Category Archives: Blockbuster

“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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“Fifty Shades of Grey” Movie Review

Let me just come out of the gate here by saying that I love you guys. I did this review for you and your entertainment. Just keep that in mind. This so-called erotic “romance” was released worldwide on Valentine’s Day of 2015, grossing over $571 million(!) at the box office. That means it was breaking several box office records for both an R-rated movie and a movie released in February. And it opened in 3.646 theaters. Based on the novel by E.L. James, my guess is that you already know the plot synopsis for this movie. A young woman named Anastasia Steele takes over her sick friend’s interview with Christian Grey. Grey is a billionaire entrepreneur who is secretly into BDSM- bondage, domination, and sadomasochism. They begin a relationship of sorts and begin going into this world of eroticism and control. Look, I’m going to be completely honest with you guys: I actually read the book before I watched the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, I did a double whammy here. Why? you might ask. For two reasons. 1) Morbid curiosity sometimes takes over my better instincts. 2) I am a fucking idiot sometimes. But seriously, I gave this book/film a genuine chance to surprise me. I had heard all of the negative press going in. It was quite shocking honestly. And I figured it couldn’t be as bad as I heard it was. I mean, make no mistake, there’s only so much that can be expected of a movie that’s based on a book that started out as Twilight fan fiction that was written on the author’s Blackberry. (Look all that up, it’s real, and it shows) Unfortunately, much like my experience with Manos: The Hands of Fate, there’s absolutely no reason to like this movie and was even worse than all of the tales had suggested. The leads in the movie, as attractive as they may be, share zero chemistry whatsoever. I have seen Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan be great in other roles, like The Fall or The Social Network. But good God, they had no conviction to for their roles here. Their laughably written dialogue and banter didn’t help much either. The amount of people and drafts the script went through and still managed to get lines like “I’m fifty shades of fucked up” or “I can’t bear to hurt you because I love you” is simply incredible. The main female is one of the weakest female characters I’ve ever seen in a feature film and/or novel. She seriously is going to keep going back to this guy even though she hates being slapped and beaten in BDSM? How am I supposed to like this woman if she is a complete and utter idiot? The man, meanwhile, is a total creep who wants to control her, despite having only bumped into her a couple times to justify their relationship. Actually, let me correct myself: he warns her every so often that he’s not the man for her, and yet they keep going at it. And yeah, how about the sex scenes? With so much hype surrounding it, and virtually being the only thing driving the plot, you’d expect the sex scenes to at least to be passably interesting. They’re explicit for an R-rating, for sure. But if it really wanted to go full Blue is the Warmest Color for its audience, it should have been rated NC-17. (I apologize for comparing this pile of shit to Blue is the Warmest Color. Call it an insult if you want.) But since they want to make money, they just settle for something that teenagers can see. Instead, for the (And I’m being generous here) three scenes where it does actually happen, it’s just passionless intercourse cut together with contemporary pop songs. It was so awkward and dull, despite ample nudity. The least a movie about eroticism could do is make me feel excited at two attractive people taking off their clothes and having sex for about two hours. But it’s too horrendously boring to be sexy and features too much plot to be called a piece of pornography. It wants to be theatrically and be judged with the big boys? We are going to judge this as a movie. I can’t go on any further. I’m too mad and angry to keep chugging out words to describe how truly awful this “film/book” is. It is, hands down, one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my entire life. Believe the horror stories. Fifty Shades of Grey is a boring glorification of abusive relationships masquerading as a romance. Even members of the BDSM culture have taken offense to this movie, which is really saying something. If you really want to watch two young millennials getting it on in a steamy, sexy way… just watch Blue is the Warmest Color or any number of PornHub productions. I will never understand why so many single women find this so appealing. And we’re getting two more of these. (Three depending on if they split the last part into two halves) But look at it this way: As long as there’s one of these infecting theaters near you, I will be there to inform you of its terribleness. Am I looking forward to it? Nope. But I’m all about balance in the world.

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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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“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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“The Terminator” Movie Review

Yeah, that’s right. Avatar isn’t the only Cameron flick we’re talking about in preparation for the re-release of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. I’m going to be reviewing both of the first two Terminator movies (The only ones that matter), as well as possibly Titanic and Aliens. But for now, let’s talk about the movie that put this man on the cinematic map. This groundbreaking sci-fi action thriller from future Academy Award-winner James Cameron was released on October 26th, 1984, grossing over 11 times its small $7 million budget. Following his disastrous debut with Piranha II: The Spawning, Cameron apparently came up with the brilliant idea for this film in a dream. It’s also said that he sold the rights to producer and co-writer Gale Anne Hurd for just a single U.S. dollar, which included rights to a potential sequel. The now-iconic plot centers on a humanoid cyborg called a Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is sent from the bleak future of 2029. In that future, a man named John Connor is poised to save humanity from slavery or annihilation by the machines. The Terminator is sent to kill his mother, Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton, in the 1980’s. However, John Connor also sent his soldier Kyle Reese, played by Michael Biehn, to stop this from happening, resulting in a tense cat-and-mouse chase. To say that The Terminator had a big impact on the film industry would be a severe understatement. Before it came out, lines of dialogue like, “I’ll be back” weren’t catchphrases, and Hollywood blockbusters were just burgeoning into existence. It also managed to launch the careers of every single person involved in the production and created many iconic images, not the least of which is the iconic design of the titular robotic exoskeleton. It began a trend of darker tones in science-fiction stories, not just limited to movies. Sure, not all of it has aged that well, but there’s still so much to like about this classic. Arnold Schwarzenegger may receive flak for his acting abilities, but the role that made him famous is quite impressive and brilliant. Speaking only 16 lines of dialogue total, his sheer physique and imposing relentlessness create one hell of a menacing villain. At least, for the first movie. Linda Hamilton, Cameron’s future wife, admittedly feels like she doesn’t have enough to say and do, but is still awesome as Sarah Connor. She comes with a very 80’s hairstyle and shows a pluckiness and resilience that wasn’t commonly found in female characters at the time, with the exception of Ellen Ripley. But she still shows that she is still susceptible to fear and terror as the titular threat is never more than a few hours behind. Michael Biehn may be there mostly just to give us the exposition on the future, but damn if it isn’t fascinating stuff. You get the idea that Kyle Reese has seen some dark days, especially in a flashforward (not flashback since it takes place in 2029) that shows what some Terminators did to his fellow soldiers. Other recognizable players include early performances from Lance Henriksen and the late Bill Paxton. On the technical side of things, even with a limited budget, it’s a pretty impressive movie. Adam Greenberg’s cinematography uses great examples of Steadicam with highly detailed close-up shots. This mixes beautifully with Mark Goldblatt’s careful editing job, contrasting with wider shots of the scene. This makes things easy to follow and creates an aurora of slow-building tension common in James Cameron’s films. But some of the stop-motion effects show the film’s age. Meanwhile, Brad Fiedel’s powerful musical score is perfectly symbolic of the pacing. It is heavily synthesized and often trades in with pulsating electric drums. This is truly evocative of the metallic killer’s presence no matter where our heroes are going. You may not agree with me here, but I firmly believe that The Terminator is a horror film. I mean, why not? It came out at the peak of the slasher genre’s popularity, and like some of those most popular films, this one was produced on a small budget. Plus, it has an unstoppable villain who, no matter how bullets hit him, refuses to die. He’s got Kyle Reese spooked, for sure. In a car after a getaway, Reese hastily tells a frightened Sarah Connor, “It can’t be reasoned with. It can’t be bargained with. It doesn’t know pity or remorse or fear. And it absolutely will not stop.” Oh yeah, and the cherry on top? An explicit sex scene between our heroes late in the picture that felt completely out of place. Although it does make sense for the plot later on, for now, it just felt odd with the way the rest of the movie was playing out. But thankfully, the movie itself, overall, is such an original, thrilling film with 100 minutes not wasted once, that I can easily overlook this issue as trite and petty. Although it wasn’t quite as entertaining or game-changing as its sequel, The Terminator is a relentless piece of high concept thrills and an iconic premise. Watching it again recently, I found much more to appreciate about it than I did my first time. I feel like most people, at first glance, will dismiss it as another simple action film of its era. I urge you to give it a try at least once.

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“Avatar” Movie Review

So, I have been looking for a while now for a time to review this movie. I couldn’t quite figure out when or where exactly to put it. But since Terminator 2: Judgement Day is officially getting a 4K re-release in theaters, I decided it was time to rip myself a new asshole and talk about a movie everyone once loved but now seems to hate. This epic science-fiction adventure from writer-director James Cameron saw an international release date on December 18th, 2009. Despite being one of the most expensive films ever on a budget $237 million, it went onto gross over $2.7 billion worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time, mainly because so many people saw it in IMAX 3D instead of conventional cinema. If rumors are to be true, the film was conceived in 1994 and was intended to be produced immediately after Titanic. But due to the lackluster technology, Cameron had to wait a decade before he really started developing the world and the story of Avatar. Set in the mid-22nd century, mankind has colonized a lush habitable moon called Pandora. In order to mine for unobtanium, a highly valuable superconductor, they have started a program allowing human soldiers and experts to helm genetically engineered versions of the Na’vi, the indigenous population of Pandora. One of these subjects is Jake Sully, a paralyzed soldier who starts getting in over his head and questions his loyalty. How do you review a film that has had such an odd reputation? As I said, when it came out in 2009, everyone loved it with every fiber of their being, calling it one of the best movies ever made. Nowadays, it seems the cool thing to do is to hate on it and call it stupid and simple. It’s like U.S. politics: take a side or lose by default. Personally, I do find this movie to be a bit overhyped, but there is still a special place for it in me that I would love to explain. I will never forget the first time I saw it. I was a lot younger and just starting to see more movies in the theater more often. My family was hyped out of our minds to see it in 3D. And I remember, through the lens of those thick glasses, being completely sucked into the beautiful world of Pandora, truly realizing the potential of CGI and motion-capture. And 161 minutes later, I left to my family car in a complete daze. It ended up becoming one of the very first films I ever purchased on Blu-Ray, and I watched that 3-disc set quite a bit. And every time I get a new T.V., this the first disc I put in as a demo and end up getting swept away in its fantasy. Although he has been ridiculed later for his performances in mediocre movies, Sam Worthington is actually good here as Jake Sully. He had apparently been living out of his car at the time, so the movie more or less saved his life. Zoe Saldana is an underrated action star, and her mo-cap turn as Neytiri is proof of that. She’s different enough to appear alien, but sexy and feisty enough to be relatable. Stephen Lang, meanwhile, makes a great villain out of Colonel Miles Quaritch, the military leader of the humans. One of the biggest badasses ever, you understand his character’s motivations fair enough. Michelle Rodriguez and frequent collaborator Sigourney Weaver plays Cameron’s trademark strong female characters, Giovanni Ribisi is morally conflicted as a corporate administrator, Dileep Rao and Joel David Moore are great sympathetic doctors inside the colony, while C.C. Pounder, Laz Alonso, and even Wes Studi appear as the other primary Na’vi characters. But the character I cherish most in this adventure is the score of the late James Horner. Having arguably the hardest job of anyone involved in the production, he successfully captured the feeling of arriving on a wholly different and alien environment with several unique sounds. High-pitched piccolos, a heaven-like choir, and a wide range of percussion instruments such as a deep bass drum do a fantastic job immersing us into this world. Along with the pitch-perfect sound design, every bit of music seems to evoke a whole scope of emotions no matter how reserved you may be. The two main points of derision for Avatar are very much correlated to each other: the story and its themes. The overall plot- a man discovers his true purpose and switches sides in a conflict -is a structure that has been seen dozens, if not hundreds of times before. Specifically, it plays out like a space version of Dances With Wolves crossed with Princess Mononoke. While it is undoubtedly conventional, not everything that happens is predictable. In fac,t the first time I watched it, I almost left the theater because I was so scared about the ending fate. But themes is where some people, like conservative Armond White, were especially pissed off. Criticisms ranged from an oversimplification of imperialism and colonialism to anti-American propaganda to racism towards indigenous peoples. The parallels between the plot and the early days of Native American relationships are undeniable, but I choose to see it a different way. I choose to see it as two civilizations that are doomed from the started to go to war, but search for other possible outcomes. In the end, Avatar may be derivative, but it’s also great escapism at its most imaginative. 8 years since coming out that theater and I haven’t wavered my overall opinion; I love this film. Like critic Scott Anderson once said, “Loving this film is the cinematic equivalent of dating an absurdly gorgeous girl in high school, but your best friend hates everything about her personally.” I guess that means my cinematic equivalent is better than my game ever was in high school for me.

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“Okja” Movie Review

Here we are, folks. We have yet another Netflix original movie that I am super late on reviewing. But hey, as a wise Wizard once said, “We have work to do.” This unorthodox science-fiction film by writer-director Bong Joon-ho competed for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It later was added on the streaming giant Netflix on June 28th, garnering positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. It also gained unwanted attention at Cannes for causing a few technical glitches during its runtime, prompting debate if streaming services should be allowed to compete at festivals at all. The real concern people should have with this movie is whether it will convince audiences to become vegetarians as a result. In the not-too-distant future, mankind has started creating GMO animals to feed the population. One of these is a massive “super-pig” named Okja, who attracts the attention of a powerful food corporation and the radical Animal Liberation Front. And Okja’s friend, a young Korean girl named Mija, does her best to protect her from all these forces just so she can live a happy, quiet life in her mountainous home. Joon-ho’s previous film, Snowpiercer from 2014, was a great and underrated film not nearly enough people saw. In fact, I would say that it was the film that made me want to start sharing my opinions on film on my blog because I had quite a bit to share about that picture. And so ever since I saw it in theaters, I’ve been salivating to see whatever the singular South Korean filmmaker could conjure up, even if it wasn’t technically released theatrically. Still, after absorbing 2 hours and 2 minutes of his new vision in 2017, I feel content with what he has given us. Mija is played by a complete newcomer named Ahn Seo-hyun, and this is a name that we should keep an eye on in the future. Despite only being 13 years old, she demonstrates a strong will and commitment to compassion most young girls may aspire to. It’s also believed that she performed some of her own stunts, which makes it all the more obvious how awesome she is. By her side is a big English-speaking supporting cast, all of whom offer some unique flavor to the experience. Tilda Swinton especially impresses in her dual role as sisters who own a massive corporation. One’s an eccentric but mostly likable woman, while the other is a heartless corporate magnate, reminiscent of her role as Mason in Snowpiercer. Her incredible range is on full display here and proves that she can basically kill any role that she takes. Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Devon Bostwick, Daniel Henshall, and The Walking Dead‘s Steven Yeun appear as members of the ALF, while Giancarlo Esposito felt as though he were simply waiting for his paycheck to clear. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a washed up and drunk T.V. personality who is so clearly out of touch with his current state of popularity. His performance is totally out-there and provides a Segway for many shifts in tone. Piggybacking off of that, the primary point of criticism people have had with Okja is that it juggles its tone around too often. These complaints are valid. Sometimes, a scene that is very serious will become hilarious through the insertion of a moment that is just so absurd. Or vice versa. Also, a number of times, it shifts from being a fun action scene to an intense moment of torture or violence. To be fair, Joon-ho has done this in his previous films. If you watch his monster flick, The Host, it’s clear that he likes to shift the viewers’ mood on the snap of a finger. It can be jarring, but I’m willing to forgive him on account of sheer ballsiness. The film is also technically brilliant. Darrius Khondji is a vastly underrated cinematographer who continuously proves his worth, with his work on recent Woody Allen films as visual proof. Following in the footsteps of his stunning work on The Lost City of Z earlier this year, the mountains of Korea look green and gorgeous, which contrasts nicely with the condensed atmosphere of the city of Manhattan. It, along with Yang Jin-mo’s excellent off-kilter editing job, gives this film a feeling so foreign and different than what we are used to. Extreme close-ups of characters followed by big sweeping shots of the parading streets of Seoul or New York allows for the personality to come into play. The visual effects also deserve some praise-worthy commentary. The design for the “super pigs” that Mirando is using is really unique and appealing. The titular character is nothing short of adorable and likable. Even though we don’t know her whole history, we’re immediately on her side and want her to spend peaceful time with Mija. But the film doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of the processed food industry. A scene two-thirds of the way through shows a rather disturbing and graphic mating scene between Okja and another “super pig.” But it’s later in the last 20 minutes of Okja that it transitions from a fun sci-fi adventure into a twisted look at the American slaughterhouse. It creates a bit of moral ambiguity as Mirando’s true intention is revealed, but it’s not evil or far-fetched. They just want to feed the world, no matter how many animals have to be killed for it. There have been reports of people who have given up eating meat and become vegetarians/vegans as a result of watching this movie. I’m still fine, but I can’t say the same for you. Okja balances a tricky tonal juggling act with a plucky hero and great characters. Bong Joon-ho is a brilliant director and deserves more recognition after this film’s release. It also proves that Netflix movies can be just as big and enjoyable as anything getting a theatrical release. It all just depends on the talent behind everything.

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