Thursday, 26 April 2012

Film Review: The Avengers

Marvel's plan to unite four separate super-hero franchises into one gigantic movie has been an ambitious and risky undertaking, and it could have very easily turned out to have been a whopping big mistake. Thankfully, it most certainty hasn't been a whopper; The Avengers is a fantastic film that does a great job of balancing it's extensive ensemble cast and also raising the bar for future super-hero films. Justice League who?

Friday, 13 April 2012

Feature: Failed Book to Film Franchises

Disney's John Carter

Under the weight of blockbusting mega franchises like Twilight, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, it's easy to forget that there are plenty more than fall by the wayside. So many fan favourite books from popular authors fail to translate onto the big screen. First up...

John Carter (2012)

Life lesson for Disney; no matter how many millions you throw in the direction of a classic sci-fi novel, it doesn't convert into an instant hit in film. John Carter, based on the 11-volume Barsoom series that were published from 1912 (!) to 1943, bombed so hard it made a hole the size the planet on which it is set in the pockets of the poor Disney studio that developed it.

With a 250 million dollar budget, John Carter is steadily making back its expenses but it has not gone well for Disney. Strangely, it did well in Russia. Huh.

Chance of spawning a sequel/franchise: Next to nil

Stormbreaker (2006)

As a fan of the original Anthony Horowitz book on which this film was based (and subsequent eight sequels) I'm not afraid to admit that Stormbreaker didn't hit the mark. Alex Rider, the series' protagonist, is a schoolboy caught up in a Bond-esque caper with spies, gadgets and all that jazz.

Sounds great on paper, but the film didn't draw in audiences and any plans for adaptations of the other (and actually increasingly better) Alex Rider novels were scrapped. 

Chance of spawning a sequel/franchise: After all this time, slim

I Am Number Four (2011)

Released last year, I Am Number Four is based on a novel of the same name by Pittacus Lore. A planned series of six novels, the current two books are unlikely to see the light of day in cinemas after the first didn't do as expected.

Plugged as a successor to Twilight, I Am Number didn't attain the same media whirlwind the vamp/wolf orgy did. Still, it made enough to justify a sequel so maybe we'll see a sequel sooner or later. Stranger things have happened *cough* Indy 4 *cough*

Chance of spawning a sequel/franchise: Slim to moderate

The Golden Compass (2007)

Based on the first novel in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, The Golden Compass was one of the most expensive projects undertaken by studio New Line Cinema. Packed with stars like Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Eva Green and Ian McKellen, the film had franchise potential written all over it. 

The film however was written off as being rushed and lacking by critics and the chance of there ever being a sequel to The Golden Compass is slim. With such strong source material, it could well have challenged the likes of Potter and Narnia.

Chances of spawning a sequel/franchise: Next to nil

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

An adaption of the first three books in the series of the same name, A Series of Unfortunate Events had big stars (Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep) and a distinctive visual style but somehow still didn't manage to gain enough momentum to sustain a sequel. 

It's a shame because Snicket is the most enjoyable film out of these five. It was fun, over the top and kooky, all ingredients that can be the makings of a family film franchise. 

Chances of spawning a sequel/franchise: After nearly 10 years, very slim

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Burma VJ

Starting out as a small-time documentary, the 2008 film Burma VJ is something everyone should get on-board with, especially since the small South-East Asian nation is now front and centre in the media spotlight again. 

One of the most oppressive and restrictive governments on the planet, the Burmese military junta has shaped the way Burma is ruled for over 40 years. After anti-government protests in the country flared tensions in 2007, news of the riots were spread across the globe. Starting small and making waves through the public, the campaign of civil resistance were crushed brutally and swiftly by the government.

Burma VJ is complied together with footage that was smuggled out from Burma as well as reconstructed scenes of the Thailand editing suite in which the film was made.  Released in 2008 when the "Saffron Revolution" was still a hot topic on the media's lips, the film took the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature that year.

The film is unapologetically brutal in its depiction of the riots and the subsequent military action. There are no reconstructions of the protests and riots. All of these sequences are actual footage taken by hidden cameras; being caught filming in Burma ensures arrest and torture. The films protagonist, Joshua, risks his life to get word of the injustice to the worlds media and it really connects with the viewer. They show the revolution in its entirety; from initial murmurs on the street to full-scale tear-gas drenched riots in alleyways and across barricades. 

Burma VJ is harsh and unforgiving, in the same way the Burmese government is with its people. It doesn't avoid the fact that people are captured and tortured, that the protesters are hunted and killed. It is very close to the bone. Fully deserving of the Oscar, Burma VJ is eye-opening cinema that doesn't sensationalize and play up the drama for shock effect like a Michael Moore film. It is real and genuinely affecting.

With the recent by-elections giving the country its first slim (and I mean slim) glimpse of democracy, watching Burma VJ is a real eye-opening experience of how little attention is given to the struggles that the Burmese people undergo on a daily basis. It tells an important and heart-wrenching story in a brutal fashion and sheds light on a corner of our world that is usually shrouded in darkness.
If you haven't seen it before, now is your chance. 


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