Friday, May 26, 2017

Get Out

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! If the movie makes racists pissed off, there's a great chance it's awesome.



Get Out – 5 out of 5

I really wanted to see Get Out when it hit the theaters because I’m a big fan of Jordan Peele and feel he is endlessly talented.  Furthermore, it looked like one of those culturally relevant horror/thriller films that are so rare nowadays due to a genre that is too busy churning out mindless fluff and cliché stories.  Sadly, I never got the opportunity to go but with its nearly universal love from the critics and the recommendations of my friends who saw it (and whose opinions I highly respect) I decided that I would blind buy the film.  There’s always a risk when I do this but I usually only purchase a film I haven’t seen if I have a strong gut feeling that I will like it.  I had that feeling with this one and my gut was right on the money.

Hey, it's that funny guy from Atlanta.  Not that saying that narrows it down
because there are A LOT of funny guys on Atlanta.

Somewhere some racist dude totally missed the point
of this movie and thinks it's a cautionary tale
about interracial dating.
The young couple Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) are off to visit Rose’s family.  Chris is slightly nervous due to him being a black man about to enter the very world of white privilege but Rose assures him that her parents; Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford), are two very progressive people.  However, Chris’ paranoia starts to grow as he sees oddities around him in the form of two black staff members at the home who act very strange and unsettling but nothing can prepare the man for what horrors are waiting beyond the surface.

Just a dude running...at night...nothing jarring about that.

When I first heard that Jordan Peele from Key & Peele wrote and directed a thriller I was taken aback.  I knew this guy from the world of comedy but after the initial shock faded I realized it all made sense.  Looking at the skits he co-wrote, it is abundantly clear that the man understands storytelling and has a considerable knowledge of genres.  Add in that many of the skits he did with Keegan-Michael Key had a lot of social undertones to them and I realized that there was a substantial chance that this film would be incredible.  After watching it, my predictions were 100% correct.


Stephen Root is also in this film and I love that guy!


Get Out has an amazing amount of elements that all work in concert to create a film that is capable of being enthralling, engaging and entertaining but also suspenseful, tense and even comical at times.  One of the more notable aspects is the absolutely killer performances given by every member of the cast.  Whether it’s the unsettling behavior of the two individuals who work in the Armitage home (played by Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel) or the "seemingly normal but something is definitely not sitting right" element that is the entire Armitage family or the absolutely immaculate performance of Daniel Kaluuya as Chris—the man stuck in an absolutely terrifying situation—the production delivers immensely with the cast.  Their roles all feel very believable and the way some can act off-putting without coming off cartoonish or over-the-top is amazing to witness.

I know this picture is used all over for this film but it's so damn iconic and
was such an amazing part of the film.

The next very striking element that made Get Out such an effective viewing experience for me was the story.  Now, I realize a lot of white folks in the comment sections loudly declared (in all caps) that this film is racist because if there was a movie where the races were reversed there would be riots blah, blah, blah.  Now, if they took the time to actually watch it, they would realize that the trailer only gave you a taste of the red herring that this film is.  Jordan Peele lets you believe that the goings-on is one way for a long time and only subtly drops hints to the true motive that is happening.  The story unfolds, develops and gives just the right amount of clues that, by the time the truth is uncovered, I was floored and extremely impressed.  The craftsmanship that Peele put into the story is so majestic that he sneaks hints, clues, and an amazing amount of symbolism without you ever being fully aware of it but appreciating their existence when all the pieces come together.  The thriller genre is so often a paint-by-numbers affair and usually overloaded with movies that look and feel the same from a story standpoint that to get something as intelligent and as expertly constructed as Get Out is damn special.

I never thought Catherine Keener would ever creep me out but boy did she!

I have to add that I loved the character of Rod.
He added humor without it ever feel like it was
taking away from the overall tone of the film.

The final element that made Get Out truly something special is the amount of social commentary it makes.  The horror/thriller genre is no stranger to reflecting society back at itself and the way Peele held up a mirror and showed how the African American community views white people and how certain extreme members of the white community look at a black person is really astounding and extremely poignant.  Never at any point does this commentary come off as trivial or lazy but rather it’s expertly woven into the very fabric of the story and every little tidbit Peele put into the background or into the dialogue or into plot points played a very significant role and made talking points about how our society views race relations.  There is so much at play here that repeat viewings are almost a necessity because of how many layers are hidden in plain sight in this movie.

For example, in this scene Bradley Whitford's character is making a "two"
with his fingers and that means he is indicating the number two.  Actually,
that one is probably not a part of the symbolism for this film.  I just wanted
to sound smart.


I was very, very happy with my blind purchase of Get Out and found a film that has the depth and social awareness that few thrillers made in America have.  For his directorial debut, Jordan Peele showed he has what it takes to be one of the greats and his skills as a writer have shown that he is far more than a man who is really good at crafting things that are funny.  With its stellar cast giving their all (and then some) and a story that has the perfect pace, an excellent mixture of suspense and humor, and symbolism that is insanely smart and thought provoking, the film proved to be a unique experience and one that not only entertains but invites conversation from both a filmmaking/writing perspective and a social one as well.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The BFG

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! A big friendly giant is great and all but what about Andre the Giant?  Now, that's a giant!



The BFG – 4 out of 5

I am completely unfamiliar with the Roald Dahl book that The BFG is based on so when I hear the title, my mind instantly goes to that specific weapon in Doom.  Now, the title means Big Friendly Giant so when some people hear the acronym BFG, they might think Big F#@king Giant.  Anyway, when I saw the trailer for this Steven Spielberg directed feature, I was blown away with the promise it held and I thought it looked like a nice, heartwarming feature.  Well, I finally got around to seeing it and it definitely delivers.

Plot Twist:  The giant is normal size and the girl is really small!

Little Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is an orphan in England that one night accidentally sees a giant (Mark Rylance) walking the streets.  The giant, scared she’ll tell the world of his existence, kidnaps her and takes her to Giant Country.  Despite her pleas, the giant refuses to let her leave because there are ones outside that are far bigger than him lead by one called Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) who will eat her up in one bite.  Sophie soon learns that the giant has no malice in his heart for her and the two quickly become friends—she even nicknames him BFG for Big Friendly Giant.  BFG shows her a world of wonder but the threat from Fleshlumpeater is never far behind and it’s not long before these two unlikely friends have to come up with a plan to stop these evil giants once and for all.

This is art, my friends.  Airbrush that on the side of a van!

Just when you thought the fart joke had run its
course...
Disney’s The BFG (or would it be Disney’s Roald Dahl’s The BFG?) is an incredibly sweet, heartwarming movie.  The story has the right blend of being charming, amusing, sweet, and it even throws in a dash of dark with the threat the larger giants hold.  It combines all these elements under a cohesive tone that never feels like it is jumping from one element to the next.  The only issue I had with the story is the fact the conflict within it is resolved just a wee bit too easily for my tastes but, at its core, this is a children’s film so this really isn’t a complaint that killed the film’s entire entertainment value.

Fleshlumpeater looks like he might have a Dropkick Murphys cover band.

Another element that really struck me was the performances.  Mark Rylance is incredibly endearing as BFG and it was really hard to not be completely charmed by his naïve worldview.  Additionally, Jermaine Clement does a fantastic job providing the voice for the main giant antagonist but the strongest performance in the whole film for me was Ruby Barnhill.  From the very first moment we see Sophie in action, we see that Barnhill has some real acting chops and she really captured the independent and fiery spirit of the character.  Even more impressive is how she is acting effortlessly among computer generated creations—a feat even some more seasoned actors have problems with.

I hope she has a fruitful career.

The final thing about this film that I really enjoyed—was actually quite blown away by, I should say—is the special effects.  For starters, the sense of scale the movie creates is quite awesome but the motion-capture and animation used to bring the giants to life was completely amazing.  The design of them looked fantastic but the life-like body and facial movements were next level stuff that really helped sell the reality of the film.  This combination also allowed for the actors’ performances to shine through and it helped showcase the charm and warmth that Rylance projected as BFG.

Or maybe computers had nothing to do with this and Mark Rylance just
went through some crazy operations to make him a giant.  I don't know.

As I mentioned earlier, the only drawback I had for The BFG is that the conflict is resolved stupidly easy but, beyond that, the film is a fairly pleasant one.  The cast is fantastic, the special effects are incredible, the humor is good natured, and the story is sweet and fun.  It has all the makings of a film that’s perfect for families to watch on movie night.

For you Doctor Who fans, you might recognize Penelope Wilton as the Queen.
She went from being the Prime Minister to Queen.  Not too shabby.

 

Alien: Covenant

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Ah yes, the franchise with creatures that have phallic-looking heads literally born from rape.  Everything about these movies are terrifying.



Alien:  Covenant – 2 out of 5

There’s no denying the cultural importance of the Alien franchise.  Sure, most of the sequels are passable at best but that first film and the action packed second one with the Marines are classics.  Then there’s the actual design of the xenomorphs.  The sexual assault overtones and the darkness represented in their design by H.R. Giger is a Freudian nightmare that made for some truly memorable movie monsters.  Well, the man who started it all, Ridley Scott, is back for another installment of the prequel trilogy that explains where the xenomorphs came from and how we got to the film where we see Ripley having to fight one while in her underwear (it’s like that nightmare where you go to school naked but way, way worse!).  It turns out that you still can’t scream in space in Alien:  Covenant but this time it’s more of a scream of boredom.

                                                                                                         20th Century Fox
The symbolism was never subtle in this franchise.

In 2104, the crew of the Covenant transports thousands of colonists and embryos to the planet Origae-6 but after an accident messes with the ship, they stumble upon a transmission from a nearby habitable planet.  Acting on the command of acting Captain Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), it’s decided that they will take the detour to examine the planet and try to locate the source of the transmission.  Despite objections by the crew’s terraforming expert; Daniels Branson (Katherine Waterston), the team sets out to uncover this new mystery that has stumbled into their path.  Pretty soon, the team learns that this mystery involves the Prometheus, a ship that disappeared several years earlier, and on that vessel carried a secret in the form of a horrifying creature that brings with it death.

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
I'm sure he'll be fine.

I enjoy the Alien films quite a bit.  Even when they are at their worst (like the vs Predator films, Resurrection and Prometheus—which I openly admit I did enjoy) I still find some level of entertainment with them.  It goes without saying that I was pretty excited for this one—and really dug the idea of Danny McBride having a role in it (love that guy!).  Well, I caught it this weekend at the theater for a matinee and, I’m sad to say, it wasn’t worth the 13 dollars to see a showing of it and it should have been something I rented from Redbox or even waited to see when it aired edited on Syfy.

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
"Yes, this is, in theory, a habitable planet so I don't see a single reason why
we should enter the environment with some sort of protective suits.  It's not like
there will be viruses or other type of microscopic threats."

I will admit that there are some really great things going on in the film that didn’t completely kill the feature for me.  I really loved the set and costume design because it felt true to the already established Alien universe.  The performances are great—to an extent but I’ll get to that later.  Finally, the story as a concept is a fairly cool one that offers up a lot of promise (although, it does leave me wondering how on earth they are going to be able to tie it to the original film without it looking lazy).  The problems that come have entirely to do with how the story is executed and it was done so in a way that made for a really bland, ho-hum, and even out-right boring feature.

                                                                                                           20th Century Fox
Not even the presence of a Jedi could rescue this film.

One thing this film desperately needed was further development of the characters.  I realized that the studio released a “prologue” clip online in the months leading up to its release but you shouldn’t have to release a clip in order to establish characters and their motivations and personalities.  As the film stood (without the prologue clip), we learn basically nothing about these people other than they are a crew on a colonization mission and they’re all married (and weirdly only refer to their spouses by their titles of “husband” or “wife”).  Even the film’s hero Branson is given almost nothing to identify her as anything that should stand out.  I can’t even recall any character being referred to by name with the exception of Danny McBride’s character Tennessee.   

                                                                                                         20th Century Fox
I'll throw this out there, McBride really felt perfect for his role.


                                                                              20th Century Fox
Every time Crudup speaks, I keep expecting him to
mention how certain things are priceless and for
everything else there's Mastercard.
Without any development, these characters are just faceless nobodies who all feel like they are expendable at any minute and I was unable to get invested in any of the turmoil and conflict they were subjected to.  I’ll overlook that the entire setup of their problems come from really, really bad judgment on their part when they travel to an unknown planet if it meant that I would have gotten some insight into the inner workings of the people in the story.  Honestly, say what you will about the bad decision making seen in Prometheus but the set-up in this one shows some really horrendous decision making.  This lack of development also had an adverse effect on the acting.  While no one in the film is giving a bad performance, it was difficult to really invest in what the actors are putting out there because the characters are so dimensionless and lack any real and palpable depth.

                                                                                                         20th Century Fox
I appreciate how this franchise likes to have female protagonists but
you gotta at least develop them a little bit.

Ridley Scott stated that this film was intended to bring the franchise back to its horror roots and, while the potential is there, it wasn’t very successful at accomplishing that.  The setting, the lighting, and, of course, the creature all are ingredients that have the reality to translate into horror (there is a historic precedent for it and we’ve seen work) but while the atmosphere is primed and ready for this there never are any thrills or tension done.   In fact, it was hard to really figure out what type of tone this film was going for.   Limitations such as budget and a bad costume resorted to the horror tension being created in the first film but with those limitations are gone thanks to special effects and a large budget.  What we are left with is a film that leaves nothing to the imagination.  The xenomorph’s attacks (and the attacks of the new alien we see in the film) are telegraphed too obviously that it kills all shock and surprise and it makes the death scenes more about just getting some gore in rather than getting some horror in—and, to be honest, I wasn’t even that impressed with the blood and guts.  That element felt very mundane to me (man, have I become that burned out with gore in movies?).

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
I'm sure he'll be fine.
 
The final element that really killed Covenant for me is the weak ending.  In theory, the ending isn’t terrible but in execution it is a bit silly and really easy to see coming.  However, the biggest problem I have with the ending is how it will eventually tie back to the beginning of the film that started it all and how the Nostromo finds the shipwrecked vessel of the Engineers with all the eggs onboard.  Obviously, it will get resolved but this ending has me fearing it will be done so in a way that might be silly, lazy or incredibly contrived.

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
With all my complaints, the xenomorphs are still really cool monsters.

Now, I don’t want it to sound like I completely hated Alien:  Covenant because I didn’t.  I saw the potential and promise that it held but was, sadly, unimpressed and kinda bored with the final results.  From a storytelling perspective, I like the pace it offered because the whole time it felt like it was building to something (sadly, it didn’t).  The performance from Michael Fassbender is absolutely outstanding and the rest of the cast is doing fairly well with the terribly underdeveloped characters they were given.  Finally, the special effects for the aliens are very good.  Unfortunately, these elements just couldn’t save a film that felt like it was both incomplete and squandering its time and potential.