It doesn't mean get out of the theater
Get Out is a 2017 horror film directed and written by Jordan Peele and stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams.
Chris Washington (Kaluuya) is a normal black man who is dating white college student, Rose Armitage (Williams). The two have been dating for 5 months and get ready to spend the weekend visiting Rose's family. Chris is cautious because Rose has never told her family that he is black. When they arrive, Rose's parents are very friendly and welcoming to Chris. Everything seems fine, but Chris notices that the family has a groundskeeper and house maid who are both black. Both the groundskeeper and maid display unusual behavior, and Chris slowly begins to realize that something is quite amiss with Rose's family.
Horror and comedy are quite similar nowadays, because both genres heavily suffocate from trite cliches and an inability to do what both genres are intended to do. For horror, that's to scare you. For comedy, that's to make you laugh. When the two are intermixed, the results can be interesting.
Jordan Peele, one half of the comedic Key & Peele duo, has developed a strong reputation for comedy, so it might seem slightly out of left field for him to both direct and write a horror story. On the flipside, the trailers for Get Out don't even remotely hint at the fact that this movie is also comedic and satirical. I was one that eye-rolled at the trailers and prematurely dismissed the film as more disposable, cash-grab, horror rubbish. But if you can get past the judge-a-film-by-its-cover stage, you will learn that Get Out is quite frightening and also features a healthy dose of humor. Keep peeling off the layers, and you will learn further that the movie is also a commentary on racism and oppression. It's social commentary that is all too relevant today.
- The story and its thematic elements. The first half hour or so of Get Out involves getting a feel for our characters and trying to take an educated guess on what scary outcomes are on the way. The opening scene sees a black man walking down a calm suburb sidewalk one night, until he is followed by a car and then attacked by the driver. It's an instant realization that foul play is at work somewhere. As Chris and Rose are driving to Rose's parents house, a deer crashes into their car. Chris goes into the woods and finds the injured deer bloodied and dying. To Chris, and to us as an audience, it's an ominous warning of danger and to tell us that more trouble is coming. Once you put all of the pieces together, the realization of what's happening and why wallops you like a mallet.
- While it might not mean much in the long run, Chris takes a little too long to act upon his suspicions. Chris meets Rose's parents, the groundskeeper and maid, as well as the other guests at the family's get-together, but brushes off their awkward behavior by just saying, "nah it's cool bro" or something else similar. He has far too many encounters until he is fully convinced that something is wrong. Anyone in his situation would probably start showing extra caution after 1 or 2 such freaky interactions.
Jordan Peele has cleverly and humorously devised a scare story with an underlying social commentary that is all too pertinent in 2017. That 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (for now anyway) is totally justified. Golden horror films like this one are few and far in between, so do what you can to see it in theaters, particularly with some friends.
You could probably go around the world in a shorter time than it takes to watch this movie
Around the World in 80 Days is a 1956 adventure comedy film directed by Michael Anderson and stars David Niven, Robert Newton, Cantinflas, and Shirley MacLaine. The film won five Academy Awards and was remade later in 2004 starring Jackie Chan.
In 1872 England, noble gentlemen Phileas Fogg makes a wager with his fellow gentlemen in the Reform Club that he can circumnavigate the world within 80 days. Fogg is accompanied by his valet, Passepartout, as the two set out on a worldwide adventure and travel almost every which way possible: by balloon, by boat, by train, and even by elephant. The two make stops in several locations such as Spain, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and the Wild West. Along the way, Fogg and Passepartout meet the young Princess Aouda, and are also followed by Police Inspector Fix, believing that Fogg is a prime suspect in a robbery of the Bank of England.
What a drastic change in pace this film is from previous Best Picture winners. While the nagging problems of dullness and too-long running times are still present, the change-up comes in the form of a film with an ambitious desire for adventure and a tendency to simply have fun. Going around the world in 80 days nowadays would not be such a tall-task (thank you airplanes), but it's certainly interesting to see how someone could accomplish such a feat back in the 19th century.
Around the World in 80 Days does its best to be entertaining, but the movie is like a little kid that got to run wild in the candy aisle of a grocery store. It bloats itself with sugary treats, and has little to no self control about it.
- The Wild West sequence. This whole scene is the most entertaining part of the film, featuring headstrong Indians going after the train that our protagonists are riding on. Poor Passepartout runs on top of the train, but is later captured by the Indians while trying to escape on horseback. Unlike other sequences in the film, this one does not drag on too long and keep the plot chained down in one place.
- The film is adventurous, brushing aside any attempts at mawkish romance and attempts to tell dreadfully boring history lessons. At the sake of being narrow-minded, the film never introduces irrelevant subplots. It wants to go places and indeed it does. If you're ever on the fence about travelling abroad somewhere, maybe this film will give you some inspiration.
- The run-time. To be clear, the film is really around 2 hours and 45 minutes if you cut out the intermission, ending animated title sequence, and exit music. Still, this film suffers from a problem identical to one in The Greatest Show on Earth, with dances and artful routines that long overdue their stay. Whereas The Greatest Show on Earth featured gear-grinding circus acts that generate unnecessary bloat, Around the World in 80 Days has its characters take prolonged stays in the first few countries that they take pit-stops in. It was during a prolonged dance scene in Spain that it hit me that this film is like the younger twin brother of The Greatest Show on Earth, in that they both feature stories that are meant to be fun and entertaining, but are also far too excessive in length. The dance scene in Spain is followed by a bullfighting scene with Passepartout that could get the point across in 5-10 minutes. For whatever reason, it went on for about 15-20 minutes.
- Even though the film is adventurous, the 2nd act sequence with Fogg and Passepartout in the early stages of their journey is unbelievably dull. There's really nothing that I can justify as "exciting" (no, the bullfighting scene is not exciting), since all the two are really doing is just talking and travelling. It's not until after the intermission do things pick up, leaving a full 45-50 minutes where you grow bored by the second.
While I cannot say that Around the World in 80 Days is a bad film, I also cannot think up a legitimate reason to argue that it's a good viewing for the casual movie-goer. The film is still at least watchable 60 plus years later, but its sprawling length and rather dull segments weigh down its ambitious desire for adventure and fun. How do these Best Picture winners keep getting away with being too long and undeniably boring?
The Lego Movie is a 2014 computer-animated adventure comedy film directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and features Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman in the voice cast.
The film takes place within a massive Lego World, where the evil Lord Business (Ferrell) plots to "end the world" by using a super weapon known as the "Kragle". The only hope to stop the Kragle is a red brick known as the Piece of Resistance. A person known as "the Special" is prophesied to find the piece and save the world. Construction worker Emmet (Pratt) finds the piece and finds himself caught up in a wild adventure to stop Lord Business. Emmet partners up with other Lego figures such as the woman Wyldstyle (Banks), the elderly wizard Vitruvius (Freeman), and even Batman (Arnett).
The Lego Movie is as colorful, creative, and fun as the building block toys that it is based on. It also features witty humor and a heart-warming story to boot. The cynical viewer might claim that The Lego Movie is just another example of how Hollywood and filmmakers have no new and fresh ideas anymore. The optimist, on the other hand, might believe that a film inspired by a successful toy line that encourages users to be as imaginative as possible has boundless potential for creativity and enjoyment. The Lego Movie takes the latter and runs with it. Every sort of Lego figure that exists is present somewhere in this film, which includes delightful cameos from the most beloved of superheroes such as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. There's also Abraham Lincoln, William Shakespeare, and even Shaquille O'Neal.
If this film doesn't slap a big giddy smile across your face, then I am not sure what will. Kids can watch this film and laugh until they pee their pants. Parents can sit through this film as well and laugh and enjoy it for several different reasons too.
- The voice cast. There are some major stars at work here, and they all bring their A-game. Chris Pratt shines as the by-the-books, everyday man Emmet, who is way over his head. Will Arnett nails it as a sarcastic, self-centered Batman who is also the funniest character in the film. Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Will Ferrell are also all superb in their respective roles.
- The animation. Even if the film is computer-animated, everything is Lego-constructed and really makes you want to pay attention to the backgrounds and various landscapes. Water within the film is really just a sea (not literally) of dinky blue Lego pieces, explosions and fires are also Legophied, it's all an experience you can't get the full impact of in just one sitting.
- There really are no major low points in The Lego Movie. The film is too busy in having as jubilant a time as possible, and no characters drag the film down in any notable way. There's just so much fun and excitement going on in this cinematic toy box that I fail to see anything to be irate at.
An energetic and partying-good time for all ages, The Lego Movie proves that the creative and imaginative potential of its source toy material can translate extremely well to film. If only I could say the same about, oh I don't know, the Emoji movie.
Recommend? Yes! It's awesome fun for all ages!
Nine Lives is a 2016 fantasy comedy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and stars Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, and Christopher Walken.
Kevin Spacey plays workaholic father Tom Brand, whose company is in a heated competition to build the tallest skyscraper in the northern hemisphere. Brand works with his son, but his all work no play attitude keeps him distant from his wife and young daughter. His daughter's 11th birthday is coming up, and she wants a cat more than anything for her birthday. Tom despises cats and has never bought her one. Tom eventually gives in to buying a cat since he doesn't want to disappoint her, and he drives to a mysterious pet shop run by a mystifying owner (Walken). Tom buys a cat named Mr. Fuzzypants, but during a freak electrical accident, he finds that his conscious has now been transferred into the cat while his human body is presumably in a coma and is sent to a hospital. Tom as the cat learns from the owner that if he doesn't reconcile with his family, he will remain trapped within the cat's body for the rest of his life.
Oh yikes, how does something like a human-cat body swap attract the attention of big league stars like Spacey and Walken as well as the talented Jennifer Garner? What was the incentive for Men-in-Black director Barry Sonnenfeld to tackle this feline film? My only guess is a nice looking paycheck.
Nine Lives established itself as one of the worst films of 2016 and for good reason. The humor is basically nonexistent and there really is no reason for this film to exist. Maybe it does exist because one of the writers saw The Shaggy Dog and felt that a cat could do the human-pet switch justice. Whatever anyone was feeling, Nine Lives doesn't do anything justice.
I won't try to convince someone that Nine Lives is a film worth watching, because it really is not worth the 87 minutes that it takes to sit through it. But I can't say that I hated the film. It is quite rare for me to, in all seriousness, loathe a film. There are a plethora of films out there that are far worse than Nine Lives.
- Kevin Spacey is mildly amusing as the cat. He makes plenty of sarcastic remarks, though some of his lines might reflect what is going through the minds of people watching this film ("Just drown me", or even "Seriously?").
- The main problem with Nine Lives is that it is completely clueless about its target demographic. A talking cat would lead you to think that this is a kids' film, but scenes with the cat are intermixed with business meetings that no little kid would either understand or care about. If that wasn't enough, on the first night when he's brought home, Kevin Spacey as the cat breaks into his own private liquor/bourbon cabinet and gets himself drunk. What is it about professional business meetings and drinking that make them so suitable for a film centered on a cat? Oh and it doesn't stop there. The cat tries to break into the giant building that is being built, and two security guards there go ahead and try to tase the cat. Now we can add animal cruelty to the list! Need I go on?
Even though Kevin Spacey can provide for some brief chuckles, Nine Lives is simply not funny or worthwhile. The script is backwards and is completely unclear about who the target audience is supposed to be. The fact that I saw this film knowing how bad it was beforehand softened the blow, and boy was I glad to not have to pay to see it in theaters. I did not have the heart to completely hate it, but I can still confidently say that Nine Lives is the equivalent of a gross hair-ball that was spit up by a stray cat and left to rot on the roadside.
Double the Wick = Double the fun
John Wick Chapter 2 is the 2017 sequel to the successful 2014 action thriller John Wick. Keanu Reeves returns to star as the titular hitman, with Chad Stahelski also returning as director. Chapter 2 also stars Laurence Fishburne and Ian McShane.
John Wick retrieves his car that was stolen from him in the first film and heads home. However, a crime lord named Santino D'Antonio shows up on John's front doorstep and asks him to carry out an assassination attempt on D'Antonio's sister. John refuses, but D'Antonio uses special means to force John to take on the mission. John is, thus, thrown back into action and encounters various twists and turns.
Running longer than its predecessor, Chapter 2 is more saturated with all the goodies that made the first film a stylish and fun experience. John Wick once again dishes out kills like they were free samples. The lighting and cinematography are still impressive, and the film has that kinetic and luscious vibe that is missing from too many action films today.
- The action is blazing hot and crackles like fireworks, having plenty of bang to keep making you crave more. Reeves moves and shoots with terrific craft, and the recurring lack of shaky cam is truly a welcome sight (again). No shaky cam helps the action look coherent and focused. Wick is running and fighting bad guys through catacombs in Rome in one scene, and camera angles and movements are used in a way that make Wick look as if he is maneuvering in a third person shooter video game. This is the only such action scene where this happens, yet the scene used camera work that I paid extra attention to and believe is worth mentioning. Wick does not stand in one place and let the baddies come to him. He keeps on his feet and scopes them out one by one. Every one of Wick's kill sessions is a thrill rush that keeps finding new ways to make you laugh, cringe, or both. You will love to know that he does kill a couple men with a mere pencil.
- As compelling and fun as John Wick is, this installment sometimes pushes the limits of logic and reality. John gets swept up by an oncoming car a couple of times, and yet he gets up and keeps fighting and shooting like almost nothing happened. He has a few scratches on his face and he shows a slight limp. I would not want to experiment this, but my belief is that any kind of hit from an oncoming car will certainly result in broken bones and an immediate trip to the ER. Wick is driving and gets his car hit by several other cars in the opening scene, but again, he brushes off potential injuries like he was Superman or the Hulk. I would say that making Wick a little more human would do this franchise wonders in the future.
John Wick Chapter 2 brings more loaded and stylish action to make it a formidable follow-up to its predecessor. Wick might seem a little too invincible at times, but it's hard to deny that the film is still a slam-bang action thriller that is a MUCH better choice to see than Fifty Shades Darker.
Recommend? Yes, but make sure you've seen the first one. Otherwise, you'll be confused throughout.
It's a delight.
Marty is a 1955 romantic drama film directed by Delbert Mann and stars Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair. At 93 minutes long, it is still to this day the shortest film to ever win Best Picture.
Ernest Borgnine plays the titular Marty Pilletti, a well-meaning but bumbling 34-year old bachelor who has low self-esteem and lives with his Italian mother. Marty works an unsatisfactory job as a butcher and is constantly pressured by his family to find a woman and get married. Marty, however, has long given up on his hopes of finding love. That is until his mother convinces him to go the Stardust Ballroom dance one Saturday night. There at the dance, Marty meets Clara, a woman whose life has her in largely the same boat as Marty. She lives with her father and works as a high school chemistry teacher, yet she is 29 and has no hopes in sight of finding true love. Marty and Clara spend the night together, and the two develop a mutual and loving connection.
I want to give another thank you to Marlon Brando and Terry Malloy for opening the doorway to such works like Marty. It's a charming and heart-warming look into the lives of people who may not be as fortunate. Marty and Clara may not be the most attractive people in the world, but when two people know they have a meaningful connection, all suspicions and doubts should be defenestrated.
What I really like about Marty is how harmless it is. There is no reason for anyone to feel upset or regretful for seeing this film. There's no high-strung political or economical message that it's trying to preach. Extreme sentimentality is absent, and Borgnine and Blair are very well-suited for their respective roles, delivering strong performances that feel whole and realistic. Marty can make for a worthwhile solo viewing, and it also works as a pass-time for couples. Add in the fact that the movie is only about an hour and a half long makes it all the more attractive.
- The entire scene where Marty and Clara meet at the dance is the film's sturdy climax. Clara comes to the dance on a blind date, and she gets left alone when her date tries to bribe others to take Clara home for him. Clara retreats to the roof where Marty comes to greet and comfort her. The two share a slow dance, and it all comes together as a moving, heartwarming sequence. The two realize that they are ugly ducklings in their respective worlds, and it's what helps them connect and share a wonderful time together. Marty never tries to push his luck (well maybe a little when he takes her back to his house and he tries to kiss her), knowing it's one of the best nights of his life.
- The run time. I encourage people to see Marty especially because of how it can tell a convincing and lovable story in a short time span. Why must the Academy insist that 5 out of every 6 Best Picture winners must be at least 18 hours long?
- There is a minor subplot involving one of Marty's aunts named Catherine. Catherine is frail and widowed, and takes some of her frustration out on Marty's mother. This does have a significant effect on the story later on, but Catherine's presence comes off as a distraction. Her troubles are not what we came to see, and her effect on the plot could have been done in a different way.
I think keeping this review short and sweet is an appropriate reflection of Marty, which has a soulful and heartfelt charm that highly benefits from a short run time. It's simple, plain, and is a touching tale of a pair of misfits that find a way to fit together.
Well of course it had to get the Hollywood treatment!
Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2015 adaptation of the controversial erotica novel of the same name by E.L. James. It's directed by Sam-Taylor Johnson and stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.
Let's say that you have seen Fifty Shades of Grey: The Movie or have read Fifty Shades of Grey: The Book. Saying yes to either watching the former or reading the latter (or both) falls in line with one of those guilty admissions that people might either laugh at or question you for. I compare this guilt to something like a bad night of bar hopping. You though it would be fun and worthwhile, but you know you are going to hate yourself later. I did not see this film in theaters, and I'm glad I didn't because I might have had to saw my arm off if I gave these people any of my money.
Somehow, the movie just happened to sucker in enough people to make a whopping $571 million which gave the upcoming sequels the greenlight. Is a BDSM relationship that undeniably emphasizes misogyny and abuse really that appealing? Or was it the fact that E.L. James developed the story from Twilight fan fiction?
Alright, so before I go off on too much of a tirade, here's what Fifty Shades of Grey is about: English literature major Anastasia Steele volunteers for a friend to go and interview the wealthy business magnate Christian Grey for her college newspaper. Grey instantly gets the hots for Ana, and begins to make his way into her life. The two soon start to see one another, which eventually leads to Christian asking Ana to sign a contract stating that she cannot reveal secret details of their relationship. The contract also contains guidelines discussing the various sex tools and bondage materials that Christian is and is not allowed to use when the two get intimate.
No matter what way I look at it, I cannot make heads or tails about the supposed romantic connection between Ana and Christian. Part of me wants to believe that E.L. James is actually trying to give us a black outlook of the painful consequences of the Sexual Revolution. Too many men now see women as play things and have a perverted desire to control them. That's something I can work with. But then you throw in the fact that Ana voluntarily takes part in Christian's backward activities, until she later hates him for it, and then she goes back to loving him, and then hating, and then loving...
- The film looks somewhat nice judging by its cinematography. Scenes are well lit and camera angles are carefully designed to give the film an appealing visual look.
- Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan got their respective Worst Acting Razzies, but I can say they at least tried. Neither gives a completely half-hearted effort, even though there is a lack of convincing chemistry. Dornan does well displaying Grey as an all-the-time professional instead of slimy and bratty. Johnson does the best she can with a character that is nonsensically written beyond belief.
- I could write an at least 100 page book about why this relationship between Ana and Grey makes little to no sense. The whole kinky bondage gimmick is not the sole culprit, though it does play a major role. Christian makes clear that he desires sex and sadistic pleasure ("I don't make love. I fuck....hard"), and for whatever reason, Ana goes along with it. Is it just because she's a virgin? This girl is clearly not, at least, somewhat aware in the area of wild and unusual sex behavior, asking questions such as, "What are butt-plugs?" I would think 8 out of 10 college students today would admit to having at least heard of butt-plugs. A game of Cards Against Humanity might do her some good. Wait, is she seriously about to graduate from college not ever having played or viewed one freaking game of CAH? The game did come out the same year as the novel!
There's no clear-cut way to define what these two want as a couple and how they can achieve it. Christian is straight-forward: he wants to be the dominant figure in a sexual relationship and wants to have everything laid out in a contract. Ana, however, is a never-ending puzzle. She buys into all of Christian's malevolent wants, until he decides to punish her (by spanking her six times while she counts up to six). You would think she would flee to the nearest safe haven, but she decides to stay at his apartment! The list of confusions and headaches that she causes just go on and on!
- With all of the sex and relationship sludge aside, the film is noticeably slow, taking well over a half hour before any of the things that you really came to see actually start to happen. Even when the stuff that you came for kicks into gear, the movie drags its feet across the floor without much of a desire to pick up. The last hour of the film, not including the "sexy" parts, is composed of little substance other than Ana and Christian getting frustrated with one another, with Christian trying to make their "love" more romantic by taking her flying and doing other petty activities with her.
I cannot fathom much of anything in Fifty Shades of Grey. I guess it really did teach me that sex sells, a lot. Hollywood got googly dollar signs in their eyes when they realized how controversial and wide-selling the novel was, and, sadly, they brought in big bucks. Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey are one of the most crass and deplorable couples that I have ever seen on screen. It's a shame, because it was a waste of some nice cinematography and passable acting.
Recommend? No. Not at all.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: