Photo: IMDB

Red Sparrow: A Spy Thriller, Without The Thrills

The film, Red Sparrow, capitalizes on America’s renewed Russo-phobia. Central to the film is the fact that many in the west believe we won the Cold War, while many in Russia believe the Cold War never ended. While I agree with the sentiment completely, I do feel that the film simplifies decades of U.S. -Russian international relations into terms which can easily be digested by those who pre-November 2016, could scarcely find Russia on the map. While simplified it is does introduce to the masses three monumental facts of national security: (1) there are more Russian spies in the United States now than during the height of the Cold War, (2) Russian intelligence collection programs are built around long-term goals, and (3) the Cold War never ended, despite the fact that too many westerns believe it did.

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TOTY award

VOTE: Trailer of the Year Award

Welcome to Smash Cut Culture’s annual Trailer of the Year Award.  This is the inaugural year and we are excited to showcase six of the year’s best trailers. It will be up to you to determine which of the six should take home the top prize.

Before we continue, we must address the big elephant in the room, or rather, the big bantha in the room. You will notice that there are a total of zero Star Wars: The Force Awakens nominations.  This was done for one reason, it would have been a completely pointless contest because anything Star Wars on the internet, wins.  I equate it to long discussions about who was the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, in that there are no long discussions because of Jerry Rice. There are long discussions about who is the second best NFL receiver, but the top spot belongs to Rice.

So to keep this interesting and still interactive, Star Wars trailers are banned from contention. Because for the foreseeable future,  there will be a new Star Wars trailer released every year that breaks the internet.  That is unless The Force Awakens turns out to suck, then all bets are off.

Now that that is out of the way, on to the nominations of which each will introduced by a top YouTube comment.

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Joy

Trailer Tuesday – Joy

The first trailer for the new David O. Russel film was already profiled in this space a few months back, it was nominated for Smash Cut Culture’s Trailer of the Year award.  That trailer was more of a teaser as it didn’t divulge much about the story only the promise of something worthy of $15 and 150 minutes of your time.  The full trailer has just landed and simply doubles down on that promise.  Oscar winner, Jennifer Lawrence seems to channel Michael Corleone by the end after opening up the 2 1/2 minute trailer with, “Don’t ever think the world owes you anything.  Because it doesn’t.  The world doesn’t owe you a thing.” Preach it sister.


Trailer Tuesday: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part I”

unnamedA few weeks ago brought about a largely defining moment in many young adults’ lives; a moment that everyone has been waiting for. Okay, maybe not everyone, but a fair chunk of people across the world have been wanting to see this trailer for a very long time.  The first half of the final whole to the “The Hunger Games” trilogy-turned-quadrilogy is released this November.  With that moment rapidly approaching (or not so rapidly depending where you fall on the fan-scale), the final full trailer for “Mockingjay: Part I” has been released!
All joking aside, I am a huge fan of this franchise.  When it was first announced that the third book would be released into two films, it felt more like a gimmick than anything.  I’m sure it still probably is, but seeing as how the third book was the most daunting to get through due to the lack of action, this could actually work to its’ benefit.  See, with book-to-film adaptations, so much of the book has to be cut due to the running time of the film (amongst other reasons, of course).  However, with this story in particular, they can just cut all the boring crap and stretch out those action scenes as much as they need to, while still filling in the gaps with important story and plot details.  That’s my theory of the approach based on this trailer.  DISCLAIMER: I’m about to go full-blown nerd, so if you haven’t read the books or seen the previous films, you may be a little lost by the end of this.

unnamed-1Right off the bat, we are faced with an even darker world than what we’ve seen in the first two films.   A heartstring-pulling voiceover from Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has her confronting the enemy saying she never wanted any of this to happen and that she simply wanted to save her family.  This is especially strong to start off with in this trailer because it reminds us of the simple life that Katniss has come from, and what she’s gone through to get to where she is.  Then, along comes President Snow (Donald Sutherland) saying somethin’ like “You suck, Katniss, we’re gonna kill everyone you love!” (I’m paraphrasing).  Anyway, what we take away most from this trailer is that Katniss really wants to get her lover Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) back from the grips of the evil Capitol, run by Snow.  When she finds out Peeta is alive, after being held captive, she makes it her mission to get him back.  All of this is followed by several shots of Katniss in the newly formed District 13 becoming the symbol of the revolution, known as the “Mockingjay,” taking charge, giving hope to the hopeless and blowing things up with her amped up bow-and-arrow bomb combo thing.  This makes for what should be an action-packed Part I; hence my initial theory of “out with the boring and in with the guns blowing up futuristic aircrafts.”  Overall, it could have been a tad better, as it didn’t quite reach the chill-inducing level that I hoped for.  However, it does ratchet up the stakes and makes for some seriously exciting, thematic entertainment while maintaining human and relatable characters.

Any other “Mockingnerds” out there ready for this to hit theatres like NOW-ish?! Well, we have to wait until November 21st, but it will be worth it!

A Look Back: X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Comic

So you’ve seen the X-Men: Days of Future Past, the movie, but have you read the original comic book?

That huge movie event has its origins in Uncanny X-Men #141 and 142, just two little old issues from 1980 written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne.

X- Men Uncanny #142
X- Men Uncanny #142

Warning:Spoilers ahead for the comic book; movie spoilers won’t exceed what you see in promotional materials.

Shortly before Days of Future Past, the Claremont/Byrne team made use of another classic storyline, The Dark Phoenix Saga, which resulted in the death of Jean Grey. Cyclops quit the team after that, and leadership duties fell to Storm. In fact, DOFP was her first mission as team leader. The rest of the “present-day” team consisted of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Angel, and 13-year-old newcomer Kitty Pryde, all under the guidance of Professor X. (Hank McCoy/Beast was an Avenger at this time, following an unsuccessful attempt at spinning him off into his own solo adventures.)

The “future” of the comics’ storyline is 2013, and the robotic Sentinels have taken control, similar to what we see in the movie. A new character named Rachel uses her mental powers to send the adult Kate Pryde’s mind back to her teenage body, at a time before she had been trained to shield herself from any mental attacks.

That’s why Kitty is chosen as the time-traveler—she was the novice. In the movie, they need to send someone back to 1973, before Kitty was born, and since  Hugh Jackman is the star, so writers took liberties with her phasing powers and added “passing people through time” to her usual skill of “passing through solid objects.”

Unlike the movie, her objective is not to save the life of the Sentinels’ inventor, but to save the life of Senator Kelly, whom moviegoers met in the first X-Men film.

Mystique still plays the role of assassin—or rather, leader of a group of mutants out to kill the senator as a show of mutant strength.

Days of Future Past is Mystique’s first appearance in the X-Men comics. She had debuted a couple of years earlier as a nemesis for Ms. Marvel (a non-mutant super-hero and Avenger who today is experiencing a surge of popularity among comics fans as Captain Marvel).

At this point, the comics’ Mystique has no personal ties to Charles Xavier or Magneto. There are hints that she has a connection to Nightcrawler, and we later learn she’s his biological mother. Additionally, Mystique is the foster mother of Rogue, who is about a year away from her comics introduction.

Jennifer Lawrence gives a great performance as Mystique in DOFP, but hers is a more youthful portrayal, a disillusioned young woman whose path and personality haven’t been set in stone yet. From the beginning, comics Mystique comes across as worldly and set in her ways. However, both incarnations are willing to do whatever they feel is necessary to protect their fellow mutants.

Also of note, Professor X and Magneto didn’t even have any personal history at this point in the comics either. Their past friendship was retroactively inserted into continuity about 20 issues later.

X-Men Uncanny #141
X-Men Uncanny #141

Wolverine is a bit more psychotic than Hugh Jackman’s more mature portrayal. At a couple of points, he’s ready to impale a bad guy with his claws, and Storm goes out of her way to stop him and issue a stern warning that he will not slay anyone on her watch. It’s a nice little mid-battle moment giving us an early glimpse of Storm’s leadership potential and reminding us what a shame it is that Halle Berry’s Storm isn’t more fleshed out.

While the present-day battle is a pretty basic brawl, the future scenes were more groundbreaking at the time, as we see our favorite characters in a world in which they’ve failed and don’t have much else to lose. And we see them die. This is basically The End of the X-Men—a true “last stand.”

It’s pretty dark at a time when comics were regarded as kids’ stuff (and indeed, most of them were).

DOFP packed a lot of story into two issues. Modern comics would expand this into at least a six-issue storyline, if not an 18-part crossover across six different X-Men titles.

The writing style is somewhat dated. Claremont tends to be verbose, with characters often saying exactly what they feel.

Still, these comics are worth reading. That goes for the full Claremont/Byrne run, which ran from #108 to #143. They’re fun and exciting whether you’re 10 or 40—as great comics should be.