Tag Archives: cinema

286 – Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Listen on the players above, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

In 2017, Justice League, DC’s answer to Marvel’s continuing Avengers crossovers, flopped. Director Zack Snyder had left the film several months before release, his role taken over by MCU regular Joss Whedon, and significant changes were made in an attempt to lighten the tone of what had so far been a rather bleak series. Immediately, talk erupted of a director’s cut – the so-called Snyder Cut – that would represent Snyder’s true vision, uncompromised by studio executives’ fears and directives. Initially no more than a meme responding to that film’s quality, it was given oxygen by Zack Snyder’s insistence that it did actually exist, and it now reaches us via online streaming in the age of Covid-19. There’s perhaps no other set of circumstances in which it would have been made real – on top of the original budget, the creation of this director’s cut cost some additional $70m – but what an opportunity to compare and contrast two versions of the same film.

At four hours in length, this is a version of Justice League that would never have seen a theatrical release, but the time it affords its characters to develop is welcome, and a huge improvement over the sketchy treatment some of them received in the original film – particularly Cyborg, played by Ray Fisher, who arguably becomes the central character in the Snyder Cut. We discuss and disagree on the decision to change the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 to 1.33:1, which José loves but Mike considers a mistake, and look over a few key scenes and shots to explore the differences between Snyder’s and Whedon’s aesthetics.

And we discuss that new ending, additional scenes which help the Snyder Cut conceive of the overall story as epic, mythological fantasy, and more.

It’s a surprise to us both that we enjoyed Zack Snyder’s Justice League as much as we did, but there you have it. The four hours flew by and if this leads to the studio’s renewed interest in completing Snyder’s planned series, we’re up for it.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

271 – Soul

Listen on the players above, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Occupying some similar thematic terrain to Coco, Pixar’s 2017 masterpiece, Soul uses an afterlife-bound journey with a tight deadline to explore what it is that makes us human, in the context of a life devoted to music. When Joe, a music teacher and passionate jazz pianist, dies in a classic open manhole cover accident, his soul, now separated from his body but desperate to live, escapes an A Matter of Life and Death-inspired travelator to Heaven and ends up in the Great Before, a meadow populated with unborn souls preparing for their upcoming lives. Mistaken for a mentor, he is assigned 22, a cynical, sarcastic soul with no desire to live on Earth, and when he tries to return to his body, she accidentally comes with.

As well as to Coco, Mike finds Soul comparable to another of Pixar’s films: Soul handles philosophical concepts the way Inside Out did psychological ones, rendering them visually imaginative and narratively physical. ‘The zone’, where people describe themselves when feeling that transcendent state of flow when an activity consumes them, is in the Great Before a real place that Joe and 22 visit; the unborn souls develop personality traits signified by Boy Scout-style badges. The storytelling is economical and concise, characters’ priorities and attitudes smoothly and legibly changing as their goals and relationships shift. It’s a beautifully told story.

José considers the social and economic setting of Joe’s life, the music he loves and the barber he visits, about whose life he learns – the film humanely understands people and hardship without wallowing in despair, finding space for joy. We wonder how well it will play to kids, thrilled that Pixar refuses to speak down to its audience, if a little unsure about how much will translate to the younger members of its target audience. Predictably, Mike finished the film in tears, despite an ending he found to be overly mechanical and inorganic.

Soul is a beautiful, wonderful film. To José, it’s a masterpiece. To Mike, possibly not, but only because Coco exists. See it.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

38 – Coco

(Mind out for spoilers, we don’t do a good job of warning of them here. After the plot synopsis at the beginning, expect spoilers throughout.)

Pixar’s extraordinarily vivid, rich Coco tells the story of a young Mexican boy who dreams of life as a musician, stranded in the Land of the Dead. Themes of sacrifice for family, liberation and expression through music, remembrance and commemoration of loved ones and more are explored, and a culture that is typically ignored or stereotyped – or walled off if a certain someone has his way – is allowed to explode onto the cinema screen. It’s as warm, funny, and imaginative as anything you’ll see all year, and we adore it.

José is reminded of his dear abuelita. Mike cries.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

34 – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Boy oh boy, there’s a lot to talk about, and the word of the day is denial. Specifically, Mike’s unspoken, subcutaneous, existential denial that 1995’s Jumanji is crucially meaningful to him, because how else can you explain the tension in the air as he grapples with the simple question, “Do you recommend the new Jumanji?” Ironic, really. The new Jumanji depicts characters who are forced to confront harsh truths about themselves, and in doing so forces Mike to confront the fact that he can talk about Jumanji for an hour with very little prompting.

And that new Jumanji provides a surprising amount of food for thought. We discuss how the film uses and satirises videogames, how much it made us laugh, the Jonas Brothers, Mike being a sucker for a happy ending as usual and José rolling his eyes, the stereotypes from which the central characters are built, how the film has its sexist cake and eats it, the ways the stars play off each other and suit their roles, aspects of performance, the muddled nature of the world and fundamental change in the characters’ relationship to it, how much harder it is to play videogames than it is to watch films, moviegoers’ over-investment in films from decades past, and last year’s Power Rangers movie.

And it’s a name-heavy edition of the podcast, with José getting names wrong left, right, and centre, and a final, authoritative correction of our pronunciation of Jia Zhangke’s name. (Thanks to Sam and Jessy Stafford for their contributions.)

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

20 – Justice League

Listen to our podcast on Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the director’s cut, here.

Some days you just can’t help but mock a bad movie.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

19 – Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

We visit Sidney Lumet’s classic version of Murder on the Orient Express to compare and contrast with Kenneth Branagh’s. Which performances do we prefer, what do we make of the differences in style and tone? José, with Poirot-esque precision, interrogates Mike, because it’s his first time seeing the 1974 film, and indeed it turns out that Mike is the real murderer.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

18 – Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Innocence meets experience. Mike doesn’t know whodunnit; José remembers the 1974 adaptation fondly. Mike wants to talk plot; José wants to talk cast. Mike’s enthusiastic about the film’s Poirot-centric approach; José is less keen. Although we approach it from different angles and don’t always see eye-to-eye, we find a great deal of food for thought in Kenneth Branagh’s film of Agatha Christie’s classic novel.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

17 – The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer becomes a kind of litmus test for our morality. Mike finds Barry Keoghan’s vengeful teen hateful; to José, he’s a hero. This is a film that, under discussion, opens you up more than you are able to open it up.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

15 – Thor: Ragnarok

A new thing from Marvel. Is it better than the average thing from Marvel? The seats certainly moved, we can say that much, and that is an acceptable substitute for character and plot.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.