School of Movies
Transformers: Age of Extinction & The Last Knight

Transformers: Age of Extinction & The Last Knight

January 22, 2014

[Digital Drift 2014]

0m: The Transformers road trip has lost all but one lone, solitary truck, powering on through a new leg of what may be a never-ending journey. Yes folks, I did end up going to see Transformers 4, and on this show, Sharon asks me all about my experience. Is this a new lease of life for the series? A soft reboot, ditching the former human cast members in favour of all-new ones and setting aside awkward frat comedy for the dilemma of a struggling family. [Sounds great.] Still written by Ehren Kruger and now starring Mark Wahlberg [Oh Jesus Christ!]. The autobots are now a hunted, endangered species, thanks to their heroic genocide of their own people in the last movie, done in the name of protecting us humans, with our interminable capacity for greatness. Plus it has the dinobots [No it doesn’t]. And Optimus is seriously suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [Nobody ever mentions it]. Is this better or worse than the first three? Find out right now. 

I do something with Michael Bay halfway through that will surprise you. 

1h 38m: Several years later, I came back to talk about Bay's dismal fifth instalment, which actually on reflection is probably the best. Certainly the least gross and toxic. I don't have a stupidometer though, and it would bury teh needle five times anyway. Years later we would get the ray of sunshine that was Bumblebee. Definitely make sure you listen to that show. 

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen & Dark of the Moon

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen & Dark of the Moon

January 21, 2014

[Digital Drift 2014]

0m: Our road trip with the autobots continues. We hit a bumpy road as the writer’s strike of 2007 looms. Fortunately this movie proved that you apparently don’t even NEED writers and that a triple-A blockbuster action movie could be sloppily thrown together without discernible structure or coherence and still rake in more than its predecessor. Just cast your eyes over the image I’ve used for this week’s podcast. Ask yourself “A: What the hell were they thinking? and B: Why did everybody let them get away with it?” And that character and his brother are just two of the issues that slaughter any enjoyment and engagement you might have felt. This is not a movie for watching, it’s a movie for laying down and avoiding. It’s a terrible experience from beginning to end. Even fans of the original tend to dislike this one. However we’re out to establish WHY it’s so awful.

1h 4m: Our road trip with the autobots veers off the beaten track and onto a superhighway full of exploding guns and alien car invasion. In a series defined by its crapulence this may actually be its lowest point. Billed by some as a return to form on its release in 2011, which prompted the question from others; “What form?” and from still others “What form will our destructor take?” We’ll tell you what form in this very podcast. If we sounded like we were in pain on the last episode we can assure you it was just the preliminary wave of agony. This one actually made my heart hurt as well as my brain. 

As for plot? The moon landing in 1969 was in fact a secret plot to find a thing and… weird, CGI Kennedy face. I can’t even carry on beyond that first minute. Spock is in this. A robot Spock. A robot Spock that actually manageress to defile and spin on its axis one of the greatest lines and greatest sentiments of one of the greatest sci fi movements of all time. Optimus is not only laid low in this, he is in fact unwittingly depicted as John Rambo in First Blood, only in a context far closer to Rambo III. His obvious post-traumatic stress disorder sidelined and ignored in favour of robot carnage and the American flag. A violent juxtaposition of lost themes and soulless jingoism. It would be churlish to call this film “Evil”, it would also fall somewhat short of the mark in describing what a blight upon the world it is. 

Guests:

Neil Taylor of TheKidDogg

Mike Hearn of Walter the Wicked

Planet of the Apes 1- 5

Planet of the Apes 1- 5

January 14, 2014

[Digital Drift 2014]

1968: Planet of the Apes
1970: Beneath the Planet of the Apes
1971: Escape from the Planet of the Apes
1972: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
1973: Battle for the Planet of the Apes

For newcomers to the series, all eight movies of which will be reviewed over the coming weeks here is a brief breakdown of events. 

1. Universe A: The first five Planet of the Apes movies spanning the period between 1968 and 1973. Planet of the Apes / Beneath the Planet of the Apes / Escape from the Planet of the Apes / Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. You can also include the short-lived live action TV show, comics and animated series in this period (although we won’t be reviewing these that doesn’t mean you guys can’t talk about them at length on the forum).

2. Universe B: The 2001 Tim Burton directed re-imagining of the original movie.

3. Universe C: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This originally started out as both a reboot and an alternate prequel to the original movie (as well as loose remakes of Conquest and Battle for the Planet of the Apes) but has now clearly branched into its own universe where events played out differently to the history laid down in the initial quintet of movies. 

For these first ones send your mind back in time to the late sixties to a time when men were men, teenagers were hippies, war was a very immediate topic, women were saying scary things about equality and civil rights were being challenged left, right and center. We were experimental in our approach, having only ever seen the first of the original five before and reviewing each movie in turn after viewing for the first time. That way you get our immediate reactions. We pull no punches and judge the film as far as it holds up today, before moving onto its grotty, rushed and unintentionally hilarious sequel.

Escape turned out to be a 70s flavoured political thriller, not unlike a small scale Winter Soldier which we watched around the same time. It also had the most heart of the five. Conquest is a film that Rise ended up being patterned after, with a harsh undercurrent of slavery and revolution at its core and a hastily rewritten ending. Then the series went from a place of strength to wobbly, embarrassing, confused, and laughably mismanaged as it farted out of existence with Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which bears the unmistakable signs of the crazy mutants of the rushed second movie; Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall remain the standout stars of these three and what they manage with the basic ape masks is genuinely impressive. Hopefully our disgust at Battle won’t dissuade some of you from digging into Ape history with the others.  

X-Men: The Last Stand & X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men: The Last Stand & X-Men Origins: Wolverine

January 10, 2014

[Digital Drift 2014]

0m: This is the worst. The very worst onscreen incarnation of the X-Men, and not simply because it screwed up the Dark Phoenix saga in a way that will take many years to remedy. It is in point of fact abundantly clear on investigation that meddling Fox executives combined with a creative team who seemingly didn’t care what occurred onscreen or what state they left the series in once the enforced release date was reached created the perfect Storm to send a potentially accomplished franchise hurtling into the doldrums. It’s one of the few movies that actively required erasing from existence to correct the horrendousness that it entailed. But allow us to elaborate on these points. We promise that even if you disagree with our impassioned rantings that you’ll be entertained. 

1h 13m: I never thought I’d find myself defending this film. In actuality we’re not, we’re just saying it’s not the worst X-Men movie and stating the few reasons why it’s not entirely awful. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a stinker nonetheless. Tedious action, lame mutants, barely characterized beyond their powers (again), CGI claws that never fail to distract, stupid script riven with plot holes, ruined fan favourites Deadpool and Gambit, balsa wood performances and most of the cast seem like they’re having a thoroughly terrible time. Worst of all this mishandled not one but two key Wolverine stories. Weapon X and Origin, in a way that means there’s no point attempting them again, so sour will the taste of this remain. It very nearly killed the already flat-lining X-Men series. But we’re the best we are at what we do and what we do ain’t pretty, so we also highlight the few stronger points that make it not quite as complete a failure as everyone remembers. The pinpricks of light in the darkness. Enjoy… Bub.

X-Men & X2: Mutants United

X-Men & X2: Mutants United

January 9, 2014

[Digital Drift 2014]

0m: Looking back on the 2000 original it is both extremely important in legitimising the real life comic superhero movie for modern times and increasingly a relic of a bygone age when this sort of thing was considered a flaky risk and where low budgets, self-conscious cast members, dismal costumes, short running times and pedestrian action sequences were acceptable. That being said there are also some excellent performances within, especially Stewart, McKellen and the breakout star, Huge Action. Had this been a mishandled flop, the course of the Marvel movie might have been very different. Then again, Spider-Man was already in production and it’s possible a reboot would have changed the course of the X-Men in movies, one that has instead sailed on for fourteen years and off into the future.

2h: This is one of the all-time fan-favourite X-Men films, following up on the promise of the slight original with far more detail, exciting action, grander scale and emotional wallop. We give it a ton of credit for its strong points which expand the world and further legitimizes the mutant conflict. However this movie also contains two of the most series-breaking scenarios at its climax. Everybody was having too much fun at the cinema to notice at the time and nobody ever mentions this, but we’re going to… X2 pretty much destroys the characters of both Charles and Erik in a way that is only remedied in First Class eight years later. Overall it’s still a very strong entry in the series and far above the dregs of The Last Stand and Origins, but there are character and narrative inconsistencies that need to be taken into account.

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