Monthly Archives: October 2017

“Only the Brave” Movie Review

I begin this review with a quote by former Vice President Joe Biden: “All men were created equal. But then a few became firefighters.” That pretty much sums it all up. This biographical drama was released on October 20th, 2017, only grossing $6 million on a $38 million budget in its opening weekend. Despite that, it has received great reviews from critics. Based largely from a GQ article, the film went through a massive shift late in production. Lionsgate all of a sudden dropped their distribution deal and the release date of late September went up in the air. Soon after, Sony and Columbia Pictures picked it up to be released a full month later and changed the title from Granite Mountain to Only the Brave. Co-written by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, the true story follows a group of frontline firefighters known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Hotshots are a tight-knit group that literally fight fire with fire, holding the line against massive brush fires in various places around the country. This movie is a bit of a dramatization of the members of that squad, examining their own personal lives and how it interconnects with their professional ones. In the last few years, certain filmmakers have given us dramas based on real-life events or tragedies. Peter Berg did that twice last year with Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day which, while not the best ever made by any stretch, were at least very respectful to their subjects. David Gordon Green did that this year with his drama Stronger, and now director Joseph Kosinski gives us Only the Brave. Now his first feature Tron: Legacy is… not a movie I adore. And I haven’t seen his second film Oblivion, but I’m not particularly excited to see it from the trailers and clips I’ve watched. Yet I was very curious to see what he would be able to accomplish in the jump from sci-fi to true-story drama. And I gotta say, he does a pretty nice transition. It could have been so easy to make these Hotshots faceless heroes without any flaws or troubles whatsoever. Biopics are guilty of doing this a lot of times, and it seems like this one might be at first. But Kosinski and his screenwriters understand that each of these people were real human beings with real problems. Relationships, children, money, bad habits, etc. plague these men’s personal lives while they’re working to keep acres of forest safe. Obviously, some are better sketched out than others, but the film never shies away from finding them in their lowest lows. Josh Brolin leads the pack as the Superintendent Eric Marsh and is excellent. His traditional gruff nature and older wisdom is a stark contrast to the cockiness of the men under his command. One scene involves him sharing a dream he had of a bear on fire, saying, “It was the most beautiful and terrible thing I had ever seen in my life.” He’s surrounded by a surprising amount of talent. Particularly standing out from the crowd is Miles Teller as the new recruit. A burnt-out drug addict with a baby on the way, we get to see his redemption in a very convincing way through his experience with these men. James Badger Dale and Taylor Kitsch do great work as Marsh’s right-hand man and wild boy, respectively, while Jennifer Connelly is excellent as Marsh’s wife. She provides an interesting dynamic away from the character’s professional life and at one point berates him for choosing work over her. She can seem kind of bitchy, but she still emits a likability and commitment. Jeff Bridges plays a more modernized version of the character he plays. Like if his character from Hell or High Water shaved his mustache, adopted a cell phone and became a fireman instead of a Texas Ranger. The film is also technically brilliant. When the Hotshots are sent out on a job, there is some noticeable CGI to create massive brush fires. But it also blends seamlessly with real, practical fires, creating a very controlled yet sooty atmosphere. Kosinski excelled at this in Tron: Legacy (perhaps more than anything else in the movie), though I’m curious how it would have played out differently with an R-rating. But the way that Claudio Miranda frames each scene does a great job of illustrating the extreme risks these men take every day. It was almost surreal. In fact, it was kind of exhausting. Joseph Trapanese composes the musical score, and a minimalist one at that. Most of it is centered around synthesized orchestras, and really stays in the background most of the time. But where it’s supposed to hit, it hits with an emotional undercurrent. Meanwhile, country singer Dierks Bentley wrote an original song called “Hold the Light,” which plays out during a montage just before the end credits. It managed to bring back the fact that this really happened and these 20 men were real people. I won’t tell you how it ends, but it was rather powerful. Though admittedly, it did feel heavy-handed and a little bit cheesy. Just a little bit. With amazing visuals and fantastic direction by a first-timer for the genre, Only the Brave is a humane celebration of blue-collared heroism. This is exactly the kind of movie America needs right now. One that shows normal people committing acts of true bravery and banding with those around them, even if they’re hostile.

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“Bone Tomahawk” Movie Review

Who knew that a Western starring Kurt Russell could be so damn brutal? Produced on a modest budget of $1.8 million, this western-horror hybrid premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse Fantastic Fest in September of 2015, before receiving a simultaneous release in theaters and video on demand on October 23rd. This likely led to it only grossing about $232,800 worldwide, despite it’s relatively stacked cast. The film marks the directorial debut of western and crime novelist S. Craig Zahler. He apparently had experience in screenwriting beforehand, but this was the first one under his singular vision. Set somewhere around the turn of the 20th century, the story follows a small town called Bright Hope which is being terrorized by a mysterious tribe of cannibals. After a few townsfolk go missing, Sheriff Franklin Hunt assembles a hunting party to track down the savages and bring their people home. In my search of horror films to review in the time of Halloween, I decided to shake things up a bit and add a little interesting flavor to the mix. We don’t get to see many Westerns anymore, let alone ones that are hybrids of other genres. The latter examples that do exist are mostly just mixed in with sci-fi, but they’re usually terrible like Jonah Hex and Cowboys and Aliens. But I had heard some positive buzz about this little gem as well as the director’s newest film Brawl in Cell Block 99, so I was very curious to see what he could cook up with this particular recipe. And I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it by myself in the middle of the night on Amazon Prime. It is truly disturbing but my God is it entertaining and fun to watch. By far my favorite aspect of Bone Tomahawk was how well-written and believable the dialogue was. Being written by a novelist, Zahler has a clear understanding of how people in this time period talked. The civilized folk uses fancy words while low scumbags speak like they have only a few words in their lexicon. There a few lines that I still remember and think about quoting in casual conversations. It’s that great. A veteran of Westerns like Tombstones and The Hateful Eight, Kurt Russell is a perfect fit for the lead role of Sheriff Hunt. With the usually gruff and rugged nature of a Western protagonist, he is a decent man forced into a terrible situation. Richard Jenkins plays his backup deputy perfectly, proving yet again why’s such a great character actor. Being the eldest member of the party, his wisdom is very welcome in the darkest of moments. One particular monologue he gives about his past at a flea circus is one bit of levity audiences will need. Patrick Wilson plays an understated foreman with a broken leg, desperate to save his wife, Lili Simmons, from these monsters. Lastly, former Lost star Matthew Fox is surprisingly excellent as John Brooder, a gentleman with an ego looking for an opportunity to boost. Although some of the things he says and does make him seem unlikable, we grow a certain admiration for him, thanks in no small part to his charisma and looks. The technical aspects of it all are fairly impressive as well, given its modest budget. The cinematography by Benji Bakishi chooses to mute certain colors to make the film look more desolate. It captures all of the action in wide shots, especially because of the Roger Deakins-esque use of lighting. And while it’s edited very well and precise by Greg D’Auria and Fred Raskin, it sure does takes its sweet time with some long takes. But the costumes and sets are all authentic, truly capturing a lived-in environment of a time long gone. Each of the actors seems comfortable in their outfits and seeing them riding through the desert landscape on horseback is pretty enticing. Alongside Jeff Herriot, Zahler himself composes the musical score, which is very sparse. In fact, to my knowledge, there are only 3 or 4 separate tracks in the entire movie, only used when needed. It’s mostly just a background compilation of moody violins and off-kilter percussion that really sell the vibe of the story. Most surprisingly, the two of them are pretty unsentimental in the music department, but still, keep the viewer engaged in a thoroughly oppressive atmosphere. Did I mention that this movie is brutal? That would be an inappropriate word to accurately describe the whole experience. Synonyms such as dirty, harsh, unforgiving, cold, gross, horrifying, and vile could also potentially work. It is by far the most violent Western I have ever seen and that’s because you really grow to hate the villains. They are cannibals without any compassion who do utterly repulsive things to our heroes. There is one scene near the end of the movie which is truly, unimaginably evil. I’m glad I didn’t eat anything beforehand, and I’m curious to show it to friends and family who haven’t seen it yet. I won’t spoil it just in case, but if you had seen my face when it happened…*shudders* Although its slower pace and unusual genre blend won’t be for everyone, Bone Tomahawk is a bold fusion of stark genres that’s utterly remorseless yet captivating. Despite its graphic content and harsh tone, you can’t help but hope for these characters no matter what. Featuring one of the most climactic endings to any Western I’ve seen, don’t let it slip by on Halloween season. It’s not for those seeking something completely tame in content, but maybe give it a shot.

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“The Silence of the Lambs” Movie Review

Another piece of progressive horror. I like it and want more. This bone-chilling horror thriller from director Jonathan Demme was released on Valentine’s Day in 1991, grossing over 14 times its relatively modest budget of $19 million. It went on to win the Big Five Oscars; Actor, Actress, Screenplay, Director, and Picture. Wait a minute: A horror movie released in February won a bunch of Oscars the next year? Could this be setting up for Get Out‘s potential success at award season?  Joking aside, the film, which went through a tumultuous pre-production involving the departure of star Gene Hackman, has been included on several “Best Of” lists. The American Film Institute even listed it as having the greatest villain in the history of American cinema. Adapted from Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name, which itself is a sequel to the novel Red Dragon, the story follows Clarice Starling, a young FBI recruit who is tasked with tracking down a serial killer named Buffalo Bill. When no leads come up, she turns to the cannibal psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter for help on the case. Now with the abduction of a state senator’s daughter, they must race against time to find Bill while learning to open up to each other. This is one of those “classic” films that are extremely difficult to review because of two reasons. 1) So much of it has already been said by other people. 2) I want to review it with objective eyes, blocking out all preceding praise heard of for this movie. I hadn’t even watched the damn picture until earlier in the month. Thankfully, I managed to get my hands on the Blu-Ray while Halloween shopping and waited until I was alone at home in the evening to watch it. And my God… I barely have the words to describe how brilliant and intense this film is. To give you some context, I was watching the movie with a warm blanket wrapped around my person. From the first scene until the end, I held that thing up to my chin as the film built and built and built in its tension and anxiety. I never got up once to go to the bathroom, I never even got up to feed my own dog her dinner. As I became invested in the fascinating characters and the believable dialogue, I realized that Ted Tally’s screenplay completely made this movie into something beyond a disturbing thriller. No, it’s something far more subtle and intricate than that, although that element is really good. It’s really a character study of a group of broken human beings who need each other more than they want to admit. Now while the supporting cast of people like Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Brooke Smith, Diane Baker, and Anthony Heald all doing great work in their own complex roles, it’s the two leads that really carry the whole thing. I can’t think of a better Clarice Starling other than Jodie Foster. She’s strong-willed, determined, and incredibly smart, yet you can also see how vulnerable she is. But she’s practically dwarfed by her counterpart Sir Anthony Hopkins, who delivers one of the best performances of the 20th century. An astonishing piece of acting and insanely iconic, you can’t help but respect Hannibal the Cannibal’s character, despite being a true psychopath. When describing his own personality, he tells Starling, “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”  Not just a plot-focused film, The Silence of the Lambs is also very impressive on a technical scale. Tak Fujimoto’s cinematography makes excellent use of close-up shots that add something a little more uncomfortable to the nature of the characters. Thanks to the minimal lighting and rather singular color tones, the scenes feel and look more dreary and lived-in. The way that certain conversations or situations are edited by Craig McKay help to wring out even bigger amounts of tension from the audience. But the movie is smarter than to give a piece of shocking string jolts that are manipulated to be like terror. It sometimes will draw a single take out, leaving you to see when it’s going to cut. A full decade before he brought Middle Earth to life with his Lord of the Rings score, Howard Shore composed the soundtrack for this film. Using a full orchestra, each track creates a foreboding atmosphere that perfectly captures the brutal, all-too-real world the people live in. This made the film far more sinister and unsettling, which is saying something. But this continues a trend which I call “progressive horror,” in that it tackles a real issue through the vein of horror. In this case, it’s a woman proving herself in a male-dominated society. Not only is it her workplace at the FBI where she’s looked down on, but also the field. Her first visit to the mental hospital is marred by rude advances from the head doctor and particularly troubling patients. As more of Clarice’s backstory is gradually revealed through either conversations or flashbacks, we see how much trouble she’s dealt with in the past to now. And now, this psychopath may be her ticket to getting out. But he doesn’t flat out save her. Instead, he gives her just the right tools to break free all by herself and show her superiors, in both work and society, she’s much more badass and powerful than expected. Even on first viewing, I genuinely don’t have any problems with this movie. It’s essentially perfect in most aspects of filmmaking. The Silence of the Lambs is a twisted and ominous look at the duality of sanity and genius, with fantastic performances. Truly genius and taut in every conceivable way, how this led to two sequels, two prequels, and a T.V. series I still don’t understand. The original is destined to be studied for a long time for its contemporary contributions to the genre.

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“Pan’s Labyrinth” Movie Review

This review marks two occasions. First, it’s October and I wanted to get out some reviews of scary-ish movies for Halloween. But also, Guillermo Del Toro’s new feature, The Shape of Water, is due out in early December. So I figured, why not just revisit his masterpiece, El Labyrinto Del Fauno? This Spanish dark fantasy film earned back over 5 times its $19 million budget when it was released stateside on October 20th, 2006. This follows its in-competition premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received a 22-minute standing ovation, one of the longest in the festival’s history. That’s right, a fantasy film centering on children got one of the best receptions ever from the most prestigious film festival in the world. According to Del Toro, he wrote the screenplay from the creature doodles of his notebooks as well as experiences of lucid dreaming from childhood. It’s also supposedly a spiritual sequel to his 2001 film Devil’s Backbone, and Del Toro even did the English subtitles himself. Set in fascist Spain during World War II, Ivana Baquero stars as a young and innocent girl named Ofelia who is obsessed with fairy tales told to her by her mother. When her mother remarries Captain Vidal, she tries to escape from reality at her new home by proving herself in a newly discovered fantasy world in a labyrinth just out near the garden. Encouraged by a mysterious faun to prove her loyalty as the reincarnation of Princess Moanna, Ofelia has to balance out the horrors of both the real world and the fantasy world. I said in my intro that this movie is somewhat scary and I stand by that observation. In particular with a scene to discuss later on, but at the forefront, the themes are the scariest thing about it. Throughout the 1 hour and 59 minute-long narrative, we see enough compelling evidence of how flawed both of these two beautiful worlds are. Reality is shaken by bullets exchanged from fascist soldiers and the republican rebels, while the fantasy world is populated by some truly horrifying creatures. And in a way, you’re left to wonder which world would be better to live in. You’re also left to wonder whether or not that fantasy was real or if she made it up in her head. I personally subscribe to the latter theory, but you’re welcome to interpret it at your own volition. In any case, just watch this movie. It’s truly amazing. My first experience with this film was in a course studying the relation between horror and fantasy fiction, as something of a Segway for the two. I had not known a single thing about the movie prior to watching it. All I knew was that it was a Spanish movie about creatures by the same guy who made Hellboy and Pacific Rim. The second the film ended, every single student, including myself, stood up from our seats and applauded it. This was one of only two times that ever occurred in the class. (The other time being Tim Burton’s Big Fish) Someone referred to it as Alice in Wonderland on crack after it calmed down. To say that would be mismarketing the film. Ivana Baquero gives an incredible performance as Ofelia, one of the best ever given by a child. We see the horrors of both words presented through her eyes and truly empathize with her every step of the way. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Captain Vidal is one of the most despicable characters to emerge in recent cinema. Played masterfully by Sergi Lopez, he’s a cruel and deranged villain who is not afraid of sacrificing his humanity for the cause of fascism. While Maribel Verdu, Ariadna Gil, and Alex Angulo each do a nice job with their crucial supporting roles, American actor Doug Jones steals the show as the Faun. He completely loses himself in the role of a mysterious, ancient creature who moves like an especially rusty Tin Man. With a raspy, crickety voice, he tells Ofelia who he is by saying, “I’ve had so many names. Old names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce.” That really makes me excited for his work in The Shape of Water. The film is also technically accomplished in almost all departments. The production design of both the mill and the labyrinth itself is stunning. Both are dreary and weathered down by time, even in the bright daylight. Guillermo Navarro’s camerawork is setup and progressed the way Del Toro likes it: smooth yet almost disorienting. It helps immerse the audience into both of these worlds simultaneously and rather deepens the sense of imagination. Some of the CGI looks pretty dated by today’s standards, but I’m willing to forgive it. Especially because the practical makeup is so impressive. The most memorable monster in the film is the Pale Man, again played by Doug Jones. With the cinematography and editing, it was an absolutely terrifying sequence that made me nearly piss myself on a rewatch. Combined with Javier Navarrete’s beautiful score of choirs and violins, there’s almost no reason to hate this movie. Touching on themes of fantasy vs reality and a marvel of imagination, Pan’s Labyrinth is a haunting fairytale brought to life by a sheer commitment to vision. In fact, it might just be my favorite foreign language film of all time, right beside The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Simply a masterpiece. Be sure to check back on my blog this month for reviews of Bone Tomahawk, Shaun of the Dead, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Thing.

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“Gerald’s Game” Movie Review

And so THIS is why I never want to get into kink. Ever. This psychological thriller drama made a splash at Fantastic Fest before premiering on Netflix on September 29th, 2017. It comes to us from Mike Flanagan, director of underrated gems such as Hush, Oculus, and Ouija: Origin of Evil. According to one source, he took a copy the book it was based upon to every pitch meeting on getting it made for about a decade. In an age where directors are unfamiliar or just indifferent to beloved materials, it’s refreshing to see his love for such a complex book. Adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name, (his 5th adaptation this year) the 100 minute-long story follows Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood as Jessie and Gerald Burlingame. A wealthy but quiet couple, they decide to go to a cabin retreat in hopes of spicing up their sex life once more. After Gerald suffers a heart attack during their foreplay, Jessie is left handcuffed to the bed. And with no neighbors around, a hungry stray dog, and the cleaning crew not due for quite awhile, she begins to let the demons and voices inside her head take over. To date, I have read most of King’s novels and several of his short stories. Even when they’re not great, it’s impossible for him to write something bad. And while this isn’t one of his best novels, it’s still a great read for a rainy day. And I loved Hush, a very underrated and subversive home invasion thriller on Netflix, so I was very excited to see what Flanagan could put together. And with Gerald’s Game, he closes out his so-called “Controlled Space” trilogy of horror films with one of the finest and most faithful adaptations of Stephen King. What really makes the movie great is Carla Gugino’s lead performance as Jessie. Having enjoyed supporting roles in the past, I would go as far to say that this is one of the best female performances of the year. She is honestly Oscar-worthy; I don’t care if it’s for a movie on a streaming service, just give her a damn nomination. Bruce Greenwood is also excellent as her husband. While he looks charismatic, he exudes a fear of his masculinity being at risk. And after he dies, he comes back to Jessie as a voice inside her head and brings up questions of their emotionally distant relationship. And really, there are very few other actors in the movie. Carel Struckyen excels as a creepy creature illuminated by the moonlight, while Flanagan’s wife Katie Siegel and E.T.‘s Henry Thomas are great in a flashback as Jessie’s parents. Aside from that, the two leads carry the entire film on their two shoulders for its entire 100 minute-long runtime. Meanwhile, Gerald’s Game is very accomplished in its technical aspects and direction. Michael Fimongnari, who previously worked with Flanagan, gives long, uninterrupted takes cast in natural light. He makes sure to capture in the room that is necessary for survival, whether it’s a glass of water, the length/width of the bed, or objects on the dressers. In a way, it makes you long for Jessie to escape even sooner as you pick up smaller details that may or may not be consequential. Flanagan’s direction shouldn’t go unnoticed either, as he frames the characters in unorthodox situations. But, this being a Stephen King adaptation, one should know that there is more to the story than what the logline says. Inherently an allegory for female independence, the film shows us Jessie’s backstory of how she’s basically been a doormat her entire life. When we see flashbacks with her father as a 12-year-old girl and the ugly things we see, it’s kind of eye-opening. I am not naive enough to say that something like that has never happened in real life. And now with this present situation, she finds herself an opportunity to break free from her physical and mental captivity of masculinity. This all culminates in a graphic scene that is as disgusting as it is hard to look away from. My main issue with the movie, as I’m sure many other critics have pointed out, is that the ending is a tad flat. As mention before, it is very faithful to the book. But the problem is that it felt very blunt and obvious as compared to everything else that preceded it. If you try to be as faithful as possible to the source material, you’re going to also adapt its problems. Does that really detract from the movie as a whole? I don’t really think so. Despite a hiccup with its conclusion, Gerald’s Game is a riveting, minimalist thriller with fantastic performances and relevant commentary. Keep an eye out on my blog for a review of another piece of progressive horror filmmaking in the coming month. In the meantime, this film should keep you occupied and satisfied.

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“Blade Runner 2049” Movie Review

I have been sitting at my desktop for the past two hours trying to come up with the words to describe my feelings toward this film. This sci-fi noir thriller from director Denis Villeneuve opened on October 6th, 2017. Budgeted at about $155 million, the movie has thus far only made back around $82 million in its opening weekend worldwide. Rumors of a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic original circled around Hollywood as far back as 1999. In 2015, after Scott stepped down from the directing chair to the position of a producer, it was officially announced that Villeneuve was in charge of directing duties with the new cast filled out soon after. So much like the new Star Wars trilogy, a 35-year-old dream has become a reality. Set 30 years after the events of the original film, a new blade runner named LAPD Officer K, played by Ryan Gosling, discovers a secret that could potentially destroy the remains of human and replicant society. His journey takes him on a path that eventually leads to Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, the star of the original film. When this film came out, press screenings received personal notes from Villeneuve himself to keep spoilers out of their reviews. That is so refreshing to hear in a major studio production. Even though there are some characters and plot points I don’t consider to be spoiler-y, out of respect for the director, I will not discuss the story any further. Instead, I will discuss how genuinely excited yet cautious I was with this sequel. I loved the original by Ridley Scott, especially the Final Cut version. But decades-later follow-ups rarely pay off well, especially for a film that’s so beloved as Blade Runner. But Denis Villeneuve delivered us Arrival, my favorite film from last year and one of the best science-fiction films in recent memory. This 2017 film is even better than that. Starting with the performances, Ryan Gosling once again proves his leading man status as a tormented protagonist. Caught in something of a crossfire, his journey is one of self-discovery as he learns more about the world around him and we get to learn more about his past. Jared Leto and Sylvia Hoeks play the primary antagonists this time around and are both great. Leto is a creepy weirdo like he usually is and Hoeks was a downright menacing Terminator-esque hit-woman. Robyn Wright, Lennie James, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Mackenzie Davis, Barkhad Abdi, and Hiam Abbass fill out the supporting cast. The film does a great job at fleshing out everyone who is pertinent to the story, making them all feel like tangible individuals rather than archetypes. Harrison Ford returns to play Rick Deckard after 35 years, and much like his performance in The Force Awakens slips back into the role with ease. A major concern many people had was whether this sequel would ruin the mystery of if he is a human being or not. But thankfully, screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green opt for strong implications rather than overt explanations, allowing us to pick this character back up after decades of absence. Technically speaking, this is the most complete motion picture of the year. Nominated 13 times but never taking home a trophy, the inimitable cinematographer Roger Deakins has crafted his best shot yet at the Oscars. Most of it is taken on-camera and contrasts gorgeous colors with harsh, controlled lighting. Even if it was on a sound stage, it looked incredibly real. And the beautiful, elongated direction of Villeneuve made it all the more compelling, especially with the (sparse) CGI surrounding the sets and characters. I saw this movie in IMAX and I implore you to see this movie on the biggest screen with the loudest speakers possible. The sound design and particularly the musical score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallifisch are glorious to the ears. Replacing Vangelis for the soundtrack, the two of them crafted their own beast while not losing sight of what made the original literally sound great. At least on par with their work on this year’s Dunkirk, the incredible synthesizers mixed with orchestral beats creates an eery, uncertain atmosphere perfect for the world. During some action scenes or moments of intense emotion, the score would practically drown out every other sound. I will definitely be picking this soundtrack up on disc as soon as I can, even for some of the more ambient tracks of introspection. But notice how I said “some” action scenes. Much like the original film, Blade Runner 2049 is much more investigative and concerned with meditating on ideas than putting out scene after scene of nonstop action. That could have been so easy for the studio to do, but this movie takes its time to tell the fascinating story. It’s running at 2 hours and 45 minutes long, and at times, I thought it was something of an epic. The film is definitely slow and deliberate in its pacing, but it’s never once boring. With every frame a painting and such craftsmanship on display, I don’t see how one could hate this movie. And whereas the original had very broad themes to share, this sequel has very specific ideas on its mind. In regards to identity and how prejudice can shape that for you and the consequences of keeping a society in order, it’s all quite relevant with everything happening recently. Wright’s character points out, “The world is built on a wall that separates kind. Tell either side there’s no wall you bought a war… or a slaughter.” Arguably better than its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 is everything that science-fiction should be, with arresting photography and thoughtful introspection. Everything about it reminds me why I love movies and why I want to someday make one. With this film, Denis Villeneuve has become arguably the best living director of this generation. And I’m excited to see more of his work to come.

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“The Bye Bye Man” Movie Review

I purposefully avoid bad movies in theaters most of the time. But whenever they make it onto home media or VOD, I just have to put myself through the meat grinder. All because I want to love, serve, and protect the innocent from spreading the name of this movie. This low-budget indie horror film was released worldwide on January 13th, 2017, grossing over $26 million despite terrible reviews. That should tell you everything you need to know in one sentence. If rumors tell true, (Which they usually do in Hollywood) the script was adapted from a chapter in a nonfiction book The President’s Vampire by Robert Schneck. This isn’t uncommon in horror films, with many claiming to be inspired by real-life events. But with the premise alone, I have to imagine how much of stretch the screenwriter Jonathan Penner took to pump this one out. Directed by Stacy Title, we follow a group of friends, Elliot, John, and Sasha, who move into a new house not far from their college campus. Once they settle in, they learn of a spirit called the Bye Bye Man, who spreads like a virus whenever his name is said or even thought of. With no help or belief from the authorities, Elliot must discover how to defeat this mysterious force from killing them. I’ll be honest with you: That premise overall is kind of a neat idea. An apparition who can never be defeated because he will always be in the public mindset could make him one of the iconic horror villains of our time. And there was an opening scene set in the 1960’s that highlighted that potential with some genuine intrigue and suddenness. However, as soon as the setting changed to modern day, it became abundantly clear to me why this movie came out in the second week of January. Holy shit, this is such a stupid movie. Let’s start with the acting. All around, every single person is bad in their roles. Every line of dialogue they delivered felt as if they were on suppressants during the entirety of filming. I don’t necessarily blame them because the screenplay they’re armed with is so atrocious. But my God, they had to play some of the most insufferable and annoying horror protagonists this side of The Gallows. As soon as they appeared onscreen and started talking about their problems, I just wanted them to go away and meet their demise, which may have been the intention of the filmmakers. The Matrix star Carrie Anne-Moss appears as the local detective, and shifts from either trying her hardest to not caring in the slightest. But one interrogation scene between her and Elliot halfway through was unforgivably bad. It was almost as if they had hired a different writer for that scene. And that’s not even bringing up the fact that her character was an absolute idiot. Faye Dunaway appears in a single-scene cameo as an elderly woman whose sole purpose is to provide the audience with useless exposition. Doug Jones, meanwhile, plays the titular ghost. He is the quintessential monster actor, especially in films by Guillermo Del Toro like Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth (Review coming soon) and the upcoming The Shape of Water. He is able to completely disappear into the creatures he plays, regardless of the movie’s overall quality. It honestly looks here like he genuinely cares about The Bye Bye Man, but the movie utterly wastes him. His scenes are undoubtedly the best, but he takes up maybe 20 minutes of screen-time- not nearly enough to make the journey worth it. And that’s not even taking in the technical aspects of it all. From a pure filmmaking standpoint, this film is incompetent. Awful lighting, whether it’s a lack thereof or too much of it, makes it sometimes impossible to tell what’s going on. Especially with the editing and effects. The makeup for the titular apparition himself is actually fairly impressive for what resources they had. But the CGI surrounding him, especially with his hellhound, was laughably bad. It looked as though a college film student spotted a stray dog on the street, wrapped it in a greenscreen blanket, opened up a Dolby After Effects for the first time, and went through the editing process at a friend’s sleepover. It’s that bad. I’m not even exaggerating. Hell, even the musical score is bad. Composed by the Newton Brothers, it barely counts as anything original. It really just consists of the theme song from John Carpenter’s Halloween, but with a twist. It tries to add an edgy electric guitar and a careful drumset into the background to give it a modern feel. The composers might as well just go to Garage Band and edit around John Carpenter’s iconic theme. Like almost everything else in the movie, it just felt cheap and obnoxious. And of course, they had to set up a potential sequel at the end. The fact that virtually nothing about the Bye Bye Man was revealed during the 1 hour and 40-minute runtime is already frustrating enough. But it feels a little more insulting when you consider that it’s probably because they wanted to save it for a later installment. At the very least, if you’re going to do that, at least let the first one establish how terrifying and serious of a threat the monster is. Films like It Follows and A Nightmare on Elm Street did that very well. But The Bye Bye Man is a pointless hodgepodge of better horror films with zero effort put into it. Terribly acted and horrendously executed, it’s not worth it even for the occasional moments of unintentional hilarity. Don’t buy it. Don’t rent it. Don’t say it. Don’t think it. Don’t even watch it.

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