I am not Groot.
I fought the hype and the hype won.
Venture again into the pretty pink minefield.
Princesses, despite what we may think of their relevance, seem to be everywhere we look. In movies, in television, in products aimed at young girls, the trope of the princess is going as strong as ever, often as an old type wearing a new costume.
Venture into the pretty pink minefield with us!
How do we create a complex woman character who can give girls a choice in who they identify with, but that Hollywood will still regularly produce? And how can we do it while encouraging the qualities of modern feminism, instead of diminishing them?
Maybe Daenerys should have watched this movie.
The sequel game, especially when it comes to high-flying summer fare, is a dicey one. Prone to feeling superfluous, or like too much of a departure from the original, the sequel to such a beloved film as the soaring How to Train Your Dragon from 2010 could have easily fallen into disaster. Instead, returning writer-director Dean DeBlois has risen to the challenge.
I don’t like time travel. Excusing the excuse that it’s a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff, most Hollywood time travel consists of altering linear timelines to forestall mistakes, death, and apocalyptic disaster. At its best, it comes across as the screenwriting equivalent of a neat parlor trick, at its worst it’s sloppy, plot-hole-filled writing that has to use sci-fi mumbo-jumbo to cover its own tracks. But the latest time-jumping saga to hit the silver screen -- X-Men: Days of Future Past
-- made pretty good on it promises with one major wrinkle; the film itself is an alternative timeline to what happened in the comics, for a not-so-mysterious reason. That reason is Ms. Shadowcat herself, Kitty Pryde, who, instead of being the time-traveling agent of change, acts as the supercharged battery that sends Wolverine back.
Though we’ll get into the details below, a canon shift of this magnitude in book-to-film adaptation would normally inspire internet outrage, essays about the changes, and hot debate between fans. Instead, it seems that only a corner of the fan world—the one directly concerned with issues of female representation—has spoken up in opposition. Considering the canonical fanaticism that followed the introduction of a female character to The Hobbit
films, you might think it strange to see such a dearth of dissent. Unless what we’re really looking at is the same thing in reverse, another classic case of – everyone say it with me now -- Hollywood sexism.
The Mary Sue Exclusive
Rogue. Shadowcat. Mystique. Emma Frost. If you're thinking of a an iconic female character from the X-Men (or just a certain ragin' Cajun), chances are, you're thinking of a Chris Claremont
character. Claremont, whose legendary run on the X-books spanned over 16 years (from approximately 1975-1991) and many of our childhoods, is also responsible for many of the series' famous -- and now, movie adaptable -- story arcs, including "Days of Future Past,"and "The Dark Phoneix Saga." He's the man responsible for turning Wolverine into the fan favorite that he is, and for bringing the X-Men back to life after their initial near-commercial-death in the 1960s. Now, Claremont's the subject of a new documentary, Comics in Focus: Chris Claremont's X-Men
, from the same team that brought us Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods
, and Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts
. No strangers to the subject of women in comics, they're also the ones currently in production on She Makes Comics
, a new doc that will focus on exactly what it says on the tin, women who make comics, both in independent circles and in the larger industry.
We took a few moments of director and editor Patrick Meaney
's time to talk about the importance of female characters to Claremont, what makes his run on X-Men
so memorable, and how that decade and a half shaped the way we still look at comics from the Big Two today.
As regular readers are no doubt aware, I tend not to fangirl about things. Sure, I get excited about the odd property and its conversion into piles of cold hard Hollywood cash, but I'm generally not one for jumping up and down and squealing in delight. Nothing against it; it’s just not my style. But imagine my surprise and elation when I first heard about Only Lovers Left Alive
, a new Jim Jarmusch
art-house ditty about nothing other than a sophisticated set of vampires, starring a host of my favorite contemporary actors, top billed by Tilda Swinton
and Tom Hiddleston
. Words could not express my anticipation. For months I nibbled on teaser posters and the occasional leaked GIF, judiciously avoiding the trailer until I just couldn’t take it anymore and caved.
I was not disappointed.
Whether punching out Hitler or hanging up his shield, Captain America has always been a barometer for America’s political atmosphere, a reliable gauge for what’s on the minds of the nation. In his latest adventure, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
, he is again, standing as a voice of reason in a high-octane action drama that concerns itself with the all-too-pertinent debate of freedom versus security. Those who found the first Cap adventure distasteful in its hamminess will be pleased to know that CA:TWS
contains nothing of the kind, being a grim-faced thrill ride with no time to talk and no room for cheese. The jokes in Winter Soldier
are spare and barely land, a testament to the film’s hard edge. But, unlike some of its dark-and-gritty peers in the superhero genre, a touch of darkness serves this sequel well, working for its covert ops setting instead of against it.
Is the price of knowing SPOILERS a price you’re willing to pay?
A young woman, small and troubled, faces off against a totalitarian dystopia bent on control of the remaining world after the disaster of total war. It may sound achingly familiar, but we haven’t quite been here before. Divergent
, based on the popular book series by Veronica Roth
, follows the story of Beatrice-turned-Tris (Shailene Woodley
), a young woman existing in a world divided by Factions, castes based on different human temperaments rigidly upheld to preserve an everlasting peace. When an aptitude test fails to assign Tris a Faction, even the one her family comes from, Abnegation, she is told she is Divergent, a secret she must keep or lose her life. Choosing to enter the warrior class, Dauntless, instead of remaining with her family, Tris is subjected to a rigorous series of training tests both mental and physical to determine if she is allowed to stay in her chosen Faction or to be cast out as one of the homeless Factionless. But trouble is brewing between the governing Abnegation Faction and the coldly intelligent Erudites , and soon Tris, and those close to her, are drawn into a conflict bigger than themselves.
I have not read Divergent or any of its accompanying sequels, and so entered the theater with fresh eyes, if a skeptical heart. What I found was a troubled film, one held up on weak foundations, and with a poor finishing job to match its underlying structure. No amount of beautiful CG landscaping can hide the flaws in Divergent
’s grand design. Here we’ve got a knotty premise coupled with issues of casting, clarity, and what I assume is interpretation of original material. Though the film tries to make something out of what it has to work with, the results are, ultimately, unsatisfying, and speak to the larger picture of its particular genre.
Do we make movies a certain way because we think it’s what an audience wants to see? Is it right to choose your audience before your film is released, and damn whoever else dares to watch it? These questions were the ones causing the headache that followed my viewing of 300: Rise of an Empire
. A sea of machismo and crimson gushing, 300:Rise of an Empire
is a high-camp successor to the much lauded 300
, the highly fictionalized tale of the three hundred Spartan warriors who stood their ground against an insurmountable force at the Hot Gates. (Still not as good as the Samurai Jack
episode featuring the Spartan 300, the bar by which all representations of the Battle of Thermopylae should be judged, robot minotaurs and all.) More of a straightforward war story, 300:RoaE
lacks the degree of self-importance its predecessor had. Yet for all its bombast and innovative gore, 300:RoaE
is a picture that has no problem excluding part of its potential viewership. It may know exactly what it is, but it never tries to move one inch beyond the expected.
Bloody, messy spoilers beyond the cut.
has become one busy woman. Not only has she stepped into the publishing sphere with work for Adventure Time
and other Boom! Studios properties, she’s also been producing a set of her popular comic series Kate or Die
for ComicsAlliance. That’s not all; there’s the collaboration with high-profile podcast Welcome to Night Vale
and the founding of an international group of female comic-shop workers, appropriately named The Valkyries
. But given the success of the charming, highly personal, and indisputably cool Kate or Die
, it’s no wonder she’s involved in so many upcoming projects. Now she’s stepped into the role of graphic novel writer and teamed up with artist Zach Sterling
to produce a full-blown Adventure Time
story all about everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll vampire queen, Marceline, for Boom! Studios. We had a chance to talk with her about the upcoming graphic novel, how she has no time for "hateful garbage," and more.
Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, The Wind Rises
, kicks off with a very literal dream of flight. Our hero, the loosely biographied Dr. Jiro Horikoshi, is here a near-sighted, bright teenager who, unable to become a pilot, longs to become an aeronautic engineer. He dreams he is flying a fantasy craft with bird-like wings and a whooshing hydraulic engine, soaring above the farmlands where he has grown up, and waving to townsfolk below.
But his beautiful dream is interrupted by the appearance of a nightmarish ship emblazoned with the Iron Cross, carrying a payload of animal-shaped bombs. This vision, which startles Jiro awake, is a symbol of a world and a life to come, one balanced between incredible feats of ingenuity, and the maladies wrought by history. The Wind Rises
shares this polarity. A frequently moving, absolutely stunning piece of animated work, The Wind Rises
showcases many of Miyazaki’s visual obsessions, as well as themes that echo throughout his oeuvre. It also contains within its mesmerizing shell a number of questions on the morality of war and technology that, in spit of the great buildup regarding them, remain unanswered.
Mild spoilers beyond the cut.
Falling in love, as the movies are wont to tell us, is difficult enough. Muddy the waters by including an artificial intelligence in your equation, and you’re sure to come upon catastrophe. Or so you’d think. An original movie with an unoriginal premise, her
is the story of a man and his machine, and the tangled web of questioning sentience, codependence, and love they weave together. Based on nothing so much as the entire trope of the Magical Girlfriend
works harder than just about anything I’ve seen to circumvent the problems inherent in its own premise, and it doesn't quite get there. Sure, Weird Science
this ain’t, but her
never quite reaches the heights of class that it aspires to. The result is a film that can be deeply troubling, but not for the reasons it intends.
Do not consult your OS. There are SPOILERS within.
It’s a poorly-kept secret that we here at TMS
are firmly on the side of Tauriel, the original female elf character in The Hobbit
franchise whose mere existence created waves of discussion across the Internet. But some do not share in our enthusiasm. In fact, if you took a look around the fan ‘net in the months preceding The Desolation of Smaug
’s release, there has been a distinctly anti-Tauriel sentiment in the air. Hiding behind a desire to preserve the sanctity of the source material, many commentators objected to her addition on purist grounds. Other became concerned about her rumored involvement in a love subplot with Legolas and/or Kíli, further indicated by a secondary trailer for the feature in which King Thranduil appears to caution her against pursuing relations with his son. But now we have surer footing from which to look at Tauriel, warrior, love interest, healer, and forum discussion whipping-girl. The actual film containing her appearance has emerged, and with it, a host of questions, concerns, and a fair bit of mud that this reviewer is willing to sling back.
The consequences of war are far-reaching and come fast in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
, the sequel to box office juggernaut The Hunger Games
. Based on Suzanne Collins
’ bestselling novels about a teenage girl’s fight against an oppressive, sadistic government, the thrilling Catching Fire
brings out strong themes of inequality, the politics of fear, and the psychological impact of battle on people of all ages. Fully engrossing, and far stronger than its forerunner, Catching Fire
keeps the sense of suspense throughout with a few dips, and backs up its plot content with plenty of action to hold audience interest. The two-hour-and-fifteen-minute run time hardly feels like it, when you’re swept away by the despotic world of Francis Lawrence
Do not volunteer. There are SPOILERS behind the cut.
These are dark times. Dark and gritty times. Or so it would seem from our choices at the box office, where trends kicked up (but hardly established) by the Nolanverse Batman films continue to cloud every superhero franchise for miles around. This is a land where wonderment is traded for plot expedience, story pacing replaced by gorgeous, if rampant, CGI. Thor: The Dark World
is no exception, being as dark as its title suggests. Fun to watch, but ultimately only slightly more substantial than its predecessor, T:TDW
suffers from being the middle chapter of its series, if not a smaller piece in the giant puzzle that is the MCU. Its visual clout may be mighty, but its story lacks punch.
Engage at your peril, for through this ethereal portal lie SPOILERS.
’s ambitious Gravity
does not need monsters, aliens, or traitorous humans to strike fear into viewers looking out at the empty black night. All that is required is the silent, lonely expanse of space itself; airless, without aid, and full of its own ethereal beauty. Perhaps the most intense 90 minutes I’ve spent in a theater this year, Gravity
presents space itself as the true horror, a place where indifferent forces collide to spell catastrophe for any humans unlucky enough to be in their path. Despite a tendency to become overwhelmed in places by its own sentimentality (or simply by the soundtrack) Gravity
is a taunt, breathtakingly arranged film that will likely leave you on the edge of your seat.
It may surprise readers to learn this, but when I go to the movies, I still hold out hope that I will get what is advertised, whether it be an entertaining escape, a learning experience, a meaningful message, or enough explosives (or Kyrptonians) to take down a major city. But Hollywood continues to trip my internal alarms with its third installment of the Riddick series (if we are not including his forays into animated shorts or video games), starring the gravel-voiced Vin Diesel
. What could have - and should have - been a good time with monsters, mercenaries, and R-rated gore is instead a motherload of sexist tropes and a weary third act. Tired yet? We’ve only just begun.
“Enjoyed” may be the wrong word to describe how viewers might feel about Neill Blomkamp
’s sophomore sci-fi jaunt, Elysium
. “Experienced” would be more apt, for this gritty dystopian vision is a tough one, hard on the eyes and adrenal system, if not much on the heart. A highly explosive action-adventure, Elysium
falls prey to genre tropes more often than it blows past them, making for a well-crafted, if somewhat standard, feature. Unlike the allegorically stronger structure of Blomkamp’s big splash into Hollywood, District 9
, this follow-up is thematically weaker and less substantial. It may reach for the stars, but Elysium
, unfortunately, falls under its setup’s own weight.
Wealthy and privileged SPOILERS are protected beneath the cut.
What time is it? Interview Time! Abrams Books, in partnership with Cartoon Network, has put out The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia
, a definitive companion to the ever-popular television series, and it is worth a look. Written in character by Martin Olson
, who voices His Lowness Hunson Abadeer, Lord of the Nightosphere, on the show, the book is a lavishly illustrated guide to the Land of Ooo, featuring work by cartoonists Renee French, Tony Millionaire, Celeste Moreno, Aisleen Romano,
and Mahendra Singh
, and designed by Sean Tejaratchi
. With extensive character notes, commentary from series characters Finn, Jake, and Hunson’s daughter, Marceline, and a wealth of information about the mysterious, post-apocalyptic world, the Encyclopaedia
is a tempting treat for fans of the cartoon.
In honor of the book’s release, I had a chat with voice actress (and real-life as well as in-show daughter to Martin Olson) Olivia Olson
, who plays Marceline, to talk about bringing life to the undead Vampire Queen, meeting her gender-swapped counterpart, and what it’s like to work with her father.