Monthly Archives: April 2017

“Sophie’s Choice” Movie Review

And we all thought that there was no way Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins could be matched in performance. Released in the fall of 1982, this drama received both critical and commercial success just in time for awards season. After leaving his small-town home in the South, aspiring novelist Stingo moves into a shared boarding house in Brooklyn in 1947. Soon after settling in, he meets his upstairs neighbors, Polish immigrant Sophie Zawistowski and pharmaceutical worker Nathan Landau. While they immediately become the best of friends, Sophie and Stingo must brave Nathan’s emotionally tempestuous behavior and violent mood swings. It’s only a matter of time before Sophie trusts Stingo enough to share her harrowing experiences in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. As the synopsis suggests, Stingo acts as our primary point of view for much of the runtime. A young man in his 20’s, his inexperience in the large city of New York, and his desire to understand human love allows the audience to relate to him in his struggles. When he discovers new locations across the city, it’s as if we’re walking in his shoes, seeing what he sees, learning what he learns. The city is a massively scary place for someone of small town background like Stingo, almost as if it wants to suck you in and never let you leave. The desired effect worked well for the most part. That being said, it felt as though the scope was very restricted. Most of the turbulent scenes are told inside of the characters’ boarding house, only one floor apart from each other. In that, it sometimes felt more like a stage play on Broadway, with nondescript locations and a plot that mostly develops from various characters exchanging bits of dialogue. One notable exception to this occurs early on in the picture when the trio goes to Coney Island for a day. While they move through a variety of different rides and attractions, the whole sequence plays like a silent film with color without any verbal or background noise. We only see these three people have the best day of their life, backed by Marvin Hamlisch’s beautiful and subtle score. This is undeniably creative, but it sometimes felt unappealing. However, Alan Pakula makes up for this in the latter half of Sophie’s Choice, when we start getting glimpses and flashbacks of Sophie’s life in Auschwitz. Many colors are desaturated or muted, similar in style to Steven Spielberg’s later Holocaust film Schindler’s List. It is clear that as the situation becomes bleaker, the colors fade even more. To add further authenticity, a rather large portion of the film is spoken in either Polish or German, a choice that throws me into the admittedly conventional drama. This is contrasted by scenes of Sophie explaining her every action in the present day to Stingo. These cutaways to the modern setting are filmed in a first-person perspective, giving the impression that we are listening to her talk to us in person. This allows the audience to better relate to her and her story; especially in the final act when everything comes to a gut-wrenching head. All three leads are terrific in their respective roles. Peter MacNicol, in his second movie ever, does convincing work as Stingo. Right at home with his Texan accent, his naive demeanor and great ambitions make him a man of great compassion. While he may be better known for comedies such as A Fish Called Wanda, Kevin Kline is fantastic as Nathan Landau. An unpredictable paranoid schizophrenic, some scenes were just uncomfortable to watch. But he’s still an indelible figure to look up to and find some warmth in, like when he first met Sophie and they bonded over reading Emily Dickinson poems. Or later, when he declares in a touching monolog that Stingo is destined to become one of the great American writers, alongside Whitman and Wolfe. But the true standout, as you may already know, is Meryl Streep, who completely deserved her Academy Award for Best Actress. It really can’t be overstated how incredible she is. Aside from her near-perfect Polish accent, she manages to hit almost every single emotion imaginable. She bounces between joy, anger, confusion, and unspeakable sadness with ease. If anyone else was cast as the titular character, this performance (as well as the movie) would probably be forgettable. Aside from being an experiment in acting and emotions, there is a point and meaningful purpose in the story of Sophie’s Choice. Through the eyes of Stingo, we are subject to the capacity one man (or woman) has for both love and suffering. When Sophie first arrives at the concentration camp, she is forced by an SS Officer to choose: will her son or her daughter go to the gas chambers? This is nothing easy for anyone. While she has endured so much pain, she still finds the ability to love other people. No matter how many times Nathan hits her, they keep reconciling and rekindling their relationship. There are brief moments of humor, like Sophie incorrectly mistaking Stingo’s seersuckers for “cocksuckers.” But aside from small moments like that, this film is not uplifting, or even very enjoyable to watch. By the time the credits start to roll, you will be left either speechless in your seat or in ugly tears of sadness. Maybe even both. If you aren’t brought to either one of those states, then it’s questionable if you’re truly human. Although it may be too upsetting for some and a little too conventional for its own good, Sophie’s Choice is a fantastically written and beautifully poignant drama about the distinction between love and suffering. It features one of the greatest performances ever put to film and an ending that will haunt viewers for many weeks after.

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“Gravity” Movie Review

If this movie proves anything, it’s this: there is absolutely no excuse for terrible CGI in film anymore. We’re past that. This extremely ambitious science-fiction action thriller from acclaimed director Alfonso Cuaron grossed over 7 times its $100 million budget after it debuted in America on October 4th, 2013 and in the UK a month later. Co-written with his son Jonas and produced by Harry Potter showrunner David Heyman, the PG-13-rated story follows a crew of astronauts whose space shuttle is destroyed at mid-orbit during a mission on their space shuttle Explorer. Miraculously in one piece, Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, finds herself stranded in space and now must find a way to safely return to the surface of Earth… or float out into the dark and cold void of outer space forever. I can’t talk much more about the plot because none of the trailers ever gave anything away, and- true story -I had never actually seen Gravity until a few hours ago. Hang me from the gallows for heresy, but now I know what I’ve been missing out on for the past four years. As pretty much the only two characters who ever show their faces, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney carry this movie on their shoulders- or more appropriately, launch it to great heights. Clooney more or less plays a caricatured, astronaut version of himself, always quipping to his crew members and sharing amusing stories about himself. He gave this film humor where it needed it, and also served as the true optimist when everything suddenly goes wrong. Bullock’s performance is the real standout, though, showing a strong versatile range of emotions. She is thrown into the worst situation imaginable but still has to find the will to get through it alive. A moment late in the movie when she prays to herself marks a pivotal turning point for her tragic character while also being very moving. It also earned her a nomination for Best Actress, marking this as the first time a sci-fi action film has been nominated in the category since Sigourney Weaver in Aliens. The film has also received a fair amount of criticism for a number of scientific inaccuracies, particularly when the Laws of Physics are broken. This is not necessarily a negative. In fact, it should be considered a high honor if a science-fiction film falls under scrutiny for the science portrayed. Implausible? Sometimes. But it’s still believably demonstrated and explained. While on the subject, in a technical sense, this is a flawless movie with no missteps whatsoever. Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanual Lubezki utilizes his trademark of long-tracking shots to great and innovative effect. The film opens with a single, fluid 13-minute shot that establishes everything that is to come. In fact, there are huge passages taken from a single-camera shot, swinging around the stations and suits with ease. These huge takes are contrasted by claustrophobic point-of-view shots from inside Ryan Stone’s space suit, truly giving the impression that the audience is stuck in orbit with her. Meanwhile, Steven Price’s soundtrack is an astonishing, atmospheric score with pulsating electronic drums and illustrious strings. Lone shots of the Sun horizon are emulated by an ambient, almost esoteric noise. But it’s the vocal accompaniment from Katherine Ellis on the last two tracks that make such an inspirational award-winner. Speaking of vocals, further immersing audiences into its adventure is the intricate sound design. Since it took place in outers space, almost everything that happened was silent- a tactic which turned out to be very frightening for me. Much of the radio chatter between the astronauts and Houston Mission Control is babble over a channel of static, and- even more impressive -the film made your hear everything the characters were hearing. So whenever a screw was being put into a metal plate, it felt like her head was tilted to the side, causing only one ear to hear it all. The only real way to watch and appreciate this film at home is on a widescreen T.V. with the lights out and the sound turned way up. It’s just a rich experience. Even richer than that, as many have raved about nonstop, the visual effects in Gravity are simply stunning and beautiful. Having the majority of a movie focus almost entirely outside in space, and make it look realistic at the same time, was concept believed to be impossible just a decade ago. But Framestore utilized every ounce of its budget over the course of three meticulous years, deservedly earning it the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Unfolding seemingly over real-time, this movie serves as a benchmark for how far we’ve come in technology and the possibilities of where we might go from here. My only gripe is that I was never able to see this in IMAX 3-D, which many professed was one of the greatest cinematic experiences they had ever had. Though, honestly, I think I might have gotten sick if I did. Even so, I am perfectly content watching the relaxing image of Earth pass in the background as our heroes move from one disaster to the next. To put it in the words of Clooney, “Gotta admit one thing. You can’t beat the view.” He’s right, nothing can. Despite its inaccuracies regarding science and physics, Gravity is an intense and unbelievably captivating adventure with great thrills. Easily the most visually impressive film since 2009’s Avatar, and certainly of this decade so far, there is not a moment of this movie that ever lets up and it never gets boring. The mile-a-minute 90 minute-long picture is an astonishing visual masterpiece that left me breathless and amazed.

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“Iron Fist” T.V. Show Review

This was bound to happen. I knew it, you knew it, we all knew it was coming- we just weren’t sure it would be this far. Marvel Entertainment has finally released their first true stinker. This supernatural comic-book superhero television series released all 13 episodes of its first season on March 17th, 2017. The final solo series in the lead up to the Marvel/Netflix crossover event The Defenders, it thus far remains one of the online network’s most-watched original series., if not critically successful. Set against the backdrop of Upper Manhattan, the show focuses on Danny Rand, a young billionaire who returns after being presumed dead for about 15 years to reclaim his parents’ enormous company. What did he do that entire time, many characters ask? He was adopted by Buddhist monks who taught him the ways of kung-fu and how to use the power of an ancient force known as the Iron Fist to fight against the evil organization known as The Hand. Now he has come back to New York to reunite with his childhood friends, the Meachums, and hopefully continue his campaign of defending his people. Alright, let’s get this out of the way right now before you make a decision to watch it: Iron Fist is not a good show. Firstly, the main character of Danny Rand is not very compelling or interesting. Contrary to popular belief, he was not actually whitewashed with the casting of Finn Jones, as he was a white man in the comics, to begin with. But even if that were a problem, then that would be the absolute last thing wrong with the show. No, Finn Jones is just unfit to carry this show on his shoulders, coming off as annoying and bland as the titular hero. Previously, he had been excellent in his small but memorable role as the Prince of Flowers in Game of Thrones, so what happened? I don’t blame him, considering the fact that his backstory is super lame. In all fairness, though, I will give it to both Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing and Tom Pelphrey as Edward Meachum. They were clearly the most interesting characters all season, and really did the best they could with the limited material that was given. Henwick elevated herself above the stereotypical superhero love interest as a badass martial arts teacher, while Pelphrey was an unpredictable billionaire with a bad drug habit. Meanwhile, Rosario Dawson, Wai Ching Ho and Carrie Anne Moss reprise their roles as Claire Temple, Madam Gao and Jeri Hogarth, respectively, from the previous Marvel/Netflix shows. The three of them did a respectable job, despite their criminally limited screen-time. Other cast members include Jessica Stroup, Ramon Rodriguez, Sacha Dhawan, and Lord of the Rings alumni David Wenham. No matter how much they all try, none of them are able to escape the character archetypes you expect them to be. Leading into my next point, Iron Fist is absurdly predictable at every turn. One of the things that made shows like Jessica Jones and Daredevil so compelling was the fact that the storylines were extremely well-written and smart. I couldn’t have predicted many things that played out over the seasons. But here, I called out every single major plot point and piece of character development from the first two episodes alone, and I was right on all counts. Speaking of the first two episodes, they’re just awful. The time it takes to set up the whole story of the season is dreadfully pompous and frustratingly boring. None of the main characters are likable at the beginning, when you’re supposed to start caring about them and getting invested in them. However, to the show’s credit, the next couple of episodes were entertaining. Especially in the sixth, when we’re getting an idea of the threat that Danny Rand is facing off against: The Hand. And as soon as they came into the picture, this show picked the fuck up, and I started having some fun. It was at this point that I was starting to get won over after all my initial complaints… but then the last three episodes came. That’s when the writers lost themselves and just slapped together an ending that feels like a completely different show than what started out. In fact, easily the largest flaw with this show is that it’s completely confused in the tone and genre. You’d think that with the Marvel name slapped in front, it’d be an exciting superhero action story. But the fights are often underwhelming and it instead focuses on the melodrama of a rich family in Manhattan. So then, it’s got to be an engaging soap opera, right? But then, it also focuses a lot of the story on board meetings and business litigation in Rand Enterprise. So it tries to be some sort of socially relevant commentary on corporate greed and corruption, even though our hero is the heir to a billion-dollar company. This series has no idea on what it actually wants to be about that it compromises everything else in the process. Here’s the main purpose of Iron Fist: It can’t stand on its own because it’s too weak. It establishes the big picture and what the problem is, and what they’re fighting in The Defenders. It pains me to say, but Iron Fist is a frustrating hodgepodge of conflicting ideas. Though they do come together to occasionally provide some fleeting enjoyment, this is not a show worth more than one marathon, as I finished it in two days.

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“Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” Trailer Analysis and Speculation

*Disclaimer: The following post contains huge spoilers from the events of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. If you have not yet seen the movie… stick around cause you need this.

Happy Easter weekend to all of you. Speaking of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we now have our first official teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. This is actually what consider to be a late reaction. I’ve watched the trailer roughly 88 times, and after carefully looking at each frame, I’m ready to give my thoughts. It begins with what we initially believe to be the stars of the galaxy before the frame fades into a rock. We then see Rey falls down onto it, breathless with something she has just witnessed. My guess is that she has just experienced a Force vision that Luke Skywalker has given to her as part of her training. In fact, much of this trailer is spent showing some of Rey’s time on the mysterious planet of Ach-To, training with the self-exiled Jedi. One shot shows her approaching a shelf of old books at the center of an old tree. This makes me think that she will not only be learning the ways of The Force, but also its history and how the Jedi and the Sith have been fighting for eons over the same cause. When it isn’t, it cuts over to quick cuts of the Resistance trying to hold its own against the might of the First Order. Seriously, we see what looks to be a fighter hanger get destroyed and the Resistance fleet is under an intense space combat scenario. That’s actually something I’m looking forward to most because it’s been a long while since we’ve seen a real space battle in the Saga films. And now, with improvements in technology and visual effects, I’m eager to see it all unfold. The thing I’m looking forward to the most, however, is how different of a movie this will be from the others. As much as I loved The Force Awakens, it’s impossible for me to deny how similar it was to A New Hope in terms of the plot and character development. Well, writer-director Rian Johnson has repeatedly professed that The Last Jedi will try to distinguish itself as much as it can from the other entries in the franchise. And of course, the trailer is filled with an epic montage of awesome, with zero context given for any of it. Why, you might ask? To keep the plot in the dark, obviously. The people in charge of marketing these films bend over backwards to ensure that the movies remain shrouded in secrecy and that absolutely nothing about the plot is revealed until the release this December. But that doesn’t stop us fans from scrutinizing every single frame of the trailer(s) while we still can. In this montage, Finn is shown to be asleep in a ship during hyperspace. I’m very curious to see what the Resistance plans to do with him in this film, as John Boyega has been very mum on information regarding his character’s new arc. Still, considering that this film begins immediately after The Force Awakens ended, it wouldn’t be surprising that he’s still recovering from his battle wounds with Kylo Ren. Speaking of Kylo Ren, who else saw that shot of his helmet completely destroyed on the ground? And later we see a tiny glimpse of him pointing his jagged crossguard lightsaber at someone. Something tells me that not only are we getting a new costume from him, but also more internal conflict. Because if you saw the previously film, you’ll remember that he was both literally scarred in battle and torn between his allegiance to The Force. But the real star of this teaser trailer is the star of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker. I was one of the only people who felt satisfied by his 30-second cameo at the end of The Force Awakens, and now it’s established that he’ll be taking center stage. His voice-over is heard throughout the 90 second-long teaser, mostly telling Rey how to prepare for her training of the ways of The Force. But then it takes 180 turn when he mysteriously announces, “I know only one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Which is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Most of the Force users in the galaxy are dead now, and the ones that aren’t are nearly spent on their energy. Maybe by the time that Episode IX ends, every Force user from both the Light Side and the Dark Side will die and there will be no more religion or space magic. Just the age of technology. Some ask me why I do this, and I have answer for you: Because it’s fun to theorize! That’s the purpose of the Internet: Criticism, speculation, and entertainment- sometimes all wrapped into one package. I can’t wait to see how The Last Jedi unfolds when it hits theaters on December 15th. Have you seen the teaser trailer? What are your thoughts on it and your theories?” This is definitely a trailer worth talking about. Put your thoughts in the Comments, and if you want more cool content like this, be sure to Like and Follow my Blog.

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“Tropic Thunder” Movie Review

And so this is why I choose not to enter the film industry, no matter how much I love it. This satirical war comedy from director, producer and co-writer Ben Stiller doubled is $92 million budget after releasing on August 13th, 2008. Also starring Stiller in the lead role, the story follows a group of prima donna actors who are struggling to make a film about the Vietnam War. Frustrated with them, the director has them dropped into the dangerous jungles of Lao and, with the help of some hidden cameras and their own acting skills, they hopefully get something good out of the experience. Ben Stiller and his so-called “Frat Pack” are apparently a very acquired taste in terms of comedy material. Their jokes and timing are undeniably clever and witty, but it often sinks into low-brow territory with stints about drugs, sex, and farts. If that kind of humor puts you off, then Tropic Thunder may not be for you. But those willing to give it shot will experience their ribs bursting out their sides from sheer unstoppable laughter and enjoyment. The cast largely consists of comedians who are typical in their respective roles, along with a few surprise players worth mentioning. Stiller plays a special kind of character not consistent with the rest of his filmography. He’s a narcissistic, egotistical maniac trying to relive the glory days of his once-prominent film career. As with his other characters, he’s a lovable idiot whose situational hazards make him awkward yet hard to hate. Other players, include Jack Black as the star of a zany comedy franchise, Steve Coogan as the stressed director of the titular fictional film, Brandon T. Jackson as a rapper making money off seemingly misogynistic products, Danny McBride as a pyromaniac demolitions expert, Nick Nolte as a crazy veteran for whose “experiences” the film-within-a-film is based on, Jay Baruchel as a straight-laced novice in the acting world, and Matthew McConaughey as a TiVo-obsessed acting agent. They all turn in some fun and memorable performances that add more personality overall. But to get right to the point, the two stands are, first of all, Robert Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus. Lazarus is an intense Australian method actor who undergoes a controversial skin tone change to look like and sound like an African-American soldier in Vietnam. And he refuses to break character until the DVD commentary. In terms of social commentary on whitewashing and pure comedy, that’s genius, nabbing Downey an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This is especially impressive considering it’s a comedy released in August. Even more surprising is Tom Cruise’s against-type, almost unrecognizable performance as Les Grossman. I know Cruise mostly for his mile-long list of action films, as well as some dramas. But here, he plays a sleazy, profane, and ill-tempered studio executive who constantly threatens to pull the plug on the film. Late in the movie, when he should be worried about the fate of his stars, he simply starts dancing to a Flo Rida song, and the results are nothing short of hilarious. Hopefully, he is encouraged to take more comedic roles in the future where he just gets to go all-out crazy. Technically, the editing by Greg Hayden is fairly impressive, particularly when the main antagonists start firing their weapons at the actors. And the camera work from John Toll captures the vastness and beauty of the on-set jungle pretty well. But if I told you that this film had a memorable soundtrack, then I’d be lying to your face. Now, if for nothing else, Tropic Thunder should definitely be commended for the way it opens up. Bucking the trends of gratuitous voice-overs from one of the lead characters as well as an epic opening credits sequence, the movie instead begins with faux advertisements and trailers. It hits everything imaginable in just under 5 minutes: stupid fart comedies, endless action sequels, offensive rap products, and shameless Oscar-bait arthouse porn. It also serves as a creative way of establishing each of the film’s main characters. Speaking of faux, the whole movie’s marketing campaign was rife with fake websites containing “spoilers” for the Vietnam War film as well as fake ads for products used in the film itself. Ben Stiller has to be commended for trying to forgo the cliches of marketing a movie. Then again, the movie faced a rather significant real-life controversy in its allegedly insensitive portrayal of mental disability. In context, Ben Stiller’s character, at a low point in his career, played a mentally and physically challenged farm boy who loved prancing around with horses and girls. The other actors in the jungle make fun of him for it, with Lazarus sarcastically informing him, “Everybody knows you never go full retard.” It’s important to remember that this is a comedy, meaning anything that appears onscreen isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. And it’s not like the whole purpose of the plot is to make fun of disabled people, but it instead makes fun of all Hollywood. Behind every satire is a bit of truth, and the truth is that filmmaking is an incredibly stressful business. The director has to keep his actors in line while pleasing the corporate hierarchy that is investing their money into these projects. It’s not easy at all. The controversy aside, Tropic Thunder is a hilariously accurate depiction of what happens when a director goes too far to make the movie they want. Bounds better than Stiller’s Zoolander, this has to be one of the funniest comedies from the 2000’s, with lots of quotable dialogue and a truly bizarre and unexpected performance from Robert Downey Jr.

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“Django Unchained” Movie Review

Not only is it set in the Old West, but it’s the first official “southern.” Released worldwide on Christmas of 2012, this American revisionist Western soon became writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s highest-grossing movie, with a total intake of about $425 million at the box office. Continuing his streak of critically-acclaimed epics, the film also earned 5 Academy Award nominations and remains in the top 60 highest rated films of all time according to IMDb. A highly stylized tribute to Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960’s, the R-rated story follows a slave named Django, played by Jamie Foxx, in the Deep South during the Antebellum period. After being freed from captivity by bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz, he is shown the ropes of handling fights and taking down targets. They agree to free Django’s wife, Broomhilda, from a sadistic and selfish slave owner. Django Unchained marks a departure for Tarantino in a few different areas. Namely, this is his first attempt at a straightforward genre movie, when his previous works have combined many tones and genres into a single movie. Following the success of his 2009 war thriller Inglorious Basterds, much of the narrative is told in chronological order, with the exception of a couple flashbacks that illustrate what’s relevant about Django’s backstory. Jamie Foxx is an excellent choice for the titular protagonist. It’s very engaging to watch him grow from a really shy, timid slave to a gun-wielding badass. Like a scene where he’s told by Schultz that he can wear whatever he wants, followed by a smash-cut to him dressed in a bright blue French valet suit. Not to discredit him, but the fantastic supporting cast steals the spotlight from right under him. In particular, Christoph Waltz follows up his incredible breakout with another stellar performance that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Almost the complete opposite from Col. Hans Landa, he bears all of the kind traits of mentorship and courage that you would want out of a hero. As the character with the most lines of dialogue, for all intents and purposes, he carried a large passage of the movie. Despite being entirely absent for the first hour and a half, Leonardo DiCaprio is simply stunning as the main antagonist. A major departure from his previous roles, Calvin J. Candie has no redeeming qualities; extremely racist, hot-tempered, and sees all other people as toys. DiCaprio was apparently so off-put by the character, that he hesitated to deliver some of the film’s many N-words. But he gave in, injuring his hand in the now-famous dinner scene and delivering one of the more impressive examples of on-screen improvisation. Continuing his nearly two-decade long relationship with the auteur, Samuel L. Jackson costars as an Uncle Tom-like, decrepit house slave, who is utterly indifferent to the suffering of his own people everywhere. Watching one of my favorite actors dropping F-bombs while hobbling around on a cane is nothing short of enjoyable, even if his character seemed to lack 3 dimensions. While it may sound that this is a completely dark experience, one of the most enjoyable aspects of a Quentin Tarantino film is that he never takes himself too seriously. His Oscar-winning screenplay is loaded with his trademarks of brilliantly written dialogue and highly stylized violence. One scene sees a group of Ku Klux Klan-like hate mongers arguing over bags that can’t fit their eyes, just before committing a raid on our protagonists. This is a moment we would normally be afraid of, but instead is nothing short of hilarious and unexpectedly quotable. And yes, like the rest of his filmography, Django Unchained is an extremely violent movie. The gun battles between slave owners and bounty hunters are exciting, with ridiculous amounts of blood gushing from the bullet wounds as men are getting wasted. It gets to be a bit indulgent at times, but watching men flying through the air from a gunshot to the chest does put a smile on my face. As much as I could go on about these individual scenes, it’s the technical side of everything that also impresses me. Robert Richardson’s excellent nominated cinematography contrasts static anamorphic shots with sudden close-ups and zoom-ins. It also brings out the beauty of many different colors, most notably bloody red and bright white cotton in fields. The film is also laced with a deliberately anachronistic soundtrack with songs that truly fit the moment. However, like many of Tarantino’s recent efforts, this film could have definitely been trimmed down, as the story begins to lose sight of itself at the beginning of the final act. It lasts about 2 hours and 45 minutes, which works for the most part. Except for a cameo from the director himself very late in the film, which felt like a completely shoehorned excuse for him to say N-words and get away with it. Thankfully, he’s taken care of quickly, and the pacing comes roaring back in the last 10 to 15 minutes of the movie. Despite those pacing issues, and some “black-and-white” characters, (no pun intended) Django Unchained is still a supremely entertaining and satisfying Western adventure. A damn fun time, it’s hard to think of a film from 2012, aside from The Avengers and Skyfall, that I enjoyed watching more. Easily one of Tarantino’s best films.

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“Power Rangers” Movie Review

There’s not a person alive who saw a trailer for the new Power Rangers movie and didn’t think of Chronicle meets The Breakfast Club. Furthermore, there’s not a person alive who saw the new Power Rangers movie and didn’t think of Chronicle meets The Breakfast Club. This is how the world is made, and it shall continue as such. This science-fiction superhero action film was released by franchise creator Haim Saban on March 24th, 2017. Despite generally positive reactions from the audience, the movie has yet to recoup its staggering $100 million budget and wasn’t even the highest grossing film of its opening weekend. A reboot of the highly lucrative Japanese media franchise, the plot follows five teenagers with attitude- Jason, Kimberly, Trini, Billy, and Zack -in the small town of Angel Grove after bonding in detention. They stumble upon an ancient artifact that leads them to Zordon, a being who informs them of their new position as the new Power Rangers. Now they’re tasked with defending life on Earth from the newly awoken threat, Rita Repulsa. As a child, I grew up with the Power Rangers, from the original Mighty Morphin’ series up to S.P.D. Looking back on it now, however, it’s clear that not only am I not in the demographic anymore, but the shows simply don’t hold up today. So I walked into the theater with some trepidation. And for much of the film, I was sitting on the razor’s edge of liking it and loathing it. However, by the end, I left having surprisingly liked it more than I thought I would. Are there flaws? Absolutely. But right now, let’s divulge the good things about this picture. Getting it right off the bat, the five main actors do a surprisingly great job with their respective characters. Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Becky G, Ludi Lin, and RJ Cyler have bright careers ahead in their future thanks to their commitment and chemistry with one another. Cyler, in particular, was excellent as the Blue Ranger. Though he’s a bit annoying at first, he (and consequently the audience) grows more comfortable with his role with a sense of heart and keeping his wits about. Aside from the newcomer leads, the supporting cast is filled with some rather large players in key side roles. The most notable one is Bryan Cranston as Zordon, marking his return to the franchise after voicing some of the creatures in the pilot episode of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers television series. His role as an almost ethereal mentor to a generation of new potential Rangers is a welcome relief from his villainous performances in T.V. like Sneaky Pete and his iconic character in Breaking Bad. Comedian Bill Hader brings his signature awkwardness to the voice of Alpha 5, a bumbling and precarious robot with good intentions. It’s clear that he loves his role. However, Elizabeth Banks’ portrayal of the villain Rita Repulsa didn’t feel believable or interesting. She spent the majority of her screen time over exaggerating her evil voice and stroking her long fingernails over new technology. Her character has always been an over-the-top intergalactic zealot, but it didn’t seem to flow with the tone of the movie. In fact, the areas this movie struggled the most in were in the tone and pacing. Much of the film’s marketing painted it as a darker, grittier reimagining of this kid-oriented franchise. Bryan Cranston, by his own word, even compared it to The Dark Knight. I would never go as far as to say the film has that much substance, but its influence is evident. While it does have moments of fun and humor, Power Rangers relies heavily on gritty story elements and visuals. Even their armor, as cool and practical as it looks, feels like an edgy Iron Man knockoff. The thing that made the original show so appealing is that it knew what it was, regardless of the cheese factor- and there was a lot of it. This one felt as if it suffered from an identity crisis at times. Also, the pacing of the movie was very wonky and inconsistent. In fact, the main characters don’t even get suited up until nearly 80% percent of the way through the 2 hours and 4 minute-long runtime. While they do take on a few threats before then, much of the time is spent examining these individuals’ personal lives. And in some ways, this is an interesting venture. In one particular scene, which was probably my favorite, all five of them sit by a campfire and discuss their deep personal troubles. It just made it feel a bit more human. Especially considering this is the first big-budget superhero movie to feature characters on the LGBT and autism spectrum- even if it felt a bit like tokenism. Known for extravagant action films, Brian Tyler’s score is a diverse one. Switching back and forth with intricate electronic tracks and big orchestral battle tunes is neat, if unmemorable. the best accomplishment from the soundtrack, however, has to be the inclusion of the theme song, “Go,Go, Power Rangers!” from the original show. Hearing that play as the Zords fought it out with giant monsters brought a warm feeling of nostalgia back, as if I were watching the old episodes in front of my old T.V. while acting out the fight moves. Nothing with a lot of substance or rewatch value, Power Rangers delivers great acting and nostalgia-inducing moments, especially for longtime fans. If you’re a newcomer to this franchise, you mayn’t be interested in trying this film out. You could wait a little while until it comes out on DVD or Blu-Ray, especially because this is the first in a planned six-movie story arc. Brace yourselves.

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