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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Pirates franchise has been a bit of a doozy since it's shocking box
office success way back in 2003. Curse of the Black Pearl was never
meant to house a sequel, as it was an open-and-shut swashbuckler flick
that was heavy on energy, action, humor, and blockbuster soul. It
garnished tons of Oscar nominations (and money), upped Johnny Depp's
persona several notches, and helped give Disney the box office crown in
2003. 14 years later we see the fifth installment, with the second
consecutive attempt at creating a new Will/Elizabeth love story, the
second consecutive attempt to replace the underrated director of the
original trilogy Gore Verbinski, and once again taking the crown as
arguably the most expensive film shoot in cinematic history.
Production hell doesn't begin to describe the attempts to create the fifth movie, even though On Stranger Tides was met with very poor reviews. Johnny Depp refused the original idea, which would have featured a female villain for the first time. Johnny Depp was going through a nasty divorce and got injured, delaying the shoot even longer. Disney and Bruckheimer were arguing about costs, and the script itself (which is a disaster we can describe later) was undergoing changes and multiple hands. And I'll still never understand how the writer of Rush Hour 3, Speed 2, and Tower Heist managed to get his hands on such a big film. Oh Hollywood The only company willing to cling on to a sinking ship of a film is Disney, simply because their patience constantly gets rewarded, and it's impossible to discontinue a franchise that has earned them a nasty 3.8 billion within only four films. So after epic struggling for many years, we finally see Dead Men Tell No Tales gracing the screen.
Not going to lie, this film is an entertaining mess, and part of the wave of recent sequels/prequels that went through similar production issues which affected the final product. Alien: Covenant went through tons of trouble, and then we see Fate of the Furious have to find a way to edit out the obvious tension between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel. But the Pirates franchise is more than just a cluster of movies, its part of the Disney fandom culture, it has a life of its own through video games, books, and mysteries and intrigue surrounding it all. So copying, abandoning and contradicting plot elements of the original trilogy gives this movie a layer of frustration we didn't need, and we definitely don't deserve after such a long wait. Even after the entertaining first half, it all gets damaged by the unmet potential and by the awkward familiarity of the plot. And this comes from the Disney Company, a film studio notorious for being vigorously detailed with all of its IPs, from Marvel to (especially) Star Wars.
Another curse that doesn't allow the cursed to touch land? Sounds familiar. Woman who doesn't believe in the oceanic supernatural mumbo-jumbo? Sounds familiar. A person who denounces pirates suddenly becomes one? Also sounds familiar. British navy trying to conquer the seas from the pirates? Heh, okay. The entire plot line felt very similar to Curse of the Black Pearl, yet this installment felt like it was tapping the brakes far too much. This watered down and clownish Jack Sparrow didn't perform any swordplay once, he didn't trick anyone a single time, I don't think he even delivered any clever quips of any kind. The villain didn't have a final showdown against Jack, as we witness a CGI-laden chase as our climax, a far cry from the dizzying mayhem during the big showdown in Dead Man's Chest. Worst of all, we didn't get the dramatic showdown between the enemy ships and the Flying Dutchman, the ship that you know, controls the damn seas, and has a captain that's related to someone that is in danger throughout the film!
The potential was there, and wasn't met. From script to direction to storytelling decisions, Dead Men Tells No Tales has us wishing for the original writing team and the original director to somehow bring this franchise back to decent waters. This film only further enhances At World's End and Dead Man's Chesttwo films that were met with ho-hum reviews but have honestly aged well and remain better than most of your modern-day blockbusters. The script here opens the door for many intriguing scenes, and they didn't deliver. We could have explored Jack Sparrow's aging and increasing alcoholism, Barbossa's past, the Flying Dutchman/Salazar curse connection, the fallout of the elongated separation of Will and Elizabeth, and the series-shifting scene of breaking every curse. And after seeing this, I don't have much hope in the eventual sixth installment touching these story lines either.
The Pirates of the Caribbean series now looks like its more interested in the international box office receipts and just keeping people entertained above keeping the flavor of the franchise and keeping a continuity between each chapter. On Stranger Tides, despite the mediocrity, had interesting unresolved story lines that were completely neglected here. The original trilogy's details don't match up with the backstory of Jack Sparrow in Dead Men Tell No Tales.
You will see some high-budget fun, comical mayhem, a good performance by Javier Bardiem, but it all gets evaporated when we reach the series-changing yet series-contradicting final act. The franchise is far from being dead, but boy it might be time to let this ship disappear out into the horizons unless we get a superior cast writing and filming it. Jack Sparrow and all his fans deserve much better.
Whether you love or hate Matrix Reloaded, the film wrote the modern
successful blockbuster sequel rules:
1) Bring back everybody, add a few new faces 2) Jack up the stakes of the conflict 3) Increase the scope 4) Expand the universe and the origin story 5) Go absolutely crazy on the second half 6) Leave the audience asking for more, while promising more
The Matrix Reloaded has more action, more insanity, and more juicy content than the original. It may not be overall superior to the 1999 sci-fi masterpiece, but it wasn't for lack of trying. We were still thrilled (The Highway Scene remains an incredible work of cinema) and were left begging for more from the franchise. Matrix Revolutions was an utter disaster, but that's another story.
Hardly are action sequels better than the original, even the good ones struggle matching up to the film its following. John Wick: Chapter Two however is not only better than the first, but is the best action movie since Mad Max: Fury Road. Chapter Two takes the excellent stuntwork and camera-work of the original and turns it up a few notches with a better budget, larger run time, and oh so much more carnage.
Part of the glee and joy of the original surprise-surprise hit was the intriguing premise being intertwined with well-directed and choreographed action. Assassins having this special code and hidden locations where one can interact and be safely tucked away from violence was a fresh spin on an otherwise stale concept of secret assassins existing all over the world. Chapter Two explores this further by expanding past the United States and digging into foreign locale. Although the scope is larger, the movie actually suffers slightly from having to explain the rules and regulations to its audience before unleashing all the mayhem.
Action movies struggle the most in balancing content and story, because we see action movies not for the story but for what can be delivered within the script. Chapter Two's opening half is entirely plot-driven except for the sequence preceding the opening credits. Take the entertaining car fight away, and you wouldn't get a gun battle until 45 minutes in. But The Raid 2 also has a slow opening third before delivering some of the best action ever put to celluloid, so the ticking time bomb formula works as long as you fully commit to the chaos. Chapter Two is saved because the twist halfway unveils a dilemma that guarantees a relentless outpouring of action. And boy did they deliver.
Once the true conflict actually arises from seemingly out of nowhere, we are treated to a beefy stew of gun fights, hand-to-hand combat, cleverly drawn-out showdowns, and even an Enter the Dragon-like climax towards the end. Just like in the original, Chad Stahelski uses his skills as a stunt coordinator and experience in the action film industry to carve out some killer sequences where the body count is high, the action is easy and clear to see, the sound mixing is top-notch, and lastly the camera-work rivals that of your best sweeping epics. The pacing is consistent, the special effects is kept to a minimum to focus more on stunts, and the violence is gritty and organic. The variety is also great, as we have a concert shootout, a subway battle, a museum chase, and an exchange of bullets and punches in the historical parts of Rome.
Keanu Reeves may not win any acting Oscars, but his approach to action movies deserves some mention. In here he does nearly all his own stunts (driving and gun battling included) and garners sympathy as a man that clearly wants to leave his old life while grieving over his loss. Adding to the fun is a good cast of minor characters each with their moment to shine, each with their vital role in the doozy of a flick. Lastly, we are left wanting more, even you though you have to feel for the obviously crappy month John Wick is experiencing.
John Wick Chapter Two won't change cinema like The Raid nor will it set a benchmark like Mad Max: Fury Road. Nonetheless it improves upon the original flaws and all because you get a healthier dosage of action-packed fun that is full of variety, creativity, and superb intense precision. If you like your action bloody and raw like the best we've seen this decade (Raid, Raid 2, Mad Max) then you will not be disappointed in the least bit here. Between this and the upcoming Atomic Blonde, it's good to see American filmmakers finally stepping up on their uncut action skills.
Logan might become the first film to truly force the Academy to rethink
its opinion on comic book films since 2008, when The Dark Knight forced
the committee to expand its Best Picture yearly lineup. Yes, it is that
good. And yes, it's the best superhero film in nearly two decades. Yes,
I am pitting this above The Dark Knight. Stop shaking your head.
What is a masterful blend of action, drama, and comic book flair, Logan is perfectly executed from beginning to end even though it will tear your heart apart as if Wolverine himself is coming at you in the midst of his infamous berserker rage. Even if you secretly and calmly knew the results of this film, considering that Jackman won't be reprising his role and considering the obviously bleak tone, you still won't be ready for the heartbreak. This dramatic style of comic book cinema is what DC has never fully been able to pull off (especially recently, I'm looking at you Batman vs. Superman) and Disney's Marvel has always refused to aim towards (Because Disney enjoys Marvel following the Pixar formula). It is a fitting end and an excellent finale to a rather clunky spin-off trilogy that is embedded amongst a plethora of other films.
I don't use the term Oscar-worthy very often, especially in the comic book realm. However from the cinematography to the acting many elements of Logan deserves extra praise and an abundance of attention. We can start with James Mangold, whose writing and directing skills here have hit peak momentum. With an interestingly diverse career that spans from Kate and Leopold to Walk the Line to Knight and Day (huh?), Mangold and friends concoct a deep script that remains very much grounded even if the concept involves X-Men and superheroes. In here we see a much older and dying Wolverine and Professor X trying to help a young mutant reach the northern border for safety before the evil company that created her catch up and grab her. The emotions of a difficult life are explored far more than the whimsical events that usually follow comic books that we've read over the years. From the music to the cinematography, every element of Logan points to presenting a story that forces you to reflect on a life you've lived.
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have always been the best parts of the entire Fox X-Men franchise (which has more mediocre films than good, I must add), and seeing them working together here in such a dramatic picture continues to showcase their range and phenomenal talent. As Logan and Charles as opposed to Wolverine and Professor X, we see them stripped down of their power and youth and witness a severely condensed version of what they used to be. It hurts to watch, but we maintain engaged and begging for them to just survive the day. They both deserve some Oscar buzz, I am deathly serious. And serious extra points to Stephen Merchant and newbie Dafne Keen for their remarkable performances. The cast was overwhelmingly stellar and made the film tougher to witness as the stakes are raised and you know death is imminent.
I avoided this movie longer than I should have not because I was afraid of DC-like disappointment, but more because I knew it was the end of an era of films I grew up with, and I knew deep down that it was going to be a difficult watch. Much like us (most of us) as we grow older, the X-Men films have indeed matured, especially in the Wolverine timeline. Logan is nonetheless entertaining indeed, with the dizzying violent action and impressive visuals that compliments a story that feels like a grim western. The production value was top-notch, considering the smaller budget (for a film of its caliber and genre anyway) and considering the fact that the comic book visuals were mostly taking a backseat while allowing the story to organically grow and advance.
It doesn't feel like a comic book movie because it hits so close to home. Logan is a punch to the gut, but a mesmerizing film that is hands-down among the all-time best of the genre. Whether you enjoy comic book movies or not, this is required viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ghostbusters was slaughtered and fed to the wolves in terms of box
office because the feminist twang to the franchise was not
well-received in the least bit. Some complained it was pointless, some
complained it was just milking a franchise that is heavy in nostalgia,
and others complained that it was pandering to the female-driven
audience as opposed to the fanbase that had supported the franchise in
the first place. Despite the good critic reviews, it became a major
loss for Sony, and killed any hopes for a sequel.
Bad Moms on the other hand is the little summer film that could, taking a $20 million budget and already matching that amount after the first weekend. And with strong word-of-mouth and good reviews it continues to make decent money in a crowded summer schedule. This film also has a heavy feminism touch, yet hasn't received the male-bashing you've been seeing from Ghostbusters. And that's because the film from the ground up was made for moms, made for female millennials, and doesn't hold anything back and keeps the focus on the ladies.
Led by the screen writing duo that penned the clever original Hangover flick, Bad Moms is a cinematic stress ball for mothers around the world. It follows a trio of ladies fed up with their stressful lives and start rebelling against the norm. It starts a revolution amongst the community which counters the strict clockwork ways of the PTA---leading to a culture clash against its leader. The plot isn't anything drastically revolutionary, but it has a lot to say about modern society's difficult expectations for mothers.
With the plot being slightly thin, it gives plenty of room for the main cast to go vulgar, go nuts, go raw, before ultimately getting the point across. And Kunis, Kristin Bell, and especially Kathryn Hahn knocks it out of the park with timing, delivery, and a good range of emotions to boot. Mila Kunis' character rises from humble soccer mom into a wild force of nature that results in crazy parties, rebellion against her children and deadbeat husband, and even nachos for breakfast (my hero). Step aside men as most of the focus was on the relationships between mother and child, with men popping in only once in a while. Then toss several funny scenarios, a wild cheap wine scene, and a couple fun cameos, and you'll be seldom bored at the chaos that emerges once the second act rolls in.
This movie definitely isn't perfect. The tone gets slightly uneven, the soundtrack is overindulgent, and the final moments doesn't quite match the comedic wrecking ball of the second half, but if you are a mother this is your guilty pleasure. The cast is too fun, the movie doesn't slow down, and it gets unapologetically vulgar and uncut and doesn't let go.
Mothers: Bad Moms tailors to you, speaks to you, represents you, and challenges societal beliefs held against you. And prepare for the final scene once the credits roll in---it wraps up the motherhood themes perfectly. You can't just switch genders on a film and try to staple a feminism theme and expect it to work---you need to fully commit to your audience and also explain what your 21st century movement is all about. Otherwise it feels like a gimmick. Ghostbusters was simply trying to ride the wave of feminism. Bad Moms actually has something to say, which is why ultimately amongst the flaws and hard-R rating it actually works.
The cinematic equivalent to tossing dozens of awesome comic books in a
blender with a heavy budget and pouring it out into celluloid, Civil
War is not only a superb sequel and improvement to the Avengers films,
but just might actually become the best MCU flick yet. And yes, the
movie is extremely bloated. Yes, the movie becomes a bit of a downer
especially after funnier offerings like Ant-Man and Guardians of the
Galaxy. But once the wheels start turning and the conflict shifts into
the second act you will be enthusiastically entertained up until the
Civil War is honestly Avengers 2.5, but the half is only in terms of chronological order. In the third Captain America installment, the events from past Marvel offerings has the world afraid of the superheroes, and over a hundred nations want to be able to monitor and control where the Avengers goes and what they should do after an espionage mission gone wrong. This creates a rift between all the heroes, especially with Winter Soldier being a fugitive and another threat lurking within; and differing opinions on how to handle the situation. Civil War's biggest strength is the sheer amount of characters; as they bring back all the Avengers, and then threw in some new additions.
Black Panther was flawless in performance, visuals, and execution. Second-billing favorites like Ant-Man, Falcon, Black Widow (who deserves her own movie) and Hawkeye make an appearance and also greatly deliver. Lastly, Spider-Man undoubtedly steals the show and he barely makes an appearance here. After 14 years of cinematic Spider-Man appearances, Marvel truly gets it right this time. Unlike what happened with Age of Ultron (entertaining yet forgettable), you will be excited for future features based off the new characters you meet within the 150 minute timeframe----especially Spider-Man. Sadly not all the Marvel personas get enough screen time, but it's part of the sacrifices made when there is such a long guest list to the motion picture party.
The chemistry within the MCU is off the charts, and Civil War raises the bar even higher. What DC films are missing is this key element; mostly because we barely see any character development and consistent cast from sequel to sequel. The interactions between each of the heroes is what really allows this movie to go to the top tier of comic book mayhem, as even Bucky has his moments when involved with the others, especially (surprisingly) Falcon. The complicated relationship between Iron Man and Captain America is front and center, and both deliver spectacular performances as two guilt-ridden heroes desperately trying to avoid conflict even though all signs point to a clash.
Helping Civil War maintain its bite is a strong (and rather gloomy) script and flawless direction from the Russo Brothers, who have impressed mightily since their debut with The Winter Soldier. The film honestly has it all: deep themes, lots of loss, plenty of surprises, tons of drama, tons of action, controversial decisions, and a good amount of humor to mix it all together---even though we really could have used more jokes in the first act. The action scenes range from clever to intense to downright entertaining. The Airport Battle will become a part of Marvel movie history, I promise you. The scene will be embedded in your memory if you are a fan of the comics. Then there's the incredible Bucharest Chase that's the best chase since Raid 2. At the same time, the final fight will break your heart.
Painstaking amount of effort is given to not only making these characters come to life, but also making them likable and relatable. Marvel does a fantastic job picking the right staff behind the scenes, and does even better picking the actors and actresses to represent the MCU. Combine that with a proper budget and an extremely tight structure that connects all the films together and always leaves room for the upcoming sequels and you have a systematic series of films that resonates with the worldwide audience. Captain America: Civil War is now the peak result of this formula, as this is the first mega Marvel film since the original Avengers to appear to not pull any punches and maximize the content with the pieces allotted.
As a comic book fan, there's no way you can walk out disappointed. And as a summer blockbuster fan, you will also have a lot of fun while simultaneously think about the events that occurred long after the final punch is thrown. Civil War is absolutely fantastic, and among the best comic book movies of all-time. DC, you need to watch this and take notes.
Some movies perfectly personifies the past (Saving Private Ryan), some
movies predict the future (Fight Club), and some (like this one)
perfectly nail the current issues so accurately you feel like they
financed, wrote, and filmed the movie yesterday. Read the following
sentence slowly because you might not believe it the first time you
glance through it: Zootopia is the best film under the Walt Disney
Animation Studios banner since Emperor's New Groove, and is arguably
the most important animated film since Princess and the Frog. Yes, the
clock has to reach back 16 years before you can find a Disney Studios
animated film as strong as this one. Between the layers of intense
subject matter and a surprisingly strong mystery plot lies a beautiful
message for the kids and tweens that needs to be heard, especially
Nothing on the surface can actually prepare you for what happens once you enter the setting of Zootopia. However, the surface is quite delightful to look at. The animation is spectacularly detailed and contributes mightily to the storyline about animals living together. The main city itself branches off into several subdivisions, each with its own distinctive personality. Unlike most Disney films, Zootopia itself is so massive its practically begging for continuations through film and television. It's an expansive visual feast of colors and colorful characters, similar to the creative world of Wreck-It Ralph. However, once the movie gets going you will quickly realize that although it is a children's movie, there is plenty for teenagers and even adults to laugh at and to be moved by. The mystery is slightly more mature than what is expected, and we even reach quite dark territory once the second half kicks into play. This is a children's movie, but has an incredible script full of heart, soul, drama, and necessary comedy to offset the bleakness. Using Pixar's collective creativity technique (which has been rusting lately), we have three directors and nearly a dozen writing credits attached (two wrote the screenplay, many others contributed to the story). It is a miracle that so many contributors to a single script made a film that flowed so well.
Disney and Pixar are the best at coming up with the required vocal talents to bring the animated films to life, and this is no exception. Jennifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman are absolutely perfect for each other and play to their strengths: Goodwin with her charming all-American bubbliness and Bateman's sly hustling ways. They dominate the film but luckily you'll learn to love them immediately through their strengths and their flaws. And in keeping with recent tradition, you won't know who the true villain is until later as the stakes start getting higher.
Rich Moore (most experienced of the three-director team) should be a bigger name because his directing credits includes the early 90s Simpsons and some of Futurama's greatest episodes. What those shows and this film has in common is the electric mix of well-paced story, strong characters, and shades of drama and commentary that speaks to the current issues. Zootopia explores racism, sexism, classism, and diversity fears better than any of the trailblazing Disney animated films before it. That being said, it's not a knock on Princess and the Frog, Mulan, or Hunchback of Notre Dame---the truth is Zootopia would have never been fully greenlit by Disney in the 90s, and perhaps even the 2000s.
Disney has gotten gutsier and ballsier in recent years with the Too Big to Fail attitude; and although the company definitely remains officially mum on the current political turmoil, Zootopia can and should be its resume and cover letter concerning what side of the fight they are on. Zootopia is a daring animated film that will frighten you (especially the youngsters), will emotionally hurt you, and will leave you thinking long after Shakira's gazelle character lets out her final note. It's the perfect concoction of mystery, comedy, action, and social commentary that not only allows it to become an early entry for Best Animated Feature, but (dare I say it), a Best Picture nomination.
Zootopia on the surface, beneath the surface, and everywhere in between is essentially flawless. It has something for everyone, although the youngest ones will struggle as it gets darker. Through its importance as well as the engaging, ever-revolving plot, I give this film the highest marks. Zootopia will stand as one of the best in all of 2016, and among the best works of animation this entire decade. Disney has unveiled its stance through adorable animals while simultaneously proving that it remains the animation king of the world.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Finally we have a decent X-Men origin story with plenty of heart,
spirit, chemistry, and good connections with the original source. The
baffling thing is that we receive this gift in the form of the most
incoherent and random Marvel character in the entire universe. The
character that least requires an explanation gets the most structured
and most engaging Fox Marvel film since X-Men 2. But of course, the
behind-the-scenes licensing drama and the infuriatingly small budget
(compared to what the storyline demands) entangle the film quite a bit.
Ryan Reynolds might be the only man in the history of film to totally mess up a cinematic character, and then get a second chance at getting it right by starting entirely from scratch. With the rated R guaranteed and a looser approach to Deadpool, Reynolds knocks it out of the park with a much more accurate performance, and one with plenty of depth and sympathetic pull. His chemistry with the rest of the cast reminds you why he's much better unhinged and uncut (Waiting, Adventureland).
Reynolds has actually been the main catalyst at making sure that he helped right the wrongs caused by X-Men Origins. He helped fight to keep the R rating, helped increase the (already small) budget to make this a reality, and has helped craft the flood of social media hype. The hard R rating was the biggest requirement in making this film work; the story and mannerisms of Deadpool are not for the faint of heart. Deadpool is far more in the realm of Spawn as opposed to Fantastic Four in terms of adult content.
The script is formulaic in nature, but fresh with crisp dialogue, great one-liners, constant shifts in timeline, and plenty of fun sidekicks to be entertained by. Sadly, because of obvious budget constraints, we are treated to only two major action sequences (the first one overshadows the finale by a long shot), not a single major X-Men cameo, throwaway villains, and most of the time being spent on the creating of Deadpool as opposed to the anarchy that follows. 10 years of production hell and dozens of re-writes could doom most screenplays, but Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick do a great job saving whatever was left.
The biggest achievement of Deadpool is how closely it resembles the source material and personality despite getting less money. If you enjoy Deadpool in the comics, you'll enjoy him here as well---even if the eccentricity is toned down just slightly enough to keep the plot structured. The action is intense, the injuries are gruesome, the humor is dark and crude, and the movie never really takes itself seriously. Fourth walls go down, it reveals its own production setbacks within the film, and it has this kinetic comic book flavored energy that hardly ever slows.
It might be a case of less money = more freedom, but the lack of funding really tarnishes the movie. Part of the glee of Deadpool in the Marvel universe is his wild interactions with other characters, especially the X-Men. But to put Deadpool in the same supposed Marvel universe as the X-Men and then refuse to have any of the popular characters join in on the fun is baffling and infuriating. Even worse is that we have long-unused X-Men like Gambit (especially) and Cable available. In a tragic case of the production team having more faith than the studio itself, the limitations aren't obvious but become apparent once the final act rolls in and you are left desiring more Deadpool chaos.
As a risqué, adult version of The Little Engine That Could, this was a comic book film that was supposedly doomed, expected to fail, and was released with minimal hope---only to be saved because of the strength of the Marvel brand, the incredible online/Reynolds marketing campaign, and a legitimate effort to stay true to the source. Great cast, great energy, and great humor is restricted because of Fox and the ridiculous guidelines everyone has been forced to follow since Disney purchased the property. Deadpool can become a successful franchise as long as they are willing to tie him closer to the rest of the X-Men and Marvel movies---and as long as we keep the same dedicated staff. Don't expect pure unadulterated crazy here; but do expect a great blend of crazy, heart, and entertainment---wrapped together in a limited budget.
Most importantly, this is much, much better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Kendrick Lamar was the best live performance I've ever seen. April
2014, he rocked UCF. However, we had to endure two hours of mediocre
rappers before getting to the main event. By the time we got to the
very good part of the night, we were emotionally, physically drained.
Lamar did his best, but Orlando struggled to maintain the energy. This
is Hateful Eight in a nutshell.
It is extremely hard to get mad at Tarantino and the Hateful Eight project as they went through extreme lengths to ensure that it felt, sounded, and looked like a Western straight out of the 1960s. From getting Ennio Morricone to compose the soundtrack to using the same cameras used to film Charlton Heston, Tarantino and friends reached far back into cinematic history and moved it to present day. This alone propels the movie to become a unique experience, as there is actually an overture and then an intermission about halfway into the film.
But leading up to that intermission is where the film really struggles. Throughout his career, the better Tarantino's script is, the better the movie will becomeregardless of all the other intangibles. Death Proof's climax rivals as one of the best in the past decade, but the ho-hum dialogue and unlikable first round of characters prevented us from truly enjoying it. In the meantime, Reservoir Dogs is one of the rare movies in which literally every word said is important, making it one of the best indie films you'll ever see.
There is a lot of what I like to call abe dialogue (already been established) in Hateful Eightleading to a lot of repetitive dialogue, repetitive conversations, and verbal revelations that we had already encountered. As a matter of fact, you could have cut the first third of the movie because the facts and characterizations created were re-created once the movie's setting becomes more claustrophobic and remains in the cabin. Part of Tarantino's magic was his ability to create awesome characters without revealing too much about them. Sadly we don't get much of this in Hateful Eight.
The Tarantinoisms (good music, sharp imagery, inventive directing) start taking off once intermission ends and the intriguing mystery begins, as the tension suddenly revs up. In the second half is when things become interesting and the actors (and lone main actress) can start chewing at the scenery. The words suddenly become important, the details become more prevalent, and the audience has become much more engaged. In spite of this, the length of the film and the over-indulgence of throwaway dialogue weighs down on you and never allows for Hateful Eight to really reach the quality lengths of Tarantino's other hybrid westerns like Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds.
Hateful Eight is like a large fluffy pound cake, a lot of density but lacking in flavor and substance. Tarantino directed this with his usual precision and quirkiness, however it lacks an outstanding moment, it lacks an outstanding character, and with the climax being delayed in favor of displaying past events it's hard to find the pulse of this irregular heartbeat.
In order for lengthy movies to maintain interest you have to cover a lot of ground in terms of whether years or space. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly covers an insane amount of Western territory, leading to every minute being required. Shawshank Redemption covers over two decades of prison life, so it too needed every minute. Hateful Eight is a cinematic bottle episode that could have been much shorter, much tighter, and with that each detail and word being much more vital.
Somewhere in that cabin lies a good story, and overall a good movie. You just have to get past the thicket of words to find it.
Let's get one thing clear: there is absolutely no way in the modern
economic structure of filmmaking and Hollywood are we ever going to get
a sci-fi trifecta as good as the original Star Wars trilogy. Just ask
Indiana Jones what happens when you try to revive a severely beloved
franchise in a new era decades later (*screams in agony*). And with the
Disney Regime having their fingerprints all over the product you know
there will be limitations, there will be questionable decisions, and
the eggs will never be in the same basket.
However, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not just a step in the right direction; its many many steps in the right direction. Despite the impossible odds to live up to the Original Three, The Force Awakens delivers an exhilarating experience that will revitalize your love for the franchise, and will give you strong anticipation for what the future holds within the LucasFilm universe. Although the movie definitely scales back some of the plot for future installments, it is still chock full of surprises, lovable characters, and the Star Wars magic that we haven't experienced in a very long time.
J.J. Abrams revs up the nostalgic factor by not only doing several callbacks to the original trilogy, but but by crafting a storyline that builds and evolves in similar fashion to the original 1977 masterpiece. Without spoiling too much secrets are being pursued, rising evil is threatening the galaxy, and we see heroes coming from unexpected sources--these are all factors coming into play in Episode VII. Force Awakens actually takes off a lot quicker than Episode IV, but the difference is the 2015 revival slows down slightly to allow for more story lines to build (and not always necessarily conclude within the two hour timeframe). Don't let George Lucas fool youthere were no plans for a sequel back then as A New Hope tossed the entire kitchen sink in terms of budget to give you the most complete riveting experience possible.
The Star Wars tropes are all far too present, and some with upgraded elements: our villain is quite menacing, there is a great cast of characters we wish we could spend more time with, the robotic creatures are lovable every second they are on screen, and of course there is the underrated variety of vehicles and weapons and creatures that we see in the Star Wars universe. Those expecting or hoping for a big deviation might be slightly disappointed. The production value of The Force Awakens was mesmerizing, from the battles to the outstanding cinematography supported by the booming John Williams score. Complementing the art direction is the CGI being kept to an absolute minimum (although the film really should have taken a page from Return of the Jedi and reached out to the Jim Henson Company for a few scenes).
It paces like Star Wars, it looks like Star Wars, and it definitely feels like Star Wars. The Force Awakens has a major element preventing it from becoming the cinematic game-changer Star Wars was back in the 70s: the planned structure technique of Disney. The 1977 gem was layers ahead of the next best-looking film while simultaneously nearly bankrupting everyone around them. It would change the way we see, experience, and film special and visual effects. It was also a fresh new concept that had a wide open door of possibilitiesleading to all the extra books and media filling in the structural blanks. Disney is going on a schedule, is going on strict guidelines (More money was spent on budgeting then the film itself if that's saying anything), leading to less power to the fans (we won't be seeing dozens of Star Wars books like in the past) and less attempts to ever fully finish the story. Love or hate Disney, they know how to keep a property from becoming stale but profitable.
Can The Force Awakens be a better film? Of course, with more time, less limitations, more actually-completed story lines, and a lack of planning of milking the franchise. But Abrams and company still gives us a very entertaining film that begs multiple viewings to witness the new coming, and skim through all the details and potential clues to where the franchise is heading. Star Wars fans should not be disappointed, especially after what we witnessed during the darkest of times being a fan (The Prequel Trilogy).
The Force Awakens is a dazzling blend of old-school Star Wars magic with new-school thrills and fresh blood that will revitalize the brand throughout the upcoming trilogy and all the spin-offs that follow. Thank you Abrams, thank you Disney, and thanks to all the participated: Star Wars is back and has removed all the stench of the past couple decades.
The Peanuts Movie is just like a puppy: adorable, irresistible,
charming, and absolutely worthy despite any flaws it may or may not
present. This extremely well-made movie does exactly what adaptations
should do: be very faithful regardless of current audience, keep it
very close to the source, don't try to spice it up with unnecessary
additions, and do plenty of callbacks to the original work. Blue Sky
does an absolutely phenomenal job transforming the world of Schultz
into the computer-animated-obsessed cinematic world we see today. This
is the best Blue Sky has released since the also-faithful Horton Hears
a Who and one of the best films of the entire year. Seriously.
Peanuts has been so embedded in American society that we forget how groundbreaking and how seriously funny the original comic strip was. What Winnie the Pooh is to Disney, Peanuts was to the newspaper---a reliable source of entertainment and harmless beauty. Side-Note: Disney's 2011 Winnie the Pooh revival was criminally underrated. Transforming Peanuts successfully requires tons of research and special care since Schultz and most of the magical staff behind the specials and movies are no longer with us unfortunately.
The details is what makes The Peanuts Movie phenomenal. The more you loved the comic strips, the more you'll appreciate the effort. From the art style to the running jokes (Curse you Red Baron!!!) to the fact that the Red-Haired Girl never reveals her name so we can all relate to our childhood crushes, to even the fact that they recycled the sound clips of Snoopy, Steve Martino (delicately directing this with lots of care) and company continue carrying the torch behind one of the most beloved groups of children in the history of cartoons. Peanuts Movie also doesn't even try to sneak in any adult humor: it sticks to the kids and the kids-at-heart, as well as those that grew up watching the delightful specials. The art style alone throws you right back to the first time you saw A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Charlie Brown is still a wonderful relatable boy, despite his social insecurities and bad luck. Snoopy is still that trustworthy best friend despite his eccentricity. Linus, Sally, Schroeder, Peppermint Patty, Woodstock, and the rest of the gang all don't skip a beat despite it being nearly four decades since the last movie, and years since the last special. The plot never thickens or gets deep, it never outstays its welcome, and never loses the tight focus on Charlie Brown/Snoopy while simultaneously giving the other kids their moments to shine. It's a miracle that they found a cast that matched the voices of the predecessors so well. The fact that there is not a single adult seen (or coherently heard) is a perfectly executed idea that adds to the childhood innocence tone of the film.
You can nitpick and (try to) find some flaws, but I was far too busy smiling at the perfect art style and the light humor that decorated the carefree 88 minutes. I was far too busy rooting for Charlie Brown to finally have his moment. And lastly, I was far too busy enjoying the wild imagination of Snoopy and Woodstock as they take on their version of World War I. Fast, yet harmless and irresistible, The Peanuts Movie will appeal, delight, entertain, and cheer up anybody that decides to give it a chance.
Charles M. Schultz would be extremely proud.
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