Message movies often get a bad rap as being stuffy and overwrought morality plays that blatantly play for awards and easy catharsis. None of that can be said of ‘71, and indeed the 14-year-old me could’ve just watched this film and seen nothing but a white-knuckle combat thriller. This is the true power of Yann Demange’s directorial debut, that it can smuggle some blunt-force commentary into an incredibly intense and grounded “action” film. Combined with a quietly powerful performance from Jack O’Connell and a great supporting cast, ‘71 is a great sort of adult drama, the kind that many Hollywood prestige pictures can only dream of being.
In a world that seems increasingly dependent on irony and sarcasm, especially in its humor, Parks and Recreation almost seems like a miracle. More than anything else, the show is built on sincerity and positivity, and the hope that better things are always yet to come. But the show never seemed hokey or corny (or not in a bad way at least). Rather it earned this sunny disposition fully, and felt more aspirational than anything else. More than that, it was also a lovely tribute to the idea of public service, and the commitment to helping your fellow citizens whether they want or care about it. All of this was wonderfully encapsulated in last night’s series finale, which serves not only as a perfect wrap-up of the show’s story, but also a singular distillation of everything that made Parks and Recreation a brilliant and lovely inspiration.
At this point, having fun might be the most important aspect of moviegoing for me. While this sort of perspective tends to be the rallying cry of the troglodytes that rush out to the latest Michael Bay film and get annoyed when people question the logic of things like “story” or “characters”, it does seem to be the great equalizer for me right now when comparing two equally well-crafted films. Furthermore I still greatly appreciate films and filmmakers that are willing and able to play with genre conventions and archetypes to craft films that are both familiar and original, that do new things while also taking you completely by surprise with a new brand of awesomeness. With all of that in mind, it’s not too surprising that I absolutely loved Kingsman: The Secret Service and will highly recommend it to anyone with a pulse. It’s a film that not just returns goofy fun to the super-spy genre, but that sets the tone for a year that will hopefully be full of films that find this same balance between fun and craft.
Not gonna lie: I’m hugely disappointed. The Wachowskis have historically shown themselves to be hugely talented in crafting action sequences, and incredibly forward-thinking when it comes to storytelling dynamics. And yet with Jupiter Ascending, they somehow lose their feel for both of these disciplines, and in the process squander all of the beautiful imagery and intriguing worldbuilding that the film contains. With the year only a month old, I’m sad to report that Jupiter Ascending is an early contender for my biggest disappointment of the year, and continues last year’s trend of my favorite filmmakers leaving me underwhelmed. Spoilers follow, not that many of you will see the movie anyway.
Brian K Vaughan has been one of my favorite writers of any medium for awhile now. Just the triumvirate of Ex Machina, Runaways and Y: The Last Man get him a place of love and respect in my heart, and that doesn’t even account for Pride of Baghdad and his contributions to Ultimate X-men, Dr. Strange, Buffy Season 8 and numerous episodes of Lost. So when it was announced that he was writing a sprawling space opera with gorgeous art from Fiona Staples, I was more than onboard. While I loved the first few issues, I fell behind until this past weekend, when I read all of the series thus far in preparation for Saga’s return from hiatus with this week’s issue #25. In diving fully into this already-epic, far-from-over yarn, I’ve discovered a brilliantly bizarre and emotionally powerful exploration of family and pacifism, that reaffirms Brian K Vaughan as one of my favorite storytellers.
I don’t know about you guys, but it feels like I didn’t write a whole lot on here in the past month, and not for lack of things to say. I wanted to write about Patton Oswalt’s new book (it’s awesome) and the Ghostbusters reboot announcement/ensuing backlash (it should be a perfectly good movie, leave your sexism and childhood-rape analogies at home) and the surprising success of American Sniper (might still get to this at some point). But so far this year, I’ve been making a more concentrated effort to work on my creative writing projects, and this will continue for a little bit. So just fyi, there will be less content for a little while, but hopefully what I do post will still be up to snuff. Anywhoo…
After kicking off with an uncommonly busy January, 2015 continues with another abnormally good-looking monthly schedule here in February. While there’s a little less quantity this time around, that’s more than balanced out by the marquee talent involved on some of this month’s offerings. With two films that qualified as some of my most anticipated films for both this year AND last year, along with some great high-concept foreign fare, it seems like February is poised to keep the momentum up in the early goings of 2015.