You wouldn't expect a romantic comedy to so sharply divide audience's but, Aki Kaurismäki's Fallen Leaves (2023) has done just that. The film focuses on Ansa, a down on her luck zero-hour worker and her relationship with the drunk and depressed Holappa. After meeting in a karaoke bar, we watch the two attempt to build a relationship through a series of dates whilst overcoming (some rather absurd) life events along the way. The dialogue is short and concise with the exception of Janne Hyytiäinen who plays Huotari, Holappa's friend and emotional anchor. He spends much of his time encouraging his friend to engage with life much to no avail. Holappa himself being a sort of Prufrock, either unable or unwilling to accept the risk that comes with living. The melancholy mood is also highlighted by the constant news updates about the Ukranian conflict. Juxtaposing real life events with this tragicomic love story grounds the narrative in a nice way. These characters feel remarkably real, living life, depressed, drinking, and in unfortunate situations. The only true transformative quality Kaurismäki's film is love, Ansa and Holappa's, her co-workers, Houtari, and even Chaplin the dog. While these emotionally detached characters may not have resonated with audiences the way they did with critics, this movie is one you'll want to see.
Since it's release this past weekend, Sean Durkin's The Iron Claw has been all anyone can talk about. A powerful, moving, grief filled film that looks like a crowd and critic pleaser is closing out 2023 on a high note. With that said, many are questioning Durkin's exclusion of a central story line that could have drastically changed the tone and pacing of the film.
The story centers around the Von Erich family and the many tragedies they faced as a wrestling family. Durkin however, chose to exclude one of the tragedies, the youngest brother Chris Von Ehrich. (MILD SPOILERS AHEAD). Durkin, in an aricle from Variety, claimed that the move was because “it was one more tragedy that the film couldn't really withstand.” While I don't necessarily agree on his reasoning I do understand the exclusion.
While Chris, the youngest Von Erich, died of a similar death of two of his brothers, his role would not have fit thematically for Durkin's film. Chris was described as being plagued from various health conditions including brittle bones and asthma that made wrestling incredibly difficult. The death of his brothers later lead to his own mental health conditions before taking his life in 1991. While the family drama is clearly present, Durkin does not shy away from time in the ring. Having a younger brother with a significant age gap as well as so many issues would have made it difficult to include him in the matches as well.
Durkin's film moves relatively fast and Chris' existence isn't the only exclusion from the story. If you look at the family tree you'll notice that Kerry and David also had children. Both were also married. The events are focused more on Kevin, the only surviving son, played by Zac Efron. The film would have become too broad to include all of these other elements in the short runtime. Durkin's Shakespearean sport's tragedy narrowed in on the right places to still deliver an emotionally resonant experience. One of A24's best and a strong drama to finish the year with.
Jame According to various reports this morning and an explosive article from Variety, it looks like the actors from Zack Snyder's DCEU won't be returning for James Gunn's new venture. New's broke this morning that Jason Momoa (Aquaman, Fast X) has participated in hostile behavior towards Aquaman 2 co-star Amber Heard including dressing up as former partner Johnny Depp (during the defamation trial). This is not the first allegation of inappropriate behavior from Momoa. Back in December of 2018, Heard stated to ABC that:
"If Jason Momoa felt he wasn’t getting enough attention from her, he would tear pages out of whatever book Heard was reading at the time. “He adopted this method of ripping out the pages of my book so I would pay attention to him."
The news comes from Heard's therapist, who's notes were released via paid court fees by Johnny Depp fans, reveled multiple workplace accusations. The documents also name James Wan as a lack of support for Heard. The article goes on to allege that the only reason she was not fired was because of a letter from Elon Musk's lawyer threatening the studios. Given the nature of the trial and her working relationship with WB and the DC fandom this is not surprising but sad news. Aquaman 2 (2023), which predecessor grossed over a billion dollars, is still eyeing a December release in one of the worst box office years for superhero films. The future doesn't look promising either. The current state of the Gunn-verse is as follows
"In fact, none of the stars cast by Zack Snyder for 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and 2017’s “Justice League” — including Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller and Momoa — will reprise their roles in the new DC universe in character. Momoa may return, just not as Aquaman. Sources say the actor has engaged in talks to play Lobo, either in the 2025 reboot “Superman: Legacy,” written and directed by Gunn, or in a standalone film. In a confusing twist, Viola Davis, who played Amanda Waller in both of the recent “Suicide Squad” movies, will remain as that character in the Gunn-Safran DC universe in next year’s Max series “Waller” and possibly in the new “Superman” tentpole. Another outlier is Gunn’s Max series “Peacemaker,” which will be back for a second season with John Cena in the lead." - Variety
To save both confusion and money, WB is best cleaning slate and moving on without the current roster. Gunn's projects seem to do well both financially (GotG 3 grossed well at the box office earlier this year) as well as with fan reception. He has a big following but has a steep disadvantage as it seems the trust in DC live action films is at an all time low. Time will tell how this turns out but 2023 seems to be the end of a very rocky road in film franchise history.
The days of the super inflated and sub-par VFX pop corn films may be over. After DC's latest record breaking disaster many questioned whether Superhero Fatigue was the real deal. I'd like to take it a step further and say it a much bigger issue than that. (clean this sentence) looking at the box office totals for Ant-Man: Quantumania (125 million loss), Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (7 million profit), Indiana Jones: Dial of Destiny (currently at 249 million and needs an insane 600 million to break even), Shazam: Fury of the Gods (lost 120 million), and Dungeons & Dragons (lost 60 million), the Hollywood blockbuster is bleeding money. A majority of the films that were able to break even or turn a profit have been small genre films, low budget movies, and films with strong word of mouth. One of the major reasons is the success of Disney's comic book mega giant has moved the goal post for Blockbusters. The average break even point (based on films with a budget of around 200-250 million and after marketing) is usually around 400-450 million. This is now called the "400 million club," the new bench mark for a successful film. For blockbusters of these sizes to green-light a sequel or franchise, studios want a massive 700 million or more to consider the investment. Marvel pulled off historic feats at the box office and even those films have stumbled at the box office (save for Guardians of the Galaxy 3). Aside from under paying writers and over working VFX artists, studios need to understand that the content for profit market isn't sustainable. Not every blockbuster is going to make a billion dollars. It seems like Jones is the last mega-budget box office flop scheduled for the year as Marvel's The Marvels (130 million) and Dune Part 2 (122 million) are comparatively much lower. Oppenheimer (100 million) and Barbie (100 million) stand a good chance of making a serious summer profit. Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1 on it's massive 290 million dollar budget has a steep hill to climb but if Tom Cruise can pull off what he did last year with Top Gun: Maverick he's sure to come out on top.
The thesis lands early in this film by director Adele Lim. Lolo, one of several main characters, aims to detangle the discomfort people (mainly asian audiences) have around sex through her provocative and often funny art pieces. The script, written by long time Family Guy producers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao, echoes the same sentiment. The film balances crass humor with sentimentality, featuring a beautiful story line of identity and family. Audrey, along with her childhood friend Lolo and her cousin Deadeye, journey to China for a business deal when all goes awry. Caught between a lie and a hard place, Audrey is forced to seek out her birth mother and along the way, discovers more about herself than she realized. Come for the laughs and tears and some unforgettable moments, including an insane tattoo that Stephanie Hsu clarified was not. 2023 has been a great year for laugh out loud comedies and this is one you don't want to miss. Don't believe me? Have a look at the review that went viral last week as well as the directors response.
In a shocking move, everything you watched in high school is getting the reboot treatment. Lionsgate announced a TV series reboot of the Twilight series. Stephanie Meyers, author of the book series, is set to be involved (most likely in a role similar to Rowling's involvement in the Harry Potter series). While it isn't entirely too surprising given Hollywood's hesitance to move forward as well as the longevity and popularity of these series, it is a bit disappointing to see. The news follows recent weeks announcements of reboots including new Lord of the Rings films and a Harry Potter TV series. All three of these franchises have been incredibly successful during their box office run so I won't be shocked if this trend continues. Maybe the next audience fatigue will be reboots and not superheroes?
This image, take from the Marvel teaser trailer for November's The Marvels has nearly double since the screenshot was taken two nights ago.
As of this morning, that number had climbed to a staggering 356 thousand dislikes, which is not surprising. Brie Larson was famously the target of a sexist online hate campaign 4 years ago during the release of Marvel's first female-led super hero film, Captain Marvel. While not shocking, it is a shame to see that the Marvel fandom seems to have not moved towards any form of progress. Twitter and Youtube are both flooded with thumbnails of content creators accusing Marvel of pushing a "woke feminist agenda." So much so in fact that youtube is flooded with videos arguing against diversity in the MCU. Mind you, the first film managed to gross a reported $1.131 billion at the box office. This could have been due to the release window (between Infinity War and Endgame) or, perhaps, the loud and angry minority is just that. While their hate is amplified online because no one is working to stop or place restrictions, off line, the film was a massive success despite the incredible backlash. In fact, Captain Marvel is the 8th highest grossing Marvel film and is 4th non-ensemble led film. For a character that has only appeared in 2 films and one camera (for Ms. Marvel on Disney+), The Marvel's stands a fair chance at the box office given its previous success and its November (a prime release window for fall block busters) debut date.
Even though we are in the era of super hero fatigue and Ms. Marvel did not have the biggest ratings, Teyonah Parris/Monica Rambeau made a huge splash with fans and critics alike after WandaVision. I have a feeling that the cast will be well received by critics regardless of the box office and since fans generally show up for things they hate, The Marvels looks like it is going to shine bright this fall.
Scorsese warned us. Ant-Man is on its fifth week and is struggling to hit the $500 million mark. Thats below the two previous Ant-Man installments which grossed $519 and $622 million respectively. The films holds a 47% critical score on rottentomates and is among the small handful Marvel films to land in the rotten category. After a decade and a half of leading the box office are critics and fans finally burnt out on Super heroes or is there more to this story?
Update: From the beginning of writing this story until today, Ant-Man 3's box office has fizzled out at an unimpressive $474 million dollars. With strong box office contenders like The Super Mario Bros. Movie, AIR, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, and John Wick 4, Marvel's chances for any profit from this film are dead in the ground. Not only did Ant-Man 3 underperform, it performed lower than pandemic era releases like Shang-Chi and Black Widow. Some could speculate that this was in part due to the lack of returning supporting cast or, perhaps, super fatigue is among us. Either way, topping out under 500 puts this film at a project $100 million dollar loss for Marvel.
My take? Audience just aren't that interested in the multi-verse for two main reasons. One, it makes everything feel temporary. One of Marvel's biggest issues is its inability to commit. In the realm of the fantastic (and with enough fandom demand) you could bring anyone back from the dead, make anyone have a happy ending, and churn out one dimensional villains who do nothing more than sell funko pop figures. The other, audiences don't want to do homework. The multi-verse is not only confusing but feels like a massive commitment. In order to understand what is happening in Phase 5, you need to keep up with both the theatrical releases as well as the Diseny+ series releases. In order to understand Quantumania you have had to have watched Loki. In order to understand The Marvel's, which is due out in November, you'll have needed to have seen Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, WandaVision, and Secret Invasion. Some of the films have chosen to not acknowledge the multi-verse at all like Thor: Love and Thunder and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (according to James Gunn). Marvel has swung too wide, the stories are spiraling out and after 31 films, audiences seem to have had it.
(MASSIVE SPOILERS, DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM)
To make it clear, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is not a great film. Hilariously over-packed with fan service, the film itself is an uneven trek through a very unsatisfying end of a saga that deserved more. Closing a wonky loop, we say goodbye to Skywalker and company in this inconsistent and poorly structured film. Below is a list of things that have yet to leave my head since I saw the film several days ago.
- I can not stand the old "ah-gotcha," trope. This happens twice (spoilers ahead) in TRoS. When Daisey Ridley, in a force struggle with Kylo Ren, attempts to save Chewbacca from capture from an Empire ship before losing control and exploding the ship with force lightening. Of course, it's later revealed that he somehow was just in another ship and did not in fact get blown up. What is insane about this scene is how quickly she is forgiven. She kills a staple of the franchise and Poe and Finn are basically giving her a pep talk two scenes later, assuring her it isn't her fault. This of course is her leaning towards the dark side but fool me once, shame on you, full me twice and Abram's has made another terrible Star Wars film. The second is when the planet of Kimiji (where the audience is introduced to Zorii and Babu Frik, the only character that matters) is blow up. Of course, in classic Abram's fashion, its revealed later that they left the planet in time to make it to the final climactic space battle with Palpatine's ship (also, did he just have people in those ships ready at all times?). This is one of the laziest things you can do when it comes to film making. Let's make a bold choice to kill off a beloved character only to bring it back, making all repercussions essentially a waste of time. Now I know, it's a family film, but it does open with a scene of Kylo Ren chopping down numerous random space warriors so obviously Disney is not afraid of violence.
- Speaking of Kylo Ren, what in God's name was *that* kiss moment? We all laughed at the shirtless Kylo moment but, at what point were we supposed to believe that Rey and Kylo had any attraction at all? I mean, why kiss him? As a "thanks for saving me," after repeatedly trying to kill you and your friends? It was the beginning of the end of the film that felt like a blurry of Abram's saying, "here, you asked for it so have it." Of course, it ultimately means nothing because his body vanishes immediately afterwards. It is even funnier given the fact that they are linked by the force, being the ultimate ying and yang. She is the good Palpatine while Ren is the bad Skywalker. The moment is so tone deaf and ridiculous, it feels like the writers just felt the need to include one major straight kiss to balance out the unmemorable gay one.
- Also, Rey gets a gold light saber for some reason, not making her the second character in Star Wars without a blue, green, or red one. Why? I guess because she is the only Jedi now and this is just the way it is going to be signified.
- Also, what the hell happened to Kylo Ren's students? Where was the force sensitive boy at the end of the last Star Wars film? Whats the point of Finn being force sensitive if he's not going to do anything with it anyway?
- We can't forget about Rose (although no one would fault you if you did). After a character that faced an overwhelming amount of criticism and an actresses that faced real world bullying, it was massively disappointing to see that Disney did next to nothing for either of the two. Rose had, what felt like, equal lines to some of the randomly added resistance fighters, including Dominic Monhagan that you probably know as Charlie from Lost (and of course, LotR). She doesn't even get to leave the resistance base for the film. She's effectively grounded and forgotten about, leaving her legacy as a memorable character in the dust.
- General Hux being the traitor was too obvious but the fact that he helps Finn and the crew only to die immediately after by General Pride was also another disappointing moment. I mean really, Pride just knew right away it was Hux? Understandably, this was meant to make Pride seem a bit more evil and authoritative but none of it mattered because the funniest character on the dark side was now dead. Gleeson's interactions with Kylo Ren in the previous two Star Wars films were a delight and it would have been worthwhile to make him a defector and not another casualty. I guess comedy is a price of war too.
- Also nostalgia much? Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, voices from various Jedi, allusions and references to famous notable Star Wars events and more, all seem to make an appearance in this film. I get that this is the last in a very long running and beloved franchise but please, make the movie strong enough to stand on its own. It already exist within the SW universe, do we need to be constantly reminded of it too?