Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Streaming Spotlight: In the Loop – Movie Review

It’s good to know satire about political dysfunction is always topical.

In the Loop starring Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi, Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky, Mimi Kennedy, James Gandolfini, and directed by Armando Iannucci. In the Loop is a political satire about the leadup to a war between the United States and an unnamed Middle Eastern country. This 2009 film is obviously meant to make fun of the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The movie is fast paced and extremely well written. I had a smile on my face for the duration of the film. Fans of Veep should check out the movie because it has the same vibe, probably since the director was the creator and showrunner for the first four seasons of the show.

The writing of the script is the star of the film. It is fast paced and if you blink you might miss a quip or sarcastic phrase meant to poke fun at a character or situation. Not one single main character in the film is likeable in the end. Each is horrible in one form or another, and are only looking out for themselves in the end. It’s what makes politicians and those who work for them so loathed by the general public. These individuals are only looking out to extend their careers, instead of doing what is right. When they do make a stand in the film it is only because they have been backed into a corner or it serves their political end game. The movie perfectly captures this aspect of the characters and the decisions they make forces the story into hilarity. The planning for the war is founded on lunacy. The story has the perfect amount of satirical whimsy and it’s not a stretch to think some of these hyperbolic scenarios happen to a lesser extent in real life.

While each character in the film is reprehensible the performances are fantastic. Peter Capaldi as the foul-mouthed communications secretary steals the movie. His tirades are hilarious and perfectly integrated into the movie. The way his character maneuvers within the story is also well done. When he is on the ropes politically in the film he finds a way to weasel out and come out on top, or just to save his skin. What he does is horrible, but it works for the movie. Chris Addison and Anna Chlumsky are the main staffers to the politicians in the film. They are trying to move up or just keep their bosses in line so they continue to have a job. Neither of them in the long run is very likeable due to their actions, but they are probably the most relatable and sane characters in the film. The other standout is James Gandolfini who has a smaller role but he steals the screen every time he is in a scene. His character doesn’t want to go to war, but still talks tough to those around him. His one scene with Peter Capaldi was the highlight of the film. Tom Hollander is an actor I’ve started to notice pop up with more frequency lately. He’s great in everything I’ve seen and he was good as the bumbling politician who can’t seem to get out of his own way. The movie truly is an ensemble film with nearly everyone doing a great job.

The only downside to the movie is some of the jokes fall flat, and their might have been just a few too many clever insults in the story. They never get tiresome, some just don’t land as well as others do in the film. I can see some not liking how the film is shot. It’s similar to a long episode of television and might throw some off with its style. I personally didn’t mind because of the story being told, but I could see it being a complaint for the movie. The fact ever character is unlikable  also might be a complaint.  There isn’t anyone to root for, and all the characters make bad decisions. This is one of the things I found most enjoyable about the movie, but I could understand not liking the fact there is no true hero to the story. There wasn’t much not to like about the movie, and I could see myself watching it again because of how well the story is told.

In today’s political climate sometimes it’s good to just laugh at the sheer lunacy of it all. In the Loop provided this for me with how everyone is basically faking it until they make it in the story. If you have Netflix and enjoy great satire give it a watch. If you are a fan of the television show Veep I would think this is a must watch. I’ve only watched a few episodes of the show but like what I have seen, and think I might binge through it all because of my enjoyment of this movie. Let me know if you have seen In the Loop and what you thought of it. If you haven’t is it something you might check out? Like share subscribe and all that fun stuff. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Ghost in the Shell - Movie Review: A Shell of a Film

Well, at least it looked great.

Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Michael Pitt, Peter Ferdinando, and directed by Rupert Sanders. The film is an adaptation of the graphic novel and anime movie of the same name. I went into this film blind never having read or seen the anime. The story is set in a future where robotics are part of everyday life. Individuals augment themselves with cybernetic parts to become hybrids of machines and man.  Scarlett Johansson’s character, Major, is the first complete robotic hybrid where the entire body is machine and only the mind is human. Ghost in the Shell tries to look at the complexities of what makes people human while also telling a mystery of where Major came from. The film unfortunately doesn’t succeed in doing either.

Let’s start with the positives for the movie. The film looks absolutely stunning. Ghost in the Shell’s design is nothing short of brilliant, and it’s what got me to go see the movie from the trailers. The city scape with the holograms all around the city looks fantastic. The movie has a very 80’s futuristic vibe, probably because original graphic novel came in 1989. It looks somewhat like Blade Runner, but it has more of an empty world. The starkness of the world ends up being another issue. There are hardly any people in the world. There are a few street scenes with Major walking around with a good number extras, but when there is an action scene on the street, or when she goes to an apartment building it is empty. There are zero other people on camera except those participating in the scene.  This leads to the feeling of a dead world, instead of one populated with people. It goes back to the movie being an actual shell itself. Maybe this was the point the filmmaker was trying to make, but if so it didn’t come across well.

The action in the film is another bright spot. Scarlett Johansson is no stranger to action, and she does well again here. Here performance overall is good, but the character development in the story is a problem. With the lack of character growth, the good action isn’t enough to be engaged in the movie. Each piece of action is exciting, but there isn’t enough to offset the lack of pacing. The character Aramanki who is the lead of section nine seems interesting. He has a great small action piece towards the end of the film, but it doesn’t mean much for the story because he hasn’t been developed. He apparently is supposed to be an impressive and terrifying government agent, but there is little to nothing to establish this fact, other than he is the lead of the agency. The action he has is great, along with everyone else who is in the film. The issue is the action wasn’t enough to make the film enjoyable overall.

The goal the story Ghost in the Shell was trying achieve seems to have missed. If the film was supposed to be just a fun science fiction action movie with an interesting protagonist it didn’t deliver because there wasn’t enough action. The movie also takes itself too seriously for this to be the main purpose of the story. The film seems to want us to examine what it means to be human, but the character of Major isn’t developed enough for us to care if she is human or not. Maybe it is in the anime and graphic novel, because the framework for this concept is in the movie, it just isn’t executed. One thing which always bugs me in films is the fade to black, and cut to one year later, which they do in this film after Major awakens in her new body. After the jump in time she is suddenly an amazing operative going on missions. They could have shown some struggles and training scenes which would have given some development of how she adjusted to her new body. Instead we are dropped into what her life is like with no context of how she got there.

The story overall is strangely paced and not put together well. Again, maybe for those who know the source material it made more sense, but for a person jumping in it didn’t There is a scene close to the start of the story where Major takes an action and others object to it. They object, and yet they don’t really try to stop her and the scene is strangely shot and acted. It seemed like there should have been more resistance to her attempting the action, instead of the jilted, wait stop no don’t do that which ends up happening in the scene. There are many instances of this in the film were an event should be meaningful for the story, but the lack of buildup or the execution is lacking. There doesn’t seem to be any heart or soul in the movie. There is a good story in this material, the framing for it is in this film. The movie just forgot to execute on the actual substance.

Ghost in the Shell while fun to look at and entertaining when action is happening was a letdown overall. I can’t imagine fans of the original source material being happy with this result, and I don’t think those who aren’t will appreciate it either. The film is not worth seeing, but if it’s on cable for free you might try to wade through it. The movie could have been good because of the content being discussed, but it missed the mark. I think I’m going to check out the original anime to see how it’s executed. Comment and let me know what you thought if you saw Ghost in the Shell, and what is another good anime I should watch since I haven’t seen any. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Life – Movie Review: No, This is Not a Venom Prequel Film

There has probably never been a more attractive Astronaut crew on the international space station.

Life: starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya, and directed by Daniel Espionosa. Life is about the discovery of an Alien lifeform from Mars. The crew brings the form out of its hibernating or static state from the Red Planet. This then causes the creature to go on a destructive rampage on the International Space Station. You can either view its actions as trying to preserve its own life or maliciously trying to kill all those aboard the station. The movie has a terrifying premise which has been done before, but it’s still done effectively in this film. Life is a fun, tense, and suspenseful ride which is best enjoyed without thinking too hard about some of the leaps in logic it takes towards the end of the film.

The story is simple for the movie. The group of Astronauts on the space station are tasked with retrieving a capsule with soil samples coming back from Mars. An unmanned expedition on the planet found biological material on the surface. The probe picked up the samples and brought it back for the scientist to examine. While researching the cells Bakare’s character, Hugh, gets them to reanimate. Things then go sideways when the life form starts to grow and protect itself. What follows are the dilemmas the Astronauts must face in trying to survive while also protecting Earth from the Martian. The best part of the film’s story is the juxtaposition from hope and wonderment at the start of the movie to sheer terror at the end. The human race found proof of life from another planet, only to then wonder if things may be left better if undiscovered.

The story presents characters who each have different reactions to how they view the Martian based on their job at the station.  All the performances are good with Jake Gyllenhaal a standout as always. If you have seen the trailers for the film you may have some preconceived notions about what is going to happen with him, but the story keeps you guessing, for at least the first part of film. There isn’t much for any character to do in the movie except be terrified of the Alien. I’m surprised they were able to pull in Reynolds and Gyllenhaal together with Ferguson, who is also a star on the rise, for this film. Reynolds plays his usual quippy funny self, and does it well as always. It’s hard not to like the guy. Personally, I would like to see him try a more dramatic role again, like he did in Buried, but these roles seem to be working for him. Ferguson does a good job as well, but again there isn’t much for her character to do other than give some exposition and float away from the creature. She does have some voice over work as well, which might annoy some, but I didn’t think it took away from the story. Bakare’s character, Hugh is probably the most interesting and the one who feels the most for the Martian in the movie. There is a decision he makes towards the end which I don’t think fits the story and it is one of my issues with the latter part of the film.

Enjoyment for Life is going to predicated by how lost you can get in the story. The second half of the film caused issues for me because I didn’t buy into some of the events which happen on the Space Station. Having just a cursory knowledge of NASA or other space agencies processes causes the story falls apart. If you have no knowledge of how things work on the ISS it will help enjoyment for the film. I was taken out of the story by not being able to believe the events unfolding on the station. The actions the characters take towards the last half of the movie also seem unneeded and are used to just propel the narrative instead of making actual sense for true astronauts. Their actions fall into the generic stupid horror movie trope. What makes it worse in this scenario is these people are supposed to be extremely smart scientist who should know better.  Being able to get past these story elements will be the difference in loving the film or just simply liking it.

Overall the film does provide some killer tension and had me on the edge of my seat countless times. Being in the vacuum of space also adds another scary element to the movie, and it is used well. The character design of the Martian is also awesome and as the tension in the story grows so does the scariness of the alien. The deaths in the film are all well done and some truly horrifying. If you get your kicks from watching horror films then Life is a must see. The movie delivers on being a scary suspenseful sci-fi horror, but depending on how much you can get past the logical leaps at the end will affect your overall enjoyment. The film is worth seeing either in the theater or on rental, and I would watch it again if it was on. The horror elements alone would be able to hold my attention for repeat viewings.

Comment and let me know if you have seen Life. If you haven’t let me know your favorite Martian invasion film.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beauty and The Beast (2017) – Movie Review: The Animated Story Realized ...

I’ve owned three Disney movies in every available format. Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, and Beauty and The Beast. You are darn right I saw this on opening night.

Beauty and The Beast; starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Cline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, and directed by Bill Condon. Beauty and the Beast is the remake of the classic 1991 Disney animated film. It recaptures all the magic of the previous movie and adds to the overall story. I was blown away with Beauty and the Beast and how the movie translated the animated version into live action. The movie takes CG and live action characters and retells the story to near perfection. If you are a fan of the original, and don’t mind some subtle changes, then there is very little to be disappointed in the live action Beauty and the Beast.

The performances across the board were all great and each actor captured the spirit of the characters found in the animated version of film. Emma Watson was brilliant as Belle and found the perfect amount of quirkiness and determination the role demanded. Watson’s Belle may have been even more fearless than the animated version and the added backstory about her mother was a welcome addition.  She held the entire film together and did a great job of interacting with CG characters for the film. Dan Stevens was great as The Prince/Beast. The added backstory for his character was also welcome. I personally would have welcomed even more about his past and how he ended up the cold heartless prince at the start of the story. The hints were enough to keep the story on pace and more wasn’t needed, but I would have welcomed spending more time in the world. The CG was also well done on The Beast, which I get may not be the most popular opinion, but it worked well for me and sucked me into the movie.

The CG and voice performances for the castle staff was also spot on. The only one I found slightly off was the dresser. A character which I was worried about from the trailers was Lumiere voiced by Ewan McGregor. From the trailers I wasn’t sure his accent was going to be believable in the film, but he was fantastic. He provided some of the funniest lines in the film along with Ian Mckellen’s Cogsworth. Their comedic relief was just as good as the original and in some spots better. The characters were different enough from the originals to stand on their own, while still paying respect to what came before. Which goes for all the cast in the film. Each one can stand on its own and is different enough to separate from the animated classic. Both films are magical and both can be separated on their own with the performances.

The show stealers for the film are Luke Evans and Josh Gad. Every scene they are on screen together as Gaston and Lefou is fantastic. Luke Evans is the perfect real life representation of the animated pompous self-absorbed narcissist. Gad as the trusty sidekick Le fou was hilarious and the added moments of character are a plus to the movie overall. I did think film was going to go in one direction towards the end with Gaston, but it didn’t end up playing out. It probably would have been too big of a departure if they would have gone this way, but I would have enjoyed it. It was a joy to see these characters in live action and I had smile firmly on my face whenever they were on screen. Gaston is the perfect character to hate, and Luke Evans did a great job in getting this across.

I might be looking at Beauty and the Beast with nostalgia filled glasses, but I didn’t find anything glaringly wrong with the movie. There are small things to nitpick; like one of the very last lines of the film seems out of place, or the shot with Belle overlooking the village at the start seems like Sound of Music, but this is about it. I could see some not liking the changes from the original, but for me the added backstory helped flesh out the characters more than the animated version. I’ve heard some grumblings about Watson’s singing and her being autotuned. I’m no signing expert and her performance drew me into the story on all fronts. The pacing of the film was spot on and there wasn’t a lull during any point of the movie. Besides the small nitpicks there isn’t anything I would change for the film.

The live action Beauty and The Beast did exactly what I wanted the movie to do. It stayed true to the original source material, but was different enough in character performances and added backstory to stand on its own. Fans of the original classic will be swept away with the story. The movie is a must see in theaters, and one I will go back to the theater and see again. Beauty and the Beast is a classic, and the live action version still lived up to this name.

What did you think of Beauty and the Beast? Did it meet your expectations or did it disappoint? What live action remake are you most looking forward too or least looking forward too if you don’t like these remakes. Comment and let me know. Like share subscribe and all that fun stuff. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Star Wars Rebels S3E17 Secret Cargo Review (Spoilers): A Rebellion United

Episode seventeen for season three of Star Wars Rebels, Secret Cargo, introduced Mon Mothma to the show. The episode starts with the crew of the ghost waiting to deliver fuel to another transport. The mission is shrouded in secrecy and the crew isn’t sure exactly what they are doing in the system. The crew has to fend off a probe droid which comes into the system, but doesn’t stop the droid before it gets a signal off. The droid we soon find was looking for the ship Mon Mothma was aboard. The Senator delivered a scathing speech on Emperor Palpatine and went on the run. Mothma needed the fuel from the Ghost to try and make it to the secret Rebel Base on Dantooine. After an attack on the convoy Mon Mothma is forced onto the Ghost and the crew is tasked with getting her to safety.

Secret Cargo was another extremely strong episode for this season of Rebels. The entire second half of the season has been some of the strongest of episodes in the entire series. The show might be better served in cutting down the number of episodes to focus more on these types of episodes instead of some of the filler found in the first half of the season. Secret Cargo provided a vital element to the overall canon of the Star Wars universe by showing how Mon Mothma left the senate and united the different Rebel factions under one banner as the Rebel Alliance. This story was an interesting one to see and fit perfectly for an episode of Rebels. The actress who played Mon Mothma in Rogue One reprised her role in the episode and did a great job. She provided the right amount of weight to the performance and was really well served in the episode. Hera was another focal point for the episode and it was interesting to see the dynamic between her and Mon Mothma.

One thing Rebels has always seemed to do extremely well is space action, and this Secret Cargo did not disappoint. There a few space battles littered throughout the short twenty-two-minute episode and each one was well done. The only complaint for the battles was how high powered the show made the Tie Defender. The showrunners might create and issue in cannon by making such a ship so powerful and then it never shows up during Empire or Return of the Jedi. Other than this all of the fights between the Imperials and Rebels were extremely well done and exciting. Having some of the fights take place in the nebula was another great aspect and something never shown before in Star Wars. It was a nice touch to show how Hera used the Nebula twice to outsmart the Imperials.

An issue with throughout all of Rebels is how the Imperials have never been menacing, except for the Vader and the Inquisitors. Kallus in the first season was one example where this wasn’t the case, but all others have been bumbling idiots. This usually means the crews missions have no stakes because they are going to succeed against the inept Empire. This episode was the opposite of this. Thrawn had Hera and the Ghost dead to rights. His plan worked brilliantly, it just was bested by Hera using the Nebula to get away. Their seemed to be stakes in this episode, and only great improvising allowed the Rebels to escape. If Thrawn were at the battle he would have positioned the Star Destroyers differently so the Nebula wouldn’t have had an effect.  Thrawn will more than likely have poor things to say to the governor and admiral who led the attack. Having Thrawn in command of the Imperials makes them more effective and the stakes are increased when they face off, which has been missing from episodes of Rebels in the past.

The only other small nitpick other than the overpowered Tie Defender was the unneeded exposition telling the audience about the nebula twice in a short twenty-minute episode. It wasn’t needed, but since Rebels is supposed to be for kids it wasn’t a horrible. I think kids who watch Rebels wouldn’t have needed the reminder and could have figured out why Hera had the Y-Wing fire at the nebula. Two minor nitpicks in an otherwise fantastic episode which expanded the lore of the Star Wars universe and advanced the overall story for the show. Hopefully the trend of the great second half of the show continues until the season finale. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Logan – Movie Review: Hugh Jackman’s Final Performance as Wolverine Deli...

Takeaway the claws replace and give Logan guns and this becomes a Western.

Logan, starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Brody Holbrook, and directed by James Mangold. Logan is Hugh Jackman’s supposed last turn as the iconic Wolverine. The movie takes place in a near future in which most mutants have died and no more have been born. Logan is caring for an aging Professor Xavier when a young girl enters their life and forces them onto the run. The trailers for Logan have given this much story, and if you haven’t seen the film yet experience it before knowing more than this. Logan’s marketing team gave the right amount of tone and story to get people excited for the film without giving anything away for this amazing movie.

There isn’t much wrong with Logan. The story goes places not many comic book films have gone before, and uses every bit of its R rating to good effect. The film is an emotional roller coaster and it plays on the fact many have been fans of Hugh’s performances for the past seventeen years.  He doesn’t disappoint in what might be his last appearance as the character. Logan finally delivers a solo film worthy for Wolverine. It has everything we have come to expect from the character. Logan is the reluctant hero who is troubled by all he has seen and done. He’s afraid to get close or help in fear of losing something again. He still feels a deep connection to Professor X and their relationship is a key component to the entire narrative. It is also Professor X who pushes Logan to look after Laura when she shows up. Xavier knows Logan needs the connection to help him continue to want to live in a world which consistently beats him down.

The story does draw Logan out of his shell to where he does want to engage with Laura and protect her.           Dafne Keen is stunning as the young mutant X-23. She nearly steals the entire film with her performance, in which she doesn’t talk for most of it.  She is able to convey her emotions through action and her eyes and they speak loudly. Dafne’s performance next to Hugh’s is my favorite part of Logan. Her raw emotion during certain scenes was truly remarkable. I don’t know how much she was actually used for her action sequences, but those were stunning as well. Jackman of course delivers in his action scenes, and it was interesting to see an older slower Logan in this film. For most of the movie he struggles to come to grips with this fact. The only throw away character in the film is the villain played by Brody Holbrook. He’s fine and serviceable, but he doesn’t add too much to the movie. The character doesn’t need to add much for the story which is told. He’s there to drive the plot forward, and does a good job in this function. The villains are the weakest element in the story, but their part doesn’t need to be strong for the story to be effective.

There are a few small nitpicks with Logan, but not much to complain about. The pacing of the story does slow down at one point towards the finale. A few scenes in this sequence where both cute and touching, but didn’t add much to the film overall. One or two could have been cut out to pick up the pace and get to the final fight. There is also a minor plot hole towards the last part of the film as well. No spoilers, but it has to do with how the bad guys approach the final fight. They should approach it one way, because of things said in the film, but approach it in another. In the end it is a very minor nitpick for a film and story executed nearly to perfection. Logan is also extremely violent, and because other X-Men films haven’t been this brutal it may be a slight shock to some just how far Mangold takes the violence. It wasn’t something which bothered me, but I could see if you were used to a standard X-Men film how it might have been a shock to the system. It also might be a slightly disturbing to see a young girl perform such brutal acts, but her violence and actions serve an importance to the story. Logan couldn’t save her without Laura helping to save herself.

Needless to say Logan is well worth seeing if you are any kind of comic book fan or have been a fan of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. It is worth seeing if you are a fan of old school Western films in general. It very much pays homage to some of those stories. I’ll be seeing Logan again in theaters to take in the story. It is well deserving of a second viewing.
Let me know what you thought of Logan if you have seen it. If you have is it the best Super Hero film to date? I still think I put The Dark Knight above it, but I don’t know what else tops it at this point. If you haven’t seen it will you? Comment and let me know. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Alien: Covenant Official Trailer - Thoughts.

The first Alien Covenant teaser trailer seemed to show a movie very reminiscent of the original Alien. It looked to take place on a ship and have the crew being hunted by an Alien. It was tense and well done. The first full length trailer looked to show a movie similar to Prometheus. The crew of the Covenant lands on a new world and have to fight off the Xenomorph on the planet. 

Tying this trailer to the short prelude which was released last week gets me excited for Alien Covenant. It gives just the right amount of story about the crew and why they traveling to another world. It also showcased some amazing action and terror with the Alien. This is probably what Ridley Scott should have tried when making Prometheus. I liked Prometheus and the universe building it accomplished, but the second half of the film was a bit of a mess. 

The visuals of the movie look stunning, as most Ridley Scott films do. The world looks amazing, and creepy. I want more world building found in Prometheus. More information about the Engineers and why they created us, and why they created the Aliens would be welcome. Scott might shy away from this since Prometheus wasn't a hit, but if he finds the right balance in this film it should be successful. The world building wasn't the issue in Prometheus, it was the way the horror elements came about which seemed strange. 

New colonies are always dangerous. The story of Alien Covenant could easily follow the same type of story of the lost colony of Roanoke. I don't think anyone from this film can survive, except maybe David the Robot. He could survive and have the corporation cover the deaths up so other colonies still move forward. Whatever the story the trailer looked fantastic, and might be the first Alien film to be a financial and critical success in years.