The problem with boxing movies is that there are only two possible stories to tell: 1) A boxer trains hard, overcomes adversity, and wins, or 2) a boxer trains hard, overcomes adversity, and loses. Occasionally you get a boxing movie that throws a little extra juice into the formula, either by supplying a twist (Million Dollar Baby), or by using side plots as co-dependent metaphors—boxing is life and life is boxing!—like in Rocky and The Fighter. But no matter how you tinker with it, boxing movies only ever come in two varieties, win or lose, which means escaping clichés is virtually impossible. It’s the inherent problem of boxing movies, and it’s a problem that Southpaw, written by Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) and directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), can’t overcome. Also Southpaw is incredibly stupid on a fundamental level. Continue reading
A week late, oops.
Bro this movie is terrible, bro.
After a thirty year hiatus director George Miller returns to cinemas with the long-awaited fourth installment in his Mad Max franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road. This movie had a famously troubled production, going over budget and falling behind schedule, but sometimes nightmarish film shoots end up producing true cinematic gems (see also: Apocalypse Now, Jaws, The Hurt Locker), and this is undoubtedly the case with Fury Road. It’s a gonzo blockbuster of epic scale that pushes reset on the CGI-dominated spectacle of mainstream movies. It’s simultaneously a dumb movie about people in a wasteland chasing each other in souped-up cars, and a smart movie about feminine assertiveness and agency. Fury Road is gorgeous and exhilarating, but it’s also an elegantly told story that requires no exposition to understand. Continue reading
Every time a Marvel movie comes out, someone inevitably complains about the “low stakes”, saying that because we know what movies will be coming out for the next however many years, we know everyone will survive and that death in the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t really matter because no one stays dead anyway. This is true—Captain America, Agent Coulson, Groot, Bucky Barnes, Nick Fury, and Pepper Potts have all had fake-out deaths. And before Avengers: Age of Ultron even hit theaters, we knew that Hawkeye would be appearing in next year’s Captain America: Civil War, so despite rumors that circulated for years, we knew Hawkeye would not die in Ultron. Even Pietro Maximoff’s late death in Ultron has an air of impermanence about it, simply because everyone else has come back to life at some point. Why not him? We know Joss Whedon would prefer that he stay dead, but who says Marvel will honor Whedon’s wishes?
When comparing The Avengers to its follow up, Avengers: Age of Ultron, I have described Ultron as more “thematic”. The Avengers is super fun but it’s not really about anything other than being fun, but Ultron actually has some creative and narrative aims that give it some heft in the comic book genre. Narrative and character threads that have been unspooling for the ten previous movies come to bear in Ultron, and then they spin out in new directions, setting up events to come not by dropping irrelevant Easter eggs but by shifting the landscape around the Avengers in such a way that there can’t help but be consequences down the line. Ultron expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe in ways that will change it forever—not for nothing is next year’s marquee Marvel title Captain America: Civil War.
The most prominent female superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Natasha Romanov, aka Black Widow, has made appearances in four movies over six years: Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and now Avengers: Age of Ultron. This forces us to take Natasha not as different iterations of a character but as a constantly evolving singularity. Her arc is less of an arc and more of a Rubik’s cube, with different facets aligning to reveal new elements to her character.