I took my sweet time getting to the theatre on this one, especially after each spoiler-free headline I caught was incredibly divisive – I mean, to think that the prequels could be considered canon over Last Jedi? It’s like everyone’s taking crazy pills. In lieu of the screaming, I thought I would talk out the good and bad of the latest in the franchise. If you don’t want spoilers, I’ll just tell you that I liked it – other than that, read no further.
The Thing That Made Me Literally Say “What the f*ck?” Out Loud
Yes, I am talking about Leia revealing her Force powers. I don’t believe that there was any doubt that she had some sort of Force ability (considering her bloodline) but some sort of hint within the film series would have been nice. Sure she didn’t have any Jedi training, but we could have seen her meditate or something like that.
Otherwise, having her Superman to safety so dramatically was utterly ridiculous. And personally, I think it would have been more appropriate if she had died then and there – hear me out:
Much of Kylo Ren’s character development is hindering on his internal conflict (okay, so he’s the embodiment of internal conflict) – I personally loved that moment of hesitation which lead to someone shooting Leia before him. If she had died, the audience would know that he would have had to live with the fact that he did not kill her in the end, furthering his self-doubt.
Now that I think about it, Kylo probably doesn’t know that she survived, so better yet, he still knows that he hesitated. There will always be doubt, but more on him later.
Finn’s Storyline / The Rebels
For the most part, Finn’s plot felt like busywork. Arguably the disastrous chain of events could be blamed on Laura Dern’s character, Admiral Holdo. Though I do believe that she was mostly a foil to Poe Dameron, to prove that there is benefit to strategy over impulse, it would have been most beneficial for her to maybe, I don’t know, explain this plan to him? Maybe it was just hubris on her part, like she had something to prove?
However, because the true Rebels made their own plans, we got to see a different side of the war, which I appreciated. Being that the main plot is so caught up in light v. dark, it was nice to see neutral parties, as well as how other parts/people of the galaxy is affected – and thanks to Finn and Rose, a new generation of rebels are inspired.
Unfortunately, a lot of this is lost in an overdrawn chase sequence. Additionally I dug Rose as a character, but the romance angle near the end seemed like too much too fast (not a fan).
The Death of Luke
Many folks took umbrage to how Luke met his end. After all, this was the greatest Jedi in the galaxy, and he Force-projected himself to death. Thematically, I thought this worked. The showdown with Kylo was incredibly satisfying, and Kylo knows that he could not best Luke in the end. Furthermore, Kylo has no idea that Luke actually died, so he lives on in legend.
I actually enjoyed everything with Luke – the angst, the bitterness, and ultimately the redemption. Many also hated the fact that he tried to kill young Ben Solo – but it was a subconscious fleeing doubt and nothing more – a misunderstanding that he had to own up to. I also almost cried with happiness when puppet Yoda came back to teach Luke a final lesson. So with his demise, I have to agree with Rey: he was finally at peace, and knew that everything was going to be alright.
I have mixed feelings about him. As a character, it’s great to have such a conflicted villain. On the other hand, his denial and outbursts are just childish and annoying. I want to see him use his failure to empower his rage – to own his mistakes to do better, to indeed let the rage flow through him – some confidence, goddammit. What do we have instead? Doubt and brooding. Lots of brooding.
Sure, he’s following Vader in letting his fear turn to anger, but if I recall, we didn’t really like Vader’s transition that much – it was better when we just knew him as a mysteriously powerful, unstoppable force. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good tragic villain, but they have to be a rare combination of well-written and well performed to gain a sympathetic audience.
Obvious marketing ploy is obvious. However, the porgs weren’t nearly as annoying as I expected them to be, and their origin is actually quite charming. The crystal foxes didn’t really bother me either – I took more offense at a salt-coated planet, but that’s just me.
Final Thoughts: Legends Among Us
I think there’s something wonderful about the common theme of inspiring legends as well as belief. I really like that no matter what, Kylo will always be wrong: even after utter destruction, the stories will always endure, and so will hope. Even though the film ends on the note of “out-with-the-old,” the legends will remain at the core.
Remember that amazing “Don’t Stop Me Now” sequence from Shaun of the Dead?
If it’s been a while, here’s a refresher:
Now if you take that and mix it with this Mint Royale video, then stretch it out for about two hours, you get Baby Driver in a nutshell.
To break it down, after a run-in with a kingpin called Doc (Kevin Spacey), Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a reluctant driver for a small crime syndicate. Alas, as soon as things start going a little too well for Baby, a new player named Bats (Jamie Foxx) joins the crew, and it all descends into a high-octane venture of guts and gunplay.
From start to finish, I was completely entertained and intrigued: Baby Driver is a visual salad consisting of coordination and references (worth re-watching for), complete with a killer soundtrack to oomph every beat.
I immediately bought the soundtrack after seeing this movie, and plan on keeping it in my car for a very long time. This movie was made with such precision and love for music and tempo – I’d be amazed if this isn’t up for an Oscar for editing alone. Edgar Wright is no stranger to clever beats, but to have the characters move in time with the soundtrack – it’s just so cool.
However, there is something that bothers me a lot. Not just that Baby had both the best and worst luck at any given moment (how did Buddy not die the first time!?), nor that Debora was a casual manic-pixie-dreamgirl.
It’s just, how in the world, considering Doc’s shrewd meticulousness, would he EVER want to work with Bats again? Additionally, why wouldn’t Doc mention that they were meeting with crooked cops? Would it have been such a risk to inform them beforehand? Also, considering Baby’s literal life of crime and socio-economic status, I think it goes without saying that he got off way too easily in the end.
Albeit, this is the world of action movies, and sometimes you have to remember that some things just happen because the plot says so. Nit-picks and plot-holes aside, Baby Driver is still an incredibly entertaining, original film with its own merits.
I’ve dabbled with World of Warcraft – I’m not an expert with the lore, or even half of the jargon – I just like making guys and exploring worlds, occasionally summoning demons to slay enemies. You know, casual stuff.
So when Duncan Jones comes along with a feature film, I get pretty excited: I’m a fan of his work (well, I only saw half of his feature films and that half left a great first impression), and a fan of the source material…until I realize this part of the story takes place well before anything I’m really familiar with, but I’m still up for the ride. So with this in mind, it’s super-hard for me to not have an ounce of bias, or at least understanding, but I really can’t wrap my head around this amount of backlash – well, not entirely anyway.
I’d like to start with the elephant in the room, Garona:
Now, Garona is a half-orc – whether she is known to be half-human or half-draenei at this point in the story is neither here nor there. This is what lady orcs look like in this movie:
Painting a lady green and giving her tusks an orc does not make. Even if she is a half-orc, those are some ridiculously strong “other” genes – especially when she looks like this in the game:
Frankly, even with all the suspension of disbelief within me, I was not convinced this woman was half-orc. Maybe a thicker brow or yellowed, more pronounced teeth would have helped convinced me – considering how great all the other creatures looked, comparatively she was kind of embarrassing (from a purely objective standpoint).
Garona aside, this was a pretty convincing world. I dug the creature effects, the fights, and the costuming was pretty spectacular. However, reflecting on the world-building, I can see how some things are lost in translation.
In some interviews, Jones has compared his adaptation (and it’s reception by some) to the Lord of the Rings films: this is a new world that not everyone will understand or appreciate. The trouble is, Azeroth isn’t black and white: there’s a massive cast of characters to consider, with all sorts of motivations.
So in this film when Glenn Close pops in to tell one of our heroes about the power of “the Light,” this isn’t a metaphor – this is a literal religion that is detrimental to certain factions. For this sort of thing not to be explained, this character’s big moment comes off as hella cheesy. It’s lack of insight like this that makes these characters come off as terribly shallow – though with such a broad cast, it’s hard to focus on personal development.
Regardless of these issues, I think an audience can get itself wrapped up in the world of Warcraft. It’s pure epic fantasy – so if you’re looking for a fun escape, go for it. But if you can’t handle some swords and sorcery, look elsewhere. Hopefully with a sequel we can get more in-depth with some of these folks. Hopefully.
I would first like to say that it has been literally years since I’ve seen the original Mad Max, so I have no intention of pulling out any kind of comparisons. Maybe another time. Second of all, the title Mad Max: Fury Road really doesn’t represent the film at all. How about, Fury Road: Featuring Mad Max?
While there’s plenty of screaming, driving, and high-octane explosions, this movie’s really about Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and her quest to overthrow the patriarchy. Well okay, first to free the “breeders,” but then overthrow the patriarchy with some encouragement from Max.
I’m not going to write you an essay on this wonderful take on women in dystopian action movies – Buzzfeed already did it for me. However, I do think it’s odd to focus so heavily on Max, just to shift the paradigm towards Furiosa’s redemption. Was it maybe to suck viewers in? Maybe to fund a franchise with some hype? More than likely a little column A, little column B.
Whatever, it’s great. These two work together to accomplish something bigger than themselves, without any of that superfluous sexual chemistry. Not to mention, Max isn’t really your typical “good-guy” protagonist: we know very little about him – he’s haunted by his past and only lives to survive no matter what the cost. Oh, and he’s crazy.
On the note of madness, the culture of the Wasteland is phenomenal. From the warlord spectacle down to the nomenclature, it’s obvious that a love and care went into creating this world – which is not surprising since George Miller himself is still in control.
From beginning to end, I could not not pull my eyes away from the screen. Sure, it’s ridiculous and violent, but it’s just so fun! Mad Max has really hit the nail on the head in terms of world-building – combine that with some fantastic pacing and War Boy shenanigans, good times are to be had all around!
If you couldn’t tell, I dug this movie. Yes, some spoilery things are a bit too convenient to handle. Yes, Mad Max isn’t really big in this. Yes, it is not perfect. But it’s just so much fun. It’s gritty without being daunting or foreboding – there’s hope, but it doesn’t hit you over the head. This is just some badassery at it’s finest, and exactly what I want in my summer movie.
Final Grade: A
From my first glance at the trailer, I was skeptical.
Here we have an aggressive government entity, a gentle scientist, and a wacky gentile robot who is threatening national security – because robots can’t LEARN, they can’t be SENTIENT, what is this MADNESS!? IT’S TOO DIFFERENT – KILL IT, KILL IT DEAD. And then we learn everything we’ve heard before about nature vs. nurture and BOOM you’ve got yourself a remake of Short Circuit starring my favorite zef hoodlums, Die Antwoord, as well as Dev Patel trying to shake off The Last Airbender, and Hugh Jackman’s rage-inducing mullet.
Well gee, it’s a good thing that I don’t religiously follow trailers, or else I’d be incredibly disappointed pretty much all the time. And it turns out, I wasn’t totally right. Let’s first straighten out that synopsis:
Due to a correlating rise of crime and police mortality rate in Johannesburg, the South African government has decided to invest in a weapons corporation called Tetravaal, fronted by CEO Michelle Bradley (yay Sigourney Weaver!).
Tetravaal’s key contribution to the police force are semi-AI “scouts,” developed by Deon Wilson (Patel). Wilson has aspirations of greater uses for technology, in his spare time developing an AI that can learn and create – you know, no big deal.
After some gangland shenanigans, Chappie (impressively played by Sharlto Copely) is born. Chappie must be taught as a child would, and thanks to his gangster parents, Yolandi and Ninja, he learns quickly the good and evils of the world, while establishing his own consciousness and existence.
Meanwhile, Wilson’s über-machismo co-worker Vincent Moore (Jackman) is becoming increasingly obsessed with getting his war machine off the ground, vexed by Wilson’s success.
As mentioned, I was concerned that this was going to be another one of Blomkamp’s “big mean government” deals – and I wasn’t entirely wrong, but it didn’t rub me the wrong way like Elysium did – and even Neill Blomkamp admits he messed up with that one. Chappie is really more akin to District 9: It begins with a documentary style, it’s set in Johannesburg, has Sharlto Copley as a vulnerable creature, and even ends in a slum. It’s like if you took District 9, Short Circuit, and Die Antwoord and tossed everything into a blender.
Speaking of our duo, I think they did alright – I mean, it’s not the first time they’ve acted. And really, they were kind of what I expected, considering that Blomkamp made a point to use their personas as a springboard. Though I would have rather seen Yolandi a bit more of a badass: after Chappie arrives, she just seemed to either coddle or lay around, smoking and waiting. Huh. Maybe I should call my mom.
On the note of characterizations, I’m amazed that Moore wasn’t written as an American (or maybe he originally was?). Here we have a man who brandishes a handgun in an office while telling coworkers to join him at church, and builds a robot that is just dripping with excess – do you really need a claw that can tear a human body in half? Okay, maybe that doubles as a jaws of life – but the cluster bombs?
Maybe making him an American would seem too obvious – like if a Hispanic man would have been cast as the lead in Elysium. Okay, I’ll quit ragging on Elysium. On the other hand, I’m not that familiar with other countries’ conservative stereotypes, so maybe keeping Moore an Australian makes sense?
Even though Chappie felt a bit like a re-hashed District 9 at times, I think Sharlto Copley’s performance really brings some much-needed heart into this story. Granted, he was designed with curious eyes and ears to better recognize as some sort of relatable creature (Red Letter Media talks about this sort of thing in Plinkett’s fantastic Avatar review), but the physical and vocal performance really shines through.
UH OH SPOILERS
Though technobabble was kept to a minimum (though now I know anything can be accomplished with a suped-up Roomba and enough Redbull), I still find myself wanting to know more about the construct of consciousness as data. I mean, does it get saved like a save state in that moment, like all the memories? Like in Yolandi’s case, that was a while until she was booted up again. …How would her robot walk out of the Tetravaal plant anyway? Also, wasn’t that the plot to Transcendence? (I still haven’t seen it.)
And was it established as to whether or not Chappie feels pain? I figured he didn’t (because that would have to be learned somehow), but the sniveling theatre-goers aside me seemed to believe otherwise. And if consciousness is stored, is it like you’re dreaming? Can it get infected with malware? What happens if it gets deleted? How much memory does a person take up? Maybe that would make the better movie. Or maybe I should just watch Transcendence to make sure this wasn’t already answered, but I doubt it.
YOU CAN COME BACK NOW
On the whole, I really dug this movie. It was heavy when it needed to be, but still kept things playful. In retrospect, I think that Neill Blomkamp is better at writing characters (and general scenarios) than actual stories, because it did feel more pieced together and predictable than it should have, especially given the amount of material one could work with. A tad misguided, yes, but I think Copley’s gentle take on an overused trope is worth the watch.
Final Grade: B
Oh the buzz! People who have never heard of this bizarre Marvel series are suddenly flocking to the nearest novelty shop of their choosing for plush raccoons! Madness! Not gonna lie, after watching this, I was soon browsing Amazon for my own Rocket plush – but that’s besides the point. Guardians of the Galaxy has charmed the nation with its weirdness, and for a good reason – it’s pretty damn good, minor irkables aside.
This is the story of Peter Quill (a buffed up Chris Pratt), a space rogue who stumbles upon an ancient relic – the very relic desired by a warlord hell-bent on revenge (glad to see you again, Lee Pace). With everyone either after Quill or the magical deus ex machina ball, Quill manages to scrounge up a motley crew to fight against the baddies, and save his own hide in the process.
Admittedly, I haven’t read the original material or its successors, and I’ve heard things here and there about Guardians being a Star Wars ripoff, or just like another Pratt film. Sure I can see the similarities, but this no way hinders one’s viewing experience.
This ensemble, well, this cast, is incredibly enjoyable – practically each character brings charm and originality, even the tree who can only say “I am Groot.”
In my opinion, the main weak link is Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Why can no badass female in an ensemble not hook up with anyone? Okay, technically it’s a “will they/won’t they” scenario, but it’s just so vexing. I also felt that she was the least defined out the group, like a green Black Widow.
On the note of bothersome things, I really did have a problem with the deus ex machina ball. I felt as if they overlooked exactly how it works or how it’s controlled – because I thought I knew how it worked, but then they lost me. But I guess everything can be written off as space magic, so I guess that’s okay.
Furthermore, I don’t want to spoil anything this time around, but due to my misunderstanding, and perhaps my cold, heartless nature, I kind of found the climax cheesy. But none-the-less fun to watch.
Frankly, I found myself with a doofy grin throughout this movie, even with the annoying things – not unlike Pacific Rim. We have amazing visuals, the pacing is great, the soundtrack is well, awesome, and the one-liners are just icing on the cake. Treat yourself and go see this movie.
Final Grade: A-
Yes, finally, despite the drama and scandal, Bryan Singer, the director of the only two good X-Men films has returned! Finally, thanks to the power of time paradoxes, we can quite literally forget all about The Last Stand. Though, unfortunately, it is cannon as far as some things are concerned – but we’ll get to that later.
This time the team is in the year 2023, where mutants are hunted down and forced into internment camps, as are the humans who aid them. Now it is up to the remaining X-Men to travel back in time to prevent these atrocities from ever happening, that is, if their future selves can survive in the meantime. Disclaimer: I have never read the comics pertaining to any of these film – just a head’s up.
Considering how this franchise has been going, it’s definitely safe to say that Days of Future Past is a step in the right direction (following First Class, of course). Future Past is chocked full of characters and well-paced action sequences that we’ve all come to know and love, as well social commentary on injustice and equality.
And as always, there are a few new cast-members to join the crew – my vote goes towards Peter Maximoff aka Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Despite the cheesy commercials, I think Quicksilver’s scenes are probably the coolest sequences of this film – definitely close to being on par with Nightcrawler’s X2 opener.
My main issue with this film is the villain, Boliver Trask (hooray Peter Dinklage!). I understand that anti-mutant politicians/corporations are not that unusual as far as villains go, but usually there’s some sort of deeper motive behind our villains. For instance, take William Stryker of X2: he had a personal vendetta against mutants after his mutant son caused his mother to end her life. Trask is just an arrogant asshole. I get that he’s concerned about the extinction of the human race, but I felt that his obsession came out of nowhere.
Speaking of “out of nowhere,” how did Charles survive after his obliteration in The Last Stand? He was just some sort of channeled consciousness in the stinger at the end, and then fully materialized in the stinger after The Wolverine – how does that work? It’s not like he returned to his body because if memory serves, it was dissipated. I think I’d rather see the movie where Charles’ consciousness enters a comatose patient and then his physical appearance changes over time. Or surgery. Something. Anything. I guess it really doesn’t matter now, does it?
Days of Future Past is a solid action film. Amidst the booms and pows come times of existential quandary and reflection. The bit between the two Charles’ is probably one of the best pep talks I’ve seen in a while. Now, if we could only flesh out the baddies a bit more, we might have had another X2 on our hands. Oh well, there’s still Apocalypse to look forward to.
Final Grade: B+
The Westboro Baptist Church has been the subject of much anger and controversy – duly so, considering these pious cretins have gone to the point of brainwashing children in order to protest funerals in the name of “God hates Fags.” This fascinating bunch is also the subject of many-a documentary and exclusive interview, not to mention inspiration for fictional backlash.
Enter chatterbox, filmmaker and all-around groovy cat Kevin Smith, a man not unfamiliar with religious satire. Inspired by leader Fred Phelps’ fanaticism, Smith drafted Red State, a tale in which a group of horny teens get caught up with some dastardly fundamentalists. Shenanigans most brutal ensue as the boys try to escape this backwoods fortress.
Red State is a pretty wicked experience. And an impressive one at that, considering that no one wanted to touch this picture. Of course, with controversial topics comes much well, controversy, so needless to say opinions on this flick were mixed. Filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Ben Affleck hailed the film, whereas many-a-critic were felt that they were either bored, grossed out, or didn’t care for being preached at. As for me? Well obviously I think it’s worth at least checking out.
Frankly, I really dug this story. Perhaps I got a little caught up in the topical nature of figuratively attacking groups such as the Westboros (or in this case, the Five Points Trinity Church), but there’s something primally satisfying about a bloodbath of a showdown. And considering we’re dealing with a story of escape and survival – complete with sudden, heat of the moment turns – that just makes the situation all the more captivating.
I think my favorite aspect of this film, other than the concept itself, is the performances. Veteran actor Michael Parks nails this role as Abin Cooper – a man of charisma and tyranny. Personally, my favorite kind of villain is one I can love to hate, and Parks does not disappoint. Likewise, John Goodman and Melissa Leo give solid performances as the good-guy agent and the lady you want to punch in the face, respectively.
Intense, gritty, with a bit of dark humor tossed in there – Red State is worth a go if you’re in the mood for a decent shoot-em-up horror. Personally, I would have liked to see how the original ending would have turned out, but I think what they went with does the job nicely. Next time on What You Should Have Watched ….mmm Tom Hardy.
Personally, I feel as if cult classic Donnie Darko has received more than enough recognition as that, a cult classic. Not that it doesn’t deserve it. However, I feel that its all-grown-up cousin film Southland Tales deserves similar cult status. Much like Darko, we’re dealing with the time paradoxes and end of the world – only this time with sex, drugs, and government conspiracies.
After twin nuclear attacks in Texas in 2005, the country has fallen into disarray, and World War III has begun. Our story focuses on three men: an actor, Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson) and identical twins Roland and Ronald Taverner (Sean William Scott) and their collision between government agencies, neo-Marxist groups, and a new energy source known as Fluid Karma – thanks to an ex-porn star called Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Confused? That’s okay, because we have reciting vet Justin Timberlake to talk us through everything by means of allegory.
It’s understandable that a film like this can easily fly over a person’s head. It even took me a couple of watches just to get the full picture. This does not mean that I wasn’t the least bit entertained. The performances are earnest as well as over-the-top, creating caricatures of everyday media icons while simultaneously mocking the infotainment industry of our time. On the other hand, some of the situations and dialogue are just too ludicrous – but that’s okay! We’re given a reality that allows us to accept these things. I mean, we’re dealing with the end of the world here – I think a little suspension of disbelief is not too much to ask.
As mentioned, there is a massive ensemble of actors in this picture, and about twice as many cameos – many are beloved SNL alumni. Even Frank the Bunny makes a couple appearances. Additionally, these performances are equally matched by fantastic videography and a score by Moby, creating a most electric atmosphere for this confusion and chaos.
Southland Tales did not receive much recognition…or positive reviews for that matter, but I believe that there’s some sort of oddball charm to this feature. It may not capture the youthful, withdrawn nature of Donnie Darko, but it also doesn’t deserve to be held back by such a comparison. A genuine sci-fi for our time, complete with Orwellian undertones, Southland Tales is a cult classic waiting to happen. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
And so we reach the end of Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy: we had our horror/romance strawberry, the traditional bold blue of buddy-cop films, and we have now our minty fresh sci-fi extravaganza. Our story begins and ends with Gary King, an alcoholic who truly believes that the best night of his life was when he was 17, when he and his four friends began an epic pub crawl through their hometown of Newton Haven and never completed it. Twenty years later and desperate for one more night of glory, King convinces his friends Pete, Steve, Oliver and Andy to rejoin him on his epic quest. Of course, if you’ve learned anything from Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, some crazy shit is about to go down.
Personally, I found The World’s End to be a wonderfully dynamic film. We’re given this simple idea of the intoxication of nostalgia, and that gets blown up through sobering realism and revelation (okay, I’ll stop with booze puns). After all, once you leave home and come back, nothing ever seems the same. Then other times, things literally are not the same – whether it be a personal growth, or you have been replaced by an alien robot. Through the humor and heaviness, we’re presented with a personal journey for an unlikable but human character, as well as an honest portrayal of the hazards of old wounds – ultimately a story of friendship and letting go. (I just want to note that Pete’s short but heartfelt soliloquy in The Cross Hands was probably my favorite moment.)
I can’t help but gush over how well Wright and Simon Pegg wrote this film. There’s no doubt that there are a plethora of themes, but it’s very interesting how the concept of foreshadowing plays through the story with so much depth. For instance, obviously the original crawl would foreshadow the guys’ second attempt, but the fact that the names of the pubs reflect pivotal points of the story is incredibly well planned. Of course, there are more instances than this, but I really don’t want to spoil anything – just keep on the look out, yeh know?
Well-written, well-acted (easily my favorite of Nick Frost’s performances), ardent and hysterical, The World’s End is the perfect way to end this genre-bending trilogy.
Final Grade: A