Power Rangers (2017)

power_rangers_2017

  • Directed by Dean Israelite
  • Starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G.
  • Written by John Gatins
  • Action, Family
  • Rated PG-13
  • 124 mins.
  • 24 March 2017

Synopsis

A group of outcast teens discover colorful, mysterious coins in a rock wall one night, and their lives change forever. When their town, and by extension the world, is in danger, it’s up to these 5 kids to train together and become Power Rangers so that they can follow their destiny and save the world from Rita, an evil former power ranger intent on destroying the world.

How’s the Story?

The story is fairly simple and straight forward, but it’s nice. The plot is interesting enough and the kids all have well enough developed back stories. I enjoyed the story and had a fun time at the cinema with this one. It’s the type of story you can check out on and just consume without analyzing or thinking about the plot that much.

How’s the Acting?

It’s actually pretty decent. Very over the top in some ways, which is what you expect from this type of movie. It’s a campy, showy film so the over the top acting works here. I feel like if you had subtle, nuanced acting, it wouldn’t carry this ridiculous plot very well.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

Okay, this is something that I feel requires you looking at the movie from the right perspective to really appreciate correctly. Simply put, this script is bad. It’s really horribly written from the classical perspective. It’s got ridiculously over-explanatory dialogue, it has no concept of ‘show, don’t tell’, and it’s just full of unrealistic lines.

BUT! I realized while watching it that it’s written that way for children. At the very start of this film, I was immediately like, “Oh God, this is such horrible dialogue, this is going to be torture,” but then the little boy in the row next to me, who was about four, kept turning to his dad and going, “Oh! So *x person is doing x thing*!” And then it really connected for me that this isn’t just a poorly written script. It’s written with a four year old audience in mind, and suddenly all the over-explanatory dialogue and the ‘let me outline every single thing multiple times cause the audience is too stupid to understand’ type stuff was done that way so that a four year old child can follow along. It isn’t that the script is written as if the audience is too dumb to understand, it’s written with it in mind that the target audience is a small child that won’t understand without having everything explained in simple language.

After that realization, I was entirely on board, really. When I put aside my ‘film person’ way of thinking and just watched it bearing in mind that the target audience is small kids, all the unnecessarily ‘bad’ writing, the over-the-top direction choices, all the really theatrical performances, all of it made sense, and I think that what they were trying to do was what they did, and they did that well.

How’s the Cinematography?

Honestly? I thought the CGI and other effects in this film were pretty well done. I’m not a big stickler or a big fan of crazy CGI, but I appreciated that this was just flashy and showy enough to work. As for the regular cinematography, eh. It did its job. There was nothing spectacular but there was nothing bad.

I would say there were a few situations where I wish there were more establishing shots to help orient the viewer to where the hell things are going on, but that’s just because I felt like there was a lack of scale and understanding in some ways. I could never tell how big ‘The Pit’ was, and you never see the whole of the boat that finds Rita’s body, you just see the deck where the fish are dropped, and the hold where the fish are stored, and a small portion of the side of the boat. I can’t tell if that was a small boat and that shot of deck was most of it, or if it was a big boat and that was just one portion. It was just small things like that that sort of could have been done better, I think.

Is It Worth Watching?

I would recommend it, but I also know that anybody who doesn’t go into it expecting an over the top, campy action film aimed at family audiences probably won’t enjoy it that much. I really liked the characters, I enjoyed the story arc, I liked the simplicity of the plot because of how it is aimed at children, and it was just really fun.

I kind of really hate the ‘hype’ around the ‘gay character’ because it’s not even a thing, and they totally ignored the hype of having an autistic character that is shown to be friends with neurotypical kids and who has a realistic depiction of how a child on the autism spectrum actually reacts to certain things. That was a far bigger positively inclusive moment of diversity than some blink-and-you-miss-it mention of potential lesbianism.

I also loved the way they wrote these kids, because they all felt like real teenagers. So often in films, teens act like adults, or think like adults, but these kids all came across as actual teens, and I think that’s a serious accomplishment, and I do credit that to aiming the audience at kids and families. Families wouldn’t buy the usual ‘is a teen but thinks and acts like a 30 year old’ crap, so by having a realistic depiction of teens going through struggles, even set against the backdrop of a ridiculously campy action film, is so refreshing!

I did not expect to enjoy this movie as much as I did, and I foresee this being one of those films that comes on TV on weekend afternoons all the time on channels like FX and TNT, so I figure I’ll definitely end up watching this film multiple times in the future in a ‘lazy weekend flick’ situation.

My Rating: 7/10

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Chips (2017)

chips

  • Directed by Dax Shepard
  • Starring Michael Peña and Dax Shepard
  • Written by Dax Shepard
  • Comedy, Action
  • Rated R
  • 100 mins.
  • 24 March 2017

Synopsis

A former X-Games motoX athlete, Jon Baker, and an undercover FBI agent, Frank Poncherello, become partners when Poncherello goes undercover with the California Highway Patrol to investigate a series of heists that might be an inside job at CHP.

How’s the Story?

The story is kind of weak and light on plot, but I honestly wasn’t that bothered by it. I cared enough about the characters that I didn’t mind that the story was weak and the plot incredibly thin. It wasn’t a bad story, just a super straightforward one.

How’s the Acting?

I actually liked the performances in this. The people who say comedy is easier than serious have no idea how difficult it is to get comedic timing down. This film wasn’t the most challenging film for any of the actors involved, but liked this films performances. Michael Peña and Dax Shepard are both solid comedic actors you can rely on and yet in the right moments, they both deliver seriousness well. There won’t be any award-winning performances from this one, but there was nothing bad, really.

Also, it was nice to see Jessica McNamee again. I loved her on Sirens and that show should have never been cancelled!!!

How’s the Writing/Directing?

I thought this movie was fucking hilarious. Yes, it was a ‘gross’ funny movie in a lot of places, but that’s exactly why it worked for me: I hate those kinds of movies and yet this time I didn’t. I laughed so hard at the types of jokes I normally would just roll my eyes at. The gags were funny, the jokes were hilarious, and the best part is that the characters were written like real people that you actually cared about, not just ‘funny guy #1 makes fun of funny guy #2’. The comedic timing between characters you genuinely liked is a writing and directing ‘Goldilocks’ thing that so many movies fall short of finding.

It isn’t news to anybody, me especially, that I end to laugh easier than most. Shit, just watching Beauty and the Beast, me and my family were the only ones laughing out loud most of the time. I don’t know if it’s a family trait or what, but very often me and my family are the ones laughing ourselves to tears over things most people titter at. Because of this, I’m aware that what I find BLINDINGLY funny might not be all that funny to others, but this movie genuinely was funny.

I’m sorry if you guys don’t think so, because I WISH you could have the same sense of humor I do. Life is so much better when you can laugh yourself to tears at least once a day every single day of your life. This movie had me clutching my stomach from the pain of laughter more than once.

How’s the Cinematography?

There was nothing really spectacular here by way of cinematography, but I did enjoy the chase scenes and the action sequences. They were pretty standard, but well done for that standard. It wasn’t a poorly shot film by any means.

Is It Worth Watching?

I say this film is definitely worth watching, but as I said in the segment on writing, I’m very aware I’m more easily amused than some. So I would say if you are the type of person that really likes comedy, you will probably like this. If you enjoyed Super Troopers, you’ll probably like this (Note: It’s probably not as good as Super Troopers, but it has a similar feel). I grew up on the really great comedies of the late 80s and 90s, so most of the films I watched repeatedly were comedies like Tommy Boy, so I’m a BIG fan of comedy. If you are of a similar taste with a love for comedy, you will probably enjoy this film.

I love Michael Peña and Dax Shepard, I love comedy, and I love the explosions, shootouts, and high speed chases of action movies, so this was a genuinely ‘Chelsea’ aimed film. Because of that, I have to admit I will probably watch this movie again when it comes out for purchase in the future even though it’s by no means an AMAZING film.

My Rating: 7/10

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Beauty and the Beast (2017)

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  • Directed by Bill Condon
  • Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, and Luke Evans
  • Written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos
  • Musical, Romance
  • PG
  • 129 mins.
  • 17 March 2017

Synopsis

In a live-action adaptation of the Disney Animated Classic Beauty and the Beast, a young woman named Belle in a small village in France is outcast by the rest of the village for her strange ways and her even stranger father. In the woods not far from the village lies a castle long forgotten after a sorceress cast a spell upon the young, selfish prince and all the castle subjects, leaving him a beast and his staff household items unless the prince can earn the love of another. The fates of those inside the castle seem sealed until Belle stumbles into the castle in search of her father and gives hope to the castle inhabitants for the first time in a long time.

How’s the Story?

The story is no great change to the original animated film, but that isn’t a bad thing. Beauty and the Beast is without a doubt one of the best Disney stories ever. It’s a story about a young woman who is outcast because she’s intelligent and innovative, and this is one of the places that this film upped the ante some. In the original, her father is the inventor and she’s just a bookworm. In this film, her father is an artist and she is the inventor, which only increases the ‘girls shouldn’t be afraid to be smart’ theme of the film, which to me as a little girl was one of the main reasons I loved Belle so much.

Also a step up in this story is the way that the Prince is cursed. In the original, if you pay attention, it mentions that the witch cursed him and gave him until his 21st birthday to break the curse and that his ten years were almost up… meaning an 11 year old child called her ugly so she cursed a whole castle full of people. That’s really freaking petty, if you ask me. This time, he was an adult who should have known better and she made it so that all the people in the village had their memories of the castle and the prince erased, that way the ‘forgot the castle is there’ makes sense. I really liked that this version filled in some plot holes like that from the original.

To me that’s what this story was tasked with doing: take the original and make it a little bit better without ruining the story, and I think it did its job very well.

How’s the Acting?

The acting is good. It’s nothing spectacular at any point, really, but neither was anything bad. It was campy at times, and with that in mind, it was a pretty well done film as far as performances go. I think Luke Evans did a great job embodying Gaston’s arrogant jerkishness. I particularly enjoyed Josh Gad as Le Fou! I actually only recognize him as ‘headphones guy’ from The Intern so I was surprised at how funny he made Le Fou.

The best acting was probably done by the non-human characters. Ewan McGregor as Lumiere was so good. This is less acting than writing, but his comedic timing was really amazing. Also, Dan Stevens is another person I don’t recognize from anywhere else, but I really liked him as the Beast. I loved the animations for the Beast, because his eyes were so human that he felt more real than some of the real people did.

Again, these probably aren’t good things necessarily, but there was nothing bad about the performances in this film even if there was nothing spectacular.

Except Emma Thompson and Audra McDonald. They’re always spectacular. Full stop.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

The writing in this one is really good. I love the comedic timing of so many things in this script. Beauty and the Beast has its moments of comedy, but this version has so many hilarious little bits and pieces that aren’t just funny for kids but are actually funny enough to be funny for everybody. There are little visual gags and tiny lines that are just hilarious. There was one line where Lumiere is dancing around the kitchen and he tastes the soup and goes, “I have no taste buds, but I’m sure it’s good” or something along those lines and I giggled like a child, it was such an unexpected yet funny line.

There were, I admit, some directorial choices that were kind of odd, and not what I would have made, but there was nothing bad. I won’t pretend this film was directed as well as it could have been, but nothing took me out of the story, so it was good enough. I’ve seen a couple of Bill Condon films before and only one of them was even any good, so compared to some of his work, this one was better than most.

How’s the Cinematography?

This is one point where I’ve got great love and annoyance for it. There are some beautiful pieces of camera work in this film, and this is a visually attractive film, but there was also so many missed opportunities. There are so many places where a more dynamic choice by the DP in shot choices could have made this spectacularly beautiful and they didn’t do it. I also have a major gripe with how dark a few of the scenes are. They aren’t like “TV shows on CW” dark where you can’t see what’s going on, but there were scenes that were just a HINT too dark.

There were no real major flaws but tons of little issues that could have been corrected simply by choosing something else when it comes to where the camera goes.

Is It Worth Watching?

Of course it’s worth watching! Are you kidding me? It’s Beauty and the Beast! I’m not one to give an entirely fair and unbiased opinion on this film, because it would have had to be BAD to make me say it’s not worth watching. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney story and this only enhances the story the original told.

Also, I love the diversity! I’m not talking about the whole hubub around the ‘gay thing’ but this film has a racially diverse village and castle, which is often not the case because people like to pretend Europe at that time was a racially homogeneous place. (Or as Gus from Psych asked, “What, black people hadn’t been invented yet?”) I loved seeing black and brown villages and courtiers. It’s always super satisfying to not see an all-white cast on your screen.

While it isn’t a perfect film, and while there are some technical things that could have been better, this is in no way a poorly done film. It’s a beautiful story delivered with fun musical numbers you will sing afterwards just as often as you do after seeing the original, infused with some fun humor. It’s touching, and romantic, and at times heartbreaking, and it’s impossible to dislike this story or the way that it is told here. I wouldn’t go anywhere nears as far as to say it’s better than the original, but that wasn’t the point of this film. I am not one of those people who emphasizes “does this film justify its existence?” because to me that is a pretentious way of looking at film.

Not very film has to be revolutionary. Most films aren’t. I don’t care if this film justifies its existence or not, I only care that it took something I love and gave it to me in a new, satisfying package so that I could enjoy that feeling of seeing it for the first time once again.

This is a good movie. That’s it. That’s all that matters, and this film is most definitely worth watching.

My Rating: 8/10

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Kong: Skull Island (2017)

kongskullisland-finalposter-sunset-choppers

  • Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
  • Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson
  • Written by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein
  • Adventure, Action
  • PG-13
  • 120 mins
  • 10 March 2017

Synopsis

Kong: Skull Island tells the story of a 1970’s science expedition to an uncharged island to explore the unknown geological (and mythological) features of the island with the help of a Vietnam War helicopter squadron, an ex-British special forces tracker, and an anti-war photographer.

How’s the Story?

The story is, admittedly, pretty light on plot. It’s very straightforward. No real story development or plot twists are in this film, but it is still an enjoyable story even if it is very simplistic. Expedition is put together, people go to island and drop bombs, big monkey gets pissed at them, they try to make their way to the pickup point, find old WW2 pilot, discover big monkey isn’t actually the bad guy here, Samuel L. Jackson goes nuts cause he just hates the monkey, good guys save big monkey from Samuel L. Jackson, actual bad monsters show up, monkey fights monster, people escape.

Nothing special, but it’s still a coherent plot at least, so you get from point A to point B without any real issues, though also without any real major developments.

How’s the Acting?

I actually really enjoyed the acting given how little plot there really is in this film. Samuel L. Jackson is always the “Angry Guy Who Has Few Shits To Give” but he was actually pretty believably insane in this one. He wasn’t just Samuel L. Jackson in any of his many roles that are similar, he was THIS character. He probably gave the best performance of the film. All of the soldiers really gave pretty good performances. They were more of a group of side characters, but they all gave pretty good performances. Shea Whigham as Cole was really good, actually. He’s one of those guys that everybody has seen in something, and yet this was still a unique character, not just one of his ‘regular’ performances.

Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston were both decent, but honestly it felt more like they were there to have a few more recognizable names and faces for the publicity, really. I think that has more to do with direction than it does their performances, though.

Really, the standout here was John C. Reilly as far as performances go. I did not expect him to be so believable. I’m used to this guy being ‘the funny dumb guy’ in everything, and I really bought Marlow as a character. He was endearing and lovable and it was absolutely Reilly’s performance that made him so.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

As we established with the plot-light story, this film probably doesn’t have the best writing I’ve seen, but it’s serviceable. It’s nothing offensively poorly done. The screenplay won’t be winning any awards anytime soon, but it had its moments where I really enjoyed it. I would say that my favorite things would be the humorous lines. They really do work. The whole auditorium kept chuckling and giggling at all the funny stuff. The biggest reaction was from the “Washington will never be more of a mess than this”, which made me full on cackle. I also got a little choked up when Marlow was talking about how he and Gunpei Ikari became brothers until one of the lizard monsters got him. So the film wasn’t horribly written in pieces, it was just the overall plot that was very simple.

The direction, I think is to blame for a lot of the bigger issues in the film. There is little explanation of the motivations of a lot of the characters. We get expository moments that tell us something, but that something is never really expanded upon. John Goodman’s character is very one-dimensional and he is never given any moments to put any feeling whatsoever into what we discover is meant to be a revenge plot on his part. The same goes for Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston. They both are very flat. Larson’s character is “woman who wants to do the right thing” and Hiddleston’s is “British guy paid to do shit”. Neither of them really have any sort of depth and they don’t have any real moments where their characters are more than just set pieces for the story.

I don’t know much about Vogt-Roberts, but I would go out on a limb and say he isn’t exactly Scorsese.

How’s the Cinematography?

One thing this film does VERY WELL is cinematography. This is a pretty film. I love the choices in camera angles for so many scenes, and I love the colors as well. There are shots that aren’t the greatest CGI, sure, but for the actual shots, there are some really interesting ones. I love all of the choices to go through Larson’s character’s camera lens, for example. It’s not very unique, but it feels more appropriate in this film than in some others where I’ve seen this choice done. It’s just a pretty film and I really appreciate that.

Is It Worth Watching?

Kong: Skull Island isn’t likely to make it onto anybody’s Top 10 lists, but it’s definitely worth watching. It’s a fun movie with great humor and some semi-decent moments of genuine pathos, even if the plot is very thin and the story rather incomplete. It’s a good popcorn movie. It’s the type of film you put on because you want to see a fun film without having to think too hard. It’s also worth noting that this film is pretty diverse and though there are only two women in the film, neither of them are ‘the hot chick eye candy’, they both have actual purposes in the film. It’s really satisfying.

If nothing else, see it for the soundtrack. This film has a very heavy-handed mix of diegetic and non-diegetic music from the seventies (complete with record players carted all over the place in this film) and it’s all good music. It’s got enjoyable action, funny moments, great tunes, and pretty shots to look at, so it’s worth seeing even if it probably won’t be one of your favorite films of the year.

My Rating: 7/10

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Logan (2017)

logan-poster-wolverine-3

  • Directed by James Mangold
  • Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen
  • Written by Scott Frank
  • Action, Drama
  • Rated R
  • 137 mins.
  • Released 3 March 2017

Synopsis

Set in the 2029, Logan tells the story of Wolverine and Professor Xavier, whose mind has started to deteriorate after the fall of Mutant-kind, as they try to save a mutant child, Laura, from the seedy agency that is trying to hunt her down and kill her. Chased by mercenaries from Mexico to the border of Canada, Logan is tasked with getting Laura to the fabled Eden, a safe haven for Mutants across the Canadian border.

How’s the Story?

The story is really intriguing. It’s a different direction than what you would expect from what is still a comic book movie. This film is one that kind of reminds me of something like Captain America: Winter Soldier in that you could easily go see this movie as just an action movie and not a comic book movie and be entirely satisfied. This film is far more of that type of film than Winter Soldier, mind you, but that one was the first comic boom film I saw in that way. This movie could really work as a standalone. You honestly don’t need any real understanding of X-Men or Wolverine as a character to follow this movie perfectly well.

It’s very real and scary in a way because it’s the type of story that, sadly, is really unsettling in the world we live in. The concept of a group of people being hunted to near extinction for being different is both an old story and one that we all sort of fear on the horizon. The focus being on potentially the last child of an entire species of humans as well as the ‘road trip’ style was very reminiscent of the story from Children of Men, actually. There are also several films it reminds me of with the idea of ‘if we can make it to this place, we will be safe’ that this film reminded me of.

That said, I can see how to some the fact I can think of a bunch of movies that have this same basic story of survival can be a negative to some. I’m a firm believer of ‘The truth in the lie’ when it comes to fiction, the concept that through a fictional story you get the truest expression of humanity, so I’m not that bothered with this film being a story we’ve all seen before. I can watch fifty versions of the same basic tale of humanity and still be entertained by the various iterations.

How’s the Acting?

The acting in this film is phenomenal. I’m a big fan of comic book films because of their acting in recent years, and everybody knows that I genuinely believe there is better subtle, nuanced acting in some Marvel films than in the best drams, but this time I’m fairly positive that I’m not alone in saying that the acting in Logan is AMAZING.

Hugh Jackman may have never delivered a better performance. Full stop. This man was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for his performance in Les Mis in 2012, and I would absolutely make the claim that his performance in this film is vastly superior to that one. I am not a giant Hugh Jackman fan, so I’ve really only seen him as Wolverine and then in Les Mis and I think Kate & Leopold one time, but this is a Hugh Jackman performance that makes me want to see more Hugh Jackman. The over the top Wolverine is still there, that growling, raging, massive asshole of a grump, but in that there are these moments of subtlety that are absolutely beautiful. I believe that I’m watching Logan on this screen, not Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, which is the best praise I generally can give an actor in any role.

And if we’re going to talk about a balance of over the top and subtle acting, we have to talk about Sir Patrick Stewart. I’m a massive Sir Patrick fan. I love that guy. I love most everything about this man. I’ve seen him in so many things, and yet, again, this is a fucking stellar performance. There are moments in this movie that he absolutely breaks your heart, and it isn’t the big moments, it’s these small little twitches of his eyes or mouth that tell you that Charles Xavier is just tired of living, and it blew me away.

I had never heard of Dafne Keen before this film, and I have to say, for a child actor, this girl has so much talent. Laura was absolutely the biggest enigma at the start because I just didn’t expect such a genuine-feeling performance from a child. Like I said in my praise of Hugh Jackman, I bought this kid as Laura. I bought every moment of her on that screen. The fact that she spends two thirds of the film silent, only acting with her facial features, is fucking astounding, because I never felt like I wasn’t understanding her and fully in the scene with her. I just cannot get over this kid’s depth and range, especially in a film where she’s silent the majority of the time.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

As I’ve said in a lot of reviews, I’m a firm believer that a good director can turn anybody into a good actor, and a good director with good actors can make a masterpiece. This film is not necessarily a masterpiece, but the film that Mangold managed to put together here is proof that he is just a good, solid director. I love all these tiny choices that really make the film connect. There are scenes that you don’t really get until later on when the reason they were there really stands out. A good example here would be the scene with the boy giving Laura his phone to let her listen to music. I won’t give a spoiler and reveal why that’s so significant, but it made very little sense at the time, and yet the depth of emotion it evoked when it became relevant just wouldn’t have been there without that scene.

As I just touched on something that’s directorial but also somewhat a writing praise, I have to admit, there are imperfections in this film, and I would say that the bulk of that is in the writing. Don’t get me wrong, this film has a very solid script. I’m a huge fan of dialogue-light films, and though this one isn’t Moonlight in that respect, it is definitely a film that relies a lot on allowing the viewer to fill in the gaps themselves rather than using more words. However, there are also some problems when it comes to that, because I left the film with some unanswered questions that I don’t think are due to me not having ever seen a Wolverine movie before this. There are allusions to story information and plot points that are never elaborated upon and, yes, one could argue that you can infer the information and make your own conclusions, but I feel like it asks too much of that from the audience.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I much prefer to have some unanswered questions than to have every tiny detail shoved down my throat like a lot of films do, so as I said, it’s a flaw, but it isn’t like this film is terribly written.

How’s the Cinematography?

I really liked the feel of this movie. This film looked like a western. It was very much stylized like a Slow West or Hell or High Water. I love that gritty feel without it being some dark and gloomy film. The choices in cinematography in this film I think were very effective and definitely the right choices.

The one gripe I have with the cinematography for this film was that, in some, NOT ALL but some, of the fight sequences, the camera was so all over the place that it kind of felt like cheating to cover up the actual fight choreography. It wasn’t consistent, there were plenty of great fight sequences where that wasn’t an issue, but there were definitely some scenes where the ‘let’s make this chaotic!’ camera choices made it a little too chaotic and kind of annoyed me.

(That said, I do have to admit, the auditorium was SUPER FULL so we were way closer to the screen than I like to sit, so maybe I was just too close to the screen in some of the faster scenes? I don’t THINK so, but that is one thing I have to confess in case maybe I’m just wrong)

Is It Worth Watching?

Abso-fucking-lutely. I won’t go as far as my fifteen-year-old brother did and say its, “one of the best movies ever!” but it is really worth watching. Even if you don’t generally watch X-Men films or Wolverine films or even just comic book films, this is a film worth seeing as long as you enjoy dramas with action. It’s intriguing, it’s believable which sounds crazy to say about a comic book film, it’s gripping, it’s dramatic, and it’s got a lot of heart as well.

While I can’t say it’s the first time I’ve cried over a comic book movie, or even over an X-Men (adjacent) movie, none of them ever got me like this one got me. There’s something about this film that gets you deeply invested in these characters, and though you feel from the tone from the beginning that it’s going to end just how it ends, it doesn’t take away from the emotions. There’s no surprise twist that catches you unaware, there’s just a solid character arc for all the characters involved that grabs hold of you and sucks you in and when what happens happens, it is absolutely devastating. There’s a single line that you’ll know when you see it that completely and utterly destroys every person in the auditorium, and I’m talking the man sitting next to me was sobbing into his popcorn, it was so utterly gut wrenching in the most moving and beautiful way.

If you want a true mark of how worth watching this film is, my brother, sister, and I didn’t finish our popcorn or drinks during this film. We usually have that stuff finished halfway into a film, and yet all of us were so invested in the movie we just forgot to eat and drink. It may not be a perfect film, and it may not even be amazing to you, but it’s definitely one that will draw you in for a good, solid story.

My Rating: 8/10

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Best Picture 2017: How The Films Rank Up

So it took until JUST NOW for me to finish out the last of the Oscars 9 Best Picture nominees, and I’m ready to quickly rank them from what I feels is least good to best! I have never watched all of the Best Picture nominees before, so I’ve never been able to do this! I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again, because most years I just DO NOT want to see all of the Best Picture nominees. However, this year I did it, so here we go!

#9 – Manchester By The Sea

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While many people thoroughly enjoyed this film, I absolutely did not like it. Great acting performances, but the movie altogether was just so off-putting. It felt like the intentions were good, but the execution was very weird. Maybe I just missed the point, but either way, I didn’t like it. In particular, I hated the badly timed attempts at dark humor that just came off as wrong. Like the gag where they’re loading the wife up in the ambulance and the legs won’t go up so they can’t slide her in. Three children just died in a fucking fire and someone decided to insert levity with a non-funny gag??? It was distasteful and took away from the most emotionally connected part of the movie, the tragic back story. I just didn’t like this movie. It felt like a poor execution of a good idea.

#8 – Fences

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I appreciate this as an ambitious film, because turning a stage play into a movie is not easy. I think that’s what went wrong. It still feels 100% like a play. The entire time you’re watching it, it’s like a play. I’m a theatre lover who has acted in many plays, so I do appreciate this story and the way it’s told, I just don’t think it is very successful as a FILM. It wasn’t adapted for film as much as just filmed on a location rather than on a stage. That’s the only change it underwent. I don’t think that, as a movie, it works very well. Viola Davis is amazing in it, but it’s just not a well done movie.

#7 – La La Land

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This is where I’m really losing some of you guys, I know, but I thought La La Land was okay. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t amazing, it was just okay. I think that they had really high intentions and failed to deliver what we’re promised. The musical aspect is patchy at best. The movie feels like three very distinct thirds and the first third, which is to me the weakest, is the musical and the rest is the story. I enjoyed the STORY. If the whole first third of the film was removed, I would’ve liked it a lot better. It was an overly-long movie, and of the films I saw in cinemas, this was the one film where other people at the viewing with me actually walked out. I’ve never seen that before, so clearly I enjoyed it more than a lot of people did. I think the strongest part of this film was the end. I loved the end. But, a great end doesn’t get this movie moved further up the list, so sadly, this is as high as I can take it.

#6 – Hacksaw Ridge

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This is where it starts getting tougher, because all of the films from here up I liked. This was a good film. I was expecting something else, since a lot of negative reviews went on about how it glorifies violence, but honestly, I don’t know how anybody can watch this and not think it’s meant to make us horrified by violence and advocate for our non-violent protagonist. I was shocked by Andrew Garfield’s performance here. I would probably say I think he deserves best actor for this role. I don’t think he’ll get it, but I think he deserves it. Mel Gibson also had a really great comeback with this film. This was a genuinely solid film for him. This was a good, solid war film, and I’m a big fan of war films. I would have liked to move this movie higher, but it’s just a mark of how good the rest of the films are.

#5 – Hidden Figures

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Please don’t think for a second that I didn’t really love Hidden Figures. This movie was one of my favorite movies I’ve seen. However, when it comes to the quality of the film-making, the rest just have some artistic quality that edge this one out. This movie tells my favorite story of the bunch, but the script isn’t as intricate as some of the ones higher and the directing, acting, and cinematography is more standard than some of the ones coming higher than it. However, I love space, I love women, I love women of color having their voices heard, and this movie was practically aimed directly at me. I am a fan of every single part of this movie. I love it so much.

#4 – Lion

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I’ve seen a lot of people who either didn’t like this film or just weren’t that moved by it, but as everybody who follows me on twitter knows, this movie wrecked me. I ugly-sobbed myself to shame in the cinema that day. This movie was moving and touching and human and I loved it. Not only was the story incredible, but the cinematography was beautiful and I would say this is my second-favorite looking film of all 9. The acting was also top notch. The little boy in the first half was incredible, and I really think Dev Patel was amazing in his half. The real acting winner for me in this one was Nicole Kidman. She made me believe she was a mother who loves her sons. I felt it. I didn’t see Nicole Kidman, I saw Sue, and to me, that kind of natural performance is what really is the mark of good acting. I just genuinely adored this movie. I’ve never been more invested in a ‘based on a true story’ film as much as I was this one.

#3 – Moonlight

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This is such a good movie. I cannot stress enough how good this movie is. I’m a fan of more artsy stories than necessarily narrative stories, and this is definitely the former. I feel like this movie is more about themes and impressions than telling a story, and I love that. This movie is about more than the character it surrounds, this movie is about the cultural attitudes about masculinity and sexuality in the black community, especially in a rough neighborhood like this. This is a movie that I think maybe makes more sense or appeals better if you understand this world.

Like I said in my review, I’m a white lady, so obviously I don’t live Chiron’s life, but Chiron is the kids I went to school with in my poor, mostly black town. One of my friends in high school killed himself afterwards because he got busted for dealing and nobody respected him anymore after he took a deal and snitched on his supplier. My friend who is a lesbian has literally said, “It’s okay for girls and white people, but black men being gay is just wrong,” so the attitudes are so specific in this community. So to me, watching Chiron’s struggles as a black man who is gay living in a town like mine was something I could feel in a way I couldn’t really feel almost any other movie this year. I love this movie. I wish I could put it at #1, but that’s just a mark of how good these last two films really were.

#2 – Arrival

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The beauty of this film is that every aspect is moving. The cinematography is breathtaking, the directing is incredible, the acting is gut-wrenching, and the story is one that is mindbogglingly special. This entire film is one that I wish I could unsee and experience for the first time over again. It’s profound, it’s inventive, it’s creative, it’s so special that I might even say this is a life-changing film. This movie changed the way I look at all movies after it. What Villenueve managed to do here is something so magical that it raised my actual standards for what film-making can be. I thought about this film for days after seeing it and I genuinely can’t even believe this movie isn’t my #1, that’s how beautiful this story and film were. Also, Amy Adams was robbed.

#1 – Hell or High Water

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I think the reason that this movie beat Arrival for me is because whereas Arrival takes human nature and puts it to the test against something outlandish and unreal, this movie is so powerfully real. Just like Moonlight, this was a film that I think I loved so much because it’s relatable. It isn’t necessarily just something Americans can understand, but I would say this movie is about as American as you can get, and not in some superficial “‘MURICA, YEAH!” way, but in a way that shows how twisted the American story is.

Hell or High Water tells a story a lot of us can identify with. I know my family isn’t the only one that, when the housing market collapsed, lost the home that had been in the family for generations. And like my favorite quote in this film says, poverty is like a genetic disease that passes down through the generations, so my family lost everything, and this is a story that millions of Americans can identify with. Chris Pine’s character in this movie is somebody we can understand. We get it. We understand his anger and his frustration and his determination to get revenge on the banks and sacrifice everything to make sure his children don’t ever know what it’s like to be him.

And in doing so, what’s more American than the ‘Robin Hood’-esque story of outlaws who don’t hurt people in their robberies? We’re a country built on the underdog outlaw story. All our Great American Heroes were outlaws, weren’t they? So this movie resonates in a way that it’s personal to so many and thematically understandable to most everybody else. Add in that it’s beautifully shot and incredibly acted, and this movie is unbeatable. The script is really good, the direction is impeccable, and I genuinely would put Jeff Bridges winning Best Supporting Actor if I could have my way.

I just really think that, of the nine, this is the best film all around and the one that I enjoyed watching the most. Of all of them, this is the only one I’ve seen twice so far, and that says a lot.

In Conclusion:

There we have it! There are my Oscars picks. I doubt maybe half of the things I think should win will win awards tonight, but you know what? I’m used to it. Here’s hoping your guys picks win since we know mine wont!

For further reading, here are the films above that I’ve written reviews for:

What about you guys? How outraged are you by my list? Did you agree with anything at all? Let me know!

 

 

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Moonlight (2016)

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  • Directed by Barry Jenkins
  • Starring Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, and Alex Hibbert
  • Written by Barry Jenkins
  • Drama
  • Rated R
  • 111 mins.
  • 18 November 2016

Synopsis

The story of the life of a boy named Chiron growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami from childhood to adulthood.

How’s the Story?

It’s a really interesting story that is unlike anything else we’ve seen actually. There are so few films at all that focus on the life of black men, but to have one that focuses on masculinity and homosexuality in the lives of black boys from rough neighborhoods is something really powerful and unique.

How’s the Acting?

I really enjoy the acting in this movie. I’m a big fan of subtle performances, and all three iterations of Chiron are played by boys/a man who really stay consistent in who Chiron is and his quiet performance. I really think that Mahershala Ali is one of the best performances in this film. He absolutely masters the subtle performance.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

I thoroughly enjoy the way this film is written. It’s got such beautifully subtle dialogue. There’s no spoon-feeding exchanges. I love the artistry in how naturally this screenplay was written.

As for the directing, Jenkins has some really stellar decisions. There are some scenes that I absolutely adore and I think Jenkins did an amazing job with this film.

Bonus Category: Sound!

I don’t generally talk about sound or the soundtrack or the score in these reviews, because I’m of the school of thought that the sound and music for a movie should enhance but not overpower a film. However, this is one movie I’ve got to say something about the sound for!

The music in this film is incredibly used. I would have never expected the choices that were made in this film to be made as far as music goes, but while the music draws attention to itself, which is usually not a great thing in film, it really works here. There’s something super special about the music and how its used in this movie. It clashes in some places in a way that accentuates the mood of the scene and it’s just genius.

Also beyond the music, the sound mixing is really spectacular here. I’m not big on sound, at all. Usually I don’t even think about the sound design or mixing. In this film, however, I really enjoy the use of the sound of water. The water is important to Chiron’s experiences and growth as a person. The trip to the beach he took with Juan impacted his life so much and I love the way that for the rest of the film, any scene with water has the water louder than it might should be. There’s this recurring motif of water in multiple ways, and both the beach trip with Juan and the fact he had his first intimate experience at the beach carries through this water focus, and the sounds of the film carry that water motif through in such an amazing way.

Look at me, barely even know what sound mixing is, and yet this film’s sound mixing REALLY meant something for me!

How’s the Cinematography?

It’s good. There was nothing incredibly showy, but I think that’s what’s great about it. I’ve always been a fan of handheld and this film is a beautiful example of handheld done right. It’s not distracting or noticeable, and it makes the film feel more natural. It adds to that real life experience feel of the film.

Is It Worth Watching?

It’s definitely worth watching, but I do understand why the casual moviegoer might not like this movie. This film doesn’t have a very coherent plot, as in a narrative that has a beginning, middle, and end. It’s a movie more about themes and experiences than a straightforward story.

I also think that to appreciate this film, you have to have an understanding of this type of life and the ideas of masculinity and attitudes towards sexuality in the black community, especially a rough area like the one Chiron grew up in. While I, as you can all tell, am a white lady, so I don’t have the experience of growing up like Chiron obviously. However, as I’m constantly reminded by the internet, I also didn’t grow up in a crazy white place like most of America seems to be. I was always around kids like Chiron growing up. The ideas of masculinity and the attitudes towards homosexuality are different in a mostly black community, and it makes the importance of the movie and the emotional impact more real when you have that kind of understanding.

This film is one that I think is very important and very moving, but I do understand why some people wouldn’t appreciate it as much as others. However, to me, this movie is wonderfully shot, directed, acted, and the subject matter is so important, and I am so glad I finally saw this movie.

My Rating: 8/10

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