Blade Runner 2049 (Review)

Blade Runner 2049 (Review)

So I noticed that the wikipedia page for this movie doesn’t mention Ana de Armas’ character in the plot summary at all.  Someone should fix that.

If someone asks you what cyberpunk is, you point them to Blade Runner.  It was the film that defined what cyberpunk was, and always made one think about what exactly it means to be human.  And like any true fan, I was wary of any supposed sequel to the classic film.

Well, fear not.  This film is better than the original.  Seriously.  It takes what was so great about the original and expands on it.  The world of Blade Runner feels more real and more fleshed out.  Denis Villeneuve has such an eye for visuals that every shot is beautiful to look at.  Ryan Gosling shines in his subdued acting that he excels at.  The slow pacing is a style of movie that I enjoy greatly.

Which is why it pains me to say it but there are parts of the film that don’t work for me.  For one thing, the film is overtly sexist.  Women pretty much only serve as passengers for the men, to be used or ignored and aren’t really allowed to have their own story.  Ana de Armas’ character Joi is quite literally a hologram that Ryan Gosling’s character has that becomes whoever he wants her to be.

I’m still struggling with this aspect because the sexism blends so neatly into the dystopian world of Blade Runner that its hard to separate the two.  Of course this world is sexist.  The replicants are only considered products to be bought and used as the humans wish.  Property and slaves.

The major problem I have with the film concerns the third act and it’s complete lack of focus.  There are stories that have a neat beginning, middle and end for this movie but for one storyline, they are definitely leaving it up in the air for a potential sequel and it made the ending extremely jarring for me.  Build up with no pay off.  Plus, Jared Leto, for all his part in the film, doesn’t really amount to anything.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy the movie immensely.  It is by far one of the greatest films ever made, even with it’s flaws.  It’s beautiful and thought provoking with many hours in the future going to be spent thinking about what exactly was watched.

It (Review)

It (Review)

God, I told myself I wouldn’t watch this film.

I generally don’t do horror movies.  I don’t like feeling startled (not scared, startled), and I find most horror movies today relish in blood and gore instead of trying to make you feel scared.  I typically don’t like jump scares since all they really do is startle you, not scare you.  This in turn actually tends to hurt movies because since your heart is racing ahead of time during a jump scare, the next few parts that are supposed to be more terrifying aren’t that scary because you’re still coming down from the previous scare.

Enter It.  A movie adaptation of a book that gave me nightmares belonging to a genre that I don’t go out of my way to watch.  So, why did I like this It so much?

By all accounts, a great majority of the film is jump scare after jump scare.  We follow a group of kids who are battling a clown-creature known only as Pennywise the Clown, the titular It.  Before they can do battle, however, they each have to experience being terrified and hunted by It in their own way.  What tends to follow is a one kid getting terrified by It, followed immediately by another kid getting terrified by It and then a few minutes of character development and then back to terrifying the next kid in line.  It got to the point where, as I mentioned before, I was starting to feel numb to the scares.  Don’t get me wrong, they are absolutely terrifying, but as I got used to the movie, I got used to the scares and they stopped scaring me so much.

Perhaps this was intentional in order for we the audience can follow the growth of the kids who learn to master their own fears.  Ultimately, the main reason I liked this movie so much was the bond these kids have with each other.  They are each played wonderfully and play off each other realistically.  Each have their own story arc that the movie spends equal amounts of time with so that we know and care about these characters.

It is absolutely a horror movie; but, it’s a horror movie with a heart, something at it’s core that it’s actually about.  And I think that is why I liked It so much.

Kong: Skull Island (Review)

Kong: Skull Island (Review)

Kong: Skull Island is the second movie of planned Monsterverse franchise because every movie has to be a franchise now.  Unlike other would be movie franchises, this one isn’t half bad.

I love Godzilla, both the American reboot and the monster.  It was because of that love that I saw Kong: Skull Island, since at some point in the future, they’re supposed to duke it out in a glorious fight for the ages.  I probably shouldn’t have gone in with that mindset because these two movies couldn’t be more different.

Whereas Godzilla was a dark and gritty monster movie set in the modern day, Kong: Skull Island is a movie set in the 70s or at least, a version of the 70s that’s been greatly exaggerated to the point of near parody.  This film is more of an adventure film right down to a handsome, rugged man who must save their lives while trapped on the island.  I say man because I honestly don’t know any of their names.

There are multiple characters throughout this film but they’re all very shallow characters.  What you see is what you get from these people.  You never learn anything deeper about them because you’re not really supposed to.  There’s just a group of people trapped on an island with a giant ape.  And I was perfectly okay with that.

This movie does not take itself seriously at all, it is simply a movie meant to entertain the audience, which is exactly what monster movies were supposed to do.  Sure, there is always room to tell a deep and meaningful movie, but I’m not gonna fault a monster movie for being stupid.  This film is stupid but in the fun perfect way.  It’s a film that knows what it’s trying to do and it does it very well.  And I had a good time with it.

John Wick (Review)

John Wick (Review)

Yeah, I’ve only just recently watched this movie.  Sue me.

There are two things about this movie that I think makes it stand out from other action movies.  It’s ability for you to sympathize with the main character and its world building.  On the surface, it seems to be a movie about a man who’s going to kill the people who killed his dog and stole his car.  And you’d be right, that’s exactly what it is.  The film takes it’s time in introducing these elements, however.  It doesn’t begin with a loud opening meant to grab your attention.  It begins with the funeral of the main character’s wife and the days of grief that followed.  In fact, we don’t even learn that John used to be a feared hitman until 30 min into the movie.

And this is where the world building really shines.  Everywhere John goes, people seem to know who he is and what he does.  As John reenters his old life, we see the places he used to go, the tools he used to have and the underworld lifestyle that seems to blend with the rest of the world.  The world of assassins that exists in this film seems to be just behind the layer of civilization, hidden in plain sight, making John’s trek into his old life an interesting journey.

The only complaint I have is that the action sequences, while impressive in their own right, doesn’t seem to have the same punch that’s seen in Atomic Blonde (also by David Leitch) or The Raid.  Though I’m willing to forgive this due to the film’s low budget and it’s other strengths.

So, in conclusion, yeah the film is pretty good.  Shame that I hadn’t seen it earlier.

Dunkirk (Review)

Dunkirk (Review)

Do you remember the docking sequence from Interstellar?  Well, this movie is like that all the way through.

This film is easily the best film I’ve seen this year and it’s not a traditional film.  It’s weird to say that since the movie looks like your typical war movie in the vein of Saving Private Ryan or Hacksaw Ridge.  It is anything but a typical war movie.  Why?  Well, it’s all in the editing.

Dunkirk tells the story of the Dunkirk evacuation; specifically, it’s three different stories showing three different views of the evacuation from three different locations.  There’s the story of a British soldier on the beach trying to get on a boat by any means necessary to leave, the story of a father, son and their hand using their personal sail boat to help ferry soldiers to safety and the story of two pilots protecting the beach from German bombs.

The twist (because it’s Christopher Nolan and there has to be a twist):  The story on the beach takes place over a week, the story at sea takes place over a day and the story in the air takes place over an hour.  Sounds weird on paper, but the execution is a thing of beauty.

When I say “it’s all in the editing,” I mean it’s all in the editing.  The story is told nonlinearly and is given the impression that the events are happening all at the same time, linked together through similar emotions or events.  At certain points, you can start to see where they events link up in terms of time.  In fact, in one story, you can actually see what’s going to happen at the end of another story.

It sounds confusing but it really isn’t, because most of the time, you’re not paying attention to how the stories link up, you’re paying attention to the action.  Not just the action of warfare but the decisions that characters make.  This film is incredibly silent with barely any dialogue among the main cast unless it’s necessary.  This film is primarily visual.  You don’t need to hear the cast talk about their plans, you just watch as they carry them out, fighting against the ticking clock (and I’m serious, there is the sound a ticking clock ticking throughout the entirety of the film.  Literally.  No joke.  If you listen, you can hear that maddening ticking sound, telling the characters that they are running out of time).

I always love Christopher Nolan films because he always challenges you to think about what you’re seeing.  You’re not just a passive observer, you’re supposed to be thinking as you view the film.  You’re supposed to participate.  Dunkirk is probably his most challenging film because unlike Inception, he doesn’t explain everything that’s going on three times.  In Dunkirk, you know what’s happening because you’re thinking about it and you’re seeing it happen in front of you.  You feel the emotions that are linked across space and time.  Dunkirk is purely and simply a true viewing experience.

Atomic Blonde (Review)

Atomic Blonde (Review)

I was lucky enough to view an advanced screening of this movie with my friend Mason from Reel Dude Reviews.  So thanks to him for letting me see this mind boggling movie.

Set in Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, Atomic Blonde is a movie about Charlize Theron kicking butt with anything and everything she can get her hands on.  Also there’s spy stuff.

This movie is pretty much all action all the time, which is both a gift and a curse.  It’s a good thing because the action is amazingly choreographed and sold by the actors very well.  They don’t try to hide the action by shaking the camera all over the place in the name of “making it more intense” (we all know you’re doing it because the actors are very good at action scenes).  The camera is steady at all times so you see every punch and feel every blow.

The bad part of it is that for the first half of the movie, Charlize Theron doesn’t really do much.  It sounds weird but hear me out.  An action film should have a plot that forces the character to always move the plot forward.  Speed is a perfect example of this.  There’s a bomb on a bus and if the bus slows down, it explodes.  This forces Keanu Reeves to continually be on the move and to keep moving forward if he wants to save the people on the bus.

In Atomic Blonde, however, Charlize Theron just kind of meanders from set piece to set piece while trying to do her job.  And sure, the plot is the kind which forces her to try and move the plot forward, but I never felt like she was.  For the first half hour or so, she’s just going around the city and then people try and beat her up and then she beats them up in awesome ways.

I can’t fault the movie too harshly for this because I get the sense that I was missing key aspects of the film.  It’s also a spy thriller and a good spy thriller leaves things hidden for the viewer in plain sight for you to catch in the next viewing.  On the other hand, I feel like I shouldn’t worry to much about the intricacies of the plot because I found that the more I thought about what was going on, the more plot holes there were.

Atomic Blonde is an action film with style and its own identity.  A mixture of hardcore action, spray paint and 80s pop music give it it’s own distinct flair that makes it stand out as one of the most unique action films of the year (though I am noticing that after Guardians of the Galaxy, people have started adding 80s music to action films to spice it up).  So, it’s an enjoyable action movie acted wonderfully by Charlize Theron and James McAvoy with ridiculously delicious action scenes.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Review)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Review)

Spider-Man is back on the big screen and…well, it’s pretty much what you would expect.

Tom Holland is a fantastic Spider-Man and a different take on the character.  Eager yet untested, he is able to do amazing things yet is growing bored of his life after getting a taste of the Avengers back during Captain America: Civil War.  This serves as a good motivating factor as he tries to take down the Vulture, who may be too over his head.

The Vulture, on the other hand, starts off with a pretty good motivation that sees yet another consequence of the Avenger’s actions (in fact, I believe Phase 3 is all about consequences for the Avenger’s actions).  Though for the majority of the movie, I got the sense that he was pretty much just the same old forgettable Marvel villain.  There’s this aspect of his character that he’s doing this all for his family but at the same time lives for the thrill of the heist that might be getting the better of him, but it doesn’t really amount to anything and it’s never brought up.  There’s nothing really new about his character, which is a shame because Michael Keaton is always enjoyable and I loved the design of the Vulture.

So, everything about the movie was good and I enjoyed it immensely.  I couldn’t shake this odd feeling about it.  It was likable but it was just that.  In the end, it’s safe.  The action is just good enough.  The story is just good enough.  The music is just good enough.  The whole movie is just good enough.

Which is fine but I’m always expecting more in my movies.  Maybe this sets a high standard that no movie can reach but it’s something that I can’t really help.  Maybe if the movie instead tried to form a parallel arc between Spider-Man and the Vulture about how they both want something bigger and better with their lives but aren’t prepared for the consequences of it when it blows back into their face but there is no connection.  Spider-Man is stopping the Vulture because stealing is wrong.

The side characters are likable but all mainly serve Peter Parker’s story.  They have no stories of their own.  They’re only important when Parker has to deal with them.  Maybe if they had one of the characters say this to his face then I would have liked the movie more.

As it stands, the movie is decent.  Serviceable.  It does what it sets out to do, nothing more, nothing less.  And I enjoyed it a lot more than I probably sound.  It was refreshing to see a movie in the MCU that didn’t deal with Avengers level stuff, but more ground level things.  It was fun, lighthearted, funny and exciting at times, but it just didn’t wow me like I wish it had.  It simply met my expectations.

Storks (Review)

Storks (Review)

So I know this movie came out in 2016 but I saw it a few days ago for the first time.  Since I want to give my opinion of it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t write a review.  I’d probably write a review of Sanjuro when I watch it for the first time and that movie came out in 1962.  Basically, just because the movie isn’t recent doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be allowed to write my thoughts about it.  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

So what exactly do I have to say about a film set in a world where babies aren’t born the natural way, they are delivered by storks.  And now, those storks have decided to instead deliver packages.  Which I assume means no babies have been born for the past…years?

Honestly, this is a movie where you can’t use logic to understand it.  In fact, I would say that using logic on this movie would be a big disservice to it.  It’s not that kind of a movie.  What it is is a film where the creators try to cram as much humor into each scene as possible, regardless of whether or not it made sense.  And honestly, that’s probably why I ended up enjoying myself.

A lot of this movie isn’t perfect.  It feels more like this movie goes from scene to scene, checking off boxes to make sure that they have every piece of a typical animated movie.  Two main characters who want nothing to do with each other but bond over shared experience?  Check.  Secret bad guy?  Check.  Two main characters separate because of a secret?  Check.  All the way down the list, even to the point where it doesn’t make sense and character motivations suffer.

Still, despite all of that, I still laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.  And in the end, I suppose that’s all this movie is trying to do.  Would I recommend it?  Only if it’s the last thing you possibly have to watch.

Wonder Woman (Review)

Wonder Woman (Review)

Though it stumbles at the start, Wonder Woman‘s mature handling of the period and interesting characters help propel the film to heights never before reached within the DC Extended Universe.

The beginning of the film is (arguably) its weakest moment.  It has the unenviable job of establishing this Greek fantasy setting of Themyscira, kingdom of the warrior women known as Amazons.  It has to introduce a different side to a universe that we’ve seen before in previous films and make it understandable to the audience.  Unfortunately, while the movie succeeds in doing all of this, it crunches it all down into the time allotted for the prologue, leaving the pacing of the prologue something to be desired.  There was so much information crammed into the first half hour that I was left without a real connection with any of the other characters.

Ironically, for me, it was when they finally left the bright and colorful island and entered the dreary and dark real world that the movie started to pick up for me (wonderful use of color there; don’t think I didn’t notice).  The World War I setting is unique and absolutely works for the story they wish to tell.  I have to tip my hat to the film for handling the subject matter with such deft precision.  How do you set a superhero movie in probably the darkest time in human history?  By never shying away from the dark but offering us the light that may be too hard to see.  Which is what Wonder Woman is here for.

At her heart, it’s not her Lasso of Truth, or her demigod status that makes her stand apart from the other superheroes.  It’s her ability to feel the pain and suffering of other people around her and to channel that pain into righteous fury.  She doesn’t care for the bullets aimed at her, all she cares about is destroying the ones causing suffering.  Which is what a hero is supposed to do.

The theme also works to explain the dynamic between the two leads.  Gal Gadot as Diana has an unshakable faith that mankind is a beautiful and good race while Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, a Captain who has been fighting the war for a long while, isn’t so sure.  It all fits beautifully together to the point where a wonderful thing happened, the first time in a DCEU film: I actually cared about the characters on screen.

Some of the lines of dialogue are a bit too on the nose but I didn’t care because I cared about the characters.  Some of the lines are also a bit cliche but I didn’t care because I cared about the characters.  The CGI might have been distracting but I honest to god didn’t even notice them because I cared about the characters.  They might have even used that freezeframe slowmotion thing a bit too much during the action scenes but I didn’t care because I cared about the characters.

You can have the biggest budget in the world, the greatest actors in the world and the greatest director and everthing, but none of that matters if the audience doesn’t care what happens to the characters on screen.  And by god, I did care.  I was absolutely invested.  I was so invested, I nearly cried at the end.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Review)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Review)

The soundtrack to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are probably the reason I’ll end up buying a Vinyl player.

Guardians of the Galaxy was definitely one of the better movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 2 series of films.  It was unique, it was funny, the characters were instantly likable and even if the plot served more to add context to the MCU’s overarching story and it suffered from the MCU’s patented boring villain, it was still engaging enough to be memorable.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers on the comedy.  It’s the same characters that we’ve come to know and love doing what they do best: save the galaxy while having to deal with each other.  This time around, there’s a bigger emphasis on them actually working together as a team.  With this comes the realization that this time around, the focus is on the relationships between the characters than them saving the galaxy.

Peter Quill finally meets his father, Gamora and her sister Nebula have to deal with each other after their plot line was left up in the air in the last movie, Rocket and Groot wind up with Yondu after a series of events, even Drax has moments with Mantis.  Every character has a clearly defined arc and development to the point where I realized that this was what I was supposed to be focusing on, not the overarching plot.

Sure, there’s a galactic threat that needs to be stopped by the Guardians but at the same time, you’re not watching it for that.  In fact, for the most part, I wasn’t waiting to see what happened next, I was sitting there waiting for the turn of events that kicks off the climax.  There’s no sense of rising action, for the most part; of the stakes getting higher and higher.

Having said that, I liked this movie more than the first one because of it’s emphasis on the character’s emotions and their relationships.  In the first movie, they had to learn how to work as a team to finish the mission.  In this movie, they actually have to learn how to live as a family together.  There is actual growth going on and it’s a pleasure to actually see them grow closer through all the trials and tribulations.  Though certain story beats are predictable, some are not and actually took me off guard.  The more we learn about the characters, the more we realize that those moments shouldn’t have surprised you because they were absolutely in character.

It’s a rarity in the MCU where the sequel is just as good and better than the first one.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is just as charming, just as heartfelt and just as funny as its predecessor.  It’s focus on the characters emotions and their relationships is a wonderful way to spice up the series and to make sure it doesn’t grow stale.  As it stands, it is currently one of the best movies of Phase 3, if not the best.