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.

Suicide Squad – Review

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“David Ayer’s Suicide Squad is a better movie than either Man of Steel or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Which unfortunately isn’t saying all that much.”

By my reckoning the greatest problems with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was that director Zach Snyder forgot–or choose to ignore–two important things:

First, both Batman and Superman were originally made for children.  Now, I can understand the drive to make them more acceptable to adults, but what I don’t get is why he had to alienate younger folk in the process.

Though by doing so he removed two of the things that made them (particularly Superman) interesting to their millions of fans, which is a sense of wonder and possibility.

And while Superman was never my favorite superhero, I also never though of him as a god, something that Snyder has fixated on and feels the need to bludgeon viewers over the head with.

Zach Snyder’s fingerprints are all over Suicide Squad as well, particularly his tendency to equate murkiness and dreariness with darkness of tone.

And I’m also not sure that David Ayer was a good choice for the material (especially considering his filmography, such as End of Watch and Fury, though to be fair he seems to get that this stuff is essentially silly, so nothing’s any more serious than it needs to be) though he seems acquit himself well.

What’s more problematic is that the story–also written by Ayer–is way bigger than it needs to be.  Deadshot, El Diablo, Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn, Slipknot, the Enchantress and Killer Croc are like the Avengers composed of lesser versions of Hawkeye, with the exception of El Diablo, Headshot and the Enchantress.

Which isn’t to say that they can’t be lethal, but if you’re looking for someone to stop an evil that threatens the world they probably wouldn’t be the first group you’d call.

But there’s a more serious problem that directly links to Zach Snyder’s treatment of Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Namely Batman, when he encounters Deadshot and Harley Quinn, he kills neither one. If you recall in Batman v Superman he was really keen on killing virtually every person that opposed him.

Here? Not so much.

It’s not a corner that half-decent writing couldn’t get themselves out of, though it’s also a place that Snyder shouldn’t have taken the character in the first place.

And I fully understand that the movie would have been quite a bit shorter if Batman killed off Deadshot and Harley Quinn, but it would have also been truer to what Zach Snyder was doing before the soft reboot of the DC Extended Universe, which Suicide Squad is the first movie in.

The Abandoned – Review

 

The Abandoned is a pretty decent horror movie, though you have to be patient with it because the ending isn’t exactly the culmination of everything that came before.

I don’t mean to imply that it’s badly made–it’s not–but it rewards you for paying attention.

And I have to mention the movie’s cinematographer, Zach Galler, There are some
instances that take place in dark spaces, yet you can tell what’s going on the entire time.

And you may think that that’s a easy thing to do, yet if it were every movie would be able to say the same.

4th Man Out – Review

I liked Andrew Nackman’s 4th Man out a lot because it’s less a dramedy about a guy, Adam (Evan Todd) who realizes that’s he’s gay and trying his best to deal with it–though that’s an important aspect–than the community of friends and relatives that surround him, and their reaction to his announcement.

What makes this movie work as well as it does is that the cast is spot-on and you sympathize with Adam because he doesn’t come off as a victim, or someone with a death sentence, as people often do in these types of movies.

Todd’s Adam is genuinely interesting to watch and sympathetic, making him easy to relate to, no matter your sexual proclivities.

The movie does it’s best to not make Adam a stereotype (he’s not sassy, feminine, sharp-tongued, like show tunes, could care less for Madonna or Lady GaGa, and is a auto mechanic) and it’s appreciated.

Besides Todd’s performance, the responses of the people around him also make the movie work–the ‘community’ I mentioned earlier–particularly Adam’s friends, Chris (Parker Young), Nick (Chord Overstreet), and Ortu (Jon Grabus) who at first respond awkwardly to Adam’s revelation, but instead of weirding out and rejecting him, do their best to support him, and sometimes learning a bit about themselves along the way.

4th Man Out is also surprisingly diverse, in that Adam goes on dates with blacks as well as whites, which is a welcome change from the way these sort of movies typically work when there are people of color(unless the movie revolves around them).

And speaking of people of color, there’s a scene where Adam’s on a date with a black man, and they’re in his car, sharing a kiss. It’s a particularly beautiful scene, till Adam farts (his body’s response to eating nachos apparently) mid-kiss.

Both men freeze–Adam with a ‘Oh, fuck! I just farted!-look on his face, while his partner responds with a ‘This man did not just fart, did he?-look on his face.

That’s when things get really weird because, opposed to Adam just acknowledging what happened, he continues to make out, then farts again.

And the date pretty much ends, which felt like less than the way real people would respond to a situation than a badly-written scene.

It’s the only one of its like in the movie, which is why it sticks out.