Monthly Archives: February 2016

“The Revenant” Movie Review

*Warning. The faint of heart may find the following description of events unsettling. I’m right with you, though.*

We now know that Leonardo DiCaprio is immune to intense hypothermia. Dear Lord, that looked cold. This epic Western survival revenge tale garnered a limited release on Christmas Day, 2015, before it’s wide release in early January. It has earned over $384 million against it’s  staggering $135 million budget. Not going to lie, it’s likely that I’ll never talk about Zoolander No. 2. Everyone’s going crazy because the Oscars are this weekend, and I just recently saw the Revenant. And there are a few topics I want to get to, but have to allocate what has to be posted and what’s going to slip by.  So I’m going to talk about that rather than Zoolander No.2. Very loosely based on a dark true story, it follows legendary mountain hunter Hugh Glass who is traveling with a crew of trappers in the Northern Plains to collect pelts for big money. During a hunt, Glass gets viciously mauled by a grizzly bear. While clinging on to life afterwards, John Fitzgerald, a violent and selfish fur trapper, suggests that they put him out of his misery. When away from his superior, Fitzgerald kills Hawk, Glass’ half-Native son, and leaves Glass for dead. But he survived, and starts crawling back through the wilderness to hopefully kill John Fitzgerald. However, I feel the need to inform you that, contrary to what the hype may tell you, this is not “Kill Bill in the Wilderness.” If you enter the theater expecting that, your going to be disappointed and bored. It’s more a survival film about the incredible endurance of man; Glass spends more time fighting against the stark brutality of Mother Nature than he does Fitzgerald. What’s more is that the film was shot almost entirely in natural lighting, emphasizing the fact we’re actually in the forest. I’m sure Fox wasn’t happy about the money this cost, and it did force Tom Hardy to drop out of  Suicide Squad. But, two things resulted from this. First, the entire time, I legitimately felt colder and colder as the movie went on because that’s the type of effect the natural lighting had. Secondly, the cinematography was simply astonishing. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous, and like we saw in Birdman, Emmanuel Lubezki took the opportunity to make many long takes. That’s probably the one flaw with the movie is that I feel they did too many scenes panning the camera. Especially during the action moments because, guys, the fights in this film were very dirty. My God, that bear attack scene. Oh man, that was so intense and disturbing. Make no mistake, it’s a great scene, but like most of the rest of the movie, it’s so intense that you feel uncomfortable watching it for entertainment. That entire time, my hand was over my mouth in shock and horror for five solid minutes. And yes, everyone gave a fantastic performance. Leonardo DiCaprio shows that he has come a long way since his days as pretty boy Romeo. He deserves his Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and judging from the acclaim he’s received, he might finally win this year. Tom Hardy shouldn’t be overlooked as John Fitzgerald. You see, I was among the twelve people who actually liked The Dark Knight Rises. As I was watching Bane’s scenes, I though, “I don’t know who that is, but I want to see him more because he’s great.” And now Tom Hardy’s taking over Hollywood. He’s Mad Max, Bane, and now Fitzgerald. Even Will Poulter from the Maze Runner did a spectacular job. His role as Jim Bridger, a young trapper who’s just following orders, added a unique perspective on the story. In the end, The Revenant may not be as exciting as I had expected, but it’s still the most violent and realistic revenge story that I have seen in many years. The main character isn’t Hugh Glass or John Fitzgerald, but the grueling elements of survival.

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“Deadpool” Movie Review

Let’s face it; this is the one you were really waiting for. If social media indicates anything, it should be. Far from being your folks’ superhero flick, this stunning directorial debut from Tim Miller was released on February 12th, 2016, since then breaking several box office records for February movies and R-rated movies. And boy, does it earn that MPAA rating. While many movies such as Boyhood are just rated R for swear words and drug use, Deadpool is definitely the first hard R superhero movie. Bloody violence, sexual content, plenty of F-bombs, and at least half a dozen masturbation jokes populate this outlandish romp. Having garnered terminal cancer and without any alternatives, Special Forces soldier Wade Wilson makes a deal with the devil by agreeing to become a part of a mysterious program that can turn normal folk into mutants with super powers. After his treatment goes horribly wrong, Wilson, now the masked vigilante Deadpool, starts a manhunt for the man who destroyed his life. What surprised me was how the plot of the movie seemed pretty cut and dry, albeit a bit formulaic. So while it can’t tell a fairly original story like Ant Man, it uses the simplicity to its advantages. Whatever nightmares fans have had about Ryan Reynolds’ appearance in Xmen Origins: Wolverine is completely washed away. They even poked fun at it with a brief shot showing an action figure of that…monstrosity. Ryan Reynolds delivers the performance of his career as the titular character. He is one of the few actors I can safely say was born to play a certain superhero. He may be an asshole for a chunk of the movie, but he’s still really lovable. Ed Skrein and Morena Baccarin portray the charismatic villain and the beautiful love interest, bringing a feeling of sincerity to the somewhat ridiculous screenplay. T.J. Miller stands out from the crowd as the hilarious sidekick that makes comparisons of sex to alcohol beverages. To be honest, I would still paid money to see two hours of Reynolds and Miller riffing off one another. Now on to the jokes. The writers clearly knew what kind of movie they were doing. I assure you, half of the superhero movies released are half as self aware as Deadpool. It knew every single line of dialogue of when to be serious and when to be meta. My personal favorite fourth-wall break was when Colossus was talking about Professor Xavier and Deadpool asks “Stewart or McAvoy? This whole alternate timeline really messes me up.” Pure genius. Speaking of Xmen, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Wardhead, played by Stefan Kapicic and Brianna Hildebrand, don’t do or say much, but still provide some funny jokes. On a another note, I have never seen a more brilliant opening credits sequence this decade. Without actually adressing any names, it instead says things like “Starring a CGI character and a Moody Teenager” or “Directed by a Talentless Tool.” As for the action, it’s exciting and well choreographed. Remember that leaked test footage from a few years ago just after Comic Con? The opening fight scene was pretty much that test footage verbatim. In the end, Deadpool is one of the funniest comedies I’ve ever seen and some of the most fun I’ve had with an action movie. I promise that many other studios will start making R-rated superhero films sooner than expected. And if your girlfriend asks you to take her to see Deadpool, immediately buy her an engagement ring.

“Hail Caesar!” Movie Review

It’s probably the funniest movie on economic philosophy Holly wood has to offer. This offbeat comedy-drama written and directed by the Coen Brothers was released last week on February 5th, 2015, since then grossing less than $20 million at the box office. Though it’s one of the lowest grossing films in their catalog, it’s still an interesting experience, and a great start to what seems likely to be an interesting year for movies. Set in the 1950’s, Hail Caesar follows a variety of secondary characters and subplots in Hollywood, but at the center, George Clooney plays narcissistic Hollywood superstar Baird Whitlock who is captured and educated by a cantankerous group of Communists who want to use the studio as a tool of capitalism for their plan. Eddie Mannix, a “fixer” who tries to cover up the mistakes and scandals surrounding big figures in Hollywood, works to try and get Whitlock back to the studio so they can finish production on the highly anticipated epic drama, Hail Caesar! This film actually bears many similarities to previous films by the Coen Brothers in both theme and style. There are plenty of sly Biblical references along with an underlying feeling of both pessimism and philosophy. One of the best and funniest scenes is when Mannix is sitting at a conference table to discuss the proper interpretation of Jesus Christ with a Rabbi, a couple of priests, and an Imam. As Christ plays a large role in Hail Caesar!, they break out into a full blown argument regarding both Jesus and how God treats humanity. When Whitlock is held captive by the Communists in their rather lovely beach house, they educate him about the philosophy of man’s capability for strength and intelligence. There are an abundance of other quirky characters with unique personalities. The standout has to be the remarkably versatile Tilda Swinton taking on the role of twin sisters, both of whom serve as Hollywood gossip columnists. Despite that, there are certainly a few story elements that could have easily been cut out of the final product, with a subplot about Scarlett Johansson’s illegitimate child adoption feeling particularly shoehorned throughout the movie. It just feels like filler and falters the light pacing. The true highlight of Hail Caesar is its large ensemble cast, all of whom contribute something new and hilarious to the experience. Though some celebrities like Jonah Hill and Ralph Fiennes are more like cameos, Alden Ehrenreich, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, and yet another surprising comedic turn for Channing Tatum are fine compliments to the sharp, hilarious-written script. And watching the iconic actor George Clooney bumble around in a Roman-era movie costume is so consistently amusing. Hail Caesar may not reach the levels of brilliance from previous Coen Brothers films, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t an engaging and insightful love-letter to the Golden Age of Cinema, even as far as being shot on film. And yes, it is hard to say “Would if t’were so simple.”

“Man in the High Castle” Post-Review Spoiler Discussions

That’s right, you knew I’d come back. There’s just so much to talk about on a show about Nazis in the 1960s. I know talking about spoilers is a rarity on my blog. Example, Pitch Perfect 2; didn’t care to. But, sure let’s talk about alternate history. In case the title wasn’t already obvious, MAJOR SPOILERS LIE AHEAD. So if you aren’t through watching the first season of Amazon’s Man in the Castle, don’t read this unless you really don’t care. In which case, you should care, because this is a great show. So the surprise with Joe Blake’s character I wasn’t expecting was he was actually a Nazi spy for John Smith, who is coping from an assassination attempt and his son’s predicaments on fascism. Over the course of his mission, he grows strong feelings for Juliana, who is trying to carry on her deceased sister’s duty of delivering the film to the Man in the High Castle. Meanwhile, back in the Pacific States, three interconnected story arcs occur simultaneously. Frank Frink is a factory worker for fake antiques who gets accused of practicing Judaism, as his grandfather was a Jew. Though he is freed, his sister, nephew, and niece are all killed by gassing before the truth was discovered. Wrought with grief, he crafts a real gun to take his revenge on the Japanese, to his friend’s objections. This leads into the second arc, where he changes his mind on revenge just when the Crowned Prince of Japan is mortally shot. The Chief Inspector works tirelessly to find the culprit, even going so far as to take support from the Yakuza. Though he and his right-hand man find the shooter to be a German Nazi and kill him, they realize they can’t reveal the truth to the public in order to keep civility between nations. This burden almost drives him to commit sepuku, but relieves when Frank’s friend, Ed, is caught with a gun matching an eye witness’s description of a drawn weapon from the shooting. Frank arrives at the last minute to save his friend. Finally, the Trade Minister is secretly meeting with a high-ranking Nazi official named Rudolph Wegener, who poses as a representative from Switzerland. They’re trading secrets from each other’s governments in order to maintain peace, as a German party from the Nazi Reich wants to use the Americas as a guise to launch a war against Japan and rule over all the world. Feeling guilty for his treachery and sadness over his wife’s death, contemplates suicide a couple times. Now we’re just going to skip to the finale of this season. The show itself wasn’t completely realistic to begin with, but then the last episode absolutely blows the mind to pieces. So Juliana and Frank realize that Joe is actually a Nazi, and intend to kill him with the help of Resistance members. But Frank turns himself into the police to save his friend while Juliana let’s Joe take a ship ride to Mexico for safety. Meanwhile, SS Officer Heydrich reveals his plans to John Smith, whom he is holding captive and tries to convince to join his cause. He has sent the German Nazi official on a mission to Germany to kill the Fuhrer and ignite a war against Japan. But Hitler convinces his old friend to kill himself to spare his children shame, and Smith captures Heydrich as a traitor. But when we finally see Hitler for the first time, he’s in a room with various films, and the one he’s watching bears striking similarity to the ones that were being carried around the country the majority of the season. Plus the fact that his headquarters are situated in a castle in the tall mountains, I have devised the theory that Hitler is the Man in the High Castle, and he’s just feeding the Resistance false hope. In the last scene, the Trade Minister is sitting on a bench with Juliana’s necklace, closes his eyes, and then wakes up in an alternate 1962 where San Francisco is as it would be in our timeline. It’s not like this is a dream sequence, apparently it seems the necklace is capable of traveling across time/space. Yeah this is weird. I’m worried that this will turn out to be another case of Lost. Despite that confusing finale, Man in the High Castle is undoubtedly one of the strongest shows in 2015. I don’t care if you already have Amazon Prime or are a die hard Netflix loyalist, but this show is worth it. You won’t regret it.

“The Man in the High Castle” T.V. Show Review

It’s essentially Game of Thrones in 1962 with Nazis and Kempeitai soldiers. That’s all you need to know. This dystopian alternate history television series aired all of it’s episodes exclusively on Amazon Prime on November 10th, 2015. So far, it’s the most watched and streamed Amazon original in the network’s history. Based on the alternate history novel of the same name by science fiction master, Philip K. Dick, the show actually diverges from it’s source material in many different aspects. It’s okay, because the show’s still highly entertaining. Set in a world where the Nazi Reich won World War II, we follow a variety of characters as they fight to survive and maintain peace between Japan and Germany, who’ve established puppet states in the land of America. We see the many different infrastructures through the eyes of a Trade Minister, a Japanese Chief inspector, an American Nazi, an antique factory worker, a spy, and a number of officers from the Resistance and the German Reich. They all get tangled in a web of lies and death in a bid for a collection of films which present numerous different interpretations of World War II, including one where the United States defeated the Axis powers. Each character wants the films for his or her own reasons, but ultimately, all of these films are supplied to a mysterious figure known as the Man in the High Castle. I really liked the details of how this timeline diverged from actual history. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin were both assassinated in the mid to late 1940s. The Nazis managed to get a hold of the nuclear bomb first and destroyed Washington D.C., though it’s instead referred to as the Heisenberg Device. There are a lot of questions and details I want to discuss more of, but I will save that for my spoiler discussions. Basically, even though The Fuhrer Adolf Hitler is mentioned multiple times during the first season, he doesn’t really appear until the final episode. Some regard him as an almighty king, others think of him to be an obsolete mad man and murderer. The cinematography and editing are both very sharp, giving perfect angles and cutaways to so many tense scenes. It makes the setting feel like it’s a very fleshed out and alive United States that has become dominated by the ideals of supremacy, fascism, and Nazism. And the performances in the show are all great. The entire ensemble is fantastic. If I had to single out just a few, Alexa Davalos as Juliana Crain and Luke Klientank as Joe Blake hit it right off the bat as two strangers from opposite coasts who meet in the Neutral Zone. Joe Blake has a particularly surprising role revealed early on in the show, yet still remains relatable. Rupert Evans as Frank Frink acted like his character: a broken, conflicted man. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa played an ambiguous, calculating, and tragic Trade Minister of the Japanese States. Finally, the stand out of the series goes to Rufus Sewell as Obergruppenführer John Smith, as a protective American family man who maintains fierce loyalty to Hitler’s Reich. The pacing of Man in the High Castle is nice and smooth… then there’s the end. The final episode of the first season is one of those episodes where the WTF nature is turned way up, and is borderline weird. As stated previously, I will go further in depth when I publish my spoiler discussion on the show. Despite that one rather large bump, The Man in the High Castle is one of the best new shows to watch on streaming services. It tells a fascinating story set in a bleak world teaming with interesting characters. It’s worth giving Amazon Prime a Free Trial.

DC vs. Marvel: Utterly Pointless and Bias

That’s it. I won’t do any sort of post regarding what movies I’m most excited for and anticipating in 2016. You can figure those out for yourselves. Instead, I’m taking my time to address one of the most recent and pointless wars in pop culture. Marvel Comics versus DC Comics. Essentially, Warner Brothers versus Disney. Now, some of you may remember that I created a debate of Xbox vs. PlayStation last year. I got accused of bias by several people. That’s true. But now, I’m older and wiser, and I try not to get involved in arguments such as Star Wars vs. Star Trek, because those battles are sure to only end in petty bickering and one side feeling bad about themselves. Enter the recent feud between DC and Marvel. This is likely due to the recent growth in movies based on superheroes licensed from their respective companies. Disney and 20th Century Fox fight over what superheroes they’re allowed to use while Warner Bros. solely owns DC Entertainment but doesn’t often interfere with projects. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is thriving right now because it’s established itself as a comedic, mostly family-friendly franchise that’s able to popularize lesser known characters, but is starting to suffer from being too big for it’s own good and having repetitive, one-dimensional villains. The brooding and mature DC Extended Universe is just starting to mobilize starting with Man of Steel and will likely accelerate with the upcoming releases of Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it’s hard to deny the fact that so many characters like Aquaman and Cyborg are getting their introductions years before their own solo films, thus feeling shoehorned into the experience. Both sides have major flaws that fans either refuse to acknowledge or exaggerate far too much. For example, I’m among the few people who actually enjoyed Man of Steel because I thought it was a new and interesting take on Superman, but I’ll admit that it was very violent and probably could have been toned down a little bit for the faint of heart. I also enjoyed Avengers: Age of Ultron because of it’s action and memorable villain, but many people dismiss the fact that it was overstuffed not only with pointless fan service and underdeveloped characters, but also tried too hard to include so many quips and one liners. You see, many people like to believe that Disney and Warner Bros. are going head-to-head in recent times and trying to outdo one another. While that may feel apparent with the superhero films they both have planned, they’re smarter than to listen to their raging fanbases. So far, neither company is releasing a Marvel movie the same date as a DC movie or vice versa, because that would be an idiotic move on both studios’ parts. They can release opposite anything else, but not other superhero films. Besides, Batman will be going toe-to-toe against Superman Lex Luthor, and Doomsday in March, while Captain America and Falcon will fight against Iron and Black Panther this May. Interestingly, both movies regard the theme of accountability and one hero in both scenarios, Wonder Woman and Spider Man, will stand from the sidelines in neutrality. And after Steven Spielberg’s comments on how superhero movies are like a fad, director Zack Snyder stated that DC will eventually overtake Marvel. Sebastian Stan fired back, questioning how that would be possible since the characters Snyder’s directing are not relatable. This came from the man playing the Winter Soldier, one of the least relatable characters in the MCU. Plus, even though you can still like them, Jessica Jones, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and the Vision aren’t the most relatable of characters either. Does Marvel have too many jokes and one-dimensional villains? Sure. Is DC overemphasizing dark tones and rushing characters to film? Sure. I still love both brands of comics and media entertainment, but that doesn’t mean I have to pick a side. My two favorite superheroes are Spider Man and Batman, and it really depends on what type of mood you’re feeling. It’s an absolutely childish and subjective argument, and anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is bias. If you want to watch a superhero movie, don’t worry. There are PLENTY of those from both Warner Bros. and Disney that are worth watching and getting excited about. If you’re upset by the fact that Ben Affleck is playing Batman or Tom Holland is the new Spider Man, no one’s asking you to preach to the choir about your frustrations. Who am I to make these sort of judgments? I’m just a passionate nerd talking to audiences via the mask of a keyboard and computer screen. I suppose this is what you’re supposed to take away from this rant: Stop having a war between DC comics and Marvel comics. I am however, still excited to see Deadpool, Civil War, Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange, and Xmen: Apocalypse. I really don’t care what comic brand is slapped in front of them. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this debate in the comments. And if you like what you see, like this post and Follow my blog for more interesting content.