ghostbusters-full-new-imgEpisode twelve, and Nick is playing Pokemon Go like all the cool kids. (Hopefully it’ll still be cool by the time we release the podcast.) Alastair, controversially, has read The Next Next Level by Leon Neyfakh, an actual book.

Then the 12 begins in earnest, as we review the sometimes-controversial Ghostbusters remake (5:36). We’ve also seen fashion-horror movie The Neon Demon from director Nicholas Winding Refn (23:43) and read the first segment of Normal, a serialised novel by Warren Ellis (35:09).

normal-coverFinally, Alastair gets Nick to watch The Big Lebowski, one of his favourite films (46:09). Will this finally trigger… podcast civil war?

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Take a moment to rewatch the original cinematic trailer for the 1996 blockbuster film Independence Day.

It might look dated and clichéd by the standards of today’s trailers, but when it first appeared on cinema screens in 1995 it was a revelation. It had a huge impact and it changed how cinematic trailers are used to promote blockbuster films. Huge spectacles have been moved to early in shooting schedules so trailers could use these big action set pieces as soon as possible.

The image of the White House being destroyed by an alien spaceship really resonated with audiences in 1996. I do not believe this was political, I believe it was because cinema has the ability to convince us that we are small and the events we are seeing being played out are greater than we are. The image of the White House exploding was lodged in our collective imagination, it became iconic. Independence Day became a key link in the evolution of the city destroying disaster movie, leading to Volcano (1997), Armageddon, Deep Impact and Godzilla, all 1998. It was also a key development of the evolution of the cinematic spectacle, which is what film has been since Auguste and Louis Lumiere showed Train Pulling Into A Station to an audience in Paris in 1895.

Cinema has always been about the spectacle. We go to the cinema for the communal act of sharing a film and for the spectacle of seeing larger than life actions played out before us. Anyone who says otherwise has been watching too many Wes Anderson films and not enough David Lean. In many ways, the evolution of cinema has been the evolution of the spectacle. Stagecoach was a spectacle when it first exploded into cinemas in 1939. Colour was popularised so that cinema could use spectacle to compete against the emerging medium of television. Cinema’s most iconic genres, from the western to the musical, the historical epic, the action adventure or the science fiction film, have embraced the cinematic spectacle.

In many ways Independence Day was no different to Stagecoach, or Ben-Hur or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. It sought to attract audiences to the cinema by offering them a spectacle that could not be missed and could not be found anywhere else. In 1996 the special effects of Independence Day were genuinely impressive. 20 years later, the sequel, Independence Day Resurgence, is not a significant step forwards in terms of cinematic spectacle. Special effects have incrementally improved over the last 20 years, but this film is not the revolution its predecessor was.

Independence Day Resurgence continues the plot of the original, but does not follow on from its real contribution to cinema, which was how it changed the spectacle of cinema. Independence Day Resurgence is another middle of the road summer blockbuster, empty of plot or character, lacking in visuals that surprise cinema audiences. It is little different from X-Men: Apocalypse, released a few weeks earlier. This film is not the spiritual successor to the original Independence Day.

Independence Day 1996

The last film that really was a step forwards for cinema spectacle was James Cameron’s Avatar, which brought back 3D filmmaking and immersed the viewer into an entire world of its creation. Like the original Independence Day, Avatar is also an empty film, lacking likable characters and an engaging story. Both were pure spectacle, without anything else that gives cinema its magic.

Avatar was another step in the evolution of cinema spectacle following on from Independence Day. It is a history which takes in such cinematic classics as the original Matrix film and George Lucas’s ill-fated Star Wars prequel trilogy. Avatar was released seven years ago and nothing has surpassed it visually. Films have tried, both of Joss Whedon’s Avengers films and Zack Snyder’s Superman films have given us city destroying spectacles, but it all seems very passé and not nearly as exciting as when this variety of spectacle was fresh in 1996.

Have we reached the limit to what cinema can achieve in terms of spectacle? Films are getting more expensive to make and studios are becoming more risk averse, thus the cinematic spectacle is not evolving. This is one reason why people are turning away from cinema to newTV. Cinema has no novel spectacle and huge numbers of bland sequels, remakes and adaptations has put audiences off. These films do not have plot and characters that people care about, which newTV does offer. Due to this, audiences have been lured away and the defining artistic medium of the age has moved from cinema to television.

Is cinema destined to become TV’s flashier cousin? Slightly more expensive and more lavish, but otherwise little different. If filmmakers cannot find a way to wow audiences with the spectacle of cinema than I fear it will be so. When was the last time we were captivated by a trailer like we were captivated by the trailer for Independence Day in 1996? Cinema is not just spectacle, but spectacle is an important part of the appeal of cinema as a medium. There are still lots of spectacular films being released, but we have not seen a revolution in cinema spectacle for quite some time.

got-s6-facesHere’s our eleventh episode, in which we mostly don’t talk about the current Brexit-fuelled political turmoil in the UK! You might spot some frustration leaking through during the Independence Day 2 section.

But focusing on the fiction: we gaze upon the whole of Game of Thrones season 6 (5:51), before moving on to hardcore nuke-on-child action in Independence Day: Resurgence (26:24) and then Within The Wires (44:43), a new podcast from Team Night Vale – plus some chat about how Alice Isn’t Dead is holding up.

within-the-wires(Check out our initial review of the first Alice Isn’t Dead episode back in MFV #3 if you like.)

Finally, Nick introduces Alastair to Dead Like Me (54:25), a grim reaper show that warmed his cold dark-comedy-loving heart back when it first aired.

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oitnbIn a short extract trimmed from the end of our Orange Is The New Black sequence in MFV #10, find out who Alastair’s favourite character is! Then discover, yet again, that he seems really worried about shows he loves turning into Lost. Well, I guess some shows just really traumatise you.

Listen to the full MFV #10 here in various forms, including coverage of Orange Is The New Black, Outcast and Orphan Black.

orange-new-black-season-4-trailerWe hit double figures, and taking the zero in the number far too seriously, cover three different TV series beginning with O. But first, Nick rates his superhero shows and Alastair has loftier viewing tastes.

And then down to business: Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black begins its fourth year behind bars (4:18), new possession horror show Outcast reaches out for us (21:26) and we look back at Orphan Black’s penultimate season of clone chaos (38:27). Then end up running a death bet.

(Oh, and if you want to see some more Orphan Black thoughts, we covered the first couple of episodes of season 4 back in MFV #7.)

orphanblackFinally, Alastair recommended Richard Linklater’s Philip K. Dick adaptation A Scanner Darkly to Nick last week – is he okay with its heady mix of animation and drugs? (55:35)

So that’s #10! Download the mp3 here!

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dcrebirthEpisode nine, we’re doing fine! Or are we? After a brief opening chat about iZombie and the recent Captain America controversy, we plunge comics newcomer Alastair into the swirling heart of the latest DC superhero relaunch with the DC Rebirth and Batman: Rebirth specials (5:09), stare in fantastical bafflement at video game orc movie Warcraft (25:14) and develop crushes on Matt LeBlanc while covering the BBC’s Top Gear revamp (38:17).

Then our recommendations feature (51:48) goes on a bit longer than usual as we’re covering one of Nick’s favourite superhero comics ever: Black Panther (1998) #1-5 by Christopher Priest and Mark Texeira.

As ever, we spoil all our topics pretty egregiously. Use the timestamps to avoid any you’re sensitive about. Also, we suffered a few technical sound problems while recording it, but hopefully Nick has edited the bulk of them into oblivion.

Oh, and if you want to hear us talk more about the promotion and purpose of DC Rebirth, we did that a bit back here in MFV #2.

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psylockeA couple of slightly superfluous minutes cut from our X-Men: Apocalypse segment, as we discuss possible storylines and spin-off properties for future X-Films, along with a pondering of Psylocke’s role and a small smattering of Hardcore Ending Spoilers. (Seriously, an element of the final showdown in X-Men: Apocalypse is just casually described. Don’t listen if you don’t want to know.)

And if you want to listen to the full podcast this was trimmed from, including our full X-Men: Apocalypse review plus Preacher and Green Room, you can click here!

xmenapocalypseIt’s our eighth episode, the fourth to feature a major superhero movie! But at least there isn’t another one until Suicide Squad in August! We start with X-Men: Apocalypse (3:22), then move on to cape-free TV comic adaptation Preacher (23:34). After all that, we finally watch an all-original film, namely horror-thriller Green Room starring Patrick Stewart as a Nazi (43:21).

And then we leave the realm of narrative entirely for our recommendation feature, as Alastair suggests the Cammell Laird Social Club album by irreverent post-punk band Half Man Half Biscuit (53:27).

Spoilers abound, especially for the X-Men movie. Beware!

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One thing that I have learnt from being an amateur writer, attending writers’ groups and reading a lot of unpublished work, is that there are no bad story ideas, there are only story ideas that are executed badly. Romeo and Juliet is a story that is older than Shakespeare, but it endures because storytellers create original versions. A more recent example is Avatar: The Last Airbender (a good TV show) and The Last Airbender (a bloody awful film). Both essentially have the same story, but one tells it well and the other tells it appallingly.

With this in mind, I saw Kill Command at the Sci-Fi London film festival. On paper, Kill Command seems like a generic sci-fi film: a group of soldiers are engaged in maneuvers against new military AIs. There is a problem with the software, and the machines attempt to kill the humans. The soldiers find themselves in a fight for survival against an army of robots that are intelligent, quick-learning and deadly. Continue reading →

Hi! Nick here, and since there are no excess clips from our latest podcast (because we’re such fine pros), I thought I’d tap out a blog post for the website on something I’ve been thinking about lately – also a topic I can’t discuss at length on the show as Alastair doesn’t care at all. Yes, it’s the DC superhero twin shows Flash and Arrow.

I’ve been observing the difference in their love interest situations – Flash is still trying to put our hero together with Iris West, his original comics girlfriend/wife, whereas Arrow long ago ditched canon ladyfriend Laurel Lance (aka the superhero Black Canary) in favour of largely-unrelated-character Felicity Smoak. So which one has a better approach to wringing romance out of comic books? And how does one adapt long-running comic relationships into new TV shows without it getting odd? Well, let’s dive deep into that!

NOTE ON CANON: The old school canon love interest in the Green Arrow comics is Dinah Laurel Lance, so evidently the producers of Arrow do not think “Dinah” is a cool name for a main character.

NOTE ON SPOILERS: Spoilers up to and including around episode 21 of both shows’ current seasons, including any major deaths. Also a brief talk about love interests in Captain America: Civil War. You have been warned.

And now, to avoid anyone who didn’t want to see spoilers by accident, I’ll put a cutaway and a picture. Last chance to run.

Continue reading →