Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


Reel Snippets of 1-11-16

Sorry this is so late. Editing had to take a backseat to family affairs. Anyway, here’s one of last year’s stragglers that I want to catch before they’re off to the DVD pasture.

The Hateful Eight


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Reel Snippet – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a remarkably fun film. It’s not as good as the first, but that’s hardly surprising; the first Avengers broke new ground by proving that a shared cinematic universe could work and now that we know it does work, the same thing doesn’t feel as fresh. But same isn’t always bad and this movie definitely had a lot to offer.

The movie’s biggest strength is the titular villain through and through. I don’t know if he’s as good as Loki. I mean, he doesn’t have anything nearly as quotable as, “I am Loki of Asgard and I am burdened with glorious purpose.” Still, he balances pure terror with a comedic edge that I found refreshing and certainly gives him his own identity. James Spader of Blacklist fame provides a great menacing voice that gives Ultron the right amount of gravitas that we love to see from any good super villain. I love everything about this guy right down to his animation where I was absolutely enthralled by the fact that he was allowed some form of facial expression.

The returning cast is in top form and there are some unexpected cameos from other movies that make the world feel fuller. However, it’s the newcomers, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (a.k.a. The Twins), who are held under a lot of scrutiny because of the rather unique dual ownership rights case concerning their characters. Quicksilver in particular has a tough act to follow after his namesake stole the show in X-Men: Days of Future Past and while he isn’t as awesome here, he feels a lot more real than his twin at Fox and I can certainly appreciate that. Scarlet Witch is certainly good too, though her powers may confuse a lot of people when they’re explained. There was a scene in the beginning when she was sneaking up on Iron Man and she moved in a disjointed, disturbing way like something out of The Ring or The Grudge; I thought that was really creative and I was disappointed that they didn’t go anywhere with it. I also like the fact that they were given accents, as they were raised in Europe in the comics and I always find it odd when adaptations make them speak like Americans.

The film isn’t without its faults, though. I personally thought the scene during the credits was particularly weak, just telling us stuff that we already learned from the end of Avengers: Thanos exists and he plans to wreck your s***. The score is also weaker in this installment. Gone is Alan Silvestri in favor of Danny Elfman and wishing no offense to the man, he doesn’t capture the heroic and victorious qualities that the music needs. I also felt that the HYDRA villains in the beginning were a weak link, like some of them were trying to deliver funny quips and whether by awkward delivery or subpar acting, it kind of fell flat.

But a little bit of bad doesn’t erase all the good. For every one thing the movie gets wrong, it gets about fifteen to twenty things right. There’s a nice callback to the Agent Carter miniseries and a bit of groundwork laid for the upcoming Black Panther movie, but also some much needed development for Hawkeye, who seems to have gone from being a second stringer with a bow to a bit of a fan favorite. The debut of Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor and the fight against the Hulk that ensues from it is one of the standout scenes, as it shows a lot more creativity than just two giants slugging each other. Also, I can’t help but impress on the fact that the movie actually allowed the heroes to balance a battle of epic destruction with them actually diverting their attention to saving people from the destruction they caused. It felt like the most subtle jab at Man of Steel ever and I loved it. While not the masterpiece that its predecessor or Winter Soldier was, it still was some quality storytelling with some great humor and acting and altogether an excellent piece of filmmaking.

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Reel Snippet – Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service was ridiculously good fun, with an emphasis on “ridiculous.” Everything is too over the top not to enjoy, from the incredibly stylized action to the visual stylistic choices of the effects and designs and ending at the ridiculous lisp that Samuel L. Jackson some how manages to pull off. I can honestly remember just about everything in the movie because it was so distinct. While watching it, I remember thinking that this looked like an amazing comic book movie, but then I saw in the credits that it was a comic book movie based on a piece by Mark Millar (a man that I have a contentious relationship with and will get to at a later date). In fact, the guy who directed this also directed Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, two other comic book movies the embraced stylishness, going over the top, and just being fun in general (Well, maybe not so much Kick-Ass).

Going for an R-rating might turn some people off, but I think it works to the movie’s benefit because it opens the door for a lot of impressive and brutal fight scenes. But it doesn’t go towards grittiness like other films in the genre do and instead delivers some incredibly well choreographed fight scenes enhanced by great cinematography. One of the standout moments is an elaborate fight scene in a hate church that goes on for several minutes, but is done in no more than ten long take shots. There’s plenty of over-the-top violence in it, so it’s as galling as it is cathartic (the church is based on a certain other “religious” group that likes to picket funerals, so it’s hard not to feel some satisfaction). Judging on that, I can surmise that this movie is bound to offend some people’s sensibilities with the type of violence and occasional promiscuity it serves up. But when all is said and done, it’s a dick flick (opposite of chick flick) and as such, it’s bound to have some tropes that manipulate teenage testosterone. Honestly, though, it’s a lot smarter and less insulting than some of the other dick flicks out there. I’d rather watch our main hero get into an amazingly choreographed fight against the kickass villainess with the bladed prosthetic legs than cringe during a fight against a Decepticon displaying its robot testicles any day.

I’d love to gush about this longer, but then this will turn from a Reel Snippet into a full-on essay. I’ll just wrap up by saying that with smart, semi-subversive writing, a great parody sense for spoofing some classic James Bond tropes, and clever characters that I’d love to see more of in cinema today, Kingsman gets two huge blade-prosthetic thumbs up from me.

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Reel Snippets – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a thrilling action movie and a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The thing I’m discovering is that each of the mini franchises in the MCU corners a certain niche that they excel at and the Captain America series’ niche is drama and heartbreak. Apart from some very strong 9/11 parallels that this movie touches upon, the characters of the Winter Soldier and Falcon are welcome additions to the world and there is a very strong theme of control vs. rogue elements running through multiple layers of the story. If I had to pick something to complain about, it’s that I found the shaky cam a bit distracting during some of the fight scenes and some of the male gaze scenes on Natasha were a little blatant. However, for the last one, you could argue that they were from Steve’s perspective and that there was an equal amount of female gaze shots present. Besides, both are minor nitpicks in what is arguably the second best film in the franchise and an absolute must-see.

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