Posts Tagged ‘Film’

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WB films/ DC Comics

 

As always, MAJOR spoilers.

You were warned.

 

When the first trailer hit for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice I was just as game as anyone. As a lifelong Batman and comic book fan this was a film I have been dreaming of for years. But as the subsequent trailers and TV spots were released, and more details of the film were spread I started lowering my expectations. I’m glad I did, because I think it actually allowed me to enjoy BvS.

Personally I think BvS was okay. Not great, and not bad- just okay. Which, to some, it might as well be bad- and I understand that ‘lukewarm- spew you out’ mentality. The flaws of BvS are obvious: rushed story and some weird character choices. When some of the things get to being cringe-worthy in the film it makes you wonder how a film can simultaneously have some of the best comic film moments ever. For all its flaws, this film has some amazing moments in it that the audience as well as fans will enjoy. But those moments make the bad sting just that much more, because you know that really… this could have been a really good film

 

The basic synopsis can be found everywhere now, so I won’t waste a lot of time on it. Basically we pick up nearly two years after where Man of Steel leaves off. The world is still

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recovering from Zod and Superman’s battle (although… they seemed to have rebuilt Metropolis pretty damn fast) and people are torn on if Superman is friend or foe. Even Superman for the entire length of the film, until the end, is torn on if he feels like saving the world anymore. Batman/Bruce Wayne sees him as a threat though, a threat that must be dealt with before more innocents are killed. Ensues is their fight, but there is another force (Lex Luthor) that wants to see the world be rid of both of them.

 

 

Overall, as I said before, the film feels rushed. It literally follows the same pacing as Man of Steel, which is unfortunate. The first half, in my opinion, is actually great. Well-paced, and sets up a lot and had me invested. Besides one character (which I will get to soon enough) I was really in to this film for the first half and was actually wondering why it was getting all of the hate. Then the “Knightmare” sequence  happened and you’ll know right then that there is a sudden shift, you can feel it.  Something happens that is both cool and confusing and you know right away that that is how the rest of the film is going to play out then. And that’s how it starts. The confusion… the cramped story, that turns a good movie… cruel.

The rest of the film you really have to fight at times to keep straight. I mean, sure, you still understand what is happening: Batman wants to actually kill Superman, Luthor is [kind of] the overall puppet master and doing evil stuff, and there are other metahumans out there. Got it. But the why’s just seem to either get glossed over or left out completely sometimes. Which makes the resolutions to the problems happen seem less cathartic. You’re left thinking “this really could’ve been easily avoided if-”, or “wait, when did they find that out?” or “wait, why was this a thing again/how did that happen?” instead of focusing wholly on what is actually going on screen.  Great example: as much as I loved the actual battle between Bats and Supes, all we were really given before it was a brief training montage of Bruce in the cave- which I didn’t mind. But him creating the kryptonite gas he’ll use on Superman or any other type of planning he does for the battle is never really explained. It’s showed, somewhat, but unless you’ve read The Dark Knight Returns and KNEW that’s what he was probably making, you’d have no real clue what he was doing and then later when he uses it against Supes you’d be left thinking “wait, when did he make that?” More importantly, how? We’re never given any explanation to is this Batman is

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good at chemistry, or manufacturing, or… really anything other than fighting, being awesome, and some detective skills. I guess we’re supposed to already “know” that Batman can do anything, but it just doesn’t play out that way. When does Clark figure out Batman is Bruce, or Luthor figure Supes is Clark? Or how exactly is Doomsday created? I know it deals with using some of Zod’s body and Luthor’s blood and the genesis chamber… but, seriously, how? It just comes across as lazy story telling when certain things are glossed over. There are tons of other examples, sadly, that I could go on about but I don’t want to meander on the point.

 

The characters really suffer for the rushed second half. Relationships develop, plot points are revealed, and problems are resolved too quickly and in the end while hitting every major beat it just doesn’t feel… complete. What baffles me is the choice of what was included and what wasn’t. There are just some sequences that, while fun, didn’t need to be in the film and I feel like there are probably some that were cut (for crying out loud, there is another 30+ min being added for the BluRay release)  that would have served more of a purpose. Case and point, the Knightmare sequence. While cool I could tell that everyone in the audience who wasn’t comic book savvy didn’t have a clue what it meant. Yes, it serves as a key moment for Batman to decide that he needs to deal with Supes. But it was just all too much. In one scene it introduces us to Darkseid (without actually introducing

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WB films/ DC Comics

him,) and Flash and his powers, AND (kind of) the story of Injustice. It just didn’t serve any other purpose than to look… ahem, flashy and really bulk up a really non-existent side plot. Really it was a post credits scene in the middle of a movie. Actually, come to think of it, I feel like most of the second half of the film was just cut together post credit scenes. That’s the way it plays out. Cool, exciting eye candy that are just really cliffhangers that set up a bigger picture with no real explanation. All these cameos and winks are cool to see, but you’re left confused most of the time and wanting some actual substance.

 

 

 

Now, the characters.

Let’s just get this one out of the way. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. Yes. This is the one, single character that I didn’t find myself liking through most of the film… and not for the right reasons. The sad thing is, is that like the movie itself, there actually are moments that he nails it. They’re subtle, and very few, but when he does get it you know, and it’s wonderful. But then it’s all very fleeting and waving goodbye as it moves on. I don’t quite know what was the though process with this depiction. He plays out like a mad scientist half the time, which… in the very early days of Luthor in the comics, that’s actually exactly what he is. But it just doesn’t fit the tone of the film at all, and seems weird. Eisenberg is a great actor, and like I said- when he gets it, he gets it. My hope is that if he’s in future films he finds that center more than doing the twitchy mess we got. I will say, despite everything, this Luthor as some very evil moments.

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WB films/DC Comics

Next, Ben Affleck’s Batman. Holy. CRAP. This was, hands down, the best part of the film. Every scene he was in he just ate up. It’s sad that there wasn’t more. I can’t quite decide if I like this Batman more than the TDK/Bale Bat but… man it’s a close call. This Batman in every way was epic. Brutal, fierce, cunning, and just an overall bad ass. Now, here is the thing that I will bet a lot of people will be divided on: Batman and his “one rule.” Do we see Batman kill in this film? Yes. And… no. Defiantly in the Knightmare sequence we see Batman killing.  But the rest of the film I would argue that Batman doesn’t kill any more in this film than the Nolan Bat-films (with two exception.) The BvS Batman really follows that “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you logic.” In some instances he causes things to happen in which it’s possible bad guys would die but a.) that happens in the comics, especially the Frank Miller-verse (which this film is inspired HEAVILY by) and b.) once again, happens in the TDK films (watch ANY of the Batmobile chase scenes.) There are two exceptions. One possible exception is at the very end, where Batman causes a flamethrower tank to explode, but even then one could argue that maybe the guy is just badly burned, but if you argue that I feel like you’re grasping at straws. But as much as I love my non killing Batman… I have to admit, whether he killed the Lex flamethrower goon or not, that moment was amazing. And anybody who’s read The Dark Knight Returns knows exactly how it’s going to play out. “I believe you.” The other obvious (and probably most problematic) one is that he’s trying to straight up murder Superman. In the comics Batman has made contingency’s to kill Superman, so it’s not really like this hasn’t happened or could never happen in the comics. But it’s still kind of shocking to see, and a part of me wonders if he’s doing this to save people why hasn’t he killed to Joker yet… but you obviously shouldn’t be wondering too much about these things, right?

 

Another awesome surprise is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. I know when she was cast a lot of people were skeptical, but man is she amazing when she’s on screen. The problem is  her inclusion is seemingly secondary and an afterthought that, while enjoyed and does tie in to the grand scheme of things, was obviously just thrown in there so that the film can

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have that broader scope. While she might be ultimately unneeded she certainly isn’t unwelcome by any means. Her and Batman make this movie.

 

Now, for Superman. This is probably the character I’m most torn on. I think Henry Cavill does a fine job, really. The problem is that in a movie where they are trying to fit so much Superman’s story just gets lost and he’s left seeming really whiny and wishy washy. It’s just… not very Superman-like. Which was also an issue in Man of Steel. That nihilistic, brooding tone is great for Batman and something director Zack Snyder does well… but it’s not Superman. And his evolution goes way too fast. He goes from helping people, to kind of being pissed at people not being thankful, to not sure if he wants to help people anymore, to all of a sudden willing sacrifice himself for humanity. And while that seems like a typical hero arch, it all happens in, like, the second half of the film; a very short amount of time. And it’s this quick turnaround (along with some other aspects) that leave the ending, which I will discuss in a minute, feeling rather hollow.

Other mentions:

Amy Adams is great again as Lois Lane, but I think they used her in distress one too many times. It just got old.

Jeremy Irons is fantastic as Alfred.

Diane Lane is great as Martha Kent again. AND we get a surprise return of Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) that I actually think is one of the best Superman scenes in the film. Felt the same way about his scenes in Man of Steel…

 

Now… on an overall note about geek/fan service of the film.  It’s there and it’s not, just like the rest of the film. There are aspects that comic fans will love, appreciate and are on point. Then there are others that just come out of nowhere and tamper with the lore. I could go on and on about my opinions on what they tampered with, but at the end of the day… I just think that comic fans have been a tad spoiled with what Marvel has done. I’m not saying we should expect less, I’m saying that… well, look at the Burton Bat-films. They don’t follow any comics, yet we love them (well, most do.) Try and be a little open minded. I’m not forgiving all aspects where this film diverges from the lore (I actually really hate how Doomsday was handled in this film)  but some you can see they were inspired by something in the comics or another movie and decided to try and do something new. If you want to discuss this note further I’m always happy to talk comic books and movies!

 

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Now… the ending. The ending is actually something I called happening back in August when the first Suicide Squad trailer hit and have discussed with several people. Superman dies. I’m both happy that they stuck to the source material and a bit perturbed. Like I said before, Superman’s arch in this film was just really rushed and because of that I don’t think the impact of his death- his self-sacrifice is fully felt. Furthermore he and Batman’s sudden friendship and Bruce’s mourning and wanting to honor him feels rushed and weird as well. I get it but it doesn’t make it feel any less weird. In the comics Batman is so devastated by he doesn’t even appear at his funeral. While he attended the funeral here, they tried to give him the same level of grief I feel and I just… don’t get it. Literally, like 48 hours before you were trying to kill each other.  It, just like most of the rest of the film, feels a tad forced and rushed. If they just wanted to tell Superman coming to terms with being a hero then they just should have told that story ending with his sacrifice, instead of doing all this other side stuff with Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.

 

 

 

In the end while messy, I actually think Batman v. Superman  is enjoyable. I’m actually going to say the most recent comparison in terms of comic book films would be Amazing Spider-Man 2. So if you liked that film you’ll probably like Bvs. If you didn’t you probably wont, and if you thought it was okay (as I did) you’ll… well, you get the picture. A lot is shoehorned into this film making it feel busy and cramped. It’s not the second coming of hero films like I think a lot of people were expecting, but I also think a lot of people (especially critics) wanted to go in hating this film or certain aspects of this film. If you do that, really with any movie, you’re going to hate it. It defiantly is a film to go in to with few expectations and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There are some really, really good moments in this film that shine through. It’s not comparably bad to films like Catwoman, Batman & Robin, Green Lantern, or last summer’s Fantastic Four. But it’s obviously no The Dark Knight or Avengers either. It’s obvious that, despite what they’ve said, WB/DC feels the pressure from Marvel/Disney and wants to catch up. The problem is they tried to fit what Marvel’s done in seven years, across countless movies and show in two movies over the past three years.  I think that the feedback from this movie will result in a few changes in how the future of the DC Cinematic Universe is handled, and hopefully for the best. If  BvS ends up being kind of the bottom film out of it all… I actually think I’ll be comfortable with that.

 

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I have a different DC film I’m actually really anxious for to come out in a few months…

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WB films/ DC Comics

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Hey everyone! Sorry for the major lag in posts. Life has been hella crazy the past few months since Dracula (the latest production I was in) has ended. But I wanted to take a moment and just kind of reflect on this past year as a whole.
It’s really cliche to look back on the previous year and say something akin to “man, it’s been a rollercoaster!” It’s also never been a very appropriate analogy in my eyes either. Rollercoasters are fun. This past year was more like standing in line for said rollercoaster.
You see the rollercoaster, and you get really excited and run towards it only to see there is a really long line. So you get in the line and begin your wait. And you wait… and wait. Then you hear the person in front of you start to talk about the last episode of your favorite TV show and you nervously pipe in and then get a genuinely good conversation started and you’re happy. But then the conversation peeters off and you’re left standing there feeling a tad awkward and go back to just waiting in line. Then a voice comes over an intercom saying that there is a delay of some kind and the wait is even longer. You have the option of getting out of line and going to that “other” coaster, which is probably almost as fun but you REALLY want to ride THIS coaster. So you wait, and wait, and wait some more. And it starts getting hot, and a couple behind you is starting to make out and you’re just standing there rubbing your head because you’re starting to get hungry also because you missed breakfast before you came to the theme park and just b-lined it to this ride because you wanted to ride it so badly! Sigh. But then… after such a long wait… it moves. The line moves, and you look around unsure if you’re dreaming or if it’s for real. You step forward, scared that you’ll be reprimanded somehow by seizing this opportunity of advancing yourself. Nothing happens though and you take a few more steps forward until you’ve caught up to the line again. Your heart is beating fast because you are close to the stairs that lead up to the loading platform of the coaster! You’re almost there; the wait is almost over and you’ll be latched in and on your way to 60 seconds of 50mph bliss! But now that couple behind you has caught up again and are up to their old smooch-anigans again and you’re standing near the garbage can. You feel that angst building up again inside but soon enough the line moves again and you can take your first step up that flight of stairs towards the platform! DEAR GOD, it’s (almost) so close! You can even hear the operator now saying “all clear” before the ride takes off. You can’t shake the grin on your face even though you know that it’s still a ways away before you’re seated AND you still have choices to make ahead- like will you go for the front row, and wait a little longer or risk getting a back seat ride? You don’t know, and you don’t care because you’re just that much closer and you want to be on this ride!
So, yeah. That’s how I feel. This year has had a lot of truly amazing moments and experiences but also a lot of… stagnant moments as well, for lack of better word at the moment. I know, I know- that’s life. I get it, that’s the way it’s always been. But my point isn’t to complain and whine but to be thankful for the adventure 2015 has been. I have met and made some amazing new friends this year and have also had an opportunity to strengthen relationships with people. I’ve worked on some incredible projects and productions, and know that it’s only the start. There has also been turmoil, heartbreak, and low points. But, as I’ve stated before, that’s going to happen. I’ve been able to get through it though, with the help of my family and friends (both new and old.)
As I look forward to 2016 I’m sure there are a lot more obstacles to overcome for everyone. I’m trying not to stress it though. I’m moving to the city and starting a whole new chapter in my life and stepping one step closer to that platform. I thank all of my friends and family for their love and support this past year.

When I started this blog I intended on it being nothing more than a place where I can review and discuss films, plays, and books- mainly those of a horror persuasion. Obviously it has evolved in to a little more than that, but still it has been built on that basic cornerstone.

As I was going through some of my past posts though I couldn’t help but notice… there is only one [horror] book review, for Let’s Go Play at the Adams’. And the review, if you notice, isn’t super positive. Now Let’s Go Play was a book that was not just recommended to me by several acquaintances but was on pretty much every “must read” list for those wanting a terrifying story. Yet when I read it… at no point was I terrified. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately on top of the fact that I haven’t written any other horror book reviews. It isn’t for lack of reading any. I’ve read Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted, Ray Bradbury’s  Something Wicked This Way Comes and several others and it’s not that I didn’t enjoy any of these books (on the contrary many of them are very well written and gripping in their own right) it’s just that they aren’t scary and I want to write reviews about books that really put me on edge- books I’d gladly recommend to others who are constantly on a search for stories that chill you to the bone. I have spent hours on the internet looking up horror novel/story recommendations and reviews in search for those tales that keep me up late at night, both because they have me in their clutches and because I’m afraid to turn out the lights. But for some reason… it’s really hard to find such books.

Now before any of you go and crucify me I understand that good horror is actually not that hard to find. All you really have to do is go to the library isle that is marked F – Kin, and walk only a few feet in. At the same time though horror really is difficult to accomplish through literature, I feel and I think that boils down to two main reasons: 1.) it’s hard to sustain suspenseful/terrifying tension in literature and 2.) horror is subjective.

For reason #1 – Some of the best horror I have ever read are short[er] stories. The Hellbound HeartPsycho, any of Poe’s work, most Lovecraft, tons of works put in to anthologies of horror, and (not even joking on this) Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. There is obviously plenty of good longer horror stories, once again- look back to the master, King. But even some of his best work is short stories/novellas.

The kind of strain and tension created by horror is hard enough to sustain with visual images (be it film, or theater), but I think it’s even harder to an extent with literature/words. Yes, the imagination is sometimes worse than reality or pictures but to initially be able to tap in to the imagination of your audience in the first place I think is a struggle. Then to hold their attention is a whole other issue. That was one of my biggest complaints with Haunted. Palahniuk wrote an amazing first chapter (Guts) which, while not scary, really had me reeling because of how I was able to picture it in my mind. But after that chapter the book just became a bore because he never was able to match the magic he worked in that initial chapter. And you are a straight up liar if you think classics like Dracula don’t have the same problem. They’re classics, and yes- Dracula does have some scary moment, but it is a bear to get through. Same with Frankenstein, which is actually one of my top five books.

If you can hook your audience and keep them on the line for an entire novel… that’s a feat. That’s why I think shorter works work better sometimes with horror. You hook your audience, and then proverbially release them soon after (although, the best stories never truly “leave” us do they?)

Now, for reason #2- Horror is subjective. What scares you may not be the same thing that scares me. Let’s Go Play is a prime example. Rape, to me, is not scary. It is a horrific act that is evil, but it’s not scary. I believe that it is a super cheap way to get under the audience’s skin. But plenty of people have read this book and love it and said that it really messed with them and was one of the scariest books they ever read.

Another issue is that the way you picture something the author is describing may not be the same way I picture something. With film, theater, or even comic books/graphic novels- it’s all laid out. You see the image they want you to see, and it’s in the open.  But in a book the author has to paint that picture for the audience and sometimes it’s very specific (ala King,) sometimes it’s left more to the imagination, and other times it sits right in the middle.  Horror is a mixture of describing the scene/atmosphere, the emotions, and the ultimate horror the characters are facing. That’s a lot of factors the author has to mesh together. And with horror being such an unstable craft it’s hard to get all those factors right. Now I’m not saying that ALL of them need to be spot on, but that general mixture needs to be at least somewhat solid for the terror to resonate with your audience. A lot of times, in longer texts, authors start off really well or eventually get to a nice spot where all the factors come together… but at some point it just kind of fizzles and the author tends to pull focus on only one of the elements, and forgets to give the others some attention. House, by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker is actually a book I think combines all of these elements well. Say what you want about Christian horror but this book, I think, combines a great atmosphere, with some great horror moments, and some real emotions. This formula is also why I think Pet Semetery is one of Stephen King’s greatest works. He crafted an absolutely heart wrenching story about a family losing their child, and then built out the atmosphere and some of the most horrific moments I have ever read. Some of the latter parts of that book still stain my mind with imagery that makes me shutter. I read that book about three years ago, and it was the last book I’ve read that really ever scared me to the point that I had to stop reading it for a length of time.

While there is plenty of good horror in the world of literature, both short and long, I believe that it’s a hard craft to crack. Also, ultimately you have to be the own judge of what scares you. I’ve read many a recommended stories that people have claimed to be “real shockers” only to read them and have my psyche unscathed by the encounter. Obviously I won’t stop taking recommendations, and if any of you readers have some out there (that I haven’t ready (which there is plenty I haven’t listed)) go ahead and post them and I’ll give them a read!

I really would like to start doing more horror lit reviews, which maybe I’ll just have to start doing reviews on short stories and from time to time do some novels- should I find one I think is scary enough. But until then I’ll remain on the lookout, for that elusive book that I hope will be so scary… that I have to force myself to finish it. That’s the kind of horror novel I want.

Southpaw was honestly the first dramatic film of the year that I was really looking forward to. I’m a sucker for stories such as these, and with some great talent behind it I was  anxious to see it. On Monday I had gotten an email from AMC Stubs for a free ticket to see an advanced screening last night, so I jumped at the opportunity!

The story follows undefeated boxer Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal). Undefeated that is until his anger gets the best of him and, during the middle of a brawl (outside of the ring,) a rival boxer’s body guard shoots and kills his wife (McAdams.) This drives Hope to an extreme depression, and in the midst of his sorrow the rest of his life begins to crumble around him (you know what they say about glass houses…)
Hope’s daughter is taken away from him by child services (a system that Hope himself was raised in,) and Hope is completely abandoned by most of his “friends.” It’s up to him, with help of  trainer Tick Wills (Whitaker) to pick himself back up from the bottom and become the man he truly needs to be in and outside of the ring.

If the story sounds similar or redundant to past boxing films… that’s because it really kind of is. It’s a story we’ve seen many times before about how a champion becomes an underdog through various happenstances, and then has to rise back to the top to defeat his demons. What sets Southpaw apart from other films like it is how brutal and unflinching it is in terms of emotional and physical brutality. The drama and emotions are truly present within the actors, and the fights are some of the most intense I’ve seen in a while on film.  Seriously, I think the last time that I’ve ever flinched at an onscreen punch was during Bane and Batman’s fight in The Dark Knight Rises. Every single punch is heard and felt by the audience when watching this film.

The emotional connection is really there as well. Gyllenhall not only physically owns this role (I mean… jeeze, just look at him) but he taps into the charter’s feelings the way I’ve come to expect him to be able to do. This character takes us on a ride unlike anything you’d see in a Rocky film. There are moments of this film that you will hate Billy Hope, but obviously there is going to be a redemption point where you start cheering for him again. It’s truly his performance that raises this film above others like it.

McAdam’s does a great job of portraying a worried wife, who really wants her husband to give up the sport while he still can (I.E not “punchdrunk” or worse,) and young Oona Laurence does a phenomenal job as Hope’s daughter who goes through the same roller coaster of love, hate, and love for her father as the audience does. 

As great as this film is there are some finer plot points that I wish had either been elaborated or finished better. One being Tick Wills’ obvious drinking problem. It seems to have no purpose only than to set up a single laugh in the film. From the moment we’re introduced to him he’s very against swearing and drinking (which is not explained at all, but then later he’s revealed to be a Godly man… which I feel would should have been out in the open once we met him and would have explained things better.) But then all of a sudden he’s drinking, like, a lot. It’s a trait never explained, and there isn’t any consequence to this like there is with the characters in the 2011 film Warrior. I felt like it was supposed to, in some way, tie in to a kid’s death later on in the film, and whom Tick feels responsible for- but it never is connected. Also, the kid’s death just felt off, and there was seemingly no consequence to it being done.

And speaking of no consequence… it seems like there are an awful lot of people who knew that Ramone’s bodyguard Hector is the one that killed Billy’s wife. I mean, Billy even finds out where this guy lives. Why is this guys NEVER arrested? Why did nobody ever turn this guy in? Billy’s bodyguard got arrested. This is probably the most infuriating thing that happened in the whole film that was never explained in any way. I was really hoping that, by the end of the film, Ramone or someone from his team would have ousted this guy.

Even with it’s small, somewhat nonsensical flaws Southpaw is a pretty weighty underdog story with some splendid acting and really hardcore fight scenes, It’s a brutal and emotional film, with some real heart backing it up. If you’re in to inspirational stories like Rocky, The Fighter, and Warrior then Southpaw is a film for you.

Southpaw is rated R for language throughout, and some violence

“That scene actually works not because of me but in spite of me. And that really is the marker and definition of working with a truly good director.”

-Troy Baker on the opening scene from The Last of Us. 

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There is something truly great about working with a director who understands and appreciates the craft of acting. Now, really, every director should have some knowledge and respect for acting otherwise… what’s the point? Why are you wanting to direct a show or film? You’re using actors (albeit most of the time, not always) to tell your story.  You’re using actors to convey emotions and connect with the audience, you should care about how they are doing that. I’m not saying this because actors are the end all to the entertainment industry, God no. There are so many different parts in TV, film, theatre, radio, etc. that are just as important. Acting is only one part of those machines. But the director/actor relationship is, in my opinion, of the most key parts of  performance of any medium.

I’m currently working on the production side of a film and this past week I’ve had the chance to watch our director, Estlin Fiegley, work with his actors on set. Every time I see him working with his actors it brings a smile to my face and gives me goosebumps. He walks through the scenes with the actors and legitimately cares about their motivation and relationships. Countless times he’s talked about how the only thing he really cares about is getting the performance he wants on screen. And to see him working with his actors, several of them quite young, to get the performances he wants is inspiring.

I’ve been blessed in the fact that many of the directors I’ve worked with really know how to work with actors. They have worked with me, pushed me, and tested my abilities . Not every actor is that fortunate. These kinds of directors are invaluable to actors, because they’re going to be the directors that help you grow as an artist. They’re going to be the ones that, when you do something right, you’ll take that with you for all time, and when you do something wrong… well, you’ll remember that too. Not that there can’t be discovery with other types of directors as well, but the good directors will be the ones that teach you things and give you experiences that will stick with you forever.

As an actor, it’s important that from every experience, no matter if it’s good or bad, you make the most of it, You have a job to do and an obligation to the production. The phrase “make lemon aid out of lemons”  is something I’m sure many of us hear on a weekly basis (… or is that just me?) For all the wonderful director’s I’ve had I have also worked with several who seem to want nothing to do with actors, or avoid me like the plague. Even if you have a director that isn’t that great at working with actors know that it is still a learning experience for you. That is a chance for you to step up to the plate and really take charge of your performance and the role. Not that you can’t do that anyway with a facilitating director, but it is more of a challenge when you strictly have to rely on yourself. Also realize that your fellow cast members probably feel the same way you do. Work with them- you cast is your biggest asset as a performer next to your director.

Working with directors who genuinely care about what they are capturing on stage/film/etc. is a feeling that is indescribable. You know that you’re a part of something that means something to them, and that they are putting everything they have in to that project and in to you as well. You feel empowered and supported. It really is a unique type of collaboration through dialogue that can make for some of the most memorable and powerful moments ever captured or created.

“All hail the underdogs,
All hail the new kids,
All hail the outlaws,
Spielbergs and Kubricks.”

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This past week has been crazy. It’s been one of the most chaotic, jumbled, clustery weeks I have ever experienced… and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work as an assistant producer for Dreaming Tree Films, a Chicago based film production company, on their next feature film which we begin shooting next week. The movie in question being Traveling Without Moving, a scifi story about two sisters searching for their parents, who have been trapped in another world

I’ve been working with DTF for the past three weeks now, with last week being the final week of pre-production. Each week gets more intense than the last, and that is to be expected. But Dreaming Tree has more than just the “normal” stresses of preparing to shoot a film. You see, this also marks the beginning of their Fresh Film’s program as well- a program that takes teens and gives them an opportunity to work alongside us as we make this movie.

I know I keep saying it but this really has been crazy. I mean, I’ve only worked on small projects in the past (technically this is still “small,” as it is an low budget feature) but this is a whole new world for me. This is my first time ever working on something  with this many moving parts. I feel lost a lot of the time, and overwhelmed. But then I look around me and I know that I’m not the only one. It’s a comfort, it really is. We all understand the burden of learning and getting through all these new things and stresses because we want this to not only be a damn good movie, but a great experience for these kids coming in. FIMG_0851[1]rom the get go, during a production meeting where everyone introduced themselves, you can tell that every single person on this production team was passionate about this project- which I believe is the only way people should ever go into a project.

My thoughts on all of it are still jumbled, and it all feels very surreal. I know I’m in for a trip the next two months, but that’s about all I know what to expect. The team we have is awesome, and while there have already been some stressing points I think that once production actually begins everything will fall in to place.

I love how everyone seems to love what they’re doing on this project, and that everyone is willing to help, teach, as well as learn on the team. There is so much I don’t know about film production, but there is always someone there to lend a helping hand and help coach me through what I need to know. It always seems like a lot, but like with anything the more exposure you have with something the better you’ll be able to learn.

It’s also nice to know that the team is willing to bond and hang out as well. Last Thursday one of my favorite moments was being able to just hang out after work was finished that day and just throw a football around. Anybody who knows me knows that July 2nd is not one of my most favorite days of the year, and that day waIMG_0853[1]s also really frantic for all of us on the production as we were scrambling looking for food donations (Dreaming Tree is a 501(3)c and the proceeds from this film are going to charity so… donations are awesome!) as well as makeup artists. It was a long end to a long week for us. Then the producer just offered to everyone to go outside after we were done for the day and throw the ball around. It… was soothing. It just shut everything off and was really relaxing. And on top of all of that we all talked more with one another and found out about each other.

I just don’t know what else to say. I’m thrilled to be a part of this team, and this experience. I don’t necessarily know what to expect. I have so many worries, but I have way more expectations of what I’m going to accomplish during this production and how this is going to help me. I’m finally taking a big step forward into the direction of a field I want to be a part of. I know I’m going to learn so much during this project and that excites me. It’s going to be crazy, and have a lot of ups and downs… that’s really any production, be it theatre or film, that you’re ever going to be a part of. The important part is always how you handle those ups and downs, and what you take away from them. I hope to take a lot away from this experience.

lot of my paleontology friends/colleagues will roll their eyes as soon as they see this, so sorry. But by now I’m fairly certain it’s obvious to anybody who knows me that I’m super excited for Jurassic World to come out.  And part of the reason  has to be the marketing.

Today it’s fairly rare to have a super extensive marketing strategy for upcoming films. It happens, but not like it did in the 90’s. Between ’92 and ’94 Universal just dropped $62 million on marketing for Jurassic Park. That’s because besides a few other movies around then it was the only MAJOR film Universal was releasing. Film companies were able to just focus on one film each year in the 90’s. Nowadays companies have several big films coming out each year and they can’t afford to compete with themselves. So seeing Universal taking the time to really promote JW makes me extremely happy.

It’s actually really nostalgic to go in to stores and see the amount of promotional material. Posters, toys, bedding and clothes, party supplies, and food. Even Dairy Queen is having a JW promotion in June with the Jurassic Smash Blizzard. All of it really harkens back to the 90’s when the first two films came out. The promotion for JP and TLW seemed as big as the dinosaurs themselves. You hardly ever saw the same t-shirt twice. Burger King had TLW and McDonald’s had JP. Arcade games, board games, and home platform games. And the toys, GOD, the toys. Then there was Jurassic Park The Ride and Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure which garnished their own promotions, the latter of which being graced with an entirely new toyline of classic JP toy repaints.

While there was promotion for JP3, it was nowhere near the extent of the first two films. And then, as we all know it went quiet for 20 years. When JP:3D was released and we saw a little bit of the classic marketing come back. A few standees, a BK promotion, and some new toys. For a rerelease that’s quite a bit, but obviously it wasn’t going to be anything big.

Then comes JW, and fans have been pretty damn lucky with the amount of merch we’ve been getting. A new arcade game,  food products (which so far include four different WalMart pizzas, three different Mike and Ikes candies, peeps, fruit snacks, Pringles, Dairy Queen, movie theatre popcorn buckets and cups,) toys from Hasbro (albiet kind of so so in quality,) bedding, other household items, books, games, a Barbosol partnership, clothes, and some really bad ass displays at stores and cinemas. Oh, AND a plethora of TV spots, clips, and trailers. On top of all of that JW has a pretty extensive viral marketing campaign- spanning over two websites, Masrani Global, and Jurassic World’s official site (which acts as if it’s a real place!) Seriously, this viral marketing has to be some of the most extensive that I’ve seen since The Dark Knight back in 2008.

With Universal have several major films coming out this year (some already) including Furious 7, Minions, and *gag* even Fifty Shades of Grey, I say that they’ve actually gone above and beyond with the marketing on Jurassic World. Everything about the marketing, and seemingly even the film itself, brings back that feeling I and I’m sure many others had in the 90’s seeing JP and TLW stuff in stores. It’s cliche but it really does bring back that inner kid. I love going to stores and seeing kids excitedly talk to their parents about the JW merch they see. It’s almost the same feeling I get seeing kid in museums. Knowing the effect JP had on me as a child, I can only imagine the future filmmakers and scientists that JW may impact.

I saw this film last Thursday, so sorry this has taken so long for me to post. My mind has JUST NOW stopped racing about it!

Action is a genre I have a love hate relationship for. It seems as though for every film that comes out there are about six more that are utter crap. And I’m talking traditional action, not mixed genres. Furious 7 upon further reflection left me with a bitter sweet taste for action films. While I did, and still really enjoy the film overall (especially for the ending,) when I started to think about it a few days after seeing it I actually realized exactly how much sexism was in the film. Now, objectification of women happens in ALL the Furious films, but it seemed to be REALLY pushed on the viewers in F7 and that made me think twice about not only how much I liked that film, but how much such things happen in action films in general. Think about it: action is a genre typically aimed at male audiences, and what do [a majority] or men like in their action films? Violence and women.

With actions films being so successful, why would anybody attempt to break that mold? Well, because it’s old and it needs to be broken. Action films can star strong female leads now, and the films can be more than just mindless violence. They can actually, gasp, have character growth and a story. ALL of this is present in Mad Max: Fury Road. 

Now, I’ll admit- when I saw the first trailer for this film I wasn’t sure I even wanted to see it in the cinema. I already had Furious 7 on my list of mindless action films for the year and wasn’t sure I wanted another one. But then the film started to gain some major buzz the weeks leading up to it’s release. So I decided, what the hell- I’ll go and see it. I had little expectations for what I’d be in store for. What I did expect was a two hour ‘splosion filled romp through a post apocalyptic wasteland. While that’s mainly what the viewers of Fury Road will get there is so much more that goes on with our characters.

We open on Max, who’s alone (as always.) He’s a man troubled by his past and not quite “all there.” He’s quickly picked up by  a gang of “War Boys” who follow the orders of the tyrant Immortan Joe who rules over The Citadel. Joe is a god, of sorts, to his people. Many worship him, while those who hate him stay silent. That is except for one. Imperator Furiosa is tried of Joe and his sadistic leadership. Along with restricting his people’s water supply and other resources, he has kidnapped many women over the years and uses them for his personal breeding purposes. His newest batch has had enough and wants to be freed. So Furiosa takes them in secret (while she’s supposed to be going for a fuel run) and plans to escape to her homeland where she was originally taken from as a child. She doesn’t get very far before Joe finds out exactly what has happened, and he sends a war party out after her. Max is now a War Boy’s blood bag, and has to be strapped to the hood of one of their cars. But through a series of events he manages to escape and hitches a ride with Furiosa and her “shipment.” While he starts out really not caring about what happens to Furiosa or any of the other women (as long as he’s able to escape) Max starts to form a bond with these women (and Nux, a War Boy who begins to understand how evil and untrustworthy Joe really is.) Can Max and Furiosa escape Joe and his horde, and at what cost?

6 Insane GIFs from the New 'Mad Max' Trailer

It may be weird to start off a pros list for an action film with how visually stunning it is, but DAMN- this film is BEAUTIFUL. Miller proves yet again that he can make a fantastic and visually pleasing action film. From the moment it started to when the credits rolled I was complacently consumed by this film and never taken out of it. The color palate is warm and chaotic, like a fireball engulfing you. Action is amped to utterly fantastical quality, and framed perfectly so that you never miss a moment of it in all it’s splendid glory. Obviously many of the moments in this film need a massive amount of suspension of disbelief, but is you kind of went in to a Mad Max film expecting realism then… well, you’re silly.

The action is also really well paced so that it revved up to get your heart pounding, but also will allow for ebb and flows so that some of the smaller action moments can happen. We have car chases but then on top of that you have gun gun battles, fist fights, and explosions. A lot of times in action films everything is framed of edited so that you’re really only focusing on one of those things happening. Not here. Every bit of action gets its moment in this film, ensuring that the viewer never misses a moment of any of it. It’s quite literally (and I know this is a cliche analogy) like being on a roller coaster.

I feel like the ebb and flow of the scenes is extremely complimented by the wonderful scoring done by Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL.) It’s a super charged score befitting of such an action film that has super intense moment while also having very contrasting feeling moments that get you to feel more than just adrenaline. I have to say though, some of my favorite moments in the score go to this guy:

The acting is splendid. I mean first off you have Tom Hardy as Max, taking up the iconic role from Mel Gibson. Hardy does an amazing job, as always. He not only brings back the isolation of the character that we’re familiar with but also adds more heart than we’ve ever seen before. We can see more of what’s ticking in Max’s head than before, and over the course of the film Max actually gains empathy for other characters and realizes that maybe he doesn’t always have to be alone and that maybe there is a road to redemption. 

Then you have Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, who is honestly one of the most amazing action hero/heroines ever created in any kind of medium. She drives the soul of this film from start to finish. Her struggle to free Joe’s captive “wives” and return to her home pushes her forward, even when things are looking bleak. It’s her compassion, rage, and drive that hooks us. That and the fact that she can kick some major ass!  The fact that film actually focuses on Furiosa and less on Max has a lot of people talking. Miller brought us a new Ellen Ripley of sorts with Furiosa. . We’re ready for more characters like her in action films. And she isn’t the only female hero in this film. We get a whole fleet of them by the ending. It’s wonderful, and Miller proves to us that women aren’t

just eye candy or “help.” I can’t wait for more films from him that feature such strong female leads, and hopefully more directors will take notes from this as well.

The makeup effects and visual effects in Fury Road were flawless as well. While there are moments from time to time during the epic battles that you can see some CG manipulation, it seems to fit with the overall visual style I think. The makeup and costumes of all the characters on screen fit the desolate world around the characters. Be it to show how diseased, and decrepit the characters are, or to have an intimidation factor the costumes and makeup all have a purpose and feel organic. Same goes for all the sets and, probably most importantly, the vehicles. The vehicles are war machines seemingly designed for one reason- to kill (or, you know, to seriously maim. ) All of these elements fit together like some sort of demented jigsaw puzzle for the final product.

I have a few final notes on the film. Overall I was stunned by how the violence was handled. In a R-rated film, which contains almost nonstop violence and action throughout, most of the worst stuff happens off frame, or it’s somewhat out of focus. I could probably only count a handful of times in the whole film that I saw real bloodshed or dismemberment. It was all… very tasteful. Which seems really weird to say, especially in a world where many of the R rated action films have no qualms about showing disembowelment, or blood squirting wounds this film. It was a welcomed change, and I’m someone who doesn’t really mind that. It shows that you can have a really good action film without having to have obscene amounts of gore.

Probably my only qualm with the entire film is that out of the cast I only noted one character that was not Caucasian (that being Zoe Kravitz.) There was a real lack of racial diversity, and I’m not quite sure why that was… but it was kind of obvious.

Overall though Mad Max: Fury Road is a film that I HIGHLY recommend to anybody who loves a good action film.  While the movie defiantly gets the blood pumping and is unrelenting on the action throughout, it does allow for some genuine character development and growth. The violence, while not overly gory (with the exception of a few scenes) does get pretty intense at time. Visually stunning, well acted, and directed Fury Road is defiantly a film you should treat yourself to see on the big screen. Overall it is an action film that has re-written what it means to be an action film.

It’s here. It’s FINALLY here. The sequel we superhero junkies have been waiting for since that final shawarma scene. The sequel that comes after an amazing second phase of films. The sequel we hoped would wrap up some loose ends and give us some hint at what’s to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Avengers: Age of Ultron.

This film was in my top three most anticipated films of 2015, and I had no doubt in my mind that it was going to be awesome. Phase two has been fantastic as far as I’m concerned, with perhaps a few missteps along the way but nothing major. Phase two spans across two TV series, one Netflix Series, and four (so far) released films this was building up to be even bigger than the first Avengers film. And as a sequel to one of the most successful films in history… it rightfully should be. But could it live up to the hype? I’ll save you the suspense- yes, it can and it did I think for the most part. While not without faults Avengers: Age of Ultron was not only the best way to kick off of the Blockbuster season of 2015, but an overall satisfying semi-conclusion to phase two (semi-conclusive because we still have one film left to go technically.)

As always, spoilers ahead so… well, you were warned.

This film starts off with a bigger bang than Avengers and it fully keeps that momentum throughout. It centers on the fact that Stark has created, with the help of Loki’s scepter and the infinity gem (mind gem) inside of it, the ultimate AI- Ultron. Of course this is with the best intentions, which are to save and protect the human race. But Ultron can only see one way to peace- the extinction of the Avengers and ultimately the human race. I mean… it’s not like Nazi’s have been messing with Loki’s scepter or anything. Probably should have checked on that first. But anyway…

See, he's not an orphan! Oh, wait... wrong Quicksilver.Ultron enlists the help of Quicksilver and Scarlet-Witch, two mutants…erm, I mean two “enhanced” humans who have it in for Stark since his weapons made them orphans. But they soon realize Ultron’s plans to irradiate all human life and join the Avenger’s in stopping Ultron. But these heroes won’t be enough. No, a new hero has to be made, which is exactly what Stark does… even though that didn’t really work out the first time. It synthesizes a body for the Jarvis AI and out pops Vision. But will that be enough? Will the Avengers win!? …

Why is that even a question?

It’s all fast and furious, rough and tumble, and kind of jumbled throughout the film. But you get used to it and even through all the noise you’re still able to grasp the story that is spanning out in front of you. Whilst not to say that there aren’t any quieter moments in Age of Ultron they are scarcer than they were in the first Avengers film. I think that’s mainly due to the fact that director Joss Whedon feels comfortable with just picking up where everything left off in the films, and Agents of Shield (Age of Ultron picks up almost IMMEDIATELY after the events in this week’s episode of the critically acclaimed television series.) He doesn’t feel like he needs to backtrack and explain each character again because he knows the audience is there with him. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time because while we don’t necessarily need to know about who Stark or Rogers are, or how Banner became the Hulk I feel like some details about newer characters are kind of glossed over.

In addition to the roster we know by now Whedon introduces two [kind of] new faces to the mix. We’re introduced to Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen )- the Maximoff twins. Their origins are discussed in the film but I feel they are rather glossed over. Now… I totally understand why that is the way it is… *cough*Fox*cough*X-men*cough*. But still I would have liked a little more character development on these two.  They suffer from the same fate as Hawkeye in Avengers. Half the film they’re bad then by the time they’re on the good side we can’t backtrack at all because, well big action is happening. I’m sure that in the future they (or, well, at least one of them) will be more flushed out like they tried to do with Barton/Hawkeye in this film but it still feels like the characters were just kind of there for convenience. Still, they offered some really spectacular moments of action and wit- a great addition. Age of Ultron does a fantastic job of opening up the universe even wider than it already was, which is something that I think felt left out of the first Avengers film. In the first film the MCU was all self-contained to the characters that already had their solo films (or two in Iron Man’s case.) All we really got was Thanos at the end, and that was it. In Age of Ultron they do introduce new characters and heroes like the Maximoff’s, Vision, the official inclusion of Wakanda and Ulysses Klaw. Then, to top it off, we have Falcon and War Machine (yep, we’re back to War Machine again instead of Iron Patriot) as well as Thanos again in the end credits scene and all of the infinity gems are kind of explained and wrapped up by the end of the film- setting up the next phase/next two Avenger’s films perfectly.

I also do love what little is actually added on to the characters we already know. This mainly happens after Scarlet-Witch makes each Avenger see/”experience” their worst fears with her powers. Some of them have flashbacks, some of them see visions, and others just kind of… well, Hulk out. But that leads to character development later on where Banner still is gripping with the monster inside himself, and… well, the monster is gripping with Banner. We see more of Black Widow’s backstory, and she has the most gut wrenching story out of any of them. The scene in which she tells all to Banner is moving, as well as heartbreaking and Scarlett Johansson knocks it out of the park. We also learn a lot more about Hawkeye and see more of him in this film than we did in the first film.  It’s wonderful because while he’s not the only human on the team (even though the film kind of makes it seem that way) he might be the most human one on the team. He has a family, a home, and we see him get wounded in the field, badly. We’re feeling for him from start to finish. That kind of brings me to my next point as well though….

Really, I only have two major complaints about the film. One is I actually thought there was too much humor. A staple in all of the Marvel films is the use of wit and humor. But literally  it got to the point that nearly every other sentence in the film ended with a punchline of some kind, even in the really serious moments. The jokes really start to undermine the situation/stakes.

I also really don’t like how much time is spent on building up the red herring that Hawkeye is going to die. From nearly the beginning of the film to the end it plays off the fact that Hawkeye is human, and that he has this family who loves him, and that he actually can get hurt because he did early on. It reaaalllly lays it on thick and it was just too much and it got to the point that one of two things was going to happen: one- he was going to die, and it would no longer be a shock or two- someone was going to sacrifice themselves for him, and therefor THAT wouldn’t be a shock. Either moment should be incredibly powerful but knowing that one of the two of them was going to happen ruined it. And when Quicksilver does give his life, it is sad but I felt way more for Scarlet Witch losing her brother and seeing her anger and grief than I did over seeing Quicksilver dead. The fact that his death is kind of glossed over in the, and that there was ALSO a joke slapped on by a still somewhat wounded Hawkeye once he lays down next to Quicksilver’s dead body doesn’t improve matters. I actually think he isn’t dead, to be honest. I mean… they have this amazing machine that can repair cells like crazy and essentially build an entire body out of nothing. That mixed with his metabolism, probably excelled healing… I’m sure he’ll be up on his super sneakers in no time.

Also as kind of a minor nitpick, I also wasn’t quite sure why Falcon wasn’t joining the final fight. If he’s able to join the Avengers team at the end… why wasn’t he allowed to be in the Ultron fight? I mean we all heard him talk about that “missing person’s case…” but really, the end of the world seems a little more problematic than Captain Roger’s best ex-best friend.

Some final notes: James Spader is absolutely FANTASTIC as Ultron. Something that’s been kind of missing from phase two of the MCU is a good villain. While there is Hydra, and each solo film has had a villain none of them, I think, have been very good. They’re all fairly basic, and one dimensional. Not bad by any means, but not really original. Ultron was menacing as all hell, and while his plan wasn’t necessarily new by any means his story arch, overall technique, and dialogue in the film was. It was refreshing to see.

The Hulk vs. Hulkbuster Iron Man was AMAZING. There were film angles and shots that seemed a bit off to me but visually it was amazing through and through and it offered one of the best fights ever in a super hero film.

Overall this film was great. I honestly can say I don’t know if I’d rank it above Winter Soldier or Guardians, but it is an amazing movie and is not only fun but is thrilling and engaging all the way through. A few hiccups are present, with the story feeling jumbled due to simply the amount of characters present but it’s all rectified by the satisfying ending that is everything we ever hoped for in an Avengers sequel.

As a preface let me say sorry. It’s been a while since my last review, and for that I apologize. I’ve been slacking, but life has been pretty crazy these last few months. Right now I’m in the process of helping put up a show for a theatre company, and other jobs are keeping me busy. Hopefully though I’ll have more of these heading your way soon!

But what better way to begin with one the 2015 movies that I have been anticipating: Furious 7.  I love these movies. Ever since the original The Fast and The Furious I’ve been hooked. They’re action films with heart, and to me (personally) that’s something hard to come by. Now I’m not going to sit here and say this is a super deep, enriched film series that has tons of character development, logic, and is well grounded because… well, it’s not. The cornerstone of this franchise is the spirit of hard core action, which seems to grow the series continues. Much like the SAW franchise (which ironically enough Furious 7 director James Wan began) the series had evolved from something really simple into something complex, massive, and at times downright ludicrous. We’ve seen our team go from simply street racers to taking on tanks, blowing up planes, and now driving out of planes as well as jumping three buildings in a car. Still, these films retain their heart with the notion that family is everything. With each film you can tell that the cast is genuinely loving what they are putting on screen, and never is that more evident and with more dedication than in Furious 7.

Now… we all know why. This movie was a passion project for everyone involved due to the sad passing of Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner.) The accident caused for a halt in production for a while, and when the team came back I can only imagine how difficult it was for them. But the end product is a great tribute, and probably one of the best entries in the series since the original.

The film wastes no time getting right to the point and throwing us into action, which is both nice and my only real complaint of the film. It’s nice because we already know what’s going on. We have six other films about these characters and even with the third film being an outlander it’s tied in to this movie’s events very nicely.  My qualm with it is that for the first twenty or thirty minutes of the film it seems… kind of choppy. Like the film is missing something. Unfortunately this is probably due to Paul Walker’s absence that the beginning of the movie is structured/edited this way, and for a while I was actually a little scared about if this is what the whole film would feel like. Fortunately, though, it wasn’t. After the first act the movie really gets revved up with the beef of the story beginning after Owen Shaw (Jason Statham) finally tracks down the team.

This film had some of the best fighting scenes I’ve seen since Captain America: Winter Soldier. The hits were amplified by the sound mixing that made them all really hard and poignant.  And each fight was well choreographed and mixed to perfection.  I personally think that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Kara’s (Ronda Rousey) fight was the best one. And no, it’s not because it was two females. You could really sense that these two women were giving it their all in this scene and it was brutal as hell. I seriously believe that these two could have whooped half the male talent’s ass any day of the week.  Also both of the fights with Shaw (Saw vs. Hobb and Shaw vs. Dom) were amazing as well. The final fight started off a bit “too much” for me with the two actors wielding weapons (wrenches, bars, and car parts) but once those were out of their hands the fighting was infinitely better in my opinion.

I loved the fact that this film went “home.” I rewatched the original the night before I watched Furious 7, and caught all of these amazing homages that made me smile like a dope. Best one hands down, and you’ll have to see the film to get it, is “going old school” with Brian. That moment was fan-freaking-tastic. And seeing that Charger again was sweet!

James Wan does an awesome job at directing, and really has some fun shots and camerawork throughout the film though. Really there is only one moment in the entire movie that it felt like “classic James Wan,” and that was the montage where everyone from every faction is preparing for the “war” on the streets of L.A. The way that was cut together, along with the music and the camera work really harkens back to the scene in Death Sentence (one of my favorite James Wan films) where Kevin Bacon’s character is doing the exact same thing- preparing for battle.

Where the movie lacks somewhat in dialogue it obviously makes up for with spectacle and over the top action. As stated before this film goes way beyond what previous installments in the series have done with the action and effects, and the fact that they did some practically is just astounding to me.  There is no denying though that the interactions between the cast is downright cheesy  and cliché at parts. The original film had some pretty natural dialogue and encounters between the characters, but once again that was at a simpler time in the team’s life. When you’re sky diving cars out of a plane, and going head to head with missile welding drones… what can you expect? At the end of the day the series has become a fun, entertaining romp basically harkening back to the classic action films of yester-year.

Amid the muddled writing though there are some really genuine moments though with the characters, most of them involving Brian. And the last five minutes of the film is literally one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. It was an amazing, heartfelt ending to this film that had me choked up.  That final moment with Brian’s car heading down a different road with Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again playing… even just thinking about it gets me.  It’s in those final moments and some of the other moments mentioned before concerning Brian/Paul that you can really tell what this film was made for. It’s on all of their faces and in all of their voices. The emotion is real, which is what propels this movie forward.

In the end, the mixture of passion along with the action that pushes the envelope for the series is what makes this one of the best F&F films since the original. When you leave the theatre you do feel like you watched something that was special and sincere while at the same time being absolutely entertaining and over the top.  While it has it’s flaws it overall is good ol’ fun, and the best kind at that.