Tag Archives: lbom: editorials

Ready To Feel Ancient? The Matrix Is Twenty Years Old

Originally released on the 31st of March way back in the space year of 1999. The Matrix was the brainchild of Andy and Larry Wachowski the then Wachowski brothers… that’s a whole other article in itself. The Matrix changed cinema for years with it’s groundbreaking effects work. But it was not a film that was all looks an no substance, The Matrix is a flick that can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Just watch it as a kick-ass action romp and enjoy it on that level – or delve into its more philosophical elements and how it questions reality and existence.

I still remember the day I went to the cinema to watch the film. You have to bear in mind that we are talking about a film made by relatively unknowns. This was only the Wachowski brothers (yes I know, but at the time they were brothers) second film after the taught and incredibly sexy and stylish thriller Bound from 1996. Bound was very much an underground hit. It had it’s fans (I’m one) but it was hardly Hollywood blockbuster material – so expectations were low for The Matrix. Then there were the stars like Laurence Fishburne who now is instantly recognisable, but back in 1999? He was known as that guy from the Tina Turner biopic or Max from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Carrie-Anne Moss, aside from some bit-parts in T.V. shows, she was unknown and The Matrix was her big breakthrough. Hugo Weaving was perhaps even more unknown than anyone else in the main cast unless you were Australian. Joe Pantoliano had already had a steady acting carer by the time 1999 came around mainly playing bit-parts and character roles. He starred in the previously mentioned Bound… and that’s about all he would’ve been known for back then unless you were a die hard Goonies fan.

Plus it was a time when the internet was still till in its infancy, we didn’t have super-fast fibre optic broadband to watch trailers with, no social networks to spread the word, no smartphones to catch up on movie news on the go… it was a very different time.

The Matrix Cast

Oh and there was some guy by the name of Keanu Reeves. Yeah a household name now but not back in 1999, he was really only known for comedy rolls like the Bill & Ted films and small indie films. I guess the action flick Speed could be seen as his foot in the door of action cinema but he was still hardly known as an action film star afterwards in the same way he is today. It’s not as if Speed was to Keanu what Die Hard was to Bruce Willis. So really with The Matrix you had writer/directors not really know for anything with a cast of actors no one really cared about. It was not an easy film to see any merit in.

So yeah, quite honestly I had zero interest in the film. My brother called me up and asked if I wanted to go to the cinema – I had nothing going on so said yes. Didn’t see any trailers, paid no attention to who was in the film or who made it. Had no idea what I was going to watch just went along because I was bored and had nothing else to do. I went into the film 100% blind. But when I came out of that cinema? The first thought that went though my head was that must have been what it was like to have seen Star Wars at the cinema for the first time back in 1977. I felt that The Matrix was a game changer as if cinema had just taken several jumps forward not just in terms of effects work but also storytelling. I just knew then and there that The Matrix was something special, that people would still be talking about it decades later… twenty years later and here I am.

The Matrix Pills

But the big question is, two decades later, does The Matrix hold up? We live in an age where films date quickly. I’ve certainly seen films in the last decade or so that feel old only months after release. Yet some films are timeless no matter when they were made – The Matrix is one of them. Aside from some of the questionable technobabble and dated references/technology (remember when everyone wanted one of those Nokia flick phones?). The effects are still impressive, bullet time may not hold the impact it did when you first saw it, but it still looks good and just as satisfying as ever. The fight sequences are as exciting as they were back in 1999. Shoot outs are heart-pumping, that lobby scene is still one of the best shoot outs ever caught on film. As an action picture, The Matrix delivers. But it’s not just the impressive action sequences and still amazing effects work that hold up after twenty years. It’s the writing, the storytelling. It’s when you really get into the deeper aspects of The Matrix when the film comes to life.

The basic of good vs evil, human vs machine is nothing special I admit and yes the whole fulfilling a prophecy, being ‘the One’ shtick got tiresome. The love thing between Neo and Trinity was trite. Yet it’s the questioning reality, self-existence and everything that comes with it where the story excels. The multi-layered and textured story telling is fascinating and I love getting lost in the questioning of reality, the two worlds shown in the film – the simulation that is The Matrix and the real world of a desolate future where humans are dying out compliment each other perfectly. When Joe Pantoliano’s Cypher wants out of the real world by betraying his crew mates and when he is offered to be reinserted into The Matrix with a whole new life. The line “ignorance is bliss” he says speaks volumes. Seriously, given the choice of living in on a dead planet being hunted by machines, fighting a war that seemingly has no end or living in ignorance inside The Matrix is a tough call. I can’t be the only person who has often wondered if there is something better out there, something other than the life we believe is all we have?

The Matrix Gun

I’m going off on bit of a tangent here, but I quite honestly could write lengthy articles just on how deep The Matrix goes.  I don’t mean to get into questioning one’s own existence but just to look back at The Matrix after two decades and see if it still holds up. It does, very much so. Having just re-watched the film for the first time in a good few years – I still found it thoroughly entertaining. As I said earlier, it’s a film you can watch on so many levels. Yes it’s a great action flick, but it also asks and addresses much deeper themes and ideas if you really look beyond what is shown on the screen.

I’m not a fan of DVD commentaries, I find it’s usually full of nothing but overpaid people inflating their own egos by making themselves sound like cinematic geniuses. But the commentary for The Matrix is very different and highly unique. Instead of having the Wachowskis harp on about how creative and insightful they are, they decided not to do the commentary themselves. Instead what you get are two commentary tracks. One is from two film critics that didn’t like the film, while the other is from two philosophers who did. The two commentary tracks are amazingly interesting and show how one can perceive the film from two very different standpoints. The critics are negative but bring up several interesting flaws (some stupid ones too). While the philosophers, understandably get deeper into the subtleties of the story. Their polar opposite views really are interesting to hear and yet they really work together. Well worth checking out. I came out with a very different view of The Matrix after listening to the two commentary tracks.

The Matrix Kung Fu.gif

The Matrix is my generation’s Star Wars. Even two decades since it’s release, there just hasn’t been anything like it… plenty of imitators that have tired to delve into the depth The Matrix offers, countless flicks doing similar/same effects work – and yet none of them have managed to capture what made The Matrix so special, not even it’s own sequels and spin-offs.

It’s a film that is still talked about twenty years after it’s release and will probably still be talked about in another twenty, and still relevant in today’s cinema. Even films coming out soon like to throw in a The Matrix reference now and then, it seems even Keanu Reeves himself can’t escape them…

 

“Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is. You’ll have to see it for yourself.”

 

– Morpheus

Advertisements

Will Avengers: Endgame Do A Bobby Ewing?

SPOILERS ahead for Avengers: Infinity War.

It’s been a long time coming. What Marvel Studios have crafted with their shared universe is nothing short of genius. Whether you like the films or not, you can’t help but admire the sheer amount of planning, writing and overall work put into it. From separate flicks to interconnected ones and sequels. Films from so many different writers and directors all coming together to form one huge multi-layered universe. In short, it’s really bloody impressive. And everything has been leading up to to this one movie – Avengers: Endgame will see the resolve to the whole Infinity Stones/Thanos story arch that begun a decade ago and after last year’s Avengers: Infinity War which left many people with their jaws on the floor –  shit needs sorting out.

Infinity War Thanos

A lot of characters died in the last film… a lot. Some of them a shock, some of them no so much when you already know Marvel have planned films in advance… I’m looking at you Spider-Man. Still, the ending to Avengers: Infinity War has left a lot of fans theorising over exactly how the whole Thanos killing half the population of the entire universe is going to be resolved and how the many dead characters will return. And it’s one the most popular theories that is leaving me worried about Avengers: Endgame.

See this theory (click here for a full explanation) revolves around how and why Peter Parker is wearing the normal Spider-Man suit in the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer when the film is set after the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Because Tony Stark gave Peter the Iron Spider suit which is far more advanced… so why isn’t Peter wearing the better suit?

Well the theory goes that what is left of the Avengers will somehow reverse time (possibly something to do with the Quantum Realm/Ant-Man and Captain Marvel) to an earlier point and stop Thanos or at least stop him from collecting the Gauntlet/Infinity Stones to begin with. No Thanos means no Infinity Gauntlet, no Infinity Stones, no clicky finger thing = no 50% of the universe are wiped out. Which also means Stark never needs to give Parker the Iron Spider suit… ergo, that’s why he does not have it in the new Spider-Man film. That’s the theory anyway.

Infinity War Iron Spider

You want to hear my theory? Well Peter Parker goes on an international school trip in Spider-Man: Far From Home, an international trip that involves going on an aeroplane. Which also means going though airports and airport security. Now, which do you think would be the easier of the suits to get through airport security? The normal Spider-Man suit or the Iron Spider one? Another theory could be he does have the Iron Spider suit, but you just don’t see it in the trailer but it will be in the film. 

Of course there is one thing my theory does not explain… how the fuck is Peter Parker alive anyway when he most definitely was turned to dust by Thanos’ clicky finger thing? See this is where the turning back time thing holds some water. Again, Spider-Man: Far From Home takes place AFTER the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame and Spider-Man be dead at the end of Infinity War, but now he’s alive after these events?

Infinity War I dont feel so good

So let’s just say that yes they do turn back time and yes they do stop Thanos from collecting the Infinity Gauntlet/Stones (theory). So now everyone that died in Avengers: Infinity War can come back from the dead for (some of) Avengers: Endgame and subsequent films. I have a major issue with this because its lazy just writing. You can’t just hit the reset button after ten years of building to this entire event. All these flicks, all these characters, all these interweaving stories and plots… and they are just going to Booby Ewing it? Everything has been simmering away for a decade to reach this boiling point while Marvel have been carefully pre-planning each and every movie years in advance… only to say: “You know that whole Thanos murdering half of the population of the universe thing? Well it didn’t happen, in fact a lot of the events you have been emotionally invested in the last ten years didn’t happen… okay so technically they did but now we’re going to delete it so they didn’t.”

No, just no. You can’t do that to people who have invested hours up on hours into your movies – not to mention the cash fans have spent supporting this story line. It would be such a slap in the face if (IF) the time travel/stopping Thanos thing was the plot for Avengers: Endgame. Not just for the fans either as it’ll be cheating the characters in the film if they don’t have to deal with the repercussions of everything that happened in Avengers: Infinity War. Again, this is just a fan theory, maybe there will be no time travel at all? I hope not.

Still, I guess we’ll find out in a little over a month’s time when the film is released…

Bobby Ewing

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Neverland… Controversial?

I’m a bit of a Michael Jackson fan, I’m not one of those die hard, won’t listen to reason, he definitely didn’t do it types. In all honesty, I’m more inclined to believe he was a paedophile than not believe it. However, I don’t have any strong feelings or opinions either way. There’s too much time past to actually prove anything and I don’t think anyone will ever know the truth. But let’s just say that (for the sake of argument) it was 100% proven that he did sexually abuse children… I wouldn’t be surprised. That’s pretty much my stance on the whole thing.

MJ Bad

I grew up listening to his music and in my opinion, Bad was his last great album. After that, I think he lost his way musically and that’s when I lost interest in him, he got too ‘preachy’ in his music after Bad. So when the first wave of allegations came around in 1993 – I just didn’t really care that much and I’ve showed little interest since then with any other allegations made after those first ones.

Which brings me to this documentary that’s dividing opinions. Some say this documentary is full of shit, others think it’s a damning indictment that proves MJ’s guilt. Honestly, I really had no desire to watch it. As I said, I lost interest a long time ago. But watch it I have, we’ll the first half anyway. I didn’t watch it to form an opinion on the subject, I watched it due to the backlash that had come about due to its existence…

So far radio stations are refusing to play MJ’s music. The Simpsons producers have pulled the episode he featured in. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has removed all of it’s MJ memorabilia. Louis Vuitton has removed it’s MJ themed clothing from sale. As for MJ’s family/estate themselves… well let’s just say they’re not impressed. It seems this documentary has ruffled a lot of feathers. That’s why I watched because I’m trying to understand the effect the documentary is having. I mean, for big name brands pulling support and radio stations not playing his music and so on… there’s got to be something in the documentary that’s pretty concrete at proving MJ’s guilt… right?

So yeah, I went into this pretty much sitting on the fence. But maybe just leaning slightly in the he’s guilty camp, but as I said before – I don’t really have any strong feelings one way or the other.

Just a quick catch-up. Leaving Neverland is a four hour, two part documentary where Wade Robson and James Safechuck claim MJ sexually abused them when they were kids. They sit there telling their stories to the camera inter-cut with home video footage of these now grown men as kids along with MJ concert footage, etc.

Leaving Neverland Accusers

That’s all the documentary really is, just two grown men telling a story. Sometimes the families of the accusers chip in with a few comments, but it’s mainly just Wade Robson and James Safechuck telling of their relationships with MJ and how he sexually abused them over the years. This is where I have a big problem with this documentary as that’s it… just two guys telling a story. There’s zero evidence, zero proof of anything and just a case of ‘He Said, She Said’. The way both of them talk just feels disingenuous, it’s like they are reading off a script and not from the heart, as if they’ve practised and rehearsed each and every word and what you are watching is the best take of the day. Now I’m not saying that these guys and their families are lying… just that it feels ‘off’ and lacks genuine emotion.

As I said, this is a four hour, two part documentary split into two separate two hour parts and the first time any sexual abuse comes to light is around 40 minutes into the first part when James Safechuck claims MJ introduced him to masturbation. Then he goes on this soliloquy of quite unconvincing claims of various times he was sexually abused by MJ. There’s a part where Safechuck just lists rooms in the Neverland ranch and says “we had sex there” after each one. It all comes across as just being very “scripted”. I watch a few documentaries covering all sorts of subjects and I note how people often break down when they recount events from their past that have traumatised them. Here, there’s none of that. It’s really just two guys telling a story. A very emotionless and banal story. It’s a documentary with a lot of filler and not real meat to the stories being told. No need for this to be two hours long when what is told could’ve been told in 30-40 minutes.

The end of the first part just boils down to how Wade Robson became jealous when MJ befriended Macaulay Culkin (who for the record has always said MJ never abused him). That’s what this documentary comes across as, two now grown men jealous that MJ found other friends when they were kids.

If I went into this having no strong opinion but leaning more toward believing that MJ was guilty, then after watching this documentary… I not convinced of anything – innocence or guilt. Leaving Neverland has done nothing to sway me. This is why I’m not understanding the backlash the documentary is having. I don’t get why The Simpsons have pulled the MJ episode or why radio stations refuse to play his music and so on. Why are MJ’s family getting so upset when the documentary is so unconvincing? Because there is nothing here but hearsay. It’s a bad documentary that does nothing (in my eyes) to prove anything.

MJ Simpsons

As I said, I’ve only watched the first part. Maybe the real damning evidence is in the second part? Maybe that is where the meat and reasoning for this whole backlash, for the pulling of The Simpsons episode and everything else lies? The first part is two hours of sheer boredom and unconvincing stories and I just can not fathom the fallout the documentary is creating.

I’m going to watch the second part now and see if that can change my mind and help me understand why this documentary is so controversial.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

So I fucking love the T.V. show Black Mirror, I even did a write up of every episode from the first four seasons. A quick synopsis for those who do not know what Black Mirror is.

The show is an anthology T.V. series that uses technology as it’s backbone. Each episode is self contained and yet they all take place in one unique shared universe. These are dark and depressing tales often with a sting in the tail. Black Mirror is the brainchild of acerbic and satirical writer, Charlie Brooker. If you like miserable and dreary stories – then Black Mirror is perfect for you.

Season five is set to be released late this year and it had already begun filming last year. But it was pushed back from an earlier release due to something else. That something was Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. This is a special one-off episode.

This particular tale is one set in 1984 and tells of a young gaming programmer, Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) who comes up with and sells the idea of a video game that gives the player freedom of choice. The game is based on one of those amazing choose your own adventure books called Bandersnatch by writer Jerome F. Davies (Jeff Minter – legendary game designer). While writing the book, Jerome went mad and killed his wife.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Stefan

Stefan sells the idea to game publisher, Tuckersoft. But as Stefan delves deeper into the book and his game, things begin to unravel and history tends to repeat itself…

So this special episode is different to any other Black Mirror episode that has gone before it. You see, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is interactive. You get to make decisions for Stefan at certain points in the story and those decisions will shape the way the episode plays out. Some choices are very mundane from choosing which breakfast cereal to eat or what music to play (mundane, but still have an effect) to much bigger and important choices that will lead to one of numerous endings the episode has.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Music Choice.png

It has been said that there are five “proper” endings to the episode, but then there are so many branches you can take that lead to other parts that could be considered endings that even creator Charlie Brooker himself has said he’s not sure just how many there really are and everyone involved in the episode can’t agree on what constitutes as an ending, it has even been said that there are so many possible outcomes that some scenes may never be seen.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch aired on Netflix only a few days back on the 28th December last year. Yet fans have already been scouring the episode and creating flowcharts and maps to find each and every possible outcome. The view time can vary from 40 odd minutes to a couple of hours depending on your choices and around six hours of footage was filmed to be included for each path. I’ve been (I guess) “playing” this episode for a couple of days and seen a fair bit of it and various endings… but not all of them. But is it any good?

I grew up in the late 70s through the early 80s as an avid gamer, I remember and read a load of those chose your own adventure books back then too. And I really do love Black Mirror –  so this episode is seemingly tailor made for me. It’s like an amalgamation of many things I have a strong passion for.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch

The setting is amazing, the nods and references to 80s gaming and the decade in general is stunning and I broke out a nerd smile more than once throughout this episode. So many childhood memories wonderfully recreated through Black Mirror, the attention to detail is exquisite. Even the name Bandersntach is one that is carefully chosen as it references to a major misstep by one of the most influential British gaming publishers of the 80s (one of many subjects covered in my up coming book). There are great Philip K. Dick references, fourth wall breaks, self-referential writing and all sorts going on here. In that regard, I really loved this episode. I got so much enjoyment from just finding little Easter eggs and references, little sparks that kick-started memories from me growing up.

But as an episode of Black Mirror? It’s definitely one of the lesser ones. There’s no such thing as a bad episode of the show – but there are disappointing ones and this is one of them. The story is just a bit too bland for me and the characters not as well written as in previous episodes. The whole choice thing got tedious for me and I quite honestly just got bored of it all. I “played” though the episode four times, each time making different choices and I can’t really say I enjoyed any of them. There’s an element of Groundhog Day with you “resetting” back to a point and trying again, so be prepared to see the same scenes over and over and over again as you can’t skip them even if you’ve already seen it. A lot of the choices are so mundane they may as well not be there and there’s a lot of filler thrown in to pad out this illusion of choice thing.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Netflix Choice

There are some nice moments that made me smile, like Stefan realising someone (you) is controlling him and you can respond by telling him you are watching Netflix… which didn’t exist in 1984 when this episode is set. There are some fantastic gaming related choices that will mirror the game Stefan is creating and there are more than a handful of nods to previous Black Mirror episodes. It all gets very meta at some points (including one of the endings) and I love when writers do stuff like this. Brooker’s talent as a writer really does shine in some elements of this episode. But quite honestly, I’d have much preferred just having a “normal” episode without the choice thing with Brooker still doing all his fourth wall breaking and references.

But the story just doesn’t really do anything or go anywhere as it gets lost in it’s own gimmick. There’s no real hook, no punch as with other episodes. Give me White Bear, The National Anthem, White Christmas, Shut Up And Dance, Metalhead, Hated In The Nation or one of the other fantastic Black Mirror episodes in this format and it could’ve been something truly amazing. What you have here is a rather uninspired story that lacks the depth and whole Black Mirror ethos.

There’s a lot to find in the episode including an actual game you can play on a ZX Spectrum (you can play it another way too if you don’t have a ZX Spectrum handy) hidden away in one of the episodes. The game is Nohzdyve and it appears in the episode itself, the name of the game is also a reference to a previous Black Mirror episode too. It’s like an Easter egg inside and Easter egg. If you want to find it an even attempt to play it click here.

All in all, it’s a gimmick and one I just quickly got bored of to be honest. As I said, I “played” though the episode four times and I don’t see myself revisiting it to see the rest of the footage I missed. I saw one ending twice and the other two were just sight variations of each other. I’m really not all that bothered about seeing the rest, but I think I might enjoy it more if someone did and edit of the episode that just played out like a normal one with a defined start, middle and end.

To be completely fair, you can kind of watch it like that as you don’t have to chose anything and just let the episode pay out as is. It will select a choice for you and you’ll see a lot more scenes. But the episode will keep jumping back in time to a previous choice and select the other one to see the alternate path… it all gets a bit tedious as you watch and re-watch the same scenes over and over. As I said, I’d rather just see an edited version without the choices telling an A to Z story.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Reference.png

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a great idea, in places it’s brilliantly written too. But my enjoyment came from the 80s setting, the references, the nods to previous episodes, etc and not the whole interactivity thing – which I grew tired of. The story itself is one of the lesser ones in the Black Mirror library of tales. Maybe check it out for curiosity sake if you have a Netflix account, you might get a few hours of enjoyment from it.

It’s a nice little addition to whet the appetite while we wait for season five to come around. But not something I think will be revisiting.

Cobra Kai: The References

So earlier this year, a sequel T.V. show to The Karate Kid film franchise launched on YouTube Red called Cobra Kai. Picking up the story 30 years after the end of the 3rd film, the show continues the story of Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny’s (William Zabka) decades long rivalry. You can watch the first two episodes for free too on YouTube.

I didn’t have a lot of interest in the show at first, but when an old friend (thanks Mike) suggested I should check it out, I decided to do a full retrospective of the entire The Karate Kid franchise… and I ended up enjoying the show a lot more than I thought I would. Cobra Kai is a brilliant show, one that pays respects to the film series and yet does its own thing at the same time. I loved it so much that I watched the whole thing twice and it was while enjoying the series for the second time when I noticed a lot of in-jokes, references and call-backs to not only the film franchise but also fan theories over the years. The second season of Cobra Kai is filming as I type this and set to be released next year. So to pass the time until then, I thought I’d take a look a the many, many Cobra Kai references from season one. Now, I’m not sure that I caught everything but I’m going to cover as many as I noticed.

If you’ve not seen Cobra Kai yet then check it out as it’s brilliant. Also, SPOILERS ahead too as some references give away plot points.

Episode 1: Ace Degenerate

This one kicks off showing the fight that ended the original film. But it also features some new shots, angles and even previously unused footage not shown in the movie. Johnny still likes his red cars, in the show he now has a bright red Pontiac Firebird while in the movie he had a bright red Avanti convertible – I guess it would be too much to expect the same car three decades later. But it still shows that Johnny likes red cars.

Cobra Kai Johnnys Car

It’s also shown that Johnny is now living in the Reseda area of L.A., which is where Daniel and his mother moved to in the film. Plus Johnny is now working as a odd-job/maintenance man which is the same job Mr. Miyagi held. Then, when Johnny’s car is hit and towed away, the company is called “Pat’s Towing” which could (or could not) be a reference to Mr. Miyagi actor Pat Morita… maybe?

When Johnny and Daniel finally meet in the show after 30 years, Johnny makes reference to the fact that Daniel should’ve been disqualified as his infamous crane-kick hit Johnny in the face and it’s made clear at the start of the tournament that blows to the face are illegal. It’s a much discussed plot hole among fans of the film. Also while at the car dealership, Daniel introduces his cousin Louie and in the films he had an uncle Louie. There’s a chance uncle Louie named his son after himself.

Episode 2: Strike First

While talking to Miguel Diaz, Johnny recites a Cobra Kai mantra (“A man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy.”) and even signs off by saying “What is the problem Mr. Diaz?”. Which is exactly what John Kreese says to Johnny in the first film and even signs off by saying “What is the problem Mr. Lawrence?”.

When talking to his wife, Daniel mentions how he was pushed off a cliff while on his bike. Aside from some hyperbole from Daniel, he is referencing when Johnny and the Cobra Kai students pushed Daniel off his bike and down a hill in the first film. There is also a brief flashback showing Daniel teaching his daughter karate, he says “True karate is here, here but never here” while pointing to parts of her body from her head to her stomach. This is something Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel in the film.

Cobra Kai Daniel Flashback

Daniel invites his daughter’s boyfriend, Kyler round for dinner and at that dinner he mentions how he got his sashimi knife during his first visit to Okinawa which is a reference to the second film. Also during the dinner, Daniel questions Kyler on his injuries especially his black eye and hand. Mr. Miyagi also does this to Daniel in the first film after he is beat up by the Cobra Kai students.

At the Cobra Kai dojo, Johnny has Miguel clean the windows. Miguel asks if he should clean the windows a specific way… which is an obvious set up for a “wax on, wax off” joke, but Johnny says he doesn’t give a shit.

Episode 3: Esqueleto

While at dinner (again) and discussing his daughter going to the Halloween dance Daniel mentions him being a chaperone, he goes on to say how his mother used to drive him on dates which is a reference to the date he and Ali went on in the first film in which his mother drove the love birds.

Cobra Kai Original Date

As Johnny trains Miguel (rather brutally) at the swimming pool, he says “Cobra Kai never dies”, which is a reference to the mantra said in both the first and third films. Then at the Halloween dance later in the episode, Miguel turns up in the same infamous and iconic skeleton costume Johnny wore in the first film. And as Johnny is walking trough the school, he sees a picture of Ali from the first film.

Episode 4: Cobra Kai Never Dies

To be honest, this one is a little light on the references as it spends a lot of time with the new characters instead of the older ones. Well the title of the episode is a reference I’ve already covered with that previously mentioned mantra of the dojo.

This is a tenuous one I admit, but Daniel makes Bananarama pancakes for breakfast, Bananarama performed the song Cruel Summer which appears in the film. When Kyler and his friends bully Miguel in the library, one of Kyler’s cohorts says “I think he’s gonna cry.” This is the same line said by one of the Cobra Kai students to Daniel in the first film in the locker-room before the tournament begins.

Episode 5: Counterbalance

Johnny says “This isn’t a knitting class, it’s a dojo.” to Miguel. John Kreese says the line “This is a karate dojo, not a knitting class.” in the first film to Mr. Miyagi.

As Daniel sets up his dojo at home, he hangs a rule of karate on the wall, this is the same rule (rule 2) Mr. Miyagi has on his dojo and teaches to Daniel in the second film. Plus the country club Daniel frequents in the show (seen a lot in this episode) is the same club where he gets covered in spaghetti from the first film after seeing Johnny and Ali dancing together – the Encino Oaks Country Club.

Cobra Kai Daniel Karate Rule

As Daniel performs a kata near the end of the episode, he strikes the exact same pose he used in the third film’s final fight and the music in the background is the same as the music in the first film’s finale.

Episode 6: Quiver

This one opens with a young version of Johnny showing us his past. We see him ogle some motorbikes, which is something featured in the first film and then young Johnny discovers the Cobra Kai dojo for the first time. He looks through the window and can see and hear a young John Kreese talking to students – the audio used is taken directly from the first film. Funnily enough, the audio used is taken form a scene in the first film that Johnny was in.

Cobra Kai Johnny Flashback

Johnny teaches his students a simple one-two jab punch. This is the same punch John tells Johnny to use to warm up the students in the first film. Daniel is doing some katas when Robby asks him what he is doing. Daniel explains how they are the foundation to Karate, Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel the same kata and says the same thing in the third film.

Johnny walks past this students in the dojo saying “Fear does not exist in this dojo does it? Pain does not exist in this dojo does it? Defeat does not exist in this dojo does it?” John did the same thing in the first film.

Episode 7: All Valley

This one opens with a very familiar scene as Daniel has Robby do some chores around the car lot including waxing cars. This is Daniel teaching Robby Karate the same way Mr. Miyagi taught him. And when Robby is finished waxing the cars, Daniel asks “Both lots?”. This is a nod to when Mr. Miyagi asks Daniel to paint the fence. Then Robby get upset that he’s not being taught Karate at all and accuses Daniel of using him to just do chores, the same thing happened to Daniel with Mr. Miyagi.

As Johnny is looking through his karate magazine, he sees an ad for the All Valley Karate Championships. The design for the ad is almost identical to the original save some colouring and a date change.

Cobra Kai Ad

Miguel and Sam go on a date to the Golf n Stuff which is the exact same place Daniel and Ali went on their date in the first film. Many of the shots and actions are recreated too including the opening crane shot, having their photo taken in a photo-both, playing mini golf, etc. The whole scene is full of nods and references to the original film.

Johnny learns that the Cobra Kai dojo has a lifetime ban from entering competition. This is a plot point carried over from the third film when John Kreese and the dojo are given a life time ban due to the events of the film. It also makes sense that Johnny knows nothing about it as he was not part of the third film.

Episode 8: Molting

Johnny wears a red jacket in this one (he really likes red) and it looks a lot like the red jacket he had in the first film. Meanwhile at Daniel’s home, he gets a visit from his mother, Lucille and she is played by the same actress as the original film – Randee Heller. Lucille also references the time Daniel was pushed of his bike down that hill… or cliff according to Daniel. She also describes Daniel’s eyes as “baby browns”, something she did in the film.

Cobra Kai Lucile

Johnny recaps the events of the first film while talking to Miguel… only there’s a twist (more on that later). But he mentions several characters from the the flick including Ali, and some of the old Cobra Kai students. When Daniel trains Robby, he wears a baseball catcher’s mask and chest protector, just like Mr. Miyagi did with Daniel in the film. He also mentions about power coming out of one inch of his fist, which is what Mr. Miyagi also said to Daniel.

Cobra Kai Original Training

Miguel discovers his girlfriend, Sam with another boy. A boy she has no interest in, but Miguel misunderstands the situation. Daniel did the same when he saw Johnny and Ali at the country club.

Episode 9: Different But Same

Johnny arrives at Daniel’s house and says “You still can’t leave well enough alone.” This is a reference to the first film when, after the Halloween dance, the Cobra Kai students catch Daniel and Johnny says “You couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you, you little twerp?”.

While test driving a car, Johnny calls Daniel “Danielle”. One of Johnny’s fellow students, Dutch, also referred to Daniel as “Danielle” in the locker room before the big fight in the first film. Also while on the test drive, they stop at Daniel’s old apartment complex where he and hos mother lived in the first film. Then Johnny mentions kicking Daniel’s “ass around the corner”, which is a reference to the Halloween fight in the film. Of course Daniel quips back “how’d that end?” which is referencing Mr. Miyagi beating the crap out of the Johnny and the Cobra Kais.

Cobra Kai Halloween Fight Original

Then while at a bar having a drink together, Daniel and Johnny talk about the spaghetti calamity at the county club as well as well as referencing a few other things from the films including the opening of the second film. Daniel also says he knows where Ali is now (possible set-up for a cameo in season 2?).

Episode 10: Mercy

The scoreboard for the karate tournament is in the exact same style and colours as in the original film. The Cobra Kai gis are also the exact same style and colour as they were in the film. Of course the infamous crane-kick make an appearance when Miguel uses it to score his first point to mock Daniel. The whole tournament has plenty of references to the big fight from the film, Johnny making a fist aimed at one of his students – just as John Kreese did, the semi-finals are announced the same way, one of the Cobra Kai get disqualified for using an illegal move and many more.

Cobra Kai Crane Kick

Robby gets taken out of the competition with an injury, just as Daniel was. Then back in the locker room Daniel rubs his hands together, just as Mr. Miyagi did when readying himself to heal Daniel… only this version has a different resolve. Then when Robby returns to the tournament after his injury, the announcer exclaims, ” Daniel LaRusso’s gonna coach!” – which is a twist on the line “Daniel LaRusso’s gonna fight!” from the first film.

The episode ends with Daniel taking Robby to his old training grounds… Mr. Miyagi’s house. It’s complete with the old cars (especially that yellow Ford Super Deluxe convertible). Then they go into the garden and it looks just as it did in the film, all while the famous Bill Conti music plays in the background. Only that’s not quite the end…

Cobra Kai John Kresee

Back at the Cobra Kai dojo, Johnny get an unexpected visitor – John Kreese, his old sensei, still played by Martin Kove and with a big, fat stogie in his mouth. Setting up for a hell of a confrontation in season 2.

Bonus Reference

As a nice bonus reference. There has been a fan theory for years that Daniel was actually the bully in the original film and Johnny was the victim. Plenty of people have covered this theory and you can read one example here. Well in the show, Johnny is not really the bad guy. He’s a bit of a loser, a drop-out sure – but he’s also shown to be sympathetic and caring. While Daniel is shown to be a more antagonistic, likes showing off his wealth, popularity and success.

Cobra Kai Johnny Talk

It’s almost as if Johnny is the victim here and Daniel is the bully… kind of like the fan theory. In fact, in episode 8, Johnny tells the story of the original film to Miguel – but he tells it as if he was the victim. In-keeping with the fan theory thing. It’s a nice bit on the part of the writers to include such a reference and even base the whole show off.


 

There’s a lot of fan-service in the show (some references I’ve not covered, some I’ve not even noticed myself) yet it never feels forced. The writers have crafted a wonderful series with Cobra Kai that while fresh, still has one foot in the 80s and the original three films.

Bring on season 2, I can’t wait.

Not Your Usual, “Is Die Hard A Christmas Movie?” Article

Yup its that time of year again. The annual celebration we like to call Christmas is back and I bet that if you typed “is Die Hard a Christmas movie” into Google (or your choice of interwebs search engine), you’ll find dozens of articles all asking that particular question and all with differing answers. Most sites keep regurgitating the exact same article from the previous years too just with a few wording tweaks and many offer “a new poll” which, as I’ve noticed seems to switch results every year. Last year a poll said yes Die Hard is a Christmas film but this year it’s a no. It’ll be a yes again next year.

I have been writing this blog for a few years now and never bothered to offer my own insight and answer to this age old query, until now. Except I don’t want to do what everyone else does with a simple yes or no – I want to not only answer but also explain my answer.

This summer saw the 30th anniversary since Die Hard was released and I’ve been doing Die Hard based articles all year in celebration. So it only seem fitting to tackle this sticky subject as part of and to end my 30th anniversary celebrations. But before I get to my opinion and answer to the query, lets see what some people connected to the movie say…

Are They Right?

Die Hard screenwriter Steven E. de Souza already put his view across a while back and he says it is. However Bruce Willis has said its not when he was quoted during his comedy roast by saying:

“Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. It’s a god damn Bruce Willis movie!”

– Bruce Willis

Bearing in mind, that was (as mentioned) during a comedy roast. So I’m guessing Bruce was trying to be funny. Plus there is the fact he’s getting old and senile too – I mean back in 2007 he said that Live Free or Die Hard is better (at times) than the original.

“It’s at least as good if not better at times that the first film.”

– Bruce Willis

As I said, senile. So what Bruce says about the original being a Christmas movie or not is moot… seriously it’s as good as if not better than the original? Bruce needs to be put down – it would be kinder.

Now I Have A Machinegun

I suppose that is really the crux of my point, it’s opinion. When it comes to this question everyone falls into one of three categories.

  1. You have the naysayers, the ones that refuse to see Die Hard as a Christmas flick.
  2. You have the opposite, the ones who will say it is a Christmas movie every year until they die.
  3. Then you have the third group, the ones that just don’t give a fuck.

People say it’s not a Christmas film because it has nothing to do with Christmas… and they’re right from a plot point of view. Then there are those that say it is a Christmas movie because it takes place over Christmas Eve – but is that enough? For me, no. But I will come off as very hypocritical next as it’s now time for me to answer that yearly question – is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Well…

Die Hard Jumpers

Those are my Christmas jumpers for this year, what do you think my opinion is? Still, I said earlier how I don’t just want to answer but also explain my answer. And this is where the hypocrisy will come in. No, I don’t think that Die Hard being set at Christmas is enough to qualify it as a Christmas flick. I feel the same way about that other controversial choice too, Lethal Weapon. I love me some Riggs & Murtaugh and I think Lethal Weapon is a damn fine picture… but it’s not a festive flick to me despite it being set at Christmas just like Die Hard.

What Is A “Christmas Movie?”

Yet something like Batman Returns or Gremlins? Yup, I see those as Christmas films despite the fact they have little to do with the festive season other than the setting. I did pre-warn you about the hypocrisy. Die Hard gets shot down as a festive film just because it’s set at Christmas but the plot has nothing to do with the holiday… yet Home Alone is always lauded as a “Christmas classic” when it is only set at Christmas but plot-wise? What does a really annoying kid fending off two really fucking stupid burglars have to do with the Yuletide season? So what is Die Hard ignored as a Christmas flick because it has nothing to do with the season and only set in it – but others in the same boat get a free pass? You don’t see “Is Home Alone a Christmas movie?” articles year after year do you?

This line of reasoning can be applied to films that no one would argue against being a Christmas film. Take my all time favourite festive flick – It’s a Wonderful Life. Usually at near the top if not at the top of a lot of Christmas film lists…. but why? The opening of the film and the end are set in and around Xmas sure, but the majority of the story has absolutely nothing to do with the silly season at all. George Bailey thinking life would be better of he was dead is a story that could’ve been told any time of the year, not specifically Christmas. Yes it being (hardly) set at Christmas gives it a little lift, a bit more gravitas. But the core of the plot and meaning behind it – that could’ve been told in the Spring and still got the same message across right?

Its A Wonderful Life

What about the all time, undisputed classic A Christmas Carol? I love this story. No matter how many times it is told and re-told, I never get bored of it. Form the Alastair Sim starring 1951 Scrooge, the Bill Murray take from 1988 with Scrooged to the greatest version of the tale yet – The Muppet Christmas Carol from 1992. It’s a story that has been done dozens up on dozens and dozens of times from 1901 onward. Yet it’s another one that is considered a “Christmas classic” when it really has little to do with Christmas outside of it’s setting. Yeah I know what you are thinking – how dare I? But just look at the plot for a second. it’s about a miserly old man learning to be more generous and friendly. Let me put it this way, keep the same plot, same characters, ghosts everything –  only change the setting from Christmas Eve to October 31st and you have an effective Halloween film about a mean old bastard scared into being nice by ghosts of his past and even Death itself.

Seriously, What Is A Christmas Movie?

Of course there are films that are not only set at Christmas but also have a plot that is cemented in the festive season. Miracle on 34th Street as an example. It’s a film about a man trying to prove his is the real Santa Claus. It’s kind of hard to get a more Christmasy film than that. You can change the setting, but the plot is still about someone proving they are the real Santa. But what about something that features the real Santa but is hardly set at Christmas at all? I present the short film Father Christmas from 1991 based on the books by Raymond Briggs, the man behind another all time Christmas classic, The Snowman. Have you ever seen Father Christmas? (the short film not the real dude). It basically tells the story of what Santa does the rest of the year when it’s not Christmas. For those not in the know, he goes on holiday and says “bloomin'” a lot. It’s a film about Father Christmas that has little to do with Christmas itself… yet it’s a definite “Christmas classic”.

Father Christmas

And that really is my point, it’s hard to pin-down what makes a Christmas movie a Christmas movie. You can have Christmas films that have plots and characters centric to the season. There are ones that are only set at Christmas but from a plot point of view have nothing to do with the holiday. Then there are some that feature Christmas characters at the centre, but story/plot wise have little to do with Noël. So where does Die Hard fit into all of this? I said earlier how I don’t consider Die Hard a Christmas movie just because it’s set at Christmas. Yet I do see it as a Christmas flick none the less… and so this is where the explanation comes in.

This Is What A Christmas Movie is…

Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Rocky III. So what do all those films have in common? Well they’re all Christmas flicks. Maybe I should clarify, they are all Christmas films to me specifically. See here in England in the 80s when I grew up, we only had four T.V. channels at the time and these channels would always battle year after year to get the big films shown over Christmas, sometimes it would be a T.V. premier too. It was a wondrous time of year for the young film-fan me as I got to watch plenty of flicks. I’d probably watch more films over the 2 week Christmas holiday from school than I would the rest of the year. A lot of first time views of these films for me comes from Christmas and so they go on to be forever associated with Christmas to me personally, despite their settings, plots or characters. Then there is the other thing I connect Christmas to – family. I still remember and miss those family gatherings every year. Let me take one film from those above as an example with Rocky III and continue my explanation.

The film itself has nothing to do with Christmas I know. Yet the first time I saw Rocky III was on T.V. in the 80s over Christmas (I think 86?). I still remember the day vividly. Nan and Granddad came over on Christmas Eve and stayed with us. We opened our presents in the morning and I got an X-Wing, toy not a real one. We’d had a huge traditional dinner around 1 PM before The Queen’s Christmas Message came on the telly at 3 as Nan would never miss that. Me and my brothers got to play with our new gifts for a while before we had to tidy up. And then later that evening, Granddad snored away in his favourite armchair, sleeping off that huge dinner as the big film, Rocky III came on T.V. I sat on the sofa next to Nan and she put her arm around a 10 year old me and we both sat there watching Sylvester Stallone punch the crap out of Mr. T.

Rocky III

Whenever I watch Rocky III even now it reminds me of that Christmas Day and so is, for me, a Christmas film. it has nothing to do with Christmas, no Christmas characters, story or plot and not even a hint of a Christmas setting. Yet it will always be a Christmas movie because of that memory.

Same goes for Die Hard (finally), I don’t consider Die Hard a Christmas film because it’s set at Christmas, it helps I admit – but it’s not the reason it’s a Christmas flick to me. The reason is because I first saw it over Christmas. I was way too young in 1988 to go to the cinema to watch Die Hard. But when it was released on VHS, I remember my older brother Rob coming home one day with a copy and we watched it together a few days before Christmas. From that day in 1989 to this, I always watch Die Hard on Christmas Eve as a tradition. Now I’m an adult, I pour myself a large glass of Jack Daniels, plonk myself into a nice & comfy leather armchair, then sit back and relax as Bruce Willis shoots terrorists (who said they were terrorists?) in a skyscraper. I’m not satisfied until Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza. And I’ll be doing the same this Christmas Eve too 29 years after that very first time.

Hans Gruber falling

 

That is what a Christmas film is. It doesn’t have to have a Christmas theme or plot or characters, nor does it need to be set at Christmas either. A Christmas flick is one you watch over Christmas because it gets you in the mood, it sparks off a festive memory, a film you watch because it’s Christmas not because it’s a Christmas film.

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? For me, yes and it’s up there with the likes of Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, Raiders of the Lost Ark and of course Rocky III.

John McClane Christmas

Have a good Christmas folks. Oh and yippee-ki-yay mother fuckers.

But The Joker Doesn’t Have An Origin!

I actually meant to write this one a few weeks ago… but the Red Dead Redemption II release kind of took over my blog for a while and all I’d been doing was RDR related articles. Still, semi-normal service has now resumed.

So anyway, there’s a new film telling the origin story of The Joker being filmed right now called Joker as shown in that above early/test footage. Set to be released next year and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the titular Clown Prince of Crime. the film will be a stand alone picture not connected to the existing D.C. movie universe (thankfully). Yet some people are getting all annoyed with the fact that in the comics, The Joker has never had a definitive origin so a film version should not exist. Even the man himself either does not know or refuses to remember the person he was before he became Batman’s arch-nemesis. I suppose this article could be thrown in with my Comic Book Fans Have Short Memories article from a while back. I mean, It’s not as if Joker hasn’t already had an origin story on film is it?

How about Batman: Mask of the Phantasm? It was an animated film from 1993, a continuation of the very awesome animated T.V. show. This film shows one possible origin of The Joker. the fact the movie is also pretty damn amazing and a huge fan favourite helps… oh and it was nominated for an Annie (animation equivalent to the Oscars), sadly it lost out to The Lion King – but still goes to show just how respected the film really was and still is. People love this flick and it has an origin for The Joker.

Batman Mask of the Phantasm Joker.jpg

2016’s The Killing Joke also offered a possible origin for The Joker. Based on the graphic novel of the same name. When a struggling stand up comedian finds it hard to support his pregnant wife, he turns to crime and that lays down the basis for becoming The Joker. Oh and let’s not forget this…

Batman 89.jpg

Still my favourite Batman movie and yes, The Joker is given an origin. Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989 was a pretty bold movie in that regard as (correct me if I’m wrong)  The Joker had never been given an origin before, at least not on screen. I really loved the origin here too as it was Batman who created The Joker… but it was The Joker who created Batman first. They are two sides of the same coin.

Batman 89 Joker

Besides, we don’t really know all the details for this new Joker film as the plot is being kept tip-top secret. All we know is that Joaquin Phoenix is playing Arthur Fleck before becoming The Joker. But here are a couple of ideas off the top of my head of how the film could handle the origin story.

He’s lying. The film being made is just a lie told by The Joker. Kind of how Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight told a different story about how he got those scars. This film really could be The Joker just telling a fable of who he once was.

Or the film could be an anthology telling more than one origin story within one film. Look at the comics, they have a similar idea as The Joker has had multiple origin stories and none of them are definitive, they are just possibilities. Maybe that’s the plan to tell different origin stories in one film or even make multiple Joker films all telling a different origin and this is just the first one?

Joker 2019.jpg

Either way, point is. I don’t understand why some people are against this new Joker movie telling his origin… or at least one of his origins. It has been done before in the comics and movies several times over and this is just another version. This is a flick I’m looking forward to… so far at least. I have been stung by D.C. films in recent years so I’m very concerned about whether that can deliver a worthy movie or not. But at this early stage, I really like Joaquin Phoenix and think he could be a perfect bit of casting. It’s all very hush, hush right now with no one really knowing what the film will be about other then it being an origin story. The early test footage shows very little but I’m sure we will see more of the flick over the next few weeks and months.

Anyway, calm down folks. All these fans getting upset because its an origin and The Joker doesn’t have one. It’s been done before, pretty damn well too. This could be the start of something great… or it could be another D.C. movie disaster.