Citizenfour – Review #5

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Looking at the title, I was tempted to make an Orson Welles joke, but I realized that this was not something to joke about.

citizenfour-posterCitizenfour, directed by Laura Poitras, is a documentary about Edward Snowden, or more importantly, Snowden’s reveals of the NSA spying scandal. It highlights the days before the initial leak, and the consequences that follow both the US government and Snowden himself.

Just bringing up Edward Snowden’s name will conjure both respect and disgust from the American public, as some people call him ‘patriotic’ while some people would declare him ‘traitor’. I personally stand with both feet on the ‘patriotic’ side, although I would rather call him ‘humanistic’ than ‘patriotic’. He was able to get classified information about various NSA programs that harm the privacy of individuals, and instead of staying in the dark and deciding not to publish them in fear, he literally says ‘f**k that’ and gives the information to his journalist friends, and I think that is something to be respected. I am fully aware that some people will not agree with me on this viewpoint, and to them I say, ‘to each his own’. Just remember, there is a very big possibility that the NSA is spying on you right now.

The story-telling of the film is magnificent. It’s able to produce this constant feeling of dread, making the viewer uncomfortable in various ways, made even more so when you realize that this is not a fictional spy thriller-although the film certainly feels like that-or something. This is a very real thing.

I don’t live in the US. In fact, I’m nowhere near it, so perhaps my opinions will be downgraded, but I will still say that Citizenfour is the best documentary I’ve ever seen, not just because of its masterful camerawork and story-telling, but because the story itself is something that should be shown. I implore anyone who thinks that the US government is ‘clean’ and that ‘everything is justified if it’s the government’, watch this. For your own sake.

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Review #4

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Don’t mess with Colin Firth, or he’ll go Hit-Girl on your ass.

Kingsman: The Secret ServiceKingsman: The Secret Service, directed by Matthew Vaughn, tells the story of the Kingsman, a secret intelligence agency. They kick ass like Jackie Chan and dress as sharp as James Bond. When one of their agents perish from a mission, the Kingsman must choose a candidate to take over his place. Here’s where Colin Firth comes in, portraying ‘Galahad’ of the Kingsman, who chooses Eggsy-yes, that’s his name-, an aimless young adult whose father worked with ‘Galahad’. All the while, Richmond Valentine, a billionaire and his side-kick Gazelle, plan to solve the problem of over-population. By themselves. You can see where the movie goes from there.

After an agonizing month of waiting-curse my lack of transportation!-and watching reviews, I went into this movie expecting a fun play on the spy genre, and it delivered in spades. Honestly, this feels like a James Bond film from the Connery age.

The acting in this film can be summarized in two words: unbelievably British. Minus Sammy J of course. New-comer Taylor Edgarton as Eggsy does very well, playing this slacker who enters the world of espionage. The side characters are very good too, with special mentions to Sofia Boutella as Gazelle and Mark Strong as Merlin, but the one person that without a doubt steals the show is Colin Firth as Harry ‘Galahad’ Hart. Yes, King Bertie himself. His natural charisma and apparent lack of normal attire just makes him ooze the British red, white and blue.

Matthew Vaughn, the director of this flick, has a distinct style for transitions and action scenes. If you watched Kick-Ass, also directed by Vaughn, you’ll know what I mean. His transitions are usually very… obvious, if you will, and he has the ability to portray various emotions in order by those transitions, which is very good. His action scenes, though, are the ones that must be seen to be believed. The excessive shaky-cam and use of stunt-men are not present in this movie, mostly. This harks back to the Timothy Dalton Bond, where he would do his own stunts, which is the same case for Colin Firth and co. You can actually see them wreck shit up. That should not be refreshing, but it is. Oh yeah, and the church scene. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird was a good choice. That’s all I’ll say.

In this action-filled madness of a film, one thing that annoyed me, albeit for a short while, was Sammy J’s lisp. I don’t know why it is, but his lisp just didn’t fit his character. Even Sammy J himself kinda forgets it at the third act, if my memory serves me well.

In conclusion, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a mix between Kick-Ass and James Bond. Heck, they even reference James Bond. Just know that it does have excessive violence and you might have to sneak in (which I did), but I assure you, the church scene and the ending ‘explosion’ are worth it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy some suits and formal wear. This movie makes me want to dress up. Hopefully the shoes are Oxford, no brogues.

Aliens – Review #3

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Oh, practical effects. Where did you go?

AliensAliens, directed by James Cameron, starts where Alien left off. 57 years later. Ellen Ripley, played again by Sigourney Weaver, is found after being in stasis. She learns that the planet where the first Alien occurred has become a colony planet, known as Hadley’s Hope. When Hadley’s Hope loses contact with the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, Ripley is forced to go back to the dreaded planet with the colonial marines to discover what happened.

Out of the blue, the tone of the movie is noticeably different than the first one. Gone is the more quieter horror feel; and replacing it is a more ‘actiony’ vibe. Now, that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the film. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Sigourney Weaver returns and I have to say, after a 7-year absence from the Alien franchise, she didn’t miss a step. She is still the Ripley we know, love, and admire. However, that is not to mean that the rest of the cast is bad. The colonial marines, whom in current movies may just be reduced to the usual bland and soulless drones-in-a-meatbag, actually have personality. From the tomboy Vasquez to the synthetic Bishop, you actually think they can be real people. The breakout star, though is the little girl Newt. I won’t say much about her, as it will spoil the story, so just hear this: she puts McCaulay Culkin to shame.

Now, back to my quip on practical effects. Say what you want about James Cameron, you have to admit, he puts dedication into the effects; Titanic might be a smushy love story, but the part when the ship starts to sink it’s truly breath-taking. And you can see that he had that dedication early on in his career. Yes, some of the blue screen shots are very visible, but for 1986, the effects are spectacular. Special mention goes to the creature effects department; the Xenomorph never looked better.

All in all, Aliens is to Alien what Judgement Day is to The Terminator. Both are in the same franchise, and both have a mostly same cast, and which is the better, the original or the sequel, is still up for debate. I personally like Alien more, as it is more of a horror movie and what I feel the Xenomorphs belong in, but that is not to say that Aliens is a bad film. The cast is memorable, the soundtrack thrilling, and the aliens do have a more prominent appearance in this film. If you don’t mind the quieter Alien being changed to be more action packed, give it a shot.

There Will Be Blood – Review #2

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If you checked my profile, you may notice that I have a link to my Letterboxd account. As my exams are wrapping up in a few days, I shall be re-posting my older reviews from Letterboxd. No worries, new reviews will come in due time.

There Will Be Blothere_will_be_blood_ver4od, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, tells the story of Daniel Plainview, an oilman during the days when oil was new and men still had mustaches. One day, a person named Paul Sunday comes to him and says that his property has oil. Daniel decides to take his son H.W. to the property and check it out. What follows is a tale of faith, wealth, and of course, oil.

I have heard many things about this film before I watched it. How it is regarded as one of the best films of the 00’s, Daniel Day-Lewis and the milkshake, all that stuff, so I had my doubts, since these promises rarely pay off-Frank comes into mind. Well, after watching this film and glaring at its absolutely beautiful poster, I can happily say that this film is one of the exceptions.

While this film is undoubtedly an epic, its not an epic in the traditional sense. It doesn’t have lavish sets or thousands of extras. It’s not Cleopatra or Ben-Hur is what I basically mean. What defines it as an epic, then? Well, several things.

First off, the audio, or if we will be more specific, the sound mixing and music. The sound mixing is…I don’t even know how to define it. Paul Thomas Anderson just puts the right amount of wooden creaks and clothing ruffling to truly make you feel as though you are a part of a world long since past. The music by Jonny Greenwood too adds to the atmosphere, adding the right amount of strings into the score. This film made me realize how much I missed bombastic orchestral scores in films.

Next, the visuals. Coming back to PTA, his direction is spectacular in this film. He knows when to just let the camera stay still and when to pick it up and run around with it. I would call it Spielberg-esque, since it feels like a Spielberg film, but no, it’s PTA-esque, and I love it because of that.

Lastly, Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview. Day-Lewis’ method acting is not unknown in the film world, and if Gangs of New Yorkdid not prove to you that this guy can act, than this film is the one for you. I mean, you do not see Daniel Day-Lewis, an actor in this film, you see Daniel Plainview, an oilman and family man, who kicks religion in the face just to see it squirm. The rest of the cast is very good as well, but Day-Lewis not just overshadows them, he freaking descends eternal darkness upon them. He is the oil to this derrick.

In conclusion, There Will Be Blood is the film that everybody says it is. This movie proves that PTA has ‘it’, and that you don’t need hundred-million-dollar budgets to make an epic, only brilliant visuals, brilliant audio, and a damn brilliant actor.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Review #1

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What a lovely movie. Oh, and why in the world has Mattel not partnered with George Miller to make Mad Max Hot Wheels? They would sell like…well, mad.

mad-max-fury-road-poster2Mad Max: Fury Road, directed by George Miller, is the fourth installment of the Mad Max series of films. It also acts as a reboot, with Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson as the title character in this 30-year old franchise. The story takes place in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, which is totally not Australia, *cough*, and starts with Max being captured by a group of people call the War Boys, whom for some reason have no tan despite being basked in the sun all the time. Max is found to have blood type O-negative, which means that he’s a universal blood bag, a term that Nux, a War Boy, calls him. As he is being used, Furiosa, a driver under the god-like figure Immortan Joe, decides to detract from a normal oil and gun run. The rest of the movie is the intense chase between Immortan Joe with his War Boys, and Furiosa,  with Max being dragged along for the ride.

My anticipation for this movie was off the wall. I love vehicular carnage. Call me what you want, but I like to see vehicles being mangled and crushed. I think it’s supposed to release anger or whatever. And so, with the Mad Max series being famous for its destruction of automobiles, I entered the cinema hoping that my hunger would be at least supplied. Mad Max: Fury Road not just provides that love of destruction with no sense of guilt and remorse what-so-ever, it delivered it in unnecessary excess, and I enjoyed every last minute of it.

When Chris Stuckmann said that this is one of the best action movies this decade, he wasn’t kidding. Director George Miller’s visual eye gives us the best it has ever gotten in post-apocalyptic  vehicular warfare. The chase scenes are beautifully shot, the colors are striking, the designs of the vehicles are unique and fit perfectly in this wasteland, and the stunts are some of the most jaw-dropping, eye-opening moments I have ever witnessed. I shit you not, my eyes began to hurt when I watched this movie, not because it was too fast-paced or too bright, but because it had me so glued to the screen I forgot the subconscious instinct to blink. It is that good.

Not only that, but the new characters that Miller have drawn up for us are instantly memorable, and are another magnificent piece of this movie’s puzzle. Charlize Theron’s is strong as Furiosa, a female character in an action movie that *gasp* isn’t a damsel in distress! When’s the last time we’ve seen that?-Black Widow doesn’t count. Nicholas Hoult’s Nux gives the perspective of the blind soldiers, who would willingly sacrifice themselves just to stop a truck. If anything, the weakest character in the movie is Max himself, but maybe that’s just me missing Mel Gibson. And of course, my favorite character is the guy playing the fire-blasting electric guitar. You’ll have to see the film yourself to see why.

All in all, Mad Max: Fury Road gives everything that it promised it would give: high-octane gas-guzzling non-accidental automobile wrecking. Just remember that this is a reboot, and don’t let the change in atmospheric color and actor take away your opinion and enjoyment of this wonderful, steroid-eating, engine-blasting, lovely film.

P.S.: You guys should totally check out Chris Stuckmann on Youtube. He’s a pretty cool guy.

A note before we start.

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This is not a professional reviewing site. I heartily suggest that, if anyone actually does come here, that you don’t use my reviews as your opinion. Open up, read more reviews, watch more videos discussing the movie in question. There’s no pain in doing that, is there?