Posts Tagged ‘movie’

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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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WB films/ DC Comics

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

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

Universal Pictures

Fourteen years. Fourteen years of a constant up and down, “it’s happening” then “it’s dead” from those who brought to life this film series to fruition. Fourteen years of waiting for the next film, and then finally it’s released. Words can’t express how excited I was for this film to come out. The last time I was this amped up was when The Dark Knight was released in 2008.  And after months of build up from one of the most intensive marketing/viral marketing campaigns in recent history (which is actually continually happening throughout the films release right NOW,) the park was finally opened to an anxiously awaiting public. I sat with friends in that cinema, and when the lights went out I could feel my heart beat faster, and when it began I allowed myself to be transported back to Isla Nublar once again in Jurassic World.

It’s twenty two years since the closure of the original Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar. Twenty two years since John Hammond’s dream came to a screaming halt. But a new empire has arose: Masrani Global. They have taken control of International Genetic Technologies (InGen) as well as all of their subsequent… assets. So out of the ashes of Jurassic Park (and apparently all the other subsequent incidents that happened in 1997 and 2001) Masrani has created Jurassic World, and John Hammond’s dream is now a reality. Jurassic World brings in over twenty thousand people each day, and each guest can now come face to face with the most fascinating creatures to ever roam the planet… well, fascinating for a period of time it seems. The novelty of dinosaurs living again seems to be fading, Dr. Henry Wu and his team are cooking up something that’s sure to excite everyone: Indominus rex, a genetic hybrid with the base genome of Tyrannosaurus rex with some other “classified” species thrown in to the mix (that are revealed throughout the film.) The problem is… it suddenly excites everyone in all the wrong reasons. During a inspection of the I.rex enclosure by Owen Grady, one of the resident JW animal behaviorists who is currently working with the park’s velociraptors, the I.rex escapes. Chaos ensues, as the monster rampages though the island killing everything and everyone in sight. Vic Hoskins believes that he and his InGen ACU unit can capture the creature, by using some very radical means. These radical means end up backfiring and even more chaos ensues as even more creatures on top of I.rex are now fanning out across the island. Is there any hope for survival for the people left on the island?

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I’m going to try really hard not to let my passion overshadow my judgement right now. ANYBODY who know me knows that Jurassic Park is “my thing.” It’s my Star Wars, my Star Trek, my whatever you want to say. It’s the movie [series] that inspired me and so many others. As silly as it sounds, they are the films that made me the person I am. But I’m also a huge cinema fanatic in general, as well as a paleo-guy. So there are several conflicting thoughts, impressions, and emotions flying around in my head right now.

I’ll be frank: liked this movie, a lot. It’s a fun ride, and director Colin Trevorrow delivered some astounding fan service while also bringing a lot of originality to the table. The film does have it’s issues, which I’ll discuss, but overall I left the cinema with an extreme sense of pleasure mixed with just enough wonder to make me feel like this film was a good breath of fresh air in a once extinct franchise.

Warning: from here on out there will be plenty of spoilers… you’ve been warned.

The plot to Jurassic World is probably a story that many have thought of in some way shape or form (I can name at least two videos games off the top of my head where JP is reopened after the events of the first film- the original JP Arcade and JP for Sega Game Gear (and then there is Operation Genesis where you can open your own park)) I remember playing with the toys when I was a kid and playing out what it would be like for the park to actually open.  I don’t feel like it’s super original. The way that it’s portrayed and handled by Colin Trevorrow is however. Everything that we saw at Jurassic World seemed like something I would totally expect to find at a world renown and SUPER expensive theme park.  And while I can recall many many people and die hard fans of the franchise rolling their eyes and groaning at the fact that we’d be getting a hybrid dinosaur I loved and understood Colin’s reasoning. I went to the zoo a few months ago with my family and saw so many people on their phone texting and not taking in all of the animals. Same thing happens in museums, so after Jurassic World has been open for ten years I would totally expect that people would be getting “used” to it, and when that happens at any theme park a new attraction has to be built. In this case it was the Indominus rex.

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I. rex was a wonderful antagonist I felt. Do I feel like it could have just been a normal dinosaur: yes. But as I said I totally understand why it wasn’t. Plus this was actually supposed to be a monster. When rewatching Jurassic Park 3 before hand (I had a marathon of all the films before seeing JW) I couldn’t help but think that a monster is exactly what the spinosaur was- and it irritated me. Yes, the rex(s) and raptors had their monster parts as well in the previous films but at least most of the time it was explainable as to why they were hunting the humans or tracking them (be it territory, food, or otherwise.) The spino had no reason to hunt the humans. The I. rex does. It is not a dinosaur, as Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady points out- it is a monster. It kills for sport, not to eat.  It’s scary looking, it’s big, and it kicks some major tail in Jurassic World. Also it has an ability I’ve been waiting to see in a JP film since reading Michael Crichton’s The Lost World: chameleon/camo skin. Technically it’s cuttlefish skin, but none the less I. rex has the ability to camouflage itself into it’s surroundings. While I really would have loved (and still would love) to see carnotaurus in Jurassic World with that ability like in the novel it looks amazing and is effective none the less. Plus, according to the official Jurassic World website I. rex does have some carno DNA in her so… that’s something I guess.

From a Jurassic Park canon standpoint, for the most part, all the dinosaurs looked great. A lot of the old guys are back and have some shining moments- including the original film’s Tyrannosaurus rex. There are some new guys as well, including the Apatosaurus (which interestingly enough was the sauropod in both of Michael Crichton’s novels but has never been in a previous JP film.) The one animal I would have loved to have seen more of… Dilophosaurus. We get one great moment, but it’s SUCH A TEASE. Oh well, even that one short moment answered an age old question in the canon: yes, the dilos in the first film were juveniles.

I’m going to keep my paleo-analytic critiques to a minimum here, because most of anything I have to say about inaccuracies in the animals of the film have been said by many paleontologists already. From a paleo-perspective the film’s dinosaurs are kind of “meh.” Inaccuracies have been in the JP universe since the first film (well… even since the novel.) To fan of the series they’ve always been able to be explained through the genetic modification that occurs during the “de-extinction” of the animals, and that’s even explicitly said in this film. But I will say that with them having a new park for this film and actually going back from “scratch” on many of these animals, it was kind of a missed opportunity to have some really accurate representations of dinosaurs on screen. While I was able to stomach a lot of the inaccuracies the biggest one I have a hard time dealing with is whenever a pterosaur tries to make off with a human, or even a dinosaur.  That and a near tail dragging stegosaurus.

My biggest complaint, above all, concerning the dinosaurs was the over use of CGI. In the first two JP films there was a perfect marriage or CGI mixed with practical effects- it was seamless. In JP3 it leaned more towards CGI, and the practical effects that were there for some reason didn’t seem as good as in the first two films. In this film nearly every shot of the dinosaurs was CGI. Now, a LOT of it looked good- I can’t lie. There was some really great computer animation work going on in this film. But there were plenty of scenes that they could have used practical effects on, and didn’t. But when they did, it was breathtaking. Like the dying apatosaur scene, it had me in near tears.  It was almost as emotional as the ick triceratops scene in the original Jurassic Park. It looked alive. It was wonderful, and I wish that we could have seen more practical effects- especially towards the end…

Universal Pictures

The acting was good. There were several kind of “cheesy” and forced moments, but I never found myself getting annoyed (in the wrong way) with the characters like I did in JP3 or even some in The Lost World.

Chris Pratt actually goes into some more serious territory with Owen Grady. While the signature charm we associate with Pratt  pops up from time to time, for the most part his character is more akin to Muldoon in the first film with a no-nonsense and practical approach to treating, training, and caring for the dinosaurs.  Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing goes through some good evolution through the film, and becomes kind of a Ellen Ripley of sorts. I think I would have liked to seen more from her in this regard, she does have an amazing and key moment in the end of the film. The one point I really disliked in the film was how Owen and Claire’s relationship just kind of sprung from nowhere. It felt really forced and I disliked it.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays, I guess, the human villain of the film. It’s all in the eye of the beholder really. But he does make some really bad judgement calls and his comeuppance is as good as Dieters in The Lost World. And I am SO glad we got to see some more from BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu. A lot of his material is straight from the original novel here and it’s stuff I, as a Jurassic Park fan, have been waiting to see and hear for a long time. He does a great job of playing Wu, like to a T and I really hope we see more of him if the series continues. 

Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson do a great job of being… well, the kids of this film. Their relationship feels plausible, although for the most part they were just kind of “there” in the film and didn’t offer a lot of support the way children in previous films have.

Irrfan Khan as Masrani did a great job but we really didn’t get to learn much about the guy before he goes down in a fireball. I knew I liked him but his death wasn’t as powerful as if it would have been if, say, Hammond was to die in the first film. If he was given more time I feel like that would have helped.

Other talent like Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, and Katie McGrath offered some variety in the supporting cast but we all knew they’d pretty much be fodder or just help the story along and have a few great moments.

Along with all the new, Colin Trevorrow does an outstanding Job of bringing back the old. We have a wonderful moment where we get to see the old Visitor Center again from the first film. The only problem, the scene(s) only last a few minutes and we move on. I really would have liked it if we slowed down the film when we got in to the “restricted” area of Nublar, which is almost the entire norther half of the island. There are still some unanswered questions, more locations I wanted to see. On top of it all, there were some thing that unless you’ve been following the marketing you wouldn’t really know. Like the rex. I’m sure few people actually realized that the rex in the film was the original (via interviews or websites, etc) the average viewer wouldn’t realize. I wish they would have shown or discussed the roundup of the rex and possibly more of the original animals from the first Jurassic Park. And damn it!- I wanted more dilophosaurs! Sigh… But really JW really has some super nostalgic moments.

The film also has a lot of inside jokes/nods towards the other films in some really clever ways. Take the ptero attack on the chopper. The pteranodon’s beak breaking through the bubble and into the chest of the ACU member- that’s taken directly from a cut sequence from The Lost World. Also that blood dripping on ACU member Hamada’s hand when he’s searching for I.rex… reminded me a lot of when Malcolm is trying to explain Chaos Theory to Dr. Sattler in Jurassic Park. “Which way is the drop gonna’ role off?” Moments like that, and many others in the film just left me tickled as a JP fan. Trevorrow goes above and beyond with the fan service in the film, and for that I thank and applaud him.  He also adds in some really tense moments very akin to the Alien franchise, and you’ll know them when you see them. These moments and Colin’s willingness to show gore actually make Jurassic World the most violent of any of the Jurassic films.

Universal Pictures

The fan service goes even into the soundtrack of the film. Composer Michael Giacchino is back for is third turn in the JP franchise (originally scoring the soundtrack to the The Lost World and Warpath: Jurassic Park PlayStation video games.) For JW Giacchino brings a lot of originality to the plate but really pays homage to nearly all the work done before for the franchise. Not only are their call backs to the classic motifs of Jurassic Park (and The Lost World theme at one major point) composed by John Williams but we get a lot of music that is similar to the themes heard in Operation Genesis, from Jurassic Park; The Game, and even a hint of the PlayStation games. It’s nice, and really brings some added emotion and nostalgia.  The new Jurassic World theme is majestic, and while it may not be as iconic as the classic JP, it’s exactly what this film needs, and the I. rex theme is creepy as well. There are a few moments in the film where I feel like the soundtrack is a tad much, and over the top- but it’s defiantly not as obnoxious as the JP3 soundtrack gets at points.

Some moments of the film really dance a fine line of being exactly what you didn’t know you wanted to see and absolutely overkill. The two main ones being the death of Zara and the death of I. rex. Zara’s death was just… crazy. I personally would have liked to have either had it be the mosasaur or just the ptera and not both, but I can’t like… it looked cool. And I. rex’s death… I actually won’t spoil. I saw it a mile away before it happened during the final encounter, and when it actually happened the cinema erupted in applause- and I was a part of that roaring audience. It was a bad ass death for a pretty bad ass monster.

In the end… to be honest, my head is still spinning. I caught the 7 pm showing (Central Time) of Jurassic World and it’s now almost 1 AM and I’m finishing this review. My thoughts are still jumbled, “but, uh… well there it is.” Jurassic World, while having some zany moments, and some nonsensical plot points about militarized dinosaurs… is pretty much everything I wanted in a sequel. I do wish it was a tad longer, taking more time to explain some things and slow down at some moments, but the pacing wasn’t bad really. I’m super interested in if there will be some deleated/extended scenes in the BluRay release. All in all though, after a fourteen year wait that came after kind of a very bitter bitter sweet third film I feel like this film is a great addition to the franchise. While it’s not as good as the original it’s defiantly a very worthy sequel.

Jurassic World answers a lot of questions I feel, while opening a whole new door for future teams to go down should they choose. If not, I’m actually not concerned. While there are plenty of loose strings it has an ending more akin to The Lost World and not super open ended like Jurassic Park 3. And that makes me as both a fan of this wonderful franchise and a movie goer satisfied. And those questions, along with the ones have have yet to be answered are still out there for future teams to tackle (oh please, let one of those teams include me! … I can wish….)

Jurassic World is a wild romp through the island of Isla Nublar that is not to be missed. It chaotic, fun, terrifying, and exhilarating. This movie is the definition of what a summer blockbuster should be and is defiantly not to be missed. If you’re a fan of the franchise though, bring some tissues- because the nostalgia train is gonna’ hit ya’, hard.

Universal Pictures

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.

Movie Review: Interstellar

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Film
Tags: , , ,

I know it has been a while since my last post. A mixture of post-Halloween depression, busy work life, and a wonderful plethora of auditions has kept me away from my duties to all of you wonderful people reading the words I write! But never fear. The next few days, as long as I have the time, I hope to catch up on a few reviews and random blog posts. And I might as well start with this one…

Last weekend I saw Chris Nolan’s new film, Interstellar, a film I have anxiously been awaiting since first hearing about. Chris Nolan is a straight up blessing to modern cinema and I knew that this film would only secure that notion even more so. But even I, after watching the film, sat there in the theatre stunned at just how amazing this movie really was. If you follow film culture at all, your news feed the past week has probably been blowing up with posts of how stellar Interstellar is. Right off the bat I will tell you, it is good. It’s a masterpiece of cinema, plain and simple. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have faults, which I will address. The movie is set in the not to distant future where the world had literally gone “ashes to ashes; dust to dust.’

Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, who is an ex NASA pilot and currently a farmer who is trying to keep his fields alive. But the world is dieing, as are the crops. And pretty soon Earth will not be able to really sustain life due to the conditions. So NASA comes up with a backup plan (actually two,) so save the human race. We have to find another world, and the only way to do that is to leave ours. So Cooper, along with a few others are enlisted to embark on an interstellar mission to another galaxy to look for new, habitable worlds. The cost? Leaving family and loved ones behind, and possibly even not completing the mission before the human race dies.

The story is a lot, I replete,  A LOT more complex in all actuality than what I just outlined. But that is the “general” story line of the film. But it goes really deep into physics, space travel, the “human footprint,” and a lot more. It’s a beautiful, complicated, generally well crafted story handled in classic Nolan fashion.

The acting, across the board, was amazing. Especially from McConaughey. Coming from someone who loves his performance in Dallas Byers’ Club, I actually think that his performance in Interstellar is his best one to date. The video logs scenes alone should be reason enough to solidify this. They are heart breaking, and he is 100% committed in those scenes to making us feel the same kind of anguish he does. I’ve always liked McConaughey as an actor, and I’m glad that people are finally realizing and appreciating his potential.

Murph is arguably the main focus of the film, possibly only second to Cooper. I mean, she is “what it’s all about” (see the film, because I won’t be clarifying otherwise.) And all actresses playing this character, at various stages of her life, do an amazing job. First you have Murph at 10, played by Mackenzie Foy. Foy plays the character sincerely and with great depth. Not only does her intelligence and wits come out, but her emotion and feelings are strong. The 30’s-ish Murph is played by Jessica Chastain. She subtly plays that “clinging to anger” emotion while also holding on to hope that not only will she see her father again but can save the world as well. Anne Hathaway shines as Brand, and Michael Cain does a great job as her aging father who keeps a pretty dark secret. The list of other supporting characters goes on an on, and each one of them adds a different trait and emotional weight to the film. When they die, or perish in some way it’s felt who heatedly and Nolan captures that loss  in the movie.

Visually, this is Nolan’s best film. The locals are breathtaking, and sets are wonderful. Nolan has always been a “practical” effects and locations director and boy I love that. It adds a real grounded and real-life feel to the movie since a majority of the locations were indeed real. I’d so much rather see real locations and effects rather than CG. And what CG there was (because, well, it’s a space travel/inter dimensional travel sci-fi film, so there is obviously going to be some) is done really well. It all blends together seamlessly in the movie, and nothing ever flashes out to the viewer as fake or unreal unless it is done on propose (I.E- the inner workings of the black hole/ inter dimensional world.)

Now, Christopher Nolan is obviously a director who acknowledges, appreciates, and honors the history and art of film making. He understands “the magic”  of seeing movies, and what makes a good movie and a good film going experience. This is both Nolan’s blessing and curse. While it is assured that Nolan’s work will be quality and amazing, it also means that perhaps thing’s get messy and rushed towards the end. My theory as to why- Nolan never wants his movies to end. His pacing is perfect, generally, for the first two-thirds of his films. It’s full of twists, and turns, and emotions, until we get to the final act and it feels like he realizes “Crap, I have to actually end/finish the movie.” The third act then feels slightly rushed to end, and while it’s satisfying you get the sense that it isn’t on the same level as the rest of the film. Now, this is more evident in some of Nolan’s work than others, but it’s almost evident in all of his films I feel- especially Interstellar. The whole film is fairly evenly paced, and well explained until the final portion which then brushes over a lot of details and questions. Don’t get me wrong, the ending is great and moving but it still feels hurried. I know Nolan isn’t a fan of director’s cuts but I feel like this film deserves to go just that tad bit longer to explain things more clearly and concisely rather than leaving it a slightly convoluted rush.

Hans Zimmer’s score took me a little bit of getting used to because it is just completely out of the box for him, and not his normal style. But I think that is why I ended up liking it. Because it is so different. While there are moments that I feel the use of music could have been toned down it really shines through in the more action filled and tension building scenes. My biggest problem with it wast that there were moments when the score completely overpowered the dialogue of the actors on screen. Not sure if that was a mixing problem or a problem with the theatre I saw it at. Regardless it ends up being a beautiful score in the end.

Go, see this movie. In fact, spend the extra and see it in IMAX. I was actually planning on doing that but the ONE time I don’t preorder my tickets they sell out of IMAX. The person right in front of me bought the last ticket for the showing. IMAX is the way Nolan intended for the movie to be seen, having apparently shot a majority of it with the IMAX cameras (which I’m so glad. I’d rather more directors start doing this than keeping going with the stupid 3D trend. It’s so pointless, and I’d rather get the amazing picture that IMAX has to offer.) It’s thick, plot wise, but a lot of Nolan’s films are. So if you’re expecting a “shut your mind off” kind of film this isn’t it. But it is engaging. It does slow down a bit in the middle, but really it doesn’t mess with the overall pacing of the film. It’s a cinematic work of art and craftsmanship across the board.

I couldn’t let Halloween come to pass and not review one of these films! Plus this series is my favorite slasher series. Yep, I’m a Myers boy. I was originally going to review the first film but I kind of ran into the same problem I did with the Alien review (it’s too complicated to just hammer out in one sitting.) I’ll get there eventually I’m sure, but this is not a bad one to begin with! In fact I rate this in my top three of the Halloween films (coming in just after the original and the sequel.)

This film picks up ten years after the original film and it’s sequel. We’re going to skip over the fact that Halloween 3: Season of the Witch happened. It begins with out infamous murderer Michael Myers, who is now thought to be an invalid after the events of Halloween 2,  being transferred back to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. But once he overhears the fact that he has a niece the evil awakes once more inside him, and he escapes again. Jump to Haddonfield, Illinois where young Jamie Loyd is having nightmares of a boogeyman coming after her. She is the daughter of Laurie Strode (who is “dead” after a fatal car accident of some kind, leaving her an orphan.) This fact means that she is unfortunately the niece of Michael Myers, and obviously his new target. Never fear, because Dr. Sam Loomis is on Michael’s trail of terror as he begins to tracked the masked killed back to Haddonfield. Loomis warns the police, and puts everyone on high alert. But that is still not enough. Michael begins his bloody rampage through the small Midwestern town, searching for Jamie with more brutality than ever.

This film brings back the series’ beloved Shape after a threequel that disappointing many fans- mainly because of the fact that it didn’t involved Michael Myers at all! And boy does this film bring him back with a vengance. By now Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th had, by now, stormed on to the slasher scene so Myers has some competition. Well, within the first few minutes of this film we get a taste of Michael’s new brutality with a thumb to the head! While Halloween 2 defiantly upped the level of gore and violence, we have never seen Michael like this. He kills people with his bare hands, breaking their faces and ripping them apart. He shoves guns through people, and electrocutes them. About the only thing we don’t see him do in this movie is actually stab someone with a knife. And not only does Myer’s do this but he is able to be “The Shape” while doing that. Meaning that, at no point, does this feel like a Friday film or something of the like. Michael is exactly what he was in the original film, omnipresent and evil, It feels like no matter where the character’s turn he will be there. He has some genuinely creepy scenes that I actually feel are some of the best moments in the entire series. Like this one:

Every time I watch that scene it sends chills up my spine. It is such a sinister moment that captures the essence of Michael Myers.

Also the fact that this time around Michael is hunting down a child makes this movie, to me, that much scarier. I was around seven or eight the first time I saw this movie and it terrified me to my bones. Not even Halloween 2, which is actually the first horror film I ever saw, did that. This film to me had no boundaries. If Michael was going after a kid, then all bets were off. Nobody stood a chance.

Now, there are plenty of cliche and eye-roll inducing moments in the movie, usually containing our teenage characters. In fact, they are ofter downright infuriating characters to listen to. Super arrogant and ignorant like… well, teenagers.

While I do wish that there would be a Halloween film that truly dives into how Haddonfield views the holiday of Halloween post Michael Myers (come on, that would be such an interesting story!) I love the addition of the town folk trying to hunt down Michael for revenge. I just wish that it was more flushed out in the end. Time and time again in these films we get moments like this that could lead to some interesting depth on the town and individual characters, but they are generally glossed over to continue on. After all the death that has happened I’m super surprised Halloween is even celebrated in Haddonfield any more.

This film also does an amazing job of getting that “Halloween feeling” down. That same feeling I talked about in my Trick ‘r Treat review. I don’t know how to specifically describe it but there is a feeling to Halloween as a holiday and a season in general. It’s a general atmosphere, and it’s a tone that is often not captured in the Halloween films which strikes me as really odd. Out of all of the films (which there are ten now) I feel like only three of them truly capture that feeling of the holiday. And Halloween 4 is one of them. Right from the bat we are give a series of images associated with the harvest, and fall. It sets the tone perfectly. And later on during the school day, and at night during trick or treating and the “Multiple Myers” scene it’s there.

And then, above all, the reason I love this movie… the ending. Dear God, that ending. It was a such a sinister and ballsy move. It still makes my eyes widen and limbs freeze when I watch the movie. As I said, I was young when I first saw this movie on AMC Fear Fest. And that ending legitimately gave me nightmares. It’s such a dark twist and one that I, and probably nobody else, never saw coming. The sound of Loomis’ scream mixed with the horror you’re actually seeing makes for one of the single best moments in, frankly, any slasher film ever made as far as I’m concerned.

All in all I love this film. I often consider it as good as the original Halloween 2, making them tied for my second favorite Halloween film. While I love this series and there are some genuinely frightening movements in some of the other films, this was the only one to truly terrify me and it’s mainly due to the ending. A few of the characters get annoying but their deaths make putting up with them tolerable and while there is some sense of “been there, done that” at moments in the film, most of it is generally done in a way that for the most part it feels fresh and new. Plus Myers’ new brutality mixed with his evil and ubiquity makes for one of the most frightening portrayals of the classic slasher. It’s the comeback of a life time for Michael Myers, as he reminds us that you truly cannot kill damnation.

I could go on an on with my personal analysis of the film and it’s characters; all of the hidden symbolism, viewing the film with a feminist lens, analysis of the creature itself and it’s stages… but I’m not going to. Because that would just take too long, and I want to try and keep this as short and simple as possible. Because, in the end, not much really needs to be said about Alien as a film- other than it’s perfect.

This movie is a masterpiece of cinema. Period; that is all you need to know about it. If you have NEVER seen Alien I, quite frankly, feel sorry for you. Everything about it is pure genius. The craftsmanship and storytelling alone are near perfection, and then add on top the amazing art direction and stylistic choices made and it just makes for one hell of a movie. A movie that is downright engrossing and terrifying. This is a movie that, even into my late teens, I was watching through hands covering my eyes at parts. And since we just had the 35th anniversary edition released as well as the release of the new game Alien: Isolation, I thought it was a good time to take a look at this movie.

The story follows the crew of the ship Nostromo, a “freighter” space ship. The crew receives an emergency beacon from planet LV-426 (which you don’t find out the name of the planet until the sequel Aliens, which is almost equally as awesome and I will eventually do a review for as well.) The ship lands on the planet and finds a derelict spacecraft of some kind and investigates. But Kane, one of the crew members, returns to Nostromo with something attached to his face. The creature eventually detaches and dies, and Kane seems okay. But he’s not. The “facehugger” put something inside him, and it wants out. And it gets out. The rest of the movie, the remaining crew of the Nostromo fight to stay alive as they are killed off one by one by this xenomorph alien species… this “perfect organism.”

First of the characterization of the Nostromo crew is fantastic. They seem like real people. Their actions make sense and the dialogue is really tight. Sure there is futuristic jargon thrown in, but it’s not superfluous or silly in any way. The characters talk and act realistically, and that is something that rarely happens in horror films. One of the things I applaud this movie for (because it rarely happens in horror films) is having the characters react to death like it really happened. That is something that never occurs in horror, and really bothers me- characters don’t really grieve. At most we have characters that find out a friend has died, they cry for a second, then move on. There is no anger, there is no world crumbling break down, and that is not real. People react to death in real life, and in Alien they react. They grieve, they are shocked, they are scared, they cry, they get angry. The emotions and reactions are exactly how people would react, and in the end making the characters more real makes the film more real for an audience, and subsequently more horrifying.

So let’s talk about a scene for a second…

Yeah. I didn’t want to a put a gif in case there are people reading this that haven’t seen the film. If you HAVEN’T seen the film the dinner scene, after the facehugger dies, is reason enough for you to go out and see this film. It’s shocking. I remember when I saw this for the first time my jaw was hanging open. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. I literally had the same reaction as the rest of the Nostromo crew. My freshman year of college I showed this film to my group of friends (none of which had seen the movie) and when this scene came all of them still had the same reaction. When a film can last the test of time like that, and still after so many years evoke the same kind of response, it’s a testament to how well it was written, acted, and directed. The choices made for that scene were spot on, ballsy, and uncomfortable. The overall concept of the facehugger and alien birth alone is brilliant and original.

The adult creature continues that trend with being a truly horrifying, yet beautiful creature. The late H.R Giger’s art just comes to life in this film. His creature design does it’s job of being a very sensual and at the same time striking fear into the audience. It is a disturbing creature, and I don’t think any of the Alien films since the first have really shown the beauty of them like Alien has. I feel like a few times they have tried, but in the end the sequels have focused more on how animalistic and horrifying the creatures are rather than the beauty of them, and that was half the horror of the original Alien. You knew this creature was bad news, but you couldn’t look away. It was a living train wreck. The only other time in the other films, I feel, that had the same awe as Alien was the reveal of the queen in Aliens. 

Then on top of everything else that is good about this film, there is Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver.) Ellen is one of my favorite, and one of the best (period!) female characters of all time. She proves throughout each of these films, especially in Aliens, but it all started with the first film. Spoilers: She goes from being just another crew member to the “final girl” in the blink of an eye. She endures a hell of a lot of loss and pain in this film and still remains strong enough to go head to head with the beast in the end. She proves early on with her conversation with Brett and Parker that she doesn’t fit that “cookie mold” of what a good girl should be- she is her own person, independent and authoritative. She demands respect, as opposed to Lambert who kind of plays out like the a-typical female character who just breaks down. Ellen stands up when the moment arises, and takes control (or at least tries to) of a horrifying situation.

I honestly have nothing more to say about this movie. It is genuinely horrifying; it still is up there as one of the scariest films I have ever seen.  It isn’t just a well crafted horror film, but a well crafted film in general which, in general, stands the test of time. At 35 years old the film is still effective on delivering the blows and the shocks. It’s a great mixture of suspense, terror, and even a little drama thrown in. The film’s structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.

It seems like everywhere you turn these days there is just an overabundance of “found footage films.” These are films shot in first person POV, made to seem like “true events.” The most famous one probably being The Blair Witch Project but in the last several years with movies like Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield and V/H/S this specific breed of horror film has taken hold. The bad thing is, this type of film making has overstayed its welcome. It’s the torture-porn phase of horror films all over again, except with less mutilation and more grainy, overly shakey camera movements and the same types of scares used over and over again in every film. Look no further than my review on As Above/So Below to see what I mean.  Audiences still desire these films, and I often don’t understand it. Almost all of them are filled with the same plots, the same tropes, even the same dialogue. Almost.

Once and awhile one will really surprise me. It’ll bring something somewhat refreshing to the table. It’ll take take the elements of the genre that are good and use them properly while combining it with other original material. And for the most part, that is exactly what The Houses October Built does. While it does tread on trodden ground, it does do a great job of combining a great idea with some genuinely creepy moments.

The film follows five friends as they travel around to try and find the scariest and most extreme haunted house. After a few days of hitting “normal haunts,” as well as irritating half of the staff in said haunts the friends finally head about a specific on in Louisiana that is supposed to be the end all of haunted experiences. As the group travels to the haunt though things get heated as scareactors seemingly become more hostile towards them the closer they get. Just as things seem to get “too real” for the group the real terror strikes once the haunt finds them (yeah, you read that right.) After that the group understands real horror.

When I first saw the trailer for this film, I was sold just because I could identify with the groups basic goal- wanting to find the scariest experience you possibly can. I have spent over a year writing and doing research for a paper about horror as a theatrical art form, and much of the paper consists of looking at haunted houses and how they have developed. There seems to be this growing trend towards these “extreme” houses like Blackout, Alone, and McKamey Manor. What THOB does though is ask the question- how extreme is extreme? How far can haunts actually go without hurting people?

This film, in general, played out like a warning to me. And not just to one set group of people either, but to a bunch. Firstly the group of people/or protagonists are all a-holes. They end up being the a-typical type of people who go to haunted houses drunk and high and cause problems. And something bad happens to them. That is one warning.

Warning two, and the one that really struck me hard, is the warning to haunt workers/owners. Now, as many know, I have worked haunts for around ten years now (this being my first year in ten off, although I did volunteer at one for a few weekends at the beginning of the season. ) I know what kind of mind set the actors have, and I know what kind of people work at haunts. But actually hearing it and seeing it first hand, in real off set interviews shocked me. In interviews with the directors of the pictures they have said countless times that their interviews with haunt staff used in the film are real and unscripted. And one thing, I know for a fact is real due to experience, is the lack of concern most haunts have towards background checks and investigations. But seeing it and hearing other people say it in this movie really struck a chord with me and alarmed me. This movie, in a weird way, can also be taken as a warning to haunters- be careful of who you let work your house.

As far as the writing goes, it constantly does a dancing game with edging between good and repeated territory. The basic concept is great, but the follow through is the where the “iffy” parts start to show. But a lot of the issues are more so logic and reasoning, and are pretty petty. Like why does it take them a week to visit four haunts? They showed us their “hit list” of locations. They really aren’t that far from one another. Have they ever been to a haunt before? They play it out like going to one haunt is a several hour event, and it isn’t. Even during Hallo-week. They should be able to hit two or even three a night.

Also, no haunt lets to film inside. Now, this issue does come up closer to the end of the film but our group goes through haunts half the film having no problem recording. No. Their butts would have been kicked out asap. At least have a thing early on explaining either a.) talking to the owners to get permission, or b.) hiding the cameras so they can secretly record.

I also really don’t like the strip club scene as well as the scene with Mike and the haunt girl in the trailer alone. The strip club scene seems like just an easy way to fill space in the film as well as show off females and in the end it was just unneeded and detracted from the story. And the scene with the two in the trailer should have went down way more differently I feel. But now the group is apprehensive of haunt workers do to some creepy experiences. But Mike just takes her back and starts flirting and drinking. I would have really rather have seen her try and attack him or do something creepy or sick in some way during that scene, or even show up later and kill him towards the end. But the scene just messes with the pacing and seems out of place.

Probably the biggest head-scratcher and problem for me though was wondering who cut the film together. Spoilers- they die. All of the five friends die. Nobody is left. So who edited the film, and but the opening information in? So many questions!

I feel like to fully appreciate the film you have to either work at a haunt or love going to haunted houses. If you don’t fall under either of those categories then the film will just be lost on you. I love how they focus less on the startle scare moments in this film and go for more of the silent, and subtle scares. Those creepy scares I wish, as an actor, were more appreciated in haunt culture. But often people hurry through haunts and don’t notice or take those moments in. So often you’re only left with loud jump scares. But this film relishes the creepy moments and makes it so that when something suddenly does happen it chills you. Prime example is when the doll girl gets on the RV and just sits there. When she finally screams I was just sitting, staring at my screen wide eyed.

There are plenty of non scary moments that I feel try to get pushed by the filmmakers as horrifying (which, ironically enough, happens in haunts all the time) but there are also plenty of genuinely unsettling moments as well. It takes about half the film to pick up speed to these moments but once they start rolling there are plenty. Especially the ending. You were just as drawn is as the characters and didn’t know what was going to happen. While I was expecting a “bigger, louder” ending since this film is kind of a commentary and analogy for haunts them selves (and haunts always end big and loud with one last scare) the quieter ending that just snaps to credits was actually, I think, a great way to end it. It left me thinking about the film as a whole rather than just like “Whaaa!” It would have been just as easy to send one of the group members out and chase them with a chainsaw, but the ending we have is more somber and smarter than that. It just ends when you want more. You’re left with so many questions, and it just ends. Some will hate it, but I liked it.

In the end The Houses October Built is a shining example of what an indi-found footage horror film should be. It’s original enough to be interesting and enticing all together, even though at times it falls into the traps of typically tropes of the genre. More logic and understanding from the characters and writing could have helped out a lot but overall the film is well put together and offers some frighteningly real insights to the world of haunting. If you are a lover of haunt culture or are looking for a good, assuredly creepy Halloween season film- look no further.

WARNING, this post will contain some fairly graphic imagery.

 

 

Another one! I’m on a roll!

Another film I haven’t seen in awhile, but I absolutely love. The Fly is one of David Cronenberg’s greatest films as far as I am concerned. It is imaginative, disturbing, and comeplling. Everything about it, from start to finish, reels you in and doesn’t relent. Like Carpenter’s The Thing, it is the epitome of what a horror film re-imagining/remake should be.

 

The story follows the socially awkward Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) as he attempts to woo reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis.) He does so by bringing her to his place promising to show her “something that will change the very world as we know it.” She thinks he is just playing her but come to find out, he wasn’t lying. At his humble abode he has been working on a project for the past six years. A project that will indeed change everything. A real teleportation device. Veronica immediately starts recording Brundle’s work as he goes from testing inanimate objects to baboons. But initially there are some bad results with the teleporter not being able to reassemble skin.  But after some readjustments it works and is able to fully transport living organisms correctly. Seth hastily decides to try it out for himself, but isn’t aware that he isn’t the only living thing in the telepod when he attempts to go through. A small typical house fly is trapped inside with him when he goes through, but when the transport is complete only Seth walks out. So what happened to the fly? Well, as the weeks go by we find out. Seth has increased energy and strength as well as a spike in anger. His body slowly begins transforming into a hideous beast until we aren’t sure if he is more man than he is insect.

 

First off, the makeup alone is reason enough to love this movie. It walked away with the Oscar in ’87 for makeup and it is easy to see why. The practical effects in this movie are breathtaking and probably some of the best since The Thing. The transformation of Brundle into Brundlefly gets as much under the viewers skin as it does Seth’s. Many of these transformation techniques have been echoed again and again in films today, most notably District 9. There are scenes in District 9 that are almost shot for shot taken from The Fly. Like the peeling of the fingernails, and the removal of the teeth. The transformation starts off slowly, but speeds up to an alarming rate halfway through the film. Each new reveal of Seth has our stomach in knots, and out morbid curiosity piqued.

There are also some really excellent moments of practical effects genius such as these, littered throughout the entire film:

And above all, the final stage of metamorphosis that Brundle goes through in the climax.

 

The film does a great job of using really graphic depictions of the transformation, while somehow staying contained. Cronenberg shows just the right amount, at just the right moments to keep it sickening and disturbing but not overly gratuitous. Once again, there is the reason that this film won best makeup effects. These images are testament to how useful practical effects can be. and for the most part they haven’t really aged; they still hold up while watching the film today.  Give me this practical transformation than a CGI double any day.

 

Jeff Goldblum does an outstanding job as Seth Brundle. The exec heads of Fox at the time were apparently really against Goldblum for the role, and I think his performance made them eat their words. He starts off as that a-typical socially awkward guy, and he plays it so sincerely. But over the course of the film he turns into a monster both inside and out. The transformation essentially has the same effects on him as heroin does to a drug addict, and Goldblum captures that perfectly. The obsession, and compulsion- it’s all there. His performance through the makeup though is where he really shines. He, while wearing these grotesque appliances, gives us a character with humanity and is someone that we are saddened to see slip into this insanity and become a monster.

Geena Davis does a great job too as playing Veronica, who is essentially the audience connection. She feels the same pain and horror that the audience does- if not even more so. Halfway through the film she finds out she’s pregnant with Seth’s baby (most likely post fly-spliced Seth.) So not only is she dealing with the gradual loss of her lover, but she has this thing inside her that she fears is not fully human. It too could end up being a monster- and it’s driving her insane. On top of that she’s dealing with he mildly stalkerish ex, who also happens to be her boss. Her life isn’t that great. And never in the film does she really come off as the a-typical “woe is me” damsel in distress. She tries to stay strong. She wants to be there to help Seth, and make it through this. But it weighs her down, and breaks her down the whole film.  Davis really does a great job in making us connect and sympathize with the character the whole film.  And then… she also does a great job of making us feel horrified…

 

 

Cronenberg is arguably one of the modern masters of horror. With films like The Fly, The Brood, and Scanners and others it is easy to see why. But The Fly takes the cake for me. It crawls under your skin the entire film through masterful storytelling. While it does seem a tad rushed in spots, it makes up for it with a brilliant combination of characterization and effects that still hold up to this day. It’s a modern classic, that will haunt your thoughts for days after watching with the imagery. Yes… be afraid. Be very afraid.

Man has it been a while since I’ve seen a film that has just wowed me. It’s been equally as long since I’ve seen a film that leaves me speechless. Thankfully David Fincher’s new film, Gone Girl, an adaptation from the novel of the same name, killed those two birds with one stone. I was hooked every second with this movie.  It was one giant gift of masterful storytelling, and outstanding acting.

Now, I should preface this whole review with stating the embarrassing truth: I haven’t read the book [yet]. So I have nothing to compare the film to in terms of structure, characterizations, and all of the other subsequent areas.

The movie follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) who is married to Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike.) One day Nick returns home to find his house a mess and Amy missing. Cops are called in, and immediately an investigation is underway. But what seems like a kidnapping/missing person’s case quickly turns into a murder investigation with Nick as the prime suspect. Clues mount up pointing to Nick as the culprit to the crime. But where is the body; where is Amy? And a few things don’t quite add up. What actually happened?

Okay, so my summery REALLY does not do the story justice at all. The story itself is a tangled, intricate web woven to sheer perfection. Now from what I understand Fincher took the story and moved things around. I don’t know what exactly he did, but the way it plays out on film is outstanding. The movie is perfectly paced so that there is not a single wasted moment. At the beginning the flashback scenes involving the diary entries felt weird to me and very cold, and hollow. But that is the way they are supposed to be. They are hollow memories, only setting up the more emotional things at the end. There is supposed to be a disconnect, and a difference between the way that the characters are depicted in the flashbacks and the way they are in real life.

The pacing also does a great job of keeping you into the movie the whole time. At a run time of almost two hours and fifty minutes, with no real action taking place, one would worry that a film like this would tend to drag on. Yet it never felt that way. I was invested from beginning to end, and there was never a dull moment.

The acting, across the board, was stellar. First off I’ll get our lead, Affleck, out of the way. It is high time that this man got his due as an actor. He’s proven throughout the years that he can write and direct, yet most people still harp on his ability to act for some reason. This film proves that this man has the chops once and for all. He not only makes a well rounded character that we have a real feeling and sympathy for, but also one that we are not sure we can trust. Those are two very conflicting emotions to feel as a viewer. Then, on top of it, he portrays the flashback version of Nick which is completely different than the “real” Nick. And when the finale comes we’re equally as torn with him. We want Amy to get her comeuppance, and feel his anger and frustration (to put it mildly) that it cannot be dished out. Nick is stuck between a rock and a really freaking solid hard place. And Affleck plays it perfectly.

Along with Affleck is the performance by Rosamund Pike as Amy. This woman is legitimately crazy, at least that is how it felt. I was scared of what would happen. She made me angry, she made me concerned, and she terrified me all at the same time. And most of the time there was nothing going on on screen except for her just thinking and plotting. But when things actually did happen it just reassured us of how messed up she actually is. This woman was an even more sadistic and screwed up version of Tate from American Horror Story, if that is even possible. She made my skin crawl. It was awesome. Pike was so in to the role, and so connected it was scary. There was a real craftsmanship to the work being done here by this actress.

The supporting cast as well was great. Neil Patrick Harris was genuinely creepy in this movie. Originally I was skeptical about how it would pan out with him being kind of a stalker-ish guy because… well, it’s Neil Patrick Harris. He’s so lovable. But damn he get’s creepy and uncomfortable to watch real fast. Neil owns it, and does a great job.

Probably my favorite supporting role though goes to Kim Dickens as Detective Phonda Boney. Not since Agent Starling in Silence of the Lambs have I seen (that I can recall) such an empowered female force surrounded by. Dickens plays the detective so precisely and confidently that for the first quarter or more of the film we are sure that Nick is the bad guy, and we should be siding with her and her want to catch him. Then, without really having to be told any of the details, she starts to figure out by herself that things don’t quite add up (this is, however, after she arrests Nick.) In a room of mainly men who are sympathizing with Amy, Detective Boney is the only one thinking clearly and willing to grill Amy on the details.

The ending of the film leaves you frustrated, but in a good way. That is good storytelling, when a cliffhanger becomes more than just a cliffhanger. It is a part of the story. From what I can tell the ending is the one thing that people are constantly torn about (with both the novel and the film.) It provides us with such an unsolvable conundrum that it makes our head spin. And that is perfect storytelling, and it’s the kind of story telling that makes me want to be a writer as well as a filmmaker. To create the kind of story that embeds itself into people’s minds and they are forced to think about it over and over again- that is real skill; it’s what it’s all about.

In the end Gone Girl provides for a genuinely enticing, disturbing, and emotionally driven piece of film. If you haven’t seen it you are doing yourself a great disservice. Go and see it. David Fincher is arguably one of the best directors creating films, and this movie is testament to that. He takes a complicated story of human emotion, and turns it into not just film- but art. It is films like this that remind me just why I love this medium so much. Films are supposed to make us look inside ourselves; they are supposed to move us, and films like Gone Girl  make us ask the tough questions even after the credits roll… What are we thinking? What are we feeling? … What would we do?