Movie Review: BLADE RUNNER 2049 [The New Gold Standard for Blockbuster Filmmaking]

In 1982, Ridley Scott released a studio butchered version of Blade Runner-a sci fi neo noir film that had artistic, philosophical and meditative potential ruined by a studio wanting an action flick.  Only in 2006 with the Final Cut of Blade Runner (even the Director’s Cut isn’t the full vision) did we get Scott’s fully intended vision and it stands as both one of the most influential sci fi films ever, one of the best…but also one of the best films of all time. That came with Scott’s instinctual style of experimental formalism and gradual interest in the meaning and world he created than the basic plot-making a story and thematic narrative that was something you meditated on and questioned in experience rather than simply watched. 35 Years later…we get a highly anticipated, budgeted and desired sequel…and it’s awesome.

Coming to us from director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins (who both gave us the impressive Prisoners and Sicario) and playing to their strengths creates one of the best movie sequels ever akin to The Empire Strikes Back, The Winter Soldier, Godfather Part 2, The Dark Knight and Mad Max Fury Road. It continues its predecessor’s meditative style, but uses modern technology to up a notch. It refuses to delve into action heavy spectacle like Jurassic World or The Force Awakens, and might just be the biggest art-house film since Cloud Atlas.

Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years after the original, where Blade Runner (and stated upfront) Replicant “K”, played by Ryan Gosling (who is one of my favourite actors) who in a routine mission to eliminate certain illegal Replicants stumbles across something that begins to reveal a domino effects about Humans, Replicants and Blade Runners. The story itself is classic noir: a detective whose mostly only good at taking a beating, finding barely existent clues and earning the wrong attention gets into a scenario way over his head. The story itself isn’t the exactly interesting part, there was a point where I was worried it was going to make an easily boring twist…but subverted it thankfully and avoided classic blockbuster “Chosen One” story potential for…yes that classic noir style. Now to some who say “there’s no real plot” …yeah…neither did the original…did you miss that? Did you miss how most noir films have a pretty bog standard plot? Because Noir is not about overly complex plots (considering how basic Memento and Usual Suspects are when you break them down) but about exploring an environment, thematic interest or deconstructionist ideals. Blade Runner was that, Blade Runner 2049 is also that. Both films have really basic plots that more or less around for meditative explorations on the concepts of humanity, feelings, identity, love, social hierarchies and social decay. I feel like there’s a decent chunk of people missing or forgetting that and have mostly absorbed Blade Runner through Osmosis and the Cultural Zeitgeist. Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 both have slow quiet parts with little action or dialogue and just let you breathe in the world and thematic questions…don’t’ critics usually hate movies for NOT doing this?

In acting terms: Ryan Gosling is phenomenal. Considering movies like Drive, Blue Valentine and The Big Short-he’s easily become one of the best actors this generation. His restrained moments to powerhouse actions are truly spectacular to see, and while he’s not as engaging as Harrison Ford’s Rick Dekard in the original-he’s still great. Speaking of which: yes, Harrison Ford is great in this-but I wont’ speak too much on him. Every other performer here is great from newcomers like Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks-to some returning players. All around, highly impressive acting.

But yeah-even haters of this film cannot deny that it’s easily one of the best looking films EVER. Seriously: Denis Villeneuve (Enemy, Sicario, Arrival) and Roger Deakins (Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men, Skyfall) has used old and new technology to create the new Gold standard for what blockbuster filmmaking should be. Joining the ranks of visually masterful blockbusters like Mad Max Fury Road, Pacific Rim, Tron Legacy, 300, The Matrix and Heat. Every big blockbuster touting a massive budget has to now live in this film’s shadow and that may seem unfair…but COME ON! The imagery, angles, movement, direction, colour, effects, lighting …it all meshes so well and tells the story it’s supposed to. It’s not Michael Bay’s sometimes contradictory amazing visuals versus the script tonal dissonance visual in the first Transformers films. it’s purposeful and calculated. Not to mention that matching score from Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, The Dark Knight) and Benjamin Wallfisch (A Cure for Wellness, It [2017]) who’ve easily created the a score worthy of the original and might be the most haunting score besides Under the Skin and Sicario. Everything in this is technical mastery, near artistic perfection and what I think is one of the new examples of “This is cinema, this is why it’s awesome”.

And in terms of its mood, atmosphere, pacing and world: the film feels more like a 60’s Dystopian sci fi film like Soylent Green, and epic sci fi like 2001: A Space Odyssey (yes I went there). It’s not here to answer questions: especially not the main one from the end of Blade Runner, it’s here to ask and be experienced. It never divulges into a generic action film, instead making its action brutal and nasty like a Neill Blomkamp film-like a noir should. Themes of exploitation, social control, profit over freedom and classism step into this film rather successfully. And yes, it can be a slog at 160 Minutes (not much longer than Heat, The Godfather,  The Dark Knight, Zodiac) and yes it plays it quiet and moody as an art-house film…but isn’t that great? A film that reward patience, thought and engaging in its world. I’m trying to think of people hating it and trying to imaging why: because it didn’t’ answer your questions? Because it didn’t’ become an action popcorn fest? (Despite it creating a memorable action set piece) or because it was a big 185 million dollar film and you interpreted that as “must be an action blockbuster”? I don’t really know. I just find this film to be genuinely spectacular and a puzzle and question I’m still thinking on longer than I did on Mother! (and that was crazier). It’s a slower film than most yes, but I like it for that-I get to sink into a world instead of letting it blur past. And it least it wasn’t The Hunger Games or Divergent films where they just focused on the main boring characters for a bunch of needlessly long films and barely showing the potentially interesting world…because that’s lame blockbuster filmmaking. And plush: it’s noir…noir explores the world and not as much its main character or plot-genre consistency.

In terms of actual issues: well the ending isn’t as classic as the original (because this one doesn’t’ have an improvised Rutger Hauer speech that was basically accidental-like most of the film) but it did make me tear up at the very last shot considering this film and the prior film’s events. Occasionally there’s a somewhat blatant line…but it’s still great. The thing I want to ask of people-is to experience the film as a whole and to look and see the world and film in-between its moments of plot (which is what makes the amazing mood and tone shared by the original) and to ask-isn’t this what you wanted the 2017 Ghost in the Shell film to be? Blade Runner influenced the original 1995 anime classic, making that Ghost in the Shell an art house meditative sci fi masterpiece…and the Ghost in the Shell 2017 was what Blade Runner 2049 could’ve been-a decent if forgettable action film that repurposes the original rather than really grow. Blade Runner showed me that could’ve happened and I’m happy it did. This is the kind of film that I want to (and will) end up making.

I get it may not fit everyone (as I’ve seen) but you must see this. If not for the talent, or the genre, or run time, or execution: at least see it to support Hollywood taking chances and making films that RESPECT YOU AS HUMANS…as opposed to lame garbage like Pirates of the Caribbean 5 or King Arthur or The Mummy.

It’s my 3rd favourite film of the year and I only think Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water can beat that.

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IT: Movie Review [Strong Horror Film, Strong Stephen King Adaptation]

2017 has been a strong year for horror films like with Split, A Cure for Wellness, Get Out, Alien Covenant and Raw…unfortunately there’s also been garbage like The Bye Bye Man, Rings, Death Note, XX and generally forgettable or mixed bags like Annabelle Creation or It Comes at Night. So the horror films everyone’s been curious of is the re-adaptation of Stephen King’s horror magnum opus-It. With fans of the book, the 1990 miniseries and Cary Fukunaga (I’ll get to that later) curious, anxious or worried if it’s any good and…it’s pretty good. Definitely one of the strongest horror films and general pieces of cinema of the year-so I definitely recommend it. If you need any further details: read on.

The story of It is very well known at this point: a group of outcast kids in the small town of Derry who are ignored, mistreated, bullied or abused start to investigate local missing/murdered children and discover this may be tied to disasters of the town’s past, the evil within the town and…It. With it mostly taking the form of the creepy (and sometimes charming) Pennywise the Dancing Clown played by the impressive Bill Skarsgard. I’ll talk about Bill and Pennywise first as the Clown has been the main advertisement and concern for many: especially considering Tim Curry’s cult classic performance previously. Despite concerns: Pennywise in this film is fantastic. Bill comes from a famous family of actors: Stellan Skarsgard (Avengers, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood, Melancholia) his most famous relatives and Bill shows his skill impressively. He doesn’t copy or parody Tim Curry’s performance and manages to make it his own specially creepy, charming and terrifying performance. Pennywise in action and motion is a spectacle, the kind of monster opening the spotlight performance not seen as much. His presence is felt throughout the film and when he goes into attack mode or transforms: it’s the genuine stuff of nightmares. His design, execution and memorable performance make him more a pure monster than random spectre. Luckily Bill is not the only strong performance.

Most people rightfully criticise child performances in films…but there’s no weak child actor in this. Pretty much all of the actors in this film put to shame most of the flat performances in adult actors. The kids are magnetic, amazing and have their whole careers set up from here. Even the bully characters (especially the main Henry) are strong performances. Though my three favourites are the actors for the girl Beverly, the little brother Georgie and Eddie: but yeah, everyone’s doing a great job. Unfortunately two of the main characters in this film are sidelined: Mike (the black kid) and Stan (the Jewish kid) are given very little to do (to the point another character is given Mike’s usual trait as the history holder…even though that character already has a trait to them) and it feels like it was the work of editing messing around to either fix structural issues or character beats, but it gives them less to do. Regardless, it’s still strong performances across the board and not something you should worry about.

The directorial credit on this film goes to Andres Muschietti, whose previous film was the decent Mama…and it’s a definite step up. One immediate positive comparison is that this film effectively and appropriately uses Dutch angle tilts…unlike Death Note that used them appallingly. Great direction, visual effects, colour pallet, editing, cinematography, score and sound mixing/editing-really great stuff all around. I do however want to mention who could have originally done this film: Cary Fukunaga. He’s a screenwriter on this, but originally he was supposed to direct and he’s not some nobody: he’s the director of True Detective season 1 and the sole creator of Beasts of No Nation…that’s talent. But his darker, braver and more expensive story and style didn’t appeal that much to the producers-so his script was mostly scrapped for something safer and they brought in Muschietti to direct. That’s not to say it’s a bad film cuz someone else made it…just that we were robbed of a more purest auteur vision. I do hope for the sequel Cary Fukunaga gets to direct or the studio compensates him with his own film to make as he pleases.

Other points to mention are the strong story and structure (even if some elements are left a bit too unanswered), how it’s more a drama about growing up than a straight horror, that when it’s a horror film it plays more like a monster film than random supernatural stuff, the story emotional moments, the surprising and effective gore, and the hinting of the Loveacraftian existential horror that’s likely to be the major theme of the sequel. The humor from one character (and reactions to his humor) is fun without being too distracting (though same may). And of course the themes impeded into the original novel are alive and well in this film, so it feels like its own thing-while still being faithful to King’s work. So…strong adaptation all around.

And as for the pure question: is it scary? Yes. I’m not sure if it’ll stand the test of time, but the effective classic opening is sure to be memorable. The gore, frights, visual creativity and visceral nature to everything works. It’s not stomach churning scary like A Cure for Wellness, gory scary like The Thing or even fully existential like The Void-but it works as a more effective horror film than most of the work this year. Probably that’s due to a stronger budget and creative mind-the return to larger budgeted and respected horror fair like The Exorcist. For the sequel: I hope they get either Cary Fukunaga or another talented director so Andres can do something new and creative. And I’m excited for the sequel-it’s a better franchise foundation than Dark Tower or The Mummy whose foundations were cracked beyond repair.

It, is a great film. Despite any flaws: it’s still worth your time and money. Get some horror friends, go see this and enjoy yourselves.

THE VOID: Movie Review [Lovecraftian Love Letter]

THIS MOVIE WAS AWESOME!

The Void’s been mostly living as an indie horror film that John Carpenter would’ve made: ei it’s a Lovecraftian horror film in the vein of The Thing or In the Mouth of Madness. And simply selling it as such undercuts the film and filmmakers of the near brilliance put on display. It’s a horror film, a monster film, a Lovecraftian horror film, a semi-art-house film and a love letter to John Carpenter that comes in the form of an $80’000 indie film that looks at like worth 5 Million Dollars…and it’s awesome.

The basic premise is a cop brings a mysterious victim to a skeleton crew operated hospital and suddenly the hospital is surrounded by cultists as…something appears within the hospital. I won’t give away more as the rest of the story is really interesting, if a little ambiguous to give away so I recommend you see for yourself.

The main thing to praise is the execution of the plot, style, premise, genre, horror and effects that are made. This film goes 100% all the way with no restraint and I LOVE it for that. This is a film that starts with a woman being made to burn alive and gets more insane from there. And by the end: the Lovecraftian horror quota has not only been made, but matched by more than any other I’ve seen.

The performances are strong and movie buffs will recognise Ellen Wong out of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim V.S The World. But everyone does give a strong performance with ghosts to there character, and special mention to the performance that’s made by someone who never speaks by has so much raw passion. The writing, direction, cinematography, editing, score and colour grade are all leagues better than most modern horror or even most movies in general-props to the directors for that.

But yeah: when this films starts being violent, scary, gory and messing with your mind…it’s freaking AWESOME. Like this is the kind of horror film you don’t see much of anymore. The practical effects over CGI (although the CGI in the film is impressive) work to great a tangible threat and nature…but yeah when this film has me thinking of Alien, The Thing, Frankenstein’s Army, The Relic, Hellraiser, Re-Animator and even The Neon Demon in only the best ways…I’m happy. The scares work much better than most other films and scared me more than even A Cure For Wellness’s messed up parts.

I seriously only have a few tiny complaints like the 2 fade out endings or one sequences that’s both clever yet distracting in hiding their effects. And I get if not everyone digs the Lovecraftian story that’s somewhat ambiguous…but I love it. And I still think the effort, limitations and pure lovingly crafted style is worth praising. I recommend you see this: it’s one of my favourites of the year and an absolute cult classic-don’t’ miss it.

COLOSSAL: Movie Review [Just Go See It]

This might be one of the shortest reviews I’m EVER going to give so if you need the short version: one of the best films of the year, highly inventive and brilliantly subversive. It’s a great dramatic comedy combined with a Kaiju film that’s better than most in both genres.

Colossal is one of those rare films that falls into a common category of “The less you know, the better” (Under the Skin, Ex Machina, Arrival, A Cure for Wellness, The Neon Demon) and is rare in that’s it’s not really a twist that’s worth keeping secret: it’s the emotional depth. So I’m going to give one of my shortest reviews.

Anne Hathaway playss an online journalist who moved to New York from a small town and her self destructive drinking causes her uptight boyfriend to kick her out, so she retreats home where she rekindles her friendship with an old friend played by Jason Sudeikis. Then suddenly a giant monster attack Seoul in South Korea and she discovers she has a unique connection to this monster.

And that’s all I’m gonna say on plot specifics. You shouldn’t need more: you should just go an watch it. All you need to know is that the story develops in a strong and emotionally crushing way that made my jaw drop. It’s a story about self destruction and how that can be destructive, but instead of it going in the lame hipster fashion this film easily could fall in: it goes smarter. The story feels akin to films like Arrival wherein every piece so perfectly fits to both reward and subvert expectations…but is better than Arrival in a “Show don’t Tell” grand moment while Arrival preferred to give us exposition.

The performances are great: Annie Hathaway (Les Miserables, The Dark Knight Rises) plays against type as someone whose always not in control and is like a ticking time bomb of self destructive tendencies while being funny and compelling. Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses, We’re the Millers) plays seemingly his comedic persona and then goes into a dark place that makes me love him more as an actor. Even smaller roles like Dan Stevens (The Guest, Beauty and the Beast) or Tim Blake Nelson (Minority Report, The Incredible Hulk) are brilliant. The film’s performances, stories and emotions are so strong they can create fight scenes that are funnier than bigger comedies and more intense than more standard action films.

That’s Colossal’s big win: creating genuine emotion and heart instead of hipster nihilism and cynicism that usually comes with this type of film. It also helps that instead of incompressible and terrible handheld Mumblecore direction that usually pairs with indie genre fair: there’s actual cinematography and direction. This is the biggest film by Nacho Vigalondo and it’s easily his best: in both direction and screenplay despite spottier efforts prior.  It’s virtually transcendent in it’s efforts. And everything else from the score, editing, production design and effects (mass praise to the effects team) works so well that this movie is almost flawless.

I literally can’t think of any other problems with this film and I just encourage you to see it. Its got enough for everyone that you’ll love it and I think ya’ll should see it because it’s just that good. Don’t miss this.

Fight Club-Satirising and Criticising Toxic Masculinity in the Best Form

A few weeks ago I wrote a co-op review with Clintington (links of him will be at the end) about Signs where he praised it and I criticised it, now we’re doing the reverse with one of my favourite films: Fight Club

 

#MyTake #Clintington: “You met me at a very strange time in my life”

Written by Clintington

Well, here we are.  Wasn’t sure if I’d ever do this, but here is my first critical review.

Where to begin with “Fight Club”….

I must start out by saying that I KNOW that I am in the minor, minor, minor, minority here in people that DID NOT enjoy this movie.  I used to work at a local news television station in Pocatello, ID.  Little known fact, everybody that works in television loves movies…at least in Pocatello, ID…

Any way…

I was the only person in the station that didn’t fall for this movies’ slick charms.  You must know these facts before I go further:

 

1.I am one of the few people that has always enjoyed Brad Pitt.

2.I LOVE Edward Norton, he was my favorite “up and coming” actor in the 90s.

3.David Fincher’s “Se7en” is probably my most favorite cinematic experience I have had as an adult and his “The Game,” is one of the most underrated thrillers of all time.

I’m supposed to love this movie…I didn’t.

I feel that it’s a movie that got too comfortable fawning over itself with how clever it felt it was.

Some positives I’ll admit this film has:

Say what you want about Fincher, he knows how to frame a beautiful movie.

It offers a number of major belly laughs.

Helena Bonham Carter delivers a very intoxicating performance.

Where I got lost with this movie was the pacing…it starts out great.  We meet our lead (Norton as the Narrator), he has a great voiceover for his thoughts in the moments we share with him.  The orange juice scene still leaves me with more questions than answers (and this is not a complaint). We meet Tyler Durden (Pitt), an electrifying, captivating, energetic character that says and does all of the things that we are thinking, but don’t have the balls to do or say…then we start the actual fight club and instead of heading in a meaningful direction, the movie sort of takes a snooze until the last fifteen minutes of the movie when the Narrator starts to put some pieces together…

I like violent movies…when I am invested in a story among characters that I care about and when the violence can create tension and drama…I stopped caring about the Narrator and Tyler when they decided that the best way for them to figure themselves out was through violence on each other and their fellow men. There is still something very disturbing and wrong to me with the scene in which the Narrator watches two men beat each other’s faces into hamburger, while on the ground, hugging and laughing with each other after…I felt a total loss of any interest–if any that I had–or care for the Narrator and Tyler at that point…I was committed though and made my way through it.

In the end, I feel that this is definitely a movie that will be talked about for its “moments.”  The few that I remember:

The erotic frames in the movie projector’s children’s film-

The “fat scavenging” at the plastic surgery waste sight-

The Narrator fighting and kicking his own ass-

The conclusion and closing line-

I think that people were overjoyed with the moment of truth and felt that it was very clever and shocking.  It kind of annoyed me as I was mentally preparing myself for way more creativity and found that it was disappointing.

That being said, I always feel that good or bad movies should be watched.  Don’t let me sway you, I’m in the minority here after all…you might enjoy it so much that you will do an annual viewing after you have participated in your own annual fight club that you have set up with your friends (if I have to mention it, it happens).

Once was enough for me.

 

Fight Club-Satirising and Criticising Toxic Masculinity in the Best Form

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

David Fincher’s Fight Club upon release was not the box office hit akin to Fincher’s Se7en 4 years prior and received mixed reviews due to its extreme content and stupid men trying to replicate Fight Clubs thinking that the film was life coaching them. Upon revisitation almost immediately after and Fincher’s ascension as one of the best filmmakers currently working today with works like Panic Room, Zodiac, Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl-Fight Club still stands as Fincher’s most popular, celebrated and widely known films. But why? Many people write Fight Club off as a pretentious, too smart for the room violent and misogynistic work…but it’s not and that’s part of Fight Club genius.

Firstly I want to ask a simple question: what genre is Fight Club? Seems like a simple question…but it’s not. Fight Club isn’t’ really a drama, a comedy, a dark comedy, thriller or even art-house: it’s basically a pure film. Now that dedication to not having a genre is part of the point: non-conformity. See at its base level-Fight Club is about the commercialised, corporate, capitalist system 1999 was for many people and criticises it…but the film is also simultaneously a just advertisement for various products-especially Starbucks and Pepsi. This isn’t’ hypocrisy (although it’s a part of filmmaking for product placements) it’s actually part of an underlying theme of “being a counter cultural item will still make you part of that culture” which technically feeds into the larger picture, but first I want to acknowledge where the film is genius before that.

It’s a David Fincher film so yes: it’s a master class in every sense under his commanding direction. Perfect cinematography, editing, sound, acting, visuals, colour grade, pacing and script. Even in his lesser works: David Fincher doesn’t fail…but now for the long breakdown of the singular theme.

So, Fight Club’s theme was a popular one in 1999: the distaste many had for the then current numb and boring lifestyle of the middle class lifestyle in America. A promise since the Reagan era that had been mostly granted by the Clinton administration was now a point of criticism and four movies from 1999 did just that to different degrees: Office Space was a comedy that mocked the then average 1999 work space, The Matrix was about a system that made you conformity to numb modernity and letter reassessed as a Transgender narrative where the numb system supressed your true identity and American Beauty…didn’t really have a point. For all the praise American Beauty got-it doesn’t’ really have a point, it’s just an above average drama, but it’s pretentious in trying to frame a plastic bag as beautiful and paedophilia as a heroic trait…no really American beauty did that. So what did Fight Club criticise? Well most of these types of narratives were about (and for) mostly middle aged, middle class men and how they should feel angry over being just a “cog in the machine” of capitalist consumerism and encouraged them to rebel…and Fight Club shows the toxic masculine stupidity in that. To use American Beauty as an example: Kevin Spacey’s character quits his job in an insulting rant, needlessly spends on commercial products (an actual hypocrisy) and basically causes stress and pain for his family…thinking he’s entitled to it. Fight Club’s conceit (especially in the character who is the ego personified of every unfulfilled male of the period and even now) is to show how men with stable jobs, good homes and with no real problems-thinking that lifestyle is a prison and deciding to rebel in the form of a destructive, self-destructive, violent, misogynistic outlet…are toxic males with the biggest false persecution complex. Seriously: all the men in Fight Club have jobs to sustain themselves, needless expenses and their injuries, enough free time to speed fighting and the resources to commit their terrorist plans…and think they’re oppressed class.

And yes, that’s Fight Club’s brilliant little message: if you think that having a stable job, nice home and tons of disposable income means you’re opposed to the point you’re entitled to bring down the “System that has taken advantage of you” through violent, aggressive, destructive and un-intellectual means (and it being ok to be sexist, misogynistic and overly concerned over masculinity), then not only are you feeding the system and allowing it to co-opt you as a tool or an example…but you’re practically a Nazi at that point. Seriously, if you look on it: blaming the “failings” of something you’re a part of on something that never really hurt you and becoming overly aggressive, singular minded drones who are taught to have no purpose is basically tying the mindless rebellion of people doing extremely well to the rise of the Nazi party. And even on individual levels: it’s still saying to every entitled man who feels his hum drum life isn’t fulfilling enough (even though they could do more productive things and afford to) and gives into his ultra-toxic masculine ego as a destructive force is an idiot and makes fun of them for it.

In the truest sense: Fight Club is a satirical film…but it’s not really mocking a genre-its mocking toxic masculine culture. Now-is this a highly summarised version of this argument? Yes-because 800 words is enough to explain it and any other digression would have to be book length (note to self: write book length breakdown of Fight Club). But, next time you watch Fight Club-try and see all the points it makes in criticising toxic masculinity, egos and the connections to consumerist culture. And I get if some people feel it’s a bit over praised and think the violence is too much…but can I stop and ask some of the people who think this movie glorifies violence to remember “Depiction doesn’t not mean endorsement”. Scarface doesn’t endorse drug use, Irreversible does not endorse rape, Starship Troopers does not endorse fascism and Fight Club doesn’t endorse violence. Please understand the context and criticism, because a review bashing a movie isn’t’ an endorsement-that’s only when a critic praises a movie…like how I’m endorsing Fight Club right now.

 

So what’s your opinion? Do you agree with either, both or indifferent completely?

Links-

https://clintington.com/2017/09/04/fc/ (Clintington’s Review Page)

https://clintington.com/2017/08/17/s-4/ (Our Signs Review)

DEATH NOTE 2017 REVIEW: A BAD ADAPTATION

…It really sucks.

I’m probably the biggest apologist for anime adaptations as I try to concede when something’s bad after the fact, but yes: most adaptations suck. Dragonball Evolution was so far removed from the source material: it didn’t deserve to be called Dragonball, while The Last Airbender tried to copy an entire season and failed: along with having bad editing, action and racist casting for the heroic characters. This year’s Ghost in the Shell was pretty decent by finding it’s own narrative mixing the anime, manga and series into something worthwhile, and technically Black Swan is a great remake of the anime film: Perfect Blue…but Death Note from 2017…does not work.

As an adaptation: the changes made are weaker in comparison to the original source, and on it’s own merits-it’s got closer ties to Final Destination and The Happening than any unique cerebral, psychological horror. It’s basically if Death Note was created the same way Sony made The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Tower: make too much, chop it in a blender and make it a generic story out of it. Seriously: the pacing of this 100 minute movie thanks to TV show level editing (because it was done by a TV show editor) is so laughably poor that it confuses me. It also has issues people have with the DCEU: overuse of montages, unnecessary slo mo, the lack of anything feeling like a scene and undesirable music choices…and cranks them to eleven. But…lemme get whatever’s good out of the way first.

Adam Wingard’s direction is pretty good…when he’s not obnoxious with it (I think the cinematographer deserves some praise and blame too). The colours, lighting and staging are fairly good, the camera motion is good…except Wingard in this film decided to constantly use Dutch angles poorly (like it’s Battlefield Earth or something) and have a camera on a crane constantly spin like a Michael Bay film with no key visual found. Half of it works, half of it is trying with blank effort-and this is from the director of You’re Next, The Guest, Blair Witch and the upcoming Godzilla V.S Kong…sorry Adam. The gory kills are nice when they’re first doing cool Final Destination stuff…and then get lame when they start copying M.Night’s The Happening-you know the movie that was supposed to be shocking, but came out hilarious with falling suicide victims. Plus there’s almost no cool kills after the first like three. And the BEST thing about this film is Ryuk. Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Antichrist, Platoon) kills it perfectly and might be creepier than the original. His design and environmental interactions are great and his creepy character REALLY makes this film fun to the point he should’ve been the main character. Unfortunately: his motivations are more vague than any prior version, he’s not used enough and they don’t give him anything new to do. So just wait fro someone to upload all the clips of him in a compilation to fully enjoy the film.

As for why the film really doesn’t work: it’s the script (every anime adaptation, especially the One Piece TV show: will live or die on the screenwriters). And unfortunately: we have a screenplay from the two men who made the narratively uninterested The Immortals…and the guy who wrote The Lazarus Effect and Fan4stic…great. And their main scripting decisions was to make it a boring, cliché by 90’s standard story, where all the characters and plot threads fit so coincidentally together as to give the illusion of a connecting story that hides how it makes what was a real world feeling story-one that feels smalls and based around contrivances. Again, it’s the structure and form of The Dark Tower and The Amazing Spider-Man 2…and Sony didn’t make this one.

As for characters: Light has gone from a suave, egotistical embodiment of everyone’s sick desire to kill for “justice” …and has been made into a whiny emo boy that thinks he’s cool and gets the book in the first 20 seconds he’s introduced…(and this is from how the framing of the shots and edits translate) because he looked at a girl he likes. Instead of his introduction to the book being one of curiosity: it’s Ryuk scaring him, making him squeal like a bitch and basically telling him to do it. Or the montage of when he’s killing people as “Kira” instead of being him evil and killing people…it’s mostly of him being “popular” with the girl he likes. Oh wait, lets get to her-Mia (the American version of Misa) is changed from a fascinating, unique and slightly off-beat character…to a girl who just stares, gives bad advice, has no real impact…until the plot says so. The re-adaptation of this character fails so bad that she’s a worst female character than the girl in 2017 Pirate’s film. L…ok-L is a good performance…inside of a bad character. His change in character makes him confusing: because at first he’s this quirky, yet unemotional character…then he’s this serious and somehow emotionally invested character. No, he’s not the L fans will know and love…he feels more like the smart ass, off beat character from Criminal Minds who’s super smart and weird…but is inconsistent…he likes sweets though…not cake by at least sweets.

As for performances…Light and Mia’s actors are atrocious. They make their characters so much worse with Light being the emo kid who thinks he’s a bad ass and Mia…holy wow she’s directed played so poorly. Mia mostly just stares in this film and doesn’t have an tangible reason to be here (unlike the anime) and is mostly a plot device. Hey, what happens when 3 adult men try to write a teenage female character? …You get garbage son. Ryuk’s been spoken for. L is a good performance in a bad character that makes no sense. Most of the supporting cast is fine. But…oh boy-the two leads of this film turn what should be emotionally gripping scenes into either “…wait what?” scenes…or so laughably bad that I was dying of laughter. I’m not kidding: this might be equal to Red Billabong in terms of serious films being laughably stupid.

The narrative functions of this film so often break rules originally set by the anime…only to have side plots and tangents that go NOWHERE! Character reasoning and logic exist in the “because we screenwriters say so: screw you” mentality. Any spins on the original’s story, moments (which you can’t say are supposed to be they’re own thing if they’re blatantly referring to the original) from the original anime and manga are repurposed into lesser stories. The editing and framing of the story is SO BAD that I was constantly going “WHAT HAPPENED” and ALL of the dialogue is expositional garbage that has nothing to do with developing a character naturally.  And the end…has a twist that gives one character possible depth…but the motivation is non existent…nonsensical … and makes the character just a plot device.

Other issues:
-Opening credits are garbage.
-Opening montages and all other montages are garbage.
-Music and score is terrible.
-Characters do things that make no sense.
-Plot threads, concepts or scenarios introduced and never utilised.
-This film is dated by the fact L has a watch from a 2014 Assassin’s Creed game.
-They have the pistol from Blade Runner…for no reason.
-Jump scare noises are weak and unnecessary.
-It’s not really a horror film and feels more like a teen drama with psychological aspects.
-Ending has no real conclusion or impact and feels like the end of a first season of a Death Note show or was supposed to lead to Part 1 of a 2 film series.

And my final notes are ideas that could’ve made this better:
-The film could’ve originally been written/directed by Shane Black who wrote and directed: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Ironman 3, The Nice Guys and currently the new Predator film (if he made it as a L focused detective film-it would’ve worked)..and would’ve had Zac Effron (a fan of the anime) as Light.
-Have the story framed around L, his hinted backstory and struggle to find “Kira” to make the conflict feel more central and less scattershot
-Change the style and tone to either a full horror movie where Ryuk is a proper killer of a noir themed action flick.
-And my own suggestion? I would’ve made Ryuk the main character and we’d have the existential horror from a first person perspective and gotten more fun out of him.

So, what’s the scorecard? Okay enough direction, absolutely horrible script, leads are mostly terrible, terrible logic and motivations, bad editing and score, mostly bad execution, not engaging as a horror or thriller and possible one of the dumbest ending based on non-existent motivations ever.

it’s bad, not The Mummy, The Circle or The Bye Bye Man bad…but it’s bad. And no, the change in racial casting isn’t a problem, the cultural shift isn’t the problem in theory…the problem is that it’s an adaptation of a Japanese themed story that worked…and they adapted it into the kind of cliché garbage Hollywood film we hate. It wouldn’t work on its own merits and I’m comparison to the original (because it keeps referring to it) ALL the changes it makes are interesting in theory and failures in execution. If you enjoyed it, fine. If you wanted a reason not to watch: here it is. And remember: I’m not an elitist fanboy-I just look to see if it’s a good film on its own, or compared to the original source.

 

SIGNS –TWO OPPOSING VIEWS

Written by Clintington and Tyrone Bruinsma

Night Shyamalan had a three home run series of hits: The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs. Most credit The Village as the beginning of his descent from greatness. But Signs is somewhat a divisive film. While many critics love it (as you’ll see), many also hate it (which you’ll also see). So now-you get the chance to read two opposing reviews by two different writers of film. We hope you enjoy

 

Written by Clintington

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“Felt wrong not to swing.”

I remember hoping that M. Night had another one in him. I was fresh out of college and living in Pullman, WA. We moved there in June and I had been jobless for a couple of months (that never feels good). I finally got a job as a donut fryer at Dissmores just before the release of this film and I had not gone to a movie for two months (UNHEARD OF)!

This would be the first film that I saw off my dry spell.

I have found that the mood we are in when we see a movie has SO much to do with our enjoyment of it. I’m pretty sure there are some good movies out there that I saw when I was sour and have not revisited. It seems unfair, as it was not the films fault that I was not in the best place mentally to watch it.

The opposite end of that spectrum can be the same.

I was off movies for two months (including Netflix–DVDizzles at the time). I finally had enough money to take my then wife on a date. School was about to start in a few weeks and we had a steady income to help supplement her TA-ship. I was feeling really good and that emotion stayed with me through the experience of this movie.

You all know by now (I hope) that I am a fan of Hitch’s films. His films were rarely about “the explosion.” They were about letting the audience know that the bomb was under a table, but our hero had no clue as the time ticked down…rarely did his bombs go off, but we found ourselves uneasy in our seats watching our hero about to explode.

When I watched “Signs,” I felt those same feelings watching “The Birds,” and “Strangers on a Train,” and “Shadow of a Doubt,” for the first time.

“Signs” is not a horror movie. If it was horror that you wanted, this was not the film for you. It is truly a movie about a man that has found himself in a spiritual trough, who finds a way to dig himself back out again with the help of his family. The “visitors” just give him the motivation to make his life (and his families) relevant for him again.

I am a sucker for movies that make a “full circle.” I like subtle hints that are dropped at the start of films that end up being the tape that keeps the fragmented film together.

“Signs” delivered that feeling for me.

I found the tone of the film to be very balanced with its ability to trickle in humor between scenes of suspenseful silence and the rigid unknown.

The persons in charge of casting rarely get the credit they deserve. There are no awards for casting, and if you fail at that, your movie will fail. If you make it work, you’ve made the director’s job SO easy. I feel that M. Night probably had an “easy” production on the shoot of this film.

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Gibson’s Graham Hess is played with the right kind of quiet torture that a man who has recently lost his wife would have to hold as he has two kids he needs to keep it together in front of.

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Joaquin Phoenix as his brother Merrill steals every scene that he is in, both with humor and the expression of fear that comes with suspense projects.

I think another thing that helped me enjoy the film was how quickly they dispelled the possibility of the “crop circles” being anything other than extra-terrestrial. I was skeptical of this when I first saw a trailer, as I knew how people made crop circles…it was dealt with and I was able to enjoy the rest of the movie.

If you can find a creative way to grab my attention and make me jump a little, you sell me.

That damn rotary telephone sold me. Add an intelligent script, great actors, fragments of film, sprinkle with aliens, and a pinch of tape…you’ve gone full crop circle.

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WHY SIGNS WAS A SIGNAL OF M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN’S FAILINGS-Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

It’s been often touted that director M. Night Shyamalan made 3 stone cold classics in rapid succession: The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs. Unfortunately I think M. Nights ONLY good films are The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Split.

To fully summarise: The Sixth Sense was the rare film that was good, financially successful and still a classic, Unbreakable is a completely underrated and better than you thought masterpiece and Split was a junky fun film. And I’m aware A LOT of people love Signs, I mean if you want to watch a video on why Signs apparently works so well: check out this Chris Stuckmann video that I respect but disagree with (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3Ju05PuiyQ). But I’m not the only one who thinks it’s lacking film, many critics even at its initial release had major issues and seeing as how I heard good and bad things, seeing it a few months before Split and after seeing the god awful The Visit-I was open to it being bad or good…and it’s bad.

Before I get into why Signs doesn’t work and was actually a signal of M. Night’s deteriorating skillset-let me recap the 11 years which M. Night spent on worst years’ lists. Even if you liked Signs:
-2004’s The Village was a completely non-functional film whose story ONLY served for the sake of a twist and didn’t make sense upon re-visitation.
-Then in 2006 he released The Lady in the Water (A film which Disney didn’t’ understand but would green light regardless and he had a nonsensical hissy fit and took the film to another company saying “Disney hates auteurs) which was basically M. Night making fun of critics who called out his issues, made no real scares, had the dumbest and overly contrived plots AND framed M. Night as some Messianic figure whose works would save the world and make him leader of it…yeah…that’s totally not ego-stroking.
-2008 saw the release of The Happening, a laughably bad (To the point it’s a “So bad it’s good film) “horror” film about killer plants that M. Night first said would be a disturbing horror film and immediately ret-coned as a “B-Movie”. This is movie is so broken and dumb that Mark Walberg hates it and during filming, asked M. Night about plot holes and M. Night acted arrogantly about it.
-In 2010 we got one of the worst adaptations ever in the form of a 103 minute version of the first season of The Last Airbender. The movie failed because M. Night’s writing and execution was not fit for this series at all, blaming critic’s for not letting his “art-house mentality” make the movie better. The movie just doesn’t’ work and is pretty much racist for having all the good main characters be white despite the cultures presented in the film. That same year, M. Night produced Devil: another stupidly hilarious film only serving one of the worst twists and history.
-2013 gave us the embarrassing misfire that was After Earth: a sci fi film whose story doesn’t work, has actors giving their worst performances and is completely nonsensical.
-And before he made the ACTUALLY good Split: he made the found footage abomination The Visit which is basically a meta-textual where M. Night tries to explain that ALL the stuff he does and that critics and audiences hate him for is actually genius and hating him makes you an evil, idiot person.

No, I’m not kidding. And ALL of this horrible stuff was set up in his alien invasion film-Signs.

Signs does have a few good elements before I start bashing it. The cinematography is fine (though it’s off and even his films with good cinematography are bad), Mel Gibson’s performance is good and the initial story is good enough. And yes I’m aware about the themes of faith, grief and suffering as religious martyrdom…but the movie truly fails to make that work for me. Wanna know the funniest thing? There’s a filmmaker who makes the theme of faith, suffering and religious sacrifice work and makes it work to emotional effect: Mel Gibson. Yeah, who’d have thought Mel Gibson would be good making films about that? (Obvious Sarcasm is Obvious) But it’s true: Braveheart, Passion of the Christ and Hacksaw Ridge all share the same themes, but unlike Signs…actually have a point to it. Braveheart was about sacrificing yourself for the freedom of your people, Passion of the Christ was about the love Jesus had for humanity and the suffering he endured for it and Hacksaw Ridge was about the punishing trauma a man is willing to go through to save his fellow man’s life. That’s powerful stuff…but Signs doesn’t’ get that emotional, that deep or that impactful, I’ll get to that later but first…everything else.

First of all, the movie isn’t scary. Opening on a blue credit screen with black titles and “horror music” isn’t exactly a good sign (no pun intended). I mean…think of classic ways horror movies have opened: jaws, Sinister, The Thing, Jurassic Park, The Shallows or Zodiac. And if you just wanna talk about title credit openings well…Alien still did it best. But I think I was only scared in the loosest terms twice: once was the alien leg in the cornfield and the other time was the alien on the roof. Any other time there was an attempt at fear or showing the aliens was lame, and even in the alien on the roof scare was made dumb by the little girl’s line about wanting water. And I could tell very clearly from Split that M. Night likes to mix humour with horror, but that doesn’t’ work here…or in any of his other films. Also…the alien’s aren’t scary and don’t have any presence or…sensible biology.

Now-let’s get on to the child actors. Now child actors tend to get a bad wrap…mostly because they’re kids. But in this movie, we have a girl who seems oblivious to everything around her…and a boy who talks like he’s Danny from The Shining, Henry from the Book of Henry and Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. The main problem is we’ve inconsistent child characters (something that’s common in M. Night’s work) with one that doesn’t seem to do anything or know anything and another who acts like a mature adult who knows everything he’s talking about. And considering Joaquin Phoenix acts like a dumb teen…this is a very weird thing to do. The Happening also had younger characters talk about serious issues and adults acting like children. I don’t know why this is a thing M. Night does…but it doesn’t make sense.

Next is the cinematography, now yes: I did say it’s good…but that comes with a caveat. See M. Night loves long takes and sometimes (like in Unbreakable) it works…however-in this film and in many others: it doesn’t. See instead of having a shot reverse shot sequence for dialogue conversation, he uses and long, drawn out and slow single shot that goes from one side of the long table to the other…but it’s boring, slow and draws attention to itself too much. Considering M. Night’s ego…it wouldn’t surprise me.

That’s the thing: M. Night’s ego is his biggest downfall…along with any other director who gets to that state. Similar to how George Lucas (Only because mentors advised against his worst aspects) made Star Wars and then years later got to make the prequel trilogy with unlimited resources and only yes men serving him. Well a similar thing happened with M. Night: because the Sixth Sense was a financial, cultural and critical success in one go…he kind of just bought into his own ego and genius. And this means that most of his works (but mostly Lady in the Water and The Visit) are ego trips meant to be these “high class think pieces” that are amazing because he experimented with genre. But here’s the thing: JUST being different without a creative element to back it up doesn’t make it genius. Using terrible framing and over choreographed movements in The Last Airbender wasn’t “being art house”. Having Will Smith act as the least engaging performance he’s given wasn’t “defying genre expectations”. And having the twist in the Village make no sense in universe wasn’t “unappealing to the critics”. Simply put, they were bad creative misfires and you should own up to them-stop blaming everyone else. You’re such an auteur and creative individual, but won’t admit that your choices fail-it’s just everyone else who’s wrong for not liking it.

But now we get to the big, stupid reason this movie doesn’t work-the marriage of plot and theme. The entire theme of this movie is about “Everything happens for a reason”. Mel Gibson’s entire character in this movie is basically learning to accept the pain of his past, the quirks of his family and trust in God that everything will be ok. Now aside from the fact that the loss Mel Gibson suffers basically reduces a female character to a plot point and not…a character, the main issue I gave is that Mel’s character already seems to accept everything. Like his daughter constantly wanting water and leaving it half full everywhere isn’t’ that weird to him, nor his son’s weird maturity. In fact, the only real arch is that he has to see all the coincidences come together at the end to make him a Man of the Cloth again. I’m not against religious stories: like I said-Mel Gibson himself makes them better. But the whole time: the film tells us not to question anything, to just go with it and that eventually everything works out with you coming on top. It might be fine for M. Night who had two failed movies before making it big…but that’s a bad message to tell those who’ve genuinely suffered that “if you just go with everything-it’ll be fine”. There’s no nuance or greyness proposed, it’s just blatantly stated. And all of this comes down to…yes-the “twist”. The fact that we learn the aliens have a weakness to water and that because Mel’s daughter constantly leaves half cups of water on everything…the alien bumps into one and it shows damage…ok…where do I start? -One: why would an alien race EVER want to invade a planet that’s 70% water and is accessible to every human being in major areas? Fire trucks would be our tanks. -Two: it’s convenient that the alien just happened to be in the right room with the right cup in the right place at the right time. What if Mel had moved the cups away or the alien got into the basement? -Three: what were the aliens ACTUALLY doing? They showed up, ran around a bit and left. They blew up nothing, showed no interest in humans and mostly acted like cliché monsters not written properly in an alien invasion movie. -Four: did Mel Gibson’s daughter ONLY do this when her mother died? Will she keep doing it or has it stopped? Because…that just feels like M. Night failing to write an actual female character…again…in the same movie. -Five: I realised while writing this that Mel Gibson really is M. Night’s insert character and that if M. Night changes nothing an goes with it-he’s coincidentally achieve greatness and become amazing…just like how he directly wrote himself in Lady in the Water.

And that’s really the major problem: M. Night making a wish fulfilment movie about himself. He even makes basic thematic connections by not tying the water to anything. It’s not holy water to imply the aliens as demons metaphor and the wife who died in the movie as Mel Gibson’s loss didn’t die in water-so there’s no thematic tie. If you wanted a better story: Mel Gibson should’ve accidentally killed his wife by accidentally driving her into a lake and she drowns or something and he spends the entire film hating himself and hating his daughter’s problem. We don’t get that…instead we have M. Night inserting himself as the man who killed Mel’s wife…and that’s LITERALLY obstructs the film. It LITERALLY has Signs as a good movie being obstructed by his egotism blocking an actually good film. His unnecessary character, his coincidental plot and narrative framing as a misuse of faith as a story and his overly obsessed showy direction only prevents the film from being good. M. Night-ever since Signs has made egotistical works where HE blocks their growth and only recently with Split.

Overall, if you like Signs: it’s understandable. But I find the pretentious (and M.Night is very pretentious) style and execution for what should be a powerful story about faith is a waste. In my opinion: if you want a crazy alien movie with a twist and very powerful theme-watch Arrival.

 

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