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Author Topic: Red's Cinematic Blog  (Read 414 times)

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Offline RedPhoenixTopic starter

Red's Cinematic Blog
« on: July 19, 2018, 03:22:38 PM »
Red's Cinematic Blog

Hi! I watch a lot of movies. Sometimes, I even have thoughts on them. I will post them in this thread! Here you will find reviews, hype about upcoming movies, and discussion about issues in cinema!

For reviews, I will endeavor to give a non-spoilery summary and then post the full review under spoilers. Major Spoilers I may put under their own sub-spoiler tag. I am using the scale here: http://cinemayward.com/movie-rating-system/ which I really like and will try to make sure each review includes my thought on each part of the movie.

Personal enjoyment is how much fun did I have watching it. Did I smile, cry, scream or whatever emotion the film was trying to provoke. Basically this category asks the question - did you enjoy the experience?

Aesthetic enjoyment is basically how pretty did I think it was it. This is not just big fancy special effects, but also how well shots were framed, how well was it edited, costumes, makeup, scenery, and everything else. This question asks - how well was it made and shown to you?

Spiritual enjoyment is basically how touching was it. Did it get through to you with anything that will last five minutes after you walk out of the theater? Was there a point, a message, or even just something that made you think, and how well was it handled?

My way of using this system is simple - I put each category from 0 to 5 stars (using half-stars if necessary) and then average all three, rounding down to the nearest half-star.

Please note that while a movie must score well in all three areas to get the highest rating and be a truly great movie, and this system will lead to harsher reviews than many are used to, a rating of 3 stars is still above average in a 0 to 5 star system. So keep in mind if I give a movie 2.5 stars I'm not saying it's bad, I'm saying it's average.

Comments and discussion are welcome. Please try to spoiler tag any discussion that gets into stuff you don't know if you haven't seen the movie!



Movies By Ranking

***½ Ant-Man and the Wasp
**½ Coherence
** Hotel Artemis

Coming Soon: The Witch, The Exception, The Disaster Artist, The Devil's Rock,
« Last Edit: September 04, 2018, 12:25:36 AM by RedPhoenix »

Offline RedPhoenixTopic starter

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2018, 03:23:11 PM »
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

***½

Marvel's followup to Infinity War scales things down in a lot of good ways. The characters are quite easy to relate and sympathize with, the problems include a good mix of the mundane with the fantastic, and Marvel's impressive ability to pack a lot of star power into supporting roles really shines here. When you have Laurence Fishburne and Michelle Pfeiffer playing bit parts you're sitting pretty good. You definitely need to have seen Ant-Man to make sense of most of it, and you probably should have seen Captain America: Civil War to get the full understanding.

In addition to telling a story of a family of overachievers (including Michael Douglas's original Ant-Man Hank Pym, and Evangeline Lily's marvelous portrayal of Hope Van Dyne - The Wasp) juxtaposed with Paul Rudd's portrayal of lovable loser who manages to save the day Scott Lang, this movie also does a lot of quiet world-building that fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole should find satisfying. The attempts to make one of the villains more sympathetic is a little out of sorts with the general adventurous spirit of the movie as a whole, but ultimately leads to a good finale - just don't expect the level of social relevance of Black Panther.

This movie scores very high on personal enjoyment (4 stars) and aesthetic enjoyment (4 stars) and average for spiritual enjoyment (2.5 stars).

Overall, Red gives this 3.5 stars and recommends seeing it for fans of the Marvel movies! For those wondering about continuity, you have to wait until the end credit sequence to see how this film interacts with Infinity War and oh my god it is a doozy.

Full Review (Contains Spoilers)

We join the movie learning that Scott Lang, Ant-Man, is just finishing up a two year period of house arrest as part of the deal he cut following the events of Civil War. Unlike some of the other heroes, Ant-Man has too much of a life to turn his back on to go into space and fight purple aliens. He has a daughter he loves and friends and a company to get off the ground. In this way, Ant-Man is more of the every-man, and to me this makes him a lot more sympathetic. He is visited by his probation officer - an FBI agent who is out to get him but charmingly bad at it - who is also after Hope and Hank.

The plot exposition is done decently and the movie doesn't dwell on it. We learn that Wasp and Pym are on the run following Germany and quickly see that Wasp's suit is finished. they are still trying to find Janet - Hope's mom and Hank's wife - and their experiments draw Scott back into their lives. The constant ticking clock of Scott needing to be back home in time to fool the FBI really grounded the movie well.

Speaking of exposition - Michael Pena's Luis is one of my favorite Marvel supporting characters. We don't get as much of him as we did in the first Ant-Man which is sad but also understandable as he isn't really able to hang with the escalating level of threat being dealt with here. Seeing his voice being mouthed by the cast as he summarizes the events of previous movies was a treat, and he really makes great use of a sequence involving "truth serum" that shows off his extremely entertaining ability to deliver a lot of dialogue in a very short amount of time. I'm torn between wishing we had more of him, but also recognizing there was really nowhere to put it without bloating the movie. The other parts of Scott's crew are cut down to almost nothing, and I think that was the right call.

Evangeline Lilly really nailed her part. She mixes up the incredibly gifted scientist with the approachable woman next door and her interactions with Scott Lang I thought really balanced her understandable frustration with his failures and her enchantment with his charm - she recognizes both the good and bad about him and even though we know how it will end I at least found myself rather invested in hoping the good would outshine the bad and they'd end up together again. She excellently balances loving him but also having other priorities in her life. She grows into the partner, and not just the love interest while also leaving Ant-Man plenty of his own spotlight. I also really enjoy the contrast of Hope, who is much more of a natural born hero, versus Scott who is most decidedly not classic hero material and quite literally has it keep coming to him even though we get the sense in a lot of ways he'd rather just be with his daughter. Well done on this front, Marvel.

We're soon thrown a curveball in the form of Ghost - one of the film's many antagonists (among the others are the FBI and an outlaw tech-dealer). Ghost is, without a doubt the scariest antagonist in the movie. She's a SHIELD-trained assassin who is out of phase with reality thanks to one of Hank Pym's early experiments blowing up. She can walk through walls and make herself invisible - she's one of SHIELD's weaponized anomalies that we hate them for. She is also being torn apart by her condition and believes - through a not very well explained process - that killing Hope's mom on her way out of the Quantum Zone will fix her. The lack of explaining why she thinks this exactly is probably one of the bigger plot failings.

However the sort of short and sweet mentioning of there being previous experiments with quantum states, empowered SHIELD operatives, and a history of super high tech development sets the groundwork for a lot of stuff set in those previous years. My mind instantly goes to how did Howard Stark feel about this sort of thing? Was Peggy Carter involved (shameless fangirl alert) and what other results of weird experiments are out there? Good worldbuilding! Red approves!

But back to this story - Ghost is working with one of Hank Pym's old colleagues turned enemies (yes, as the movie points out, he has a lot of these) Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) - Goliath from the comics. He has supplied her with tech to keep her stable, although it is fading fast. Another ticking clock. Ghost is understandably freaking out about her existence soon coming to an end. And this is one of those points where I felt the movie didn't quite work.

The fate Ghost is facing is truly horrific. Is she going to just stop existing, or actually turn into a ghost? A living, thinking thing that cannot interact with the world around her - even to end her own miserable existence? Is she going to split into different quantum states and live a schizophrenic existence of several beings at once? What actually is going to happen to her? We don't know. There's never been anything like her before. However, just after learning this we get gags about Scott's ringtone and his kid's shoes. It just...doesn't work. She's a very dark, horrifying spot in an otherwise bright four-color comics movie. That being said, it certainly explains her motivations pretty well. I was left conflicted in how I felt about Hannah John-Kamen's performance, I think largely because I couldn't decide if she played the part well but it just didn't quite fit the movie, or if there were problems with her performance I just couldn't quite put my finger on.

What I liked about it was you have characters who have done bad things but aren't bad people. This is sort of prevailing theme in the Ant-Man movies where morality isn't the black and white you find in some other Marvel films. Fishburne's character really exemplifies this. He's willing to help a woman who is more than willing to kill (although we don't see her do it on camera, one can imagine she has and is she certainly tries to) but he won't help her if she goes after Scott's kid. Are they villains? Victims of fate? Up to the viewer. I like that, even in my silly comic book movies. This arc is why I give the movie higher points than I would otherwise on the spiritual scale.

Speaking of villains another thing that sort of fizzled for me was the "Sonny Burch" character. He's introduced as a tech-dealer who Wasp gets in a fight with as he tries to renege on their deal for the last part she needs for the device to get her mom back. He plays the role of the character who is evil enough that its alright to beat him and his guys up but doesn't really have any depth to his motivation beyond greed - but also seems to lack the competence to actually be a threat. Despite his supposed wealth and connections the sum total of what he brings to bear is a few cars of guys with rather normal guns. Shouldn't a wealthy tech dealer have more than that? I get the feeling the mooks were supposed to be FBI agents at one point but the director wanted them beat up more than Marvel was comfortable with and so a generic bad guy got shoehorned in. Sort of a waste of time and quite forgettable.

The ending is suitably dramatic and makes excellent use of the shrinking technology in a lot of very cool scenes. One part I think deserves mentioning. Janet van Dyne we learn very early on planted an "antenna" on Scott when she saw him briefly in the Quantum Zone. This lets her interact with him. When they open up the path the second time, she's able to inhabit his body for a moment, fix up some code, and help with their tech so they can find her. Paul Rudd does an excellent job acting as Janet in this scene, he fondly touches Hank and Hope like he is their wife and mother, and through it all - not a single gay joke is made. Ahhhh breath of fresh air. Thank you Marvel.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne left me wanting more - but more because of her limited role rather than her performance. I was left with many questions - what exactly happened to her? How can she heal Ghost? How does she instantly know exactly what she needs to do? Is all of this a plot hole or is it being saved for the next film? What exactly has she "evolved" into? What has she been doing? Where did she get what she's wearing? I get that for pacing reasons there probably wasn't time to explain all this, but still...left wanting more.

Okay sidetrack - I swear I'm not one to dwell on stuff like this but when we first see Michelle Pfeiffer my first thought was - thirty years trapped in the Quantum Zone and you come out with nearly perfect makeup and modern style eyeshadow? Was the somewhat clumpy mascara Marvel's idea of what being trapped for three decades in a land beyond understanding would do to a woman? Am I impressed or slightly bothered by this? Minor quibble, but I couldn't quite get over it while watching so you get to hear it too.

And while I'm mentioning the little things I'll go the other way with it and mention something I liked. It's casually mentioned during one of the early conversations that going "Giant-Man" really drains Scott's energy fast - he mentions he slept for three days after Germany. When Scott goes Giant he bugs his eyes out and his behavior becomes manic - implying he's burning through energy really quick. I liked that little touch.

So those are my thoughts! Love to hear yours! :)

Major Spoiler: Credit Sequence
Holy cow. What a gut punch. It almost completely shattered my happy feelings at the end of the movie and replaced it with complete dread and terror. I actually got goosebumps at that final horrified "GUYS??!?!"

Scott is trapped in the Quantum Zone with no way to get back as all three of the other heroes are taken away by Thanos's finger-snap. He has no way of getting back to his kid. The last person to get in there got lost for thirty years, and the only people who could even begin to try to find him are gone.

Nerdy questions though - did being in that area shield him? Is he so out of phase with reality that he doesn't register as real to Thanos? Was the casual drop of a mention of a time twister going to play into the next Avengers film? Is time fuckery going to undo Thanos?

...Will Ant-Man be the reason Thanos's killing of half the universe is undone?!?!?

Probably not. But still. Damn.


Offline RedPhoenixTopic starter

Hotel Artemis (2018)
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2018, 03:23:32 PM »
Hotel Artemis (2018)

**

An inspired premise and some great performances, all ruined by a complete mess of a script and some of the most cringe-worthy editing you'll ever see in a major release.

It's the not-so-far future. Privitization of water is leading to riots from angry crowds in Los Angeles. A bank robbery goes awry and now a pair of criminals (Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry) need medical attention. Where do they go? Hotel Artemis. One of those lovely old deco style hotels that Southern California is positively barnacled with, Hotel Artemis is a supposedly "abandoned" hotel that functions as an underground hospital for people who can't go to legitimate ones.

Once inside we're introduced to a fantastic rogues gallery. We've got the egotistical arms dealer who just wants to get out before the riots swarm over the hotel (Charlie Day), a dangerous assassin after a mysterious target (Sofia Boutella) and hulking, devoted orderly (Dave Bautista) and the neurotic doctor who keeps everyone healthy as she barely keeps herself up (Jodie Foster). The stage is set well for a very interesting movie.

But though the patients arrive, the movie doesn't. As things go on the plot does not so much thicken as completely unravel. There are several moments that are delivered in a way that makes it seem someone thought would be poignant, but any impact they have is completely robbed by a mangled delivery and what one can only guess was the removal of all the scenes that would have made the rest make sense. Despite wonderful performances from Day, Boutella, and Foster, and an action scene in which Boutella fights her way through a hallway of bad guys that is nearly worth the price of admission, there just isn't enough of a movie here to recommend.

This movie scores low on personal enjoyment (2 star), decently on aesthetic enjoyment (3 stars), and low on spiritual enjoyment (2 stars).

Overall Red gives this movie 2 stars and recommends looking up the hallway fight scene on youtube in six months. The rest is completely skipable.

Full Review (Contains Spoilers)
This will jump right into the huge problems with the plot and the editing. There were several conflicting themes here that didn't so much weave together as crash into each other and stagger off drunkenly to sit down for a bit while they thought about what they were doing with their lives.

First we have the backdrop - the water crisis. Privatization of water is a very real threat. Riots about it are a not-that-implausible near future for us. But the movie never goes anywhere with it. This is a lesser sin, but worth mentioning.

We have what passes for our main character, Waikiki (Brown), who has a rather interesting love hate relationship with his brother Honolulu (Henry). Despite completely forgettable performances from both of them, I found myself somewhat invested in their conflict over Honolulu's drug use, and inability to hang with the criminal lifestyle. For a moment, the movie teased us with actually having the guts to have the responsible brother walk about from his junkie loser family member who had dragged him down and fucked everything up for him for the last time. But no, of course not. In fact, we see Waikiki care so much about his brother that he is furious at Nice for ending his life, indirectly.

Nice (Boutella) is a wonderful character and I want to shove her in the face of everyone who has tried to make Elektra for Marvel and scream THIS! JUST DO THIS! But alas, another fabulous performance in another horrible movie for this underrated actress. Her plot, to kill the Wolf King (Goldblum) really makes no sense at all. And having established that she is "the business" and a cybernetically augmented, remorseless assassin, I did not buy even remotely that she felt so bad about killing a loser junkie who was dying anyway that she would sacrifice her own life for it. I felt it actually undercut what little investment I had in either arc.

In what is probably the worst sin of all, we have the Wolf King. There are so many questions about this character. Nurse's sudden revelation about his involvement with her son's death (foreshadowed with all the subtlety of a trainwreck by "HE DROWNS PEOPLE!!! D:" earlier in the movie) and dosing him with a truth drug seemed to come out of nowhere. In fact, the significance of her son's death was never really developed at all, even though Foster did a fantastic job portraying the grieving, slightly off, mother. Having learned he killed her son, why does she care at all that Nice is killing him? Why does anyone for that matter? Two plot threads, neither of which were very good to begin with, coming together in this clumsy fashion is where I pretty much gave up on the movie.

This is not even mentioning that the Wolf King's small army of thugs, sold as the menace facing the protagonists in the previews, is never, not once, remotely threatening. In fact the awesome hallway fight scene is rather undercut by Bautista's orderly just walking up to them and having similar results, without any apparent need for being a world class assassin.

Finally, there is Morgan (Jenny Slate), the police officer who wanders into the movie from a completely different movie, hangs out for a while, and then wanders off again. I understand what the idea was here, but it never come close to fruition. Foster's character had far too many arcs thrown at her, none of which made her character any more interesting than she is in the first five minutes we see her. If there was any point trying to be made here about the police and their role in a situation like this (we see clearly the other cops are horrible people, even though the bad guys spare them and badder guys don't) it was so toothless that I missed it completely.

This movie either needed twice as many or half as many re-writes, I don't know which, and either another month of shooting or a competent editor. My optimistic side hopes that somewhere out there is a Director's Cut that makes all of this make sense or at least have some impact, but my skeptical side says it all reeks of 'we've spent too long and too much, slap together what we have and let's see if it can make us a fraction of our investment back.' As for right now, it's at about half of the production cost and has been removed from all but 40 of the over 2,000 theaters it opened in. Yikes.

The few good things to say. Foster is fantastic. Her performance and the emotion she brought to it probably elevated the final ranking at least a half a star on its own. I really, really, wish it had been a better movie for her sake. Boutella shows once again why she deserves to be a star, and Charlie Day shows his chops in playing a character who is unlikable for all different reasons than the parts he normally plays. As for the rest? Okay to terrible.

A movie needs more than a good premise and a few good actors. Hotel Artemis fails to deliver on that.

« Last Edit: July 19, 2018, 03:31:30 PM by RedPhoenix »

Offline RedPhoenixTopic starter

Coherence (2013)
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2018, 04:06:01 PM »
Coherence (2013)

**½

No, you probably didn't hear about this movie. It was made on a $50,000 budget in four days, all shot at the director's house. It's widest release was 7 theaters. I don't believe there was any marketing for it.

On that scale, this movie is a triumph. Anyone who can make a movie of this quality with $50,000 and a house for four days is a cinematic Hercules. This is the Blair Witch Project of trippy, vaguely-sci-fi psychological thrillers.

Unfortunately that is not the scale I use. This will be a shorter review in the non-spoiler section due to how little can be said without spoilering.

Coherence has a simple setup. A group of friends get together for a dinner party. Then things get weird. Stuff stops working. Darkness encircles the house. I won't say much more in the non-spoiler section because it was actually cool seeing the characters figure out what was happening, but the bottom line is the idea behind this movie is a cool one that is worth thinking about. The ultimate question the movie asks, which you'll also have to spoiler yourself to know, I think is also very compelling. That's the good side.

On the bad side, I didn't care for any of the characters in this movie. They are all sort of California upper class wastes - Nicholas Brendan even self-parodying as a washed up TV show actor with a drinking problem - who really, quite frankly, squander the opportunity that the interesting setup provides. I would have much preferred to see any other group of people deal with this problem. All we get is a lot of hyper-emotional, fragile, squabbling. Now that may have been the point, but it didn't make it entertaining to watch.

Overall Coherence scored average (2 1/2 stars) in all three categories, and earns its 2 1/2 star rating. Red says it's worth a watch if you're looking to admire low-budget cinema or some mildly thought-provoking sci-fi psych drama, but if you're looking for anything else in a movie it's best to give it a pass. If you are planning to see it, don't read the spoilered review, it will rob you of everything worth seeing the movie for.

Full Review (Contains Spoilers)

I'm going to spoiler the main premise quickly here. Soon after the lights go off and the weird patch of darkness emerges, the dinner guests all take a blue glowstick to help themselves see. Two of them go out into the dark to see if they can find anything. They return, one of them is freaked out and doesn't want to say what he saw. He eventually reveals he saw the very house they're in. Eventually we learn that the darkness is a place where the spots between worlds gets messy, and those that enter it cross over into another world where things are different. We are first shown this in a rather cool bit where two of the characters pull out their glowsticks to show each other that they are red. They've figured out that they don't belong here. The setup and premise were done pretty well.

We start to follow our main character as she attempts to keep everything together and figure out what is going on - finding out the little differences that make up the different worlds. This part of the movie was where most of my frustration comes from. I think about a movie like Twelve Angry men with their diversity of life experiences and approaches to things also all confronting a philosophical problem. Or the novel Sphere which was essentially a small group of very competent professionals dealing with a similarly weird set up. I think to myself how much more interesting this setup would have been if we'd had a scientist, a philosopher, a psychologist or really anyone other than a Hollywood lush or one of their accessories as a cast of characters here.

Yes, they were grappling with an interesting issue. But I didn't care about any of them, so I didn't really care about how they responded to it, and found myself wondering what I would do in that situation instead. And also how it might work as a fun setup for a group game.

When we get to the ultimate question though, I started to perk up and pay attention. The one real stand out performance to me was Emily Baldoni as we can read the anguish on her face as she stumbles upon the 'perfect' universe and we can easily read her thoughts. She wants to be a part of this. She wants to leave where she was behind. And she turns from sympathetic whipping girl to lurking in wait predator in a few short seconds.

To me this was the interesting point - how far would you go to take your place in a perfect world? Would you murder? Would you do worse? How could you live with it if you didn't, knowing you had a chance at happiness and having the best possible version of everyone you know in your life? How could you live with it if you did, knowing what you had to do to get there? I think the answer is yes for most people. The movie invites the question why? And what next? How would you live in a perfect world knowing you don't deserve to be there, and with the guilt of what you did to stay? It doesn't attempt to answer, which I think is a good thing, and the ending was rather well done.

The people involved in this movie should be very proud of what they accomplished for so little, and there's enough here to make watching it pretty interesting. Unfortunately I've probably just told you everything you need to watch the movie for, and having read this review you don't need to see it anymore.


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Re: Red's Cinematic Blog (movie reviews, hype, and chatter)
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2018, 11:47:57 PM »
Hey! *pouts* I liked Coherence! Yeah, the character selection wasn't the best, but the idea has its moments, and the Twilight Zone-esque Us vs Them groove always strikes a chord with me. Amazing what a little darkness and the unknown can do to one's perceived humanity!

Offline RedPhoenixTopic starter

Re: Red's Cinematic Blog (movie reviews, hype, and chatter)
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2018, 11:58:07 PM »
Hey! *pouts* I liked Coherence! Yeah, the character selection wasn't the best, but the idea has its moments, and the Twilight Zone-esque Us vs Them groove always strikes a chord with me. Amazing what a little darkness and the unknown can do to one's perceived humanity!

Hey c'mon, I gave it an average rating! I liked the parts that were The Monsters are Due on Maple Street too. I just didn't care for the bits that were The Anniversary Party. :P

Offline RedPhoenixTopic starter

Battle Angel (2018) Trailer
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2018, 10:40:34 AM »
Fox dropped the official trailer for Alita: Battle Angel (coming out this year)



(Before anyone worries about this being posted here - the actress who plays Alita is 32).

The list of anime I find actually good is very very short but Battle Angel is on it. I'm cautiously optimistic about this film. The uncanny valley is real with those eyes, but it's obviously intentional. Robert Rodriguez is directing this but James Cameron has his hands all over it so I suppose we'll see who got more creative control. Hopefully Rodriguez. The comic veered into body horror territory a lot (although somewhat blunted by bodies being replaceable robot bodies, but still) which is much more Rodriguez territory. It also got deeply philosophical at the most unexpected times which is also Rodriguez territory. I want James Cameron out of this is what I'm saying.

I'll probably see it!
« Last Edit: July 24, 2018, 11:17:55 PM by RedPhoenix »