bunch of stuff i’ve written for the essential lately
There’s an unexpected mid-credits sequence in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The familiar doors of Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters open up in the middle of a tense scene in which the shape-shifter Mystique has to fight her way out of an army base. There’s no context provided, nothing to link it to the Spider-Man film it’s interrupting. This advertisement for Fox’s upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past (in cinemas May 22nd!) is the result of a contractual agreement between Fox and Sony, part of the latter studio’s acquisition of director Mark Webb (Webb was under contract to direct another film for Fox after 2009’s (500) Days of Summer). Product placement is a staple of the modern blockbuster, but a genuine advertisement, especially one for a franchise film from a rival studio, is truly bizarre; it’s also completely fitting of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a middling entry in a troubled series.
The ninth instalment in Marvel’s highly successful Cinematic Universe and the mid-point of its “second phase”, Captain America: The Winter Soldier breaks the MCU mould by committing wholeheartedly to genre; stepping out of The Avengers’ shadow as violently as possible by strip-mining the last forty years of action movies and video games. From claustrophobic Die Hard fight scenes and Mission: Impossibleplot twists; Bond villains hatching Minority Report-esque schemes between Fast and Furious car chases; casting that finds Robert Redford playing against Three Days of Condor/All The President’s Men type and Sebastian Stan doing his best Michael Biehn impersonation; and Metal Gear Solid stealth sequences leading into Street Fighterfight scenes, The Winter Soldier unashamedly draws from the past while firmly making its own mark on the genre.
That McCartney released both his most beautiful and most devastating love songs on the same record is a colossal achievement, but it’s also a calculated one. On “Here, There and Everywhere” he captures the apex of a relationship, that moment in which the mere presence of the one you love is your entire world. Love as a concept is tricky, something both universal and undefinable (The Beatles themselves explore this in Rubber Soul’s “The Word”), but McCartney comes closer than anyone to pinning it down in those two and a half minutes. Your heart swells, then five tracks later it all comes crashing down with “For No One”, a (the?) breakup song detailing the dying moments of a “love that should have lasted years”. It’s truly heartbreaking, both equal and opposite to “Here, There and Everywhere”; their mirrored placement in the tracklisting is intentional, with McCartney asking the listener to make the choice for themselves. For me, it’s always gonna be the good one.
The Raid 2 moves out from the original’s claustrophobic corridors in every conceivable way, with Evans staging set pieces on a much grander scale and making the most of every new tool at his disposal — crane shots, long takes, car chases — using the streets of Jakarta as his own personal playground. New characters are introduced (“Hammer Girl”, “Baseball Bat Man”) with incredibly specific, highly entertaining gimmicks (hammers, baseball bats), while Evans and Uwais hone their craft, experimenting in this sandbox and seizing upon every potential distraction. These indulgences breathe life into a film hampered by a strained plot that might have otherwise consumed it.