Friday, July 29, 2016

Catching Up With Comic-Con: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them



I was a bit skeptical of the idea that a book within a Harry Potter book would be adapted into a movie. Worse, that this movie would somehow be the springboard for a new, potential franchise. Not at all what I expected, but Hollywood finds details in the weirdest places, why should I be surprised anymore? Apparently, this made a big splash at Comic-Con this year, honestly its easy to see why.

It doesn't seem like your typical, "hey, here are a bunch of call backs to the franchise that made this movie possible!" Sure, you see a couple of things, but they are being forced fed to you. This looks like a true spin-off, something that is going to be of its own. That I am excited for. I never get excited when spin-offs take too much time winking and nudging you, to see if you remember everything its predecessor did. Of course we won't forget Harry Potter, 2011 wasn't THAT long ago.

I think I may give this a shot. I mean with Colin Ferrell and Jon Voight giving support work to Eddie Redmayne, how bad can it be?

They're Watching Review

They're Watching Review
I have written quite a bit about my dissatisfaction with the found footage genre and no matter how good a movie looks in the format, I always remain skeptical. I don't mean to, especially when a film looks good. But after being burned year after year, its kind of hard not to be cynical. All of these movies work in the same vein, one way or the other, so its hard to find much to praise about them. I love it when these movies try to play things outside the box and I figured "They're Watching" maybe one of those out-of-the-box moments.

Is it? Well, it kind of is and it kind of isn't.

How many of you watch those house hunting shows on HGTV? I actually do, not because of my interest. My fiance and her mother love them, so I have always tuned in from time to time whether I wanted to or not. "They're Watching" plays up the HGTV angle. A couple finds a house they want to fix up in a remote part of Moldova. They find it, they love it, they want to remodel it, and the film crew comes back six months later to see what they have done. It feels like a warped episode of "House Hunters: International," and just being familiar with that, made me interested in the movie. It pulled me in and made me laugh at the satire of it all. Then we cut to the film crew, heading into Moldova in order to film the six months later part of the episode. I don't know how many of you watch house hunting shows, but they revolve around a couple looking for a house, someone comes along and shows them properties, the couple decides which one they want the most, then six months later we see their homely happily ever after.

The film crew, consisting of Kris Lemche and David Aplay, spend a lot of down time in rural Moldova. They are late for shoots, they mess around, they accidentally record a private funeral. Hey, they are not the brightest bulbs in the world, this is a found footage movie after all, how bright could they be? I spent most of the movie trying to figure out if that was part of the joke of the movie or by fault of the screenplay. I could never really figure it out. The residents of this Moldovan village are very touchy when it comes to the American film crew, especially around witch legends. The woman who bought the remote house is now a widow and she lives by herself in the woods. The people of the village believe she is a witch, is she? That's the entire mystery the film is based on and I bet you can guess where it lands.

The thing is, most of the humor of the movie land in the movie. Plus, it does some things that I wish actual "scary" found footage movies would actually do, they go balls-to-the-wall. Particularly in the final act. Far too often, we have characters we couldn't care less about running around in the dark with a hand-held camera. In this movie, we still have characters we couldn't care less about, but they are not running around in the dark at nothing. There are some big surprises and some epic craziness in the final act. I found myself yelling, screaming and cheering in those final moments. Sure, the acting is as good as it gets for these movies, but I couldn't help but find the fun in it.

"They're Watching" makes the cardinal sin of most found footage movies, it takes WAY too long to finally get going. There is lots of character development, which isn't really development, just characters going about their lives, killing time until the crazy stuff happens. Its fine, but with these kinds of movies, it ultimately disappoints. Again, I don't know if that is by design, but I think they could have done a better job revamping and remastering the movie. 

Taking a fun direction and pointing it to the found footage genre was an excellent idea. I think there were some good ideas and good ambitions in this movie and there is a lot to appreciate here. Unfortunately, it all runs out of gas a little too early. 

FINAL GRADE: C+

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Woods=Blair Witch

A couple of months ago, I wrote about a trailer for a movie at the time was called "The Woods." Even though it was a trailer for a found footage horror movie, it kind of looked good. I always say kind of when referring to found footage horror movies, because they are so often a bunch of teenagers running and screaming in the dark with a hand-held camera and I left wondering why any of this is scary and why droves of people make sure these movies make money. Is there really such an appeal to the found footage device that we constantly think its cool? I don't see how anybody could think they are all that scary.

Turns out that "The Woods" is actually a false flag operation for a third film in the Blair Witch franchise (if you call Book of Shadows canon), which is simply going to be titled "Blair Witch." As I watched this second trailer, I thought to myself. After all the time lost of copycats and all-in-all bad and unimaginative found footage movies, do we really need another "Blair Witch" movie in this day in age?

It maybe a harder question to answer. Because whether you remember or not, "The Blair Witch Project" set a new standard for horror films. It maybe a standard that has overstayed its welcome and has completely saturated itself at this point, but in 1999 it was fresh. I still know people who are convinced to this day that "The Blair Witch Project" was real and it used the found footage device to an expert degree. Sure, it was the first dog out of the gate so to speak and nobody had done it up to that point. But I re-watch "The Blair Witch Project" last year, and it still has its power. Nobody really makes the "less is more" type horror movie anymore, and with all do respect to the general horror audience, nobody seems to have much imagination anymore. What made "The Blair Witch Project" scary was that the movie used your imagination to scare you. Was this documentary crew really haunted by the supernatural or did some punks from town prank the shit out of them? You never know because nothing is ever shown. Can a new movie in 2016 break new ground?

Call my cynical, but I am not sure it can. Looking at this new trailer, it looks like a more of the same for the typical found footage movie, as well as callbacks to the original. It seems like that is what Hollywood has left these days, callbacks to yesteryear and more of the same. I hope I am wrong, there are some strong critic quotes in this trailer, so I just might check this out. But there was a time to strike with these found footage movies, and that time has run out. Sadly, these movies are ruining everyone's palette for horror, because when something genuinely scary comes out (I am looking at you, "The Witch") everybody shits on it, because it doesn't fit the modern criteria. I hope I am wrong. I hope this has something of substance to offer, especially have the Blair Witch name on it.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Catching Up With Comic-Con: Kong: Skull Island Trailer

One of the movies for next year that is definitely on my to-watch list is "Kong: Skull Island." We are going to start seeing a major franchise that brings King Kong and Godzilla into the same film. In the right hands, that will be a huge fun extravaganza. I think the arrival of "Godzilla" in 2014 set the stage for how right this project could potentially be and now "Kong: Skull Island" is looking to be a winner.

Much like the original trailers for the 2014 "Godzilla" movie, this looks to be a creepy thriller over anything else. It seems like Samuel L. Jackson will be bring a huge host of charisma like he usually does and he's going to play the hell off of John Goodman. It looks like Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston will be doing equally excellent work here. But, good God, this looks like the biggest King Kong we've ever had in a movie! Holy Bananas he's big!



Catching Up With Comic-Con: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Trailer

There have already been several film adaptations of King Arthur and his legend. And it seems more often then not, I am left wondering, why is this material so hard to adapt?

Why is that the Disney version is one of the best out there?

Telling from the trailer, this looks like one of those low-budget, fantasy movies that always comes out between January and March. It looks like several good actors are bound to embarrass themselves. It looks like the special effects are beyond tacky. It looks like its going to be a whole lot of style and very little substance. I hope and pray that I am wrong, because if Guy Richtie of all people gets a great script, he can make something rousingly entertaining, and I think he's got King Arthur written all over him. Did he just not get a good enough screenplay?





The weird thing is that I like just about everybody involved. We have Charlie Hunnam as King Arthur. We have Jude Law, Djimon Housnou, Aiden Gillen and good old Roose Bolton in this thing and I think they all can deliver good work. Everything just looks kind of off. Coming off the heels of the not-so-great Clive Owen film, I was hoping for more.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Marvel Panel: San Diego Comic-Con

When Marvel goes to Comic-Con, its always something to get excited about. We have known since October 2014 just how crazy Marvel's future is, and we getting closer and closer to some really cool movies. We have a lot to get to, so let's dive in.


Within fifteen to twenty minutes of "Captain America: Civil War,"Tom Holland beat any actor who has ever put on the Spiderman costume. For the first time in a long time, I am actively anticipating a Spiderman movie. From what I have read from reaction to the footage shown at Comic-Con this year, this is going to be a John Hughes style movie. A John Hughes superhero movie? Holy cow, sign me up! Its being anticipated that Michael Keaton will be playing The Vulture, who was confirmed one of the villains of the film. We just aren't quite sure yet if its Keaton whose playing him. If you look above, we get a good look at some of the cast and who they will be playing. Jacob Batalon's casting is especially intriguing. Will we see the Hobgoblin in these movies eventually?

Its also been made official that Brie Larson will play Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel in her stand-alone movie and "Avengers: Infinity War!" Nice nab, Marvel!

Its been known for a little while that Hulk did not die at the end of "Avengers: Age of Ultron." He's floating around somewhere, and sadly the beans have been spilled on his whereabouts. We will see Mark Ruffalo reprise his role as Hulk in "Thor: Ragnarok." It looks like he'll be wearing some armor. It seems like Thor 3 will incorporate some "Planet Hulk" inspirations. To what extent? I am not quite sure, that remains to be seen. But I am definitely curious to see how Hulk and his armor play into this story.

Sadly we don't have any footage from Comic-Con, but this description of what people were lucky enough to see this weekend is ample. It seems James Gunn has another winner on his hands. Honestly, I can't wait to see Kurt Russell play Ego The Living Planet.

I'll end things tonight with the second trailer for "Doctor Strange." It seems every year at Comic-Con, the Marvel fan in me gets happier and happier. I can't wait for everything.







WB's Panel San Diego Comic-Con

About the middle of July, the mother of all Comic-Con's hits. Yep, all these special "comic-con" events you see all over the country in the summer started in San Diego. That is why every year, the big wigs of all things entertainment and fandom gather to San Diego to give rabid fans a peak behind the curtain of whats coming. Every year around this time, its fun surfing the net, because you're bound to come across San Diego Comic-Con coverage and at least something is going to draw your gaze.

Its interesting being a DC fan right now, simply because there is so much to look forward to but there is also so much uncertainty. I loved "Man of Steel," but I still couldn't stand "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice." (and that's with knowing I haven't seen the ultimate edition yet) With all of that said, I am still looking forward to "Suicide Squad" in a few weeks. I am also intrigued by the first looks at "Justice League" and "Wonder Woman." Warner Brothers recently brought a bunch of top critics to take a look at some early "Justice League" stuff, while the word from that visit was very positive, the main synopsis of the time spent there summed up that "Justice League" was going to be lighter in tone. Telling from the trailer, they went WAY lighter. Look, its tough to take a look at this stuff and not think they are trying to take some notes from the Marvel playbook. But if "Man of Steel" and "Batman vs. Superman" proved anything, its that general audiences want to have a good time at superhero movies, not a dour time. I have already seen many DC fans take it to regulars, calling them Marvel fanboys and dismissing their gripes completely, many saying that we "Batman vs. Superman" haters didn't "get" the movie. Nonsense. There is very little to actually get from that movie, and if you think differently, you are over-analyzing the film trying to find a saving grace. I can agree on "Man of Steel," but that film was met with a cold reception as well. I don't know if the answer is to suddenly turn things funny, just find a way to show audiences how DC differs from Marvel. DC isn't different because its "dark," there is a completely different tone compared to Marvel and I don't think we've fully grasped that in the films yet.

But, with all of that said, I am intrigued by the "Justice League" trailer. I will give it a chance.








The stand-alone "Wonder Woman" movie? I honestly feel like that's something I can fully get behind.

Even though Wonder Woman was my favorite part of "Batman vs. Superman," it kind of feels like a faint praise, because she's a walking mid-credit scene in that movie and not much else. Just taking a peak at this initial trailer though, this looks like the Wonder Woman we have been waiting for. This looks like it was made by somebody who has a genuine interest and understanding of the character. It feels epic and adventurous. There is some slight humor, but it feels like it has its own identity, and not imitating something we have already seen before. I know there are some haters, but I am completely on board with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and she looks like she's going to have some good chemistry with Chris Pine.




Also check out Wonder Woman's poster


And the new "Lego Batman Movie" trailer? Too much fun.





All in all, lots to look forward too. What do you all think?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Luke Cage and Defenders teasers

San Diego Comic-Con is off and running. I love this time in July. I may not have ever attended a Comic-Con event in San Diego, but hopefully one of these days I will. It doesn't matter, SDCC as its called has become a powerhouse for movie and TV marketing. I always love getting the big scoops each year. As every other year, things are off to a fantastic start.

If you've been keeping up with this blog, I love the Netflix Marvel shows. I have reviewed both seasons of "Daredevil" and the first season of "Jessica Jones" here already. The connections maybe vague so far, but these shows share continuity with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), so I find it fair game to review these shows on my movie blog. They've been great so far, I love that they enter grittier territory than the movies do. I love that they are taking their time in finding the right actors who fit the bill for these roles. I love the work that Charlie Cox has done in Daredevil's shoes, likewise for Krysten Ritter for Jessica Jones. Mike Colter will play Luke Cage, who was introduced in the first season of "Jessica Jones." He's a guy with impenetrable skin. Which makes him somebody it would be unwise to fuck with. Colter proved he's going to be a very good Luke Cage, and I can't wait to start digging into his solo show. I especially love this trailer Marvel put together for the San Diego Comic-Con event.





The song from "Knocked Up" kept a big smile on my face, and I still love how the Netflix shows still keep their shows grounded in reality even though these characters have colorful powers. I am very much looking forward to this series.

Daredevil. Jessica Jones. Luke Cage. All we are waiting to meet now is Danny Rand. Wait, who? Danny Rand will become a superhero named Iron Fist, which will be the fourth show on Marvel's plan for Netflix. "Game of Thrones" star Finn Jones will play the character, and once again Marvel has nailed it in the casting department. (We will have a good introduction to Iron Fist really soon, I am already hearing) All of these shows are building towards "The Defenders.'' An eight episode mini-series (kind of) event where Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist will all ally together. Here's a teaser for The Defenders to the tune of "Come As You Are"




The Defenders being mentored by Stick? Oh yeah, I am in.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Final "Suicide Squad" trailer



All of a sudden, everything is riding on "Suicide Squad" if you are working at Warner Bros and their DC universe. You may have liked "Batman vs. Superman," or you may not have. No matter where on the spectrum you fall, its pretty universally known that it didn't perform the way the WB had hoped it would. Leaving "Suicide Squad" to pick up the pieces. The question is can "Suicide Squad" help get the DCEU back on track?

The honest answer is that it could. Many reports before the summer really began to kick off was that "Suicide Squad" is the most talked about movie of the summer. I am aching badly to see it right now.

I love that this looks like its going to be a massive ensemble piece and each new trailer seems to focus on somebody different, whether its Harley Quinn, or Deadshot or Joker or Enchantress or Rick Flagg. This final trailer gives us a good look at how Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) plays into this story and how she will affect the team and its success as a whole.

I am really excited to finally see this.

Ghostheads Review

Ghostheads Review
Nostalgia and fandom have quickly sprouted in our culture. We have several conventions every year that pertain to different fandoms. It doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. It allows people to connect with each other, for people to make new friends, to belong somewhere. There is so much positively that revolves around belonging to a fandom that only a churl would find fault.

I figured "Ghostheads" would just be an overly-joyous account of what the "Ghostbusters" movies and its place in popular culture means to different people. But boy, I was wrong. I was way wrong. I figured this would just be a fun documentary. Yes, there is plenty of fun in "Ghostheads," but I wasn't quite prepared for just how charming the film is. There are so many documentaries out there that are about something negative or dark. There are so many documentaries that show us misery and despair and beg us to change in order to make the world better. While there is always light at the end of the tunnel, the subject matter can be unbearable at times. Its nice when a documentary documents something positive, something that is wholeheartedly trying to make you feel good. I wasn't prepared for that with "Ghostheads."

"Ghostheads" documents the lives of several people who call themselves Ghostheads. They have loved everything remotely involved with "Ghostbusters" that they have immersed themselves in the culture and society of those movies. People have built their own ecto cars, they have created their own proton packs. They have also created Ghostbuster chapters all over the country, and have moved all over the world. I figured at this point, we'd meet Ghostbuster fans all over the world and learn what the movie means to them. While some of that happens, there is so much more to these Ghostbuster chapters. You see, they aren't really trying to catch ghosts. They don't dress up just to go comic-con like events. They are trying to make a difference in their communities. They do community work, they do charity work and they do it all with their proton packs wrapped safely on their backs.

Whats endearing when hearing these stories is that these movies may not have inspired these men and women to believe in ghosts, but they made them heroes. Some of them may not have touched many lives, but sometimes they save themselves. A woman in the documentary discusses at length about how she reached a self-destructing low when she was an alcoholic. It became even worse when she tried to quit and AA meetings just weren't giving her the guidance she needed to end the drinking. But what did save her was "Ghostbusters." Instead of attending AA meetings, she stayed and home and watched the franchise. That became her new drug, and she is a brand new person today. "Ghostheads" isn't just over an hour of people preaching about how awesome these movies are. Its about hundreds of people coming together through fandom and the positive change they brought to the world. Its also about how media can be positive, something that gets swept under the rug too many times.

I have had a rich history with these movies myself. My late grandma used to have the movie in a retro-VHS case. The first thing I always wanted to do when visiting my grandma was watch "Ghostbusters." Eventually, she knew how much I loved it that she gave me the retro VHS movie she had for so long. This VHS tape probably played in my home VCR more times than I can count and it still is safe in my family's home today. "Ghostheads" reminds me of those good old days, and how much of an impact they had on my life. As we see stock footage of future Ghostheads opening up Christmas presents and finding the firehouse that became the Ghostbusters base in the first film, I can't help but get excited. I had that firehouse growing up. I had my own toy Ecto car that was parked outside, along with my other toy cars and even my Millennium Falcon. My Ghostbuster action figures would be propped in their toy home along with my superheroes, plastic army men, Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and anybody else in the ranks of action figure army I had growing up. As well as any beanie babies I could fit in the hideout. Its easy to look at the nostalgia on display in "Ghostheads" and be pleasantly happy by it.

"Ghostheads" is a charming little bottle of lightning, something I wasn't expecting to be moved by tonight. When an entire community of people can come together under the banner of brotherhood in order to do random acts of kindness for strangers. That's awesome. That's wonderful and its something we should be endorsing in the world today. Hats off to these guys, and hopefully they keep up the good work.

FINAL GRADE: A

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage trailer

Back in 2002, I was quite fond of "xXx" with Vin Diesel. It played like a typical James Bond formula, except it was pumped full of steroids and had an energy drink gulped down its sarcophagus. It felt edgier, meaner and faster paced than the regular spy films. I also absolutely loved how the movie played by the normal James Bond-esque tropes but also deconstructed them in the same movie. No easy feat by any means. With "xXx" and "The Bourne Identity" in the same exact summer, it felt like a testament to an age of new blood in the spy genre.

Sadly, that excitement didn't carry over into "xXx" sequel, "xXx: State of the Union." They through out Vin's character and replaced him with Ice Cube. They didn't allow anything that made the first film flourish to run rapid in the sequel. It was dead on arrival. The idea of Xander Cage returning to the franchise always felt like a rumor that would never see the light of day. Something you heard about year after year after year. With no ending in sight.

Its official that in 2017, Vin Diesel is returning to this franchise as Xander Cage, the agent we know and love. Yeah, he apparently died in "State of the Union." But if  this trailer is doing anything, its giving that unwanted sequel the big middle finger and practically rebooting the sequel. Soon, "State of the Union" probably won't even exist in the canon of this franchise. Again, this sequel looks to be playing by the same rules the Bond films did, but edgier and more deconstructed. I couldn't be happier.





I am going to give this one a chance. I hope its as good and wild as the first film.

Green Room Review

Green Room Review
Does the name Jeremy Saulnier mean anything to you? If not, it totally should. Because he'll be a name you will definitely hear from time to time once people start lending their eyes to "Green Room." Jeremy Saulnier is known for making "Blue Ruin," a revenge thriller you can currently find on Netflix. But the thing about "Blue Ruin" is that its not your typical revenge thriller. Instead of making a similar movie we have seen countless times before, Jeremy studies the need to extract revenge, then the repercussions of such an act that can follow and the revelation that revenge can lead us somewhere overwhelming. Its momentous work for a first-timer and shows expert panache in the industry.

Now, Saulnier has made "Green Room," a siege horror film. We have seen many of these before too, the siege film is quite familiar. If you've seen the first "Purge," movie. If you've seen "Assault on Precinct 13" or "Dawn of the Dead," or "The Mist" or "From Dusk Till Dawn" then you have seen a siege horror movie. Its a style of film that is just as ordinary as revenge thrillers. But as Saulnier did with "Blue Ruin," he twists our expectations with "Green Room."

A punk band called the Ain't Rights are comprised of Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner). They've been on the road for gigs which has, lets say, gone less than great. They use a contact named Tad (David Thompson) to find gigs and they are coming up short. After a particularly bad night, Tad brings up a club deep in the backwoods of Oregon. The Ain't Rights take the gig, knowing full well that this club is run and promotes white supremacy. After the night begins badly, on the band's behalf lets say, the Ain't Rights are able to turn the crowd back to liking them and the rest of the night goes well. Its only when Sam forgets a her phone and Pat is nice enough to go back to the band's green room to see something he should not have seen that things finally go bad. When they go bad, things get bad quick and just as you think the movie is going to create a sense of security, "Green Room" pulls back and makes you realize anything can happen at any time.

Oh yes. While watching a Saulnier movie, I am starting to notice that things don't happen as we expect, and that's the rug. Violence occurs so quickly and so matter-of-factly that you get the sense that anything can happen at any time. Characters you think are safe may end up dying quick. Our heroes are smart, but the bad guys are smart too, which leads to a whole world of possibility. The band gets held up in their green room as the club owner calls Darcy (Patrick Stewart), who plans to find an end to this problem, no matter what. Darcy is a villain that is constantly cunning, constantly ten steps ahead of any situation. No wonder Stewart landed the role and he gives one of the best performances of his career. The band isn't by themselves, they do have help from Amber (Imogen Poots), who was also in the wrong place at the wrong time and is forced to help the band survive the night. No matter what the band does, they are crippled by bad decision after bad decision and it gets to the point of when and why do you stop fighting for yourself.

The cast is pretty solid across the board. Yelchin shows us how much we lost by his accidental death roughly a month ago, giving a potent and rousing performance. Shawkat, Cole and Turner are all actors you may recognize, but all give wonderful performances throughout. But the secret weapon is Imogen Poots. If you don't know her name, you may remember her from somewhere if you Google her name. She's an actress that leaves a mark wherever she goes, but somehow isn't a full-fledged star yet. I can say that it was her character that delighted me and surprised me the most and Poots paints a portrait of somebody who isn't going to give up on themselves.

I also have to make a special mention of the make-up department here. Anybody working in the business can create a startling image with make-up, but it is rare when a make-up effect is so grand that leads you to have a visceral reaction. Something that will give you a long lasting effect for quite some time. I have to say that the make-up effects in this movie are beyond impressive and elevate the material to a place I didn't think possible.

Studios everywhere better start their engines, because Saulnier is proving that he's ready for a franchise and whomever nabs him is going to great by a wonderful, up-and-coming talent. But I hope he doesn't become a corporate tool. I hope Saulnier continues to tweak at genre's and signing his uniquely brutal signature on his own personal work every few years. "Green Room" is so powerful for a such an up-and-comer that its almost scary.

FINAL GRADE: A

Monday, July 18, 2016

"La La Land" trailer

You know, as much as I try, I don't get to see everything I want in a year. Sadly, this isn't my profession, just a fun hobby I took up because I felt compelled to share my subjective opinion of movies with the world. But I sure do try to see everything I possibly can in a given year. Its partially a mission statement, partially a personal dare, partially obsession that I try to see everything. But the truth is, due to time, a personal life, and fiances, I don't get to see everything I want. Which is a point I bet we have all been with our hobbies. Whatever I don't see in a given year gets put on a list of things to catch up with, and I try to knock as many titles of that list as time presents itself.

One film from 2014 that I didn't end up seeing that year, but was compelled to catch up with was Damian Chazelle's "Whiplash." I am so glad that I did end up doubling back for it, because its an astounding motion picture. Miles Teller and especially J.K. Simmons are magnificent and its pretty clear in Simmons case why he won a supporting actor Oscar the year after. 

Damian Chazelle's new film this year, entitled "La La Land" just shot to the top of my most anticipated for the winter movie season.

"La La Land" is set to be a romance musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. I think the duo is a wonderful pair. We have already seen them together in "Crazy, Stupid Love" and "Gangster Squad" and they seem to share a very unique chemistry with each other. The film will also see Chazelle reteam with J.K. Simmons. There is a hypnotic glow to the film that I find captivating and the songs feel personal and not so showy as we see in general musicals.

We will see "La La Land" released sometime in December.





Wednesday, July 13, 2016

First Official "IT" photo

Bill Skarsgaard as Pennywise The Dancing Clown, everybody.

The summer before sixth grade was an interesting one for me. I had just watched the mini-series of Stephen King's "It." I was so moved by it at the time that I immediately bought and cracked open the book, all the while I was moving from one neighborhood to the other. When I first watched that old mini-series, I was pretty petrified of Tim Curry and he was the king of my nightmares for a few years. But after I finished the book, I found out that Curry's Pennywise was nowhere near as horrifying as he should have been and if the script was better, Curry would have been even more horrifying.

We have our first official look at Bill Skarsgaard as Pennywise, and after a couple false-starts, we finally have a movie adaptation of "It" coming. What do I think of the photo? Well, Bill looks creepy enough. He looks like Pennywise is supposed to look and he certainly looks like a menacing, sadistic clown. I think people should check out "Hemlock Grove," on Netflix. Its not one of the better Netflix Originals, but I think it utilizes Bill as an actor well. I think he maybe a good choice for this role, he can certainly make himself look creepy in clown make-up.

But here is the main thing I am hoping for from this adaptation. Pennywise was always more than just a scary clown. Pennywise, wasn't even a scary clown, his name wasn't even Pennywise. He's a being from another dimension who feeds on humans, he chose the skin of a clown because it lures children in better, and what better way to feast on your prey but go after the most innocent, easy target. Pennywise was sweet and innocent in points of Stephen King's novel, then when it knew it had a guaranteed meal, it turned up the scares. Because this being also felt that fearful people tasted better. If done right, this won't be another movie about a creepy clown. It will just be creepy. I am hoping for more than anything adapt this material the right way, because they'll make it even scarier than before.

I have my doubts because Cary Fukunaga was full steam ahead literally a year ago with his own "IT" remake and the studio tore it down because it wasn't the conventional horror movie. Fukunaga's movie was to be a "slow burn" and a "gradual build-up." But apparently that isn't good enough for Warner Bros. I am scared that this studio will burn this great opportunity to make something truly scary, all for some quick cash and cheap thrills. I pray to God I am wrong, because in the right hands with the right script, "It" could force nightmares for generations.

I am curious to see a trailer now, how about you?

SOURCE:
http://www.empireonline.com/people/bill-skarsgard/first-look-new-pennywise-stephen-king/

(T)error Review

(T)error Review
Saeed Torres is a Muslim, whose job it was to entrap other Muslims.

At the end of "(T)error" a documentary off the festival trail and recently landed on Netflix, we learn that since 9/11 there have been 500 arrests in our nation of Muslims. We learn that 50% of those arrests were arranged by an FBI Informant. The FBI has been proactively recruiting American Muslims to find, befriend and possibly lead other Muslims suspected of terrorism to jail. This documentary focuses on Saeed "Shariff" Torres, who has been involved in several government stings for the FBI. He is close friends with the filmmaker, and he very upfront about his work done with the bureau. These informants don't receive any type of training, they simply meet people, befriend them, and then turn them in.

The film mainly focuses on Saeed going after a suspected Taliban sympathizer. Although, we don't get a lot of evidence of that. Sure, he has some anti-American speech on his Facebook page and he makes videos of him shooting a gun at a practice range. But nothing more ever gets proved in the documentary. We get so little face time with the FBI themselves (the FBI refused to comment for the documentary) that there is never a clear picture as to why this guy is being targeted. But Saeed knows him and he quickly begins a relationship with him, rigorously trying to figure out if this guy is a terrorist or not.

Much of the documentary is focused on Seed. He's a decent and approachable enough that he carries the movie. We learn how he got involved in being a FBI informant. We learn why he does it. He wants to open a bakery. He wants to provide a better life for his kid. We see him mostly as a dedicated family man with a taste for cigars. He's kind of got a sense of humor which makes him relate able. This sting between this latest "Taliban sympathizer" will be his last for the FBI, as he plans to make his plans come to fruition. At first glance, you'll tell yourself that this is an interesting character study about a guy who is trying to do some good, trying to prove that not all Muslims are bad and helping his country.

Except its not that easy. I was amazed how the tone and knowledge of this documentary changed on a dime. There are couple of twists so juicy that it reminded me of documentaries like "Catflish" and "The Imposter." It a movie I wish very badly that I could have seen with a theatrical audience, because I feel several gasps would have commenced. Saeed may not be the do-good informant we think he is, and with sources so scarce for this documentary, the filmmakers maybe talking to other people Saeed doesn't know about. It all turns into what feels like a crazy, corrupt episode of "Homeland."

"(T)error" is a hard lesson that tells us that the PATRIOT ACT has perhaps left American government officials paranoid. It also asks the question that maybe if we haven't had a terrorist attack in a few years, are we winning the War on Terror? The answer to that question the movie offers may not be what some Americans want to hear, but if this documentary is to be true, its the only bleak answer there is. 

FINAL GRADE: A

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Where To Invade Next Review

Where To Invade Next Review

There is a scene early in Michael Moore's "Where To Invade Next," where Michael is in a French school. He is sitting with a group of French children who are getting ready to eat lunch at school. "I only took French once in high school, would you like to hear what I learned?" says Moore, as he blithely blurts out all the French he knows. I think he was trying to make the French children laugh, but they never do. They are bewildered, uncomfortable and seemingly can't believe what they are seeing. This is the feeling I get watching Michael Moore's documentaries these days. I am watching a man who thinks he's clever and funny and insightful, but all he is doing is bellowing non-sensical jibberish I can't understand. Instead of learning anything or finding his documentaries clever or insightful, I am bewildered, uncomfortable and can't believe what Moore is saying.

Michael Moore is a documentary filmmaker who has been the center of controversy for over a decade, and he's been a figure of spite. I haven't loved many of Michael Moore's documentaries, but that doesn't mean he's never made a good movie. I have liked "Bowling For Columbine," or "Roger And Me," where Moore made eye-opening points about real issues, he tackled his ideas with astute evidence and intuitiveness. Moore used to have a sharp, investigative eye that made his early documentaries shocking. Now, he just comes off as a naive child who doesn't have a very good understanding of what he's talking about. He just points his finger and says, "hey, this is what America is doing wrong."

Yes, I get it. We are far from a perfect country, you can turn on the news at any time during this summer alone and see we are far from a perfect country. I don't hate Moore's documentary because 'MERICA!, I usually can't stand his documentaries because his points are poorly made. Moore's recent documentaries, and especially "Where To Invade Next," are full of great ideas, but they don't add up to a whole like he used to do. He isn't making movies to infuriate, to acknowledge and to think about. The structure of his movies are as slim as they've ever been, and he just can't make a valid point for the most part.

"Where To Invade Next" begins with the wackiest, and most self-indulgent scene Moore has ever created. The entire documentary is built on the conceit that Moore was chosen by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to inform them which country to invade. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, since America hasn't won a war since WWII, they have given up on invading countries and have given their powers to Michael Moore. Instead of Moore going around discussing which countries we should invade from a militaristic point-of-view, he goes to countries and "steals" ideas he thinks would make the United States of America better. He goes to France and looks at how portioned and nutritious school lunches are. He takes a look at the Norwegian prison system. He looks at how the Italians handle worker's rights and their abundance of vacation time. He goes to Slovenia and looks at their free college. He goes to Tunisia, and Portugal and Germany and shows us how wonderful European socialism is and how all of our greatest social and economic problems are coming from because we aren't given into our NATO allies' ideals.

Here's the rub though, much like Moore's healthcare documentary "Sicko," "Where To Invade Next" is another case of Moore finding the best case scenarios of Europe and comparing them to the worst possible scenarios in America. Yes, our prison inmates deserve to have better rights, yes school lunches and education in our country should be better, yes our worker's rights should be improved upon, but Moore doesn't give any good solutions or suggestions on how to do this. He basically just points a finger at America and shows us how wrong we are. Nevermind that the European Union has had struggles of its own for nearly a decade. Nevermind that these struggles are forming crisis' overseas. Its like Michael Moore never learned how to compare and contrast. He is very selective in what he does and does not show, and that doesn't lead to a very provocative documentary.

The opening credit sequence is also a massive head-scratcher. As we see scenes of police brutality and government foul-play over to the tune of the "Inception" song. I watched two hours of documentary to see if these awful scenes had any relevance to his movie and barely any of it did. Moore has become so obsessed with making us look bad with no relevance or any genuine thought in the imagery he's showing. I think a documentary about the Black Lives Matter movement or the 2008 financial collapse would make for provocative documentaries, but if Moore has nothing provocative to say about any of it, why bother?

Here's the thing though, Moore can capture some great ideas and he does here. I would love an entire documentary on Iceland and women's roles in business and government there. I would love to learn more about how when Iceland's stock market took a swan dive, that it was an all-women bank who didn't loose money and how the banks run by men were fairly investigated and they went to jail. That would have made for a great documentary on its own. I'd love to hear more about the no homework policy in Finland and how a whole countries school system focuses on NOT teaching for a standardized test has transformed Finland into one of the best educated countries in the world. I'd even like for Moore to go back to America and investigate more on how our prison system has become the modern slave trade and is leading black men to become voiceless. But Moore wastes any good idea he has, and we have him ham-handedly tell various Europeans and Africans that he has invaded their country for their great idea as he plants an American flag on their property. Its supposed to be satirical and clever, but it comes off smug and dis-interesting.

Why? Maybe Moore has become more naive in his old age. Maybe he's less angry in his old age. Or maybe he hasn't had a Republican in office to kick around for several years. I do know that Moore has become boring as a documentarian. When I used to watch his documentaries, whether I agreed with him or not, I was drawn to something about his style. I used to like it when Moore would confirm or challenge (and yes, mostly challenged) my beliefs. Now, he just looks like an old man out of breath.

FINAL GRADE: C-

"Jason Bourne" Clips


I am so glad Jason Bourne is back.

I kind of liked "The Bourne Legacy," but it really didn't feel like a Bourne movie without Jason himself. If they kept it going after "Legacy," it would be like continuing the Indiana Jones franchise with Shia LaBeouf, and I do love myself some Jeremy Renner. But Matt Damon's wonderful character belongs to him. I am absolutely ecstatic that Damon is returing as Jason Bourne and his next adventure looks to be a dozy.

There are three clips below and I have to admit, I am getting very giddy for this adventure. Take a look.





Director Paul Greengrass is back in the director's chair in "Jason Bourne" and I am happy as could be. This feels like vintage Bourne from 2002. I am curious to see what Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Cassel bring to this table. The trailers have all looked amazing so far and now I am eagerly waiting the final product.


Monday, July 11, 2016

The Universal Monsters Universe.

What Marvel has been doing since 2008 has been one of the coolest and one of the worst things to ever be conjured in Hollywood. Cool, because seeing so many of my favorite superheroes go on single adventures, then team up in other movies blows my mind. Worst, because once Hollywood smells a good idea, they are inclined to copy it. It seems every studio is trying to get their own shared universe going, with varying results. Warner Bros. made a big gamble with "Batman vs. Superman," and it wasn't the money machine they hoped for, despite making a grand amount when its all said and done. It also didn't get audiences buzzing about a DC shared universe, can "Suicide Squad" pick up the traction? Sony's Spider-man universe fell down once "The Amazing Spider-man 2" under-performed, leading the webhead back to Disney and Marvel's hands.

But enough talk of superhero antics, lets talk Universal Studios, who has been knee-deep in getting together their own shared universe. One that has nothing to do with superheroes, but rather their Universal monsters. Oh yes, you read that correctly. Universal is making their own shared universe franchise revolving around their popular monsters. We have heard that Tom Cruise has been cast in their upcoming Mummy movie. We know that Russell Crowe will appear in the Mummy movie as Dr. Jeykll/ Mr. Hyde, and then will appear in his solo movie. Universal is circling around The Rock to play The Wolfman and Johnny Depp to play The Invisible Man. And now, we have learned tonight that Javier Bardem is in "heavy negotiations" to play The Monster Dr. Frankenstein makes. 

What the hell is this shared universe going to look like?

I can't tell if this is going to be a superhero team-up movie of sorts, or if it will be something else. I will say that I am a little intrigued by the participation of Cruise, Crowe, and possibly Depp, Rock and Bardem. I am curious to see which filmmakers they nab to make these movies. As my source claims, the filmmakers chosen to bring these visions to life will be key. I couldn't agree more. Marvel has had lots of success so far because they are hiring people overly-passionate about their characters. Universal has to do the same to make their new monster franchise a go.

I have to say that I am sorry that "Victor Frankenstein" from last year or "Dracula: Untold" will have no connection to this shared universe. Luke Gross standing with these other guys would have been something.

What do you think of a Universal Monsters shared universe?

SOURCE:
http://www.aintitcool.com/node/75654

The Purge: Election Year Review

The Purge: Election Year Review
"What happened to this country?"
"Mam, I wish I knew"

So says a couple new characters we meet in "The Purge: Election Year," the new film by James DeMonaco, the third film he has made in his "Purge" series. The series is about a future America which marks one annual day as "Purge Night," and allows all crime to be legal for twelve consecutive hours. Originally intended to be a horror franchise, "The Purge" films have morphed into a sort of social satire/suspense/action franchise, which I think is for the better. Taking a look back at each "Purge" film, including this new one, the scenes that fall flattest are the ones that are intended to be scary. I feel with a premise as silly as "The Purge," you got to go complete B-movie crazy with it. 

That was my biggest problem from the first film, which I felt to be a very poorly made film. DeMonaco created a silly yet juicy premise for a movie, then wrapped it entirely around a cardboard home invasion movie. Yes, I get it, he didn't have the money to really relish in this premise. But I can't simply give a movie a pass because of its budget. Despite how horrid it was, "The Purge" became a sleeper hit, and a sequel was immediately made entitled "The Purge: Anarchy." A sequel where we really got to see a balls-to-the-wall representation of a Purge Night. Well, sort of, while the sequel was much better than its predecessor, "Anarchy" never became the mindless mayhem movie I think it should have been, and it made some pretty obvious points without much depth or substance. That's been the biggest problem with DeMonaco's films so far. He wants to tell a social satire that makes some big comments on American society and culture, but he also wants to make a crazy action movie and go wild with his premise. That balance has never really gelled the way it should have.

Surprisingly, "The Purge: Election Year" continues to be a tremendous stride forward in the franchise. Out of the three films made so far, this is by far the best one. "The Purge: Election Year" features the most character development of any of the movies so far, and comes the closest to telling a complete story. Plus, we get the very first glimpse of an entire city affected by The Purge, yes even more so than in "Anarchy." We see how dozens of people react to such a night, from many walks of life. But is all of this enough? The problem with the first two films is how little DeMonaco embraced his idea, now with a much bigger budget than he's ever had before, it seems DeMonaco almost overwhelms himself with his own movie here.

"The Purge: Election Year" revolves around Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), who survived a gruesome Purge Night, but watched her entire family die. Now, running for President, she plans to put an end to Purge Night. What frightens the New Founding Fathers of America is that Roan is beginning to gain  traction in politics. So they use Purge Night in order to take her out of the picture. Her head of security is Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo, reprising his role from "The Purge:Anarchy") and he will stop at nothing to make sure she lives. The two are quickly on the run on Purge Night, as a group of government assassins is on their tale. They receive help from a deli owner (Mykelti Williamson) and Dante Bishop (Edwin Hodge), an underground anti-Purge group leader. Will they all last the night?

Each "Purge" film deals with a group of people trying to survive the night, but we've never got to know the characters on the level we do here. I think Mykelti Williamson has always been a reliable actor, and he's good here. As is Elizabeth Mitchell. The thing is, the two characters who stand out the least are Frank Grillo and Edwin Hodge's characters. We met Frank Grillo's Leo Barnes last movie, but he Grillo seems to be playing a completely different character this time out, his character could have been anybody else and the film would have ended the same way. Edwin Hodge's character is the only character who has appeared in all three films, so why is he so underdeveloped? It leads to some bad narrative problems in the last act.

The biggest problem I have is that, despite three films, DeMonaco never revved his engine. I think he takes his idea a little too seriously, and "The Purge: Election Year" never becomes the crazy mayhem movie I think it should. If you are looking for that type of movie, this isn't it. At the same time, the last two sequels touched on some interesting social ideas, but stopped almost as if DeMonaco was too afraid to make a serious point about anything. In "The Purge: Election Year," its almost shocking the points he makes about the government using violence as a tool, about the negative aspects of religion, class warfare and race. With so much tragedy striking our country in the last few weeks, I think its powerful how hard this one hits home. DeMonaco is finally starting to make some serious points about the social issues he's been circling for three movies now. But he's still hasn't landed them. Not quite.

Why you ask? Perhaps the Purge as an idea is way too silly or perhaps he's conflicted with the mayhem and the craziness of his idea that he doesn't have time for anything else. That is why I suggested earlier in the review that DeMonaco was too overwhelmed by story this time out. Now, that he's made some good points, perhaps he can finally let loose on his idea. If he chooses to make a fourth film. I am slowly starting to think that, a few years down the road, DeMonaco is going to make the "Purge" movie he's been trying to make since 2013. He certainly keeps getting closer and closer.

FINAL GRADE: C+

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Knight of Cups Review

Knight of Cups Review
Terrance Malick was once revered as one of the best filmmakers of all time. He made two great movies in the late 1970's and early 1980's. He disappeared again until 1998, then made another great movie in 1998 and one in 2005. "Badlands," "Days of Heaven," "The Thin Red Line" and even "The New Worlds" are all colossal works of art. Strikingly powerful works of cinematic dream works that showcase an unusual but potent voice in the industry. I wish I could say that about all of his work, but since 2011, he has turned to self-parody. A name that I once got excited about is a name I find myself less and less interested in as the years go by.

In 2011, he made "The Tree of Life," in 2013, he made "To The Wonder" and now in 2016, he has made "Knight of Cups." There is really no need to go through each film individually, I do have a review of "To The Wonder" around here somewhere if you are interested. The thing is, these last three Malick films have been the same exact thing three times. He has made three beautiful movies featuring an overflow of A-list stars. They each revolve around a somber male lead (Brad Pitt/Sean Penn in "Tree of Life," Ben Affleck in "To The Wonder" and now Christian Bale in "Knight of Cups") who wonder around starring in all directions, looking sad. There isn't much speaking by any of the characters in these movies, but roughly three actors a movie have voice-overs for the entire lengths of movies, speaking of philosophy and poetry, trying to make the movies more than they are. These are all gorgeous, but ultimately odd experiences, and after "Knight of Cups," I don't know if I can stand another Malick film in this style.

Christian Bale plays Rick, a screenwriter who ventures into the underbelly's of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, trying to find love and the meaning of life. He tries to find answers within the relationships with a few women (Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Freida Pinto, Teresa Palmer, Isabel Lucas and Imogen Poots). While also having memories with his brother (Wes Bentley) and his father (Brian Dennehy). We see Rick interact with these women, and we can kind of see that they all mean something to him. Each section of the film is dedicated to a relationship to one of these women, named after a tarot card. But there is no real connection to the women and the tarot card titlecard. There is no real connection period. Nobody has anything even remotely close to a conversation, there is so much speaking in voice-over that nothing makes a lick of sense. We see that Rick has a dangerous and destructive relationship with his brother and father, but why? Why do they not get along, there are whispers, but nothing in regards to hints or clues. These scenes with Rick's family may not even be memories, but we don't know because there is no explanation.

I did some research after viewing the movie, and I understand that the title "Knight of Cups" comes from a tarot card of the same name. The usage of the Knight of Cups tarot card is pretty simple. If the card is upright, it represents change and new excitements, particularly of a romantic nature. It can mean invitations, opportunities, and offers. The Knight of Cups is a person who is a bringer of ideas, opportunities and offers. He is constantly bored, and in constant need of stimulation, but also artistic and refined. He represents a person who is amiable, intelligent, and full of high principles, but a dreamer who can be easily persuaded or discouraged. Reversed, the card represents unreliability and recklessness. It indicates fraud, false promises and trickery. It represents a person who has trouble discerning when and where the truth ends and lies begin. So if we look at Bale's character, he seems to find new excitements with every woman he meets, and he seems romantic. He definitely seems bored throughout the entire movie. Never in the film do I see somebody who is the harbinger of ideas, or who is smart, full of opportunity, or a fraud. We never get deep enough into character development to really see the significance of the title to the movie. There is somewhat of something going on, but Malick is too snobby or too overwhelmed to tell a captivating story with his ideas. "Knight of Cups" is just a bunch of ideas with no story to guide them. Unless this is all about Rick being bored, then its a masterpiece.

Its hard to critique the performance by Bale, as he spends most of the movie looking sad. The women also say their voice-overs, give stylized looks then leave. There are several other great actors in the mix, including Antonio Banderas, Jason Clarke, Cherry Jones, Joe Manganiello, Nick Kroll, Ben Kingsley, Dane DeHaan, Joel Kinnaman and Nick Offerman. But I have no way of really judging their performances. They speak, but a voice-over is not allowing us to hear what they say. People show up, pose in a stylized manner and then are never seen again. Nothing of what anybody is saying makes any sense because we don't have a good understanding of what Malick is trying to do. Performances, like the movie itself, is all surface value, with no subtext or context in any form.

The thing is, despite all of the non-story, "Knight of Cups" is beautiful to look at. Much like "The Tree of Life" and "To The Wonder" were. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski has won two Oscars for a reason, and its because he makes images in movies look surreal and like moving pieces of art. We drive through downtown and rural Los Angeles, we stand at several parties, we sink deep into mountains and desert and its all breath-taking. We take it all in because it all feels alive and vivid. The thing is, the cinematography is extra. The movie isn't about the pretty pictures, but the story itself. Unless this is some kind of big joke Malick is pulling on us and the beautiful landscapes are the movie.

"Oh, you just don't understand experimental cinema," I can hear some of you saying. Ok, I'll loose sleep tonight wondering whether or not you're right about that. Even the most experimental of cinema was about something and the best examples of it show that we can see images that evoke powerful emotions and also understand character intentions. It can happen, we can have it both ways. It's just Malick has yet to tell a story with his mega casts and his ideas. I hope one of these days we get them, because I am running out of reasons to be excited for Malick movies anymore.

FINAL GRADE: C-

Entertainment in the PC World

I commute to work everyday, and its usually a forty-five minute drive from my apartment to my day job. That means plenty of time with my radio on my to and from work. There are a variety of radio shows I like to tune into from time to time, but I also like to listen to music as well. The disc jockeys that run the music station in the mornings are pretty entertaining in their own rights, so it makes that ride to work just as much fun. There is an alternative station I like and the disc jockeys got on the subject of the new "Ghostbusters." I don't know if this was meant to be a joke or not, but they were afraid to say what they thought of the initial trailers, because they didn't want to sound sexist. Apparently one of them had already been accused of being sexist for not thinking the new "Ghostbusters" was all that.

Look, I don't mind the PC age. I really don't. We do need better representation in all assets of our country, especially our entertainment. But as there is potential in being inclusive, there is also potential of going overboard. If the rumors are true, we are going to see several up-and-coming all-women remakes of movies. There is also a movement going on in the comic book world that wants Captain America to begin a romantic relationship with Bucky Barnes. I have read about so much of this online already, but any comments about this are extremely venomous. We are living in a moment now where if you aren't on-board the PC wagon, then you're automatically a bigot.

I personally don't mind seeing teams of women in entertainment, nor do I mind seeing minorities, gay characters, and everybody else getting equal representation in the arts. Here's the rub though, when you put yourself out there, you need to realize that some people may not like what you've created. Sure, there are some bigoted wacko's in the world, but many professional critics and lots of people in general like and dislike things based upon their tastes, and it has nothing to do with surface value. It doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman, if you are gay or straight or transgender, if you are black, white, Asian, Arab or an alien from outer space. If you publish something in a magazine or a novel or a website, if you record a song, if you post a video on Youtube, if you paint a piece of art, or if you film a TV show or movie, you are responsible for that content. You are also giving people the opportunity to judge your work, and you have to go into it knowing that not everybody is going to agree with you. Criticism comes faster than it used to now, with the explosion of the internet, everybody is a critic now. And sadly, not everybody is as sophisticated in their criticisms as say, the late Roger Ebert. You need to be prepared for all of it, learn from it, strengthen yourself from it, not just the PC card every single time someone attacks you. Otherwise, the PC dissenters will never cease to attack you.

When I started this blog, I knew not everybody would agree with me. But I proudly throw my opinion on movies out there for everybody to read everyday. I stand by what I write, and I think very carefully about how I write and how I word what I want to say. I never want to write anything that comes off as hate speech, and I am not here to beat anybody up. But I am also not going to give a bad film a pass simply because I will be labeled a hater. I don't mind discussing with people how we disagree, as long as the conversation stays civil. Sadly, on the internet, very few conversations ever stay civil. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person and let it go, and you need to understand that nothing in this world, especially anything in the entertainment industry, is above criticism. Everybody in this world is allowed an opinion, because art is subjective. Even the material that deals with women, sexual orientation, religion and minorities. Tackling those subjects is ambitious, but if you have nothing of substance to say about them, it looses me. 

Already after doing this since 2013, I have already had people attack me and insult me over a review I've written or something that I wrote about that they didn't like. I had somebody tell me earlier this week, hurling my favorite attack in the history of attacks, "Let's see you write a movie and make a movie and we'll see how good it is." Film criticism and film making are two completely different things. Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel and a host of other great film critics never made a single movie in their lives, but they write with such conviction and insight that people read their material, and still do today. The act of watching something is subjective, and as long as your criticism come from somewhere of passion, confidence, insight, and intelligence. I don't see why we aren't allowed to discuss our opinions. But we need to understand that we live in a very touchy environment and we need to be prepared to say "fuck the haters!" 

Nothing is above criticism, and that includes something like the new "Ghostbusters." Never have I said, nor have I read anybody say, that the new "Ghostbusters" will suck because its all women. I don't know about what some of you read or hear, but I personally have never said that. I was as open-minded as anybody for an all-women "Ghostbusters," but the trailers just did not do it for me. Will I see the movie? Probably, just so I can judge the movie itself. So far though, the 2016 remake looks like a complete betrayal of what made the first film great. The humor is non-existent and obnoxious and safe, the acting doesn't look all that great, and the special effects are terrible. This is all based on the trailers, and the final film could blindside me. I am also a special case, because the original "Ghostbusters" has a high sentimental value to me, so I will be extra judgey on this remake, whether I want to be or not. But no matter what I say or think, I don't hate the trailers simply because its all-women. That is really unfair to lump people in the sexist bigot category if their criticisms aren't even pointing that way in the first place. Hating something because its all-women is one thing, but hating something that features all women is something else. If you can see that difference, then you're the crazy one.

If we end up seeing more all women movies, and there is a chance that we will, I hope that there is some genuine thought in them. I hope they tackle issues in a insightful and significant way. I hope they entertain. I hope they dazzle. I hope to God that they don't play it safe. I didn't review this movie on my blog, but a few months ago I saw "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising." A movie which is basically the girl version of "Neighbors." I liked the first film and it was plain curiosity that lead me to see the sequel. I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Even though Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zak Efron battled a sorority, the film does an exceptional job telling a satire about the expectations and norms for a college girl. It has something honest and thought-provoking to say about the life and the potential danger of being a female on a college campus, and I loved how this sequel tackled its story. It was even more significant seeing it in the same week as the horrid Brock Turner case. The movie was much than that just "exactly like the first film, but with girls." It chose to go deeper and tell a thoughtful story, and I loved just as much as I loved the sequel. I hope all of these movies do that. If these all-women remakes take lazy scripts, go for easy jokes and call it a day. I am sorry, but I won't be interested.

That doesn't mean I am sexist, that doesn't mean I am railing against the PC, that is just what I want and expect from my movies. I want effort and thought going into everything I see, no matter the subject matter. The PC crowd is starting to turn into the military movie crowd, where you can't say one harmful thing about a military movie, otherwise you obviously hate the American military. The acts of lumping people into categories based on their opinions on movies is nonsense. If we want to have a day where we all get along, it can start here. We need to respect each others opinions and we need to understand that nothing is above criticism.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Shallows Review

The Shallows Review
There aren't too many movies about the "one-person survival." Where one person is put in an extraordinary situation, and has to survive it relying only on themselves. They are rare, but if done right, can be ingratiatingly good. There are great examples (Castaway), good examples (I Am Legend) and bad examples (Wrecked), and I was eager to find out where "The Shallows" would fit into the equation.

For the most part, "The Shallows" is pretty good. Its not horrible, but its not astounding either. Its pretty good. After "Jaws" did a good job of instilling a fear of sharks in me, I can honestly say that "The Shallows" has certainly reinstated that fear. The use of sharks in the film is certainly well-staged and surprisingly minimal. But the small doses of shark attacks work for the film and not against it. The bulk of the film deals with Nancy Adams (Blake Lively), who goes on a surfing trip. She is trying to get away from a recent tragedy. A friend was supposed to accompany her on this trip, but bailed on the last minute. That won't stop Nancy, she needs this time away from the world, the time to shut everything out of her life. So she decides to surf some by herself.

Of course, that doesn't go so well for the young medical student. She hurts herself on a massive wave, and soon enough she is in the middle of the ocean, wounded, surrounded by sharks. She is able to find potential safety on a small island, but the island will eventually get engulfed from the upcoming waves. So will Nancy wait it out or will she find a way to get to shore? How can she get to shore with a busted leg? Much like "Castaway," "The Shallows" is much more than just a "man survives the island" movie. We felt we got to know Tom Hanks, we understood what he needed to do in order to not loose his mind, and why getting home was so important to him. "The Shallows" is much more than a pretty girl surviving sharks movie. We get to know Nancy as a character. We see her use her surroundings to her advantage. We see her overcome odds due to character development instead of plot convenience. It adds to the tension and suspense when the sharks do show up to prey.

Movies like this rest almost solely on the lead. Simply put, that's pretty much all we get. Blake Lively is the only pair of eyes we see through this world, just like Tom Hanks and Will Smith before her (just to name a few), and when you make one-person dramas like this, the one person you cast has to make the entire thing work. Sure, Lively has a few people coming here and there for some minor support, as did the other actors. But its the lead the anchors the whole thing. How does Lively do? She's okay. I think she handles most of the early character work well. When its time to get into survival mode though, I am surprised how little she has to do. Sure, I guess she does a good job crying for help and making entertaining herself seem fun. But I feel any actress could have done the emotions she is given to do here, and dare I say, they could have done it better. All of Lively's hollering gets annoying after awhile, and I feel the right actress would have made us feel all of her characters' desperation. 

There are some interesting helmet-camera moments in the movie, giving the film a realistic vibe. There is also one haunting moment when a bystander tries to help Nancy, only to lose both legs in the process. There is a splendid mix of survival-ism and horror on display in this movie, and its all staged incredibly well. Its just Lively doesn't connect with us on the emotional level that I feel like she should have. I never thought Lively was the strongest of actresses and she proves here that a one-woman show is a little overwhelming for her yet. Still there is a enough intensity and mayhem here for a solid recommendation.

FINAL GRADE: B