BLADE RUNNER 2049 review

Hang on. *Grabs my helmet, body armor, and riot shield*

I am not fan of BLADE RUNNER (1982).

It’s true. Despite being a mega lover of sci-fi, the genre’s most celebrated films, such as BLADE RUNNER and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), are my least favorite of them all. In all likelihood, I saw BLADE RUNNER at a time when my brain wasn’t quite ready for something so nuanced and layered. I figured it’d be a grittier and darker Star Wars with lots of action and what have you. Turns out, it’s closer to a sci-fi noir film and I was probably not ready for something like that. I looked at it like THE GODFATHER (1972) of sci-fi films, slow and forgettable. I wish I had the time to revisit the film to see how it holds up with my current tastes, but… day job. What can you do?

The story looks like it’s about a cyborg manufacturer who wants to… I don’t know, take over the world, I assume. But a dude locates the protagonist from the previous film and holds the key to either stopping him, or making things worse. I don’t know, once again, it’s pretty shrouded in mystery.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Ryan Gosling (SONG TO SONG [2017], BLUE VALENTINE [2010], MURDER BY NUMBERS [2002], and the upcoming FIRST MAN [2018]), Ana de Amas (WAR DOGS [2016] and HANDS OF STONE [2016]), and Harrison Ford (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL [2008], AIR FORCE ONE [1997], and the upcoming untitled Indiana Jones Project [2020]). In support, we have Dave Bautista (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 [2017], SPECTRE [2015], THE SCORPION KING 3: BATTLE FOR REDEMPTION [2012], and upcoming films ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES [2018] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), Robin Wright (WONDER WOMAN [2017], UNBREAKABLE [2000], THE PRINCESS BRIDE [1987], and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017]), Sylvia Hoeks (a bunch of projects I’ve never heard of), Jared Leto (SUICIDE SQUAD [2016], MR. NOBODY [2009], FIGHT CLUB [1999], and rumored to be in upcoming films SUICIDE SQUAD 2 [2019] and GOTHAM CITY SIRENS, no release date announced), and Mackenzie Davis (THE MARTIAN [2015], THAT AWKWARD MOMENT [2014], TV show HALT AND CATCH FIRE [2014 – ongoing], and the upcoming TULLY [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Denis Villeneuve, known for ARRIVAL (2016), SICARIO (2015), and PRISONERS (2013). Co-writing the screenplay is Hampton Fancher (BLADE RUNNER) and Michael Green (ALIEN: COVENANT [2017], LOGAN [2017], GREEN LANTERN [2011], and the upcoming MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [2017]). Co-composing the score are Benjamin Wallfisch (IT [2017], ANNABELLE: CREATION [2017], and LIGHTS OUT [2016]) and the living legend, Hans Zimmer (DUNKIRK [2017], THE SIMPSONS MOVIE [2007], and THE PEACEMAKER [1997]). Finally, the cinematographer is Roger Deakins (HAIL, CAESAR! [2016], JARHEAD [2005], and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION [1994]).

Overall, I’m not sure how to feel about this movie. Early reviews seem to be praising the fuck out of it and declaring it better than the original. Well… since I didn’t like the original all that much, I might not think that’s a very high bar to set. Oh well, in time, I’ll rewatch the original, but for now, I’m going to judge this movie for what it is. And… yeah, it looks atmospheric, like it’s got some decent action, but… just taking a shot in the dark, is Ford going to be a glorified cameo? I don’t know, I just have that feeling.

This is my honest opinion of: BLADE RUNNER 2049

(SUMMARY)

Set thirty years after the events of the first film. Replicant blade runner, K (Ryan Gosling) has successfully hunted down and killed another older model of replicant named Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). But buried beneath his farm, K finds a buried box containing the skeletal remains of a woman. But not only that, the woman was a replicant. And not only that either, but she was pregnant, and the child is still out there. K is then tasked by his superior, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), to hunt down and eliminate this replicant before anyone finds out about it.

(REVIEW)

Apologies for the delay on this review. I technically saw it opening night, but the film is so intricate and there’s so many layers to peel back that I couldn’t finish writing unless I saw it a second time to full comprehend certain things that I didn’t… well, comprehend. Having now seen it twice, I can finish.

I think while I still need to revisit the original film to get a full and complete understanding of the film presented here, this movie is… pretty damn awesome. I’m not sure if I agree with IMDb’s 8.8/10 (as of 10/6/2017) and find myself leaning more toward RottenTomatoes’ 89% (as of 10/13/2017), but I agree that this film is very much a great film.

Before I go into my opinion, I think I should probably drop a quick disclaimer. Much like the previous film, don’t go in expecting an action film. That’s not the genre. This is a straight-up thriller, but set in a sci-fi genre. I won’t say there aren’t action scenes at all, there are, but they’re pretty far in between. This film is pure atmosphere, visuals, and story. This isn’t a dark and gritty Star Wars with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford.

And speaking of Ford, I was kind of right. He’s not exactly a glorified cameo, but out of this two and a half plus hour film, he’s only in the final hour or so.

So with that in mind, here we go.

This is probably the most nuanced sci-fi that I’ve seen in years. Hell, I’m not even sure when I last saw a sci-fi film of this caliber. Eh, okay, ARRIVAL, but outside of Villeneuve’s résumé. Why do I think so highly of it? One perfect example, which probably only scratches at the many layers this film has, is one brief exchange between K and Lt. Joshi.

LT. JOSHI
You’ve been getting along fine without one.

K
Ma’am?

LT. JOSHI
A soul.

That alone drove me into a tailspin by the end of the film. Any other movie, even other great sci-fi stories, have hammered in this concept of machines having a soul for decades. GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995), TERMINATOR 2 (1991), THE IRON GIANT (1999), the Mass Effect video game franchise, all of them have tackled this subject and each offers its own fascinating and unique perspective. Even in Mass Effect, this question is literally asked by a character, “Does this unit have a soul?” Most movies ask the question and spend the film offering an answer. Some do it well, some not so much. But what I think this movie brilliantly does is not bothering to ask anything. Instead, it goes the route of great sci-fi and with Wright’s line, she’s declaring an answer. K’s never had a soul, and the movie is spent offering us evidence to believe otherwise. K is a thinking, feeling person. Yeah, he’s by his very nature, a machine, but he’s exhibited just as many human qualities as, well, any human has. He has compassion, shows fear, gets angry, gets sad, human emotion.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about K. This is a masterfully written character and… well, I’ll talk about Gosling’s performance in a bit, but first thing’s first. K is about as perfectly a written type of character like this that can be written. I have a hard time admitting it to myself, Gosling has a tendency to be a little wooden in his facial expressions. But his performances are usually nuanced enough and, depending on the role, he’s just charming enough to work past that. But here, it works perfectly. He’s a machine who seems to have found his own spot in the world. However, that spot isn’t exactly any kind of paradise. He lives in this run down apartment building filled with humans who are extremely intolerant of replicants. They shout obscenities at him and the front door to his room is spray painted with “Fuck you, skin job,” or something to that effect. It’s impossible to tell if he’s unaffected by the names and harassment, or only a little. Gosling’s performance is so subtle that you can probably look at his expressions and come up with your own conclusions.

Once he’s in his room, though, the world outside is dead quiet and it’s here where he’s free. He does what he wants, simple as his choices may be. But what I found fascinating was this relationship that he has with Joi (Ana de Armas). Joi is a kind of computer holographic companion, probably designed for sexual purposes, but K treats her like a girlfriend. He doesn’t talk to her like he owns her, or in any way that would demean her. In fact, our first scene with them is him giving her a gift. Some kind of portable device that allows him to bring her with him wherever he goes, giving her holographic form some… solidity, if that’s a way I can use that word. Basically, she can walk outside in the rain and where normally the rain would pass right through her, now it kind of bounces off of her, runs down her body, and… I guess her hair and clothes get wet, yeah, I think there’s some technological discrepancies that the movie didn’t take into account, but there is some kind of emotional weight to this. It’s… also pretty obvious that at some point, Joi’s going to go with K on his quest, but then again, the movie intelligently doesn’t make this some kind of twist and joins him pretty early on. It’s a really fascinating relationship that they share and I loved watching them interact with each other without ever feeling like it’s distracting from the story. That’s really hard to pull off too.

And yes, Ford is back in his usual gruff self, and just like K, he’s just as nuanced and subtle. You see a man who has been through a lot in the last thirty years and wants to be left alone. Because of his time away from civilization, it’s clear that he’s not good at talking to people aside from his most base instinct responses. But you understand why he is the way he is. Blade Runners hunted down replicants like crazy and he needed to protect his wife and unborn child, whom he’s never met. Anyone can understand how that’d give a person some rough, even violent edges.

If there’s anything else that I have to praise this movie for, it’s in the way that every time I think I found a flaw in the film, it makes me think about and then it doesn’t become a flaw anymore. I was about to say that I wasn’t entirely sure why a replicant born child would cause a war. I generally like to think that I’m not awful with the interpretations of ambiguous motivations and morals, but this one felt like it was shoehorned in to add some stakes that probably didn’t need to be added. But then I gave it a second thought. Then I realized, what do I know about this world? Replicants are not well-liked. In fact, it’s not dissimilar to the world of X-Men, mutants feared and hated because they were born different. The average person probably sees replicants as machines parading around like humans, are given basic rights like humans, but at the end of the day, aren’t humans. They take jobs, ones that include brandishing a firearm, own property, be it a home or a vehicle, I can definitely see how controversial their existence would be. And for there to be a baby out there, a replicant, started off as a fetus and pushed out of the vagina, like a human, there’s way too many fires that would be lit under too many asses. Machines aren’t people, so how can they procreate? What does that mean for humans? Will humans become obsolete? Are the parents both replicants? Is only one of them? Can humans and machines procreate? Can they experience sex and or romance together? Notice how many questions I’m coming up with and the movie, I think, purposely doesn’t answer them because this is that kind of world.

But for how much I could sing about this film’s praise, I do have one complaint… but I don’t know how to vocalize it, and it all centers around Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). Okay, I think I get his motivations. His replicants are instrumental in colonizing the other planets in the solar system. I would very much love to know how he managed to colonize Mercury and Venus, which are crazy close to the sun, and Jupiter and Saturn, which are gas giants, but that’s beside the point. Thing is, Earth is in the shitter, and he’s dedicated his resources to helping Earth, meaning his abundant, but still limited resources are about as stretched out as they can get. The nine planets that have been colonized aren’t enough. I love his line that goes something like, “A child can count to nine on both hands.” He wants humanity to venture further out, believing the stars should be conquered. But due to a lack of resources to make that many replicants, he needs an alternate method of creating them. He’s tried to breed them, but has constantly failed. In comes his proclaimed “best angel of all,” Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) with evidence from the LAPD that an older replicant model got preggers. Now he wants that baby to understand how it happened and duplicate it for future models and get that surplus of replicants that he wants. All of that, I perfectly understand. Capture Deckard, torture him for information on those who helped hide his baby, all of that makes perfect sense.

With that said, I find myself grossly disconnected with his character. There’s nothing wrong with Leto’s performance. Hell, he can get a little creepy with the way he stares at people through his little floating robot things. But there’s still something about Wallace that I just don’t click with and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s because we don’t see enough of him. How can I identify with his desires if I don’t know what he’s like as a person? How can I see the broad scope of his vision if all he does is talk about it? It’s not like we ever see the other planets that have been colonized, or the hard work that the replicants are doing on those worlds. There also seems to be a little bit of inconsistency with his character. For much of his scenes, he calls his replicants “angels.” Weird, but I guess we expect that from a character played by Leto, making his creations feel like the work of the gods, painting himself as a god by extension. But we see him kill at least two of his own “angels” and later calls them his children. Well… what kind of father would kill his own children? I can see a vengeful god blasting his angels into oblivion if they don’t live up to his vision of perfection, but he never acts like a father figure. To any of them, so that line feels awkward. Perhaps that’s one of the other reasons why I feel so “blah” when it comes to him. He’s so… pretentious. I’m sure that was intentional when writing him, but we never truly see him do anything other than acting like a man among men and I just don’t see where he’s coming from. If he’s supposed to serve as more of entity to be feared, then his looming presence should feel more threatening. I am not threatened by Wallace. If he’s supposed to be just a man who’s trying to advance humanity forward, then that doesn’t work either because he neither conducts himself, nor do we get to know him as a man.

But really, if I take a good step back and look at the whole picture, as opposed to this one… discoloration that I really had to look for, Wallace is such a minuscule character with very little impact. The story is engaging, the characters are compelling, the writing is fantastic, the cinematography, yes, I am commenting on the cinematography by Roger Deakins, is gorgeous, the ideas are thought-provoking, the visual effects are breath-taking, ladies and gentlemen, this is truly a masterwork that needs to be experienced.

I want to give a personal shout out here. Villeneuve may not have been in the directing scene for very long, but the man has incredible talent for it, especially in the realm of sci-fi. Already, he’d won folks over with films like PRISONERS and SICARIO. While I really liked PRISONERS, and I thought SICARIO was just okay, I wasn’t won over until ARRIVAL. He is now officially that name that will immediately guarantee my ass in a seat for any and all future projects, especially if he tackles sci-fi again.

If it isn’t obvious enough, I recommend everyone to see this flick. As in, drop what you’re doing and make time to see it. It’s a film of a caliber that we won’t likely get again for a long time… unless Villeneuve keeps doing sci-fi. In which case, all we have to do is wait for his next big project and see what he does with it. I’ve seen it twice now, I would love to see it again, and I can’t wait to own it on Blu-Ray.

My honest rating for BLADE RUNNER 2049: 5/5

bladerunner2049poster

Advertisements

STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982) quick review

I had actually written my initial impressions on this before, but the movie’s initial run in the AMC was during work days that I couldn’t get off. Frustrated, I had deleted that, thinking I had missed my opportunity. Go freakin’ figure, stupidity getting the better of me.

Alright so here’s my history with Star Trek. It’s a short one. All my life, I’ve been a Star Wars fan and never once gave Trek a chance until STAR TREK (2009), to which I had immediately fallen in love with. Needless to say, I’ve loved the recent Trek films… eh, mostly. INTO DARKNESS (2013) would have been better without gratuitous underwear shots and pointless characters. But I really liked BEYOND (2016). As for the many TV shows, I’ve never watched the original series (1966 – 1969), just a few of the first episodes, never watched THE NEXT GENERATION (1987 – 1994), DEEP SPACE NINE (1993 – 1999), or ENTERPRISE (2001 – 2005). And the only movie involving these series’ I’ve seen was STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT (1996), which I still think is one of the most impressive sci-fi films of all time.

But it looks like I now have the means to see the best of the best. As I understand it, the second Star Trek film is considered to be the best Star Trek film, encompassing the best aspects of Star Trek, it’s goofiness, drama, emotions, ideas, everything. Having said all that, I have to voice a concern I might have. I feel like in order to truly appreciate this movie, you’d have to have watched the show. Here’s what I mean, I am aware that the villain of this movie, Khan, wasn’t a unique character to the movie. He was in the original series for an episode, so I’m concerned that there’s going to be references to the show and this particular episode that I won’t understand. Plus, despite having not seen the show, and knowing what happens toward the end of the movie, I won’t be as emotionally invested. But we’ll see what happens. Maybe that’s one of the great things about this film: the accessibility. So here we go!

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have William Shatner (BATMAN VS. TWO-FACE [2017], ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH [2013], and THE WILD [2006]), Ricardo Montalban (THE ANT BULLY [2006], SPY KIDS 3: GAME OVER [2003], and THE NAKED GUN [1988]), Leonard Nimoy (STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS [2013], ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE [2001], and THE PAGEMASTER [1994]), Bibi Besch (TREMORS [1990] and STEEL MAGNOLIAS [1989]), and DeForest Kelley (THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER GOES TO MARS [1998], STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY [1991], and STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER [1989]). In support, we have James Doohan (STAR TREK: GENERATIONS, STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME [1986], and STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK [1984]), Walter Koenig (STAR TREK: GENERATIONS [1994], STAR TREK: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, and TV show BABYLON 5 [1994 – 1998]), George Takei (KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS [2016], LARRY CROWNE [2011], and TV show HEROES [2006 – 2010]), Kirstie Alley (TV shows SCREAM QUEENS [2015 – 2016], KIRSTIE [2013 – 2014], and CHEERS [1982 – 1993]), and Merritt Butrick (FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 [1988] and STAR TREK: SEARCH FOR SPOCK).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Nicholas Meyer, known for STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. Penning the screenplay, we have Jack B. Sowards, known for TV shows, 1 episode each, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1987 – 1994) and T.J. HOOKER (1982 – 1986). Composing the score is James Horner, known for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016), THE PERFECT STORM (2000), and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983). Finally, the cinematographer is Gayne Rescher, known for a ton of stuff that I’ve never heard of.

Overall, I’m pretty excited for this. Not over the moon or anything, but totally ready.

This is my honest opinion of: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)

(SUMMARY)

An arch rival of Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) has resurfaced, named Khan (Ricardo Montalban). He forces the crew of a Starfleet starship, one of the crew being Chekov (Walter Koenig), to take revenge on the Admiral by stealing a new device called Genesis, which is meant to terraform a world that is otherwise uninhabitable.

(QUICK REVIEW)

I see the appeal and where the popularity comes from. It’s by no means my new favorite, but I’m happy I got to see this and to put a movie to the memes and references. This review may be pretty quick, as a lot of time has gone by at the time I’m writing this review (I’m incredibly behind) and much of the film hasn’t retained. But, I’m going to give it the closest I can get to a college try, so here we go.

I remember the film having fun performances from both Montalban and Shatner. Their rivalry is pretty juicy and Khan is pretty despicable, using gross-ass mind-control bugs and shoving them in a dude’s ear. Screw that, man, put a bullet in my brain base. And there is definitely clear stakes, keeping Khan from using Genesis and wiping out an entire planet with people on it. And there’s something really douchie about having your pecks being shown off that really made me love to hate him.

Although, now that I have seen this movie, as well as INTO DARKNESS, I feel I have the tools to draw a comparison, specifically with the famous line, “KHAAAAN!!!” As much of what I have to say dives into spoilers for both films… well, spoilers ahead, yo.

***SPOILERS***

 

***

 

***

 

I know a lot of die hard fans of the show prefer the WRATH OF KHAN scream over the 2013 film’s, but with minimal bias, I have to disagree. I prefer INTO DARKNESS. The context of the scream makes more sense. In WRATH OF KHAN, Kirk screams because… the bad guy got the upper hand. Khan took Genesis and marooned Kirk on the planet. And considering that Kirk had this back-up plan ready to beam him and his crew up to the Enterprise because he doesn’t believe in no-win situations, I fail to understand why his scream was necessary at all. Or at least fail to understand why it had to be so dramatic. Sure, you could argue that he was putting on a show for Khan to make him think he’s won, but then there’s a scene with him acting depressed. At least in INTO DARKNESS, Spock watched Kirk, his best friend, die and Khan is directly responsible for it, and Spock emotes dramatically, something most vulcans, half or otherwise, don’t often do. Granted, Kirk doesn’t stay dead, so the weight of the drama is taken away within ten or fifteen minutes, but still, experiencing the moment at that specific time, it made more sense and had more of an impact. The only reason why WRATH OF KHAN’s scream will be remembered more is because of how over the top it is.

 

***

 

***

 

***END SPOILERS***

So, do I have any problems with the movie itself? Well… I guess it’s clear that, although it holds up as a standalone film, it does make a ton of references to the show that, unless you’re a fan, wouldn’t get. So I can’t say that I’m emotionally invested in the movie all that much. At least, not in the emotions of the characters. So I don’t get the hatred that Khan has for Kirk, or feel for Kirk’s son and his relationship to his father, which is barely explored, so none of the emotions really shine through. It’s clear this movie is for the fans.

Overall, I do give praise to the film for igniting my imagination. Genesis is an awesome concept, life from nothing in a matter of hours, both its wonder and its danger. The action is pretty good, particularly the space battles. Kirstie Alley as a vulcan… damn… didn’t see that coming. And doubling down on surprising me, man, that woman with enough personality to give to a planet that I’d seen on TV so much in the past, she was surprisingly good as a restrained and emotionless alien. I was so drawn to her performance. In the end, yeah, I enjoyed this film. Some great action, some hammy but enjoyable and memorable acting, it’s a fun ride, even for a guy who never watched the TV show.

My honest rating for STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982): 4/5

Star-Trek-II-The-Wrath-of-Khan-poster-star-trek-movies-8475612-1707-2560

FLATLINERS (2017) review

This is actually a particularly special review because it’s for a movie that I’m seeing as a early release. No, not like a soft opening on Thursday at seven o’clock PM, but rather a screening not open to the public, possibly to garner some early buzz and get a general opinion of what the movie needs work on, that sort of thing. It’s the first I’m going to without chaperoning a friend. It’s also likely this review will be sitting in my shelf for awhile before I’m allowed to talk about it here, due to nondisclosure agreement I’m sure I’ll be signing, but a free movie is a free movie if you ask me.

This is actually news to me, this movie is a sequel. Yeah, for those like me who don’t know, this is a sequel to a 1990 film also called FLATLINERS, which starred Keifer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon. As I understand it, it wasn’t a great film, but it had some merit to it. Of course, I’ve never heard of it, but depending how this turns out, I might see it online somewhere for shits and giggles.

This movie looks like it’s about this group of young doctors who have found a way to kill themselves for a few minutes, but come back from death as something of a next level thrill for them. As they chance longer sessions with death, weird shit starts happening and is possibly trying to kill them. Maybe it’s just the way that this movie is presenting it, but I’m half expecting the first half of the movie to be about these people having a joyous time with dying and coming back to life and it’ll only be in the second half where the movie takes it’s supposed horror toll. I could be wrong, but that’s what I’m getting out of it. I’m not expecting anything amazing, but I do like the cast.

Speaking of which. Starring, we have Ellen Page (MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI [2017], TALLULAH [2016], and JUNO [2007]), James Norton (BELLE [2013], RUSH [2013], and video game DRAGON AGE: INQUISITION [2014]), Nina Dobrev (XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE [2017], LET’S BE COPS [2014], and TV show THE VAMPIRE DIARIES [2009 – 2017]), Diego Luna (THE BAD BATCH [2017], ROGUE ONE [2016], and THE BOOK OF LIFE [2014]), and Kiersey Clemons (THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK [2017], NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING [2016], DOPE [2015], and upcoming DC films JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017] and FLASHPOINT [2020]). In support, we have Kiefer Sutherland (MONSTERS VS. ALIENS [2009], PHONE BOOTH [2002], and STAND BY ME [1986]), Madison Brydges (making her feature film debut; congrats, miss), and Anna Arden (making her feature film debut; congrats, miss).

Now for the crew. Directing is Niels Arden Oplev, known for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009) and the pilot episode of UNDER THE DOME (2013 – 2015). Penning the screenplay is Ben Ripley, known for SOURCE CODE (2011), SPECIES: THE AWAKENING (2007), SPECIES III (2004), and the upcoming SOURCE CODE 2, no release date announced. Composing the score is Nathan Barr, known for THE BOY NEXT DOOR (2015), THE LAST EXORCISM (2010), and TV show THE AMERICANS (2013 – ongoing). Finally, the cinematographer is Eric Kress, known for COLOSSAL (2017) and TAKEN 3 (2014).

Overall, I think I’m more excited that this is a private screening and that I’m seeing it a month ahead of schedule. The actual movie itself… eh, I guess I’m about to find out.

This is my honest opinion of: FLATLINERS (2017)

(SUMMARY)

The story follows five young medical students named Courtney (Ellen Page), Marlo (Nina Dobrev), Ray (Diego Luna), Jamie (James Norton), and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons). One day, Courtney recruits them into an off-the-books experiment that she’s been eager to try. The experiment: map and document what happens in the brain in the final minutes of a person’s death and bring them back, recording what the experience is like. Essentially: kill herself, bring her back, and share. The process is imperfect, but successful and Courtney develops a new love for life, and one by one, the others flatline too in order to know the experience. Unfortunately, strange things begin to happen. They start to see people that aren’t there and as time progresses, the unseen malevolence begins to threaten them more directly.

(REVIEW)

Yeah, this is about what I expected. Not good.

Well, let’s get the positives out of the way. First off, the acting is great. Page is amazing as per usual, Diego and Clemons bring likability to their characters, and Sutherland steals the show in every scene he’s in, it’s all pretty solid in that department. There’s energy to their performances, and you certainly want to like the characters. Despite the few scares this movie brings, some are pretty effective. There’s this scene with Jamie on his boat and he’s scrambling to find the source of the crying baby that he’s hearing. He opens a compartment in one of his seats, or whatever, and there’s a blanket there with some ghostly baby movements. Jamie picks up the blanket in that same shot, but nothing’s under it. It’s pretty well-done effect and leaves a bit of a chill. But then right after, without a sound effect or a “chun” from the score, a dark figure appears in the corner of the screen, staring at Jamie who is unaware of the figure behind him. The moment is refreshingly silent and leaves you with a skin-crawling feeling that I absolutely enjoyed. And there is a bit of well-done tension in the film too, specifically within the moments when they’re trying to resuscitate the flatliner. It’s here where the acting really shines and everyone’s scrambling to figure out what to do, what the proper course of action to take is, and because they’re only students, they’re constantly correcting each other while under serious pressure and time strain. It’s nothing new, of course, but when it’s done right, a hat tilt is necessary.

But the positives end there and I have no idea where to begin with the problems I have with this movie.

First of all, I’m not clear on what genre of horror this is. Is it psychological? Supernatural? Even the movie doesn’t seem to care what it is. If you saw this movie, a majority of it presents itself like a psychological horror. This is fine. Psychological horror films, when done right, can leave a huge impact on movie-goers. But here’s the problem, there’s a couple moments in the film that indicate that it’s a supernatural horror because we’re shown glimpses of a dark figure that stalks the main characters. Already, that ruins the psychological aspects. So, fine, it’s a supernatural horror. This doesn’t make much sense either because the dark entity makes no sense.

In the best monster flicks, even the monsters have some kind of motivation, a purpose to their being there. In a sense, they’re another character to the story, just with malicious actions. Jason Voorhees seeks vengeance for the cruelty wrought upon him when he was a child. Freddy Kruegar wants revenge on the kids whose parents killed him. Charles “Chucky” Lee Ray wants to implant his soul in a child so he doesn’t stay trapped in a doll’s body. The motivations are there. So what’s the story with this entity?

***SPOILERS***

***

***

If “you can’t cheat death” then is this just a Final Destination type thing? If so, I better find originality in the trashcan, and what’s taking it so long to kill these people? It has ample opportunity to kill both Jamie and Marlo, so why doesn’t it?

By the end of the film, we learn that in order to beat this malevolent force, the flatliners have to face the source of their guilt that kills them. Jamie has to apologize to the woman that he abandoned after getting her pregnant and not being by her side at the abortion clinic, Marlo has to accept the ruination of her medical career after being directly responsible for killing a man because of a horrible mistake she made and then falsifying the autopsy report to save her ass, and Sophia needs to apologize to the girl whose phone she hacked and spread around her nude pictures to the class so she could get expelled and she be at the top of her class, quite possibly doing irreparable damage to her future. Okay, there’s potential there. Here’s a list of several problems as to why this doesn’t work. For one thing, they learn how to beat this force because of a deus ex machina: Marlo is about to be consumed by the darkness before the deceased Courtney appears and tells her how to beat it. Okay, we’ve never been privy to the notion that when you die, you can interact with other dead people. But more than that, there has never been any indication to these characters that this is the solution to their problems. Because the movie knows this, a resolution had to be shoehorned in, so this is contrived and loaded with bullshit.

If the dark force is trying to warn them, “Fess up to your crimes, or I’ll kill you,” then, A, why doesn’t it just say that? And B, why is Courtney singled out as the character that must die? I definitely didn’t understand this. The whole point behind these… “hauntings,” or “visions,” whatever they are is to hint at them to face their guilt. Courtney gets a little screwed over and not in a sensible way. How can she apologize for her actions to her kid sister if she’s dead? If everyone else has a chance to set things right, how was she able to do so? And what made Courtney the one that had to die? If anyone deserved to die, it’d be Marlo. She’s the one who is directly responsible for killing a man when she had proper medical training, but screwed up because she was too tired AND THEN LIED about the results in the paperwork, essentially lying to the man’s possible family and friends just to save her career, making her the least likable character in the film. Even if she decided to go to her superiors and confess, the movie basically says that she doesn’t go to jail, but rather just implies that she can’t be a doctor anymore, which is a load of crap compared to everyone else who’s just done shitty things, but are clearly not shitty people, unlike Marlo who is. Courtney looked at her phone while driving. Careless and stupid, absolutely, but she’s not an asshole for her actions.

Speaking of motivations, the characters’ motivations are absolutely boggled too. When we’re introduced to Courtney’s experiment, she claims it’s all in the name of science. While we later learn that she’s trying to make contact with her dead sister… I assume… but when she comes back from the dead, she suddenly starts partying up, getting drunk, dancing, all that shit. Glad to see “making contact with my dead sister for closure” is so high in her list of priorities. What do you think? In the top ten somewhere? Top twenty? They only ever look at the science stuff once. After that, the whole thing is just about the thrill of dying and living life to the fullest before the dangerous shit starts up. Where’s the pursuit of science?! And this is where the movie could have grown a serious brain. Like, what does proof of the afterlife mean for science, for religion, the dangers of sharing this information with the world, this could have been a highly intellectual film, but no, it becomes a borderline college frat party movie.

Even worse, these are probably the dumbest scientists that I’ve seen in a movie in a long time (I know, they’re doctors, but when they conduct experiments that don’t really apply to the field of medical pursuit, they’re scientists, not doctors.). Why? Even a sixth grader would know that any scientist with their tits and balls records everything when conducting experiments. The successes and the failures. The failures are just as important to the pursuit of knowledge as they give you clues to where you went wrong, or what needs to be explored further, or to come to the realization that it’s a dead end and needs to be scrapped. I don’t know, but when you’re conducting experiments on documenting the afterlife, if you start seeing creepy shit and it starts screwing with you, you have to tell your fellow scientists! Because, you know, if they want to try it, the risks need to be made known to them! But no, that’s not what either Courtney or Jaime do for Marlo and Sophia. They just let the supernatural shit happen to them and not tell a single person until everyone’s in deep and their lives are threatened. Great job, you dumb-shits!

***

***

***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this is a pretty bad flick. It had some serious potential to be much smarter and poignant, but instead it submits to the norm of stupid characters making stupid decisions, giving the audience little to invest in. The acting elevates it from most of the cast, some of the visuals worked in creeping me out, and it was a gripping idea. But the execution is beyond flawed. Unfocused, loaded with tropes, and terrible writing, it’s a mess of a film. I don’t recommend this to anyone, even horror fans. I can’t imagine this legitimately scaring anyone. I don’t even recommend it as a rental. If it comes out on Netflix and there’s nothing else to watch… I don’t know, there’s still better stuff to invest in.

My honest rating for FLATLINERS (2017): a weak 3/5

flatliners-poster

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE quick review

For those not in the know, “Kingsman” is based on a comic book series of the same name. Actually, I think the original title for the comic was “The Secret Service” but changed the name to tie in better with the 2015 film. Fun fact of the day, this comic series actually takes place in the same universe as the “Kick-Ass” comic books, as they’re written by the same writer, Mark Millar. Something about Kick-Ass referencing something that took place in the Kingsman series.

But we’re not here to talk about comics. We’re here to talk about movies. The first film, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2015) was wildly popular with audiences upon its release. It shot Taron Egerton to the stars, gave us one of my personal favorite newcomers, Sofia Boutella, was over-the-top violent, had a fun cameo by Mark Hamill, and was an all around fun time for all. What did I think of it? I thought it was… mostly good. While all of what I said is true, there was one detail about the film that I absolutely hated. The Kingsman training program is, obviously, very hardcore. Few people get through it. But then the final test is to get close to a cute little dog and then shoot it. Do that, and you’re a Kingsman. This pissed me off. The Kingsman prided themselves on being spies, of course, but also being gentlemen. This implies a level of grace, coolness, confidence, class. What’s graceful, cool, confident, and classy about murdering an innocent animal? Eggsy refuses to murder his dog and he’s thrown out of the Kingsman. What sense does that make?! If the dog was trained to fight back without prejudice, then fine, you gotta defend yourself and might teach you a thing or two about trust and betrayal and learning to overcome that kind of grief of killing your friend who tried to kill you. But no, Eggsy’s dog was a cute, innocent pug. Or maybe the exercise could be this: there is no failure in this test. It’s more of a placement thing. Like, okay, you murder the dog, that means you can follow orders to the tee. Field agents need to be able to do that, making you a desirable field agent. If you don’t kill the dog, you’re still a Kingsman, but because you didn’t follow your superior’s direct order, you’re assigned to intelligence work, like Mark Strong’s character, feeding tactical information, but never on the front lines himself. You know, something like that. But no, because you didn’t murder a defenseless animal, you can’t be a gentleman spy. Fuck the Kingsman, man. I never got past this element of the movie, so I personally give it a strong 3/5. As I said, the rest of the film is a load of fun.

But now we have a sequel that I know will be better than the first one. Why? Because comic book sequels have a tendency to be better than their predecessors. Plus, I’m sure there’s not going to be any more “dog murdering” bullshit to piss me off. This movie looks like it’s about the Kingsman getting wiped out by a terrorist organization and it’s up to Eggsy and Merlin, the two surviving Kingsman to work with their American cousins, the Statesman, to bring down this terrorist. As per usual, it looks fun, inventive, and bad-ass. So sign me up, bitches!

Here’s the onscreen talent. Starring, we have Taron Egerton (SING [2016], EDDIE THE EAGLE [2016], LEGEND [2015], and the upcoming ROBIN HOOD [2018]), Julianne Moore (THE HUNGER GAMES: THE MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 [2015], STILL ALICE [2014], BENNY & JOON [1993], and upcoming films WONDERSTRUCK [2017] and SUBURBICON [2017]), Mark Strong (MISS SLOANE [2016], JOHN CARTER [2012], and STARDUST [2007]), and Channing Tatum (LOGAN LUCKY [2017], THE EAGLE [2011], COACH CARTER [2005], and upcoming films with no release dates announced, GAMBIT and VAN HELSING). In support, we have Halle Berry (KIDNAP [2017], PERFECT STRANGER [2007], EXECUTIVE DECISION [1996]), Jeff Bridges (THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK [2017], SURF’S UP [2007], TRON [1982], and the upcoming ONLY THE BRAVE [2017]), Elton John (THE ROAD TO EL DORADO [2000], SPICE WORLD [1997], and 1 episode of TV show NASHVILLE [2012 – 2018]), Michael Gambon (HAIL, CAESAR! [2016], THE KING’S SPEECH [2010], HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN [2004], and the upcoming VICTORIA & ABDUL [2017]), and Colin Firth (BRIDGET JONES’S BABY [2016], NANNY MCPHEE [2005], SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE [1998], and upcoming films MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN [2018] and MARY POPPINS RETURNS [2018]).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Matthew Vaughn, known for KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2015), X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011), STARDUST (2007), and the upcoming KINGSMAN 3, no release date announced. Co-writing the screenplay is Jane Goldman, known for MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (2016), X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, STARDUST, and the upcoming KINGSMAN 3. Co-composing the score are Henry Jackman (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], CAPTAIN PHILLIPS [2013], MONSTERS VS. ALIENS [2009], and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]) and Matthew Margeson (RINGS [2017], KICK-ASS 2 [2013], and SKYLINE [2010]). Finally, the cinematographer is George Richmond, known for EDDIE THE EAGLE, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, and the upcoming TOMB RAIDER (2018).

Overall, I’m excited for this. Not out of my mind, but I’m pretty hyped.

This is my honest opinion of: KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

(SUMMARY)

The Golden Circle is the largest drug cartel in the world and no one knows that it’s ran by the nefarious Poppy (Julianne Moore). She, of course, wants to hold America hostage to legalize all drugs or she won’t give up the antidote to her latest drug, which has been secretly inserted in nearly every single drug that the common person can get, which is millions. But before all that, she gets rid of the only people that she knows can get in her way: the Kingsman. Effectively wiping out all of the Kingsman, with the notable exceptions of Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong). Desperate to find help, they seek it in the form of their organization’s American cousins, the Statesmen.

(QUICK REVIEW)

Meh, it’s not bad. Not as good as the first one, but not bad.

What I liked: Moore is usually a welcomed sight in anything that she’s in, so to see her as the villain in a movie like this was a kind of shock. But as far as that’s concerned, she was a lot of fun. Hell, her intro scene is having a dude send another dude through a meat grinder and makes a burger out of him and then makes the dude try a bite. It’s pretty fucked up, but I enjoyed how deliciously sinister she was (no pun, intended, but I’m taking credit for it anyway, so…. pun intended). And I think it’s hilarious that she kidnapped Elton John for her personal amusement, who is also really funny in the film. Kind of wished we saw more of her robotic creations doing shit, but the dogs were enough, I guess.

The comedy is still there, Egerton is charming as always, as are Firth and Strong. There is a sense of fun about the film, so it’s not boring, thank God. The action is awesome and delightfully violent, and pretty creative for the most part. I’ll never get tired of seeing Whiskey’s (Pedro Pascal) laser whip. Now Star Wars can’t put a monopoly on that idea.

But now for the negatives. Despite some solid talent, like Berry, Bridges, Tatum, they’re barely in the film, or barely contribute to the story, making you wonder why they were even in it at all. Which is pretty manipulative because a lot of the marketing surrounds these characters. I didn’t like how the movie kills off the entire Kingsman organization in its second movie. I mean, wouldn’t it be better to see Eggsy and his team take down a rival organization at their peak power to really showcase their tech, their intel, and their bad-assness? Why kill them off in the second film? I don’t get it. The subplot of Eggsy and his girlfriend Tilde (Hanna Alström) is a little annoying. He’s a spy, of course he’s going to be faced with situations of seduction. How would she not know that?

And fine, let’s talk about that controversial sex scene. Honestly, I thought because Poppy (Moore) created a female robot that does the Golden Circle tattoo thing, I figured that the sex scene would be about the robot fucking a dude or something weird like that. But nope, it’s about Eggsy fingering some blond girl who is the girlfriend to Poppy’s main henchman with a tracking device shaped like a condom that he’s supposed to shove up her vagina. Honestly, maybe I’m just a guy about it, but it took me a good minute to figure out at the end of the movie that this was the big ole controversy. I mean, it’s not overly graphic in the fingering, and technically does serve the plot of the story and carries dramatic weight, albeit in the subplot that I barely cared about. But the more I thought about it, yeah, this was unnecessary. A tiny tracking device can be placed anywhere and didn’t need to be implemented like this.

Overall, yeah, not quite as good as the first film, but it’s alright. If you’re a fan of the first one, I can’t imagine you feeling betrayed or not having fun with it. But I do recommend toning down your high expectations if you have them.

My honest rating for KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE: 3/5

kingsmanposter_0

NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (1984) review

For those of you not in the know, I’m generally not an anime fan. Not because I have something against the artform or anything, but rather it was just something I wasn’t quite into as a kid. Sure, I enjoyed me some DRAGONBALL Z (1996 – 2003), ROROUNI KENSHIN (1996 – 1998), Pokemon (1997 – ongoing), a little bit of YU YU KAKUSHO (1992 – 1995), but very little beyond them. So with this in mind, it’s a safe bet to assume that I’m not the biggest Studio Ghibli fan. In fact, the only one I’ve ever seen was MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988). Nope, I’ve never seen PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997), or SPIRITED AWAY (2001), none of them. But ever since watching Youtube’s Nostalgia Critic dedicating a month of expressing his opinions of Ghibli’s work, I’ve been more than interested in hopping onto the band wagon, if only because their films are so celebrated among the animation-junkie community.

As for this current film, it seems like this is somewhat a slightly debated film over whether or not it’s truly a Ghibli film. Why? As I understand it, Ghibli was established in 1985, but NAUSICAÄ came out in ‘84. But if I had a guess, this film still had the same artists attached, specifically Hayao Miyazaki, considered to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest anime artists of all time, so even if it’s not technically a Ghibli film, it’s still considered one.

The story of NAUSICAÄ looks like it’s about this young girl in the middle of a war between humans and giant insects vying for control over the last of this post-apocalyptic world’s last remaining natural resources and she’s trying to put a stop to the carnage. If I were to hazard a guess, it’s a take on the whole “appearances can be deceiving” type of story, making the insects look like monsters, but learning that they’re just beings trying to making their own way in the world, and the humans are the real enemies. Or because of this being a Ghibli production, maybe there won’t be specific villains. I don’t know, but it looks like it could be pretty good.

Directing and writing the film is the legendary champion of animation himself, Hayao Miyazaki, also known for THE WIND RISES (2013), PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997), and THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO (1979).

Overall, bring it on. Show me something great, y’all. I’m ready!

This is my honest opinion of: NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (1984)

(SUMMARY)

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, 1,000 in the future, covered in the wasteland known as the Sea of Decay. Nausicaä (voiced by Sumi Shimamoto) is the young Princess of the Valley of the Wind, a small, but peaceful land of farmers just trying to get by in their world. But the peace doesn’t last long when a Tolmekian aircraft, a neighboring militaristic land, crashes, holding the fleshy pod of a developing Giant Warrior, a long dead ancient race believed to be one of the major causes of the end of the world. But the Tolmekian Princess Kushana (voiced by Yoshiko Sakakibara) and her army invades the Valley of the Wind for control of the Giant Warrior and intend to use its great power to wipe out the giant insects that live in the Sea of Decay and restore life to it’s former beauty.

(REVIEW)

This was an impressive film and I really liked it. I can’t say that I love it, but I am so happy I got to see this.

Already, this movie had me at hello. I’m a general sucker for post-apocalyptic stories. Even though this is a pretty… pretty apocalypse… weird, but whatever. If I give this movie any credit is that its beauty is worth the price of admission alone. The movie’s animation is stunning, particularly the scenes when Nausicaä is flying on her glider, those are particularly breath-taking and fun to watch. It’s kind of like watching the precursor to HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON’s flying scenes. You just feel the speed and your heart drops like the sheer velocity is pressing into your chest, it’s fantastic. Although, I might argue that this is more impressive because it’s still hand-drawn animation rather than computers. Major credit for animation department.

But if there’s anything that truly blew me away was the titular character herself, Nausicaä, herself. This is how you write a great character. She’s interesting, she’s sympathetic, and she’s bad-ass. To top it all off, she’s a princess. Why does that matter? Far too often, I see princesses hold the title, but do very little with it, making the title utterly pointless. But Nausicaä, she’s active like it’s nobody’s business. Her opening sequence, when you really think about it, gives you a wonderful sense of her bravery right there and then. She’s venturing into the Sea of Decay, collecting plant samples. By the way, I totally see it now, Rey’s introduction in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015) was totally inspired by Nausicaä’s intro here. Masked, alone, venturing in a dangerous environment in the name of survival, though I think I prefer Rey’s intro much better. Either way, that doesn’t mean Nausicaä’s is bad.

But back on track, she also collects pieces of Ohm shells for her village to use, and then almost immediately gets sucked into an action scene. An Ohm is chasing a wandering man and she’s doesn’t try to kill the Ohm. Rather, she tries to calm it down and give it incentive to go back to its forest and succeeds. While I can see some argue that she’s a little too perfect because she loves everything, I think that’s one of her most endearing aspects and what makes her journey all the more engaging and even heart-breaking. And when I say she loves everything, I mean everything. People, plants, animals, she loves and cherishes all of them, no matter how grotesque and monstrous they look, and yeah, these Ohms and other insects are freaky as all hell. Personally, I’d have killed them with violence without batting an eyelash, but that’s why I’m not the star of a movie, or a particularly interesting character.

Having said how much she values all life, she’s not an annoying pacifist either. Early on, Tolmekian soldiers invade her family castle and kill her father, the king, and she naturally goes into a rage and fights quite a few soldiers in her way. And she isn’t really bested in combat either. They take their swings, but Nausicaä proves that she’s a capable warrior herself. The only reason she stops is because her dear family friend Lord Yupa (voiced by Gorô Naya) stops the opposing sides from fighting, and later on, we learn how Nausicaä regrets fighting back, having let her rage get the better of her. And she never loses her determination or integrity as the story progresses. Even when Kushana forces Nausicaä and a handful of her people to be hostages… not quite sure I understood this subplot much… come under attack by an enemy gunship and their aircraft is going down in flames, Nausicaä refuses to let Kushana die and saves her life, even if it’s against her better judgment.

And to cap off my gushing over her, Nausicaä is so quick thinking that no matter what situation she’s in, she finds a way to either escape, or diffuse the danger. A couple times in the beginning, she manages to calm down several insects from attacking and creating a situation worse for everyone. But later on, her ability to survive several perilous situations is always awesome to watch. Several aircrafts go down with her on them and she barely gets hurt ever. Or, she’s directing people to find shelter, never giving herself a second to figure out what’s going on, she just commands people to go to safety and heads straight into danger. She’s sure reckless, but it works for her character and it’s hard to argue results when she comes out alive. Nausicaä might just be my favorite princess of all time. Hey, since Disney re-released Miyazaki’s films with English dubs, does that make her a Disney princess? Because then I’m calling her my favorite Disney princess! I love her iron-will, her connection to everything and everyone around her, and I love her heart.

And the structure of the story, by God, this was beyond refreshing. Leave it to foreign cinema to school American storytelling in how to make a story that you can’t predict. I mean, usually when I watch a movie, the story can be good enough to distract me from acting like a prophet and predicting how the scenes will go, even if it may be obvious if you took a few seconds to think about it. But this movie… I really had no idea what was going to happen. Who was going to die, what the world would reveal, what the characters were going to choose, this movie is beyond wow in that regard.

One of my favorite subtle things that I noticed was how many of the airships in the movie look like the flying insects of the world. I guess that makes sense since you don’t see any birds in the movie, but… I gotta ask, why aren’t they modeled after birds? They tend to be an insect’s natural predator and they do reference birds in passing conversation, so… question mark, but whatever, still liked it. And speaking of designs, I kind of enjoyed the costumes the people wore. They seemed pretty reminiscent of medieval garbs and cloaks. I guess that makes sense. Princesses, kings, castles, I probably shouldn’t be surprised.

Oh, and I want a fox-squirrel for a pet. If we can clone a sheep, we can splice the genes of a fox and a squirrel. Get on it, science! I has demands that must be met!

But as much as I can gush about this film, there are unfortunately some issues I take with it. Many consider this this one of the anime films you show someone who thinks that anime is just another cartoon for kids. And while I mostly agree with that, this movie is mature, dark, and intense, there are sadly a couple elements that work against that statement. It’s probably not a good thing to dwell on them, but they stick out like a sore thumb to me: there’s some obvious over-explainy dialog in the beginning and end of the film. In the beginning, when Nausicaä is in that cave with the Ohm shell, collecting the plant samples, and ripping out that eye socket thing, she has a line when she’s talking to herself that goes something like, “The pollen is poisonous; would kill anyone in seconds without a mask.” Um… I know she’s just talking to herself, but it’s not her first venture out into the Sea, so there’s no reason to say that to herself. It’s meant for the audience, yeah I know, but she’s not talking to the audience, she talking to no one. And besides, the mask sort of gives the impression that anything in the Sea is deadly, including the pollen. So… not necessary to narrate out loud. I’ll get to the ending bit that bugged me in the spoiler section.

And gunships are way overpowered in this world. I mean seriously, one tiny gunship manages to take down a huge airship, peppering it with very little ammo, jeez. I mean, sure, I give a single X-Wing fighter can take down the Death Star a huge pass, but then again, the Death Star had a weakness. A lame weakness, but a weakness. These airships don’t.

***SPOILERS***

***

***

And in the end, when Nausicaä is brought back to life by the Ohm, and Obaba (voice by Hisako Kyôda) watching it happen, she says something like, “The friendship, the connection they share, oh it’s so beautiful.” Ugh, come on! My eyes work, yo! I can see the beauty of her actions and what they meant to the Ohm. I didn’t need that spelled out!

Oh, and that damned Giant Warrior. For such a huge build up for its awesome power, probably one of the major reasons why the world ended, and everyone’s actions revolving around releasing it upon the Sea or leaving it dormant in its pod, this is probably the biggest letdown of the film. When Kushana unleashes it on the stampeding Ohms, the Giant fires two death blasts and then melts away. It probably has a grand total of five minutes worth of screen time. You could literally cut this out from the entire movie and it would have flowed much better. Leave it as some ambiguous part of the world’s mythos, or save it for a sequel. The angry Ohms, the Tolmekian brutality, the film’s enemies seem pretty well-defined without the use of a giant monster that ultimately serves no purpose.

***

***

***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this was a fantastic film. For Miyazaki’s second film, this was ambitious and it pays off huge. Consider me a fan because I would love to see more of his work in the future. Fathom Events, don’t fail me now. I want more. There’s a few problems that I have with this movie here and there, but they don’t cripple it too badly. I think if you’ve been averted from seeing anime films, give this a watch. Maybe it’ll change your mind, maybe it won’t, but it’ll leave you with the impression that there’s more to anime than stuff like Pokemon and Hello Kitty. It sure is a wonder to behold. Beautiful animation, a great protagonist, its giant scale, it’s one for the ages and I couldn’t recommend it more.

My honest rating for NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (1984): a strong 4/5

nausicaaposter

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (3D) [1991] review

Oh god, here comes the absolute WORST of the Terminator films… said NO ONE, EVER!!! Holy shit, and I almost forgot that this was coming out!

Heads up for those who haven’t seen this movie. First off, SHAME ON YOU!!! Second, I’ll be talking spoilers, so if you have an interest in seeing this movies and you don’t know the twists and turns, then don’t read any further. But seriously, get on it. The first two films are classics.

I have been a fan of the Terminator franchise for as long as I can remember. THE TERMINATOR (1984) may not always hold up in its special effects or score department, nor does Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hair-do, but it’s a horror classic and it was slick and cool. A sci-fi grim reaper… man, James Cameron had fucking vision and it paid off incredibly well.

I’ll nerdgasm about T2 in a minute, but the impact from its successors have been… lackluster. Let me be clear, I do actually enjoy TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003) and TERMINATOR: SALVATION (2009), but even I know that these movies are no JUDGMENT DAY. TERMINATOR 3 threw away a perfectly great and ambiguous ending that JUDGMENT DAY provided and its own ending was almost bleak. Plus, they also got rid of John Connor’s pluck and determination. Some will argue that the ending is actually what saved the film, and I agree, not to mention that it was great to see Schwarzenegger back as the Terminator who didn’t miss a beat, and I really did like Kristanna Loken as the TX, but there are too many aspects that felt both forced and unnecessary. While it’s been awhile since I’ve seen SALVATION, I remember loving Christian Bale as John Connor, but finding Sam Worthington’s character a bit unnecessary and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Kate Connor to be criminally useless as well. But I loved the post-apocalyptic setting and the late Anton Yelchin (may he rest in peace) as Kyle Reese was pretty good too. But why did director McG proclaim this as a prequel to THE TERMINATOR? Who the hell would have pieced that together, especially in a franchise leaning heavily on time travel?

But how about the best of the franchise, GENISYS (2015)? Yes, I’m kidding. But I do have to confess, I didn’t hate this movie either. Obviously, it’s the weakest of the franchise and by all accounts, not good. While I blame that on the marketing more than anything, it’s hard to deny how poorly written and constructed it was. Making John Connor a bad guy? Excuse me, while I wipe that spit off my face. But not even that, they made him essentially a T-1000, but nano-bot version. He operates like a T-1000, can shape-shift, and regenerate damage. So yeah, T-1000. The nano-tech is just an aesthetic, nothing concrete that affects anything. But all that said, I enjoyed Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor. She’s no Linda Hamilton, of course, but this was a different interpretation of the character and I thought she did fine. I loved Pops versus the original T-800, and I thought the recreation of Kyle’s arrival in the past was pretty well-done. But yeah, this wasn’t a good film. I guess it was easier for me to separate from this from the official canon because… well, shit, JUDGMENT DAY is still king and trumps whatever retconning GENISYS was attempting and failing at.

But here isn’t the best place to talk about JUDGMENT DAY. All I can say is that because this film came out when I was two years old, I was never able to see it in theaters. There must be a God because I’ve been graced with this opportunity and I do not intend to miss out. Even if it is in headache-inducing 3D. I’m not going in for the three dimensions. I’m going because it’s TERMINATOR 2 in the cinemas, bitches!

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Arnold Schwarzengger (TERMINATOR: GENISYS [2015], THE EXPENDABLES 2 [2012], JINGLE ALL THE WAY [1996], and the upcoming AFTERMATH [2017]), Linda Hamilton (DANTE’S PEAK [1996], CHILDREN OF THE CORN [1984], and TV show CHUCK [2007 – 2012]), Edward Furlong (THE GREEN HORNET [2011], THE CROW: WICKED PRAYER [2005], and AMERICAN HISTORY X [1998]), and Robert Patrick (BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA [2007], WALK THE LINE [2005], and TV show SCORPION [2014 – ongoing]). In support, we have Earl Boen (TERMINATOR 3 [2003], THE SCORPION KING [2002], and video game PSYCHONAUGHTS [2005]), Joe Morton (BATMAN V SUPERMAN [2016], AMERICAN GANGSTER [2007], and SPEED [1994]), and Jenette Goldstein (CLOCKSTOPPERS [2002], LETHAL WEAPON [1989], and ALIENS [1986]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is the great (and possibly difficult) James Cameron, known for AVATAR (2009), GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS (2003), and TITANIC (1997). Co-writing the script is William Wisher Jr., known for THE 13TH WAR (1995), JUDGE DREDD (1995), and THE TERMINATOR (1984). Composing the score is Brad Fiedel, known for TIMECOP (1997), JOHNNY MNEMONIC (1995), and TRUE LIES (1994). Finally, the cinematographer is Adam Greenberg, known for SNAKES ON A PLANE (2006), THE SANTA CLAUSE 2 (2002), and GHOST (1990).

Overall, my plans are set and I’m seeing this shit.

This is my honest opinion of: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY 3D

(SUMMARY)

In the year 2029, the human race survived a nuclear holocaust only to face a new nightmare: Skynet, the sentient computer system that destroyed the world and wages a never-ending war against John Connor and his Resistance. Using a time machine, Skynet sends back an advanced machine to kill the ten-year-old John Connor (Edward Furlong) back in the year 1995 before he gets a chance to become the great military leader he’s fated to become. In turn, the Resistance also sends a lone warrior to protect him.

(REVIEW)

Oh what do you think I’m going to say? This movie holds up unbelievably well. Okay, yeah, the visual effects for the T-1000 are a little dated, but honestly, it’s still such a cool and iconic sci-fi villain that it doesn’t matter in the least.

That opening scene with Hamilton’s narration and that big action scene between the Resistance and the machines never gets old. Despite lasting probably about two minutes, it’s so intense and action-packed, and somehow significantly more memorable than the entirety of SALVATION. Lasers flying everywhere, the T-800s that are physically there, dual wielding phased plasma rifles, likely in the 40-watt range (bonus points if you chuckled at my reference). Let me say that again, the T-800 Terminators were really there! They were really built! Practical effects! It’s such a dying art that you barely see it anymore. The closest we get to a machine-person that wasn’t completely CGI was EX-MACHINA (2015), and she still had more human flesh surrounding her. By the way, now that it’s in my head, Alicia Vikander as a Terminator. Alicia… Vikerminator? Terminander? Someone be more clever than me.

In fact, this is probably one of the more important reasons why this movie holds up so well. Because of our advancements in CG, most movies of this caliber are completely dependent on computers doing everything. Hell, even James Cameron himself has conformed to it with AVATAR. But even then, he did it with motion capture that kind of set its own precedence with how good the effects looked. Hell, the best that modern day films can muster is an impressive combination of special effects as well as practical, like THE AVENGERS (2012), which did both. Maybe indie films who dedicate their time to the practical stuff will do it for the sake of classic filmmaking, but it’s a dying art. Of course this movie wasn’t devoid of CG, the T-1000 was, but it’s so rarely seen. Even to this very day, the Terminator cutting the skin of his arm and ripping it off to show his skeletal machine-arm still gives me both the chills and my deepest admiration in not knowing how the fuck they did it.

And how about that score from Fiedel? Still iconic as ever and still stuck in my head.

Ha! And the Terminator’s intro at the bar scene. I mean, how much fun was that?! He just walks in, you’ve got this chick staring happily at a naked Arnold, a few others gasping, and a few others just confused. Walks up to the biker dude and is just… “I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle,” prompted by laughter. Question, wouldn’t the boots be considered clothing? Eh, whatever. Then Arnold throws the man into the kitchen and on a burning stove. You know in any other action movie, his line would be, “You’re toast!” But nope, just some staring… and then… “Baaaad to the bone.” The most perfect intro for Schwarzenegger in film history.

And the T-1000. Patrick is just as intimidating as Schwarzenegger. Actually, he’s more impressively intimidating because he’s not as bulky as his T-800 counterpart. But because he’s even more silent, advanced, and less destructible… man, that is one machine that I wouldn’t want after me. But more disturbing than just the thing’s presence, there’s also a haunting realization that the machines are advancing and testing, a serious testament to how smart Skynet really is. They’re learning creativity. I mean, liquid metal? Shit, man…

Now let’s talk about John Connor. Kid characters, when you really think about them, are tricky to write well. They tend to either be ungodly annoying, or… well, John Connor. Especially these days, where kids are written as products of the time, but have no interesting character to them. Cameron doesn’t do that with John. One of my favorite ways for characters to be written is that you’re supposed to hate them at first glance. I mean, he’s a delinquent, refuses to listen to his foster parents, is pretty nasty about his lack of relation to them, “She’s not my mother, Todd,” steals a credit card to steal money to go play at the local arcade, it’s pretty easy to not like the kid. But it doesn’t take long for the audience to understand why he acts like he does. Over time, we learn how he was raised by his mom that in the future, he’s this great military leader who will save humanity. I mean, in the movie’s present, he’s ten years old. That’s still a good age to be soaking in what you are lead to believe are facts. He grew up around guns, electronics, a ton of other things that no other kid would. But then one day, his mom gets arrested after trying to blow up Cyberdyne and thrown in a mental institution, which is when John is told that everything is a lie. We obviously know it’s not, but because of this “revelation,” and his mom being labeled as insane, is anyone surprised by his choices? Kid’s got no parents, Janelle and Todd are likely not the first foster parents he’s had, so of course he’d do the things he does.

It’s only when he gets a face-full of the truth where the best aspects of his character start coming through. He doesn’t reject it. In fact, he comes to the realization really quickly when you think about it. After the harrowing chase with the T-800 and 1000, he tells the 800 to stop the bike and almost immediately puts two and two together. This is all happening in the span of less than an hour. He doesn’t freak out, break down, more than anything, he just needs an adjustment period. And once the truth has settled in nicely, his first reaction is go save his mom from the institute. The only person who truly knew what was going on before he did.

Now for arguably one of the greatest female characters ever written. Sarah Connor, arguably the only character in cinematic history who is haunted by her future, not her past. That’s an interesting twist. Oh fine, we’ve had the age-old tale of Ebenzer Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol” who is haunted by all aspects of time, past, present, and future, but if you wanted the penultimate character who is only haunted by the future, Sarah Connor is the character to end all characters of this type. Give John some credit, he was raised to be a bad-ass and proved to be one at ten years old. Sarah was a young woman, a waitress at a diner, and wasn’t really that good at her job. She was mild-mannered, going on dates, just a normal girl. But then a killer machine from the future tries to kill her, a soldier knocks her up, and she knows that the future is coming and she wants desperately to prevent it. Even before she’s introduced in her cell, looking like she could go into a boxing match with Schwarzenegger and hold her own, we can already tell she was trying to stop the future and make the world a better place for her son. At least, that’s what we can assume. But things went south and now she’s locked up, trying to escape and get back to trying to save the future, only to be thwarted at every turn. Even when she escapes, she’s not an easy woman to root for. She’s cold toward John, doesn’t even hug him, but rather checks his body for wounds. She doesn’t even express relief to be reunited with him. Granted, she’s not happy with being face to face with the exact same Terminator that tried to kill her and successfully killed her son’s father (okay, it’s just the same face, not the same machine), but still, it should be pretty obvious that if it was there to kill John, it’s had plenty of opportunities to do just that. She remains distant of him pretty much until she tries to kill Miles Dyson.

Speaking of which, I love that aspect of the scene too. I mean, yeah, after that we have Arnold ripping off his skin to show machine-arm, but simply for her actions and its resolution. She learns of how Miles is directly responsible for Skynet’s development, so it stands to reason that killing him will prevent the future from happening. She grabs some guns and sets out to kill him. Even when she pulls the trigger and misses several times, she doesn’t go through with killing him. My interpretation is probably an obvious one, but it’s in that moment when she’s looking into his eyes, telling him “it’s all your fault,” and his simple response is, “what” she realizes that she’s about to kill a man who has no idea what’s going on. But more than that, she’s also realizing that she’s about to kill someone with no intention of bargaining, or reasoning, without pity, remorse, or fear, and no intentions of stopping… gee, that doesn’t sound familiar in the least! She was about to become the very thing she was fighting and it’s such a defining moment for the character that there are lines as humans that we shouldn’t cross. No matter what the future holds, we can’t lose our humanity in the process, otherwise, what’s left to fight for?

At the end of the day, this is a modern day classic. Even in another twenty-something years, when the effects are laughably dated, this film will stand the test of time. Even for an action movie, it’s a beautiful film about the exploration of humanity’s value. It’s an all-encompassing story, full of action, emotion, meaning, bad-assery, just like any other great and timeless film. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor, and make the time. It’s beyond fantastic. It’s truly one of those movies that you need to see before you die. It’s a work of art.

My honest rating for TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (3D) [1991]: 5/5

t2poster

INHUMANS (1st Chapter) review

Before seeing this… first chapter, I guess I should call it, I only knew a handful of things regarding the Inhumans. Specifically, I knew a movie was in the works before the TV show become the new reality. Beyond that, nothing. I assumed they were alien mutants or something and the redhead seriously reminds me of DC’s Starfire. Long red hair, purple get-up, the aesthetic was pretty hard not to draw a comparison. In any case, like I said, didn’t know much. But I’m a fan of anything superhero. The TV shows, like AGENTS OF SHIELD (2013 – ongoing) I’ve drifted away from in favor of the Netflix ports. Though to be honest, if these first two or three episodes didn’t get released in theaters, I probably wouldn’t have checked out this show. Too many movies to watch. It’s hard for me to get into TV anymore.

With that said, this was an opportunity to see if I wanted to see what this had in store for me. The show sounded like it was about this group of superhuman called the “family” and get torn apart and must reunite. I hadn’t seen any trailers or, obviously since I don’t watch much TV anymore, any TV spots, so I can’t say that I had any expectations going in, other than witnessing what a TV show looks like without the obvious cuts to a commercial.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Anson Mount (MR. RIGHT [2015], NON-STOP [2014], and CROSSROADS [2002]), Iwan Rheon (TV show GAME OF THRONES [2011 – ongoing]), Serinda Swan (PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF [2010]), Eme Ikwuakor (a ton of TV shows), and Ken Leung (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], X-MEN: THE LAST STAND [2006], and TV show LOST [2004 – 2010]).

Now for the crew. The series composer is Sean Callery, known for TV shows JESSICA JONES (2015 – ongoing), BONES (2005 – 2017), and LA FEMME NIKITA (1997 – 2001). Finally, the series cinematographer is Jeff Jur, known for MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (2002), JOY RIDE (2001), and DIRTY DANCING (1987).

Overall, interested, but not stoked.

This is my honest opinion of: INHUMANS

(SUMMARY)

The Inhumans are a group of super-powered people who have managed to construct themselves a home on Earth’s moon, called Attilan, hidden away from humans who have only acted violently to their kind. The Inhumans are ruled benevolently by their King Blackbolt (Anson Mount) and his beloved Queen Medusa (Serinda Swan). They rule alongside their Royal Family in relative peace. Most recently, however, one of their family, Triton (Mike Moh), is attacked by humans and thought to be killed. Blackbolts younger human brother Maximus (Iwan Rheon) wants to take Attilan’s armies and invade Earth, what he believes is their rightful home. But Blackbolt doesn’t want to go to war with Earth and instead doesn’t believe Triton isn’t dead, sending the sarcastic but lovable Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor) to Earth to find him. But Maximus’ patience is at its breaking point and organizes a coup. Medusa’s sister Crystal (Isabelle Cornish) manages to think fast enough to use her giant mutant dog Lockjaw to teleport her family to Earth to save them, while she is held captive. The Family is unfortunately separated and now must reunite while also dealing with the inhabitants and evading Maximus’ wrath.

(REVIEW)

It’s… *sigh* it’s not very good. Which is a shame because I really could have used an excuse to get back into Marvel TV. Instead, I’m only given more reasons to stick to the films.

The issue: the villain, and by extension, its heroes. Let’s start with the villain first. Maximus is not intimidating in the slightest. From the moment he’s introduced, he’s obviously that guy who is going to disagree constantly with the characters in charge and take matters into his own hands. You know what a character like that is? A whiny brat. I look at Maximus and I would rather put him over my knee and spank him. I know he’s supposed to be this sort of leader for the lower class of Attilan, and his purpose is to take Earth so they can forge a less subservient future, but because all of his complaining toward the Family, it never truly feels like he’s ever doing anything other than seizing power for himself. Furthermore, since he’s completely powerless, Maximus has to use clever a subtle tactics to be able to sway so many of the Royal Guards to his ideals, but we never get that out of him either. If the audience can’t see how manipulative, or clever he can be, there’s no reason to see him as a legitimate threat. And what’s with his creepy fetish for Medusa? Like, is this dude certifiably insane? He makes comments when he’s taking power like, “I wouldn’t treat you the way Blackbolt does.” Um… he treats her very lovingly and they have trust and are respectful of each other and their decisions. What a… monster? I never saw Blackbolt treat Medusa like an inferior ever. So here’s all I know about Maximus: he’s a whiny dip-shit and he’s a creeper. This is not how you write a compelling villain!

***SPOILERS***

***

***

You know what? Now that I’m thinking about it, Maximus is basically just a discount Loki. Really think about it, he lives on another planet, in a Royal family who is not destined for the throne, hates his older brother and jealous of his power, works with the enemies in secret, and attempts to usurp power, and serves as a defacto leader while the real leader is out of commission.

You see the problem here?! It’s basically “Thor: the television series.” On top of its infuriatingly incompetent characters, the movie doesn’t have an original bone in its body, and it’s ripping from a movie that I think is legitimately good.

***

***

***END SPOILERS***

By extension, the Family is beaten by this guy?! This weasel of a person managed to outsmart a king and queen, the captain of the Royal Guard, and a dude who can predict outcomes of his choices, and they all managed to get their asses handed to them? In positions of power, sniveling assholes will who disagree with their benevolent leaders will always take it away. Maybe the Family was so close that no one truly thought this would happen, but once again, we’re not shown any legit connection between the characters. Our introduction to them is how they disagree with one another and bicker. How did this Family seriously not have their suspicions that this would happen? If they can be outsmarted like this, how am I supposed to care about their moon kingdom? I have zero investment in any character.

There’s also a bunch of other things that feel like they’re unnecessary. Like, I guess when you’re an inhuman, you aren’t born one until you’re both “of age” and you go into this gas chamber-looking thing… they insert a crystal which turns into a gas, and then you get your powers that way…? Why does that have to be so complicated? Why can’t an inhuman just be an inhuman and they get their powers naturally? Why does it have to be so… technical? And why does Medusa take getting her hair cut off so personally? I mean, okay, I get it. It’s her power: deadly hair. Therefore, makes sense, cutting it off makes her somewhat defenseless. But she’s acting like her hair is her murdered baby. She’s absolutely traumatized. But we later learn that she’s not completely defenseless and knows how to fight back with her bare hands. Plus… hair grows back. Maybe it’d take a long time, fine, but how much longer? Even at normal length, it looks like she can extend her locks, so I doubt she needs a shit ton of hair to get her back into fighting form. And even the action scenes are stale. We finally get situations where Blackbolt can use his powers, but he doesn’t use them. Even when an actual fight breaks out, there is way too much slow-mo and feels like it’s an episode of Power Rangers. There’s no real bite to the hits.

Is there anything that I did like? Well… I suppose for the most part, the acting is pretty good, specifically with Mount. Since his character can’t speak without vaporizing his loved ones and everything around him, he has to rely purely on his expressions and hand gestures (is that actual sign language?). His expressions read pretty clear and there’s even some solid humorous reaction shots of him. I also enjoyed Leung as Karnak, who is this overly smart guy and is so brutally honest that he’s kind of amazing. His loss of powers on Earth, while senseless, feels much more urgent to his character because he relies on his ability to see into the near future to survive deadly encounters, making his situation much easier to empathize with.

With all that said, none of what I saw in these first couple episodes are enough for me to take time out of my day to watch the rest of the show in length. I’m predicting a crap ton of fish-out-of-water stuff that’s tedious and annoying, more boring fight sequences, and a never ending scream at my TV any time Maximus shows up. There’s better shows to watch and even better superhero shows. For me, this is a hard pass, I do not recommend this to anyone, and I don’t see this show being successful. My guess, it’ll last one season, but that’s it.

My honest rating for INHUMANS: a weak 3/5

inhumans-poster-2