Jokerside Top 10 Posts of the Year: 2015

Jokerside best posts 2015

The results are in – which posts from the Jokerside were the most read in 2015? From dystopia to horror to platformers to clowns, there was something for everyone…

  1. Waterworld at 20: We need to Parley about Mariner (July 2015)

The Mariner sinks - Waterworld at 20One of the single shots from the Dystopia series, there was no way Jokerside could ignore the 20th anniversary of Waterworld. A huge reaching addition to big budget future-set blockbusters, it’s as much of a dramatic disaster as it is a flop. It made money and has lots to teach modern disaster cinema. Still notorious 20 years on, it’s impossible to overlook the sparing desolation, the beautiful filming, solid retro effects and fine sense of humour in what’s proved to be quite the influential film. Jokerside came to praise…

“Waterworld may never escape its reputation, but it’s never going to disappear. There’s a dash of Snake Pliskin, a helluva lot of Max but essentially it’s a pirate film. Eight years later Pirates of the Caribbean would pull a neat trick on the two Kevs, taking set-pieces and settings from Waterworld while hitting many of the narrative beats of Prince of Thieves. And that’s a real anomaly at the pirate box office, a very successful one. As dystopia has risen again to remind us that it’s still around sunken cities and post-apocalyptic action will continue to grace the big screen.

And really, for all the criticism, let’s not forget that the three Universal Studios are still running Waterworld attractions to this day. And inventive side-effect from an inventive film. Never forget Waterworld’s last line: “It’s more than that” – and so it is.” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned this winter as the Dystopia Series draws to a halt on The Planet of the Apes. Ka-boom…

  1. Doctor Who: Silence – Fooling you twice the same way (Whovember #11 Alpha) (March 2015)

The Eleventh Doctor and the Silence that must fallA surge into the top ten for just one of the Eleventh Doctor retrospectives. The New Series restructure has pushed the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors near the top of the pile in terms of stories. While the Doctor’s 51st birthday saw Jokerside revisit the Tenth Doctor’s tendency to meet historical celebrities.

The Eleventh Doctor’s tortured and twisted tales demanded a three apart retrospective as Jokerside took on the nefarious overlapping plots of the Silence. Quite possibly the biggest mixed bag in Doctor Who. The first part took a look at the prolonged plans of the Silents that didn’t involve their memory averse high priests the Silents. The summary, mid-way through makes it sound all rather exciting, while capturing some flaws that were never solved…

“Of course the something that abducted the TARDIS and blew it up, destroying the universe in the process, isn’t uncovered. The Silence, whatever it is, is still out there. But this Doctor, like his successor, are in no great rush to find out what could have easily accomplished this horror show. Narratively this is a far stronger force than the Pandorica Alliance; the greatest threat he’s ever faced. But then again, it’s a whole new universe and there’s an Egyptian Goddess lose on the Orient Express that’s far more appealing (or possibly not, as it’s contradicted by Series Eight). The Silence are off the hook and would need a Plan B, if they could possibly realise they failed what with it being a wholly new universe and everything… Fortunately, that night aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor’s companions are providing the Silence with just such a second chance…” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned for Jokerside’s customary celebration of Doctor Who in November 2016. And first, this March we’ll be taking a look at the episode that saw showrunner Steven Moffat make Who history…

  1. Super Mario Bros. the Movie! Dystopia hits the Mushroom Kingdom (September 2015)

Super Mario Bros at 30 - MarioAnother one-shot in the series of Dystopia, the 30th anniversary of gaming icon Super Mario’s first solo adventure was the perfect time to revisit his sole Hollywood outing. Another film mired by, it was unfortunate to kick-start videogame big screen adaptations. It’s flawed certainly, but the creativity and ambition behind a film that’s almost never shown and fairly difficult to get hold of should trigger mass-reappraisal. At the very least it remains a vivid lesson.

“The terrible tone issues don’t affect Super Mario Bros. cult status, but they do lessen the chance of a brightening reappraisal. Hollywood’s infatuation with videogames comes not just from their inherent merchandising, but also their in-built audience and huge money earning (as well as surely a wary glimpse at its parallel and media rival). Few chances to merge the two have managed to fulfil the potential and that sadly started here. Ultimately Super Mario Bros. manages to do a disservice to itself and the game franchise while being immensely watchable and on occasion visually stunning. Its greatest injustice is that such a glorious adventure ended with the opposite legacy: two decades later an increasing raft of videogame adaptations are now expected to fail, following standard formulas with the need to break ground being felt less and less.” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned for Jokerside’s widening look at videogames – particularly a special glimpse at James Bond on consoles coming soon…
Read more…

Escape Back to the Planet of the Apes: Page to Screen

Planet of the Apes Part One

Last year Dawn of the Planet of the Apes navigated its change of cast and director to match the critical acclaim and exceed the box office of its predecessor. Already raking in more than the original five film cycle, Fox’s key apocalyptic franchise is clearly back to stay. And Hollywood is richer for it.

In the first of four simian long reads, Jokerside looks to the far future of Pierre Boulle’s original novel and the two Charlton Heston starring adaptations that kicked off one of Hollywood’s major franchises by ending the world…

THE APES ARE BACK. IN SO MANY WAYS THE ARCHETYPAL ACTION FRANCHISE, PLANET OF THE APES IS ALSO ONE OF THE STRANGEST. It’s the first two scenes of 2001 all wrapped up, when it wants to be. It’s humanoids versus humanoids, but not one of them is an invader from outer space. These aren’t machines from the future, but ambassadors from hummanity’s past. Man’s destruction may lie in his own hands, but the winners aren’t built by them; it’s anti-robot to the point of schadenfreude. Not only are apes waiting for man at the end of time, but against all odds, technology in the thrall of the cosmic joker, serves up a man of our contemporary to witness it. It’s one thing that man is destined to destroy himself, but quite another that he’s forced into subjugation, robbed of almost everything, even language, only for a cynical, desperate forefather visit the future to witness it. That just rubs salt in the wounds of our mute, enslaved, distant ancestors. There’s no simple extinction to offer man an easy way out of this universe. The apes are coming and it’s a good thing that Creationists will have stopped reading by now…

Post-apocalyptic action-fiction has never waned since its inception – around about the publication of Mary Shelley’s The Last Man in 1826. And she was no one hit wonder. 189 years later, this year has seen George Miller’s Mad Max bring the genre resoundingly back to the cinema. But a few years ago, Fox’s greatest franchise found a less bombastic way to drag its own brand of dystopian horror back to the big screen. That’s proved a great success. In creating two superb, intelligent and brilliantly produced films during this ‘reboot’ Fox has somehow managed to gross over a billion dollars. It elevates a franchise that burned so brightly through the late 1960s and early 1970s before floundering for three decades – and just about disguising the fact that the Apes films were never riddled with quality as much as they were ambition. Still, on their celluloid attack, the real strength still comes from dipping into the marvellously broad canvas painted by a trinket of a book published in 1963.

Read more…

Mad Max: “The Long Road to Hollywood”

Mad Max Even further beyond the Thunderdome

As Mad Max roars back to the cinema, the second of Jokerside’s glimpses back at the original trilogy. As the gas ran out on the Road Warrior he reluctantly found himself in the middle of a highly influential, lean second film and then an extraordinary stab at Hollywood excess. (Like the man himself, a few mild Fury Road spoilers fade into the mix near the end). 

“Ruthless…
Savage…
Spectacular”

SO RAN A TAGLINE FOR MAX’S RETURN TO THE BIG SCREEN IN 1981. IN SO MANY WAYS THE FIRST FILM WAS PERFECTLY SELF-CONTAINED… BUT IT ALSO LEFT A WIDE OPEN ROAD IN FRONT OF THE ROAD WARRIOR. And George Miller, feted by a Hollywood that offered him the reigns to films like First Blood, couldn’t resist exploring that world with a higher budget. The first part of this retrospective looked at the essential Max Factor, those crucial bits of legend that feed through the entire franchise. It took an extra-long look at that opening 1979 film, an extraordinary piece of revenge with a proud place in the grand tradition of the Australian road movie. That first film could have gone anywhere, where it went was beyond expectations.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

“Only One Man Can Make a Difference”

This is it, the film that all other Mad Max pictures need to live up to. It set the template from the middle of the trilogy, the leanest and most influential of three different visions… Remember we left him a broken man without hope? Now, he’s fully set, cold and survivalist. This is the cue that Fury Road picks up, rewriting the second instalment more than others. Like the James Bond comparison that keeps coming up, Max can lose his Interceptor twice in part two and four, just as Bond meets Blofeld twice in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice. And if there’s any part of this diverse trilogy that Fury Road should mimic it’s the second one.

This is the film that makes the favourites list of directors like Fincher, Del Toro, Cameron and Rodriguez. A film that followed one of the greatest budget-to-box office success stories of all time, and somehow managed to extend the story, drama, depth, action and potential of the franchise. It had a budget 10 times the original, built the biggest film set Australia had ever seen and managed to film its script in order. Oh, and only gives its leading man 16 lines of dialogue.

Here Max comes into his own. Gibson cuts an iconic figure in the Frankensteined leather, cuts and mismatched clothing explained by the injuries that concluded the first film. Striking, solitary, threatening, stunning. It’s a deep, dark study of a man with heart-felt character touches. The film raises its game to match, allowing not just for broad sweeps of the desert outback, but the mass of converging vehicles the original couldn’t stretch to. Chasing, sparring and locking spoilers. It all creates a heady mix revolving round the impassive Max.

The Silent Type

“If you had contract it was with him – and he died with it”

The dark figure of Max has been condensed, and the film feels no pressure to recap the events that created him. Very few concessions are made to explain his actions and general self-serving, self-survivalist nature. But there are sparing and effective glimmers that play with it. One of those comes with a music box mechanism, much like one that was set to appear in Fury Road but seems to have ended up on the cutting room floor. Left alone, after watching quietly main villain The Humungus articulate his offers to the refinery outpost at the heart of the film, Max passes the mechanism to the Feral Child who had inflicted the most damage on the marauders though secret passageways. Resolute for much of the film, Max doesn’t show emotion at thee death around him, nor even at the loss of his Falcon later on. He’d equipped it with a booby trap, so would never have let him become too attached to even his precious wheels. But when he impassively considers this Feral Kid and passes him the mechanism he took earlier from a crashed gang member, he almost manages a smile – albeit a mirthless one. It’s superbly carried by Gibson, taking a firm grip of one of cinema’s great men of few words. But it’s also so much more. Set five years after the first film, the Feral child isn’t far off the age his own child would have been. And like Max, the child’s left without anyone – although lucky enough not to be saddled with the knowledge or tragedy of the previous world. And tellingly, this scene comes just after Feral Kid has inflicted the kind of emotional trauma on villain Wez that helped to create Max. So the tragic cycle of this world keeps turning.

Yes, it’s five years later and society has moved on, even if not up. But also, Max is far from the urban decay and loose infrastructure of the first film. In that time, deep in the outback The Humungus has amassed a gang of berserkers. A far more formidable crew than Max encountered half a decade before.

Read more…

Mad Max: “That other George Franchise” and its Essential Max Factors

Mad Max - The Essential Max Factor

Mad Max roars back to the cinema this week, with the kind of high-budget epic that’s far removed from its budget-constrained, gritty beginnings. Although if anything, Max madder than he ever.  Simultaneously complex, mysterious and furiously simple – a look back at the franchise built around a man’s mental collapse. First Up, a (spoiler-filled) look at the 1979 original and those essential Mad Max Factors.

“You don’t want to make Max mad,
Because when Max gets mad,
He gets even”

WHAT IS IT ABOUT GEORGES AND THEIR FRANCHISES? George Romero has his brilliant Dead trilogy, now of two parts after expand it in the last decade with a looser follow-up trilogy.  Then of course, main beard George Lucas saw the turn of the century as the perfect time to expand his original Star Wars trilogy. Being very kind, neither of those extensions matched the heights of the originals. So it’s left to one other George to right the record. And as Australian visionary George Miller heads back to his Mad Max franchise 30 years on, he’s certainly not running on empty.

All those original ‘George Trilogies’ ended between 1983 and 1985, and while Max’s return comes later, having escaped a great deal of production, it stands a good chance of writing a wrong. To fulfil the franchise’s potential as one of Hollywood’s major properties. Miller always had higher blockbuster ambitions for his main work, last seen limping slightly from Hollywood in 1985. Amassing awards for other films, from drama to animation, he’s certainly not lost the passion for his first cinematic son.

The Originals

Every film has a different flavour

So what of that original trilogy? It’s an incredibly varied work, released over six years but crossing 20 years of narrative chronology. It hardly sits unique in the genre of Australian road movie, but it’s surprisingly un-repetitive. Maybe it’s tracking the disintegration of humanity, maybe through time passed or distance made from an apocalypse. But really it’s about the destruction of one man. The first film took its time defining and then breaking a legend in waiting who would haunt the next two films like a ghost as the world found new ways to fall around him. If there’s redemption on offer he falls on it by mistake and never sees it to fruition.  It’s astonishing that the first film is dedicated to Max’s origin, but more so that once he’s created and voyages further into the dark heart of dystopia he’s resolutely fixed. It’s a study of a man who has everything taken away, and becomes a single stable point in a new world that’s often bustling either for hope, anarchy or a new capitalism. But it’s open to interpretation. He’s an anti-hero, but no longer either the good man he professes to be in the first part nor a villain, despite his clear homicidal criminality at the end of that same film. Perhaps not so much a good man than a broken man in waiting; a fragile personality that simply can’t accept change or loss.

Read more…

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