April 2019 was a pretty earth-shaking month in pop culture terms. We had the first tangible fallout from the Disney/Fox merger and some really interesting developments in the Great Streaming Wars (the launch of the fantastic Criterion Channel, details on the upcoming Disney+), we had new blockbuster releases (Shazam!, Hellboy, Pet Sematary), and we had strong holdovers from March (Captain Marvel, Us). Even beyond all that, this month seemed to consistently mark the climax or conclusion of cultural behemoths known all over the world. Game of Thrones launched a final season that culminates the biggest television production in history. The announcement of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker gave us a glimpse at the film that will round out the Skywalker Saga. But for the moment, even those sort of seem like drops in the bucket compared to Avengers: Endgame.
The implications of such a convergence of influential entertainment raises interesting quandaries about the ways in which we as a society consume…oh, who am I kidding. We just saw Avengers: Endgame and internet etiquette dictates we lay down a few buffer paragraphs as a necessity, lest any spoilers be spoilt. But no one’s really here to discuss industry patterns — we’re here to discuss that badass part where SPOILER uses a massive SPOILER as a freakin’ SPOILER. So if you haven’t yet seen the blockbuster-to-end-all-blockbusters, then I highly recommend Robert Mueller’s heavily-redacted review of the film until you manage to get tickets for the next available Endgame screening 30 years from now.
Seriously, massive spoilers below. Good to go? Good. Let’s go.
HBO’s release strategies for their flagship series have always been carefully planned, and the one-two punch of the first two episodes of True Detective’s new season is no exception. The hooks were in after the first episode, “The Great War and Modern Memory,” but the character depth provided by “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” all but guarantees a return audience next week. The eight episode season will take us to the end of February, when the hype train for April’s Game of Thrones will be full steam ahead. And then, though there’s no official release date, look for HBO’s Watchmen to premiere right around the end of Thrones.
The premiere placement of “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” was smart on another level, though, because it got to the heart of what made ‘Tec great in the first place. Both episodes unfurled a twisty and time-jumpy mystery, but “Goodbye” had a particular focus on family that heightened investment in the whole affair. Complicated family dynamics are what the first season had and what the second season lacked, and the characters of this third season — Hays and the Purcell Family for sure, but even “minor” characters like Woodard — are better for having to balance a home life with their work.
Each Motion State Face Off pits two films, franchises, or television series against each another for no reason other than because we can.
In hindsight, Michael Crichton’s 1973 film Westworld was an uncomplicated affair. Sure, the premise required a bit of explaining — there’s a Wild West theme park staffed by lifelike robots, offering full immersion for wealthy tourists looking for romance or violence — but the plot was deceptively simple and the characters were drawn without a trace of ambiguity. The humans were the heroes and the malfunctioning robots were the villains. As we’ve detailed in our Writer Series on the works of Crichton, lots of good science fiction operates in exactly this way: classic stories playing out in strange, unfamiliar settings or time periods. No matter how unsettling the concept, how futuristic the design, how far-off the entire experience feels, Westworld is still a movie about a killer robot. And this is hardly groundbreaking, even in 1973, considering that the very first robot in cinema (from Houdini’s 1918 silent serial The Master Mystery) was already wreaking havoc on its human overlords:
In some ways, Killer Robot Cinema (evermore an acceptable genre classification on Motion State) has progressed a great deal since 1918. The murderous machines went from stacked-and-spraypainted cardboard boxes to sleek metal automatons to, finally, looking just like humans, which is presumably the pinnacle of droid design both in fiction and in real life. In some ways, though, killer robot cinema has hardly moved an inch. Humans are still playing God, still inventing advanced A.I. in robot form, and those robots are still turning around and killing them for it.
One of the things that soured Age of Ultron, the second Avengers outing, was all of the hard work apparent in the film. Pretty much every movie you watch is the result of hard work, of course, but in Ultron all of the moving and shaking afoot in the past and future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe severely impacted the present, i.e. the actual movie you’re watching right now. Excepting the occasional moment of levity (the Mjolnir party game) or well-drawn action scene (Hulk vs. Hulkbuster), it felt like hard work just to get to the end of Ultron as a viewer. Director Joss Whedon never struck the same natural flow he found in his original Avengers movie, and he seemingly left the MCU because he’d rather work from a place of inspiration than from a blueprint strategy designed to perpetuate a larger narrative. In our original review we posited this as no coincidence when the Avengers themselves begin referring to their superheroism with workplace terminology, to their “jobs,” to the “endgame;” Ultron even has an absent-husband subplot featuring Mrs. Hawkeye that seems a better fit in Death of a Salesman than a Marvel flick.
But Ultron‘s in the past, right? We’re here for the new one, Infinity War, featuring everyone who was in Ultron and everyone who’s had a solo Marvel outing since then, plus a few new characters, plus an occasional cameo from the MCU’s ever-expanding backlog. As such, the first order of business (more workplace terminology!) is to issue a SPOILER WARNING to anyone who has not yet seen Infinity War. Motion State assumes no liability in your reading past this paragraph!
Universal has announced a Robert Ludlum Cinematic Universe, an announcement which would only be more ridiculous if they retroactively incorporated The Osterman Weekend. Dwayne Johnson will star in the first film The Janson Directive, due out sometime in between Dwayne’s other fifteen in-production movies.
On the other end of the productivity spectrum is Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote project, famously trapped in development hell and now (re-)reinvigorated with Adam Driver in a leading role. Stay tuned for another go at the film ten years from now.
Comic scribe Geoff Johns and WB Executive VP Jon Berg will be supervising DC’s Cinematic Universe post-Batman v. Superman (post-Justice League, really, as that’s already in production) and hopefully doing for DC what Kevin Feige did for Marvel. Or — here’s a thought — doing something different.
And in news unrelated to connected universes or massive franchises…just kidding. Sherlock Holmes 3 starts filming this Fall.
The Director’s Guild of America has named the 80 Best-Directed Films of All Time in honor of the Guild’s 80th Anniversary. In an era when any sap with a WordPress account (ahem) can make a Best of All Time list, the rationality of this one is actually impressive. And major respect for including Birdman.
In sad Director-Actor news, AvaDuVernay-Lupita Nyong’o won’t be happening on Intelligent Life due to the former dropping out; in happy Director-Actor news, Andrew Garfield has joined the new film by It Follows director David Robert Mitchell.
Kudos to anyone who followed up salutations of “May the Fourth be with you” not with today’s expected “Cinco de Mayo” but instead with “Revenge of the Fifth”. Solidarity, people. Solidarity.
Inhumans has been unceremoniously yanked from the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe slate, which means essentially nothing when all is said and done. Instead of waiting five or six years for the Inhumans movie, we’ll just have to bite the bullet and wait six or seven.
The 2016 Independent Film Festival Boston begins this week. Stay tuned for reviews of Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, the delightfully odd-looking Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and many more.
A drove of new trailers premiered this week, which is great news if you’re a lazy Motion Stater who can’t be bothered to assemble an actual News post. Check out our formidable copy-and-pasting below.
For a long time now the internet has been a halcyon refuge for those steadfast in the belief that opinions can be equated with facts. Prior to the actual release of Gods of Egypt the film was subjected to the fervor whipped up by the fact that the cast was almost entirely white, and before you could say CGI sphinx most had written off GoE as a waste of time. In what may have been a heartfelt apology or one driven entirely by a marketing scramble to save face, director Alex Proyas publicly stated that they dropped the ball on the whole diversity thing. #EgyptSoWhite persevered as if Proyas had stayed silent because, hey, it’s the internet. No well-meaning statement is going to stopper a good ol’ fashioned media frenzy.
After GoE came out, though, the film was subjected to another kind of criticism, this time whipped up by the notion that the movie was actually really bad. Ah, the internet. Proyas responded, as Proyas seems wont to do. Here is his post from his Facebook in near-entirety, edited only slightly for length:
Narcos has a rookie season that moves like a final season. Netflix has been in the TV game for a while now, with their flagships House of Cards and Orange is the New Black both entering fourth seasons soon, and it’s rare that a Netflix series falls wide of the mark — Bloodline, Daredevil, and Sense8 all drew in high-powered acting and directing talent and were almost immediately renewed for second seasons. Narcos, with the pacing and and urgency of a well-established series and character arcs that would normally be stretched over the course of a lesser show, might outdo them all.
A large part of what sets this story apart from the pack is the fact of this story being a true one. Pablo Escobar has been portrayed several times by all the people you might expect — there’s Benicio Del Toro just last year in Paradise Lost, Javier Bardem next year in a new biopic, and then John Leguizamo (okay, so maybe not who you’d expect) in yet another biopic the following year — but the infamous Colombian drug lord has never been viewed under a microscope like this. It’s Wagner Moura who steps into Escobar’s patterned polos here in Narcos, and he’s up to the considerable task.
A lot of the critical flak directed at the second season of True Detective has to do with the bottomless angst in which all of the main characters are mired. There’s certainly a lot of brooding, a lot of staring, a lot of heavy breathing. Nary a smile. The premiere dealt with child abuse, suicide and rampant prostitution (not to mention murder) and the second episode “Night Finds You” left a main character lying flat with a point-blank shotgun blast in his chest. Below is a picture of my family gathered to spend time together and enjoy this wholesome television — after that are spoilers for the third episode “Maybe Tomorrow”.