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What I’ve Been Watching Since The New Year

January 22, 2019

So the Academy Award Nominees were announced this morning and the films the Best Picture category are pretty exciting. Sure it was a predictable bummer that Mandy got shut out of the conversation, but Wakanda is forever now. I still need to see a couple before I can do my Best Picture reviews, so until then here’s what I’ve been watching since the New Year.

Vampire’s Kiss (1989)

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This is a film that is fascinating in how amazingly bizarre it is. It’s honestly really hard to decide exactly how I feel about this unique cinematic experience. I believe I did enjoy it, but I honestly can’t say weather I enjoyed it for the reasons the filmmakers wanted me to. I don’t know much about the production of this film, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if cocaine out some other hard drugs were involved.

The plot follows Nick Cage as a literary agent with an unspecified mental illness that he’s seeing a psychiatrist for. First he gets a boner while chasing a bat out of his apartment, next thing you know he decides that he’s slowly turning into a vampire. The rest of the film is taken over by a truly legendary performance from Nick Cage during which he goes completely insane while raining down mental abuse on his poor secretary.

It almost feels like director had a specific vision for this film, but then he got suck with Cage who was doing something completely different. Some scenes are played straight while others are laced with a general creepy weirdness, but the whole third act just cranks that weird vibe up to eleven and then drizzles it with bat shit.

Overall it’s certainly a film to experience at some point, but it’s certainly not for everyone. As for me I think I like more then I don’t and against my better judgement I think I’ll settle on a 7/10.

Bad Times At The El Royale (2018)

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This is a western crime drama with a stellar cast and a twisty plot, but I can’t help but feel like there was potential for so much more then what we get. I’m not sure how to describe it exactly, maybe it felt too much like a weak Tarantino intimation, or it had too much of a small screen quality to it. I was excited for this mainly due to the strength of Cabin in the Woods, but this film really pales in comparison.

Acting is the best part which is no surprise with suck a star studded cast, but the plot their stuck in isn’t even half as interesting as the characters themselves. It’s essentially a bottle film that takes place at a hotel with two way mirrors and hidden microphones in every room. You watch as the hotel fills with a small collection of eccentric characters, but the most interesting interactions are very fleeting. Chris Hemsworth’s character does add a much needed sense of unpredictably, but he doesn’t show up until the third act so yeah.

Overall I was over hyped for this film, but go in with some tempered expectations and you’ll enjoy yourself. On a side note I really hope that Drew Goddard’s next film doesn’t feature a two way mirror as a major plot point. 8/10 Further side note, the titular El Royale hotel sits on the border between California and Nevada, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what the significance of this plot point was.

Glass

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Oh M. Night Shyamalan, up to your old twists again I see. I loved Unbreakable. I didn’t love Split, but I liked it well enough to get excited to see The Horde show up again. Unfortunately, just like the old man from The Visit, M. Night Shyamalan saw fit to rub his shit in my face.

The acting was great so long as you don’t count Bruce Willis because he seemed barely awake for most of his scenes. His utter lack of effort is even more noticeable in a film where James Mcavoy is switching between ten different characters in a given scene and Sam Jackson is more engaging even with his character being catatonic for half the movie.

The directing is slightly more interesting then bland. The first act had a lot of cool first person fighting shots, but as the plot slowed down, so did his creativity apparently. Shyamalan also wrote this film and it’s a really fucking dumb script. The dumbest aspect being how smart it thought it was, utterly unaware about how stupid it really is. I usually try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but honestly I want to talk people out of this one. Nobody needs to see the title character die for dumb reasons after doing almost nothing for most of the film. Nobody needs to see David Dunn drowned in a shallow puddle by a faceless thug after The Horde is killed by a sniper. Not one single person will be intrigued by the final minutes of this film being dedicated to a secret organization that is in the business of gaslighting powered people and murdering them if that doesn’t work.

As a fan and reader of comic books, I was insulted by this film and found it offensively bad, two decent performances not withstanding.

5/10

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My Favorite Films of 2018

January 2, 2019

Another year and another list of my favorite films. I had less free time this year and missed a lot of the high brow movies I wanted to see; but I think I have a pretty good list of films here, so strap in and let’s go through them.

My Favorite Original Films

MV5BMjk1MjhmZWQtNzU3OC00NDE4LThlODQtNTdhZGM4M2E3MWZkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTMxODk2OTU@._V1_This category had a lot amazing films representing a variety of genres. A truly bizarre and unique critic of capitalism with Sorry To Bother You. An emotionally charged exploration of racism in our modern society with Blindspotting. A well crafted horror film that you’ll want to watch in A Quiet Place. A disturbing supernatural horror about a family falling apart in Hereditary

My number one pick for this category is actually the last film I saw before composing this list. Mandy is a psychedelic heavy metal action horror film starring Nicholas Cage in which he is at peak Nick Cage levels of insanity. It also the closest I’ve ever seen a film get to explaining on a visual level what it’s like to take hallucinatory drugs. The story is very simple, but it’s structure is dream like at first before it starts shifting into a bad trip. Probably not for everyone but enjoyed the fuck outta this drug fueled nightmare.

  1. Mandy 9/10
  2. Hereditary 9/10
  3. A Quiet Place 9/10
  4. Blindspotting 8.5/10
  5. Sorry To Bother You 8.5/10

My Favorite True Story Adaptions

71AmGWxl-EL._SY679_I only saw three true story adaptions this year and none of them sucked so that’s cool. Vice was a little underwhelming to me due to the feeling that the actors were making a different film from the director, but Christian Bale was utterly amazing and makes this film a must see. With BlackkKlansman the actors and director are much more in sync and deliver a poignant comedy in a style that only Spike Lee could manage.

My number one film has to be Alfonso Cuarón’s semi-autobiographical Roma. It’s a black and white period piece that follows a maid during a trying time in her life. The story is very simple, but the way Cuarón tells the story with amazing technical skill and attention to detail is an experience. If only every Netflix film was this good.

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  1. Roma 10/10
  2. BlackkKlansman 8.75/10
  3. Vice 8/10

My Favorite Novel Adaptions

61orPuk6c2BL._SY679_Only saw two novel adaptions last year and only read one of the novels in question. Ready Player One was a visual feast that didn’t exactly work outside of that. Still I enjoyed it being the fucking nerd that I am so here it is.

Annihilation on the other hand is a masterfully crafted mind bender film that refused to leave my thoughts for weeks after I saw it. There’s a lot about this film that I still don’t really understand, but I love how it doesn’t even pretend to hold your hand with explaining things. I do want to read this novel at some point, but for now I implore you to go and watch this film because it didn’t make anywhere near enough money.

  1. Annihilation 8.75/10
  2. Ready Player One 8/10

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My Favorite Comic Adaptions

A1t8xCe9jwL._SY679_Wow, so many comic book films this year. I didn’t hate any of them, but I gotta cap these lists at five. Deadpool 2 was good, though a step down from the first one personally. Ant-Man and the Wasp is probably on par with the first film and fun enough to ignore any major issues. Black Panther was fucking amazing, Ryan Coogler is three for three and I can’t wait for whatever his next project is.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Avengers: Infinity War are the crown jewels of comic based films from 2018 and it’s really hard for me to say that one was better then the other. Spider-Verse used the art of comics to create a beautiful animated film that explores Peter and Miles’ characters while also examining the core ideas that Spider-Man as a character represents. Infinity War used the storytelling model of comics to capitalize on ten years of films in a cinematic event unlike anything I’ve ever seen realized on screen before.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War 10/10
  2. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse 10/10
  3. Black Panther 9/10
  4. Ant-Man and the Wasp 8/10
  5. Deadpool 2 8/10

My Favorite Animated Films

610Xm4d9vKL._SY679_Only saw four animated films this year and if you read the last category then you know what my number one is already. Far below that in my ranking is Batman Ninja, a film that’s art style isn’t as unique as Spider-Verse’s was but it was still beautiful in it’s own way; unfortunately the writing wasn’t even half as good as the Spider-Verse script. Incredibles 2 was a pretty good film that I probably would have enjoyed more if I hadn’t seen the first one, but I did see the first one so this rehash just didn’t do it for me the way I hoped. Isle of Dogs is a stop motion film that had a lot of the Wes Anderson charm I was looking for, but it was also problematic in a few ways as well so yeah.

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  1. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse 10/10
  2. Isle of Dogs 8/10
  3. Incredibles 2 7.5/10
  4. Batman Ninja 6.75/10

My Favorite Sequels

2f09cfc3e69ad180e6b212c337a55abfLots of overlap with my comic adaption list so I’ll just use this space to gush about the two non comic book films that made it. Mission: Impossible – Fallout is an epic action film filled with practical effects and breathtaking set pieces. Sure the plot is completely secondary to the point of falling apart under scrutiny, but the film was too awesome of an experience to let that bother me.

Creed II was a tiny step down from the first one, but it still had amazing acting and managed to dig into the history of Rocky without losing sight of Creed’s story. Also had all the awesome montages you could want. Anybody else want the Dragos to come back in some capacity if they do a Creed III?

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  1. Avengers: Infinity War 10/10
  2. Creed II 8.75/10
  3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout 8/10
  4. Ant-Man and the Wasp 8/10
  5. Deadpool 2 8/10

My Overall Favorite 18 Films of 2018

So 2018 was an interesting year for film to be sure. I talked about my top ten above already, but don’t ignore the rest of the list, these are all great films that deserve to be checked out. You especially have no excuse when it comes to #2, #14, and #17, the Netflix films. Anyway I’m going to sleep now, wake me when the Oscar nominees are announced.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War 10/10
  2. Roma 10/10
  3. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse 10/10
  4. Black Panther 9/10
  5. Mandy 9/10
  6. Hereditary 9/10
  7. A Quiet Place 9/10
  8. BlackkKlansman 8.75/10
  9. Creed II 8.75/10
  10. Annihilation 8.5/10
  11. Blindspotting 8.5/10
  12. Sorry To Bother You 8.5/10
  13. Mission: Impossible – Fallout 8.5/10
  14. The Night Comes For Us 8.5/10
  15. Ant-Man and the Wasp 8/10
  16. Deadpool 2 8/10
  17. Birthmarked 8/10
  18. Vice 8/10

Movie Review: Vice

December 29, 2018

MV5BMTY1NjM0MzgxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDc4NTY0NjM@._V1_SY1000_CR006401000_AL_This is a film that doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be biopic about Dick Cheney, or a documentary. This both worked and failed at the same time. The film definitely wants to be a biting satire about the man and in doing so it stands as the most bias film I’ve ever seen. This doesn’t bother me as much though since I probably loathe Dick Cheney just as much as Adam McKay seems to.

Christian Bale and Amy Adams are amazing in this. If you needed just one reason to see this then it’s them and their performances. Sam Rockwell and Steve Carell are also good, just not in a whole lot of scenes. You just want to get lost in the acting, but the film is constantly pulling you out of the story for a 4th wall breaking joke or an aside that explains some legal mumbo jumbo.

Adam McKay is basically just doubling down on the style he developed for The Big Short, but to vastly diminished returns. I think part of it had to do with this fact that the laws and legal theories that they explain don’t feel as nearly complicated as the housing crisis, so it feels a lot like the film is talking down to me when a character could have easily explained it to me in normal dialogue.

Overall it wasn’t nearly as good as I hoped it would be, but the actors are mesmerizing in spite of the directorial choices. It will absolutely trigger any republicans you know, so it also has that going for it. 8/10

Movie Reviews: The Night Comes For Us/Bird Box

December 28, 2018

Another day, another Netflix original film. Two actually, I’m trying to see as many movies as I can before the years end so that my end of the year list is as robust as possible. Also it’s really hard to avoid the allure of staying home when Netflix has pumped out so much original content this year.

MV5BZTJhMWE4MDUtYTIzYi00M2ZmLThhNjgtZTM2YTY0NDU1NWJhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyOTA5NzQ0MDQ@._V1_SY1000_CR006751000_AL_The Night Comes For Us is easily the most violent and gore filled martial art film that I have ever seen. Seriously if you get queasy at stuff like that then this third act will fuck you up. It’s really a testament to the director’s fucked up vision and some truly top notch practical effects.

The plot is kind of just a thin excuse for the amazing and frequent fight scenes, it’s something about a big crime lord turning against his fellow crime lords in order to save an innocent little girl from death. I mean yes there a little more to it then that, but the whole mythology behind the Six Seas seemed like a convoluted excuse for a barrage of action. The action was awesome of course, I just would have preferred a better written lead up.

Acting may not be the best exactly, but I gotta give props to the leads Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim for giving particularly intense performances. Heck it was seeing them in the poster that got me to watch this in the first place. The rest of the cast is a little weaker in the acting department, but they all hold their own in the action scenes.

Timo Tjahjanto directs here and does so with just as much flourish as the martial artists on screen, making this old genre feel new. Overall I would say that if you’re a fan of martial art films then you own it yourself to check this out, if you’re not then this probably won’t change your mind. 8.5/10

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MV5BMjAzMTI1MjMyN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU5MTE2NjM@._V1_Bird Box is the latest in a long long line of apocalypse movies. This one is caused by something something religious component? I don’t know exactly, it was never really made clear one way or another.

The acting is easily the best part of the film. Sandra Bullock is amazing as the lead and I always enjoy an angry John Malkovich. It was also nice to see Trevante Rhodes for the first time since Moonlight.

The story is broken into two timelines that connect just before the end. The first starts as the apocalypse starts, the second is something like five years into the apocalypse. Parenthood is a major theme here, but it’s competing for attention with a bunch of other elements that feel like their from another story. It sort of feels like it wants to be a sequel and an origin at the same time, with each one having it’s own unique feel and style.

Overall this film works pretty well but I can’t help but feel like this story would have better served as a series with maybe two to three seasons. There just feels like there’s a lot more going on then what we’re told in the film. It is good though, check it out if you like Sandra Bullock. 7/10

Movie Review: Roma

December 27, 2018

MV5BMjUxNjQ0NTY1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzcxNzk1NjM@._V1_SY1000_CR006741000_AL_After the expensive CGI space movie that was Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón decided to make his next film on a much small scale. Back down to Earth, back in the past and not a drop of color. Slice of life films aren’t usually my favorite, but I had to check this out due to Cuarón’s track record.

The film is semi-autobiographical, with Cuarón being represented by one of the four children that Cleo the main character takes care of. Cleo is a live in maid in Mexico City between 1970 and 1971. The film moves at a slow and steady pace as you’re slowly drawn into her life and the life of the family she lives with.

All of the actors give good performances, but I’m particularly impressed with the lead, Yalitza Martínez in her debut film role. The performances don’t seem like performances, it feels like you’re just watching real people interact with each other.

I shouldn’t be, but I am amazed at how technically impressive this film is. Lots of long takes and shots that make me wonder at how they were achieved. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the large scale style film making applied to such a small scale story.

There wasn’t a whole lot of musical score in the film, instead it had spectacular sound design with all of the ambient sounds you might hear in 1970 Mexico. It really draws you into the film and adds to the realistic feeling.

Overall this was an amazing film, you can really feel the passion of the filmmaker come through the screen. I know the black and white aspect will turn some people off, but I implore you to give it a try because it works amazingly well. Also it’s on Netflix so you really have no excuse. 10/10

Movie Review: Aquaman

December 23, 2018

aquaman_ver4_xlgI never much cared for Aquaman growing up. I always thought he was competing for goofiest member of the Super Friends, and I laughed when I first saw the “bad ass” hook hand version in the Justice League cartoon. I have matured since then and now recognize his importance to the DC mythos, but the character still didn’t interest me outside of the few New 52 arcs I read that leaned into his jokey aspects. With that in mind is say it’s damn impressive that Aquaman’s first big screen adventure was a really fun ride that I can easily rank as my second favorite DC Universe film just below Wonder Woman.

Jason Momoa is likable as the lead, helped by the fact that Aquaman is written to have the same base personality as the actor. That being said he does have quite the screen presence and really good chemistry with Amber Heard and Temuera Morrison who play his love interest and father respectively.

James Wan should direct more super hero movies because wow, this is action spectacle of the highest order. Some people won’t like what an insane CGI fest this is, but it all looks really good. Also this features some amazing scene transitions I’ve ever seen.

Of course this is far from a perfect film, it’s biggest weakness being the script. Clunky dialogue that’s bloated full of exposition, and a convoluted plot that almost feels like three films worth of material crammed into one. On one level I kinda liked that, but I recognize how dumb it is.

Overall James Wan knew exactly what kind of movie he was making. Where many superhero films feel the need to elevate the source material in order to appease critic types, this film is only interested in being a comic book for comic book fans. It has fun with the silly elements and while it may not be for everyone, it was definitely for me. 7/10

Movie Review – Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

December 17, 2018

16898_spider-man-_spider-verse_-_group_-_4x6I for one never ever expected a comic book style multiverse story to succeed on film, and yet Spider-Verse did so with literal flying colors. Believe the hype, this is one of the best Spider-Man films ever made and hands down the best portrayal of Miles Morales outside of the comics.

The voice cast does a fantastic job here. Shameik Moore and Jake Johnson have some amazing chemistry, Nick Cage and John Mulaney were inspired casting choices, and Hailee Steinfeld nailed Spider-Gwen.

This film had three directors and while that’s usually a red flag these guys had a cohesive vision and pulled off this monster undertaking. It’s easily the closest any film has ever gotten to the experience over has when reading a comic book, and does so far better then Ang Lee’s Hulk movie.

The story here far exceeds all previous attempts at telling a Spider-Verse story mainly because it’s grounded here with Miles’ rich and compelling origin. I was worried that he would get lost with so many spider people running around, but it’s actually them that lost screen time in favor of Miles and Peter’s arcs. Which is fine, they worked as supporting characters.

The soundtrack here was awesome. Lots of hip-hop because of course they made Miles the hip-hop Spider-Man. A little cliche, but I can’t complain too much, it was really good hip-hop. But don’t take my word for it.

The animation style is truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s some real next level shit that I could easily see replacing the Pixar style as the standard. That is assuming that Sony fails in it’s quest to copyright the animation style.

Overall this movie was dope as hell and I can’t wait to see it again. It’s very much a must see for all Spidy fans out there. 9.5/10