[FLICK REVIEW] “Justice League (2017)”

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2017 by theporkchopexpress

As a DC Comics fan I’ve waited a long time for this movie. And I’m not going to lie: I’m VERY pleased with the results!

Knowing the troubled production, plus the hatred towards the other DCEU films and the obvious comparison to Marvel films how do I describe “JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)“? It’s a fun movie. As fun as pre-Avengers ’12 Marvel films and far more fun than post-Avengers ’12 Marvel films!

In contrast to the rest of the DCEU films it finds a very specific spot. It’s not near as deep a film thematically as: “BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)” or even: “MAN OF STEEL (2013)“. It’s more coherent than: “SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)” and has easier re-watch potential than: “WONDER WOMAN (2017)“. To draw an ironic comic book comparison, Justice League is like a solid one issue story arc of a JLA comic. In 24 pages {or 2 hours here} you get a fun, exciting read that you’re glad you read, but will probably bag, board and store away for a few years.

The real irony here is that since Man of Steel critics have put down DC films for not being fun little movies like Marvel. DC has been trying to make real “films” here that will last and have stuff to say, not popcorn crunching “movies”. Now that DC has delivered a better “movie” than recent Marvel the complaints are it’s not a real film?

Bias anyone?

As a person who needs a cinematic diet of both movies and films I was fine with each company being their own way, but now we’re all just playing dress up…ok I can roll with it.

The team works well together. Batman is a reluctant leader, Wonder Woman the advising second, Flash as the eager new guy who’s just happy to be there, Cyborg the brooding responsibility accepting one, and Aquaman the “I’m too cool for these fools, but they need me” guy!

Oh and Superman comes back…boy does he come back. If you know me you know I’m not a Superman fan. I find him to be too overpowered to enjoy fully. Like Goku in “DRAGON BALL Z“. That being said for the first time in the history of ever, I was excited to see Superman on screen!

In reviews I keep hearing the tone is off here. That it’s obvious two directors were involved. And to a degree I can see that, but not in a negative way. Joss Whedon CLEARLY had a hand in the dialogue. Everything else though still oozes Zack Snyder and that’s the way it should be. Yes it’s a lighter tone, but Snyder has been saying since BvS the DCEU would slowly shift that way. And while I have a feeling critics and the suits at WB pushed for it to happen earlier than Snyder would have wanted, it works very well in Justice League. In a way it feels like the characters have come home.

Another plus for me was Danny Elfman’s score. I forgot how much I enjoy his music to Superhero films. Not to mention the {what I’m sure will be nitpicked} return of his classic Batman theme and the John Williams Superman theme. Both themes, while never played fully are clearly worked in and both made me smile at hearing them.

The look of the movie is different for a Snyder picture. This is partially due to a new cinematographer being used, but I feel there is more at play here. This is an aspect I’m sure was taken away from Snyder. It’s bright and flat in places where it didn’t feel right to be….it made it look like a Marvel flick.

Speaking of look, the effects weren’t near as bad as reviews would lead you to believe. Do some shots look a little green screened? Sure I’ll confess I was able to pick out of backgrounds. Honestly the most jarring effect is Superman’s photoshopped out mustache from the re-shoots! Overall I thought the effects were pretty good considering 95% of movies released these days are CGI heavy. It helped tell the story, so I’m fine.

The story itself was serviceable. There are a few points of question for me. Mostly in continuity, but nothing to break the experience. One thing in particular I can already see CinemaSins pointing out when this gets the “Everything Wrong With” treatment next year.

Short-Story-Long:

Justice League is a great movie. Everything one could want in a superhero team-up flick. There is no reason to not enjoy it. Zack Snyder {and to an extent Joss Whedon} brought the DCEU’s versions of these characters together in a satisfying way. Would I like the future DC movies to be a bit less Marvel? For sure, but I highly doubt the heads at WB will listen to that. But I have been wrong before, so who knows.

~_M.H._~

Follow Me on Twitter: @MHSmith22

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[FLICK REVIEW] “Blade Runner 2049 (2017)”

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2017 by theporkchopexpress

I hated this movie. I didn’t want to, believe me I really didn’t. I went in with high hopes that Hollywood was about to work a miracle and produce a good sequel 35 years after the original. Boy was I in for a surprise!

Before I explain what I guarantee will be an unpleasant review let me give the couple of things I liked:

  • Overall, the special effects looked fine.
  • I liked Ryan Gosling’s hologram wife/girlfriend.

During the movie and afterwards as I reflected on the utter disaster I’d just witnessed for nearly 3 hours, a series of words and thoughts stemming from them. Allow me to share them…

Obnoxious:

-The first thing here that leaps out is the score…if you can even call it a score.
Hollywood’s favorite composer Hans Zimmer and a guy I’m not familiar with Mr. Benjamin Wallfisch attempted to “recreate” the feel of the original Vangelis score. All to end up utilizing what sounded like a motorcycle revving? The rest sounding so bloody generic it could’ve been used in anything.

-The pacing is agonizingly slow.
And I say that as a person who digs slow builds, but here it was a false slow to make the material seem more substantial than it was. Seriously, did this really need “world building” time? I don’t think it did… the original film covered all the same themes and concepts this resource waste does, but in under 2 hours!

-And while I’m on visuals let me talk about my disappointment with Roger Deakins.
Mr. Deakins, a man who should have shelves of Oscars from all his Coen Brothers work and for the masterpiece that was “SKYFALL (2012)” let me down here. Not for the generic sci-fi vistas in the wide shots, {those suckers are so CGI’d these days it calls into question the term “live action”} but for the actual scenes of emotion.

Look I’m all for mood and the cyberpunk aesthetic, but when the time comes for Harrison Ford to actually cry on camera in a scene that should evoke matching emotion from me, covering his face with total shadow while the background glows in clean light isn’t just wrong, it’s an insult to very principle of visual storytelling!
And this happens EVERY TIME something important was happening. I do blame someone else higher than Mr. Deakins…

-The direction is flaming garbage!
This is my first film from hot, new director Denis Villeneuve. I cannot express how much praise I’ve heard about this director and how he is the new visionary of film. You know, I go back and forth on if Auteur theory is true, but Mr. Villeneuve has convinced me it is!

Ridley Scott has a glorious vision and Denis Villeneuve is cross-eyed.

There is no vision here, only standard issue repackaging, but hailed as art from an artist beyond measure. Talent fraud is all I saw and I have no desire to ever watch another film he’s directed.

-The writing is the core issue.
Philip K. Dick’s original story is rather different from the 1982 classic, but the core themes are preserved from what I can tell. I’ve yet to read any Dick, but he is on my list. However, both the original ground breaker and this replicant share a screenwriter by the name of Hampton Fancher. Mr. Fancher is widely known for disagreeing with Ridley Scott’s vision for the original film and this new movie reflects that fully.

Not to mention the weak attempt to drown the audience in pseudo intellectual speeches hoping to cloud your mind into believing depth exists on a flat plain. I hoped co-writer Michael Green who gave us the excellent “LOGAN (2017)” and the vastly underrated “GREEN LANTERN (2011)” could reign the audacious tripe in a little, but alas…

Theft:

-So the visual spectacle of 2049’s LA is….stolen. From another cyberpunk adaptation FROM EARLIER THIS YEAR!
I speak of course of the vastly superior: {you know I’m right about this} “GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017)“, which I reviewed here. It kills me that this movie is being praised for its visual design, when it steals and uses the very giant holograms that GITS was hated for! Insanity!

-Scenes are straight up ripped from older work.
One scene I keep seeing reviews fawn over is a “three way” sex scene between Ryan Gosling, a human hooker and a hologram. First I find it hard to call this a three way since two of the participants aren’t real, but I digress…
As soon as this scene started I remembered I’d seen it before. In the Patrick Swayze film “GHOST (1990)“! Seriously, a film being dubbed the return of sci-fi for grown ups is stealing from a cheesy romantic thriller?

Cash Grab:

The overall shock to me is that “BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)” is everything people complain about in sequels and remakes. From the lazy recreation of iconic looks and fan service characters to the watered down retreading of themes and ideas covered better in original. This movie was made not out of story continuation need, but from pure desire to make a fast buck off the name of a classic. Every frame oozes its lust of dollars; dollars it could have had by not being made!

Pandering:

A major problem with the writing in contrast to the original is in the use of dialogue. The original’s ideas were felt in subtext and the world was expressed without context allowing the audience to fall into it. Actually having to think about what they saw and heard to understand. 2049 goes out of its way to spoon feed you its stolen ideas every step of the way. Going so far as to flash back plot points from not too far back in the story…you know in case you missed it if you fell asleep, or forgot it in your boredom.

For a film that’s suppose to be a thought provoker I felt extremely talked down to.

Electric Sheep:

The real tragedy here are the critics and movie goers who will try and defend this. Some fans will truly love this film and to them I say: “I don’t get it, but lots of luck to you and yours!” No, the tragic folks I speak of are the ones who know better.

2049 falls into a category of films made to be praised and adored by the in crowd. The film “elite” as they think of themselves. And I fear the vast majority of people who will voice defense are doing so because they are “suppose to”. Not because they liked it, or found something true in it, but to impress who they believe are the “right people”. This fits the critics and filmmakers who want to be taken seriously. It’s a delusion. Like…tears in rain.

~_M.H._~

Follow Me on Twitter: @MHSmith22

[FLICK REVIEW] “F For Fake (1973)”

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2017 by theporkchopexpress

Orson Welles gets a lot of recognition in the world of cinema. Not as much as he use to, but is still considered a giant in the craft by film nerds. Film nerds like me. I’m one of the people who loves his work, despite not watching “CITIZEN KANE (1941)” yet. {I know, I know, it’s on the list…}

Recently I discovered Mr. Welles had made a documentary about fakery and fraud in the art world named appropriately: “F FOR FAKE (1973)“. After watching it I can confidently declare it my favorite documentary!

The subject matter fraud, the category is art forgery and the controversy surrounding the forger named: “Elmyr de Hory” This of course isn’t near as simple as the premise makes it out to be. Before you know it the film brings in a story about Elmyr’s biographer also being involved in a famous hoax, and another about Orson’s girlfriend Oja Kodar‘s grandfather dealing with Picasso. All tied together with a promise of telling the truth, but that too comes with special considerations.

This is a film that’s hard to talk about. To truly enjoy this masterpiece you really should know as little as possible going in. I’ll just say that it went places in a style I really admire and one day wish to emulate in my own way.

The entire film is on YouTube {as of this posting}, or you can buy the Criterion Edition on Amazon!

Short-Story-Long:

Classic film and classic film stars are being forgotten these days. It’s easy to blame the generation, but I cast more blame on availability among too much content. F For Fake is a good middle ground. It’s old with an older star, but jazzy enough to hold a casual modern viewer with ease.

~_M.H._~

Follow Me on Twitter: @MHSmith22

[FLICK REVIEW] “Someone’s Watching Me! (1978)”

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2017 by theporkchopexpress

John Carpenter, master filmmaker who gave us: “HALLOWEEN (1978)“, “THE THING (1982)” and “BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)” made a little TV movie the SAME YEAR as Halloween ’78 AND I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT IT!

This film is: “SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME! (1978)” produced by Warner Brothers for NBC and it’s very well done. 1970’s TV movies, at least the few I’ve seen have all been pretty fantastic. In fact, if not for the obvious commercial break fade outs/ins I’d have figured it was a theatrical film.

The interesting thing about watching early films from directors who have a distinctive style is you get to see how much or little their style is developed. In the case of Carpenter here the result is fascinating. Aside from one excellent jump scare that he’d breakout again in “The Thing ’82” I’d never have guessed this was a John Carpenter flick.

What made this work non-Carpenter seeming film even more interesting was watching him pull a Brian De Palma and mimic Hitchcock! Then again if you’re going to mimic a famous director, Hitch is a great choice.

Short-Story-Long:

Early films of master filmmakers are a treat every fan should experience. I really enjoyed this lost Carpenter classic…but it isn’t as good as “DUEL (1971)

~_M.H._~

Follow Me on Twitter: @MHSmith22

[FLICK REVIEW] “The Skull (1965)”

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2017 by theporkchopexpress

Entering October it seemed like a good time to watch some horror films in my collection. In doing so, focusing on the ones I’ve never seen. This brought me to “THE SKULL (1965)“. Despite starring two Hammer Horror legends, the late and great Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee this was an Amicus production, which like Hammer means it’s British, and you’re in for a fun time!

Based off of a Robert Bloch short story: “The Skull Of The Marquis de Sade” tells of an occult collector played by British horror hero Peter Cushing who is offered the chance to buy the stolen skull of the Marquis de Sade, a French writer/philosopher who was rumored to be evil. These rumors aren’t helped by the stories of tragedy surrounding those who’ve been in possession of the skull. Cushing consults with another collection friend played by his longtime friend and cinematic nemesis Christopher Lee in what is credited as a “guest star”. Turns out the skull was stolen from Lee, but he doesn’t want it back, nor does he think Cushing should by it.

Of course Cushing ignores this and buys the skull.

From here Cushing is haunted by a floating skull, kidnappings by cultists, and possession of his own body to commit terrible crimes. It’s also a tremendously fun film! Cushing is great as always, playing between complete skeptic to terrified believer. It’s truly a style of film the horror community doesn’t get anymore which is a real shame. I truly believe there is still a place for these paced and styled films in the modern cinematic landscape. While the fear factor is relatively low, the atmosphere is palpable.

The scene to best illustrate the tension comes as Cushing is kidnapped by what he is told are the police. He’s taken to a “court room” where a silent judge forces him to play Russian Roulette with the four shot revolver. The confused terror from Cushing, the silence from the judge and two guards and editing make this one of the tensest scenes I’ve ever witnessed.

See for yourself:

The visual effects for the skull are…noticeable. Hilariously so. However, the sense of dread created whenever the prop is meant to do something, or when you expect it to do something easily makes up for seeing obvious wires. Not to mention the interior skull view for some scenes is priceless.

Short-Story-Long:

Old horror are awesome and more people should watch them. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, give “The Skull” a go, you’ll have a fun time if you do.

~_M.H._~

Follow Me on Twitter: @MHSmith22

[FLICK REVIEW] “House (1977)”

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2017 by theporkchopexpress

HOUSE (1977)” might be the wildest film I’ve ever experienced! From beginning to end every visual is geared to be as outlandish as possible. Outlandish, but in service of the rather straightforward story. The trailer touts this as the “first fantasy horror film”, which is a great description.

The Plot:
For such an out there flick the story is very simple: Japanese schoolgirl Gorgeous {or Angel depending on what source you use} takes six of her friends, {Kung-Fu, Fantasy, Prof, Sweet, Mac and Melody} to stay with her at her Aunt’s house in the country. What they don’t know is that her Aunt is a demon ghost using the house to eat unmarried girls to keep her young and immortal.

A weird, but simple story presented in a very out there way. All made by Toho studios as an attempt to capitalize on “JAWS (1975)“!

The Characters:
So the characters, like the plot, are simple. Yet in their simplicity they serve a purpose. The only ones worth speak of are:

  • Gorgeous is a serviceable entrance character for the story, but beyond that she really doesn’t matter.
  • Fantasy is the actual protagonist once the film gets going. A sympathetic protagonist, but not the real star of the show. That honor goes to…
  • Kung-Fu is the best character of the film, dare I say any film? Seriously, she is awesome and accompanied by an awesome theme song whenever she busts out the kung-fu skills.

The Crazy:
This flick is not shot, edited or presented in any conventional way. Odd transitions, speed ups, slow downs, silent film special effects mixed with early blue screen effects, all come screaming at your face for 88 minutes. The score rambles back and forth between a sad, repeating melody and male J-Pop. Not your typical horror soundscape to be sure.

Short-Story-Long:

If you want your mind melted via 1970s Japanese cinema then this is the film for you! Not sure? Here’s a context-less sample:

~_M.H._~

Follow Me on Twitter: @MHSmith22

[FLICK REVIEW] “Logan Lucky (2017)”

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2017 by theporkchopexpress

Heist films are always something special. There’s an undeniable coolness to a group of charismatic thieves planning some elaborate robbery that will inevitably go wrong. Depending on the story you’re either rooting for a successful getaway or for the local cops to break the thieves down. The second scenario is the rarer of the two, but that’s a topic for another day.

This brings us to director Steven Soderbergh’s newest film: “LOGAN LUCKY (2017)“. Mr. Soderbergh is the man who gave us the excellent remake of “OCEAN’S ELEVEN (2001)“, its [in my minority opinion] superior sequel: “OCEAN’S TWELVE (2004)” and the lackluster dumpster fire that was: “OCEAN’S THIRTEEN (2007)“, so he knows heists. Now he’s giving what others have refered to as: “Ocean’s 7/11”, which while funny, is rather accurate.

The plot centers around the southern family the Logans {two brothers and their sister} and their attempt to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race. A simple premise, for what could have been a standard heist, but here’s where things get interesting:

  • Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as Jimmy and Clyde Logan.
    These two play siblings with such perfection it’s mind boggling. Not only that, but with wonderfully ridiculous accents! Channing Tatum in particular stood out to me. I’ve never found him to be a bad actor, but this elevated him to good actor to me. Also nice to see Adam Driver not be a weak villain like he was in: “EPISODE VII (2015)“.
  • Daniel Craig.
    Again, wonderfully ridiculous accent, but what a difference from James Bond! The charisma he gives off here is something you have to see to believe. I want him to do more work like this.
  • Dwight Yoakam.
    I always forget he’s an actor from time to time so whenever he pops up on screen it’s a pleasant surprise. He’s a delight to watch here; his prison warden character is a hoot.
  • Seth McFarlane.
    I’m not sure why he’s in this, he didn’t really do anything. But I’m glad he’s here anyway!
  • The twists and turns.
    So like all good heists things go wrong. Here though things go wrong and resolve in the most insane fashion possible, while still maintaining tension and entertainment. A big twist happens after the heist that I won’t spoil here, but it was unexpected and took the film in directions I never would expect from the trailer.
  • It’s got emotion.
    The film has an emotional depth that was also unexpected. You can’t help but care about these rednecks their plans and most of all their reasons for this caper. Quite touching once it all comes together.
  • The Dark Humor.
    I’ve touched on how funny this film is with my above points, but I can’t stress enough the level of rather dark humor here. From wounded veterans, to prison riots to spray paint tanning a child pageant contestant, this film is loaded with little and big things you might feel a bit guilty for telling people you laughed at.

Short-Story-Long:

Logan Lucky, as of this posting, is my favorite film of the year. It has most everything I love in movies and it makes it all work effortlessly. You should make the time to see it on the big screen if you can, it will be a fun time at the movies. If not, buy it when it’s available. You won’t be let down.

~_M.H._~

Follow Me on Twitter: @MHSmith22