Category Archives: Action

“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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“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” Movie Review

You know how I can tell this franchise is a satire of the James Bond series? The followup is even more ridiculous and weird than last time. This darkly comedic spy action film was released on September 22nd, 2017, earning back almost its entire $100 million budget in the opening weekend alone.  Dethroning IT for the top spot of the box office, this pretty much guarantees’s 2017 to be the biggest September of all time. Following the surprise success of The Secret Service, former Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn signed on to return to the helm again, a first for his career. And according to him, writing the screenplay with Jane Goldman was the hardest thing he had ever done. Roughly a year after the events of the first installment, Eggsy Unwin has firmly set into the titular espionage organization. A new drug organization called the Golden Circle led by Poppy Adams, played by Julianne Moore, systematically wipes out all of the Kingsman around the U.K. The only two survivors, Eggsy and Merlin, then travel to America to join their cousins, the Statesman. With their help, they plan to save the world from the drugs and avenge their fallen brethren. Kingsman: The Secret Service was a massive surprise on almost all accounts when it was released back in 2015. I loved almost everything about it: the action sequences, the cast, the dark humor, the wacky story. And admittedly, I am very skeptical about sequels, but I’ll always give them a chance. Since the film basically has nothing to do with the Mark Millar comic book of the same name, it would be especially interesting to see where this series would go. And while this followup is undeniably entertaining and over-the-top… it seems that this franchise has already run out of ideas. Many critics have complained about the film’s ridiculous and seemingly offensive nature. I would like to remind everyone that the first film featured a massacre inside the Westboro Baptist Church while the guitar solo of “Freebird” was playing. So if I were to go in expecting a challenging film from a serious filmmaker, then I would automatically be disappointed. But perhaps it’s because the first one was so shocking in its boundary-pushing attitude that we are less surprised when it happens. Its cynicism is actually quite apparent in its attempt to provide a satirical commentary on the War on Drugs. And while the female characters are relegated to the sidelines as villains or love interests, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it offensive. Easily the best thing holding this sequel together is Taron Egerton, who has grown comfortable as Eggsy. His foul mouth and sly wit make him extremely likable and worth rooting for against any bad guy that he faces. Mark Strong, meanwhile, gets a chance to show us more of Merlin after being a supporting player last time. Despite always getting typecast as a villain, he has a surprisingly effective sense of humor and his Scottish accent made his enunciation of certain phrases particularly chuckle-worthy. Colin Firth (Whose mere appearance in the trailers should warrant me talking about him, spoiler hounds) returns as Harry/Galahad and still retains the qualities of an unconventional father figure. At first he seemed like useless fan service, but he is later worked into the plot in a satisfyingish way. The way you can tell this film is bigger is because of how many big names have a role, large or small. Julianne Moore is one of the best actresses working today, and she’s not afraid to embrace her character’s quirkiness. You can tell she’s having a blast as the antagonist, especially since she parodies the cliches of a Bond villain. Elton John makes a three-scene cameo as a caricature of himself. He is rather hilarious and knows exactly how to make the audience laugh. The Statesman consist of Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, and Jeff Bridges as yet another heightened version of the actor we know and love. But honestly, I couldn’t really bring myself to care about them for they were so underdeveloped and speedily introduced. The whole technical behind-the-scenes crew returns for the second time around and it really shows. From the orchestral score by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson to the incredible camerawork by George Richmond, Vaughn is able to keep his distinct personality in check at every frame. And while there was no real “church scene” this time, there was one battle near the end that seemed reminiscent of it as it was all captured (or edited and manipulated to look like) one shot. But the thing weighing The Golden Circle down is the absurd amount of new content shoved into the plot. As I’ve been critical with other films this year, the movie feels the need to put in more and more tidbits about the world that could be explored in a later installment. While some of that is interesting to see, and I do want to see more of it, there’s so much that is going on that it’s hard to stay attached to it all at the same time. It clocks in at just over 2 hours and 20 minutes long. It often feels as if at least 30 minutes were left on the cutting room floor. Studios- Make a good movie first, plan a franchise later. Even so, I didn’t completely hate it. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an overbloated and cumbersome sequel that still elicits some genuine enjoyment. Who knows, by tomorrow, I might not think anything of it anymore, but for now, it’s some passable fun. Without Egerton, Strong, Firth, or Moore, this movie would have sunk into the valley of forgettable corporate practice, but they make it more heartened. There is potential for this series in the future, and I want to see where they go. Just a little more restrained.

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“The Defenders” T.V. Show Review

Talk about a one-off show that tries its most damn to be the best it can be. Some things worked and others didn’t. Let’s divulge it all. This highly anticipated crossover superhero T.V. show premiered all of its 8 episodes on Netflix on August 18th, 2017, receiving high viewership figures from the streaming services subscribers. But it was also followed by a historical drop in people watching it week-by-week. A culmination of the previous Marvel/Netflix collaborations, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, it’s believed that there won’t be a second season for it at least for a long time. And after watching the series, I can understand why. Following the events of each series, our titular protagonists are brought together by the secret organization known as The Hand. While dealing with their enigmatic leader, played by Sigourney Weaver, they must also investigate what their plan is for New York City. With the help of Stick and handful of side characters from the other shows, they must unite to stop evil from destroying their home. Daredevil season one, back in 2015, was, in my opinion, the best live-action superhero show ever made. And although I didn’t love season two as much, I still really enjoyed it for how it introduced The Punisher. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage were equally amazing, giving us some relevant drama with intriguing action. And for those of you who hadn’t been Following my blog earlier this year, Iron Fist is one of the most disappointing T.V. shows I’ve ever seen in my life. A bland protagonist, underwhelming action sequences, a horribly unfocused story that went on for far too long, redeemed somewhat by good side characters. And after that trainwreck, I was actually really nervous about The Defenders series and if it would deliver. None of the advertisements really grabbed me like previous shows did and not enough compelling information was released in order for me to truly get invested in it. But alas, I’m a sucker for tempered expectations. Make no mistake, I have some legitimate issues with this series, but for the most part, it stuck the landing. Getting it out of the way, all four of the titular heroes work well together. I like how each one had their own motivation for joining the war on The Hand. Daredevil wants to quit his life of crime-fighting but feels compelled to help his old mentor. Luke Cage has an obligation to the people on the streets as their protector. Iron Fist believes it to be his destiny to take down The Hand. Jessica Jones only comes along because she’s on a case. Charlie Cox, Mike Colter, Finn Jones, and Kristen Ritter share convincing chemistry in their scenes together, especially the dramatic ones. Danny Rand still comes off as an annoying, whiny punk, but he’s given more to like about and is far less insufferable than he was before. Meanwhile, the inimitable Sigourney Weaver shines as the main antagonist of the series Alexandra. A mysterious, wealthy woman, she isn’t just some mean bitch or wants to destroy New York because she’s evil. She has a motivation, and you can see how desperate she is to keep her organization alive in the modern era. Her counterparts in the Hand are pretty uninteresting overall, but they were serviceable to keep the plot running. Action sequences have been a mixed bag for the Marvel/Netflix shows. Whereas Daredevil was lean and gritty, Luke Cage and Iron Fist were underwhelming. But for the most part, they keep it fair and balanced here, with the third and fifth episodes having great setpieces involving all four heroes. But it does fall into the trap of dark corridors with hyperactive editing to conceal obvious stunt doubles. That doesn’t happen often, though. Through the nice camerawork and some rousing music from John Paesano, we are thrown in and made to care for the people present. As far as the story goes, The Defenders is pretty inconsistent. It has the cliche of immediately trading off action sequences for extended scenes of exposition and backstory. Most of it is delivered through the character of Stick, played masterfully by Scott Glenn. As much of a badass as he is, I think he may have oversold the magnitude of their war against the Hand. Because in the last two episodes, when their true plan is revealed, it seems almost inconsequential to the rest of New York City. It felt as though the writers had bigger plans, but they had to find a way to condense it into 8 episodes in order to satisfy Marvel. Another thing of note: I understand that you want to bring over supporting players from the previous shows to have a big crossover effect. But that doesn’t change the fact that some of them were just flat-out useless here. Maybe they’re setting up for character arcs in later seasons of their respective shows, but for now, it felt distracting. Far from any television masterpiece but still entertaining enough to get you through to the end, The Defenders is a mostly satisfying blend of superheroes grounded in the urban streets. It still feels like a prelude to a bigger story, as each episode implies a bigger picture of what’s going on. But for now, it’s a bit of intriguing and fun entertainment. I cannot wait for The Punisher coming this Fall.

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“Death Note” Movie Review

Full discretion before we begin: I have never read a page of the manga nor watched an episode of the anime series from which this Netflix feature was adapted. I’m going to review this with completely objective eyes. If there’s something I don’t understand in this post that you would like to correct or shed light on, feel free to comment below. This psychological dark fantasy was produced on a relatively small budget of $40 million. Though Netflix doesn’t release their viewership figures, it did attract a large crowd at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con before being released on August 25th. According to several sources, at least 10 studios were bidding for the rights to the Death Note franchise as early as 2009. In 2016, after Adam Wingard signed on as the director, there were outrages and accusations of whitewashing in the cast. Basically, it’s suffering the same fate as any Hollywood adaptation of a beloved anime. Nat Wolff stars as Light Turner, a lonely high school student who receives a mysterious notebook out of the sky. When he meets the death god Ryuk, he is told that anyone can die if he simply writes their name and cause of death in the book. He uses the book to start ridding the world of known criminals under the guise of a god “Kira,” and attracts the attention of an enigmatic detective named L. Now as I said, I have no familiarity with the franchise. Only in recent years have I started getting into anime, particularly ones by Hayao Miyazaki. And for those of you asking about my opinion on this year’s Ghost in the Shell… I bought a ticket to see Power Rangers instead. But just hearing the whole concept of Death Note intrigued me, as any anime usually does. And from what I heard, the original creators gave their official stamp of approval for the American version. So I actually was somewhat looking forward to watching this movie on Netflix. Honestly… I feel underwhelmed. Is it as terrible as some people are touting it to be? No, it’s not. But there are a lot of problems. Starting with Nat Wolff as Light Turner, who may just be one of the most uninteresting actors in recent years. He gives an absolutely lifeless and dull performance for this character who can actually be pretty compelling. Willem Dafoe voices Ryuk, and he really sounds like the Green Goblin from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man all over again. Except now, he sounds way more demonized and menacing than before, especially with the character’s sweet design. Though, it sometimes feels like he’s just waiting for his paycheck to clear. Margaret Qualley, who gave a brilliant role in The Nice Guys, is Light’s love interest and accomplice. She isn’t given much to say or do aside from encouraging our hero to give in to his darker instincts. But the best actor here, by far, is Atlanta‘s Lakeith Stanfield as L. Having impressed me with his small part in Get Out, I feel like this could be one of the quirkiest and nerdiest actors around. His mannerisms and style of wardrobe are really relatable and badass, even if he feels underutilized. The visual style is rather unique, easily the most consistent aspect of the entire movie. The film uses bright neon lights to illuminate the characters in stark red and light blue. The way the David Tattersall uses the camera to focus in on characters or a scene feels odd, but it sells the idea that this is an (adaptation of) anime. There have certainly been worse Dutch angles used in cinema. The editing was sometimes awkward, choosing to use multiple cross-fades interjected into a single scene. I don’t really understand why, other than trying to add more and more style to the film. Atticus and Leopold Ross work together on the score and feels eerily similar to Atticus’ work on The Social Network. Mostly 80’s synthesizers, it helps build an atmosphere worthy of a psychological thriller. But there aren’t really any memorable or standout tracks. It also includes several real-life songs, particularly some bits of late 90’s soft rock. A friend of mine, who is familiar with the source material, told me a while back that they always think of anime when late 90’s or early 2000’s soft rock is laying. I couldn’t tell if they were joking or not. Let’s get right to the last act of the movie. It wasn’t very good, to begin with, but the last 15 or so minutes of Death Note kind of just bury it. In case you actually want to watch this movie, I won’t spoil it here at all, but my God. It might as well be the cinematic epitome of the word “convenience.” Because right when the end happens, it reveals an extensive contingency plan that our protagonist came up with on the fly on a public desktop. Also, a quick rant: Why would you have Ryuk built up as a third-act villain if the Rules he establishes can be easily broken, leaving to just loom large a lot of the scenes? I take one of two interpretations out of this: Either Ryuk is a useless character altogether or they’re setting him up for a potential sequel. I really doubt that this will be the one that causes Netflix to release a full-length follow-up to one of their originals. While its visual style is compelling enough, Death Note wastes a promising plot on bad actors and confused writing. If you want to watch it, go ahead. If you want to watch a good thriller, watch Adam Wingard’s other film The Guest instead. In all honesty, L is the saving grace of this picture. And this is coming from someone who, again, has never been affiliated with the source material. I can only imagine what real fans must have thought of.

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“IT” Movie Review

In the universe of this story, Pennywise makes a reappearance every 27 years. This new big-screen adaptation comes to us exactly 27 years after the original T.V. miniseries. Is that purely an incredible coincidence? Or is something larger at play happening? Who knows. This coming-of-age horror thriller from Mama director Andy Muschietti released worldwide on September 8th, 2017. Following a record-breaking Thursday night preview proceeds for an R-rated film, the film has grossed over $117 million and was the most pre-ordered horror movie ticket of all time according to Fandango. Originally announced in 2009, Beasts of No Nation helmer Cary Fukanaga was all set to take on this new adaptation. But something happened, the deal fell through and they pretty much had to start over from scratch. Adapted from the first half of Stephen King’s novel, the story takes place in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. A group of friendly outsiders known as the Losers Club starts noticing that children are disappearing all over town. They soon realize that it has something to do with a demonic entity known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. With no help from the adults, they must take down Pennywise and face their own demons in the process. Confession time: I don’t like the 1990 miniseries starring Tim Curry. He is great, but it never scared me and the second half of the series was downright awful. And having read the massive book by King prior to this film’s release, I was very skeptical. Especially with the film’s troubled history, which included the swap of directors and stars. But I became more optimistic as the trailers started appearing. And not only is IT far better than I expected, it may also be one of the author’s best adaptations to date. The reason why Stephen King is one of my all-time favorite authors is that he never forgets to emphasize the human element inhabiting the characters and story. Whether it’s psychological torment or physical growth, he knows how to develop people. Thankfully, Muschietti understands this important trait and gives each of the Losers a distinct personality. In the first 30 minutes, we learn everything we need to know about them and the struggles they deal with on a day-to-day basis. In a way, you can emphasize with everyone as you see their lives unfold. Even the school bully, played terrifically by Nicholas Hamilton, is given depths as we see his emotionally troubling home life. And the cherry on top? All the kids here talk and curse like actual kids. It’s not squeaky clean and sometimes leads to some really funny moments. As the stuttering leader of the Club, Jaeden Lieberher is quickly becoming one of the top child actors of his generation. In the same vein as his performance last year in the vastly overlooked Midnight Special, he is much smarter and more capable than his meager outlook would suggest. Continuing his string of horror roles for children, Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard is perfect as the comic relief. He delivers, hands down, the funniest lines in the entire movie; a couple of times, the whole theater was roaring at the things he said. Newcomers Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Jeremy Ray Taylor portray the rest of the Losers and each stand out for one reason or another. Meanwhile, the lone girl is Beverly Marsh, played by Sophia Lillis, who evokes both the looks and chops of a teenage Amy Adams. When we’re shown glimpses of her terrible home life, it becomes apparent that she isn’t the whore her classmates make her out to be. As someone who has met girls like that, I understood her struggles. One of the many things that set IT apart from most other modern horror films is just how well-produced everything is from a technical standpoint. Chung-hoon Chung’s cinematography makes the film lovely to look at. At once, he tributes classics with several sequences of Steadicam. At other times, the camera is following the characters handheld but never gets shaky and hard-to-follow. This is especially thanks to the outstanding editing by Jason Ballantine, who did similar work on 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. There are just enough cuts in each scene so that you can get the horror present while leaving some things to the imagination. Benjamin Wallfisch composes the musical score, his 4th one for a horror in just over a year. While yes, there are many tracks with strings, it doesn’t just consist of manipulative jolts saved for a cheap jump scare. He mixes strings with subtle percussion and low-voiced choirs, evoking something out of Danny Elfman or the Harry Potter films. It often trades intense orchestrations with softer melodies for the character-driven moments. It’s not overly sentimental music and earns an emotional response from the audience just through small guitars and wind instruments. And as for Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the new IT? No taking this back, but he completely blows Tim Curry out of the water. His eyes are often glowing and look askew, giving him this otherworldly presence. They were going to use CGI for that, but Skarsgard could actually separate his eyes. He also supposedly worked with a contortionist to perfect some of the character’s crazy movements. His voice is playful at first but soon drops to a menacing monotone. Some of the CGI edited around his body, especially near the end, was a little weird. But for the most part, the makeup and CGI were seamlessly blended, coming together to create one of the greatest villains in the history of horror fiction. Another thing of note: Stephen King isn’t afraid to kill children, and the movie never holds back its R-rating. Some have complained about the film not being as scary as advertised, and in a way, I agree. But it’s similar to this year’s Get Out. It’s a hilarious commentary on timely themes, told in the vein of a horror movie. IT isn’t just a great horror movie, it’s a great and inspiring coming-of-age story. Stop complaining about The Dark Tower and go support this film. It’s already breaking records, so please help it break a few more in the coming weeks. Otherwise, you’ll float too.

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“Terminator 2: Judgement Day” Movie Review

According to the mythology of this movie, Judgement Day happened on August 29th, 1997. That happened exactly 20 years ago. And if you are reading this, that can only mean one thing: we have survived James Cameron’s prediction and can most certainly survive whatever happens with Donald Trump and North Korea. This science-fiction actioner was released in July of 1991 earned back over 5 times its $102 million budget. With the success of the first Terminator film, Cameron was able to produce a film and a world that he wanted to explore more of. It’s completely apparent because this film is ultimately bigger and more ambitious and more complicated than its predecessor. Approximately 10 years after the original concluded, a new Terminator, the T-1000, has been sent back to the past to kill a teenage John Connor in Los Angeles. However, in the future, the resistance has reprogrammed the T-800, the villainous robot from the last movie, and sent him this time to protect Connor from all danger. As the cat-and-mouse chase ensues, they uncover more about the bleak, impending future and comes to many realizations. I have a confession to make before going any further in this review: I had never seen Terminator 2: Judgement Day until earlier this year, around the end of May. Of all the films on my list of shame (Which also includes The Shawshank Redemption, Seven Samurai, Drive, and The Godfather Part II) I was most hungry to see this particular film. For one reason: One of my best friends consistently called it the greatest action movie ever made. And now, after purchasing the Blu-Ray and sitting down on my couch to watch it… I understand why. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton reprise their roles as the T-800 and Sarah Connor, respectively. Schwarzenegger is given so much more to say and do this time around due to being a good guy, though most of his “dialogue” is reserved for either technical exposition or cheesy one-liners like “Hasta la vista, baby.” His deadpan delivery is an embodiment of everything that the body-builder turned-actor could do when given the right material. Hamilton is a little nuts in this follow-up. She has transitioned from a timid, plucky waitress to a badass warrior ready for the impending doom of man. But thankfully, it’s completely convincing, giving us arguably Cameron’s best character aside Ellen Ripley in Aliens. Edward Furlong plays a teenage John Connor who, despite being consistently annoying and whiny, is able to hold his own when the action is going down. It isn’t until the last act of the film that he really starts blossoming into the savior that humanity needs years from now. Robert Patrick, meanwhile, plays the role of the T-1000, a liquid-based assassin sent from the future. His cold delivery and unassuming stare make him one of the best and most menacing villains in cinematic history. Even more so than his counterpart in the original, it becomes apparent that this is an enemy that cannot be simply beaten. He can adapt to any environment and can take as many punches or bullets that come his way. As far as technical attributes go, this is one of the finest accomplishments of the last few decades in cinema. The sound design is one to really be appreciated on a 5.1 audio system, and I can only imagine what it would be like in the theater. It matches the beautiful editing job of Mark Goldblatt, Richard A. Harris, and Conrad Buff IV. Each scene flows seamlessly with the next one and never allows the pacing to let up. But the visual effects are what truly made this film then- and still to this day -an eyepopper. Provided by the legends at Industrial Lights and Magic, the effects in Terminator 2 were way ahead of their time and in some respects still look better than some of the CGI we’re getting today. The scene in which the T-1000 passes through a metal gate with ease is one of the most enduring images of 1990’s cinema. It also netted one of the film’s 4 Academy Award wins, which gives it the distinction of being the only sequel to win such an honor when its predecessor wasn’t even nominated. Brad Fiedel returns to compose the musical score, and what a soundtrack it is. With pulsated electronic drum beats punctuated by sharp strings elevate the intense action scenes. But it’s also the franchise’s main theme on the synthesizer that gives the film some emotional levity in its characters, who inherently are the focus of the 137 minute-long picture. But unlike most other sci-fi action films, (And arguably its own sequels/reboots) Terminator 2: Judgement Day understands the intelligence of its audience. Because of that, it is able to convey real themes about human nature and our destiny as a species. The T-800, as well as Sarah Connor, is trying to gain an understanding of the value of human life since all they see are bags of sentient meat waiting for their inevitable deaths. Similarly, the Connors are wrestling with the idea that no matter how hard they fight, the future depicted is already set. If you drop a stone into a rushing river, will the current simply course around as if the obstruction were never there? Or will it completely block the flow of water out, forcing it to find another path? These are the questions the film forces us to ask. As one character puts it, “There’s no fate but what we make.” There are admittedly some pacing issues in the middle act when it simmers down. Not a lot happens aside from world building, but it’s still pretty fascinating. Aside from that, Terminator 2: Judgement Day is the quintessential marriage between science-fiction and action, and one hell of a ride. I’m glad I got it off of my list of shame because it is now one of my all-time favorites. And don’t worry; I’ll be back.

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“Cloud Atlas” Movie Review

“Epic.” It’s a word that has been tossed around by writers, scholars, and illiterates for several decades. What’s it actually mean? A long story, one typically derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic and legendary figures or in the history of a nation. In the days of yore, authors would create grand masterpieces that fit that description, from the iconic poem Beowulf to the big daddy of them all War and Peace. They were hard to get through but still superb. Nowadays, if you simply typed up the word “epic” into the search bar on YouTube, you’d get somewhere in the neighborhood of 98 million results. Most of them are just stupid comedy videos such as “Most Epic Nerf War in History” or “Epic Battle Music.” I, myself, am guilty of watching those and can safely say that none of them really live up to their titles. It’s completely apparent that many have forgotten in this day and age what the word actually means. On a similar level, they are very few movies that can be appropriately called an epic. To reach that achievement would be to go beyond the boundaries of convention and time. To make one would be to inhabit the modern spirit of David Lean, who made such films as Lawrence of Arabia. To immerse the audience in a world as vast and lush as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. To have an experience on the scale of epics like Titanic just doesn’t seem possible anymore. Along come Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings, who absolutely endeavor to create an epic together called Cloud Atlas. It is based on the novel of the same name by David Mitchell, which may be one of the most impressive pieces of modern literature I’ve read. That’s right. I read the book a film was based upon before actually sitting down to watch the film. I rarely do that, but I was so fascinated by the division to a film like this that I was curious. And I sit here at my desktop stunned. Cloud Atlas recounts six separate stories spanning many centuries and many genres. Starting with a dying American lawyer on a 19th century vessel, followed by a forbidden love story with a penniless English composer, cut in the middle with an intense detective conspiracy, making us laugh in the present with an editor on the run from the mob, a neon-soaked future with clones and rebels, and a crazy post-apocalyptic society that has a strange dialect. Whereas in the book each individual story is cut in half and shown in chronological order, the movie edits the stories together seamlessly, scene-to-scene. And despite its mammoth running time of 2 hours and 51 minutes, there’s not a minute wasted or rushed here. It flies by and time becomes nonexistent. And while I could whiff on and rave about its fantastic editing, the point isn’t the stories per-say. In fact, none of them are really given any priority over the other. The point of this film, as well as the novel, is to show us that everything in life and death is connected. As one character puts it, “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” You’d be hard-pressed to find a piece of cinema or literature that tackles topics as ambitious as that more brilliantly than Cloud Atlas. By the final 30 minutes of the picture, it brings everything to a head in a very emotionally satisfying way. I acknowledge that this isn’t a perfect movie. There are some editing choices that I would have cleaned up, and I’m pretty sure at least one character was useless. But isn’t it human to be flawed? All of the characters here are flawed individuals. And when a movie takes on such a big task of tackling a massive story, it can be forgiven for a few mistakes. And thankfully, there are only a few. I’m sure if I saw it again, I’d hardly notice any flaws at all the second time. Not to mention its beautiful and sometimes moving soundtrack by Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, and Reinhold Heil. Arguably the biggest thread tying everything together is the piece “The Cloud Atlas Sextet,” which also exists in the book. It’s a gorgeous piano melody that inspires upon first listen. The whole rest of the orchestral score is stunning, but it baffles me that this didn’t get a nomination from the Academy. In fact, the film wasn’t nominated for anything, which either blames tough competition or lack of diverse tastes on part of the voters. I’m usually the kind of guy that likes to get his opinion of a movie out there immediately. But with this particular picture, I had to let it marinate for two straight days and nights. Let every little detail get soaked in and think about the themes of it all. I have rarely seen a movie that forces me to wait overnight to form an official opinion on it. Even more unique is a film that can also be the basic definition of the word “epic.” And I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Cloud Atlas is, indeed, that rare movie. It is as brilliant as it is gorgeous and proves the potential of modern filmmaking. Those who once thought that this novel was “unfilmable” have been proven wrong. While not perfect, it has been on my mind way too much for me to give it any less than high praise. For now, until I decide otherwise, I’ll say this: Cloud Atlas is one of the best movies I have ever seen and one of the best books I’ve ever read.

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