Category Archives: Independent

“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.

Related image

Advertisements

“Wind River” Movie Review

I would say something about the premise involving Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch reuniting to solve a murder mystery on a Native American reservation. But trust me when I say that to make that comparison would do the movie a huge disservice on my part. This crime thriller made a splash at the 2017 Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals earlier this year, winning an award for directing in the latter. Receiving a wide release on August 18th, it went on to earn critical acclaim and has doubled its modest $11 million budget. The directorial debut of screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, scribe of both Hell or High Water and Sicario, the film was said to be based on his own experiences on a reservation. He reportedly spent over a year building trust from the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribal Councils (The tribes situated on the titular reservation) and even secured funding from the Tunica-Biloxi Tribes in Louisiana. So to say that everyone involved was careful about the finished product would be a correct assumption. Jeremy Renner stars as Cory Lambert, a local member of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services that helps hunt down whatever creatures are killing indigenous livestock. Out on a hunt, he finds a young Native woman named Natalie Hanson frozen to death without any winter gear, miles away from the Wind River Indian Reservation. Suspecting foul play, young FBI agent Jane Banner, played by Elizabeth Olsen, is brought on the scene completely unprepared for the winter. Now Lambert, Banner, and the tribal police have to solve this case as the harsh blizzard of Wyoming comes rolling through. I’m always interested when a movie’s being made these days involving Native Americans. Not just because I love Smoke Signals, Dances With Wolves, and The Last of the Mohicans, but also because they are so underrepresented in today’s culture. And I also loved Sheridan’s writing in Sicario and Hell or High Water, being two of my favorite films from the past two years. So naturally, as soon as the buzz came rolling out of its premiere at Sundance this year, I was immediately looking forward to Wind River. And I left the theater 1 hour and 51 minutes later feeling bitten hard and cold but in the best way possible. What impressed me most about the film was the brilliant and almost humanistic screenplay. It’s very much a whodunit murder mystery but the presentation and concept behind it all feel so fresh and invigorating. It’s more of a drama examining how our government has failed to recognize and protect the indigenous peoples of America for so many years. I myself have visited several reservations in relief efforts to rebuild homes and playgrounds for young Native children, and I have witnessed the ugly nature of the poverty and isolation these groups face on a daily basis. How can these people, especially the women, blossom in the world when there’s nothing at “home?” There is some end movie text that comes onscreen that, without spoilers, completely knocked me down. My companion and I sat in our seats for a solid minute of silence before walking out and leaving. Jeremy Renner impresses me with every single movie he’s been a part of, from The Avengers to last year’s Arrival. But he gives easily the best performance of his career here as a complicated man with a seriously troubled past. Elizabeth Olsen was a bit of a mixed bag for me. At first, she came off as a typical “fish-out-of-water” a la Clarice Starling, soon transitioning into a sort of know-it-all. But she later proves her worth when she defuses a tense conflict between the characters. As for the Native actors, everyone present brings their A-game and feels completely natural. Smaller character performers like Julia Jones, Martin Sensmeier, Tantoo Cardinal, and Apesanahkwat all give subtle work as members of this harshly contained environment. First Nations actor Graham Greene provides some chuckle-worthy lines that are really the only moments of levity in this film. As the pragmatic chief of the tribal police, we can see quite a bit through his eyes. But the real winner here is Comanche actor Gil Birmingham as the victim’s grieving father. A haunting role that will most likely receive recognition from the Academy, (Just wishful thinking, really) he is so restrained and quiet in his anguish of a lost daughter. And when he finally lets it all loose, he is amazing. In fact, I think he gives one of my favorite performances of the entire year. The camerawork by Ben Richardson provides some stark shots of the desolate landscape in Wyoming. Be it wide swooping shots of the comparatively puny reservation or intense (And I mean, SUPERINTENSE) handheld close-ups of the ensuing conflicts, it rarely loses its visual luster. This, along with the minimalist score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, helped the town become a character in and of itself. The mixture of sad western violins and guitars makes it feel like a land of lost opportunity. As for flaws with the movie, there were moments where I felt like it was a tad overwritten. I appreciate the effort to bring such a taboo topic to the big screen, and Taylor Sheridan is famously allergic to conventional filmmaking. But sometimes the characters would go on monologues about their problems for quite a while. Occasionally, it felt a little in-your-face and unsubtle, as if it could have been delivered through context. And I’m not sure how rewatchable it is. That’s it. The rest of this movie, I loved. Wind River is a sobering look at the troubles of a deserving group of people. As someone who has seen these issues first hand, I highly recommend my readers to go see this movie and support those involved. Especially since the summer movie season has officially ended and the box office has pretty much been sucked dry. We’re just beginning the awards season, and we have our first leader.

Image result for wind river movie

“Logan Lucky” Movie Review

Never thought I’d see the day that NASCAR would actually become fun. I mean, I knew it was patriotic and all, but I had no idea that I would actually be enjoying a movie that centered entirely on it. I guess the world can still surprise me. Produced on a budget of $29 million, this heist comedy from director Steven Soderbergh was released on August 18th, 2017. But due to the official end of the summer movie season, it only made $7 million in its opening weekend, although producers said that they don’t need it to be a huge success. After his 2013 film Behind the Candelabra, Soderbergh swore that he was going to retire from filmmaking. But he apparently enjoyed reading Rebecca Blunt’s script so much (more on that later) that he decided to take on the project personally. Channing Tatum produces and stars as Jimmy Logan, a recently laid-off construction worker in the Appalachian country. Wanting to spend more time with his daughter, he recruits his two siblings, played by Riley Keough and Adam Driver, to help him rob the upcoming Coca-Cola 600. Along the way, he also gets the help of some petty criminals. Now many people have been calling this film one of two alternative titles: Ocean’s 7-11 or The Redneck’s Ocean’s Eleven. Being a big fan of the George Clooney-led ensemble heist film, I was very interested to see if Soderbergh would be retreading old ground with this film or come out with something completely fresh. We can discuss the semantics of that later on, but first and foremost, for what it is, is Logan Lucky a good movie? Well, yes. I can say without any doubt that this is the most “commercial” film out of Soderbergh’s versatile career. I mean aside from the obvious product placement for NASCAR and the overall patriotic feeling to the story, it also features a large ensemble cast filled with some big names. Tatum has proven his comedic worth in the Jump Street series and the slightly somber Magic Mike. Here, his timing and chemistry with a dimwitted Adam Driver is downright masterful at times. His daughter also deserves some mention. A young girl named Farrah Mackenzie plays her and is just really plucky and adorable. She is nowhere near as annoying as most child actors tend to be, and a talent show performance late in the movie had me going “Aww.” But the fact is that none of them steal the show; Daniel Craig does. Even in a film that features small parts from *deep breath* Hilary Swank, Macon Blair, Dwight Yoakam, Seth MacFarlane, Sebastian Stan, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterson, Joey Lagano, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, David Denman, and Jim O’Heir, Craig is the real star of the movie. A complete departure from his brooding in the James Bond franchise, the English man dons a bleach-blonde haircut and a thick Appalachian accent to become Joe Bang. The most obvious name for a demolitions expert this side of Explosive Bobby, he has a razor sharp comedic timing and delivers some of the best lines in the movie. I hope he considers more comedic roles after this one. Speaking of dialogue and writing, there’s been much debate about who actually wrote the screenplay for Logan Lucky. It’s credited as Rebecca Blunt, whom Steven Soderbergh swears is a real person. But this person has no other writing credits to their name, and none of the cast members have ever actually met them. In other words, until proven otherwise, “Rebecca Blunt” probably doesn’t exist. Some believe that it could have been his wife, who has screenwriting experience. Odds are, though, Soderbergh pulled a Soderbergh and just wrote the screenplay under a pseudonym. He has done it before when he frames the cinematography under the pseudonym Pete Andrews, which he continues in this film. The camera work is really well-done and there are often long, static takes of the characters’ conversations. It allows these shots to be drawn out and sometimes highlights the protagonist’s real stupidity. And from what I could tell, they used at least some natural lighting in the scenes, which gave it this grainy beauty of the Carolinas that was nice. But ultimately, I feel that there was not enough done here to completely distinguish it from Ocean’s Eleven. For every scene of a prison riot where the prisoners demand the newest Game of Thrones book from George R.R. Martin, (Easily the funniest scene in the entire movie) we cut back to a familiar setup of crooks funneling money from a corporation. Like I said in my intro, it does surprisingly make NASCAR fun to watch; I’ve always been in the minority who might watch it just for the car crashes. But, there’s also not a lot of emotional involvement with the protagonists. Sure, Jimmy lost his job and wants to spend more time with his daughter, but other than that everyone else in his crew I could care less about. Still, Logan Lucky is a formulaic but hilarious heist film with lots of energy and confidence. If you like a good old-fashioned crime movie, or just want some good laughs, look no further. It doesn’t try to be anything more or less than it needs to be: fun escapism.

Image result for logan lucky poster

“Good Time” Movie Review

Can you imagine going through all the tribulations Robert Pattinson went through in this movie to look after your own brother? I’m still asking myself that question. This acclaimed independent drama thriller competed for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Although it was released stateside on August 11th, it didn’t receive an expanded run until the following week, and has only earned back just over $137,000. This is the fifth collaboration between brothers Josh and Ben Safdie, who previously directed the drama Heaven Knows What. It’s also reportedly their biggest production to date. Set in the urban streets of New York City, Good Time follows a petty bank robber named Constantine “Connie” Nikas, played by Robert Pattinson. After a robbery goes awry, his mentally handicapped brother Nick is placed in a harsh prison program on Ryker’s Island. He tries to break him out of there while avoiding the cops and learns the consequences of his reckless actions. This is my first movie from the Safdie brothers, so their style almost overwhelmed me. They have such a rough and authentic view of street-level New York that is so hard to find in modern or even classical cinema. I do feel that their way of making a story will definitely not appease everyone, especially because the trailer is so misleading. It tried to sell this movie as a straight-forward prison break movie, but what I got was a surprisingly mature film that takes a look at poverty, desperation, brotherhood, devotion, and- dare I say -the death of the American Dream. Robert Pattinson proves that he has come a long way since his days as a brooding, sparkling vampire in the Twilight franchise. Earlier this year, he gave an excellent supporting performance in The Lost City of Z, and he outdoes himself here. Despite his criminal disposition, he is able to invoke an immense amount of empathy for his actions. Connie is an extremely resourceful character and some the things he does puts you on the edge of your seat. It becomes apparent pretty early on that he s willing to do anything, including taking the fall for crimes, to keep his brother safe. Speaking of his brother, co-director Ben Safdie is nothing short of convincing as Nick. He completely loses himself in the role and I actually didn’t enjoy watching some of his scenes because they felt so real. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi, and frequent collaborator Buddy Duress all give typically excellent performances in their small but crucial roles. The real revelation, though, is the young Taliah Webster as a young girl in Queens who helps Connie on his journey. She may be small, but her confidence and energy make her a promising star for the future. You get the idea that she really shouldn’t be involved in this world, no matter how much she wants to be in it. And the movie just looks downright gorgeous at times. Cinematographer Sean Price Williams locks the audience into a neon-soaked night environment. Specifically, he highlights the color red, whether it be the color of a street sign, a hallway lamp, the color of characters’ clothes, etc. Some of the lighting just seems impossible, but he pulled it off and made an otherwise harsh atmosphere look appealing and beautiful. The musical score is an unusual one, and I mean that in the best way. Experimental musician Daniel Lopatin, AKA Oneohtrix Point Never, composes the picture primarily out of synthesizers and electropop instruments. In a way, this kind of gave it this aesthetic of an 80’s horror movie, in the vein of composers like Charles Bernstein or John Carpenter. Sometimes, when the music began, a strange warm feeling of anxiety and tension came over my body. Tying these two aspects together is the frantic editing by the writers themselves, Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein. Not only is their dialogue sharply written and at times exhausting, but it matches perfectly with each cut made to a scene. It’s still easy to tell what’s going on, but the fierce delivery of the lines and editing really make this a movie that never lets you catch your breath. So yeah, if you have any history of anxiety attacks or get stressed out easily, Good Time is not for you. I feel the need to make that clear for my readers, because it is not conventional. While there are some moments of laughs and smirks, the 100-minute plot takes several twists and turns that I didn’t expect to see and I’m glad about that. The Safdie brothers do not make easy movies, in fact, some people might find this movie to be too loud or unsatisfying. It often takes time to examine the ugly side of brotherhood, especially when one of them is mentally handicapped. It could be easy to label this as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape with criminals and violence, but that would be misleading. It is so much more, and thus demands to be seen. Although it’s maybe a little too frantic for most audiences, Good Time is an unexpectedly challenging drama with thematic prowess. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I can comfortably say that it is one of the best movies of 2017. Let this be the official moment when Robert Pattinson left behind all of his roles as a heartthrob and shows his true range as an actor.

“To the Bone” Movie Review

Damn it, Netflix. You’re $20 billion in debt currently, yet you continue to purchase and distribute original content to us. If you would slow down and give us quality like this, maybe you would be financially better. Oh well. This R-rated independent drama made a splash at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in the official competition. Shortly after its premiere, the online streaming giant Netflix acquired the distribution rights, one of many purchases at the event. Written and directed by Marti Noxon, the film is believed to have been inspired by her early battles with eating disorders. The story focuses on a young woman named Ellen who is struggling with severe anorexia, meaning she can’t eat food and she wants to vomit at the mere sight of food. Having run out of options, her family arranges for her to meet an unconventional specialist Dr. Beckham, played by Keanu Reeves. This specialist, refusing to let her give in, moves her into a house with other patients determined to fight their condition. So earlier this year, Netflix released the original teen drama series 13 Reasons Why. Many people loved it, but I saw it as a manipulative, insulting, and sometimes disgusting interpretation of its incredibly sensitive subject matter. It took the nature of teenage suicide and tried to make it into something intriguing and sexy, neither of which did any victims any justice. Because of that, I clicked “Play” on both this and the new series Atypical (Which may end up being a review soon) with serious hesitation. Would it take a taboo subject like eating disorders seriously or try to pander to the lowest common denominator? Thankfully, To the Bone falls into the former category. Lily Collins is an absolute revelation in the lead role as Ellen. Losing so much weight for the role, her character’s a complete wisecracking cynic. If they had gotten someone else for the part, she would have just come off as unlikable and insufferable. Thankfully, Collins’ subtlety and sharp tongue make a person we can understand and side with, even in her lowest moments. Alex Sharp plays one of the other patients, a ballet dancer who struggled to eat after breaking his knee. Despite his extreme optimism towards the other house members, you can tell that he mentally tortured himself and wants to better. Although he came off as a bit annoying at times, he really grew on me over time. Keanu Reeves, meanwhile, gives a performance totally unlike any previously in his action-heavy career. An uncompromising doctor with a fundamental sense of optimism, he at one point encourages Ellen to find the dispiriting voice inside her head and tell it “Fuck off voice.” His lines are the only bits of levity and balance in this film, delivered only the way Reeves could do it. That’s a relief because this movie is not a fun time by any stretch of your imagination. This is an absolutely bleak, mature, and sometimes disturbing portrayal of eating disorders, and refuses to pull any punches. Some critics have labeled To the Bone as corny or misguided in its approach to the subject matter. As a person who has actually met people with eating disorders, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this movie is not corny at all. In fact, it accurately portrays not just how Ellen reacts to her own sickness, but how her loved ones deal with it, and the results aren’t always easy to watch. Let’s talk a bit regarding the technical side of everything. Cinematographer Richard Wong frames the picture with precision and focus, often giving us wide takes of the dinner table or at group meetings. It allows for us to have a good view of everyone involved. My favorite scene in the entire movie came when the Beckham and patients visited an underground waterfall with a small natural light at the side. It was a gorgeously shot and directed moment that gave the characters a glimmer of hope. It also went down to the song “Water” by Jack Garrat, and witnessing Sharp’s dance moves to it was perhaps the one part of the movie that made me smile. Lili Taylor is an extremely underrated actress, having proven her worth on the excellent show Six Feet Under. In this movie, she plays Ellen’s biological mother, who hasn’t been a major part of her life for quite some time. She tries to offer her support to her, culminating in a beautiful scene near the end of the film. On paper, it would sound kind of dumb and awkward, but the way it’s executed completely floored me. In fact, would dare say that it is one of the most emotionally powerful scenes of the entire year. I will say, I don’t think I could ever watch it again. As relevant and well-made as it is, I feel it was too powerful an experience to have more than once. Also, some things that happen late in the film feel a bit tacked on and forced, almost like they could have been left on the cutting room floor. I don’t consider this movie to be perfect by any means. Even so, To the Bone is an unflinching yet empathetic look at a highly undervalued problem. The writing is already great, but it’s the performances of Lily Collins and Keanu Reeves that make it what it is. Be warned of how challenging it can be for those with a weak stomach.

Image result for to the bone netflix movie poster

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” Movie Review

Director Luc Besson has given us a pretty kick-ass sci-fi space opera for a modern generation… called The Fifth Element, 20 years ago. And now, we are here. Let’s deal with it. This ambitious science-fiction action-adventure was released on July 21st, 2017. Estimates say that at a budget of nearly $200 million, almost all of it crowdsourced, this is the most expensive European film and the most expensive “independent” film ever made. This proved to be a disadvantage for the film, as it has yet to break just $50 million worldwide and will likely experience losses in the hundred million range. Based off the influential French comic book series Valérian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières, the PG-13 rated story follows Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as Valerian and Laureline, two space-traveling agents who are in charge of fixing problems for the United Human Federation. They visit the intergalactic space station Alpha, which houses thousands of races and cultures from all over the universe. One of these races is an endangered kind that begins a series of pseudo-terror attacks and it’s up to Valerian and Laureline to figure out what exactly they want. Now when I say that the graphic novel was influential, I really mean it. So many iconic space operas, from Star Wars to Babylon 5, have taken visual inspiration from it. Just the way the technology looked as well as some of the alien designs paid homage to this series. In an ironic twist, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets the adaptation seems to want to pay homage to the early birds of that genre which itself highly influenced. Even Luc Besson’s cult classic The Fifth Element took inspiration, and that was a really enjoyable sci-fi. But Valerian is not enjoyable at all; in fact, it’s one of the worst movies of the year. Dane DeHaan is an undeniably great actor, I’ve seen it in The Place Beyond the Pines and Chronicle. But here, his character is supposed to be like Han Solo, in that he’s the most badass human being in the universe. And it’s really hard to buy him as it, considering that the titular character is a bit of a conceded prick for most of the runtime. Cara Delevingne, however, may just be a lost cause for the acting world. Her performance in Suicide Squad was a mixed bag for me, and now she tries to come off as a sexy gun-wielding savior of the universe. She is definitely sexy, but her scenes of action turned me off. The supporting cast is filled with a surprising amount of big names. Clive Owen shows up for the first movie I’ve seen in awhile and was pretty good in his own role. Though I have to say, it was fairly easy to see where his arc was going in this one. Singer Rihanna tries her hand at acting for about a 20-30 minute stretch of the film and does a surprisingly nice job. Her character was relatively interesting, even if it tried to ham-fist social commentary into the story. Meanwhile, John Goodman, Rutger Hauer, Ethan Hawke, and Herbie Hancock… are all given so little to say and do that it’s downright criminal, and ultimately feel more like glorified cameos. Hawke was particularly annoying, reminding me too much of Chris Tucker from The Fifth Element. In many ways, Luc Besson is like this generation’s version of George Lucas. By that, I mean that he has an incredible imagination and sense of creativity but these ideas are not always executed in the best way possible. There are some really neat concepts and ideas in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to be savored. One of the races in the movie is based on beach-like terrain and uses sea pearls to fertilize everything. After the opening scene, our heroes arrive on a seemingly barren planet. But as soon as they put on special glasses, they see hundreds of markets, bizarre style, in an alternate dimension. But perhaps the coolest thing was the technology. Being a big sci-fi nerd, I love to see what kind of tech the world is able to offer. And one exhilarating chase sequence sees Valerian running through a wall and then shooting his gun to be able to walk on air. On the technical side of things, it’s a reasonably competent production. Alexandre Desplat’s score is an engaging, if not quite a memorable one. But the biggest thing this has going for it, by far, are the special effects. Utilizing 2,734 visual shots overall, the CGI is pretty impressive and sometimes just gorgeous. However, many scenes required some extensive green screen work and it didn’t always look convincing. But for the most part, it did look pretty. But it just comes down to the fact that this movie is detrimentally overstuffed with pointless characters and unnecessary subplots. Besson gives Marvel Studios a run for their money on how much you can pack into one movie. The romance aspect between Valerian and Lauraline is present in the film just as it is in the comics. But Develingne and DeHaan do not share good chemistry, so their hard-to-get relationship came off as forced and stupid. That whole thing occupied roughly 30 minutes of the movie. It’s already 2 hours and 17 minutes long, so if they just shaved that whole thing, it would be much better. While it’s undeniably ambitious in the scope, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a beautiful but insufferable mess with hollow characters. It’s a mystery movie without any suspense, it’s a romance without any chemistry or friction, and it’s a space opera with not much charisma. I was actually looking forward to it, but now I can safely say I saw it. At least I can say that much.

Image result for valerian

“The Void” Movie Review

With high-quality horror movies like Get Out earlier this year and total shitfests like Wish Upon infecting this summer, this movie got a bit lost in the shuffle. Now that it’s been released on Netflix, I’m here to tell you whether or not it’s worth your time. This independent horror thriller from Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest before getting a small release of only 50 theaters on April 7th, 2017, doubling its tiny $82,000 budget. The film was a passion project for the directors on Indiegogo where they raised all of the funds. Eventually, Jonathan Bronfman, one of the executive producers for the film The VVitch, discovered it and brought it to DFilms to be distributed. The 90-minute plot follows a policeman who brings a dying man into a secluded hospital in the middle of the night. The staff and patients inside soon realize that they are surrounded by a group of hooded cultists who will not let them leave. Couple that with some truly weird creatures hidden within the hospital itself, and now we have ourselves a big thrill ride. This is clearly an homage to horror films from the 1980’s, specifically the filmography of John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and David Cronenberg. And honestly, that is my favorite decade of horror movies, as each one that came out was perfect in just about every aspect. It also seems to take some inspiration from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. In an era where so many horror directors base their films off of something that came out recently, it’s refreshing to see a pair of people who understand modern horror’s roots. David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows from 2015 proved as much. But while The Void starts off strong and promising, it fails to leave any lasting impact or impression. The most obvious way that it pays homage to the masters of the genre is that Gillespie and Kostanski had a big itch for using practical effects. They specifically avoided the use of CGI, and instead decided to rely heavily on practical effects and makeup. The hooded cultists are wearing real robes with triangles painted on them. The characters are confined in real hallways at night time. The monsters they encounter are fused together with makeup and real prosthetics. So much of the movie feels real and gives it this lived-in element. Another way in which the directors pay tribute is through the otherworldly soundtrack by the Canadian band Blitz/Berlin. The tracks are synthesized beats and ambient noise designed to create the tension of a scene. No single track is really that memorable, but it felt right at the moment and pretty fun to listen to. It definitely added to a dripping atmosphere that was so creepy and suspenseful to be sucked into. As far as characters go, they’re all pretty much exactly what you would expect them to be. The only person in the cast with any real work to their name is Ellen Wong, and she had a pretty minor role. No, the real star is Aaron Poole as the everyman cop. He’s the one who’s constantly trying to keep order in this increasingly chaotic situation. You see everything from his point-of-view from the beginning to the twisted conclusion. So you immediately empathize with him, as well as some of the other people stuck in that hospital. But where the film falters is that there is a huge gaping pit in information regarding much of the film’s lore. Where did these hooded cultists come from? What do they truly want out of our protagonists? How long have the monsters been around in our world? The ending doesn’t offer us much help either, as it kind of convolutes these questions into oblivion. “But dude, not everything has to be explained to us. Some things are best left to interpretation by the beholder.” I agree with that sentiment, my fellow cinephiles. But there is a distinct difference between giving us hints of an answer and withholding information to a point where the story begins to make no sense. Both leave people wanting more, but only one of them is actually satisfying. I thought The Maze Runner taught us that already. I will say that it’s nice to know there are still young fans of old-school horror movies and even take inspiration from them. And even though it’s not original by any stretch, it did feel much fresher and fun than a lot of contemporaries in the genre today. But still, The Void is an empty practice in nostalgia-inducing aesthetic and practical special effects. It’s great to watch with your friends at night on the couch at home, but not really worth much of a second viewing. Much less $10-12 in paying a ticket to see it theatrically.

Image result for the void movie poster