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.
Well, 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, even though he simply gave the gun to a guy who sold that gun to a guy who gave that gun to his kids who shot at a bus. That’s quite far removed from the actual incident. Apparently that can be overlooked too, somehow. Well, they are sad and the father and daughter meet at home and cry together, I guess.
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. Most of the music is just this awful repetitively used guitar track that plays over otherwise silent scenes at least 4 or 5 times in the film, and you see characters looking sad and being in desperate situations, but they’re just horrible and completely incapable of eliciting empathy with their plights. This is like watching a documentary on Ted Bundy and just being expected to really be a big fan of that nice Ted Bundy guy, because clearly he’s just misunderstood or maybe not ‘that’ bad. It’s exhausting. 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.
Update: I actually watched it again. Yes, I did need alcohol. Yes, I think I am okay. I changed the Acting rating because some of them really did try, but wow was I wrong about the cinematography. It’s shot like an action movie. Way too fast, all over the place, totally pointless crap. Also, I somehow forgot a lot of the horrific sexual harrassment the japanese deaf girl enacts upon various men in the film. It’s a pretty persistent issue and she never really gets punished for it. Yet the film seems to want me to sympathize anyway. Sickening.
So, my rating has not improved. This will always be one of the worst films ever made.