Friday, 30 June 2017

Wonder Woman Review

It was only last year's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), the second entry in the DC Extended Universe, that first introduced us to Princess Diana of the Amazons (Gal Gadot). Better known as Wonder Woman. During the midst of the chaos that was caused by the fallout of Batman and Superman's differing ideologies, Wonder Woman, who had spent the majority of the film posing as her alter ego Diana Prince, stepped onto the battlefield and showed the boys how it's done. The intrigue and enigma that surrounded this character can be seen as one of the few highlights of Dawn of Justice, but can Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman (2017) save the faltering DCEU?

Wonder Woman tells the story of Diana, a princess who lives on the hidden island of Themyscira, with the rest of the Amazons, who were created by Zeus to protect the human race. After saving the life of pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who tells the Amazons of the Great War, Diana travels to the battlefront of World War I as she believes that the god Ares has returned and started the war in a bid to destroy mankind. Wonder Woman brilliantly mixes fantasy with history, in a similar bid as Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) did, seeing an other worldly character in the midst of a historical battle is something that can easily be seen as overtly out of place. However, Jenkins manages to perfectly blend the boundaries of reality and fantasy.

The narrative itself does give in to the standard superhero formula that viewers around the world have come to expect from films such as this; the hero is established, the hero follows their moral compass and decides to help fix a problem, the hero ultimately overcomes their obstacles and is victorious. However, it is extremely difficult to overly fault Wonder Woman for following this narrative structure as it still has its own twists and turns as well as making up for it in so many other areas. Most noticeably the performances. Gadot brings a perfect blend of grace, intelligence, fortitude and beauty to her role. She delivers an incredibly likeable Wonder Woman to her audience and wins them to her side in no time at all. The same can be said for Pine's Steve Trevor, he brings a great deal of life and soul to a character-type that is usually reserved to simply be a love interest for the protagonist. And, despite playing two almost polar opposite characters, the chemistry between Gadot and Pine is real and absolutely brilliant to watch. They are brilliantly, and comically, supported by Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave Rock.

One of the most refreshing things about Wonder Woman is seeing a female lead at the helm of a superhero film, especially during this current age of 21st century feminism, as this is a first for either DCEU or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Diana also doesn't fall into the naive "woman out of time" role, despite being in a completely different world and culture she maintains her composure and isn't afraid to stand up to Steve's army superiors when she believes that their actions are immoral, and goes as far as to state that they should be more like the Amazonian Generals, who fight alongside their women instead of standing at the sidelines.

A final factor that can also be viewed as refreshing, especially for the DCEU, is the quality of the action sequences. Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman were both guilty of rather rushed, messy fights scenes. Something rather shocking when you come to think of how much of a lover of slow motion shots Zack Snyder is. So, it's extremely pleasant to see such extremely graceful yet sleek action shots, espiecally those involving the Amazons, whose movements are juxtaposed against their sluggish enemies.

Long story short, Wonder Woman is the first decent entry into DC's shared universe and will hopefully set the standard for Justice League (2017) and its other successors. If Wonder Woman is anything to go by, there is hope for the DCEU yet.



Friday, 23 June 2017

GLOW: Episode 1 Review

Over the past few years Netflix has taken the world by storm and is changing the way that we view our films and shows with its original content. We've seen success after success, and viewers have become accustomed to high quality content. On June 23rd they presented us with a new show exectuively produced by Jenji Kohan, the creator of Orange is the New Black; GLOW. Set during the 1980s, it follows aspiring actress Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) as she auditions for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling as a last chance bid to save her career. Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, GLOW, did you get it?

The first episode starts during an audition in which Ruth appears to deliver an epic monologue for a male role by 'mistake' to her casting director, who is quick to point out that she's reading the wrong part and that the only words that she has to deliver are meant for the bubbly secretary; "Sorry to interrupt, your wife is on line two." After her brash attempt at an audition falls through and she graciously turns down an offer to perform in porn, Ruth agrees to follow a tip off about a role that leads her to the conception of GLOW.

It's story is something a little different; this isn't women in a typical environment, it's women who have been employed to kick seven bells out of each other. In the 1980s. GLOW's narrative flow might be something that has been done before; it's a show about the plight of one woman and her supporting characters, but there is a certain je ne sais quoi characteristic to it that still makes it seem so shiny and new. It promises us characters that won't be walked all over against a backdrop of a time in which women were overly sexualised and walked all over (particularly in media, anyway). 

The Pilot does a great job at fleshing out its protagonist, we get to see the different sides of Ruth; her strength, her humour, her vulnerability and her tenacity. When her friend Debbie (Betty Gilpin) suggests that she should give up on her acting career to get married and have children Ruth only becomes more driven to pursue her true ambition, and when she is denied a place in GLOW she doesn't go home to cry and eat her feelings, she wears her duvet like a cape and practices Hulk Hogan-esque wrestling moves and catchphrases. Besides Ruth, we also get a decent glimpse at a diverse bunch of women who have also joined this budding television show, all of whom leave us wanting to know more. From the meek and mild to the insane and angry, GLOW offers a platter of fantastical wrestlers. However, in the midst of all the oestrogen, is the absolute scene stealer Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron). Sam is the mastermind behind GLOW, the main source of wisely cracked lines and the definition of risqué. He is clearly unafraid to push the limits and boundaries of the women in his employ and everyone will want to stick around to see what the repercussions of his actions are.

Overall, GLOW's first episode gives its all. It proudly screams "GIRL POWER" at the top of its lungs and serves us with (lady)balls to the wall characters, an awesome soundtrack, rather glamorous wrestling and enough drama and comedy to shake a stick at. Oh, and a lot of heart. Don't forget heart... Or cunt punches. Expect those too.



Saturday, 17 June 2017

Trips to Tragedy: Dark Tourism

Have you ever found yourself interested in macabre? Possibly wanting to visit somewhere associated with it? Then you will want to look into the concept of 'dark tourism'. Dark tourism is defined as "tourism that involves travelling to places associated with death or suffering" and Chris Lloyd's short film, Trips to Tragedy: Dark Tourism, explores the obsession that most people have with visiting places that have tragic pasts. The film explores specific cases such as people visiting Cromwell Street in Gloucester to see the house in which Fred and Rose West killed and buried their victims and the Welsh village of Aberfan, in which 116 children and 28 adults were killed when a spoil tip collapsed into homes and a school in 1966. The most intriguing thing that Chris explores in his film, after the concept of dark tourism itself, is the moral complications that it causes. Is it acceptable for tourists to visit places such as these and furthermore, is it acceptable for businesses to profit off them?

For me, there are different levels of dark tourism. Not all dark tourists are out to fulfill some form of sick kick. For the past 70+ years people have visited sites of tragedy such as the holocaust camp Auschwitz and the city of Hiroshima, which was destroyed by the atomic bomb. These sites may fall under the dark tourism umbrella, but at the same time they are sites of historical importance which people can visit for educational purposes as well as to pay their respects. However, there is definitely a more corrupt side to the matter. For example, Trips to Tragesy: Dark Tourism sees Chris meet a man who is running an actual bus tour around Bridgend, the town in which 26 people killed themselves as part of a suspected suicide cult. Not only is making money off the suicides incredibly wrong, but creating a tourist hotspot when there are still people grieving for those who died is rather disrespectful.

Can it be argued that we all have at least an inner dark tourist? For me, my dark tourist spot comes in the form of 77 Barton Street in Macclesfield. I have been a massive fan of Joy Division since I was in my early teens, and as I grew older I began to understand and appreciate their music more and more. I became enthralled by Ian Curtis' lyrics and always wanted to know what influenced him and where his ideas came from. Only we'll never truly know. On May 18th 1980, after battling epilepsy and depression, Curtis hanged himself in the kitchen of his home on Barton Street. So, what possessed me to visit this place? Was it the fact that Curtis lived there? Or was it the fact that he died there? I don't really know how to put the reason for my visit into words. I suppose that being near the place that Ian Curtis, whom is an icon in my eyes, spent his last moments gave me a sense of being close to him. Interestingly enough, the issue of morality comes into play once again as a super fan allegedly purchased the property in 2015 and plans to turn it into a Joy Division museum. Is this something to be celebrated? Or is it an act of disrespect? Curtis left behind his wife and daughter, so how would they feel about having their former home, and the place that a member of their family commit suicide, turned into an attraction that someone else will use to earn a profit?

Ultimately, dark tourism and an interest in the macabre is something that has been engrained in human history for centuries. Roman citizens would flock to see Christians being savaged by lions, and prior to the invention of television people would seek entertainment in the form of watching executions. So, perhaps in today's society that in no way condones actions such as these, dark tourism is the 21st century answer to getting our fix of morbidity.

I would like to thank Chris for getting in touch and sharing his film with me. Make sure that you go and watch it here and let us know your opinions on dark tourism.

You can find Chris on Twitter here.

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