gaining self-respect and only then deserving the girl is a monumental departure from form in the best way.

Another manner in which the film stands out is in its excellent characters. It would be so easy to allow the central figures to fall into one-dimensional tropes, but Wright and O’Malley avert that beautifully by crafting flawed, three-dimensional characters to fill out the central love triangle.

Scott is an everyman, but his indecisiveness and thoughtless treatment of the women in his life presents the real challenge he must get past. In some ways, the League of Evil Exes seem to represent Scott’s challenges with his worse qualities. Near the end of both mediums, Scott must physically face his dark side in the form of Nega-Scott, physicalizing his internal struggles towards redemption.

Ramona so easily could have been the quintessential cool girl with a little personality and her major contribution be her “manic pixie dream girl” influence on Scott; instead, as the comic progresses, she is revealed to be far more complex. She can be callous and cruel, but she’s trying to become a better person.

Knives, the teenage girlfriend, oscillates between sweet and loving girlfriend, immature borderline-stalker, and smart, self-possessive young woman. When all of Scott’s friends tell Knives that she’s too good for him, you get the sense that they’re right, even as she makes some baffling choices in order to win back her boyfriend.

Unsurprising to anyone who enjoys Edgar Wright’s films, the score is awesome. Scott’s band Sex Bob-omb, while far from polished or well-practiced, has a good, grungy sound, and their songs are quite enjoyable. Contrary to what many characters say, they are far from “terrible.”

My favorite would have to be Larson’s cover of “Black Sheep” by Metric. The stream-of-conscious lyrics, paired with her suitably disinfected delivery, make for a truly spectacular scene. Wright really leaned into the comic book look with this sequence, using cuts, close-ups, and wipes to emulate the panels on the page of a comic book.

With many of the central characters in various bands, music is infused into the film’s DNA. It plays an integral role in the story, rather than just providing a fun soundtrack. Relationship dramas play out at concerts, characters develop during band practice, and three of the central battle sequences take place either during a battle of the bands or after a concert.

The first evil ex attacks with Bollywood-inspired battle anthem, complete with demon backup dancers. The third ex fight sees Scott physically use music to combat Brandon Routh’s vegan rockstar through warring bass lines. Alt-rock and electronica go head to head in the fifth and sixth fight, when a “battle of the bands” becomes a literal fight.

These touches demonstrate the film’s intelligence and creativity, going above and beyond to create a wholly original and exciting world. It’s a shame that during its initial release the movie didn’t get the attention deserves. However, in the year since, it was elevated to cult status, as more and more people realize its unique charm and appeal. There’s no other film quite like “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” and as it turns 10, I’m at least glad we got this one.

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‘Promising Young Woman’ Is A Better Tech Commentary Than Feminist Reckoning

‘Promising Young Woman’ Is A Better Tech Commentary Than Feminist Reckoning

Heavy spoilers ahead.

“Promising Young Woman” is riveting if uneven awards-season fare, beautifully shot and well acted, but sometimes untethered from its own reality. To the extent the film castigates what Hollywood might refer to as “the patriarchy,” it’s obvious Oscar bait. But while its politics are focused on a feminist straw man, “Promising Young Woman” is a stomach-dropping commentary on the ambient dangers of the smartphone era.

Carey Mulligan’s enigmatic lead character is at war with an unhelpfully hyperbolized culture of sexual violence. Connie Britton and Max Greenfield’s characters are laughable as intended, but they’re unhelpful figments of the feminist imagination that create a cartoonish rendering of a real problem. Mulligan’s character swings wildly from realistic to cartoonish, with indiscernible motivations that leave everything muddled.

The film wants to feel real and raw and immediate — a painful post-Me Too lamentation — but its hyperbolic, overly ideological detachment from reality dulls the pointed jabs at our culture. “Promising Young Woman” tries to have it both ways, contrasting the cartoonish with the real.  But it fails to execute that as well as a movie like “Get Out” because the lanes are always unclear. All the aforementioned characters make for weird contrasts with Bo Burnham’s standout performance as a plausible love interest. That’s where “Promising Young Woman” gets really interesting.

The realism of Burnham’s character makes his moral failures much more effective as cultural commentary. (That’s true of Alison Brie, as well.) He’s a plausible cinematic rendering of a real man and, as such, his fate packs a stronger punch. Seemingly good people are capable of evil in trying circumstances, which men and women embroiled in drunken college revelry confront much too often.

For people like Burnham and Brie’s characters, and all of us who came of age in the frenzied frontier of smartphone technology, the reckoning of “Promising Young Woman” represents the realization of a looming threat. Delayed justice for youthful indiscretions is a very real phenomenon that mature adults now have to accept. “Promising Young Woman” taps into this reality with unprecedented clarity.

That isn’t to compare the horrific crime at the heart of “Promising Young Woman” to the alleged crimes of “cancel culture” victims from resurfaced Halloween costumes circa 2006. It is, however, to say the profound, panopticonic shift induced by smartphone technology means a generation of doctors like Burnham’s character and housewives like Brie’s face the possibility of resurfaced documentation of heinous behavior they’d prefer to forget. Sometimes, as in this case, that will be good.

Sometimes it won’t. Either way, it creates an ambient threat of personal destruction, which is an underappreciated aspect of the millennial psychology. A camera-less environment is exceedingly rare, and increasingly so. Generation Z is adapting to this with more perspective than millennials had, but will still face the disorienting boomerang of youthful irrationality cutting down adult existences, in all their suburban banality.

Burnham and Brie’s more realistic characters tap into this ambient threat poignantly. In that sense, “Promising Young Woman” is a powerful millennial movie, effectively conveying the terror and justice and moral mess created by the Wild Wild West of the smartphone’s earliest introduction to society. Like the drunken collegiate violence captured in the resurfaced video of “Promising Young Woman,” it will always be with us, for better and for worse.

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‘Justice League’ Is Zack Snyder’s Trimphant Return To Big Screens And Big Heroes

If you are like me—handsome and cool—you love a great action movie. You love the superhero archetype because the character development, if done properly, can reveal what is best about us as a species. You love watching attractive people with amazing physiques do impossible things in impractical clothes—unless your name is Martin Scorsese, who famously hates the genre.

People who can’t get past the dazzle of science fiction plot devices just don’t have the creativity to achieve suspension of disbelief. They have lost their childlike sense of wonder for the wonderful.

If you love your sense of wonder, you likely love Wonder Woman. If you love the supernatural, you love Superman. If you love oceanic, robotic, and fast action, you love Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash. If you love all of these characters and their flaws in one film, you are a true fan and your name might be Zack Snyder.

If you are wondering if this film came out in 2017, you are mostly right. Snyder had a family tragedy that cut short his ability to finish this film, and Joss Whedon was tapped to complete it. Snyder had set up his own vision for the DC cinematic universe in 2013 with “Man of Steel,” which I thoroughly enjoyed.

This would have been an Avengers-esque team-up to launch more films and a vehicle to introduce new characters to the screen. Whedon basically came in and crapped all over that vision and delivered a disjointed, half-baked CGI, dryly performed, and meandering film that was only mildly enjoyable.

Snyder fixes all of that. The “Snydercut” was demanded by the fans, who made it happen, and the payoff is worth it. In a way, the fans were Snyder’s own Justice League who brought him back like Superman to vanquish Whedon’s evil spawn.

There is character development, beautiful cinematography, better banter, and more emotional sinew in the performances. The score is better, the colorization is better, Snyder’s desaturated and almost film noir grit really works to cement this fantasy into reality and to blend the CGI with the live action.

Speaking of CGI, it is light years ahead of the 2017 version. The bad guys look better, scarier, and more threatening. Steppenwolf is given a character arc that comics fans will recognize. Even though he seems more threatening (spoilers ahead) he is heralding an even greater evil to come—a really well done Darkseid.

Darkseid-Thanos comparisons will be made, and I like the Darkseid CGI treatment better than Thanos’s. He seems more tangible and real. For the record, he also came first as a character.

We are treated to battles from time past. A Green Lantern makes an appearance alongside the old Greek gods, Amazonians, Atlanteans, and early men. This backstory was important to set up the struggle to get our heroes to unite.

A fractured Earth led to distrust between the peoples, and that reflects in the main characters. The idea of uniting to defeat a common foe should resonate today. In addition to new and better battles, we also get to see new and revamped characters in Martian Manhunter and Jared Leto’s Joker, who seems more menacing and developed in this film, although his frames are few.

All of the characters seem more deftly acted. Was that better editing, alternate takes, or reshoots? The world may never know. Superman looks cool in his back in black super-suit and his return seemed even scarier than in the ‘17 version, even though the scenes seemed very close to the same.

The slow-motion scenes will seem superfluous to some, but to me they really drove home the idea of how fast the action was and how insanely fast The Flash is. In fact, his power is expanded from the first film, as is his heroism.

The score is more epic and tender, and the pop music in the soundtrack gives us well-timed emotional connection. Batman totally fell in love with guns!

This was a great film; not without flaws, but I’m comfortable calling it great. It is worth viewing maybe even twice. That brings me to some of the flaws.

Four hours. Four hours in 4:3 aspect ratio! If you have an older plasma widescreen or even LED, it could burn black bars into the sides of your screen (just kidding, but if it happens I want to hear about it). To me, this was the worst choice Snyder made. It made the film seem less expansive.

I mostly ignored it once the film was going for a bit, but I have the good fortune of viewing on a 120-inch 4K Dolby Atmos projection system with audio to match. I imagine this film was envisioned for IMAX screens, which are giant 4:3. The sidebars would have annoyed me more had I been watching on the 75-inch downstairs.

Some of the pacing seemed slow—not painfully slow, just slow enough to make you think a 3.5-hour version might be just as good. That’s all I have for flaws, but those may prove too massive for some to overcome. Now, back to the good.

The fact that this film was available to stream and to view in theaters was really great. I think this COVID model will stay long after we have burned our masks.

I can’t think of another filmmaker who was ever given a chance to recover his or her vision. It is an extraordinary occasion and well worth the effort. As I mentioned earlier, the fandom that made this happen—they demanded it and thus ensured a return on the investment. It gave them some ownership, and the fandom should take a bow.

This film is an example of what movie-making should and can be when producers and execs aren’t given too much control over content. When you have a master visual storyteller like Snyder, you turn him loose.

One can’t help but wonder if the results would have been better had they just shelved it until he had gotten past his tragedy in the first place. We wouldn’t be watching this film with the bad taste of the first still in our mouths. Still, I am thankful for this palate-cleanser.

Watch this film, make lots of popcorn, and plan to pause for bathroom breaks at the chapter slates. Oh, and if you talk about this movie with your fanboy friends, make sure you know the names of all the characters, no matter how small, or prepare to be nerdured.

If you are friends with Mr. Scorsese, just pretend you hated it.


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