Month: April 2017

Get Out – Review #73

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Teaser_poster_for_2017_film_Get_Out.pngGet Out, directed by Jordan Peele, stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, and Lil Rel Howery. Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.

So, okay, it doesn’t take a genius to see the heavy emphasis on race in this movie. Now, as a person that is neither black nor white, I would like to say that I have a rather unique perspective of this movie, that I don’t have the bias that might stem from being challenged like this movie does. I could say that.

But I’m not gonna say that. In fact, I’m gonna throw the whole race thing straight out the window right after this section. Do I think race politics are important? Definitely. Do I think they belong in a review about a movie? No. I’m not gonna play favorites, even though in this case I don’t think I really can play favorite, but I digress.

So, what do I think regarding skin tone in this movie? I think that if the colors were switched around, I’d still be scared shitless because it’s a damn good movie. And that’s all I’ll say on that.

Oh my god, a thriller/horror movie that actually has some freaking tension. Blessed be! This movie proved to me and probably any other naysayer that comedian Jordan Peele actually had some talent besides making people laugh. There’s a classic feel to this movie, from its generally warm color palette to the relatively lessened camera cuts and movement, it’s a nice film to look at, almost definitely by design, because when shit starts to go down, you feel it. The terror crawls at you and hits you with that shiver up your spine and suddenly you’re feeling just a bit out of breath, and I got all that from watching on my phone.

The acting, oh man, it’s amazing. There is not a single person that doesn’t nail his or her role. Daniel Kaluuya as the main character Chris gives an absolutely stunning performance worthy of an Oscar nod. Same goes for Allison Williams as his girlfriend Rose. This movie came to my country very late, so perhaps the twist is already mostly known by now, but on the off chance it’s not, I won’t say anything about them, other than the fact that the two work off wonderfully of each other. Freaking threw me for a loop, the cast did.

I judge a movie by how effective it is technically and emotionally, and I am more than happy to say that it got both of those aspects down pat. First 10/10, 5 star rating I am giving this year, and I see no problem with that.

So, in conclusion, Get Out is thrilling, it is chilling, and most importantly, it is effective. It is this generation’s The Stepford Wives, and not just in a time sense. “Get woke”, and go see it. Full recommendation.

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The Fate of the Furious – Review #72

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The_Fate_of_The_Furious_Theatrical_Poster.jpgThe Fate of the Furious, directed by F. Gary Gray, is the newest film in the now legendary Fast and Furious franchise. With Dom and Letty married, Brian and Mia retired and the rest of the crew exonerated, the globe-trotting team has found some semblance of a normal life. They soon face an unexpected challenge when a mysterious woman named Cipher forces Dom to betray them all. Now, they must unite to bring home the man who made them a family and stop Cipher from unleashing chaos.

I’ll admit this out front. Unlike Power Rangers or Smurfs: The Lost Village, I absolutely love the Fast and Furious franchise. I grew up with the series. I have all the movies on DVD. I have fond childhood memories of watching all of them except Fast Five, and that was because we had a crappy copy of it. Hell, I even liked Tokyo Drift!

Me trying to be objective here is just nigh impossible. I grew up with Dominic Toretto, with Brian O’ Connor, with Letty, Mia, Roman Pierce, Tej, all those guys. There’s an emotional connection here. I just thought I should preface this review with that, because yeah, I like this movie.

This movie is fucking stupid. I love it.

That about sums my feelings for the movie. It’s over-the-top, it knows it’s over the top, and it embraces it with the bulging biceps of Dwayne Johnson. This is the blockbuster at its most purest form.

Fate of the Furious is of course continuing where the last one left off, and I’m sure we all remember that the last one was the last time Paul Walker would be in the series. The emotional goodbye at the end of Furious 7 was just about as heart-breakingly sweet as it could’ve been. They do reference Brian in this movie, and the ending is also pretty bittersweet-I heard a few “awws” in the theater-but it’s not as powerful as the last one. But it didn’t had to be, and I appreciate that. Seeing Brian not being a part of this new story is somewhat weird and sad since it involves his closest friend, but Brian’s-and subsequently Paul’s-departure from this movie was done well enough.

The central cast has not changed at all, and they’re as charismatic as ever. Vin Diesel is actually given a bit more leeway to act, because betraying family and all that. He works fine, and the serious parts work well. It all serves to make us hate the villain, and in that sense I’d say it works.

Speaking of the villain, Charlize Theron as Cipher was sadly forgettable. I hate her in the movie, yes, but she’s not as memorable as say, Jason Statham. Then again, they did make me want to see Dominic beat the absolute fuck out of her in the sequel, so I guess they did their job.

There’s really not much else to say about this movie, other than be amazed at how 7 movies on, this series is stronger than ever. The kid inside me is so happy for that.

If this is your first Fast and Furious movie…why? It’s not just that they bring back characters from 3 movies ago that even took me a while to remember, why now? Go watch the whole series through first, damn it.

But besides that, yeah. In conclusion, Fate of the Furious is cheesy fun, but what the hell else did you expect?

Smurfs: The Lost Village – Review #71

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Smurfs_The_Lost_Village_poster.jpgSmurfs: The Lost Village, directed by Kelly Asbury, is the newest cinematic adaptation of the famous franchise featuring the blue little people. Best friends Smurfette, Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty use a special map that guides them through the Forbidden Forest, an enchanted wonderland that’s filled with magical creatures. Their adventure leads them on a course to discover the biggest secret in Smurf history as they race against time and the evil wizard Gargamel to find a mysterious village.

I like the Smurfs in the “eh, they’re alright” way. I didn’t particularly loved them, but I watched a few episodes of the 80’s cartoon a few years back and I thought they were cute and innocent enough.

Certainly not deserving of the absolute travesties the first two movies were. I mean, Jesus Christ, looking back on it, they are just…so…bad.

Considering that this was a fully animated reboot, I had *some* hope for it. Maybe third time’s the charm?

No. No it’s not. It sucks. It sucks like the black hole in the center of our galaxy.

This movie had all the right ingredients. The animation was actually pretty nice, the plot was interesting, the voice acting was pretty good, and the jokes, while corny, mostly fit in well with the tone they were setting.

It all falls apart on one aspect; comedic timing. The movie just keeps throwing joke after joke at the screen, and it never stops. There’s always something frantic moving in each scene, and the audience never gets one bit of downtime. The jokes can be funny, but if it keeps coming, they’re just gonna get tiring and stale.

And Sony just had to cram modern music into what could’ve been a “timeless” movie. They had a surprisingly big and bombastic orchestral score, so the moment I heard that goddamn Eiffel 65 “Da-ba-die” song in the movie, I knew that any redeeming qualities the movie had were lost to me. Fucking modern music in animated movies. I hate that with a passion.

So yeah, in conclusion, the movie had all the makings to be “alright”. I’d say even “pretty good”, but a complete lack of comedic timing ruins any goodwill I had for it. Skip it.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Review #70

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15039604_1408397595845793_8833883194110677407_o.jpgBeauty and the Beast, directed by Bill Condon, stars Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the titular roles, and is the live-action remake of the classic 1991 animated movie. Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast in its castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast’s hideous exterior, allowing her to recognize the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside.

 

So, I live in Malaysia.

“You gonna talk about the ba-”

No.

I didn’t grow up with the animated Beauty and the Beast. In fact, I only watched it for the first time last December. Objectivity for the win!

I found it to be pretty good. I really liked the music, that’s for sure. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman are easily the best musical duo Disney ever had and Ashman’s death came way too soon. I guess I can even say that I went into the new movie just to listen to the music on the big screen.

…what a mistake that was.

Okay, okay, I’ll give the movie some credit. It looked very pretty. It had this storybook fairy-tale look that fitted perfectly with the tone the movie was setting.

The CGI for the Lumiere and the other live appliances were actually pretty amazing. The young ones in the theater could very easily believe that they were real. Hell, I could almost buy into it, it’s that good.

The music is still pretty good; it’s still the Menken/Ashman stuff. Some new songs are added, created by Menken which are okay. You can hear the difference in when it’s made, somehow. And specifically the instrumentals are good. The vocals…yeah…let’s get into that.

As tradition, when I tackle a musical, I’ll go through the songs in relatively quick fashion. Here we go.

1 – Belle

Completely neutered by Watson’s singing. In the trailers, I couldn’t really hear the supposed autotune her voice went through. I could definitely hear it in the movie.

2 – How Does a Moment Last Forever

A new song. It’s segmented into several parts in different parts of the movie. It’s alright.

3 – Gaston

Luke Evans and Josh Gad do a not-so-bad version. It’s nothing against the original, but still, it’s serviceable.

4 – Be Our Guest

Easily the best song in the movie. Ewan McCregor has a nice (actual) singing voice, as you can find from Moulin Rouge!, and I found myself humming through it. Good work.

5 – Days in the Sun

Another new song. It’s okay. Nothing memorable.

6 – Something There

Dan Stevens actually sings fine, it’s Watson again to botch the whole thing.

7 – Beauty and the Beast

Emma Thompson is no Angela Lansbury. Let’s leave it at that.

8 – Evermore

The last new song and the Beast’s big solo song. Easily the “newest” song of the new songs. It sticks out.

9 – The Mob Song

It’s the big crowd song, so it sounded about the same to me. Not bad.

There’s a common link in the songs that drag it down, and that’s Emma Watson. Bless her heart, I love her, but singing is just not her thing. She just can’t hit those emotional highs. And she’s the main star.

The others do alright. Luke Evans isn’t as buff as a live action Gaston probably should be, but he replaces that with a new sleaziness that works for this version. Josh Gad is flamboyant. And I personally didn’t mind how Dan Steven’s Beast looked. He was alright.

So yeah. It’s like Ghost in the Shell, only slightly better.

In conclusion, Beauty and the Beast is a movie that feels like it doesn’t need to exist. It feels like an inferior version that tried new things, although it’s not abjectly bad. Those that grew up with the original would probably dislike it, those that didn’t-like me-would probably find it “eh”. You can pass this one.

Ghost in the Shell – Review #69

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ghostinshellposter.jpgGhost in the Shell, directed by Rupert Sanders, stars Scarlett Johannson and is the Hollywood adaptation of the classic 1995 anime movie of the same name. In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: a human who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that her life was stolen instead of saved. Now, she will stop at nothing to recover her past while punishing those who did this to her.

I knew less about Ghost in the Shell than I did Power Rangers. I don’t really know the world, I’ve never seen any of the original series, and the most I know about it is that one of the movies had music from the amazing Yoko Kanno.

And yes, I’ve heard about the white-washing controversy and all that. Not even gonna get into it. This is a movie review. We’re gonna talk about movies. Specifically, this movie, and how it looks nice…and that’s it.

As stated above, GitS looks nice. Very nice. As in, “this world is completely wasted by the story” nice. It looks like Blade Runner if it had some actual daylight. Giant bright screens of advertisements, huge holographic images taking part in the skyline, all this makes a world just absolutely stunning to look at. The amount of detail there is makes it clear that the makers of the movie tried. They tried their best. There was effort. The amount of practical effects there are in the movie prove that.

Another major prop I have to give it is that it looks absolutely stunning. The cinematography is sleek, stylish, and gorgeous. Apparently some shots were taken directly from the original movie, and if that’s true, then it didn’t feel out of place. This movie is top tier grade A eye candy. It’s almost worth it just for that aspect alone.

The problem is with everything else.

I don’t remember a single memorable thing from the movie. The plot was standard at best. It felt like it was trying so hard to delve deeper into some philosophical musings, but they don’t. You just see glimpses. A…shell, if you will.

The acting is bland. It is so bland. ScarJo probably was casted through star power, but Jesus cybernetic Christ she was as stiff as a brick. Granted, her character is supposed to be detached and solo, but by God at least make her interesting. But no, we get a main character that cares so little that lack of care transfers over to the audience.

The supporting cast is somewhat better. Pilou Asbæk as Major’s closest acquaintance Batou had an inkling of a personality, more so than ScarJo, but not by much. Michael Pitt as the villain was intriguing enough, though not particularly interesting. Easily the best actor in the movie is Beat Takeshi as Chief Daisuke Aramaki. He’s the only guy that speaks Japanese and only Japanese, and that alone raises his coolness factor by a fair amount.

But one guy doesn’t make up for the drabness of the entire cast.

In conclusion, Ghost in the Shell is wasted potential. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and not much else. Maybe go see it if you want to watch a beautiful sci-fi movie for 2 hours. That’s a very hard maybe.