I am very lucky to have had my review for Avengers: Infinity War published at Buzz Magazine. I am fortunate enough to have a lot of reviews of big blockbusters published over at Buzz and they don’t come bigger than this. Please feel free to click here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/avengers-infinity-war/ to read my thoughts and offer any of your own. I hope you enjoy.
Based out of Victoria, Buzz Magazine was one the longest running street press magazines in Australia being published in print from 1993 to 2010. Some fine writers have worked for Buzz over the years and gone onto successful careers in media since and there is simply no way to measure the contribution the mag made to local music over its print run. With such words and minimal advertising on the website the impression could be taken that Buzz is now semi-retired. Yet the site is quite prolific with new write-ups on a daily basis, the ongoing interest of fans old and new and contributions from some very talented people indeed.
I’ve been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to have another Top 5 countdown published at Heavy Magazine. Be warned there will be spoilers in it and it is purely intended as a retrospective about what is great about the film now that it has been out for a few weeks. Look forward to hearing what you think and whether you agree or disagree. The post can be found here https://heavymag.com.au/thor-ragnaroks-top-5-best-things/
Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I have been fortunate to have a few things published there.
The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art opened in Brisbane on the 2nd of December, 2006. Often my friends and I have gone to it and the Queensland Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery for various exhibits over the years. Between all 3 there has been an Andy Warhol exhibit, a David Lynch exhibit, an exhibit of 20th Century art and architecture and a retrospective collection of Valentino’s collection. There has also been an Exhibit about lingerie which was just the best! But we’re not here to talk about that today, we’re here to talk about the recent Marvel exhibit.
There is a program called GOMA Uplate which my gang regularly attend where the Gallery will be open on a Friday night and have entertainment and booze. I enjoy these because often the exhibits as less crowded than during the day on weekends and there is a different vibe in the air. Can still get pretty busy.
Throughout last year filming of Thor: Ragnarok took place in my home state of Queensland mostly at the Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast but also for a few days in the Brisbane CBD. People from London, New York, L.A., Chicago and Toronto will attest what a pain in the arse this can be for locals. I was working out in the burbs at the time and felt a little sad to miss the commotion. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston went and greeted crowds warmly on the streets where production had closed off traffic. Later they went in costume to the Children’s hospitals to spend time with sick kids. I can agree with cynics that this is good PR that would have melted any curmudgeon’s complaints about traffic issues but anybody who has spent time around sick children will tell you there’s no way in hell Hemsworth and Hiddleston didn’t genuinely enjoy giving something back and I think there can’t be enough of such things being done. This follows Johnny Depp and Christian Bale doing similar things and the value it will bring to a child’s joy you can’t put a price on.
The scenes shot in Brisbane are standing in for New York city and I chuckled when I saw the film. I don’t care how many New York yellow cabs drive by in the background, I know those pavements and what a thrill to see them on the big screen. 750 Queenslanders were employed in the making of Thor: Ragnarok. I don’t know how much this played into GOMA getting the Marvel exhibit which featured so many props and costumes from other Marvel movies but it was real joy to have it at Brisbane.
Ten Pics from the Sticks has traditionally been about hiking but we’re branching out with this and maybe subsequent entries which may make the title a little odd but so be it.
Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe Exhibit ran from the 27th of May to the 3rd of September, 2017. It featured various props from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, certain classic comic book issues in glass shelves (this included the first Spider-Man comic from 1962 and I believe the first Captain America comic book from 1942), a lot of costumes and pre-production artwork. This included concept art of the Guardians of the Galaxy that was shown at San Diego Comic Con. People forget how Guardians of the Galaxy was seen as a risk because it was such an unknown title at the time. That concept art which looks quite a bit different from the eventual look of the team is what sold me on the idea. When the teaser trailer came much later I was all in telling friends this could be the Star Wars of a whole new generation. So I got a picture of me with the concept art. One exhibit showed the artwork, the storyboarding, the pre-viz animation and then the finished product. Another part played a scene where you could dial up or down various sounds effects and music to see how all of those things are layered onto the final soundtrack and how each component plays a vital part. Other areas allowed patrons to stands on mats and appear on screens as various Marvel characters controlling their movements although this was a bit wonky in its execution. One part that I got a real thrill out of was dressing up in props and appearing in front of a green screen where we were overlaid one of the movie posters. We got a really fun group shot of us as the Avengers but out of deference to my friend’s privacy I won’t post this on a public forum. We also ate some snazzy meals down at the Café. While I didn’t take part there was a place for people to draw their own comic books.
There are usually speakers at GOMA Uplate and our night was no exception. Local artist and scenic painter Camille Serisier did her talk titled ‘All In The Details’. Some speakers had worked on Thor: Ragnarok and some had not, Camille being one of the latter but she had done for the Australian ballet and various other productions. Her talk took place in the Asgard throne room area of the exhibition (which sounds dodgier than it was – get your minds out of the gutter people) and pointed out various things. She talked about a lacquer of props to make them appear aged, the throne itself was made out of wood but a lot of other elements were plaster applied over Styrofoam blocks. She also talked about the themes of stories and how production design can support this. It was very interesting to hear her speak and I found myself nodding in agreement at some of her insights. I had just come from my interview with Palace CEO Benjamin Zeccola for the Italian Film Festival and was on such a high from that I uncharacteristically approached her after the talk to ask one further question or too. She was lovely to speak to.
Having worked on smaller scale film productions I was not surprised to find this out but everything you see on film looks vastly different in real life than it does in the movies. Unlike say the dresses from Valentino which looked gorgeous in real life the costumes for films even ones as expensive as this are made with functionality always in mind. How they look under lights, how they will appear in close-up, how the stunt man can do his work in them is always of high priority. That’s why multiple versions of each costume are made for different purposes. Amazingly through the power of movies you often don’t notice these things even when you know about such tricks. That’s not to say these costumes and sets are not made by artists far from it. The level of thought and creativity that goes into this work is really moving. It was also neat to see the original costumes worn by such stars as Hayley Atwell and Scarlett Johanson and also um gee what are their names uh Greg Evans, uh Greg Humpdump, Joey Rendering, um Bobby Down Senior and Mick Buffaolo. I don’t know I mean Hayley Atwell is the big star I remember. It was also quite a thrill to see so many props form the film Thor: Ragnarok which had not yet opened in cinemas worldwide at the time. This included various weapons, Hulk’s bed from the movie and as a centrepiece the Throneroom from Asgard.
After our tour through the giftshop where I will rue not getting a door mat that said “I Am Groot’ on it with a picture of Baby Groot I caught up with my friends who were observing the live band performing that night. A Melbourne duo called Habits had a certain group rocking away to electronica. My friends and I kept our distance from the gender fluidly dressed boy and girl who conveyed such raw sensuality. Nothing made me feel more 36 then my lack of free spiritedness compared to these youngsters but the truth is this wasn’t my bag when I was 17. When I was 17 Billy Joel hadn’t released an album in 4 years and he was my favourite while others rocked out to Frenzal Rhomb etc. They may not have been my bag but they were talented as fuck, absolute jets playing their instruments and working the crowd. Something else too, they were appreciative of the audience and engaged with them, the lead singer going down into the crowd and writing on the floor provocatively. There was an older man getting into it and I couldn’t help but admire them for their joy in the music and their commitment to be themselves.
That about wrapped it up for us as we stole away into the night having had a wonderful night with cherished friends at a rare movie themed exhibit in my hometown.
The eighth film to feature the monster King Kong is a mess of tones and idiotic character motivations but the titular character has lost none of his appeal and that along with some bright sparks of imagination maybe enough to hold audience interest throughout.
The year is 1973 and American involvement in the Vietnam War is coming to an end. Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), agents of government organization Monarch obtain funding to lead an expedition to a newly discovered island in the South Pacific shaped like a skull. They recruit an attack helicopter squadron from the U.S. Army, war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), geologists, and for a tracker/hunter James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) a former Captain in the British Special Air Service. Tooled up with bombs for seismic recording and ammunition galore they plan to fly in, do tests and observe before flying out three days later on the other side of the island. With the island covered in storm clouds fizzling with red lightning they take off in their open door gunships to see what they can find paradoxically armed to the teeth for what should be map drawing and yet completely unprepared for what they do find.
What they find is a 100 foot tall bipedal ape who quickly takes them apart after their bomb dropping seemingly awakes the beast in him. Considering these helicopters are more than capable of flying to altitudes well over 10,000 feet it seems a special kind of stupid when these war veterans fail to change tactics in the face of overwhelming force but it ain’t every day you get set upon by a giant monkey. Besides such escapes would not only derail the plot but the set pieces which are the better parts of the film. The monsters and monsters fights never cease to be entertaining and inventive whereas the human characters often are either incredibly stupid or incredibly bland. Given the cast assembled that is a special achievement in itself.
Plenty of these actors you’ve seen do better work in other films, disappointingly Samuel L. Jackson’s Ahab like Lt Col. Preston Packard fails to convince as a leader who wants a winnable war and is prepared to risk losing more men in a personal vendetta against Kong following the initial onslaught. Brie Larson fills out a tank top well but besides being one of the more sensible human characters never makes much of an impact. Tom Hiddleston fills out a tight T-shirt well but fares even worse.
Two performances manage to stand out, one is Shea Whigham as one of Packard’s men Captain Earl Cole who takes everything in his stride like the pragmatic war weary soldier that he is because what else can he do. John C. Reilly is the second in a role that should be thankless but becomes the most memorable. Playing a downed World War II pilot named Hank Marlow (geddit) who crashed on the island twenty eight years earlier he is part exposition and part comic relief but conveys the heartache of these years lost to the world. The filmmakers seemed to recognise the impact Reilly’s performance has and give him a credits sequence that satisfies in a very simple way and maybe nails the subtext that often eludes them. A good example of missed character opportunities is Hiddleston’s Captain Conrad (geddit) mentions a father who went missing in World War II but never takes an interest in a man of that generation who went missing from his family too during that same war.
The pacing is good, the first act rushing to get to the island where the action is but taking the time to establish the different characters. The film slows down in between major action scenes too to help us get to know the human characters more but for the most part the dialogue isn’t there and the decisions made by these people cannot enamour us to them. “Kong: Skull Island” suffers from the same fate as stable mate “Godzilla”, they got the monsters right but the humans fail to hold interest for the most part.
In place of the 1933 original’s “Beauty and the Beast” subtext there’s analogies about man’s thirst for war and the environment protecting the ecosystem. For all the fetishizing of 1970s technology and call-backs to “Apocalypse Now” though the best bits are striking new images whether it be Kong slurping squid tentacles like noodles, a Nixon bobble head on the dash of a crashing Huey or a soldier placing a carbine on a prehistoric skull. A bit more of the creative genius that went into these neat images being directed towards the screenplay might have elevated this into a classic. As it is, fans of monster films should find enough here to enjoy and celebrate, for the rest of us the blockbuster season has just begun and there surely must be better films to come.