Thursday, March 30, 2017

Why Is Netflix's Movie Division Currently Failing?

This Friday see's the release of a solidly reviewed sci-fi dramedy from director Charlie McDowell called The Discovery. It stars Jason Segel, Rooney Mara and Robert freaking Redford and follows a few human beings as they cope with the titular discovery that the afterlife truly exists.

You may be wondering why exactly you haven't heard of this movie.

Well, that's because it's a Netflix movie. And it's not the first time a feature film directly from Netflix has basically gone unnoticed by the general public.

I Ain't Afraid Of No Ghost In The Shell

The original Ghost In The Shell motion picture from 1995 came at an interesting time in the history of technology. The internet was just about on the verge of dominating households across the planet and forever change how we consumed information and communicated with each other. No one could possibly predict what a paradigm shifter the widespread acceptance of the internet would be, but Ghost In the Shell did dare to tell a tale of human beings greatly intertwined with the technology around them and ponder how that affects their psyche and personalities. More than two decades after its release and countless upheavals in the world of technology, Ghost In The Shell is just as potent as ever in its thoughtful storytelling.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Safety Last! Is The Sort Of Film That Puts A Grin On Your Face And Makes You Love Movies

Safety Last! is not just a movie I thoroughly enjoyed (to put it gently), but also one that cemented my feeling that the silent movie comedy is one of my cinematic subgenres. It's such an enjoyable corner of filmmaking, charming, humorous and showing a remarkable amount of craft on the part of the filmmakers and the actors who are working with a medium of storytelling that was still in its most nascent stage. Without sound or color by their side, the guys and gals behind these classic silent movie comedies managed to create wonders with the limited amount of tools at their disposal, demonstrating an incredible amount of artistic ingenuity.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Sense Of An Ending Falls Quite Short Of Being A Riveting Page-Turner

The past is always a difficult thing to grapple with, particularly past regrets and mistakes. Lord knows I myself have spent countless nights sitting in bed thinking about all the social faux pas and other mistakes I've committed over my life and I do not think I'm the only one who's been consumed by such late-night mournful reminiscing. I'd wager very single human being has got their own personal foibles from their past that they can't help but obsess over and Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent), the lead character of the new drama The Sense Of An Ending, is far from an exception in this regard.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Saban's Power Rangers Is...Diverting Fun? Wait, What, It's Actually Fun? Huh.

Someone at Saban Entertainment (the company that owns Power Rangers) obviously wanted to make a live-action feature film about the Power Rangers in order to cash in on the craze of big-budget live-action movies adapting childhood TV shows with massive nostalgia-driven fanbases. And so, lo and behold, the resulting project is Saban's Power Rangers, a $100 million budgeted motion picture whose starting premise basically amounts to "What if we merged The Breakfast Club and Pacific Rim into one movie?". That very much sounds like two motion pictures that should never ever be mashed together but they've gone and done just that. The resulting movie is....actually not bad, much better than I expected it to be, though this whole thing carries more than a few major shortcomings to its name.

Get Trapped With Overly Familiar But Sometimes Chilling Thrills In Life

Jake Gyllenhaal has been on quite the roll lately. His exemplary lead turn in Nightcrawler was one of the peak moments of his entire career and even in something more middling like Southpaw Gyllenhaal managed to craft a solid performance out of a subpar script. Last years Nocturnal Animals continued his recent career choices of doing bold and daring projects by offering Gyllenhaal a chance to inhabit a tortured persona to fascinating results. So, of course, after all these challenging dramas, it's no shocker that the next big movie Jake Gyllenhaal is headlining is Life, a science-fiction horror film chock full of blood and mayhem, just like Nocturnal Animals. What I'm trying to say is that Life is the exact same movie as Nocturnal Animals.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sea A Revolution Begin In Battleship Potemkin

Sight & Sound Voyage Entry #17
Placement On Sight & Sound Top 50 Movies List: #11

Every revolution begins somewhere. Even the biggest uprisings in history have started with ideas from one human being, a singular mind that had had enough of the status quo and were looking to upend it for their own gain and for others. Sometimes these events end in prosperity, other times they esult in chaos. Either way though, these large interruptions come from humble origins as most things do. To quote the movie Lawrence Of Arabia, "Big things have small beginnings", and that's very much true for the rebellion seen in the 1925 Sergei Eisenstein motion picture, Battleship Potemkin, which recreates a real-life mutiny from twenty-three years prior.

Beauty And The Beast Has Gorgeous Second Weekend While Power Rangers Does Decent Business And Life And CHiPS Flop

With another $88.3 million, Beauty And The Beast continued to be an incredible box office juggernaut, handily leading the domestic box office and securing the second best second weekend drop for a movie opening over $150 million, only .4% the exactly 49% dip of Jurassic World. A 49.4% is truly fantastic for the release though, on par with the 48% drop Cinderella saw in its second weekend despite that 2015 Disney family film making over $100 million less on opening weekend. Beauty And The Beast has already taken in $316.9 million in ten days and looks to be on track for a final domestic gross of at least $460 million.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Broken Souls Find Momentary Comfort And Longer-Lasting Pain In Persona

Sight & Sound Voyage Entry #16
Placement On Sight & Sound Top 50 Movies List: #28

Let it never be said that Ingmar Bergman does not start off his movies in a manner reminiscent of the immortal Smash Mouth lyric "...hit the ground running." The very first scene in Persona is an abstract compilation of seemingly unrelated footage playing off, some of it grisly, some of it silly, before we see a nameless character emerge from a hospital bed and approach a giant screen. Then the opening credits start up, kicking off the plot proper. Once that was all over, I kind of just had to pause for a moment and figure out what on Earth I had just watched. The fact that the film itself just casually goes about its business after that perplexing opening sequence. Okee-dokee, I guess that's the kind of motion picture I'm in for?

My Mixed Thoughts On The Justice League Trailer


Here we go.

No need for a preamble here folks. My negative feelings towards Batman v. Superman are well-known at this point, we all know a Justice League movie is headed our way, let's just dig into the first trailer proper.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Movies Begin: A Treasury Of Old Cinema | 1894-1913 (feat. Eadweard Muybridge & Thomas Edison Short Films, The Great Train Robbery, A Trip To The Moon) Review

Reviewing this Kino Lorber DVD collection of some of the earliest pieces of cinema was a total accident, I'll freely admit. While browsing the shelves at my college's library, I stumbled upon The Movies Begin: A Treasury Of Old Cinema | 1894-1913, without having either heard of this The Movies Begin series of DVD's, let alone this specific entry in the franchise. Upon discovering it, of course, I couldn't pass it up, especially since I had seen none of the numerous incredibly important shorts it contained within. It really is true how sometimes truly awesome experiences emerge from spontaneity.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What Kind Of An Impact Can One Man's Life Have? Andrei Rublev Sets Out To Answer That Very Question

Sight & Sound Voyage Entry #15
Placement On Sight & Sound Top 50 Movies List: #26 (tied with Rashomon)

It's gonna be tough for me to review Andrei Rublev, Andrei Tarkovsky's widely raved 1966 motion picture chronicling the life of an actual famous Russian painter. You see, I'm not familiar with Russian history in the slightest, let alone the various portions of the 15th century in that country this movie depicts. This means that, while I found much to appreciate, admire and even be outright enthralled by in watching the feature film, I did find myself feeling like I'd carry a greater appreciation for Andrei Rublev if I carried more familiarity with the time periods it depicts or even was just more accustomed to Andrei Tarkovsky's obviously individualistic style of filmmaking (this is my first time watching one of his movies).

A Key Component Of My Childhood Comes To Life In The First Trailer For The Captain Underpants Movie

I was a huge reader when I was a kid but few books left as great of an impression on me as Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants books. I read all of the books in that series too many times to count, their gross-out humor making youngsters like myself feel like we were getting away with something inappropriate whilst actually doing some reading. Lord knows I haven't read one of those books in eons (they're still going right? I remember the last one I read as a kid ended on a major cliffhanger that I think only got resolved a few years back), but it's no shocker to me that the books are still relevant enough with today's youngsters to warrant a theatrical movie, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Normalcy Gives Way To Gruesome Bloodshed In The Belko Experiment

Horror movies have always played up the idea that those closest to you can't be trusted, that they have the potential to become monsters under certain circumstances. That's kind of the crux of the whole zombie genre, the concept of your loved ones, friends and neighbors being turned into mindless flesh-eating monsters. You can also see this idea coursing through horror movie masterpieces like The Happening, where both an airborne virus and terrible screenwriting has seemingly normal people acting strange. The Belko Experiment, a new horror film from director Greg McClean, that takes that concept of normal people going malicious and places it in the confines of a cubicle-filled office space.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Audiences Decide To Be Disney's Guest As Beauty And The Beast Has Record Breaking Opening Weekend

A live-action remake of a classic animated Disney movie making big bucks in the Spring? What malarkey is this??? Nah, but sarcasm aside, Disney got their 2017 slate off to a massive start as Beauty And The Beast opened to a tremendous $170 million, the seventh best opening weekend of all-time and the biggest opening weekend ever in March. That's also the biggest opening weekend in history for a movie that wasn't rated PG-13 and already makes it the second biggest movie of 2017, only narrowly putting it behind Logan which it should surpass by Tuesday. It's also already the biggest movie Kevin Kline has ever appeared in, the sixth biggest ever for Emma Thompson and easily the biggest non-Star Wars movie ever for Ewan McGregor. It's also by far the biggest opening weekend ever for a live-action musical, becoming the first time in history a live-action musical opened to over $50 million, let alone $150 million, and beating out the previous opening-weekend champ in this subgenre, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, by $128 million.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Disney's Live-Action Beauty And The Beast Is Overly Derivative Of The Original Animated Classic But Is Still An Entertaining Musical Romp

This new live-action take on Beauty And The Beast is an oddball little movie. It wants to be so much like the original 1991 animated classic its remaking, yet it also wants to be a more quasi-realistic take on the source material. That sense of realism also rubs up against its desire to be a big splashy over-the-top musical in some spots. When it just goes for being a straightforward fairy tale (not unlike the tone set forth in Jean Cocteau's 1946 take on this tale as old as time), it actually works fine. When it's trying to figure out how to ground things in realism while also being overly slavishly faithful to the original movie, well, that's when problems emerge.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

La Belle at ta Bete (Beauty and the Beast) Is A Classical Take On A Beloved Fairy Tale

The various 56 films in the Walt Disney Animation Studios canon have become so ubiquitous in pop culture, it can be difficult to remember that, for many of these feature films, they were not the first attempts to translate their source material to the big screen. There's been plenty of big screen versions of Cinderella beyond just the animated Disney version, for instance, Two other Snow White movies (one of them starring Betty Boop!) preceded Disney's historic animated Snow White motion picture in 1937. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Disney was far from the first studio to adapt the tale of Beauty & The Beast in feature-length narrative form.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Matrix Is Getting A Reboot Because Screw Original Filmmaking

Late last night, word broke out that Warner Bros. was looking to put together a room of writers to concoct ideas on how to continue the Matrix franchise with Michael B. Jordan reportedly eyeballed for whatever lead role the project eventually creates. There is no word yet on if The Wachowski Starship will be involved but I doubt it. I wouldn't be shocked if Keanu Reeves or Laurence Fishburne showed up though for the sake of fan-service though. This endeavor is in super early stages but it's basically happening, especially given how franchise-hungry Warner Bros. is right now.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Animals Are Running Mild In We Bought A Zoo

We Bought A Zoo. We Bought A Zoo. We. Bought. A. Zoo. A little over five years after its initial theatrical release, the title of this 2011 Cameron Crowe motion picture still feels like a goofy joke, to the point that the host of this year's Oscars, Jimmy Kimmel, devoted an entire segment of the ceremony to mocking the film as part of his fictitious long-standing feud with Matt Damon. Add in how Cameron Crowe's recent artistic endeavors haven't gone great (Aloha was one of the worst movies of 2015 and his Showtime drama from last year, Roadies, has already been forgotten) and it's not hard to see how We Bought A Zoo has become a punchline.

Monday, March 13, 2017

70's Tinged Monster Mayhem Turns Out To Be A Lot Of Fun In Kong: Skull Island

Far too often, remakes and reboots find themselves being merely repeats of the original films they're attempting to remake and/or reboot, to the point where you're left wondering "Why did they even remake this? Couldn't I have just stayed home and watch the original movie instead?" Thankfully, the newest King Kong adventure, Kong: Skull Island, avoids being just a rehash of well-known moments from past Kong movies. No Empire State Building, dinosaurs, movie crew or "Twas beauty that killed the beast" to be found here, much to my personal happiness. Instead, we get an all-new period setting, story and group of characters to follow, though they do retain the loveable nature of Kong himself, of course.

Skip The Shack And Go Stay At The Love Shack (Baby, Love Shack!) Instead

In terms of the general type of quality found in the Christian movie subgenre, The Shack is slightly better than average, which means, for general cinema, it lands slightly below mediocre. That's a drastic improvement over the likes of the two God's Not Dead movies, but it's still plagued by plenty of sins, er, flaws, of its own. Based upon a book I've never heard of but a lot of people I know just can't stop raving about, The Shack attempts to separate itself from many other recent Christian movies by tackling some darker material in its plot, particularly within the confines of a prologue that seems like it could easily serve as a supervillain origin story.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Few Movies Capture Aching Enveloping Loneliness Quite Like The Federico Fellini Masterpiece 8 1/2

Sight & Sound Voyage Entry #14
Placement On Sight & Sound Top 50 Movies List: #10

Upon doing some internet-based research on director Federico Fellini, I stumbled upon this quote of his that says "All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography.". It's a surprisingly profound thought, wrapped around an easy-to-understand comparison that drives the entire point of the statement home. Art does tend to reflect the inner workings of its creators, their ideas, their ambitions, their viewpoints on the world they inhabit. That's what makes exploring art so much fun from an analytical perspective; it's incredibly exciting to probe idiosyncratic artists and the art they create to express their innermost thoughts.

Kong: Skull Island Creates Financially Successful Monkey Business At The Top Of Box Office

Well well well, looks like we have our second box office hit of the month, as Kong: Skull Island managed to surpass expectations and opened to a strong $61 million. That's an opening weekend 12% above the opening weekend of the 2005 King Kong movie, the eleventh biggest opening weekend ever in March, the eighth biggest opening weekend ever for an Adventure film in a period setting, the fourth biggest opening weekend ever for what Box Office Mojo defines as a Creature Feature (films starring monsters or creatures), the fourth biggest opening weekend ever for a movie set in the 1970's and the tenth biggest opening weekend ever for a Legendary Pictures film. It's also already the third biggest movie Brie Larson's ever appeared in, the biggest live-action opening weekend ever for John Goodman and for Tom Hiddleston, Kong: Skull Island is only behind War Horse in terms of being his biggest movie ever where he's not playing a certain God Of Mischief.

Friday, March 10, 2017

To Look Upon I Am Not Your Negro Is To Look Upon The Horrors Of American Society

James Baldwin has got to be one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, a man whose perspective on the struggles of African-Americans through this century and how it relates to centuries-old oppression is revered throughout the literary world as a crowning achievement and a vital look into the psyche of the disenfranchised. Tragically, I have been unfamiliar with his pieces of writing, though the Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro offered up a prime opportunity for me to get more acquainted with this prolific author and the words he's weaved on racial struggles in America.

The Darjeeling Limited Is Sometimes Tonally Disjointed But Still Entertaining Wes Anderson Cinema

In every Wes Anderson film, the elements of whimsy and reality are always prevalent, with the whimsy usually coming in the form of the sets and dialogue while reality rears its head in the character arcs, plot points and overall themes of the stories. In his three most recent movies, Anderson has found phenomenal success going for more heightened stylized tendencies while also exploring fresh new dramatic terrain that's more complex and mature, helping him solidify his place as a truly remarkable artist. Just before that trio of masterpieces, Anderson created The Darjeeling Limited, which, interestingly, leaned on realism more heavily than a number of other movies in his filmography.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Rock Dog Is A Bad Boy

Are the various animation studios now just playing Mad Libs with these computer-animated movies? Inspired by the success of Ratatouille and Kung Fu Panda a decade ago, are they just now taking random animal names and random occupations that would juxtapose against the aforementioned animal and just calling that a plot? We've seen this phenomenon with the likes of Turbo and Norm Of The North and now a plot device intended to drum up an underdog story (that can be used well in the right circumstances it should be noted) that's easy to get invested in just feels stale at this point. The newest entry in this trend is Rock Dog, which is, as the title suggests, about a dog who wishes to be a rock musician.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Passion Of Joan Of Arc Reveals The Humanity Of A Brave Historical Figure

Sight & Sound Voyage Entry #13
Placement On Sight & Sound Top 50 Movies List: #9

As I've mentioned many times before how one of the best parts of Hamilton is the way it zeroes in on the humanity of larger than life historical figures. You get to fully understand the likes of George Washington, Aaron Burr (sir!) or Alexander Hamilton in a way that reminds you these were just human beings, like you or me, trapped in larger-than-life scenarios. Director Carl Theodore Dryer takes this same approach for his 1928 French film The Passion of Joan of Arc, which applies this style of storytelling to, as the title indicates, the real life figure of Joan of Arc, an individual with a story more than ripe for being told in the format of a feature film.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It Is In Its Most Subtle Moments That King Kong Really Earns Its Status As A Classic

The trailers for the new King Kong feature Kong: Skull Island have come with a tagline that simply reads "We Don't Belong Here". It's an eye-catching phrase that stuck out in my mind throughout watching the original 1933 version of King Kong for the very first time, as it's very much true in relating to both the group of human beings who travel to a mysterious island and for the titular ape when he's brought to civilian surroundings in the third act. Before all of that occurs though, a number of sailors, cameramen and a lone actress, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) set out to sea under the guidance of famous director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong).

(A United) Kingdom Hearts

No romantic relationship comes without its own set of hurdles, and for many individuals in society over the ages, such struggles go well beyond "communication difficulties" or similarly mundane ordeals. Same-sex couples and interracial couples particularly have found a great amount of strife in attempting to have the same marital rights as white heterosexual couples. For the two lead characters in the romantic drama A United Kingdom, the complications associated with interracial couples in the late 1940's are further complicated by the fact that one of the two individuals is the prospective king of Bechuanaland.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Good Wall Hunting

For those hoping The Great Wall turned out to be a big-budget misfire diamond in the rough ala the highly underappreciated John Carter, alas, it is not. For those curious if The Great Wall is a big budget colossal failure like Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice or The Last Airbender, it is also not fitting of that description. Instead, what we get here is a mostly boring result of being merely a forgettable motion picture with decent production value found in the myriad of colorful costumes and some actually decently well-designed monsters while its scattershot script lets those positive elements down big time.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Logan Slices Up Fourth Biggest R-Rated Opening Weekend Of All-Time While Moviegoers Have Faith In The Shack At The Box Office, Before I Fall Tumbles And Table 19 Is Empty

Hugh Jackman's Wolverine went out with a bang this weekend as audiences expressed their obvious displeasure with superhero fare by shelling out $85.3 million bucks for the final Hugh Jackman Wolverine adventure. This is a debut that put the movie in fourth place on a number of impressive charts, including it being the fourth biggest opening weekend ever for a March release and the fourth biggest opening weekend ever for an R-rated movie. It's also the fifth biggest opening weekend ever for an X-Men movie. That's put it ahead of the $85 million bow the PG-13 and far more expensive first Wolverine movie had back in 2009.

Journey To A Captivating World In Pan's Labyrinth

Despite being a massive Guillermo Del Toro fanboy, I've never seen his 2006 feature film Pan's Labyrinth before, which I suppose is akin to being a massive fan of The Beatles while thinking Abbey Road is solely a road in London. Anywho, sitting down to watch this one was a fascinating experience in terms of placing it in the larger picture Del Toro's filmography, as his later films would carry over certain elements of Pan's Labyrinth, such as a period era setting that plays heavily into the story (Crimson Peak) and the heavy use of mythic fairy tale characters (Hellboy II: The Golden Army). It's apparent that the experience of Pan's Labyrinth left a profound impact on Guillermo Del Toro as a director.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Bicycle Thieves Ponders How Far You'll Go To Protect What Little You Have

Sight & Sound Voyage Entry #12
Placement On Sight & Sound Top 50 Movies List: #33

Right from its opening scene, Bicycle Thieves has a remarkable talent for plunging the viewer into the desperation soaked world its lead character lives in. Dozens of human beings crowd around one man whose handing out job assignments, with all of these people eagerly hoping they can get an assignment that'll ensure they and their families will be able to eat in the coming days. Their entire lives hinge on one human being, this guy assigning people to certain tasks. It's insane to imagine one's fate being solely determined by a singular person, but that's very much the reality for all of these people.

Neither Bird Nor Plane, Superman Is Just An Insanely Charming Movie

Us superhero movie geeks owe more than a bit to 1978's Richard Donner feature film Superman. Prior to this movie, superheroes had been relegated to forgotten TV movies, serials, a handful of Zorro movies and a single theatrical movie based on the 1960's Adam West Batman TV show. Though it would take another decade (with Tim Burton's Batman) before another non-Superman superhero movie would find similar success, this iteration of Superman had opened the door for other costumed characters to enter multiplexes across the world and tell their heroic tales in a larger-than-life visual medium.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Logan Lunges Into Thoughtful Heavily R-Rated Storytelling Territory

If there's one thing I can ascertain about James Mangold after watching his two Wolverine movies (The Wolverine and the subject of this review, Logan) it's that he's truly enamored with a version of Wolverine dealing with the character separated entirely from the X-Men team and living a life as a battered recluse. Mangold seems to be fascinated by the questions posed by Wolverine's weariness as he ages ever onward and Logan makes a strong case for why he'd be so enamored with that side of the character. Here, James Mangold and company go full-on R-rated in their exploration of Wolverine in an older, sicker and battle-weary form.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

True Detective Season One Review

Early on in the first season of True Detective, Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) tells his homicide detective partner Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) to be way of applying too much of a story to a crime scene early on in the investigation since you could begin to warp the crime scene to fit your narrative. Turns out, though, Rust's early intuition was a solid indicator for what kind of narrative was behind a vile murder that left a naked women tied up with antlers surrounded by various tiny wooden objects said to ward off the devil. Of course, it takes Rust a while to figure out that he's onto something, with the narrative that unfolds from the investigation he and Martin undergo managing to impact both men's lives in profound ways.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

La Dolce Vita Is An Incredible Glimpse Into Human Depravity

Sight & Sound Voyage Entry #11
Placement On Sight & Sound Top 50 Movies List: #39

And now it is time once again for me to discover another hugely influential filmmaker whose work I've somehow been totally ignorant of until now. This time, it's Federico Fellini, the Italian writer/director behind a number of the most acclaimed motion pictures of all-time. It is his 1960 movie La Dolce Vita that serves as my introduction to this man's work, and after viewing La Dolce Vita, I can say that I am ravenous for other pieces of Federico Fellini's filmmaker. Good Lord, this guy has an incredible skill as a filmmaker, something incredibly evident from his work here in La Dolce Vita.