Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2

I caught James Gunn’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2 last Saturday and what I found so impressive overall was the way Gunn managed so many stories and plot threats in a way that was not only cohesive, but made sense.

Because–and trust me on this–there are so many ways Guardians  could have easily collapsed under it’s own weight.

But it never does.

What’s almost equally impressive is the way everyone gets their own arc, without the movie feeling bloated or over-stuffed.

And Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2 is so gorgeous, as if it’s not only not afraid to admit that the worlds depicted first appeared in comic books, but is proud of it.

And there’s not a cynical bone in the movie’s body, which is why when you see Baby Groot and Rocket you just go with it.

Because you know–on a level conscious or not–that Gunn believes in these characters as much, if not more, than you do.

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Shifting Reality: Book I of the ISF-Allion Series – Review

I have been know to review books here on Screenphiles, but it’s not something that I do on any sort of regular basis.

That being said, I just finished Patty Jansen‘s Shifting Reality, the Book I of the ISF-Allion Series and it was…okay.

The future world the novel depicts was an interesting one, though my biggest gripe is that the book, in an effort by the writer to craft what appears to be a viable future, can be very exposition-heavy.

At the end of the novel, in a section called ‘About the Setting’ Jansen explains that a ‘major disaster’ drove rural people into Jarkarta where the worker population was sourced.

What is never made quite clear is why they were sourced from that region (other than the writer being fascinated with Indonesia and it’s culture).

Another way the book would have been improved would be if more information was provided about the ISF–their origins and how they came to be–as well as Allion–which initially seems like a sinister conglomerate but ends up so much more.

Luckily Melati Rudiyanto, the main protagonist of the novel, is our eyes and ears into this fascinating futurescape because while the narrative may lag on occasion, she was interesting enough to keep me invested.

Overall Shifting Reality is a pretty good read (despite the occasional narrative lag), and worth seeking out.

I discovered Shifting Reality via The Humble Bundle, where you can pay what you like for eBooks that shift regularly in terms of genre, so this week it might be horror, though next week or could be hard Sci-Fi, and so on.

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS Story – Review


“What’s surprising is not that ROGUE ON: A STAR WARS Story has earned almost $850 million worldwide, but how astoundingly mediocre the movie actually is.”

The biggest problem with Gareth EdwardsROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS Story is that it’s two movies.

For the bulk of it’s time it’s a war movie, and a not very good one. The characters are characters–for the most part–only in the sense that they have names and are played by actors.

It never once invests in the development necessary to make make our heroes anything approaching  empathetic, never mind sympathetic–it goes without having saying that the villains, particularly Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) fare significantly better though I suspect few people go to a Star Wars movie exclusively for the villains.

And that’s to be expected, though more is required of the heroes; we need to not only sympathize with their plight, but have to actively want them to achieve their goal.

And that doesn’t happen in Rogue One and seeing that it’s a prequel of sorts to Star Wars: A New Hope, you know that they succeed in stealing the plans for the Death Star.

It’s only how that manages to come about that matters.

And the how is what the brunt of what the movie gets wrong.

Which reminds me, why was Gareth Edwards hired to direct? As you could probably tell from Monsters, as well as Godzilla, he doesn’t exactly excel in developing human relationships on screen, which is what Rogue One needed. I don’t care about virtually everyone dying at the end, though what I do care about is not caring about everyone dying at the end.

And the movie also–in a very curious fashion–undermines a small but important sequence from The Empire Strikes Back (which I go more in detail about in my video review).

As much criticism as the three George Lucas-directed sequels received–deservedly so for the most part–at least they felt like Star Wars movies (not very good Star Wars movies, but Star Wars movies nonetheless).

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?  Not so much.

Doctor Strange – Review

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“Visually, Marvel’s Doctor Strange is unlike any movie you’ve probably seen.”

And that’s not hyperbole.  Some of the visual effects in Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange may have had their genesis in other movies–such as Inception–but he takes them to places that you have never seen before.

Green screen is also nothing new, but the way it’s used to define movement in an landscape often modeled on the work of M.C. Escher, is.

Though like I mention in my review, it feels as if the human relationships weren’t quite as fully-realized as those aforementioned effects (with perhaps the exception of Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One, who every time she turns up on screen the movie takes a moment to catch its breath.

As a result, Doctor Strange is that odd sort of movie that you want to see again not only because of special effects worthy of the name, but to see if the personal and interpersonal relationships in the movie fare as well.

Marvel’s Luke Cage – Review

At this point, if you’re a Netflix subscriber you’ve probably already started watching Marvel’s Luke Cage (if you haven’t binged all 13 episodes, that is) so I don’t have any intention of spoiling it for you.

Except to say that the series is damn good television; so good in fact that–which I mention in my video review–you almost regret when a costumed villain is introduced.

Because before that moment, things were tight–which isn’t to imply that the appearance of Diamondback (Eric LaRay Harvey) ruined things because it doesn’t though the action and interplay between the characters was so engrossing that it wasn’t necessary.

And speaking of character interplay, Mike Colter, Alfre Wooddard, Rosario Dawson, Simone Missick, Eric LaRay Harvey and Theo Rossi stick out among one of the stronger casts in television.

The contrast between Marvel Studios’ more fantastical worlds compared to Marvel Television’s more grounded and realistic one is pretty interesting and provides a welcome and refreshing difference in approaches.

Next up, Marvel’s Iron Fist!

The Magnificent Seven – Review

screenshot-2016-09-23-21-57-45Antoine Fuqua, arguably one of preeminent action directors working today, has once again teamed with Denzel Washington, whom he worked with on Training Day in 2001 and The Equalizer in 2014 with his reboot of John Sturges’ 1960 Western, The Magnificent Seven.

And it’s a good movie, though to call it ‘magnificent’ is a bit of hyperbole though the reason that it attracted so much attention on its initial release is probably the least unimportant thing about it.

And that was the fuss made over its  diverse cast, though when you look at history of the American West, what’s more inaccurate were the portrayals that pictured it as entirely occupied by white people, to the exclusion of tNative Americans, Chinese and African-Americans that were present as well.

As I said earlier, it’s not a great movie, though it’s well done, entertaining and at times pretty amusing.

Though there are some moments where present day filming techniques and CGI get in the way of the illusion (which I go into in my video) but those instances are relatively few and far between.

It runs a bit long and could have used some trimming, though when all is said and done. it’s a pretty good time.

Blair Witch – Review

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If you happen to be a fan of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s 1999 found-footage horror The Blair Witch Project, then Adam Wingard’s sequel/reboot Blair Witch will feel very familiar.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Blair Witch follows the same beats as its predecessor, as James (the brother of Heather Donahue from The Blair Witch Project) gets together a group of friends to search for his sister after receiving a videotape where she turns up for a brief moment, leading him to hope against hope that she was still alive somewhere in the depths of Maryland’s Black Hills.

This is despite an extensive search for the intrepid explorers, which the movie notes; though the funny thing is, despite having seen The Blair Witch Project I am not entirely sure what happened to her either, though I can say for certain that it wasn’t very good.

There’s a sub-plot about a filmmaker who’s interested in filming James’ search, which while evocative of the first movie is somewhat pointless and goes nowhere in particular.

Things proceed as you’d expect, which is good for moviegoers though not so much for James and his crew, as the force that vanished his sister reaches out to claim him and his friends.

As I mentioned earlier, Blair Witch feels very familiar, though it does differentiate itself in some important ways. For a start, it feels more like an actual movie than what proceeded it. This is important because my biggest problem with The Blair Witch Project–and why I preferred Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2–was that the former felt less like an actual movie than someone’s idea of a movie.

(It’s worth mentioning that watching the frenetic camera movement of Blair Witch initially made me mildly nauseous–though I suspect this had more to do with a lack of sleep the night before).

Money matters, and more often than not a humdrum movie (the only thing that saved the Transformers movies were their giant robot-sized budgets) can be made better–at least visually–with a large production budget. Blair Witch was produced for $5 million, and while that’s probably the catering budget for bigger films it’s still significantly more than the original movie, which cost $60,000 in 1999 dollars (I don’t know what that is in 2016, but I imagine it’s significantly less).

Though what surprised me most was how funny the movie is. Most of the humor was supplied by Peter (Brandon Scott) by the way he reacted to the chaos that unfolded around him.

It’s refreshing to see a character in a horror movie acting (for the most part) like a normal human.

That being said, it wouldn’t be a horror movie if people weren’t willing to venture into places where anyone with a modicum of common sense would fear to tread, but that’s a cliche that is typical for the genre.

Blair Witch isn’t perfect–then again, neither was the movie that inspired it–though what it is is a worthy follow up to one of the most innovative horror movies of it’s time.