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*Spoilers for Batman V Superman and “The Dark Knight Returns” ahead*

I should probably never watch a new film while drunk. Possibly a good maxim for anyone to heed, but it was pretty damn good whiskey while it lasted in my glass, anyway. Like many people at the tail end of March 2016, I too decided to fork over a little more than $10 to take in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I’ll be the first to admit, however, regardless of how it would pan out, I didn’t give myself the greatest starting position to enjoy it, much less capably follow along. …


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It’s predominantly understood, in as much as it is practically common knowledge among film writers and observant viewers at this point, that DC and Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe found itself in such a precarious spiral post-Justice League’s calamitous showing because the two companies felt too hurried to compete with the already culturally and financially dominant Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the Walt Disney Company by extension. Focused on establishing the swath of characters and hero/villain team-ups rather than the shared continuity between individual films that’s helped Marvel stay at the forefront, they handed off arguably their most important projects and characters to a single, talented filmmaker (along with a pair of fan-favorite filmmaking siblings) whose overall vision for the properties was interesting, to say the least. …


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Before diving in, let us pause to momentarily reflect upon the last time the “Hansel & Gretel” fairy tale was given a modern cinematic update primed for a wide theatrical release — a dispassionate late January dump, at that.

The year was 2013, and the film in question was about a grown-up Hansel and Gretel, played by Hawkeye and Quantum of Solace Bond Girl Strawberry Fields, respectively, as a tag-team pair of witch hunters aiming to end the tyrannical reign of the Original Dark Phoenix and her fantastical cronies with the powers of a Gatling gun. It was also directed by the guy who gave us Dead Snow, assuming you’ve still reserved memory space for a heartbreakingly mediocre Norwegian zombie comedy about ravenous, treasure-seeking Nazis. Let us also remember that in spite of its release date and drawn-out one-joke premise, it managed to more than quadruple its production budget in international returns, yet for potential reasons most merciful — i.e. …


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Some will have argued that Wes Anderson’s 2014 ensemble comedy-drama, The Grand Budapest Hotel, rigidly, perhaps even self-consciously, maintains an assured aesthetic and identity, of which its opening sequences are symptomatic. Such lies in not only the cinematographic choices built into the direction as a structural storytelling mechanism — using differing aspect ratios to connote its varying time periods — but also the general tone of proceedings that, to the chagrin of Anderson’s most ardently exhausted detractors, are so typically Andersonian, flooding mannered, handcrafted antiquity with varying mixtures of whimsy and pathos.

Working in reverse, we begin in the present day — or possibly late ’80s given the dreary late-Soviet vibe — at a cemetery in Zubrowka (the film’s fictional Eastern European republic) with a beret-wearing, pin-laden hipster wandering inside with a pink book in hand, soon stopping at and gazing upon the bust of the book’s deceased and celebrated, yet unnamed author. Upon seeing the author’s biographical information and accompanying headshot, we then match cut back to 1985, when the author sits at his office bureau possibly relaying his story to a film crew. …


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Previously published on my blog The Distant Close-Up on September, 6th.

Whether it’s the usual romanticizing or thorough deconstruction, you’d think that, at a certain point, all narratives regarding a particular genre of storytelling would have been covered in the cinematic medium by now, as if we possess the hubris to delude ourselves that any well of resources will become finite. After all, original ideas for any source of formulaic genre fiction, or persistent thematic undercurrent within, occur with the same frequency these days as genuinely good news about the state of the world. But, then again, it really is only a matter of time. The passing of decades and generations means changes in politics and its discourse, business, technology and perhaps even common morality, thereby providing fertile ground for reaching and grasping new understandings of even the most omnipresent extensions and avatars of pop culture. …


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Misleading marketing isn’t a new concept, and it quickly became a tiresome subject to discuss long before It Comes at Night disappointed a sizable portion of the few people who showed up for it. The film’s initial trailer may have latched upon the title’s simplicity to tease a more conventional ominous presence the protagonists sheltered themselves from when in reality ‘It’ was an abstract idea and thematic concern, but it’s hard not to notice some retrospective irony surrounding the context. …


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Our perception of the world never solely lies in how we see it, but also how we hear it. Intermittently throughout Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, Jeff Goldblum’s Duke relays a variety of rumors he’s heard to the rest of the alpha dog pack, despite they’re being exiled on the refuse-infested Trash Island and a majority of these rumors coming from mainland Japan. Perhaps the secret joke within the material is about dogs’ higher hearing range than humans’, and maybe there’s even a subtly comedic dig at the film’s modern-day Kobayashi empire’s inability to control the dissemination of vital information.

Arguably, the demise of just about any oppressive regime begins with their oversight in visually-spread propaganda becoming dialogue silently obtained and passed along among dissenters. …


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Minimally-sized budgets, maximum creative freedom. Such is the maxim of renegade Hollywood producer Jason Blum and his exponentially influential outfit Blumhouse Productions, paraphrased from Truth or Dare writer-director Jeff Wadlow at his latest film’s world premiere in his native Charlottesville, Virginia. You can see the logic in Blum’s tried-and-true financing and filmmaking philosophy. Though a smaller budget presents a variety of challenging limitations for filmmakers to work around, it does force them to achieve a greater level of creativity and shrewdness they might not have felt as compelled to reach if their backing reached high-eight and low-nine figures.

Complete financier trust can only aid in these quests for inspiration. In nearly a decade of operation as a film and television production company, no film carrying the Blumhouse banner has exceeded a $10 million production budget. In fact, only select entries from the ever-profitable Insidious, Purge, Paranormal Activity and Sinister franchises can say they’ve known such riches. Just looking at some of the company’s most critically-acclaimed works in particular, Get Out, Whiplash and The Gift included, the average production budget between all three comes out to a mere $4.27 million. …


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Paramount needs a win. Not necessarily a financial one — though it wouldn’t hurt — but rather a public relations one. The Cloverfield Paradox’s botched gambit of a release, Annihilation being kept out of theaters and dumped onto Netflix internationally and the mere existence of Sherlock Gnomes have all dealt heavy blows to their good will, as if the outrage by some at mother! wasn’t enough to endure. So where does a film studio next turn to lift them out of the mire, including the 11th spot in the studio market share hierarchy? …


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Perhaps the most telling reason as to why Armando Iannucci’s Veep works as a television series is that we never know which political party Selina Meyer, her team and closest allies represent. Speculation can fuel debate and the odd think piece, but there’s too much evidence in either direction to give a definitive answer. And thank goodness for that, otherwise the show might find itself too burdened by ideology for the humor to sting even greater, and for all individuals. Instead, one simple message rings clear for all to therapeutically enjoy; the political arena is a scrambled clusterfuck, and the figures leading the way are power-hungry egomaniacs, buffoonish iconoclasts or both — it’s quite often both. …

About

William Penix

Creative stuff found at Pop Optiq, Screen Rant and Cut Print Film. I mostly write shit and review things. New aspirations of graduate school are on the horizon.

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