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.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Movie Review - Lady Bird

   At the start of the film, Christine and her mother were listening to an audio book of The Grapes of Wrath.  This is obviously a subtext of some sort for what is to come but you don't need book notes to get into this charming coming of age tale.

  Christine, or Lady Bird as she would like to be called, is in her final year in high school.  She struggles with family, friends, fornication and looking forward to her future.

  Lady Bird isn't exactly a lady.  Her quest for identity has her lying about her station, being very disrespectful and committing minor crimes of theft, vandalism and destruction of property.  She isn't free as a bird as well.  She's trapped in her financial situation, her family expectations and even social pressure.  But actress Saoirse Ronan navigates these turbulent waters with a rebellious yet hopeful flair.  She comes off as a daring darling, easy to root for and to cheer on.  Her dynamic with her parents, particularly her mother played by Laurie Metcalf, will strike a chord with adolescents trying to find their wings in the world.  

   Traversing the terrible teen times is quite relatable.  What sets Lady Bird apart would be maintaining the fine balance of dark realism and making light of events.  The drama is heavy but there is still a positive vibe throughout.  The flaws in Christine's character don't weigh her down but they are shrugged off either.  It makes for a fun and fascinating specimen to observe and celebrate.  Lady Bird watching is highly recommended.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Movie Review - Black Panther

   Woo!  The initial 100% fresh rating had me trying to keep my excitement at low key levels while waiting to watch this flick.  I will say that I didn't follow the Black Panther comic runs (even the one where he has to deal with Mephisto by Christopher Priest) but he was present in several Avengers in the comics and cartoon shows I went through.  Let's see how he handles helming a huge film by himself.

   Well, technically not by himself.  T'Challa does have his supporting cast.  His love interest, his sister, his bodyguard, his tagalong comrade.  But it's his country that presents itself as a character as well.  The ethnically based and technologically advanced African nation is a marvel that is out of this world.  Its introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a game changer as it is just too far out.  Imagine how Tony Stark would feel about seeing it.  It maintains a type of distinctly familiar cultural heritage while being integrated with futuristic machines.  It's hard to encompass its new place in the movie-verse but it will certainly be exciting to find out how it does (before everything is thrown into chaos when Infinity War comes).

   The dichotomy presented with the traditional nation versus the modern outside world is shown by the film's acts.  The international jaunts are thrilling superhero fare, with exceptionally choreographed battle encounters.  Seeing the Black Panther in motion was excellent.  Scenes in Wakanda are mixed with an ethnic flavor, dressed in magnificent backgrounds and neo African design.  These parts take the more dramatic turns, almost getting a lion of royalty treatment.  The Hamlet plot is not without its twists but, with the upcoming cosmic conflagration up ahead, it might be a letdown to some.  

  As proud and noble a character T'Challa is, his kingliness sets him apart from the other heroes, possibly in an alienating sort of way.  Thor originally had this hiccup until his latest installment.  T'Challa is possibly almost too perfect.  He is humanized by his love and familial relationships but his struggles as a king doesn't make him easy to relate to.  His royal personage and demeanor has him held too aloof and cold.  Perhaps more appearances will soften him up.

   The standard city superheroics versus the cultural clash did split me up.  Digesting the sudden sci-fi in a secular setting stymies.  Reconciliation of the two is required but the shift isn't that severe.  The Black Panther does have an important message to say about alien shores within our own planet, of accepting their place in the circle of life as it were, and wrapping it around a Shakespearean action flick is a good way to leave it's mark.

Spoiler space for gushing 
Dunno Shuri's backstory but love her!  Yeah, it's typical that the youngest is a tech genius but she's really cool.  Why did she was to go 'What are those' though?  Sheesh.  She's totally should have taken the flower and become a Panther, hehe

Aw, why didn't he have to kill Klaw?  They killed Crossbones and they killed him too?  Keep the villains around, c'mon.  

Kill monger, don't really know him but Michael B. Jordan made him cool.  Great backstory.  Yucky body alternations.  Panther really should have saved his life.

Man-Ape, I did not expect to love.  He was great!  Nice was to redeem him.  Seriously, are they vegetarians?  He should totally hang out with Shuri, hehe.  

Can't get over the sci fi in the city.  So out there.

Walking Dead Michonne was pretty good.  She's funny and still awesome.

So there's three armored rhinos.  I wanted more teched out indigenous beasties of Wakanda.

Martin Freeman was adorable as his Hobbit self, haha.

The last scene is not really worth much in terms of Infinity War stuff.  I almost thought, with the meteor landing thing, perhaps that's the Soul Gem link but, no, nothing.  It's ok that it's a stand alone film but, nuts, Infinity War!

Movie Review - Darkest Hour

   Winston Churchill being given the role of Prime Minister was at a terrible time when Nazis were on the march.  Lives were on the line and the fate of the country is in the hands of a crotchety elder.  Faced with the debacle at Dunkirk, it truly becomes the Darkest Hour.
   While based on true events, this film romanticizes the serious affair for the sake of classical Hollywood narrative.  While Winston Churchill does grump and holler about, he is still filled with humor and wit.  How accurate is this to real life?  Either way, Gary Oldman does a masterful job is bringing Churchill to the screen as a personable and passionate leader while humanizing him with both strong love and weakness.  Truly one of the magnificent portrayals for the history books.

  The film itself does dramatize events to suit the plot but the important dates are left intact.  The invasion, the negotiations, the deaths all occur.  Churchill's stance against dealing with Hitler does vindicate him in the end but, taken from the start, his apparent aversion to peace talks makes him out as a stubborn warmonger.  This adds a welcome facet, even though history proves him to be justified. 

  Throughout the wartorn times, there is a certain whimsy in the presentation.  The atmosphere more often takes a light hearted tone and chuckles are to be had at certain comedic situations Churchill finds himself in.  These frequent bright spots eases the tedious affairs and frankly makes the proceedings quite enjoyable to follow.  Even with the emotionally manipulative climax, the Darkest Hour makes for a fascinating alternative look at one of the important turning points of the war.