Well, this is a ridiculous movie. It is about a group of adult men playing tag. That’s the movie. Really.
I expect most readers to think “wait, that’s absurd, that won’t be a good movie” and they would be…somewhat wrong. Technically, the movie is about tag but it’s so hilariously over-the-top most of the time that I couldn’t help but be entertained. I think this is a dumb movie made by smart people, and it shows; there are many one-liners that made me laugh, and the lengths to which characters go to tag each other are amazingly outlandish. Yet….for this reviewer, it works. Sometimes, a movie can be totally and utterly amalgamated by the acme of mad zeal, and it’s really enjoyable. I’m somewhat reminded here of one of my favorite action movies, being 2016’s Hardcore Henry. That’s a very stupid movie, but it’s made so well and filled with such ingenuity that it hardly matters. I’m focusing on this point so heavily because people ought to remember that a movie can be dumb and still be entertaining for its other aspects; a movie such as this is likely nigh impossible to make appear majestically intelligent anyway.
The actors are pretty good, in that they sell the characters’ enthusiasm for the game effectively. On that note, I have long believed that Ed Helms is one of the worst actors in existence. Everything I have seen with him is brought down by him. His film Cedar Rapids is one of the worst and most aggressively bland films I have ever seen. However, almost to my chagrin, he is competent here. His character is a crazy idiot and Ed Helms did that just fine. Most of the actors are good for who they are supposed to be, but their characters are purposefully very shallow. There’s a bare minimum of development and information for almost everyone, and that’s a small detriment. At the same time, Jeremy Renner, who, outside of last year’s phenomenal Wind River, is generally a bland actor, was oddly compelling here. He plays a man who ‘hasn’t been tagged in 30 years’ and he effectively shows us why this is true, both through his performance and his commitment to not being tagged.
The stunt choreography and effects are excellent. It seems almost unfair to state that Tag has genuinely great and fun action scenes. It’s better in this regard than most summer action flicks I’ve seen in some time. It’s a silly movie about childish adults, and it arguably doesn’t deserve this sort of attention, but this high quality is very welcome. It adds tremendously to the manic mood and style persistent throughout the film.
Also, the camerawork is pretty good here. The stunts and general positions of the characters are constantly in focus, and that is a pleasant surprise. Too often in comedy films, especially ones with some action, is there no interest in proper conveyance of the scenery and situation. Some of the visual gags are done purely through camera movements and reveals of traps and things. The cinematography is certainly not spectacular, but as with the stunt work, it did not need to be this effective. I believe in some ways the crew went above and beyond any expectations from a technical perspective, and that is noticeable.
On the other hand, the music is not good. I know this is subjective, as it is used when it should be, but the insertion of generic and overly loud rap songs during various scenes seemed poorly chosen. If there were insane opera music, or something out of a raucous carnival, or perhaps even a simple upbeat jingle, it would have fit the tone of the film more. I do not thin ‘grown men playing tag’ fits the tune or the themes of that music, and it was…jarring, at least. This might seem harsh, but it did not work for me in that regard.
Perhaps I am more entertained by cynical lunacy than most viewers, and I realize this film lacks much praise, but I happened to see this and I certainly do not regret it. I absolutely can’t deny that the story is pretty dumb, and the writing doesn’t always land, although plenty of jokes were awesome. Honestly, watching these people run around fervently trying to tag each other is more than satisfying. Basically, it isn’t a great movie, but this is probably just about as good as a movie like Tag could have been. For what it is, this is nice.
I’m putting this in the Wondrous category. It’s not high there, and it’s always nice when a comedy film really works for me. Rather, I do not generally enjoy many comedy movies, as I find them often overrun with toilet humor, terrible puns, and a general disinterest in wit. This one’s a bit different, and I appreciated that well enough. Go and see it if you want to laugh at weird shenanigans and strangely fantastic stunts. You will probably have a good time.
What a haunting and visceral experience I’ve had with this film…it is beautiful and terrifying and fantastic. Perhaps more importantly, this movie is….subtle. There are things you won’t notice right away, that aren’t just thrown in your face haphazardly with a sudden loud noise (as has become expected with modern horror). Hereditary gives you that feeling you have when there’s a sudden breeze on your face, or you hear a loud sound from nearby with no cause in sight, or a Sunday morning where you wake up and it’s raining. The dreariness of this film is comparable to last year’s Wind River, but with a vastly different style and genre. You see, this is a horror film, but it is unconventional, comparable to a recent favorite of mine, The Witch. Hereditary is slow and tense and harrowing. Hereditary sinks its teeth in and wraps around you like a hellish python, squeezing until you’re finished. In my Wind River review I used a metaphor relating to a train which simply stops at the end with a sign stating simply, “Goodbye.” With this movie, imagine that same train, with a similar amount of grief, loss, drama, and generally immaculate acting ability on board, except this time the train goes off the rails and somehow keeps moving at high speeds. The train is now erratic and unpredictable, flying across dirt, and everybody thinks it will stop and that they can return to a more normal state of being, but alas, they are trapped. Hereditary keeps up the bewilderment and eeriness I’ve been wont to find lacking in contemporary horror. I saw A Quiet Place fairly recently, and I certainly did not think that film was abysmal, per se, but it was minimally creative and intelligent beyond its initial premise, which was thoroughly disappointing. The same could not be said for the tormenting torrent of terrifying travail that is Hereditary.
I’ll lightly touch on the story here, without spoilers, because it’s amazing. From a standpoint of horror films, the idea of supernatural occurrences with a family, at the house in which they live together, is ubiquitous. However, the sheer depth of ingenuity with which the film’s story is told struck me as incredible. I was taken aback by my level of surprise with the course of events. Many things are foreshadowed in ways I could not recognize until after they came to fruition, and I know that is vague, but there were small visual clues and dialogue hints which caused me to uncontrollably gasp at my realization, sometimes more than an hour after the clues were offered. That is masterful. Also, the way the crafted miniatures are used throughout the film is almost surreal in its horror and melancholy. Writer/Director Ari Aster deserves high praise for putting this together so effectively.
The actors are pretty universally brilliant as well. Toni Collette, who I think is amazing in general, (Watch Little Miss Sunshine, The Way Way Back, and the TV show United States of Tara) truly shines in this role as Annie, the mother. This is probably her best performance ever, and she deserves many awards for it. Oddly, I’ve never seen Alex Wolff in anything before, and I found his performance mesmerizing. He is in many ways a conventional teenage boy who is estranged from his parents, and he encapsulates that idea flawlessly. Beyond that, in the more horrific scenes, he is remarkable. In one scene he displays such shock that I was wildly impressed and haunted. There’s a subtlety to his work here (and everything else in the movie) which makes me want to see him more, especially dramatic roles. Milly Shapiro is wonderful as Annie’s daughter Charlie, and she has never acted in film before. However, Shapiro has actually worked on Broadway for years, which is not surprising somehow. Her acting ability is astounding for somebody so young and inexperienced, yet her character, who is mostly quiet and creepy, simply works. Really, everybody brings their best abilities to this film, and the actors probably couldn’t be more well-cast.
The cinematography is perfection. This is the acme of amazing and varied camerawork. There are long tracking shots and strange perspective shots. There are unsettling shots where half the creepiness is where the camera is focused, or even the fact that the camera is out of focus. Hereditary has various slow, simple panning shots that serve to reveal something, or grant a better view of what you’re seeing. The filmmakers knew when to cut, and when to keep the shot going, refusing to give way even a little bit. It’s almost claustrophobic in its tension. It really…..it is perfection. From a cinematography perspective, this film is the horror genre’s version of Blade Runner 2049 from last year. I might be able to think of some horror films which are very slightly better than this one overall, but definitely not purely in their camerawork.
The special effects are…um…….oh, god…..oh my god……oh jesus…..oh wow……I uhh……………..whoa…………………………..what……………………………………………..I don’t……ohhh……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..they are excellent. I try not to talk much during movies, but that was my reaction during a certain scene in which the effects were used marvelously. The design of the miniatures stands out as unbelievably amazing, and all the practical work as well as the computer effects are magnificent. I found no fault in this regard whatsoever.
The music is so good I’m running out of different adjectives to express enjoyment. It’s absent when it should be (unlike A Quiet Place, among other horror films as this is a common issue) and it’s low and dreary at times while building to a crescendo when necessary. I’ve actually listened to parts of the soundtrack today, not to remind me of it, as I generally wouldn’t need that whether the music was good or bad, but because it was really awe-inspiring. The grandiosity of one of the tracks is mellifluous and memorable. The sound adds to the film in incredible ways I can’t really describe without heavy spoilers. There are very simple, quiet sounds as well which serve the malevolent atmosphere tremendously. A certain noise, one that isn’t especially uncommon, is so effectively used in this film that even now, writing this review at my home, I would be somewhat unsettled should I hear it from around a corner. I don’t have a separate category for sound design outside of music, so I am lumping these together for now, but frankly, I’ve seldom been so impressed with a film’s use of sound.
The writing in Hereditary is also excellent, perhaps predictably so at this point, for a reader who didn’t skip over anything. It’s true though; there are dramatic scenes, without any horror, wherein the dialogue is wonderfully realistic and equally evocative of the apparently intended emotions. The efficacy of the writing is consistently impressive. My only complaint on this front might be that the lines given to the father were somewhat stereotypical of the sort of role he plays, and most side characters are given nothing interesting to say, but I can’t fault the film much for that, as it still fits everything.
Hereditary is Salient, naturally. This movie is the best horror film I’ve seen in at least 2 years, without a doubt. I cannot properly express how effective the slow-burn tension can be in Hereditary. I suppose that it isn’t a good mainstream movie, and it’s not a mindless jump-scare flick by any means; if you do not want to be challenged as an intellectual, you should avoid this one, but if you have been looking for a new smart, crazy, perfectly crafted horror film, I have found it in Hereditary.
The review for Deadpool was the first I formally wrote here, and now, as it goes, there’s been a sequel.
Now, my main complaint for Deadpool 1 was that the story was mindless and overly simplistic. I am pleased to note that, for this sequel, they made sure to have an interesting and compelling story. It’s nothing mind-blowing, per se, but it’s far from mediocre. Josh Brolin’s turn as the time-traveling cyborg Cable is a sort of foil for Deadpool’s shenanigans, and Cable’s blasé attitude is almost a mockery of everything in Deadpool 1. Colossus seems to serve a similar role, but less directly. Anyway, the story is surprisingly multifaceted yet not especially convoluted; there is always plenty going on and a good roster of dissimilar characters. Zazie Beets as Domino stands out gloriously as she shows her strange luck-based abilities. There are some others whose very existence is a sort of spoiler, so I won’t put focus on them, but suffice to say Deadpool 2 is a movie chock full of amusing and weird people.
I suppose there’s a question that should be considered paramount for this kind of film; “is it funny?” Well, yes. Deadpool 2 is hilarious. Not every gag lands perfectly, but I found it consistently both engaging and funny. That’s very subjective, but there’s enough clever humor sprinkled throughout the run-time that I’d expect most to be similarly pleased. There are many, many cultural references, most of which are very modern. There was even a joke about the fact that Josh Brolin also played Thanos in the recent Infinity War. I was impressed at the ingenuity of the wit, and its breadth; some jokes were purely audio, or purely visual, or a strongly creative mixture. It is lovely to see such a variance in delivery for a new comedy film.
The camerawork is good albeit not spectacular. There are a few cool shots going up and around various structures, and it’s inventive enough to be interesting, but I was never blown away by any of it. Still, it’s better than most films I have seen recently, without a doubt.
I found the effects to be impeccable, especially during some of the action scenes. Cable has some very interesting technology, which he employs regularly, and the visuals accompanying the bizarre events were palpably effective. There isn’t much for me to say about them otherwise. The effects aren’t amazing, but they work pretty well for what the film needs.
The music is actually amazing. Several songs are used to tie into the film perfectly, often apparently existing just to be their own jokes. It is almost as if Deadpool himself broke the fourth wall to compose his own soundtrack, and this is really, incredibly fitting. I don’t even like most of the music stylistically, but I cannot deny the efficacy of this movie’s music.
This movie is Wondrous. It ranks higher than its predecessor, and I find that rare for sequels in general. Every aspect of this movie is pretty good. I would expect that the filmmakers noticed the issues with the first film, and strove to correct them. Most of the jokes land tremendously, and the characters are very likable. People don’t really need to see this promptly, but if you enjoyed the original, you will probably enjoy this plenty.
Here we have another film in the famous Marvel Cinematic Universe….yet it hardly comes across as such. Most Marvel movies seem to be boggled down by massive amounts of expository world-building and character development; while this is important, in a sense, it can also be stale. When I saw Doctor Strange in 2016, although I liked some of the comedy and it was a visual spectacle, I felt as if I had been there before, with films such as Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. Even last year’s Spider-man: Homecoming (which is much better than Doctor Strange) suffers from this idea: establishment of the film’s universe. Many of these movies bring in a great many characters we’ve never seen before, kill some off to add some emotion (Black Panther probably has the worst example of this point), then shows an action-packed finale with the hero fighting the villain. Infinity War….seems to actively avoid these ideas, at least with respect to the protagonists.
Although I’m unsure as to proper rankings, I can say confidently that Civil War was my favorite Marvel film, mostly due to the villain’s understandable motivations and the general creativity of the writing. It’s a constantly engaging film, and, frankly, it established Black Panther as a noteworthy, intimidating, and congenial character more effectively than his solo film from 2018. I used past tense there because Infinity War may have just replaced Civil War in that position.
Forgive me if I have appeared aimless thus far; Infinity War is a culmination of these past films, not so much in story beats (There’s very little reference to past events, save those from Civil War and Thor:Ragnarok) but in a sense of weight. When you’ve seen these characters for such a long time, through various films, there’s a significance to them. Although I don’t think all of the characters are well-written or particularly interesting, they still hold that weight with them.
So, onto the actual review, then…Infinity War is incredibly unique in its structure. I won’t spoil the events here, but the movie opens with great action showing the villain and his henchmen. On that note, I’ve seen many terrible films with a “big bad villain” and their “evil henchmen goons” (Remember Ghost Rider?) but Infinity War handles this trope beautifully. Thanos is intimidating and fascinatingly humanized, especially for a big, bulky, purple alien man. It’s almost unfair, in a way; A few years ago, I would never have expected a film to handle such an absurd character so….delicately. Thanos has understandable motivations, although he is certainly not agreeable. He’s not unequivocally villainous, and he exhibits a wide array of emotions over the course of the movie. It’s quite satisfying to see this type of character portrayed so wonderfully, with the help of Josh Brolin for his voice work. The effects team really brought that character to life impressively. I’d say most of the actors really give it their all, so to speak. There are a few scenes with Iron Man and Spiderman that have an incredible impact. Still, there are plenty of jokes, although they are surely more sparse than they would be in standard Marvel fare. I think they landed pretty effectively, with some minor exceptions.
The action is amazing considering how grand everything was. There are battles involving numerous characters, and still you could understand where each of them were relative to each other, and the locations regarding the surrounding landscape. The consistencies among bouts of chaos astounded me. The shot composition was effective in this sense, without becoming too frenetic to be comprehended, maintaining a sort of foundation. Although there weren’t many particularly notable camera techniques or shots in general, the efficacy with which the movie is presented is something I found prominent and enjoyable.
It’s a shame that the music is bland and boring. That’s all there is to it. Once again I found that the music is mostly comprised of loud, long, blaring sounds. It’s devoid of complexity and intrigue. You could switch the entire score with that of some other Marvel film, or one of many stereotypical action flicks of the past ten years, and hardly notice. I vaguely recall one scene in which the music was effective for the mood, but it still wasn’t anything special. I wouldn’t take an interest in listening to any of the music, and I’m not sure I could recognize any tracks if one were to play them for me, even so soon after watching the film. In contrast, look to films such as the recent Annihilation and Isle of Dogs, or perhaps one of my older favorites, There Will Be Blood. Such films have prominent and memorable tracks which evoke certain emotions and ideas, and while there’s much to praise in Infinity War, the soundtrack is not praiseworthy by any stretch.
I think the story is pleasant overall, with some nice twists and clever elements, but there were also a couple of events in the film that were simply unbelievable, despite the Marvel universe in which they are set. In this realm of absurdity, I would wager it’s difficult to cross that line, but they might have succeeded nonetheless. Admittedly, in the scope of the film, it’s a minor complaint, but readers who have seen the film might understand. Still, I’d argue that Infinity War has a very strong ending, and it’s far more unique than any other Marvel film to date.
This movie falls under Wondrous, surely. It’s probably the best Marvel movie as of now, although it does still have its flaws. I believe that nobody who hasn’t seen at least a few Marvel films should see it, as it would be a crazy mess of characters you don’t really know. However, if you’re a fan of this team of heroes they’ve built up for a decade, this is a solidly enjoyable outing for the series. I would happily watch this again, and I cannot honestly say that for many Marvel movies.
Wes Anderson’s new film is out and it is a lovely movie with a lot to say about ethics and racism and dogs. It’s also likely the best stop-motion film ever made. I’m not sure anybody should need to know more, but I’m still going to review the film properly.
Let me start with the visuals; this film is spectacular in its aesthetic. Everything from the crazy action scenes to the simple facial expressions immersed and amused me consistently. This aspect far exceeded my expectations; what I have seen previously from stop-motion film techniques did not prepare me for the incredible nuances of this film. I believe this is, at the very least, a masterpiece in its medium of creation. I’m not sure how to categorize stop-motion as opposed to normal live-action or traditionally animated films, but it is truly mesmerizing to witness the masterful direction and cinematography. The mouths of the dogs move perfectly for the words, showing the extreme attention to detail of Wes Anderson’s work.
The actors, although they only contribute their voices, are all fantastic. I was able to easily believe the attitudes and ideals represented by the dog and human characters alike, including those who spoke exclusively Japanese. On that note, several characters speak Japanese without subtitles; all of the translations of this dialogue are diegetic in nature, coming from within the film through physically present translators or other characters paraphrasing the ideas. I think this relates amazingly well to the idea that the film’s story is told from the perspective of dogs whose vocalizations are translated to English. That is, in a more normal story of human characters, the dogs would be incomprehensible as the Japanese are in this film. It’s an interesting take on the idea, at least. The movie is wildly inventive, to say the least.
The music is often wonderfully relaxing and sometimes somber in tone. It never detracts from the film or overpowers the importance of the on-screen occurrences. The sound, as with the rest of the film, is amazing throughout. Isle of Dogs has many tracks that simply fit the scenes incredibly well, and there’s nothing generic or lame about any of it. There’s a particular song with words that was played several times which evoked a sense of calm and wonder in me. I’ll have to find that song so I can listen to it otherwise, in fact.
I realize that this is, by definition of its manner of creation, a bizarre film. I cannot expect it to appeal to everyone, and yet, I am compelled to recommend it to all. It’s great, but more than that, it’s strikingly unique. Each character is distinct and has their own quirky traits, and the film is consistently hilarious while also occasionally taking a moment to be dreary and depressing. The shifts in tone never seem imperfect or unplanned.
This one is Salient. I believe there is a good reason Wes Anderson took 4 full years to release another film, which, incidentally, is his longest period between films in his entire career since 1996’s Bottle Rocket. It’s wholesome and uplifting and breathtaking simultaneously. This is certainly a film for adults, but I believe it is well beyond worth seeing in the theater.
So this is the new big horror flick; it’s hugely popular and has lots of appeal and everybody is talking about it…I suppose it’s time to peer into this one myself.
A Quiet Place is, from its opening shot, often just that; in the theater, I could hear popcorn chewing constantly in the first few scenes, because the film is nearly silent for a decent portion of its run time. In that sense, I’m not sure the experience for this film is better in the theater, which is an odd thing to consider, as most often the reverse is more accurate. Despite this, I would argue that the sound design is fine, and there’s tension in the silence that many films will not imitate successfully. Unfortunately, the music was very generic, if not awful. It does not seem to fit the film, except to provide a cheesy “scary scene” vibe. The acceptable noise level within the film’s setup is also very inconsistent, which leads to more confusion. There were also many stereotypical loud noises associated with jump-scare moments, which I felt severely detracted from the film’s premise and apparent intent. Rather, if the only sound during the film had been diegetic, I believe the quality of the experience, and the ingenuity of the film’s creation, would have been improved tremendously.
The actors are surprisingly effective. John Krasinski is very believable as a determined and protective father, and Emily Blunt is, as always, fantastic at portraying every possible emotional state or mood. Frankly, Emily Blunt is one of the most talented actresses working today, and I expect to continue seeing her perform wonderfully. The child actors are mostly just fine, but the daughter, played by an actual deaf actress, is very convincing and seems fairly talented. I was impressed with the film’s treatment of deafness as more than just a plot convenience for the sake of the entire family needing to know sign language.
The effects are pretty good, and I enjoyed seeing the monsters as often as they were shown. Many similarly crafted horror flicks will deny the viewer a chance to see the monster properly until the end of the film, so that the reveal of the creature itself is a big surprise. I always felt that was often a sort of cheap tactic, and it isn’t very creative, however much money it saves for the production. With that in mind, the creature designs were relatively unique and quite effective in intimidation; that is, they fit well with the premise and seemed horrific enough to illicit great fear in the characters.
The film’s cinematography is competent, or perhaps good, but it isn’t too special. I would have loved some tracking shots of the monsters, but it’s mostly simple cuts between characters. In fact, there’s virtually no time in the film which lacks a member of the main family in view, which, considering this strange dystopia of a setting, seemed somewhat bland. There were a few shots of their home and its basic surroundings, but there’s little sense of geographic locations within the film, and we are given precious little of what has happened outside of their home area. I am not demanding buckets of information dumped over my head, but the vagueness with which the film operates seems purposeful in scope, and I felt it would be better off answering some questions viewers may have regarding the rest of the world, even if it is with a few simple cuts to other towns or countries.
I won’t spoil the specific events of the film, but I encourage viewers to pay close attention to the last third or so of the run time. In a way, I appreciated the chaotic fervor of this final act, but it also detracted so heavily from what made the silence of the beginning so fascinating, that I found myself disappointed when reflecting on the film later. There are also some strange inconsistencies in character behavior and the monsters’ senses, which bothered me during the film. I do not always notice such issues immediately, but I was displeased by my own befuddlement. There were many clever moments and ideas regarding the dampening or avoidance of loud sounds with the characters, only for general clumsiness and terrible decisions to force new moments of tension. I see a realism in this to a degree, but I found that certain plot devices were overly contrived.
This one is Satisfactory. It isn’t terrible by any means, and I certainly enjoyed parts of it, but enough of it seemed generic or wasted in potential that I simply wanted more from the ideas and the experience. I would still take interest in the future work of that deaf actress, as well as John Krasinski’s directorial efforts, as that was not much of a problem here. I should quickly note that A Quiet Place had 2 other writers aside from Krasinski, and I have never seen or heard about any of the films they have previously written, which, considering my general knowledge base of cinema, should have been a red flag. With a better script, this could have been amazing.
I find myself perplexed in attempting to begin this review properly. Dear readers, I have come upon a magnum opus, a film which ought to be heralded until humanity has become extinct, or perhaps afterward, when the surviving canines figure out how to use Netflix. Ten minutes into this film I knew I loved it. The sound, the effects, the acting, and the shots are spectacular….this is an unbelievably magnificent piece of cinema.
Annihilation is also an extremely complex work, with depth and subtlety the likes of Under The Skin or It Comes At Night could not deliver. Neither of those are great films, by the way, albeit for very different reasons. Anyway, Natalie Portman is riveting throughout the film as the biologist Lena. She travels into a strange and unknown region known as The Shimmer, with 4 other highly intelligent women. That’s the setup, I suppose, but the film shows quite a bit outside its main narrative to supplement the story and character development, which was a wise decision. I will not talk much more about the characters, as I believe many of their traits are notable plot points themselves, and it is better to let you experience it. I have not read the novel, and I am aware it is very different from the film, so I do not know how comparable it would be, or whether fans of the source material would appreciate the alterations to the narrative. Regardless, the film stands alone beautifully.
All of the creature designs are marvelous. There’s a great deal of ingenuity with all of the visuals actually, but I cannot even properly praise much without heavy spoilers, sadly. However, I can say that this film defies conventional storytelling tropes and exhibits many somewhat ambiguous moments and ideas. I have heard others discuss the film and I am amazed at the wild (and often directly impossible) theories people have concocted for this film. Annihilation is the sort of movie which sparks discussion in a well-deserved manner. It is comparable to Shane Carruth’s Primer in its intricacy. No proverbial punches are pulled for simplicity, and I am very glad for it.
I must pay special attention to the fact that the film almost exclusively contains women in strong, smart, individualized roles. Every actress gives a top-notch performance. Sometimes I hear of issues with female characters not being written effectively, or much of Hollywood neglecting to make films that do not center around male characters. The real problem is twofold; most of the female-driven films are brain-melting simple comedies, and the best, smartest films focused on women tend to be smaller in budget and scope. The end result is that Annihilation will not even make 1/5 the box office returns of Ghostbusters (2016). That is a shame, but it is true that most audiences would much rather see Black Panther than Annihilation.
The music goes from haunting and melancholic clean guitar tracks to insane, atmospheric, psychedelic pieces. I sat here for a full 5 minutes trying to figure out the genre under which the latter bunch of music would fall, and I had to give up because, in an epiphany, I understood that it can’t be so easily classified. It is mesmerizing, however.
Annihilation is easily Salient. However, it is uncompromisingly dense and difficult to parse. Alex Garland is a talent worth remembering, with certainty. I could not recommend it to any who do not wish for a heavy thinking piece, yet I hope those who read my work here will enjoy one of the smartest films this critic has witnessed.
So, Black Panther has been making a lot of money, and everybody talks about it as if it subverts a bunch of racial issues and puts focus on other problems and…I do not understand that mindset. The Blade trilogy of films, which is based on marvel comics about a black superhero, seems to have been forgotten rather quickly. I suppose I find trouble understanding the particular appeal of this movie as opposed to similar Marvel films. Allow me to explain:
Chadwick Boseman plays T’challa, the, shall we say, king incumbent in the film. This character was introduced in Civil War back in 2016, and he was better in that movie. I am not saying he did not deserve his own film in which to shine, but….I would argue that this film is muddled with unnecessary characters who end up detracting from the Black Panther and his role. In Civil War, he had a clear purpose and was only shown when he had a role to play in the events of the film. He was determined and fascinating in his complexity. However, here he appears mostly relaxed and calm, even during action scenes, outside of a few pivotal scenes late into the film. Showing the character in a peaceful situation is significant, but I found it somewhat disconcerting to have so little emotion coming from the protagonist. T’challa has lines about caring for his country and understanding how to follow in his father’s footsteps, but it simply failed to convey these issues outside of the dialogue itself. His sister Shuri is entertaining for her jokes and tech obsessions, and there is little else to say of her. Most of the events of the film revolve around conflict with the two villains, Andy Serkis’ Klaue and Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. The issue, really, is that Klaue is a terrible character. Andy Serkis is quite talented, of course, but at the end of the film I cannot imagine even the most ecstatic viewer discussing any of the scenes with Klaue. He is in far too much of the film for such a forgettable character. He is overly simplistic, bland, dull, and pointless. I will not spoil the plot, but I can say that, if Klaue did not exist in the film at all, I do not believe the narrative or any of the characters would be noticeably altered (with a possible exception of a side character who also barely belongs in the movie himself). I should not be able to think that so easily about an extremely prominent presence in the film, but it is the truth. On the other hand, Michael B. Jordan is quite effective in playing Killmonger, who seeks to challenge T’challa for the throne. T’challa also has a wonderfully entertaining bodyguard named Okoye. Martin Freeman’s turn as Ross is almost as forgettable and useless as Klaue, actually. I have a theory currently that both of those characters were added as afterthoughts to tie into the other Marvel films, and that is shameful. Also present are T’challa’s love interest and mother, who both seem to mostly exist to act in those roles, and not separately; I believe they have only one scene without T’challa present, and they immediately talk about him exclusively. This may all be the fault of writer-director Ryan Coogler, who is very talented, (as proven with Fruitvale Station) but his work has been very small-scale prior to Black Panther. Coogler may not be accustomed to having so many characters and special effects swirling around in a melting pot.
I have probably been overly negative thus far; Black Panther has some wild action scenes (including one with extensive use of my favorite bladed weapon, the chakram) and some great ideas, but the real star of the film is the country of Wakanda itself. The architectural design is masterful and breathtaking, and the cultural sensibilities are reflected by the aesthetic. I realize much of this is simply a series of computerized drawings, but the meticulous nature of the imagery, combined with the influence of the Wakandan technological advances within the film’s narrative, really stand out. No other Marvel film quite matches the visual design of Black Panther. When they showed Wakanda, the creators crafted a vibrant array of diverse and fascinating locations. I find this to be commendable work.
The music is uninteresting and basic. I would say most Marvel movies suffer from this problem; I do not believe much effort went into the use of music within the film. They probably should have used more of the awesome music from the trailers. I digress. There is nothing horrendous about the sound, but I cannot imagine trying to find the soundtrack to this film (and I do have a few of those; Little Miss Sunshine and Danny Boyle’s Trance come to mind).
This one is just Satisfactory. Summing up Black Panther, it is a gigantic bag of Chex Mix. It has some amazing elements, but it simply has too many characters and too much going on despite the 134 minute run-time. By spreading itself so thin, Black Panther causes most of its cast to seem wasted, both in presence and talent. I would still recommend it for Marvel enthusiasts, and it is not terrible, but it is far from the best offering in their cinematic universe.
Water molecules are bent with an angle of roughly 105 degrees, connecting two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. That is the Shape of Water.
Oh, right, this is a review of the movie, which is Guillermo Del Toro’s best work since Pan’s Labyrinth. Am I saying that too soon? Well, I shall dive deeper into the depths of this film in due time.
I want to make a quick note of the music being made up mostly of lovely piano tunes that evoke excitement and intrigue, and the film is otherwise sprinkled with perfectly chosen early 1900s jazz and swing, some of which is diegetic, being played on a record player. It is better than I could have expected.
Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins, is a fascinating character. She is mute, and she acts and emotes as a person conceivably would, yet there’s something special about the way she is portrayed here. I must commend Sally Hawkins, especially with regard to her interactions with other characters during tense scenes. I do not believe that emoting effectively without sound is a simple feat; plenty of actors manage a lesser job with all of their senses in constant use. Octavia Spencer is a delight, but admittedly she is effectively playing the same character she did in The Help (2011). That isn’t a fault, per se, but it reduces the impact of her performance and even her dialogue when it seems to have essentially been plucked from another excellent film. Doug Jones plays the Creature from the Black Lagoon, I mean….’Amphibian man’ (that’s how he’s credited). Said creature works almost as a counterpart to Elisa, both in their onscreen relationship and their character traits, including their shared lack of verbal communication. I can’t say much more on that, but the costume/makeup design for him is impeccable. Michael Shannon is oddly fitting as Strickland, a morally bankrupt self-aggrandizing villain. He cares for little aside from furthering his career, and his sadism is apparently boundless. Strickland is actually not particularly noteworthy in his goals for the duration of the film; many side characters essentially share his views and perhaps his motivations, but his sheer madness coupled with a remarkable ingenuity elevate the character from that of a generic chaotic-evil Machiavellian to a wonderfully entertaining paradigm of various vices. Rounding out the cast is Richard Jenkins, who has continuously impressed me over the last few years (Go watch Bone Tomahawk, it is an incredible film and he is divine). He plays Giles, who is a close friend of Elisa’s. He is old and lonely and a bit troubled in general, but he also represents logic and reason in this bizarre film. Having a character generally stay grounded and relatable is certainly a boon in this case. There is also a compassionate scientist who is pivotal to the film, and he is fine, but not worth much more than a mention. Beyond these characters, there is unfortunately a plethora of side characters, most of whom fail to impress on any note. Several, especially Strickland’s boss, are almost impressively generic and bland. Rather, if the film focused on them instead, I believe it would be average at best in quality. Thankfully, there are only a few scenes without heavy focus on the main cast, which is comprised of mostly amazing performances.
Oh, the film is well-shot in terms of the proper conveyance of events, but it also seems surprisingly tame considering the material. I thought the cinematography was certainly competent, but there’s little innovation in that, if any.
At the surface level of The Shape of Water, it is about a woman’s struggle to find happiness and her place in the world. She does not attempt to socialize with anyone outside of her two friends. She is ostracized if not ignored by most of her coworkers. Yet, she is a complex and righteous character in a film well worth watching. There’s a brilliance to it. This movie has a story that is dissimilar to any I have ever seen, and that is a blessing by its own right. The bonus comes from the entertainment and creativity with which Del Toro approaches presenting his own absurd ideas.
I have had a few requests recently to review another film which I despise. Some people who read my Into The Woods review apparently wished to know my thoughts on other such films. I suppose I know a handful of big-budget, renowned films which I would call the worst to disgrace the medium. This would be another example. I foresee some readers wondering why I would choose Babel, a film once nominated for a Best Picture academy award. I hope that by the time I am finished writing this, precious and perplexed person, you will understand. After all, this will be a very long review.
Admittedly, I had planned to watch this film again before reviewing it, in the interest of fairness. However, I soon realized that, in order to bear such unfaltering defilement of my mind once more, I would require an amount of alcohol that would likely render the review pointless and myself deceased. Therefore, the basis of the review shall be my memory of the film, which I expect to be quite accurate considering how it is etched into my brain as one might have a worded tattoo which exhibits a prominent spelling error. That is, the mistake is clear and inescapable.
I should note that I adore some of Alejandro Inarritu’s later films (especially Birdman) and I now harbor no bias against him. I suppose he may have learned from his mistakes. I will spoil some things, but nobody should ever see this movie again under any circumstances (including threats of death and dismemberment) so I implore my readers to care not for the details of such an atrocity.
Now, Babel is a film which is comprised of four stories covering many people in different countries. None of the characters in this film have any real development or narrative, due to the size of the cast and the ineptitude of all involved in the film’s creation, with the possible exception of the cameraman. I feel a deep sense of pity for whoever had such a harrowing duty. I try to avoid using movie posters as images for my reviews because I would rather pick a picture I appreciate or one which represents the film well. I found an image with only Brad Pitt in it because I want to focus on the fact that he is the only actor in this film who is really trying. On a side note, this is probably the only film with Brad Pitt that is terrible. Also, due to the nature of Babel and the way it is presented, it is as if there were 4 short movies that became loosely connected through the contrived machinations of a blatherskite.
Anyway, there is a couple in a middle-eastern country, it doesn’t matter which one, it’s a place with sand and danger (dangerous sand?). One of those places with lots of stuff that’s coarse and gets everywhere. Most Hollywood films set in a middle eastern country simply show you sand and danger, so that’s what it is. Now, there’s a couple in the Desert of Peril and they are on some sort of tour bus. They seem unhappy together. That sums up both their characters nicely. Later the woman is shot, because some boys were playing with a gun nearby and decided to shoot at the bus. I will never understand what the film was going for with these boys, because they are obviously not young enough to lack the notion that you should not shoot guns at people. If Inarritu wanted people to pity the kids or see them as innocent, it failed. So, this woman is shot, and the other people on the bus do not care, and they end up being left in a downtrodden village with minimal medical care. Anybody who has seen The Walking Dead’s second season might remember several scenes with a character named Carl and understand how overlong, tedious, and melodramatic this is made to be. Yes, she was shot and she is in pain. I understand that. No, I do not need that many screams. Eventually a helicopter takes them to a hospital. That’s their entire story, essentially. It could have been a 10 minute short film, but this is Babel, where everything has to have much more to it.
Now, in the second of the 4 movies, the boys in Sandy Danger were labeled as terrorists, which seems accurate. Their dad herds goats because it is the Country of Beige Dirt that Hurts People so he has goats and also a rifle. Apparently he gave them the rifle. This does not matter for the rest of the story or any of the characters, but also, this is Babel, wherein nothing matters and everything is horrible. So, the boys are sad because they are terrorists. The government is looking for them. I think they hid the gun somewhere. They talk to their dad and for some reason they run away and also shoot cops. I think one of the kids died. I believe Inarritu wanted to show some depth or controversy for these characters, but instead, I felt as if they should have been captured and tried for their crimes.
Okay, so, let’s call the third one the Mexican Babysitter (not a rock band name, sadly) film. You see, the couple who are back in the Trouble Desert nation have children, and they are in California, but they are also in the movie. The babysitter wants to attend her son’s wedding, I think. It could have been her brother. Well, the wedding is in Mexico, but she and the kids are in San Diego. So, the babysitter finds out the couple are not coming back as planned, or something like that, but she wants to go to the wedding. She also needs to tend to their kids so they do not die, as they are very young. So, instead of finding some other help or solution with some form of logic, the babysitter decided to take the small children out to the border and try to go to the wedding in Mexico with them. Somehow this worked out okay at first, but after the wedding she decides to go back to San Diego as quickly as possible with the kids and a relative of hers. The guy is an imbecile, so there are problems, and somehow the babysitter and the kids end up stranded in the desert in Mexico overnight. I distinctly recall this scene disturbing me profoundly, as the babysitter continued to make unrealistic and horrendous decisions. The kids are fine and the babysitter was an illegal immigrant so she is deported. I think the viewer is also supposed to pity the babysitter here, but all I feel is pity for the child actors who may now be adults who are aware that they participated in this amalgamation of nonsense.
So, the final and worst film in this 4 film movie is set in Japan. Do you remember the boys from the Big Hazardous Beach Where There Is No Water Only Sand? Well apparently their dad, who I mentioned before, was given the gun by a Japanese man. Okay, that is fine, but now we have to focus on that Japanese man’s daughter apparently. You see, the daughter is a deaf, lonely teen who is deaf and also she cannot hear. This girl is sad and makes lots of bad decisions involving boys and drugs, and her ears don’t work. Apparently we had to see several scenes involving this girl being upset and deaf. I’m hammering this home so much because the film demands that you sympathize with this girl by forcing her lack of hearing into perspective in every scene. The script probably just named her character ‘deaf teen’ because that’s all she really is. Her mother killed herself but she lies to the police about how it happened for some reason. Also, she tries to seduce a cop because we needed a nude woman scene in the movie apparently. Does that just check another box so this film has all of the things? I suspect as much. So, the police question her dad and they are sad and I think the father and daughter meet at home and cry together.
So, Babel is a film which shows you many characters, most of whom are very sad, but it does not mean anything. Essentially, most of what this movie shows you would be tertiary details in a better film. Interconnection works well as a nice twist or as a driving motivation for characters in many stories. However, Babel acts as if something must be connected to everything so it takes one thing and turns it into four things. I think Babel is treated as if it is a clever and unique movie, but the characters are so tangentially connected, often by happenstance, that everything in the film seems pointless. That is why I see it as 4 movies smashed together, stacked in a car crusher. If you focus on the story of the tourist couple, none of the other stories actually affect that one. None of the events of the film directly seem to pertain to the other events in other places. Yes, the boys shoot the bus, but the rest of the scenes with the boys do not relate to the rest of the scenes with the couple. Therefore, it comes across as a random mess. There is no point to any of it. I cannot express my revilement of this film enough. The characters constantly make absurd and unrealistic decisions, the movie flips between unrelated occurrences so persistently that despite an unbelievably long run-time there is barely any character development. In theory the idea could have worked better as a long television series, but I probably still would not want to watch it, because I think that on a fundamental level, the idea was terrible. I’m convinced now that this film is one which resonates emotionally with audiences so much that they do not consider logic or realism. Apparently, people care about these characters enough that they are not bored and angry. This film, just as Into the Woods had as well, insulted my intelligence. Babel treats the viewer as a machine built only to care about sad people and ignore all else. Everything in the movie falls flat, and nothing delivers on the barest minimum of quality standards except the cinematography. Yet, even something that seems competently filmed can be a fiery chasm of wasted time and energy.
Babel is Egregious. This film is abhorrent and relentless in its attempts at conveying messages based on nonsense and cruelty. I cannot stand this film. I cannot bear it when people tell me it is a good movie. I want to confront the academy voters of 2007, one by one, and demand to know how much they were bribed to pretend this film is passable. The production values are high and the actors are famous but Babel is far more poorly made than the likes of The Room or Birdemic. That’s not ironic or sarcastic. I mean this very seriously. If I were to teach people about good storytelling or writing, I would highlight this film as an example of what must never be done.
With each new year comes a new Star Wars film. This one has stars and also some warfare. I hope that is not a spoiler.
So, The Last Jedi is an odd film among other Star Wars flicks. You see, this is the most closed-off film in the series, in terms of scope. There are very few locations, and much of it is set in space. Yet, in some ways, this is refreshing to a relatively mild fan of the franchise such as myself. I should note here that I have never adored the Star Wars films, and I do not believe they necessarily deserve high praise. Still, I do not mind seeing them when they release, especially considering the volume of my compatriots who would discuss a new entry’s merits or shortfalls.
I will dive into the effects and cinematography first; the film is visually breathtaking. That is to be expected, of course. There were some incredibly stunning moments, and the aforementioned focus on open space is executed quite effectively, albeit with some flaws. That is, although it’s a wonderful idea to have a film set primarily in space (unless that film is called Gravity) the film suffers somewhat from a lack of environmental diversity. The Last Jedi is quite a long movie, and I would argue that it drags toward the middle, having little to show that hasn’t been shown several times already. I could almost wager that this was a cost-saving decision, requiring few filming locations and a more simplistic set design. Regardless, this is noticeable, and any viewer expecting an array of strange planets and vibrant scenery may be disappointed. Despite this setback, The Last Jedi does well with its shot composition. There’s a particular scene toward the end of the film, in which all sound is cut out for an intense effect, and there’s a beautiful shot with stunning visual design. Also, there are a few scenes with Rey which have excellent camerawork showcasing a fairly unique area which was seen briefly in The Force Awakens.
The acting is mostly good. I am conflicted; Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver were splendid, as expected from them. Oscar Isaac had a fairly wooden and simple performance this time, as he was constantly angry and bitter throughout the film. He exhibited so little variability in countenance that I fear director Rian Johnson may have fooled us all with a CGI recreation of him from a single photograph. Poe Dameron was an intriguing and somewhat complex character in The Force Awakens, yet here he seems wasted and shoved aside. That’s probably more an issue of writing than acting, admittedly. Of course, that does not apply to Laura Dern. I appreciate her acting capability, but she is unconvincing as a rebellion general. Her character appears suddenly when it is necessary, and there are mentions of her past, but she acts as if she were reading from a script in which she plays a family matriarch, guiding whippersnappers along their journey. I do not believe her character was necessary in the film, but if she had treated it differently, I may have enjoyed her performance more. As some may wonder, considering the buzz this has been getting around the internet, I do not care about her hair. I do not think a character’s hair color is relevant to the movie’s quality. That would be pedantic.
The story has many incredible twists and a variety of remarkable situations. Frankly, this is actually a very surprising film. While I did find Force Awakens to be somewhat predictable, I had my expectations subverted persistently in this film. That is a testament to the difference between The Last Jedi and other Star Wars films; this movie will not go in any direction foreshadowed by the previous films, and I daresay it revels in mocking one’s predictions. A persistent reader of mine may glean a sense that I appreciate films which are able to consistently surprise me. There are touching and heartfelt scenes, and while the action scenes are few and far between, they are worthy of praise for their style and ingenuity. I suppose that I wanted a more grandiose presentation for the middle of a Star Wars trilogy. Still, I cannot fault the film much for its design in that aspect. The dialogue is witty although sometimes corny, but that is how I have always viewed Star Wars. Some of the jokes were strange, and while none will be as quotable as ‘scruffy-looking nerf-herder’, they mostly landed decently. The music is standard Star Wars fare; outside of the predictable opening crawl, there is not much to be said about it. There is nothing wrong with the sound, but I do not believe it was a significant step up from previous films, per se.
The main issue with this movie is the script. A striking amount of screen time is spent on dialogue-driven scenes that, while somewhat entertaining, serve little purpose and seem to pad the run-time. I would have appreciated a heavier focus on Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, and Rey; despite the length of The Last Jedi, precious little time is spent on what I would deem the best parts of the movie. Certain characters die suddenly in unexpected but disappointing ways. Overall, I believe the new characters could have been left out in favor of a tighter cast. I would argue that the original trilogy worked well in no small part due to the constant presence of its main trio, leading to excellent character development and recognizable story arcs. Despite my complaints, The Last Jedi is still pretty good. It is well worth seeing, especially for the impressive visual artistry.
This one sits as a Wondrous film. I enjoyed it more than the other Disney Star Wars movies, and my appreciation of certain scenes and effects outweighs my lamentations of the script and acting. Worth noting is The Last Jedi’s comparison to another 2017 sci-fi film I have reviewed here: Blade Runner 2049. If a viewer has a choice between seeing this or the new Blade Runner, I highly recommend the latter. Blade Runner 2049 somehow has less notoriety yet arguably does better what this film tried to accomplish in virtually every category.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is peculiar in its sagacity. Therefore, I think it’s necessary to keep this simple. You see, there’s not much I can say about this movie without quickly running out of adjectives with positive connotations. In all my years of watching movies, I’ve seen only a few which could match the sheer brilliance and raw magnitude of awe within Three Billboards. The story is as unique as can be; I’ve never seen a film with a concept resembling that of this film, and the various strange events transpiring in this small Missouri town work to cement that idea.
The music has various intense and intermittent guitar-heavy tracks which beautifully contribute to the scenes. That effect can’t be understated. The writing proves exceedingly hilarious and remarkably dire and gloomy, both in convincing and incredible ways. Every facet of this film is virtually flawless. Everything is weird and lovely and sublime. There’s real character development in a movie that isn’t especially long, and the acting is magnificent across the board. Do you see the problem yet, oh precious reader of mine? I’m using too many adjectives because it’s too damn fine for criticism or even neutrality. The shots weren’t spectacular (except one profoundly intense scene), but they were still excellently utilized, so they don’t hinder the film at all. The special effects are fantastic too, and why should they be? Who would even care? Yet, they put great detail into making sure everything was convincing and amazing. It’s a mobius strip of delight, a can of pure bliss with no artificial preservatives.
Martin Mcdonagh’s previous films, such as In Bruges and especially Seven Psychopaths, were sublime and darkly funny in their own right. I have cherished Seven Psychopaths for a few years, and I didn’t expect its place in my mind to be superseded by Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Mcdonagh is at his best……no, that’s not quite right. Mcdonagh is at the acme of cinematic quality. I don’t think this is a niche feature or a bizarre cult classic in the making, either. This isn’t some one-off odd film some people brought together. This is a masterpiece, and an achievement of the highest order. I wondered why Mcdonagh took 5 years to make another film, and I wonder no longer. If this is the result, let him take all the time he needs. It’s certainly been worth the wait.
Salient…In fact, if ever I adjust the system and add a new category for the very best possible films in the history of mankind, this will be there. It’s not just worth the ticket price, it’s worth the blu-ray box set price. It’s worth the price of a collector’s edition with special interviews and bonus content. I might cry if this movie doesn’t get Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars. I can’t imagine anything being better this year than this movie has been for me. Please, I urge you, whoever you are, to watch this movie as soon as possible, no matter the cost. Regret is surely impossible thereafter.
2018 Update: It won both major acting categories. I am very glad for it. I still think it deserved Best Picture, but it’s nice to see my favorite film of the year recognized so highly anyway.
It’s probably wrong of me to see the third Thor film without seeing the second. In answer to this, I didn’t care to see the second Thor film. From what I’ve gathered, I was right to avoid it. However, this movie is a bit different from most Marvel outings in my opinion.
I’d like to start by claiming that this is the funniest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. Most of them made me laugh several times, but this one really had me in stitches. Then, subsequent drama and legitimately tender moments ripped open the stitches and left me confused and bleeding slightly. The writing is quite good all-around. It isn’t believable, per se, but it isn’t supposed to be. I suppose the MCU films, and perhaps especially this one, operate with this sense of ‘science-magic does whatever we want it to’ mentality. In accepting that and running with it, I can see (and review, naturally) how effectively the support runs around it. Some part of me wants to call the whole film childish and absurd, but it’s done in an entertaining manner, and I quickly stopped caring about how bizarre and random many things seemed. With that in mind, it’s somewhat farcical, but it’s truly held up by crazed, sensational special effects (there’s a one-man army scene in the middle which blew me away) and stereotypical superhero music to supplement the material. I think this is one of the least formulaic superhero movies I’ve seen, as well.
The performances are nice, although not particularly special or noteworthy, with the exception of Jeff Goldblum. He’s not afforded a great deal of screentime, but his sheer charisma and obnoxious attitude were pleasant. Also, I appreciated Chris Hemsworth here, as he goes through a range of emotions and shows himself to be effective in various capacities. I’ve never been a fan of Mark Ruffalo or Tom Hiddleston, but I suppose they were better in this film than they had been in a few others. I recall a specific moment which referenced back to a memorable scene in The Avengers (which, keep in mind, was released 5 years prior to this film) and I appreciated this sense of characters’ persistent memories between several films, especially with such a subtle nod. Hulk and Thor have some memorable and funny scenes together, and I appreciated their relationship’s fluctuation throughout the film.
So, the story of Thor Ragnarok is intriguing and amusing, at the very least. There are some fairly clever twists, and the ending was magnificent to me. There were some characters which seemed simply meant for a short running gag, but they were held up throughout the film, which was surprising and enjoyable.
This one’s a Wondrous film. It’s not terribly high on that scale, but it’s fine there. I realize that sometimes a movie is intended to be a bombastic and insane comedy with ridiculous action scenes, and that’s fine. For those seeking that sort of experience, there’s not much I’ve found that fits the bill better. It’s a good movie that deserves to be watched for a good laugh.
I suppose that my lack of prior knowledge regarding this story is a matter of significance; I was pleasantly surprised by the story beats of this film, and I appreciated the twists and turns as one may when first reading the Agatha Christie novel upon which the film is based. Whether this is a profoundly flawless adaptation, I cannot say.
Kenneth Branagh’s work is diverse and complex. He’s behind the worst Frankenstein film I’ve ever seen (It’s really quite abysmal), and the best Shakespeare film as well. Forgive my resultant caution, as I was enticed to see this film but not with immediacy. Rather, I’d like to see more intelligent mystery films, and also more intriguing films set on trains (Snowpiercer is the only good train film I could recall offhand). So, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film.
Branagh’s portrayal of detective Hercule Poirot is fabulous. It’s the sort of character which seems fleshed out and driven without the movie yielding spoon-fed details to a wide-eyed viewer without a bib. He’s funny and charming but also subdued and bitter. He’s sarcastic in such a manner that one might be fooled into believing an insult to be a compliment. As an actor, Branagh is riveting and incredibly, perhaps ferociously, serene. It’s difficult to explain how a character can seem to emote effectively while remaining steadfast and calm. While this is certainly Poirot’s story, I’d be amiss to lack mention of his supporting cast. There are many diverse characters who play their parts beautifully, however little screen time they may have been afforded. Particularly notable is Daisy Ridley, who I had not seen outside Star Wars until this outing, in which she is remarkably fierce and perhaps coy as Mary Debenham. Josh Gad and Willem Dafoe also stand out somewhat.
The writing in Murder on the Orient Express is nothing short of brilliant. There’s a quick wit with brevity and complexity I wouldn’t see much outside of Wes Anderson films (and I do so adore Wes Anderson films). I found myself incredulous at my own laughter in this film, as it’s not farcical or especially comical in its presentation, but rather, it can be hilarious through many short dialogue exchanges. Yet, when there must be a serious turn of events, the film (and by extension, Branagh) never misses a beat. It’s dreadful and morose when it needs to be. I don’t think that any scene was especially mundane. Poirot’s apparently realistic obsessive-compulsive tendencies are an incredible surprise as well. It’s not perfect, but it’s the sort of consistently wonderful and relatively believable dialogue which elevates what could have been a monotonous slog of a movie. As for the mystery, it’s resolved in a manner I could not have foreseen, and that’s a testament to the novel as well as Branagh’s presentation of the events; my awe as the credits rolled was well-deserved for this film.
There’s not much to say about the cinematography, unfortunately. That’s not to say that it is bad, but, without spoiling anything, the majority of the film simply occurs within various compartments of a train. There are a few nice environmental shots and some quick cuts around the train, but it isn’t spectacular. It’s competent, and the camera does its job well, but I was seldom taken aback by shot compositions or transitions. In terms of effects, the setting is made believable, and I appreciated certain outdoor scenes with some lovely environments. I’d guess that it’s all CGI, but I’m unsure, so the effects are therefore pretty good.
The musical score for the film is amazing. It’s gut-wrenching and turbulent as it should be, but it’s also boisterous and booming when such a tone is expected. I do not often see films which time certain pieces so well. It’s not so hauntingly memorable or mesmerizing as the recent Blade Runner 2049’s score, but it’s beyond serviceable.
This is one for the Wondrous section. It’s sweet and it’s profound. There seem to be hints at a possible sequel starring Branagh once again, and I would gladly seek that out if it happens.
This movie is a grandiose spectacle. I want to pay special attention to how awe-struck I was by the visual storytelling. It’s not just that the effects are top-notch; there’s a great deal in the background which amplifies the story and the world of the film. This is truly terrific in scope and execution. From subtle hints at a futuristic equivalent to racism, to several intriguing implications regarding unseen events or ideas, Blade Runner 2049’s aesthetic is imperative for its delivery. It also features many striking shots, especially with overhead views of vast cities and deserts. Truly, Blade Runner 2049 is beautiful to gaze upon.
Understand that, as a reviewer with focus on quality of substance over presentation, I’d say this doesn’t make or break any film on its own. The visuals are incredible and noteworthy because they elevate the rest of the film, and support the excellent writing. There are nods to the first film, yet they are scarce enough that I suppose it’s not necessary to be familiar with it.
On that note, the course of events in this film is compelling; do not believe anyone who tells you this is a boring film. Rather, I suppose it could be boring for viewers with no interest in mystery or actual plot. Perhaps Zack Snyder enthusiasts should stay away from this one. I digress; there’s a chain of events in this film, following the protagonist K and his interpretation of everything around him. In that sense, this isn’t an action film, and the science fiction environment is arguably a backdrop or perhaps simply a circumstance of this complex character study. I won’t divulge any further details here, as this is a story one ought to experience fully without being spoiled in the slightest. I don’t say that lightly, as I think most films won’t be brought down with some ancillary information. This is probably my most vague review yet, and for good reason.
Ryan Gosling is a gem in this film. I’d say all of the actors perform wonderfully, yet Gosling stands out in particular. There are a few scenes in which his character, K, has an incredible revelation, which also serves as a clever twist for the audience. Instead of a stereotypical swell of sounds to indicate something significant (which I find common for even the best film twists), in one such scene, the movie becomes silent as K comes to an understanding and exhibits an intense emotional reaction. It’s not over-the-top or unbelievable, either. He’s reacting the way the audience might in such a situation. That’s what makes his performance so magnificent. Also, Ana de Armas deserves a mention, as I’ve never seen her act before, and she’s a stellar opposite to Gosling’s K, bringing levity and a bit of bleakness to the world, while bringing back memories of Her, which is another fantastic film.
Finally, the music in this film is a strange mix of techno and classical pieces which blend in juxtaposition in such a way that I would have trouble believing it had I not witnessed this myself. This isn’t a knock on techno music by any means, yet I realize that I’m accustomed to having a blaring techno track pounding a viewer’s ears while guns fire and things explode and stuff happens all over the screen. That is, Blade Runner 2049’s soundtrack utilizes a quiet and brooding tone while eliciting awe and wonder, complimenting the visuals amazingly. This is the best score in a film this year, so far. It’s impossible to overstate its effect.
This is a Salient film. That’s where it must be placed. I could gripe about a sudden and open ending, or the strange and sparse use of Jared Leto’s character, yet I was so riveted by the film that it can’t be brought down very much. Everyone who wants to see movies with excellent stories and ideas should quickly see this on a theater screen.
Wind River is painful to watch. That’s not because it’s poorly made, or because it’s disgusting, or any other possible negative aspect; this isn’t some abhorrent or trashy film…it’s practically a masterpiece. That’s why it hurts, though. This is a film about loss, and grief, and horrible, gut-wrenching, brain-splattering tragedy. Yet, unlike almost every sad drama I’ve seen, Wind River pulls no punches. Wind River doesn’t care that it hurts. Seeing this might cause someone to need painkillers because it’s unbelievably harsh and effective to a point at which the audience is on a train and they passed Reason and Sensibility 3 stops back. They’re at the end of the line now and they’re pretty sure there’s been a mistake because the rails just end with a sign which states “Goodbye.” It’s also beautifully shot, especially considering the vast emptiness in much of the film’s landscapes. A less competent filmmaker would end up with boring stills of snow. That’s not how this was done, however. Actually, this film could have been simple and formulaic; the story is not far from that of a generic thriller film, yet it’s handled so brilliantly that it moves past the notion of normalcy.
I cannot express enough the harrowing experience of watching this film. I was reminded of Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (which also involves punching) in how gloomy and dire the film is. That’s a great film, and Wind River is better. There’s a persistent bleakness which perhaps escapes the film itself and attacks the psyche of any who dare enjoy it. Still, the effect such a film has had on me is amazing and terrible in its grandeur. This is no sprawling epic, no immensely packed film with many high profile actors and lavish set pieces. This is a low-budget mystery thriller and it’s probably the best it could be. Also, the soundtrack was good, but not especially memorable, unfortunately. That’s probably the biggest flaw, overall.
Wind River delivers and causes me to quiver and shiver. There’s little to say about the story or characters without possibly spoiling important narrative points, and so, I can divulge little but the utmost praise for each. However, perhaps the most shocking aspect of Wind River, personally, was the idea that Jeremy Renner can be an excellent actor. I’ve seen him in ~10 movies, and I’ve always thought he brought each of them down, and that he should have been recast (Yes, even in The Avengers). To my surprise, he gives a subtle, muted, quiet performance while showing a significant contrast in emotions. He has a range and depth in this movie which I would not have expected to see. Elizabeth Olsen is also a tour de force in this role, which was also surprising, albeit less so. I’ve seen very little of her, however, this film has caused me to wonder what more she can bring to films from now on.
This snags a spot in the Salient category. It’s perfect on a technical level, extremely engaging, and remarkably enticing. This is an exotic gem of a movie, a rare and precious artifact, something to be appreciated and cherished persistently. Wind River represents the acme of its genre, and deserves to be seen by many, even if it leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth. Tyler Sheridan is doubtlessly one of the greatest modern filmmakers. Expect this one to win multiple academy awards.
Allow me to preface this review by stating that I have read the book and would consider it one of King’s finest. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience attempt to represent myself as an unbiased party in relation to the fact that this is an adaptation.
Now, IT is deliciously exciting horror. One could call it a manifestation of the original material as a film, yet that’s not quite IT. This movie takes its time and burns into one’s mind, setting up the idea that terror may take many forms and can bring a sense of awe the likes of which I have seldom witnessed in recent horror films. I ought to make note of the impeccable cast, most of whom I had not seen acting prior to this film. Frankly, it’s rare for me to find a movie in theaters with a main cast so unknown to me. I suppose some might be concerned by this, yet I found myself hopeful and, afterward, impressed. The kids are delightful as a group of friends and convincing when IT pushes for scares, yet they seem to relish the convergence of such scenes. That is, I’ve seen far too many young actors who seemingly cannot handle juxtaposition of lighthearted scenes with serious drama or horror. Make no mistake, this is a film which will not disappoint on that front. Perhaps more significantly, the film is often quite comedic in its lighthearted moments, and these actors shine in this aspect as well. Causing laughter and fright with little time between is no easy feat. There’s a particular scene involving a choice of doors which had me in hysterics for longer than I could have expected. All in all, the dialogue is top notch, the comedy works and is fittingly sparse, and the children are nigh flawless in their portrayal of fairly typical children.
As a quick side note, the 1980s setting is aptly utilized without being relied upon too much for references or music. On music, the score was effective but generally unmemorable. I suppose it struck me as relatively generic. Beyond that, the sound used during tense scenes seemed distracting and overbearing at times.
Of course, any who have seen the 1990 miniseries may remember Tim Curry as the eternal Pennywise. Creepy, bewildering, and sometimes funny, he stole the show and arguably made the miniseries, to be blunt, watchable (at least for the first half). Let it be known then that Bill Skarsgard, while never, in this film, being funny in the slightest, pulled off Pennywise the Dancing Clown in such a fashion that IT will surely become a horror icon. Understand that this is, first and foremost, a horror film, and in that regard it is incredibly effective. This is the type of performance which causes a mass of theatergoers to be akin to the supporters of the home team when the opposing team scores; IT causes shrieks of despair in a surprisingly synchronized crowd.
Skarsgard’s Pennywise is a gangly, wretched creature of strange proportions, and he’s obsessed with contortions, wanting arms as meal portions. There’s a sense brought forth in several moments which tells the audience that Pennywise truly enjoys his clown facade, and that IT seeks amusement, perhaps over all else. This couldn’t be done so effectively without an astounding performance, naturally. Skarsgard himself deserves an award for this achievement; essentially, IT’s success surely hinged on the villainous clown, and with a less capable actor, I am certain IT would have fallen short. On the other hand, his actual design, with a combination of the occasional special effects and an outstanding costume/makeup job, IT looks just human enough to be terrifying in a grounded sense. At the same time, this monster terrified many adults, and would likely give some of them nightmares. There are few stereotypical (and personally loathed) jump scares as well, which was wonderful for me. However, IT is not for the faint of heart, as the classic horror style of building dread was remarkable.
The pacing of the story itself reminded me of Get Out, from earlier this year. I believe a relatively slow pace, with very low intensity for much of the run time, helped elevate the actual horror elements, especially toward the end, which is wrought with suspense.
There’s little to bring the film down, when I think about IT. This isn’t a perfect film, yet there aren’t any glaring flaws. IT adapts the book’s material quite well while taking some creative liberties, some of which are not to be berated. Andy Muschietti proves himself to be an excellent director here. This fits in the Wondrous category as a film which will be fondly remembered. IT nearly belongs as a Salient film, yet I find myself unable to compare it with similar work. Regardless, horror fans should flock to this flick. Johnny Depp should avoid IT, however.
IT is certainly worth the ticket price, and I believe that, for this particular film, seeing IT in the theater is a profoundly enjoyable experience. IT’s one of the better movies this year.
Make no mistake; this is a love story. With sole regard to its plot structure, it is a simple and relatively formulaic romantic comedy. However, with its superb writing and persistent hilarity, it’s quite subversive. Frequent yet unpredictable destruction of the fourth wall leads to a bewildering and unique experience. It’s comparable to Blazing Saddles, which is a classic and delightful comedy. Furthermore, Ryan Reynolds is perfectly comfortable, or rather, it’s as if the role were made for him and vice versa. His deadpan Deadpool (irresistable opportunity) is consistently witty and brazen, while never becoming crude enough to be slovenly or repulsive. The writing for Reynolds’ character appears delicately amalgamated, albeit strikingly absurd.
Still, as an action film, Deadpool flounders; while certainly entertaining, there’s precious little to behold to match said genre, resulting in my recommendation to view the film expecting a romantic comedy. Additionally, the antagonist is subpar in characterization and dialogue, coming across as a fairly unremarkable and highly standardized villain, without depth. The villain is not alone in that aspect; several characters were virtually without depth or coverage in the film, seemingly tossed in for an increased runtime and joke count. Though said jokes are enjoyable, the characters are all but wasted, which, considering the prospective potential, is disappointing.
Nonetheless, Deadpool is an astounding and stylistically particular film, and its humor is marvelous. (double entendre absolutely intended)
I’m writing this from memory because I am unwilling to watch this film again. I don’t believe I could be paid enough to watch it again. Name an incentive, and it will be insufficient.
Into The Woods angered me. I was shaken to my core and I wanted to melt into an ooze which would subsequently seep into my carpet, leaving a pronounced stain. I’ve only ever seen a few movies so mind-numbing and awful that I found myself livid at having been exposed to the filth. In comparison, if someone were to expose my face to a pile of assorted garbage, I might claim it to be a more pleasant experience than the one I had with Into The Woods. I would have trouble finding another film so abysmal; I’ve seen many films which are poorly made or otherwise boring and unintelligent (‘Manos: Hands of Fate’ comes to mind).
Characters disappear constantly and permanently, to be called dead by others later on. Every protagonist is more detestable in ethical sanity than any antagonist. This film is filled with nonsense and takes itself completely seriously. None of it is funny, and I don’t think it’s trying to be, but it plays out as the most poorly made farce imaginable. I don’t even have a comparison for this. I am unsure any comparison could do justice to the sheer magnitude of atrocity which is supposedly considered a film. I abhor this film. I believe all copies should be destroyed. I hope the writers and directors never work in Hollywood again. I want somebody to be punished somehow for their skulduggery. I couldn’t fathom the lack of quality in this film. Within twenty minutes I considered leaving the cinema in favor of staring at a wall outside of the building. There’s a scene with Chris Pine in which he sings and dances in an amusing fashion. That was a couple of minutes out of this slog in which I was not furious with my predicament, until the monotonous assault of my senses resumed promptly. The song was called Agony and it somehow accurately described how I felt during the movie.
This film insults the viewer’s intelligence, and attacks the foundation of a moral spectrum. I wished gleefully for all of the supposedly good characters to be killed in the third act by a certain creature, only for them to prevail for some convoluted and absurd reason. It’s fine to have antiheroes and it’s great to have understandable villains, yet there’s nothing to be gained by having one’s main characters painted as heroes while being more heinous and devious than most action movie baddies.
This is naturally a film which belongs perfectly as Egregious. It’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, and probably ever will see. I wish I hadn’t sat through such a bastardization of fantasy elements and children’s stories. I would have been better off, especially considering the talent of some of the actors here. It’s memorable for all the wrong reasons.
“Alan!” – A velociraptor, Jurassic Park 3
This movie’s title is a bit long and ridiculous (under what circumstances is the dinosaur ‘kingdom’ fallen? It’s ludicrous) so I will delightfully refer to this as “Dinosaurs 5” because it is amusing.
Anyway, the newest Dinosaurs film was fairly entertaining. That said, this movie hit many of the same beats as its predecessor; dinosaurs are utterly out of control and eating people, and it’s up to the ‘Handsome Man’ to save the day. He also needs to bring his ‘Love Interest’ with him. I use these terms here because these characters are distressingly shallow and undeveloped. Truly, every character seems to exist almost exclusively for the events in the film; their jobs and their interests are directly related to dinosaurs, and everything they discuss is either about dinosaurs or the bland, stereotypical romance with the stars. So, the writing is terrible. I think the actors try to work with it…well, not all of them. A few people, particularly a tech-savvy side character, were just grating and bothersome throughout.
The story itself is preposterous and unintelligible, which is not surprising, per se, but it is much worse than any of the previous movies in the series. I would say Jurassic Park 3 was a more terrible movie, but not in regard to its story. I am compelled to spoil the ludicrous nature of this film’s main events, yet I will refrain. Simply understand that the twists are laughably obvious, the character motivations are nigh nonexistent, and most of the ideas are too far from sensibility to be considered representative of sanity. Yet, the movie treats itself in such high regard that I would not entertain any arguments of purposeful inanity. There are vacuous jokes in the film, occasionally breaking the fourth wall, but they hardly fit the tone for the duration.
As expected, the special effects are wonderful, albeit in service of a monotonous, meandering mess of a movie. Still, the dinosaurs everybody came to see look great, and the visual design is generally pleasing. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it works when it needs to.
The music is just fine, and that is a shame; the series is known for its impeccable sound, or it had been in the past. The score to the original Jurassic Park is still memorable, and I can hardly say the same here. I never found it jarring or outrageous, but I certainly couldn’t consider it notable.
I must give credit to the camerawork in a couple of notable scenes; there is a long perspective shot for a particular dinosaur, in addition to a great deal often being shown in the background during action scenes. This aspect is pretty good, better than most summer blockbusters certainly. That said, all of the story-focused scenes are terribly simplistic and, frankly, somewhat boring in comparison. So this is certainly uneven in that regard.
All things considered, Dinosaurs 5 is Objectionable, almost reaching Satisfactory. Very little about this movie is atrocious or abysmal, yet it isn’t very well put-together nonetheless. It is far from unwatchable, but it just rehashes so much from the earlier movies, and never seems compelling. I understand why this is popular, but I also know it could be much better. Chris Pratt should probably stop doing these; he’s better than this film deserves.
I’ve received some requests to elaborate on my categorical ratings in reviews, as well as the significance of the numbers. I suppose I’ll leave this here for curious readers who want further insight regarding my process.
For Story, it’s about the progression of events through the film. It’s not the initial premise, but rather, how interesting the film is persistently. Some movies have great ideas but just don’t keep me especially engaged. I’d say most action movies are like this; incidentally, I rated Deadpool’s story poorly, because virtually everything story-related in that movie is atrociously generic. I didn’t care about Deadpool’s love interest, or his general actions within the narrative. Yet, it’s still a hilarious movie and it’s full of crazy random jokes that show a real ingenuity. So, the story is terrible, but it doesn’t weigh the film down much.
In contrast, Wind River and Murder on the Orient Express are, initially, fairly simplistic murder mystery films. However, the twists and turns, coupled with the specific events from the murder to the solving of the mystery, in each of these films, is fascinating and astonishing. A slightly older example of this would be Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, which is profoundly unique despite being another film entirely revolving around the murder of a single person. Actually, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri also focuses on the murder of a young girl, but it’s a sort of backdrop for an intimate character study that comprises the best movie of 2017.
Anyway, my Story category reflects narrative structure and intrigue. If I really wanted to know what would happen next, in every scene, the story could be 10/10. A 5/10 story is average, inoffensive but perhaps somewhat uninteresting. A 0/10 story is horrendous and makes me hate the characters I am apparently supposed to like, and I probably want the movie to end quickly because I don’t want to see any more of the film’s world.
Acting is simple, I think. This refers to the people on-screen, or, in a performance that is not live-action, the voices of the actors. This relates to the idea of actors being able to convince me of their performance; it’s an issue of how genuine an actor seems to be. An extremely talented actor such as Daniel Day-Lewis, Sam Rockwell, or Anthony Hopkins could really force focus on their immaculate acting, yielding a 10/10 rating. Also, many actors are underrated in this regard, such as Radha Mitchell or Robert Pattinson (go watch Good Time, or perhaps Cosmopolis. He’s quite talented despite his reputation.)
5/10 in Acting would represent barely passable performances wherein the actors are basically competent in their roles, but there is absolutely nothing standing out about them, and they seem essentially interchangeable with any other actor of similar mediocrity. Most actors who consistently perform so mundanely are very forgettable. There are some actors, such as Ed Helms and Kristen Stewart, who have never been able to deliver an enjoyable performance, always appearing bland, emotionless, monotonous, and sometimes laughably ridiculous. If every actor in a film seems to have this problem, Acting is probably 0/10.
Now, Cinematography is very purely about the way the film is presented through the camera. For an animated movie, it’s the implied camera; despite not actually existing, there’s still a visual representation similar to a live-action film. Some movies will have peculiar and fascinating camerawork, using interesting techniques including various types of tracking shots and zooms. Low-angle shots and remarkable camera movements are often a boon, especially when they add to the scene. For instance, very fast and slightly jarring tracking shots can help represent tension in a film, and constant close-up shots of the characters can help add a sense of claustrophobia to the scenes. Films with great Cinematography give the viewer a proper understanding of space within a room, and the positioning of objects and characters, while still utilizing more than plain, bland still shots.
Movies with constantly engaging and imaginative uses of the camera, especially with regard to what we’re shown (and, subsequently, what isn’t shown but is known to be outside the frame) may achieve a 10/10 in Cinematography. Blade Runner 2049 had certainly the best cinematography of 2017; it employed a great deal of incredible imagery, some of the most inventive action scenes I’ve seen in years in terms of camerawork, and persistently gave a great impression of what was going on in the film. Movies that decently represent the scene through the camera, yet fail to do anything special or inventive, resulting in largely unmemorable Cinematography, might earn a 5/10.
Movies that use basic shot/reverse shot patterns will net a rating around there. However, if a film is an incomprehensible mess in terms of visual presentation, and has constant cuts, forcing the viewer to arbitrarily guess at where the characters and surrounding objects are in relation to the rest of the scene, can be given a 0/10. My highly negative Into The Woods review lists an extremely low Cinematography rating partially due to the characters within that film being anywhere or nowhere at any given time. They are apparently ‘in the woods’ but there’s no understanding given through camerawork even within a single scene, so it’s just a bland mess of trees and the occasional human. Also, infamously, the last fight scene in Alex Cross has constant cuts and a violently shaken camera, which is disorienting and frustrating as a viewer. Note to aspiring filmmakers: do not arbitrarily shake the camera when people are being hurt. There is no excuse for that.
Special Effects refer to mostly to the visual design of the scenes, and the extra efforts that go into this. I’m including CGI and practical effects, and really anything relating to the crafting of the scene itself, as opposed to the camerawork; Cinematography gives us “what is shown, and how” while the Special Effects give us “the specific details of what we see.” It’s difficult to rate especially old movies in this category, as, unlike the rest, this could be improved with modern technology. That said, the Lord of the Rings movies from the early 2000s have excellent Special Effects with amazing design, but much of the practical work was replaced by pure CGI for the Hobbit movies, which was not nearly as impressive or aesthetically appealing.
However, a movie like Annihilation may combine practical effects with CGI and general design choices to paint an incredible picture for the audience, yielding an easy 10/10 for Special Effects. 5/10 could be an issue of apparent errors in visual design, or generally unpleasant effects sequences. Movies that utilize CGI to represent everything on the screen will probably yield a 5/10 rating from me. Earning a solid 0/10 in Special Effects is difficult; the effects would have to be so poorly designed or so daftly implemented that I am pulled from my immersion purely due to the absurdity of it. Although I enjoyed watching the infamous Sharknado, its special effects were a horrible mess 100% of the time. There were attempts at practical effects as well as the CGI ‘sharknadoes’, and they were all reprehensible. It’s still a fun movie, but only because of how terrible it is.
With Soundtrack… it’s probably the most subjective of the bunch. I’m a fan of saxophones, guitars, and pianos, and a film with great use of such instruments for the background music will excite me. That said, films such as the aforementioned Annihilation and Blade Runner 2049 have music that’s irrefutably weird, in ways that simply prove effective for me as a viewer. Sometimes even the slowest and most ambient music is successful in eliciting an emotional response, or improving the apparent message and tone of a scene, due to its brilliance of composition.
At the same time, a properly crafted soundtrack could have sparse use of noise and basically throw a talented guitarist or pianist at your ears in the perfect moment. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri accomplished this perfectly, being the absolute acme of film soundtracks by giving me music I would love outside of the film that still fits every scene as if the film might have been made for the music, and not vice versa. (Although, sometimes, as with last year’s Baby Driver, that might actually be the case, in a way.) A 10/10 soundtrack is something I remember well weeks or months after seeing the film, because of its quality. More than that, I’ll recall the scenes in which the music played by hearing the sound.
Sadly, it’s rare for a movie to be so remarkable in its sound, hence the fact that, as of early 2018, only a handful of my reviews have a Soundtrack rating above 6.5/10. I hope this will change for the future, but a 5/10 Soundtrack would be a very basic and monotonous score which could be swapped for another score in a totally different genre of music and not be noticed. My common ratings of slightly above 5/10 represent my acknowledgement of music that is just fine, that might work well for a couple of scenes, but that I wouldn’t care to hear again in any case. 0/10 Soundtrack would be…well, it’s tough to describe. Imagine trying to enjoy a movie during a quiet scene and having somebody let off an air horn next to your head.
Consider the possibility of music so poorly implemented that a reasonable viewer might wish it were not in the film at all. I recently gave the soundtrack to A Quiet Place a very low Soundtrack rating, not just because its music was boring and unnecessary, but because it actually didn’t belong in the scenes in which it was used. Such a film would have benefited more from a very limited score and a small amount of sound, or perhaps a sparingly used soundtrack with great and complex music over scenes with excellent visual storytelling. Isle of Dogs does something like this, playing nice music loudly over otherwise silent scenes with characters traveling, and it was wonderful. So, for Soundtrack, it’s not just about the exact music used, but also, the choice of when the music is used.
Now we have Writing. Admittedly, this somewhat goes hand in hand with Story, or rather, they are both essentially part of the script. Still, I felt a need to keep them separate because, for me, writing mostly represents the actual dialogue of the film. The lines of each character are paramount to a well-made and entertaining movie. This is especially true for comedy films. One of my favorites is What’s Up, Doc? starring Barbara Streisand. It’s full of wonderfully witty banter between characters, often with visual gags sprinkled in. Airplane! is also a great example of this, although the comedy is a bit different in style.
In a drama film, the lines of the actors should be sufficiently realistic and also complex in order to convey emotion. Also, Writing must represent the actions that each character must take, with respect to the script. I suppose this may relate to Story too much, but some movies, such as Deadpool, may have great writing with a terrible Story. Also, plenty of movies have an excellent Story because the events are fascinating and memorable, while the Writing for the characters is less pleasing.
One of my favorite drama films, Meet Joe Black, has an amazing and quick speech near the end of the film (which is over 3 hours long, by the way). I won’t quote it here, but it’s very memorable for me, as is much of the dialogue in that movie. That’s what represents 10/10 writing; inventive and focused dialogue, while still being somewhat grounded and believable, can be amazing and quotable. 5/10 Writing is simple and basic, with little ingenuity, and a general disregard for the material. If a film seems to have dialogue solely to move the Story forward, without the characters saying enough (or saying much of note) so as to be relatively boring, there’s a 5/10 in Writing.
0/10 in Writing is horrendously unfunny comedy and often abhorrently uninteresting dialogue. Villains who only ever say something about killing the protagonists, or love interest characters who say little aside from the way they feel about their love interests, could get a very low score here. I’d say 0/10 is mostly reserved for unbearably cringe-worthy and worthless Writing, as if the people in charge of the script wrote the whole thing whilst drunk at four in the morning. I think that might be unfair to drunkards. Incidentally, the worst comedy film I have ever seen is likely Cedar Rapids, which also stars the aforementioned Ed Helms, who is eternally awful. The jokes are exclusively either boring or hideously offensive. It’s a very aggressively unfunny film, actually. I haven’t reviewed it here, and I do not plan to do so, but it’d get 0/10 Writing in a heartbeat.
Finally, we have Creativity. This is a sort of comprehensive category representing how inventive and surprising the film is. When I watch a Spielberg movie, or an Oliver Stone movie, or a (probably bad) Roland Emmerich movie, I probably know what I’m getting into. Many films might be competent in all these categories, but at the end of the day, still be remembered vaguely as “that film by that guy” or “the one with that lead actor” because there wasn’t enough that made the film stand out. This isn’t so direct like the other categories, because it’s an all-encompassing idea of my surprise at the film’s craft. I think a lot of films might be a solid 7/10 while still being almost identical to other films I have seen which are still around that overall score.
Now, my favorite director is David Fincher, and he has enough patterns in his film-making style that giving one of his movies 10/10 in Creativity could be difficult, in theory…..but even if the colors and shots are similar, he’ll find ways inevitably of blowing me away in several categories. Seven is a commonplace movie in many of its ideas and even some of its presentation, but I adore it for the creative choices in everything from the script to the camerawork. I can recall scenes from all of his movies which represent this idea, even his first and worst feature, Alien 3. Alien 3 isn’t a very good movie overall, but it’s set apart from similar monster movies in enough ways that it’s not terrible. Besides, I doubt any of the problems were Fincher’s fault, considering the fact that he made Seven, The Game, and Fight Club in the next few years. Hell, Fincher managed to make Panic Room, which is strangely great, despite an incredibly simplistic premise, and the presence of Kristen Stewart, who somehow managed to refrain from bringing down the film too much.
Outside of these, I occasionally add extra categories, but those are really just for jokes. They don’t generally affect the total score of the film much, and you, dear reader, need not pay them mind.
Now, I’d like to talk about overall scores, which are technically created automatically through an average of each category. As a result, I technically don’t choose them myself, but they still represent the quality of the film with respect to all categories. So, I’ll do a quick breakdown of what 0 through 10 represent for me as ratings for a film:
10: Absolute masterpieces of cinema. These are perfect or nearly so. I have virtually no complaints about anything in such a movie, and could watch it repeatedly while still enjoying myself immensely. Some films approaching this would be The Witch, Three Billboards, There Will Be Blood, Mulholland Drive, Meet Joe Black, Fight Club, Blood Diamond, Annihilation, The Truman Show, and Grand Budapest Hotel.
9: Amazing and highly praiseworthy films that don’t quite match up to a 10. It’s still incredibly enjoyable for many reasons, and should probably be shared with friends and family as much as possible. Ratings at 9.0 or above are listed as Salient in my reviews. Examples might include Wind River, The Usual Suspects, It Follows, A Ghost Story, Hot Fuzz, Birdman, District 9 (District 10 would get a higher rating of course), and The Last Samurai.
8: Still pretty good and worthy of watching again. Films at this rating are great enough to be positively remembered and kept in mind, but I might not seek them out consistently. Such films are worth seeing at least once, but not necessary or imperative for viewership. Movies scoring 8/10 or higher generally result in me keeping track of the filmmakers behind it, wondering what they will do next. Films around here include The Game, The Descent, Life of Pi, Bone Tomahawk, Edward Scissorhands, Mothman Prophecies, The Help, Secondhand Lions, and Gladiator.
7: Enjoyable with notable flaws. These films have some issues, and seem unfortunately brought down by problems they could have fixed, because some elements are very good. Also, such films may be worthy of seeing multiple times, but little effort would be put into doing so. Movies at 7/10 or above are probably worth the ticket price at a theater, but you don’t need to rush out to see it while it’s there. Ratings between 7.0 and 9.0 are listed as Wondrous in my reviews. Examples could include Titanic, Black Panther, Public Enemies, Under The Skin, Juno, Chicago, Man On Fire, Hotel Rwanda, and Jackie Brown.
6: Passable, and not terrible, but also not noteworthy. Movies with a 6/10 probably have plot holes and inconsistencies that detract substantially from the experience, while still having some good qualities. Still, if I saw such a movie in the theater, I would be disappointed after spending my money on it. These films have good qualities worth mentioning on some level, but might not be worth seeing ever again. At this point, we get into the forgettable movies. Notably, if I predict that a film will be 6/10 or lower for me, I would avoid seeing it in the theater. I’d look at it if it’s on at a party, and that’s all. Movies here could include A Quiet Place, Insidious, Elysium, Interstellar, and The Internship.
5: Mediocre but not totally worthless. A 5/10 is boring and aimless, lacking in quality but not so much that I would demand to stop watching. This is a decent thing to have in the background to which you pay little attention. These films are bland enough that, in order to list examples for thought, I had to look up movies from a bunch of years to find the ones for which I can say “Yeah I saw that. It was fine, I suppose, but really not worth talking about.” Ratings between 5.0 and 7.0 are listed as Satisfactory in my reviews. Examples include Due Date, Shanghai Knights, Flags of our Fathers, Avatar, It Comes at Night, and Red Lights.
4: Really incompetent or otherwise just unpleasant. We’re getting into the bad ones. These are movies I wouldn’t want to watch again. I would probably avoid them, unless there’s some sort of purpose, or I want to laugh at them with friends. These movies might have a couple of good merits, but those can’t outweigh the problems. Examples include 2012, 10,000 B.C., White House Down, The Day After Tomorrow….Okay so almost everything Roland Emmerich has done actually comes to mind as a solid 4/10 movie. I’ve seen Day After Tomorrow 3 or 4 times due to other people watching it near me, and I always just wish something better was on. He only makes messes. I could rant about 4/10 movies a bit, even though they could have some redeeming qualities. More examples would be Mother!, The Lovely Bones, Pacific Rim, The Butterfly Effect, Rumor Has It, and Let Me In(the Swedish original film is great though).
3: Terrible and frustrating to experience. At this point, I would argue with people over the low quality of the films. I definitely do not want to watch a 3/10, and at this point it’s unfortunate anybody has seen these movies. I find that many movies I would put here are beloved by some, but in my experience, they are not good at all. Ratings between 3.0 and 5.0 are listed as Objectionable in my reviews. Also, anything under 3.0 is listed as Egregious in my reviews. Examples might include Gravity, The Grey, The Village, The Lightning Thief, Clash of the Titans, The Hangover, and Saw 2.
2: Films which elicit a groaning malediction from an intelligent audience. These are the movies which truly deserve Razzie awards. I am disturbed when somebody calls anything 2/10 or below a good movie, or recommends them in a serious capacity. At the same time, many such films might be “so bad they are funny” and I can still appreciate that experience. Examples include Battlefield Earth, Catwoman, Transformers, Transformers 2, Transformers 3 (I don’t know why I ended up seeing these) and The Happening.
1: This rating is symbolic of true hatred. If a film is rated so low, I am genuinely surprised to see anybody attached to it in a great film. These movies are, laughably or not, exceedingly awful. It’s the sort of thing you can’t quite imagine having been made until you see it. Examples include Into The Woods, Wicker Man (2006), Ballistic, Sharknado, Alone in the Dark, Say It Isn’t So, The Room, Speed 2: Cruise Control, and Gigli.
0: Defies explanation or proper description. Words do not exist to fittingly convey the negativity with which I regard these movies. This rating fits movies that cannot do anything that isn’t detestable. Their existence is automatic defilement of the industry. Examples include Babel, The Last Airbender, Splice, and Sucker Punch.
That’s all for now. I hope this has been informative, dear reader.