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Movie Reviews: The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)/Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

July 18, 2018

So I’m a little late to the party on Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but thanks to a free month of Hulu I finally got to see it. Now I just need to see 2010’s Boy and I’ll have completed my Taika Waititi collection. I also checked out The Place Beyond the Pines on Netflix because I’m just not interested in seeing Jurassic World or Skyscraper or really anything else in theaters right now. Though I do need to figure out where the hell Sorry To Bother You is playing.

220px-hunt_for_the_wilderpeopleHunt for the Wilderpeople is a difficult film to describe. Coming of age tale is the first phrase that comes to mind, but that’s not exactly right. It’s more of an exploration of how death can bring people closer together, filtered through the deadpan style of humor that Waititi has mastered.

The story follows an orphan boy who is adopted into loving family, only for the matriarch to die after bonding with the boy. This throws the boy and the grumpy adoptive father into an adventure in the New Zealand bush. Comedy ensues.

Up and coming Julian Dennison was slightly better here compared to Deadpool 2, and the great Sam Neill gives probably his best performance since the first Jurassic Park. Score is some amazing synthesizer jams that perfectly match the quirky vibe the film is aiming for. Shout out to the artist Moniker for the sweet jams I am tempted to download for myself.

Overall I thought this film was splendidly charming and nice for anyone who forget about the existence of orange skinned people for an hour or so. 8.75.10

220px-the_place_beyond_the_pines_posterThe Place Beyond the Pines is the kind of movie that feels a lot longer then it is, and it’s two and a half hours so just keep that in mind before you put it on. The plot structure may rub some people the wrong way, especially when the film decides that it’s going to follow a different protagonist at different points. I know I was a little disappointed having signed up for a Ryan Gosling film only to find myself stuck with a Bradly Cooper film instead. That being said I stuck with it and was rewarded with a complex tale about legacy, destiny, and the sins of the fathers forever haunting the lives of the sons.

Acting was great all around, even Dane DeHaan was good in the type of role that he should just allow himself to be typecast into at this point. Directing was good, though this could have been trimmed down a bit in my opinion. I loved the score, but it’s foreboding and tragic undertones didn’t help with how long it felt. Amazing listening to on it’s own though, ambient synths with crazy electric guitar sounds. Good stuff.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but it feels a lot like a few seasons of an overarching crime drama squeezed into a film. Lots and lots of stuff happens, there’s even like a season finally moment just 40 minutes in. Overall I kinda liked that it still worked in the end, but I understand why it would just be too much for some people. 8.75/10

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Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

July 10, 2018

ant-man-and-the-wasp-dolby-posterThis is a solid mid-tier Marvel film. I’d say it was slightly better then the first, but only slightly. Plot was more streamlined this time around and the actors still bring it, but I can’t help but feel like the direction was focused on comedy above other elements. I mean when your heroes can change size at will then the visuals should have been more inventive.

Paul Rudd is fantastic, really selling this whole goofy concept while being the best father figure in the whole Marvel Universe. Evangeline Lilly makes for a great Wasp and I am now complete as a comic nerd because every founding member of the comic book team has made an appearance in the MCU. Everyone else was great as well, though sadly I think they could have just cut Walton Goggins.

The directing here is fine, it’s a decently made film. I think my big gripe might be just that the bar was set so high by the previous films, and this just doesn’t come close to touching it. Taika Waititi, Ryan Coogler, and the Russo Brothers are all operating on another level of film making. I’d still like to see a third Ant-Man film, but we need new blood in the directors chair.

Plot was tighter then the first film, but there are still a few things that fall apart a little I you think about them too hard. Not to give anything away, but I was hoping for just a bit more Michelle Pfeiffer then we got. Also the villain had more of an arc then any of the heroes which is weird consider how little screen time Ghost is given.

Score is good, nice light adventure music. Same composer from the first Ant-Man so you can here many variations from his score there, including the heist sounding bits for Scott’s theme.

Special effects were awesome. The shrinking and growing all looked really good, even the ants looked amazing. How they got a Giant-Man attacking a ferry to look better then Black Panther’s third act is beyond me, but I digress.

Overall I enjoyed it being the uber nerd that I am. You wouldn’t be missing much if you just waited for it to be rent-able; but bring your kids for sure, it’s the most family friendly MCU film since the last Ant-Man. 8/10

Movie Review: Hereditary

June 26, 2018

hereditary-poster-mainThis film disturbed the fuck outta me. Certainly had many horror elements in it, but it’s more of a psychological family drama that just happens to crescendo into a horror. Not sure why audiences dislike it so much, maybe they’re just not used to films that don’t pull punches. This has a sort of a 70’s vibe in that sense.

Toni Collette gives an absolutely amazing performance as the mother here, though the whole cast is pretty amazing in their own right. The kids are really good as well, creepy girl is effectively creepy and Alex Wolff’s performance really rivals Collette’s for best of the film. Ann Dowd also has a nice little role here, making me want her to show up in some of these upcoming Stephen King films. She just has that sinister house wife vibe coming off of her naturally.

This is Ari Aster’s first feature length film which does make this film just a bit more impressive to me. He also wrote it and maybe the story doesn’t exactly gel all the way through, but it still works more often then it doesn’t. Though I have a few hardcore horror fans that assure me that it will seem derivative to anyone familiar with 70’s horror.

Score was an impressive feat, keeping me in a thoroughly bad mood throughout the film. Deep base tones that just drone on and sudden bursts of strings and unsettling synths. Not to mention the how well it works with the little girl’s creepy tongue click sound. It’s the kind of score that’s always gearing you up for a jump scare, but this film doesn’t have any so you’re just left on edge waiting for a release that never really comes.

Overall I thought this was uniquely disturbing and refreshing compared to the Bye Bye Men of the world. I do not advise this film for pregnant women or anyone who doesn’t really love the horror genre. 9/10

Movie Review: Incredibles 2

June 20, 2018

72c34a0afa1fc926598fc2fae48f9b4fSo Incredibles 2 is here after what, fourteen years? Definitely a fact they should not have reminded me of right before the film started. Probably shouldn’t have followed that up with a joke about how the film has been in development for all fourteen years either. That’s more sad then funny.

That was maybe a little mean, this wasn’t a bad film. It was just beat for beat the same film as the first one except the parents switched plot lines and the kids got even less to do. It sort of feels like instead of writing a movie they wrote a whole season of a show and then condensed that into a somewhat superfluous film.

I dunno, maybe I’m just bitter that they set this immediately after the first film instead of showing us how the family has changed in fourteen years. Although the villain here is pretty lame under any circumstance. Not even half as compelling as Syndrome was in the first film, and the mystery behind their identity isn’t as mysterious as the screenwriter seems to think it is.

Voice acting is still spot on perfect, the new additions fitting right in. They may not want to wait another fourteen years if they want a number three though because Holly Hunter and Craig T. Nelson do sound a bit older despite their voice acting efforts. This does kinda work in Nelson’s favor though given his haggard Mr. Mom plot line.

Michael Giacchino delivers an absolutely fantastic jazzy spy action score that really moves the film asking even when the plot isn’t. It’s no Cowboy Bebop, but it’s still damn good. Where many action scores disappear into the background when the action starts, this score dares you too ignore it’s barrage of horns.

If there was one thing that you could just assume would be perfect, it’s the animation and Pixar didn’t disappoint. There was maybe a problem of more action then story, but I’ll be damned if the action was visually stunning and stylishly inventive.

Overall I wish I liked it more. Maybe if I was ten or so years younger I would. 7.5/10

Star Wars Rant

June 9, 2018

So the internet seems abuzz about the state of Star Wars after it became clear that Solo would end up being the lowest grossing Star Wars film ever. It doesn’t surprise me at all though, I mean green lighting a Han Solo film is only something that you do if you learned absolutely nothing from the prequel trilogy. Going back in time to tell a prequel story requires regressing well know characters into their less interesting selves so that they can evolve into their more well know selves by the end. It could have worked with a less well know character like Lando, but Han Solo is one of the most well defined characters in the whole saga, he didn’t need his own damn movie. And forget not learning anything from the prequel trilogy, is they truly wanted a whole Han Solo series then some high grade Hollywood executive cocaine must have been had.

People aren’t panicking just because of Solo though, this has building since Disney bought Lucasfilm. The Force Awakens had fans split on the copy paste nature of it’s plot while The Last Jedi seemed to start an active civil war in the fan community. Rogue One was decent but forgettable while Solo was less then decent and more forgettable. Lots of alt-right cry babies have plenty of colorful theories about why such and such is happening, but from my perspective it seems pretty simple.

Number one they had no fucking plan for this new trilogy. After J.J. Abrams successfully made E.T. but different, he was hired to do A New Hope but different. He littered his Star Wars fan film with a whole bunch of mysteries that he didn’t care to think up answers to and then a director was brought on for the sequel and forced to either answer these dull mysteries or blow them up. Now with J.J. coming back for Episode IX he can apparently just revisit those mysteries he set up. My question is how the fuck did you decide to do a new set of Star Wars films without any idea what the overall story of the new films would be? Why was it decided that make it up as we go was the best way to tell a story?

As for the anthology films, why are they so boring? Rouge One was fine I guess, but plot was just not engaging on any level. Also if you’re one of those people clamoring for an Obi-Wan movie then fuck you, why? That’s a dumb idea and you’re dumb for wanting it.

So I guess all of this bitching is leading up to what exactly I would do with Star Wars if I somehow got put in charge tomorrow. I believe the kids are calling things like what I’m writing here a hot take. So take this!

First off my number one unbreakable rule for all future spin off films, if the character has had a major speaking role in three or more Episodes then they don’t get a spin off film, ever, no exceptions. Second, there should be a couple of years between the release of Episode IX and Episode X. Third, there needs to be some kind of frame work for the plot of X, XI and XII before filming begins on X; no more writing a series via directors note passing.

“But that’s a lot of characters that can’t get their own films” I hear you complain, but fear not imaginary reader I have a list of films that could fill a few years between IX and X. I want to all of these pretty equally so to avoid favoritism I’ll present my picks alphabetically. Also Boba Fett has been green lit so don’t bitch at me for not including him.

170px-ahsoka_tano2c_star_wars_rebels_appearanceAhsoka Tano: So I’ve probably already lost everyone who hates the added female presence in Star Wars as of late, but whatever that’s dumb. For those of you not in the know this was Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan trainee who went on to become a Gray Jedi in the Rebels cartoon. I would start this film with her leaving the Jedi Academy and end it a little bit before her first appearance in Rebels. I mainly just want a alien main character in one of these things, force powers are a nice plus too.

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darth_revan_by_bdraw2012-d8tgv3oDarth Revan: So admittedly it’s been a few years since I played through Knights of the Old Republic, but I distinctly remember this guy having some interesting story potential. Glancing through his Wookieepedia there’s a lot they’ll want to trim down, but the gist is the same. Jedi becomes disillusioned by the Order and turns to the Dark Side, then starts war with Jedi Order. This guy then in a fight hits his head real bad, develops amnesia and ends up becoming a light side user once again. Okay it still sounds a little convoluted, but with the right director it could be a an amazing watch.

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dr_aphra_colorDoctor Aphra: I’ve only read a few issues of her comic appearances, but she seems like a fun  character. She’s a treasure and artifact hunter. Think Indiana Jones in space or Han Solo as a treasure hunter. Not sure what plots that have her tied up in over at Marvel, but I’m sure they can squeeze a movie in somewhere for her.

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solo-a-star-wars-story-international-poster-landoLando Calrissian: Yeah I know I ragged on Solo real hard up above, but I did love Donald Glover’s performance. If they really wanna tie up loose ends then I guess this can serve as a pseudo sequel to Solo. I don’t know exactly what the story should be but ideally he should get a new ship that’s comparable cool to the Falcon. Maybe get into a relationship with not a droid, that would be nice.

So that’s like at least four years of films there, if you really need to do a new trilogy, after those films would be about long enough of a wait. Anyway I feel better now. Thanks for reading.

Movie Review – Solo: A Star Wars Story

May 29, 2018

dcxw2aduwae_n0j-jpg-largeSo Phil Lord and Chris Miller finished about 75% of this film before being fired and replaced by Ron Howard. The end result is a film that feels like it was directed by a robot. Perhaps even a robot that thinks it’s a character but it’s really just one joke told over and over again in different ways. Seriously the only other lines it gets are exposition fills, then back to that same joke.

Acting was a little uneven, Lando was pitch perfect while Han was only Han in flashes. Woody Harrelson is great, though he doesn’t seem to be trying all that hard. Emilia Clarke is here, so that’s nice for her I guess. Then of course there’s Chewbacca who somehow got the best character arc despite not speaking English. Probably has something to do with Han Solo’s major character arc already having been shown to us in the original trilogy which begs the question of why you would want to go back and to a young Solo movie like shit like that was ever a good idea.

The fact that this film had three directors was surprisingly seamless in that there wasn’t a noticeable clash of tones, but it also suffered in that it was overall kinda boring. Almost worse then being outright bad is being boring. I mean I almost missed Chewbacca ripping some dudes arms off because the plot was so full of things that I had seen done better in other Star Wars films.

If you’re a fan of Star Wars then you’ll probably be able to guess everything that’s going to happen in this film, Han meets Chewie check, Kessel Run check, Han and Lando play Sabacc check. The rest of the plot just doesn’t seem to matter as it exists only to connect those key moments with not a lot of character development going on.

I dunno I kinda hate continuing to think about it this hard, it’s a yawn fest that doesn’t do the series any favors. I mean this film wasn’t even half as fun as just rewatching Han Solo moments from the rest of the series. Boring action and bad jokes.  6.75/10

Movie Reviews: Under the Skin (2013), Before I Wake (2016)

May 28, 2018

So I recently saw two horror films with interesting premises that just fell flat in the execution. Under the Skin was a slow paced alien horror, while Before I Wake is an unexplained supernatural phenomenon horror. I had issues with both but if I had to pick a better of these two it would be Under the Skin.

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Not that Before I Wake was terrible or anything, I actually thought the first half of the film was pretty solid for a PG-13 horror, but then the second half of the film happened and yeah, it got dumb. The basic set up is a couple decides to adopt a kid. This kid has a completely unexplained power that allows his dreams to manifest physically. Shortly after this point in the film it became clear that the lead actress here is probably better suited for TV work. Like I said dreams becoming real is a cool hook, but this doesn’t do a whole lot with it. Hey guys, what if the kid dreams of only butterflies or a fucking man eating creature? Nothing else just those two things exclusively. No, not enough dream subjects sir, but if the adoptive mom was maybe really sad about a dead son… I feel like I like it even less now that I sat down and wrote this, but it’s on Netflix if you’re still undeterred. 5/10

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I guess the main reason I ended up liking Under the Skin better was because it was a more ambitious film. Didn’t exactly achieve it’s lofty ambitions, but still I like the effort. Scarlett Johansson is pretty amazing as she usually is in everything, though particularly in art house pieces like this. I this she’s playing an alien or something, but it’s hard to say given the zero percent exposition in the film. I dunno, liked parts of it while other parts threatened to put me to sleep. There are a series of amazing scenes featuring a black pool that almost most feel like the thing that the whole film was structured around, except that the word structured is way too strong in this context. It does kinda have a psychedelic vibe, maybe I should have been tripping? 7/10