Alien: Covenant (2017)
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Dan O’ Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Bill Crudup,
Alien: Covenant can best be described as a tensionless film that offers very little to audiences to hold their attention. The film is filled with too many visual one dimensional characters and relationships that moments of supposed drama fall within the realm of indifference. The visual aspects of the film are well done as one can expect from a Ridley Scott film. The location choices, physical sets created and the attire of the characters all felt appropriate.
For those looking to watch Alien: Covenant I would advise you to first watch Prometheus (2012) as Alien: Covenant is the direct sequel. The overall plot is one seen in most of other Alien movies. The film follows the crew of the Covenant and its two thousand plus colonists as they make their way to a new planet. The crew stumbles upon mysterious signal on a planet that appears to good to be true. The crew eventually meet David (Michael Fassbender) following an attack from a “baby” alien. The plot eventually leads to the crew becoming aware of the why the planet though picturesque is essentially empty of life and David’s role.
The only saving grace for the film is Michael Fassbender who plays two roles as David the same synthetic Prometheus and Walter an updated version tasked to serving the Covenant crew. The interactions between David and Walter is best described as an older brother younger brother relationship. David being the “older” brother has let his negative experiences with humans be the driving force for his pursuit for a twisted view of creation. Walter being the “younger” brother is more naïve as he knows very little beyond his primary duties. The plot hints of David slowly trying to entice Walter to accept his world view.
The rest of the cast was a generic collection of people that the film did not bother to appropriately develop making their struggles meaningless. For example, Daniels (Katherine Waterston) in the first part of the film looses her husband and the captain of the ship. Though this should be a heart wrenching event it happens far too early to make the audience care because we know nothing about her. This can also be said of Tennessee (Danny McBride) and Karine (Carmen Ejogo) as their relationship as husband and wife is never truly established other than a few throw away lines of banter between them.
The reason why Alien (1979) was such an effective movie was that it did not go beyond itself and try to be a grand tale. Alien (1979) was essentially a slasher film in space. The tension in the original was slowly increased over time the audience could feel the fear alongside the crew. By trying to create an epic sci-fi story out of Alien is very much trying to build a house with to few resources. Ultimately the ending of the film leads to the covenant heading back on course with a few new crew members.
I recommend those reading this review to wait until this film is available on their on demand service or when its physical release is drops in value. I do not think that this movie justifies someone taking the afternoon to pay full theater prices and food.
Hail, Caesar! (2016)
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson
Hail, Caesar! is one of the worst films I have ever watched. The film offers no redeeming qualities in regards to an engaging plot, likable or interesting characters, or even a notable message or comment. This “film” can best be described as a series of images that offer no artistic or entertainment value.
The strongest aspect of the film (I use strongest as loosely as possible) as a poor attempt to comment on the studio system and Hollywood itself as just a machine for the elite to broadcast their version of the acceptable. This was poorly executed as the dialogue felt more fluff than substance and it was not supported by the surrounding environment or characters.
The plot of the film follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) who is a studio fix who is tasked to ensures the films are made in a timely manner. We follow Eddie during the course of a few days as we tries to put out fires involving a pregnant unmarried starlet (DeeAnna Moran/Scarlett Johansson a kidnapped dolt (Baird Whitlock/George Clooney), all the while the studio’s prestige picture gets done. These series of problems may seem interesting on paper but on camera the actors are one dimensional and unappealing. I do not know if this a deliberate attempt to comment on films today but the fact it is so ambiguous does not help.
The only redeeming character of the film is Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich). Hobie is very much the “regular” guy of the film as he is presented as western star embarking on a more dramatic role. Hobie throughout the film is very much a more appealing character in that we are given most insight in to his motivations as to why he is a movie star. Hobie for lack of a better phrase is person not a character.
The coen brother’s films have been known for their less than coherent plots but Hail, Caesar! provides nothing of value for the audience. There are no characters to keep one interested for the length of the film, there is no interesting scenes that one should wait to see, and the message of the film is too muddled to be effective.
I do not recommend this film to anyone as even the most die hard coen brothers fan can hardly justify this being at most an average movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn
Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a wonderfully entertaining film that includes a compelling plot, excellent character development, and a sense of joy that many recent comic book movies have failed to do.
Guardians of the Galaxy is the first film in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe that has been able to accomplish the task of making their main characters 3 dimensional. Throughout the film we seen Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Groot, Rocket, and yes Yondu transform from just characters on paper to real people. For example Yondu (Michael Rooker) in the first film is very much a basic villain and comedic foil for Star Lord. The sequel paints him as a much more broken character who has to live with his past choices and his struggle to redeem himself. Star Lord (Chris Pratt) when finally meeting his father is faced with an emotional struggle in which he has to choose between the “real family” he just met and the family that has been there all along. James Gunn handles these swings in emotional tones quite nicely as they are under cut by lines of humor to keep the move light.
Guardians Vol. 2 is also the first Marvel movie to have an interesting villain played by Ego (Kurt Russell). Ego is very much a charismatic individual which allows our hero’s and the audience to be very open to his plans. Ego also is the first Marvel movie villain that has a plan that is more complex than getting a McGuffin to take over the world. The film showcases Ego as thinking on a much larger scale than previous bad guys.
Music is once again a central component to the success of this film. A combination of late 70s early 80’s songs are sprinkled appropriately in to the film which enhances the emotional elements for the audience. For example, the film begins with us joining the Guardians fighting a creature as a job. James Gunn under cuts the seriousness of the threat by opening the film with a song by Electric Light Orchestra.
The films has no glaring weakness other than a few moments where James Gunn may have slightly over used comedic to undercut what might have been serious monologue by the characters. For instance, when Nebula (Karen Gillan) completes a very raw monologue about the harrows she faced as a daughter of Thanos the other character in the scene gives an almost t.v. sitcom response that could have been left on a serious note.
If you have not guessed by now I am recommending this film to anyone and everyone because it is more than just another comic book movie. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the first film I have seen this year that can be described unironically as fun.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Stefan Zweig and Wes Anderson
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fairly entertaining comedy from Wes Anderson. This film in my opinion is the best example of a “Wes Anderson” film that Wes Anderson has ever made. From his use of particular camera angles, lines of dialogue, color patterns and even his use of miniatures it is very much a true expression of his film making prowess. That said the characters sometimes feel one dimensional to a fault with the overarching plot feel more flash than substance.
The strongest part of the film is also its most trying aspect. The film is shot in two ways either characters are moving horizontally which they are tracked by the camera or characters are moving towards the camera down hallways. I am not a film expert so please forgive me if I don’t know the technical terms. However, my point is that after the first act one can stat predicting how the rest of the film will be presented. Some may like this style but I felt these continued view points did not add to the story or tension or anything more to the film.
The overall cast of characters was quite lacking aside from Ralph Fiennes (M. Gustave). M. Gustave is the concierge and in his own words is the main reason why visitors go to the hotel. As the film progresses the comedy is in the ability for Gustave to remain pretentious even in the mist of danger ultimately until the end. This is contrast to the other walking caricatures that Gustave meets and knows. I got the sense that the character Gustave was Wes Anderson’s way of looking down at almost paint by the number movies that are produced today.
I would recommend this film to those who are firstly fans of Wes Anderson. I would also recommend this film to those studying cinematography as the film’s camera style is a good teaching tool. Those expecting to have fits of laughs when watching a comedy this is not for you. The dialogue is dry and there are very few outright “jokes” to keep you entertained.
As always thank you for taking the time to read this review.
Justice League Dark (2017)
Director: Jay Oliva
Writers: J.M. DeMatteis and Ernie Altbacker
Stars: Matt Ryan, Camilla Luddington, Jason O’ Mara
Justice League Dark is a solid film that serves as an introduction for new comic book fans to the supernatural world of Detective Comics (DC). Prior to watching this film I was not fully aware of the variety of DC characters that focused on the supernatural. Upon completing this film I was quite intrigued with characters Constantine and Etrigan to the point of going to my local shop and buying a few issues. For those looking for a fully formed plotlines and characters the hour and fifteen minute run time is going to leave you feeling unsatisfied.
An interesting aspect of this film is that Batman (Jason O’ Mara) is very much the vessel that helps the audience enter the world of Justice League Dark. The general plot begins with events around the world in which individuals are performing horrific acts on each other as if they were seeing demons. Batman goes out and seeks John Constantine (Matt Ryan) in hopes of obtaining insight on to what is going on. The film proceeds to present the rest of the case with brief flashbacks to explain their motivations and powers.
The weakest point of the film was its limited run time. An extra 20 to 30 minutes would have allowed more time to give Constantine a more thorough back story. The film portrayed Constantine as a one dimensional cliché of the selfish badass who has a heart. I would have enjoyed a short presentation of how John became the foremost authorization of magic and the supernatural and why every character had some grudge against him. This goes for Zatanna (Camilla Luddington) as she is also very much veiled in mystery.
I recommend this film to established Justice League Dark fans who are looking to get their friends in to this series in DC comics. I feel that DC should have offered in the box an online subscription to this series so that audiences have the option to follow up with the characters they just watched.
As always thank you for taking the time to read this review.
Director: Tom Ford
Writers: Tom Ford and Austin Wright
Stars: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon
Nocturnal Animals can best be described as a more violent and haunting version of Dustin Hoffman’s classic the Graduate (1967). The movie in vivid details explores the struggle between the romanticization of what we want for our lives and the reality of the world. The film provides excellent performances from the entire cast especially Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams. The violence though brief at times is quite brutal and should only be viewed by mature audiences. The film in particular the later half of the film lead the audience in to a more emotional and painful road which ends with a justified ending.
The film revolves around two characters Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) and Tony Hastings/Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). The film’s main driving force is a book written Edward Sheffield who has sent an advanced copy to Susan for review. As Susan reads the novel the audience is taken in to the story as horrible events unfold leading to the end of Tony’s wife and daughter. We follow two stories the story of Susan living in a loveless marriage and the struggle in the novel with Tony trying to gain justice for his slain family. The film also provides us occasional snippets of the life Edward and Susan had before their divorce and how Susan ultimately struck the final blow.
The main theme I found when watching this movie was the struggle between the romanticized ideal life we all want and the pragmatic reality that we face. Susan in her ideal youth goes against her mother’s advice and marries Edward but she soon learns the truth in her jaded mother’s words. Edward through Tony the character is also struggle with this where his once view of life is taken and the book is his way of showing his process towards any kind of closure. The film ends with a subversion of what a general audience may expect and in that it stays with the tone of the film. Special consideration should be given to Michael Shannon who plays Bobby Andes plays the policemen who has nothing to lose. Bobby Andes the character is very much the driving force to allow Tony some sense of justice for his family no matter how much it hurts him.
The first half of the film leaves much to be deserved in regards to plot development. The film takes great pains to show how apathetic and unfulfilled is she with her life but I felt these initial scenes could have been trimmed making the film a normal 90 minute feature. However as I stated above those who can make it through the first hour are rewarded with a wonderful 2nd half.
I recommend this movie to only mature audience only given the subject matter and the images are not suitable for anyone else.
Thank you for reading this review and as always please leave a comment or follow me on twitter @ibmoviereview and let me know what movies to review next.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence Review
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Writers: Shirow Masamune, Mamoru Oshii
Stars: Akio Ostuka, Atsuko Tanaka, Tamio Oki
Ghost in the Shell 2 is a very enjoyable film that does not rely on heavy action set pieces but rather presents a story about humanity and robotics that will sure to intrigue audiences. The film takes place after the original Ghost in the Shell (1995) with focus on Batou the major’s previous partner as he investigates a series of murders by pleasure bot and their owners. The film offers audiences with a beautiful and imaginative art style that is sure to hook viewers initially while the plot gets them invested in to seeing what happens to the characters.
The strongest aspects of this film are its visual style and plot. The film does an admirable job in trying to harmonize classic 2D animation with the more computerized realism of 3D art. The 3D art is thankfully only used sparingly in mundane areas such as streets and walk aways. The characters are drawn quite well for most of the film but there were instances when during the emotional parts of the film characters would seem to almost lock up in frame thereby taking me out of the story. I felt this may have been due to the english dub as the voices seemed to be out of step with the animation.
Batou unlike his 2017 counterpart gives viewers more opportunity to understand his motivations and his feelings about his life and life in general. One of the best scenes in the film is Batou and his new partner Togusa conversing with Kim a known hacker. The conversation dealt with the interesting question of why humanity was so fixated with creating robots and other creations in their image. The three also spoke about how memories and dreams were merely one in the same as Batou and Togusa later found themselves trapped in a endless mental maze created by Kim. The interesting use of philosophical and biblical quotations elevated the dialogue to a conversation that needed consideration. The way in which Batou and his partner escape the maze was also a well thought out sequence of events.
There were no glaring weaknesses that I noticed when watching this film. The plot was well paced for the 90 minute run time. There was no overuse of over the top action scenes but when violence was needed it was used more as device to move the story alone. Aside from some dub issues the film was much more coherent than Ghost in the Shell (2017).
I give this film a recommendations and encourage those especially fans of anime to add this movie to their collection.
The Exorcist 1973
Director: William Friedkin
William: William Peter Blatty
Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair
The Exorcist is a solidly built movie that at this time acts more as a milestone in the horror genre than a truly scary film. I understand that at the initial release of this film the movie may have had a greater impact on viewing audiences. There were only a few moments where I felt any sense of tension or dread but for most of the run time I was amused to the point of laughter. The practical and special effects were still effective the context in which the scares were supposed to happen fell flat.
There were only two scenes in the film that I felt remotely scared or uneasy. The first scene is the when Father Karras (Jason Miller) goes to visit his mother in the asylum. The shots of the elderly woman the way they clung to him made the image quite upsetting. The second scene was Regan (Linda Blair) in her possessed state has her shirt moved slightly to reveal a help me message on her stomach. The room was dark and the wind was blowing made the scene much more impactful.
The performances for this type of film were good but the plot and timing made the film unbalanced and poorly paced. The first part of the film has Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) in the middle east finding a strange artifact. The film then shifts to the United States where Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is an actress in a film. There is no connection to these other than at the later part of the film Miss MacNeil needs a priest who specializes in exorcism. There is also a small side plot of a supposed person vandalizing a church statue of the Virgin Mary that is never resolved or spoken about at any other point in the film.
After viewing this film I can truly appreciate the types of practical effects seen in other films. The moving of the furniture, the lights flickering, the physical manipulation of Regan all play a role in making her possession believable. In the same token I felt the film the interactions between Regan in her room in the other characters were too bright. I would have adjusted the lighting to give Regan a more ominous look.
I give this movie a recommendation to those who enjoy classic movies. If you have never seen this movie and you have become attached to today’s spectacles that pass for horror this film may be a bore to you. The special and practical effects were excellent however the plot and performances felt more generic leaving me wanting for more.
Thank you for reading this review. Please follow me on twitter @ibmoviereview and recommend what movies to review next.
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writers: Shirow Masamune, Jamie Moss
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano
Before I begin this review please note that I had no prior knowledge of the original Ghost in the Shell film or the anime in general. I went to view this film on its own merits.
Ghost in the Shell is the most appropriately named and worst movie I have seen in theaters this year. The film is a perfect combination of a tensionless plot and a lack of any memorable characters. The film did not provide any emotional stakes to make the action bland and thus making me feel indifferent to the supposed struggles of the characters. Aside from some environmental special effects Ghost in the Shell was just that a shell of a movie.
The weakest aspects of the film were the performances from cast. Scarlett Johansson is truly a physical beauty but her performance as Major lacked depth. The character Major had the potential to be a “Edward Scissor Hand” type of character where we would be able to see how blank slate of a “person” rationalized and organized the individual self to the environment. What we received was a series of lifeless facial expressions for almost two hour run time. The rest of the cast was not better as we were introduced to generic money hungry villain, generic outcast anti hero, and a host of other generic characters.
I do not want you to go see this movie. The plot of the film involves the character Major who is an advanced combination of the physical human brain her “ghost” and the state of the art synthetic “shell” tasked for military type operations. The film takes audiences on a straight forward story of Major trying to remember the former self. Major turns out to be a former runway who is one of several kids taken in a police raid. The worst scene of the film is when Major after finding out her former identity goes out to visit her mother in her new non Japanese form. The entire sequence of Major and her mother was more awkward than heartfelt that made me want to cringe. The film ends with a big battle between Major and Spider Tank and yes they even managed to make that part of the film uneventful.
The only positive aspect of the film was combination of the physical environment and special effects. They reminded me of the lived in feel that one gets in movies like Mad Max Fury Road or Blade Runner. Though artfully done this aspect alone is not worth the price of admission or even a rent at the Redbox.
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The Nice Guys (2016)
Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice
The Nice Guys is a wonderfully entertaining addition to the buddy cop genre. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling have excellent onscreen chemistry as they take the audience on a fun ride through 1970s Los Angeles. The film offers a solid combination of a unique cast of characters with a plot that subverts your expectations enough to keep everyone wanting to see what happens next. The film through its use of music, wardrobe, and locations makes one feel like they went back in time.
The strongest aspect of the film is the relationship between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. Russell Crowe plays Jackson Healy a streetwise hired fixer who teams up with Holland March (Ryan Gosling) as they try to locate the daughter of a high ranking public official. The dynamic of their relationship has an entertaining arch where they initially meet due to unfortunate circumstances they end as rather good friends. Holland March’s daughter played by Angourie Rice also gives a great performance as she acts combination of babysitter mirror to the constantly drinking March.
For those expecting a bullet storm of action this movie may not be for you. Though the movie has its set pieces its the interaction the characters before and after the action that keep me watching. For example, after a gunfight ends we see Healy and March conversing in front of an empty swimming pool. Healy is asked about a past even in which he ends a robbery before it starts. After Healy expels his heart in front of March we see his would be partner passed out.
I hope that there is a Nice Guys 2 in the works because Crowe and Gosling have the makings of a classic duo. The film has very few glaring errors which include plots points regarding March’s former house and a few unfunny jokes it was a truly a great afternoon movie that has a great amount of replay value.
As always thank you for your continued support of this blog. Please leave a comment as to how I can improve my writing and the blog as a whole.