Fantastic Four (2015)

In lieu of an actual review what follows is a text message conversation between my wife and I as I watched Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four. I know it’s lazy but this movie exhausted me.

(Warning: this entry contains spoilers.)

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

When thinking of the first Sin City the phrase “lightning in a bottle” springs to mind. Upon its release I think we all knew there would be a sequel, and the pessimist in me was sure it would be a let down. The first was so good that there was almost no way a return to the material could attain the same heights. Sometimes it sucks to be so right.

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Snowpiercer

Sometimes I feel like storytelling has gotten too complicated for its own good. I wonder how many writers have felt pressured to break new ground in their chosen genre, or how many would-be writers never put pen to page because they worry that their ideas aren’t “fresh” enough. Aiming high is good, that’s how progress is made. Yet I find myself slightly disappointed by some of what I read and watch because the stories don’t fully ascend to the apogee of their aspirations. The film version of The Fountain comes to mind. So does Sucker Punch. These aren’t bad stories per se, they just fall a little short of the inherent promise made to us by the tellers: “This one is different. This one is more.”

There’s a reason why fiction can be broken down into familiar structures taught to students young enough to struggle with cursive handwriting. Those structures may seem tired but they just work, and if one understands them well enough it becomes unnecessary to try to break free from them. Snowpiercer is a wonderful example of what happens when a writer doesn’t try to get fancy with format and just lets the story tell itself.

(Warning: this entry and its comments contain spoilers.)

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Hannibal

Think back to days of yore before 2010, a more innocent time, and conjure up the most recent television show you watched up to that point which fit neatly into the horror genre. Was it Are You Afraid of the Dark? Or Tales from the Crypt? Maybe (probably) The X-Files? If it seems like I’m going too far back and missing the obvious choices keep in mind that American Horror Story didn’t hit the air until 2011, and The Walking Dead started the horror television renaissance in, you guessed it, 2010. Don’t worry, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s halfway through 2014 already, too.

I’m so happy that The Walking Dead got a pilot and subsequently got renewed for full seasons. Not because I’m a fan of the TV show (I loved the comic while I was reading it but god help me I just can’t bring myself to care about the plot or the characters or GODDAMMIT CARL, GET IN THE HOUSE) but because without The Walking Dead there is no way that NBC would be airing Hannibal right now. And Hannibal, I think, is one of the most lovingly crafted pieces of art available to the masses in recent memory.

(Warning: this entry contains spoilers.)

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

Is there any literary device more maligned and misused than time travel? I don’t think any other concept has spawned as much confusion and (ultimately) exasperated resignation in an audience. It’s so hard to get right, so I wonder, why do we keep going back to the well on this? I think maybe it’s the universal human desire to get a “do over”; we all have memories which might have played out differently at our current level of knowledge and wisdom. Who wouldn’t like to go back and correct a few mistakes?

If I’m right, though, there may be no more glaring example of pure irony in the history of entertainment. The list of stories that used time travel in an interesting a novel way are hugely outnumbered by the cliché and confusing examples, yet writers keep dusting the concept off for another go. Despite the overwhelming odds that the next story will end up atop the pile of bad examples, writers continue to venture forth into the world of paradoxes, causality loops, and unexplained mechanisms.

How many of those writers would like to go back in time to stop themselves from failing?

(Warning: this entry contains spoilers.)

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