Tuesday, 13 March 2018

A Wrinkle in Time Spoiler Free Review

Hey everyone we are back with another movie review! Today we are talking about A Wrinkle In Time, a movie adapted from the Madeline L’Engle book of the same name. As usual, no spoilers ahead.

Going into this movie, I was the only one of the four of us that had read the book beforehand. So I obviously based my thoughts of the film on how it compared to the book and looked for those little nods and whatnot that a fan would. So there’s my bias, upfront like always. I’ve known these characters for a long time and I was really excited to see how they would be translated onto the big screen. And to be honest, I don’t quite get the really negative reviews that I’m seeing. 

The first big thing that you notice from that trailers is the visuals. And they are grandiose. The locations are gorgeous and fascinating and everything is so colorful and full of life in the places that are supposed to be, but even the darker places are big and spectacular in their darkness. I never went ‘euch, that looks bad’. It was a stunning movie to look at. 

The second thing is the acting. I thought all the actors did really well at embodying their characters. From the very first scene he was in, I thought Deric McCabe was perfect as Charles Wallace, Meg’s brother. He totally nailed it. As did Storm Reid and Levi Miller as Meg and Calvin, respectively. I loved their interactions and how their relationship to one another developed over the film. Aw man, every time Calvin looked at Meg, it was too perfect. Another standout to me was Chris Pine as Meg and Charles Wallace’s dad, Dr. Murry. I thought it was great casting from the trailers and it really was. There wasn’t as much of Gugu Mbatha-Raw as their mother (also Dr. Murry), but she did really well with what she had. And this was a better movie than the last one I saw her in (as I squint at The Cloverfield Paradox on my movie list). 

That brings me to the three ‘Mrs.’s’; Reese Witherspoon (Mrs. Whatsit), Mindy Kaling (Mrs. Who) and Oprah Winfrey (Mrs. Which). First off, they definitely look different than in the books. That’s a given from the trailers alone. The costumes are gorgeously, extravagantly elaborate though, and I loved just looking at them. They fit the feel of their personalities, though. Mrs. Who may not have all the same quotes as before, Mrs. Whatsit is perhaps even more flighty, but the essence of it is there.

 Again, I don’t understand where all this negativity is coming from. I would say that the target audience for this film seems to skew on the younger side and I don’t know if that has something to do with it. Are we just too cynical as adults for a story about embracing ourselves, even our faults, and that love is what is needed to drive out the darkness? Because that stuff was in the book too. Were they looking for a more nuanced villain, because this isn’t the place for that, either. The villain in this story is about as nuanced as A New Hope Darth Vader. And you know what, that worked fine for me. It’s a good vs. evil. If you want sympathetic baddie, Black Panther is still out there slaying the box office. 

Now I’m not going to sit here and say it’s a perfect movie. I’ve yet to find one that is. So here we go. There is a sequence missing from the movie that was in the book. I understand from and story and film perspective why it was cut but it means I didn’t get to see a character I wanted to see except for a very quick glimpse. They also don’t really explain tessering at all, it just sort of happens. The part in the trailer where they talk about it isn’t in the final film. The home of the villain is also very different and a lot more… convoluted and almost chaotic. It would’ve been interesting to see that planet as was described in the book and have that reflection to our own world. The part that they did show that was the same was so friggin’ eerie and I loved it. I suppose it made things more exciting, but it loses a bit of the impact of what Camazotz is and the influence of IT. Speaking of IT, I did like how they changed what IT was/looked like. IT, in the book is (spoiler) a giant, disembodied brain and I just don’t think that would quite translate onto screen that well. I get flashbacks of Star Fox 64


So, in conclusion, I liked this movie. I think it was well worth a watch and I would certainly recommend it. I really don’t think it’s as bad as some of the reviews I’ve seen. Then again, I’ve seen some weird hangups, like one review hated that they called Charles Wallace just that through the movie. That person obviously was unfamiliar with the source material. Charles Wallace’s name is never shortened or is ever called by a nickname. I just thought it was a weird complaint. I say see it for yourself, it’s a beautiful movie with a message we could really use more of and see more of in our world.         

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Annihilation Spoiler Free Review

Hey everybody, we are back and we are once again talking sci-fi! We are going to talk about a movie that as soon as it hit my radar, I was really excited for. I of course mean Annihilation, a movie based on a novel of the same name which was the first of a trilogy of books. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at the movie. As usual, no spoilers.

I’ll be honest, I had high hopes for this movie. After seeing the first trailer, I was totally on board and it was another one of my more anticipated movies for the year. It’s unfortunate that much of the world won’t get to see it the way I did. I’m lucky that I’m one of the countries in which this film was released in theaters, the others being the U.S and China. The rest of the world will get to see it on March 12th when it premieres on Netflix. Why is that? Because some financier thought the movie was ‘too intellectual’ and ‘too complicated’ and when director Alex Garland and producer Scott Rudin  refused to change it (and thankfully Rudin had final cut, aka final say), they apparently got cold feet. So, they shuffled it into fewer theaters than usual in three countries right between Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time, ie, basically setting it up to fail. There's a good video explaining all of this HERE. To the rest of the world, I’m sorry studio interference means you won’t get to see Annihilation on the big screen. I really am, because it’s a damn shame. This was everything and more than I’d hoped for from The Cloverfield Paradox. This was the high-brow, smart, hard-sci-fi movie that I’ve wanted more of since Arrival.

Let’s start with the cast, because they are amazing. We have Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Benedict Wong… and that’s just a start. One of the changes I’d read they wanted to make to this movie was to make Natalie Portman’s character ‘more sympathetic’. Why? Heaven forbid a female character should be flawed. In fact, I’d rather see characters like this that are imperfect. I really loved the fact that the team we get to see go into this mysterious ‘shimmer’ is all women from STEM backgrounds. I love seeing us ladies get right in on the action in these kinds of films. And it isn’t just Portman’s Lena that gets to be flawed and human, all of the women get to have their own reasons and own reactions to going into the shimmer and what happens inside. It’s not overdone and we’re bogged down with exposition, but it’s enough to know who and where the character’s at and give them some, well… character

Just had to put this one in because my kid thought it made them look like Ghostbusters.
I want to leave story till last so I want to go over visuals and sound next. There is only one word for both: stunning. The music for the most part follows a theme or genre for much of the movie, and adds to the tone really well. In the climax of the film the music changes, and it really accentuates the story, and might even be a greater part of it than you first think, depending on your interpretation. When I say it changes, it keeps the underlying tone from earlier, and one-eighty’s everything on top of that into something completely different. It’s jarring, and it’s supposed to be, but it was also fascinating. I’m actually listening to the score right now as I write this, and it’s just as haunting and beautiful by itself. The visuals on the other hand, spectacular throughout. There’s no way to describe how beautiful this film is. Even when things are dark or violent or just plain macabre, it’s just visually astounding. Even watching the end credits is gorgeous. The camera work is fantastic, too. Just… the way it shots were framed, and the way light and shadow were used, the big, sweeping shots, and the up close, personal ones, it was all done so well. I don’t want to say more because I don’t want to spoil anything about it. 

So let’s do it, let’s talk about the story. Getting it out of the way, yes there are some horror elements in the story. Not enough to overtake the science fiction aspect, but enough to keep you on your toes in places. But it’s smart, it makes you think, it leaves you with questions and things you have to interpret for yourself. It doesn’t explain everything, and it doesn’t need to. That’s one of the great things that sci-fi does, leave ambiguities for the audience to draw their own conclusions. And I’m so glad they didn’t change the ending, because I can come up with some theories on how they would’ve done so to make it ‘less complicated’, and they all would’ve been awful or undermined the whole thing but making it too neatly wrapped up. There was a different ending originally written for the script, apparently, and I'm sorry, I don't like it at all. It does those things I just talked about above, plus one other thing that sounded really sequel-baity (warning, spoilers in the article). I really do want to talk about the story, but at the same time the less you know going in, the better. That way you can form you opinion as you go and not have anything preconceived going in. There are elements that remind you of other sci-fi properties, but not in a glaring or heavy handed way. Like, there’s one scene that just visually, is very Alien-esque, but doesn't feel derivative. My other half got a Predator vibe in places, while I leaned tended to lean towards more of a The War Against the Chtorr feeling. 

aka, some of my favorite books ever

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen enough. Don’t spoil it for yourself. 

In conclusion? This was an excellent movie. I didn’t really have any problems with it and in fact I was totally on board with it all the way. If you live in one of the countries in which it has a theatrical run, I implore you to go see it. Don’t wait for Netflix. If you have to wait for Netflix, watch it as soon as you can. This movie deserves to be seen, and by as many people as possible. Whenever/If it gets a blu-ray release, I will be buying it, no questions asked. If there is any way to support this movie, do so. It really is worth it. I honestly didn’t expect this much contention for top spot of my movies of 2018 list so soon, but for now, Annihilation sits in that coveted place. I think that pretty much says it all.      

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Black Panther Spoiler-Free Review

Hey guys, back again and we’re talking about Black Panther. As this really needs no introduction, let’s get right to it. No spoilers ahead.

So where do we even start? This movie was amazing. And you don’t have to take my word for it, either. It’s already smashed expectations left, right, and center and just domestically has, in four days, outgrossed the total domestic hauls of other ‘heavy hitter’ movies of the genre (and outside it). 242 million dollars over the four day weekend. This is the kind of bank reserved for only a very few movies (mainly those with lightsabers in them). It is so awesome to see Black Panther get that kind of love from audiences, because it’s a really important movie. Black writers and director and an almost entirely black cast of incredible talent. I can’t speak to how it resonates with audiences in that sense, but I can tell you that I was hoping this movie would kill it at the box office and it went past my wildest expectations. I can tell you the Black Panther hashtag on Twitter was on fire this weekend with people sharing their experiences and their feelings on the movie. It was beautiful to watch.
Okay, is there really anything I need to say about this movie? Based on box office alone, chances are everyone’s seen it already. I’ll just outline the pertinent points because writing this as a proper review just isn’t working. 

-Now when I said this cast was stacked, I meant it. The caliber of talent here is just mind-blowing and everyone brings their A-game. The two standouts have got to be Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s awesome younger sister Shuri, and Michael B. Jordan as antagonist Erik Killmonger. I also loved seeing Daniel Kaluuya in a film again and I’ll say the same thing I said after Get Out: put him in more things.

-Wakandan women are powerful and I’m all about that. I’m especially a fan of the Dora Milaje and their General Okoye (Danai Gurira). And Shuri was just this super-adorable badass genius that was amazing.  

-Great music. The score is so good, and it really gets you into the feel of the movie. I’ve tried listening to some of the soundtrackalbum as well. It’s not really my style, but it’s pretty good, too.
-Stunning visuals. Wakanda looks gorgeous. All the costumes are gorgeous. It’s just gorgeous to look at. 

-One of the better Marvel villains. MCU films always seem to fall short in the bad guy department. Killmonger is one of the exceptions. You can understand him and where he comes from, you can sympathize with him, even if the way he’s going about things is terrible. Again, Michael B. Jordan’s performance really knocked it out of the park.

-It was a hero’s journey story, but one that was grounded in some serious issues of today. And it never backed away or down from those issues and putting them out there. 

-the two token white guys. I love Andy Serkis, full stop, and Martin Freeman is almost adorably grumpy by default.

- The only downside? There’s maybe one. Since you’re getting the ‘hero’s journey’, or at least ‘the hero’s rise to power and cementing who they are’, I didn’t really find any part of the story surprising. It more or less went the way I expected it would. But in this case, it’s more about how the story is told than what the story is. 

-And don’t leave when the credits start. Marvel movie, right? Don’t leave until the bitter end.
So, there you have it, my thoughts on Black Panther. It’s good, it’s really, really good. If you’re one of the few that haven’t seen it yet, you should.