Friday, 6 April 2018

Movie Review - A Quiet Place

   I'm familiar with John Krasinski as a decent if understated lovelorn Office worker and news of his first outing as a movie director should be blared out from giant speakers, if it isn't a sci-fi thriller where one must be quiet.

   A family struggles to live their lives in a world where the slightest noise out of place will bring death in the form of sound sensitive creatures.

   As sci-fi horror goes, A Quiet Place does rather well.  There's the reliable jumpscare or three but it generally relies on the tension related to sound or lack thereof.  Admittedly, it's mostly the atmospheric music that makes most of the edge-of-your seat moments because, even with the gimmick of silence, the thrills are still successfully created by the ambiance.  The film still falls for the some of the standard horror tropes (why run there?) and some lapses in movie physics (are they that fast, they stopped caring about noise in the field, what about the water?) but it can be forgiven I suppose because, horror.

   The beginning, in addition to the tense unknown factors dropped on the viewer, is actually pretty artistic.  The quiet and stillness lends to some beautiful and serene scenes performed with the underlying, yet undefined terror lurking about.  The lighting and tone, the gorgeous rural landscape and even the quick empty town are shot quite beautifully.  Along with the loss of verbal communication, it could have been another experimental film altogether.  Good job.

   John Krasinski stars and directs but it is Emily Blunt who gets the most difficult of scenes to perform, which she does admirably.  I suppose her husband brought the best out of her.  The daughter, portrayed by Millicent Simmonds gets a pivotal role as a handicap.  She and her brother, fellow child actor Noah Jupe, produce adequate frightened reactions, though possibly more muted by circumstance and perhaps being deadened/hardened by the new paradigm of contact vigilance.

  A Quiet Place has a lull in the middle which breaks the flow somewhat but it stoically carries on with nary a word.  A gimmick horror goes, I hear no complaints.  There's more then just a whisper that the director is capable of grander projects, if he is 'aloud'.  And A Quiet Place is a great place to have started from. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Movie Review - Ready Player One

   The idea for Ready Player One's virtual medium is not exactly new but it's great that current technology could depict modern VR so explosovely.  The specific hook it uses is a bonus 

   Wade is one of multitudes competing for a prize in a revolutionary virtual world. Pop culture is referenced as he and others fight a corporation trying to beat and cheat them to the punch.

   I read the novel and I will admit that it wasn't exactly a masterpiece (what with the info dump type of exposition, amongst others) but it was still a lot of fun with all the numerous in-jokes and geekery. The film adaptation actually touches upon very few of these in-depth, probably trying to streamline the movie experience to an easy to consume action adventure that isn't swamped by dated minutia. Cameos would flash on by at a blink of an eye and only a chosen few would stand out. Concepts such as traveling between planets and the use of the Oasis in schooling and business is glossed upon.

   The basic story remains the same but there are major changes to details. The contest proper is slashed in half, removing specific games and movies or replacing them all together. I don't recall Dungeons and Dragons being utilized in a pen and paper type of medium. As a special effects driven film, it had to pick the most visually spectacular of samples to use but I'd say their film of choice isn't exactly a shining example to adapt. There are story details that I'm extremely glad they altered while some are done to promote added face time. To those who haven't read the novel, it won't be jarring. The plot is really simple to begin with and the selling point is the extravagance of the computer world.

   That said, the CGI does deliver in terms of a modern gaming experience. Take away all the character guest stars and their familiar paraphernalia and the audience is still treated to a thrill ride. The race is particularly action packed, though the battlefield encounter is too much of a good thing. Action scene junkies would eat it up either way. Some more of the classic video games and TV episodes reinterpreted to a new medium would have been nice to see but, again, copyright and streaming.

   Ready Player One is a popcorn flick, quite light and enjoyable and still heavy on the pop. Theres actually something innocent about the movie, which is fair to consider since it's based on throwbacks. The wish fulfillment factor on the nostalgia could have gone in any which way but sharp eyes would probably pick up their favorite fandom represented or homaged some way, somehow, somewhere in the wondrous Oasis.

Movie Review - Paul, Apostle Of Christ

   It's the time to be holy and perhaps watching a Christian film such as Paul, Apostle of Christ, would count as a religious experience? It would, at the very least, enlighten folks on some events post Jesus Christ's time on earth.

   The Apostle Paul is wrongfully imprisoned for the burning of Rome. Luke visits him, recording his words.

   I know about Paul, who used to be the persecutor Saul until he was converted by God. But I don't know what happened to him afterwards because The Flying House cartoon wrapped up after that arc (haha). Paul, Apostle of Christ, shows his final fate and parts of how the Bible was created. But the story is also about the chronicler Luke and the plight of the Christians trying to escape the Romans hunting them down. As Paul is practically isolated for the most of the film, it seems that the action occurs away from him. Religious persecution happens up to this day but the most relatable part would be the prefect's dilemma over his dying daughter. This might be the most emotionally resonant part of the film, even over Paul's troubles. The actions of the rebels added moments of action but were still less moving than a father's love.

   The film is well made, with great sets, props and costume department, though special effects were minimal. The horrific Roman candles were shown either as before and after, with no victims thrashing as they were burned alive. The lions were not shown onscreen as well. It keeps matters grounded by having evidences of divinity be practically none. Saul's visitation was a subjective flashback and the heavenly light was possibly just the sun blinding him.

   Jim Caviezel played Jesus Christ in another movie but this time, he is simply Luke, one of writers from the Bible. Oliver Martinez as the Prefect Mauritius Gallas has a pivotal role that could have been expounded further, except he was the antagonist and the film has to celebrate Paul, played by James Faulkner.

   Paul, Apostle of Christ, is a well made Christian film. It presents matters in a more realistic light but plays it a little too safe, not evoking extreme reactions with a bombastic recreation but simply going through things by the book.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Movie Review - Unsane

   Seeing the title of this film would make someone automatically uncomfortable.  Unsane?  Not insane?  Why? Perhaps it's a tiny hint of the spiraling terror of uncertainty that one is about to swallow when experiencing this movie.  And it's not just about the gimmick that it's been shot entirely using an iPhone.

   Sawyer was previously troubled by a stalker and was mislead into checking herself into an institute.  She is trapped in more ways than one, when the system won't let her go and no one will believe that her life is in danger.

   Unsane is a paranoia filled trip.  With the darkened corridors and cloudy lighting, the setting is kept bleak as the situation is gravely uncertain.  The initial premise of 'is she or isn't she crazy' is sadly settled quickly but it doesn't take away from the frightening aspect of bureaucracy.  The precarious trust in the medical system in itself is a terrifying theme.  The whole film could have been set on that idea.  But it's not enough to be held against your will in the presense of psychos and unstable patients.  They had to pile on the suspense.

  Thank goodness that Sawyer, played by Claire Foy, isn't a typical damsel in distress.  She is assertive and strong-willed.  She wasn't going to roll over and cower in the face of adversity.  There is a touch of acidity with her, making her less likeable but there is no denying that the audience is on her side and want her to succeed.  

  And this is what grabs the viewer.  There is a limited time in which she has to escape her predicament and all the odds are practically against her.  The film succeeds in mounting the intensity and there are still a few surprises in turn.  Sawyer's helplessness and subsequent switch is frightening to behold.  Her fears, unfounded and not, crawl under one's skin and one can't even scratch them, being restrained by both the system and tight bed straps.  Believe in the loss of belief crippling you.  Oh and if you think you see Matt Damon in a cameo, don't worry.  He's the real deal.

  Unsane is a tight little flick that really works in drawing the viewer in the enclosed space and suspensefully unsettling them.  Being shot with an iPhone might be a novel gimmick but the film stands on its own as a satisfying, edge-of-your-seat thriller.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Movie Review - A Wrinkle In Time

   I recall wondering why the title of the book was 'A Wrinkle in Time' when it is suppose to be a wrinkle in space.  This was when I first the book, though I'm pretty sure I knew what a Tesseract was before then.  I do remember being more enchanted by the 'Many Waters' book because there was sex in it (haha) but it was also the awesomeness of Charles Wallace, child prodigy, that I liked.  With this big screen adaptation, perhaps it will be successful enough to complete the series?

   Meg and her brother Charles Wallace are visited by space beings who help them try to retrieve their lost father from a malevolent entity.

  Since it was years ago when I read the series, my memory is spotty.  From what I remember, there's a centaur that flies and everything is saved with the power of love.  (I also remembered the word for dragon droppings as fewmets being mentioned and a creature named Sporos but I confused it with the next book).  I'm generally happy with any adaptation and changes being made because it gives me something new and something to discuss.

  The new wrinkle this time adds persons of color.  Was it necessary?  Did it fundamentally change the story?   I suppose not.  I suppose purists will call foul.  I think one of the drones was an Asian mom but I'm not sure.  Another change would be the flying centaur being tranformed into a freaky yet beautiful flowing leaf garment.  It's an imaginative choice, very visually ethereal but I wonder why it was switched that way.  

  The story, from what I remember, was essentially the same.  The dark entity was generalized as evil around the world, which works for a children's novel that simplifies black and white.  The film presents the alien worlds wonderfully.  Very colorful and pleasing, then scary and off-putting.  It's mostly computer generated but having the novel visually expressed in this manner is astounding.

  There are some transitions that don't work though.  Characters and information are introduced and relayed so oddly that it doesn't feel right.  Take the lead boy for instance.  He should be integral to the plot (and in the future of the novels, he is involved) but, here, the way he is presented, if he was taken out of the film itself, he wouldn't be missed.  Charles Wallace, with his advanced perception, doesn't have enough interaction with different folks to show that he's different and gifted.  He is only mentioned as such.  (btw, the child actor playing him is amazing!)  The magic realism of the trio of ladies also detracts from the wonder of the alien worlds when it is shown as normal in reality.

  The film decides to focus on the abandonment theme, giving the father a lot of attention.  He is the impetus of the plot, to be sure, but it is Meg's adventure here.  Meg's use of science as a defining trait isn't adequately portrayed.  It's handled in a clunky fashion instead of organically done.  The bullying and abandonment strives to touch upon emotional responses to be relevant and, while worthy, needs a subtler touch.  And seriously, was being a warrior part of the original text?  Considering what happens later?

  This Wrinkle in Time is a beautiful piece but the treatment is like an expensive after-school special.  It's wonderfully realized visually but the story needs a going over for modern sensibilities.  The themes would probably empower some children and it is honestly a good effort at adapting the classic.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Movie Review - Game Night

   There's a game night culture that is sort of an evolution/alternate of the poker night after having a geek status became trendy.  It's a chance to socialize with friends and family, though in this movie, it's couples.  Seeing as how Jason Bateman has been in these 30-something type, behaving badly comedies, I suppose it's bound to happen that he would touch upon the phenomenon.

  Max and Annie are a competitive couple who regular have game night with friends.  Max's brother Brooks gets them involved in a live action kidnapping mystery that goes wrong when the criminals are real.

  On the gaming front, it's a little disappointing that only the classic games are used.  Charades, Taboo, Jenga, Pictionary, generic trivia night?  Hints of Battleship, Cluedo  Scrabble, Monopoly?  There's a wealth of modern table top games that would have introduced the audience to more options for fun.  It's such a missed opportunity.  I suppose they picked the visually interesting and familiar games but, seriously, there's new alternatives for that too.  The Live Action Roleplay and Escape Room interactive game types are the basis for the genuine kidnapping plot and that is briefly touched upon before the story went on it's prescribed way.  The movie might be out for just laughs but having up-to-date material would have been nice.  Yes, I know it would date it after a few years.

   The screwball plot could have gone several ways.  The illusion that the kidnapping was still just a game and players unsuspectingly playing in dangerous situations but still doing well was one way to go.  Another is maintaining the competitive theme from start to finish.  But these are given up way to early, losing that comedic potential for a typical madcap night of misadventures.  

  This isn't to say that Game Night wasn't on point.  It's still a hilarious romp.  There's one liners that don't pull punches, situations that tickle your fancy, reveals that bust your gut, scenery so fake that it's brilliant ... The geek references are fewer than expected so it's a bound to be a general hit with the general audience.  Jason Bateman plays to his familar strengths again and Rachel McAdams is surprisingly sweet.  Billy Magnussen channels the Owen Wilson void while Kyle Chandler goes against his good guy type.  It's the creepy Jesse Plemons steals the show though. 
  Game Night might not be the game reference geekout one might have hoped for but it's still got its mad game face on.  It's impossible not to laugh while experiencing this comedy.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Movie Review - Tomb Raider

   The Tomb Raider video game had a reboot a few years ago and the film franchise (well, the entire two entries) is due for one as well.  Same as how the exaggerated polygon breasts were replaced by a more high def but appropriately sized bosom, the newest incarnation has made the heroine more believable.

  A young Lara Croft sets out on her first adventure, one that reveals her intimate connection to her eventual role as a consummate tomb raider.  But her (sorta) ancestral quest has world threatening implications, stemming from a mythical curse of a dead witch.

   This Lara starts out being defeated in a match.  What a downer of an intro.  Could only go upwards from here?  Nope.  She gets her face slammed into another obstacle on her road of life.  Later, she is seen almost crying in pain, more than once too.  She was almost in shock at her first dead body.  What is this?  This is a jarring pause from one expecting the stoic, unstoppable, untoppable, unflappable, invincible 'angel in a joy less' expression, seen both in the original game and film. 

  But, of course, THIS is reboot Croft, hardly battle hardened, bloody unblooded.  Her potential shines through, especially near the ending but the start is rough and quite shakey.  This applies to the camera movements too.  The film, while well shot, doesn't particularly break new ground or explore new territories.  There's a few surprises, especially how they ground everything closer to reality.  This is close to the dirt. 

  The new Lara Croft is not bare bones but it's not larger than life...  yet.  It's just the start of her tomb raiding days and, saying how they grounded it close to reality, it has very solid foundations.  Things would only get higher and stronger, the further new tombs are explored.