I remember wanting to see Hacksaw Ridge in theaters but not following through on my impulse. The film garnered some buzz towards the end of 2016 for a number of reasons, mainly due to its grisly depictions of warfare. This did not surprise me because I am familiar with the work of Mel Gibson as a director and an actor. You could say that Gibson is a bit eccentric in his tastes. I have found Gibson’s films to be entertaining for the most part so I was excited to see how Hacksaw Ridge would fare.
The film tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a soldier who refused to carry any weapons in combat and who was awarded the medal of honor for his efforts during the Battle of Okinawa. The film focuses primarily on the reasons behind Doss’s decision not to carry a weapon in combat and the consequences that this decision had for Doss.
Hacksaw Ridge has the look and feel of a big-budget movie. There are recognizable actors and the soundtrack is well-produced. Clearly a lot of effort went into making this movie. I would say that this movie did fairly well for itself in the 2016 Oscars. It actually won the awards for best sound mixing and best editing. While Hacksaw Ridge is an entertaining film, it’s probably not the sort of film that deserves a nomination for best picture. Hacksaw Ridge doesn’t really provide anything other than entertainment value.
I came away from this film with a greater appreciation for Andrew Garfield’s skill as an actor. He carries this film from beginning to end. There’s also a feeling I get from war movies that I can only describe as a longing for the bond shared between soldiers. I am clearly the demographic for this movie. If you are similar to me (white, male, interested in movies) then you will probably enjoy watching Hacksaw Ridge. Although it is hollow movie in terms of intellectual depth, it provided enough for me that I can safely recommend to anyone who shares my taste for movies.
You should watch Hacksaw Ridge but please do so with tempered expectations. It’s not that its a bad film. Its just that there’s nothing special about it aside from Andrew Garfield’s performance. Unless you have an interest in war movies, you ought to skip this one.
At this point, these kinds of movies feel more tiresome than anything else. I have seen enough great films depicting World War Two that another one simply doesn’t add anything significant. The best thing that I can say about Hacksaw Ridge is that it shines a light on Desmond Doss who was unknown to me before this film. Hacksaw Ridge is proof that Gibson has settled for low-hanging fruit.
A few months ago, I heard about this movie called Your Name about two teenagers, a boy and a girl, who swap bodies. This “body-swap” premise is nothing new. I have seen a number of movies where this is the inciting incident and they usually play out in a similar fashion. Your Name is different because it has thus far been a huge commercial success both in Japan and worldwide. I imagine this is why I was able to see the film at a large theater in Portland. It was the last showing of the night and my theater probably had about 20 people in it.
Don’t read this paragraph if you want to avoid spoiling Your Name. The film begins as you would expect it to. We watch each main character’s experience of waking up inside the other’s body and living each other’s life. The body-swap happens enough times that the characters can actually plan for when it will happen. When the swap stops occurring, the boy named Taki visits the home village of the girl, named Mitsuha and ends up reversing the course of events that ultimately leads up to a catastrophic meteor strike on Mitsuha’s hometown.
I don’t normally watch anime but I have seen a few that I enjoyed. This one is definitely closer to the enjoyable end of the spectrum. I liked Your Name because it really capitalizes on its solid premise for great effect. It begins with a comedic tone that persists throughout the movie even when the stakes are much higher later on. When a film can balance several different tones throughout its run time and not seem befuddled, that is usually a good sign for said film.
Another fantastic element of this film is its unique visual style. It’s clear that Your Name features hand drawn animation and a lot of effort went into editing and framing the various shots that comprise the film. Even if Your Name were a bad movie, you would still find it compelling due to its beautiful animation style. It was a treat to see this film on a large screen.
If you are a fan of anime, you should make seeing Your Name a high priority. The characters and story are fully realized, the animation style is beautiful and you will find yourself laughing and crying. Your Name satisfies every requirement you would look for in an anime film.
If you have any exposure at all to anime, then you will most likely see this film because it has been such a huge commercial success. I was surprised to discover that Your Name is the worldwide highest grossing anime film of all time. In truth, this does not really surprise me because I can’t think of many other anime films that have been released to a worldwide audience. If you know of any such films, let me know in a comment.
Your Name is making Anime history because it doesn’t have a lot of competition, but that doesn’t mean the film is any less entertaining. Your Name is a gift of a film that should be seen by people everywhere.
When I heard the basic idea for Colossal, it was enough to get me excited for the film. The idea is this: Anne Hathaway plays an alcoholic whose actions are copied by a giant monster in South Korea. When she gets drunk and loses control of her body movements, it leads to hundreds of people dying. Going into Colossal I was intrigued to see how the movie would such a unique premise.
Anne Hathaway stars in Colossal as Gloria, an alcoholic who is forced to move from New York City back to her hometown after her boyfriend kicks her out of his apartment. Gloria bumps into her old school friend Oscar, played by Jason Sudeikis, who gives her a job working at his bar. Big news hits that a giant monster keeps appearing randomly in Seoul, South Korea and Gloria discovers that the monster’s only appears whenever she sets foot in a playground. Gloria realizes that her actions have lead to many people dying. It turns out that Oscar also manifests as a giant robot when he goes into the playground. When Gloria sleeps with one of Oscar’s friends, he starts to abuse his power to control the giant robot to manipulate Gloria. This culminates in Oscar beating Gloria up and stomping around the playground while she watches. To stop Oscar, Gloria flies to South Korea while allows her to manifest as the monster at the playground in her hometown. She coops up Oscar and throws him into the distance, ending the giant robot’s reign of terror.
This movie succeeds on the strength of Anne Hathaway’s performance. While it’s hard to feel too sympathetic for Gloria, it’s undeniable that Hathaway is doing some superb acting. The same can be said for Jason Sudeikis who is doing his usual straight man routine. Colossal doesn’t completely suck because both Sudeikis and Hathaway are good at their jobs.
Watching Colossal, I felt that the movie was acceptable but not as entertaining as I was expecting. Usually I am good about tempering my expectations but this time was different. I was expecting to be blown away by this film based on some reviews I had read but I felt that the film was simply decent. I feel that Colossal could have used its premise to make for a a more entertaining film. I found myself bored watching Colossal because the stakes were not clear enough. I think the problem is that the film’s central conceit is so obviously unnatural that it becomes hard to take the movie seriously. Perhaps Colossal would have turned out better as a dark comedy instead of a drama.
I am inclined to recommend Colossal because it is an original film. It’s a film that goes against the grain of Hollywood and that is something worth championing by itself. Beyond originality, it’s hard to recommend anything about Colossal other than the performances. It’s a shame that Colossal is not a more well constructed film. We need movies like Colossal to be superb instead of just watchable. At least watching Colossal will give you some insight into what its like to be an alcoholic. The problem is not that Colossal is a bad movie. It’s that Colossal is not as good as it should be.
Get Out is an incredibly surprising film. It combines aspects of comedy, horror and science fiction into one powerful statement on race in the 21st century. If you have not yet seen Get Out I strongly encourage you to watch the film as soon as possible because it is one of those rare films that changes your perspective for life.
Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya as an African American man named Chris Washington who visits the family of his girlfriend Rose Armitage. Chris is concerned that his girlfriend has not yet told her parents that he is black. Once they arrive at Rose’s family home, strange things start happening. The family employs two african americans as caretakers and Rose’s mom hypnotizes Chris to make him quit smoking. Each member of the family is awkwardly focused on Chris’s skin color to the point that he feels uncomfortable but he stays because he is committed to his relationship with Rose. Eventually we discover that the Armitage family has a secret plan to sell Chris’s body to the highest bidder and surgically transfer another person’s brain into Chris’s body. It’s a stunning twist that leaves you utterly breathless because it completely changes how you view the rest of the movie. The remainder of the movie involves Chris as he attempts to escape the family’s clutches and avoid the unfortunate fate of so many other African Americans.
This film is written and directed by Jordan Peele who is well known as a member of the comedy duo Key and Peele. I am not familiar with his comedic work but judging by the quality of Get Out I can say that this man is enormously talented. My favorite thing about Get Out is how the film balances elements of so many different genres. This has the effect of making you unsure whether you should laugh, cry or cringe at the events taking place on screen. Where most movies struggle to utilize one tone, Get Out triumphs at integrating multiple tones into one film.
I will say that this film is fairly slow through the first act. While mysterious events kept me intrigued, there was simply not enough in terms of character work to keep me engaged in the story. It appears that Jordan Peele’s strength lies in comedy and plotting because his characters are not exactly the most interesting. The main thing that keeps you engaged in Get Out is the mystery of what will happen next. A slow start is pretty much the only complaint I have against Get Out. For the most part, this is a very compelling film, especially once it hits its stride in the third act.
The ending of this film is one for the ages, the plot of the story is well crafted and the subject matter is very much relevant to what’s going on today. It’s hard to find anything bad to say about this movie. It’s amazing that this movie exists and that it was released in February. It’s a huge move for Jordan Peele who seems to be branching out from comedy to filmmaking and it’s a movie that will reward multiple viewings. Can you tell that I liked this movie?
Go watch it. You will not be disappointed.
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Martin Scorsese’s Silence is beautiful to behold yet difficult to digest. Rather than look for meaning in the assurances of faith, Silence examines the absurdity and failure of priests to bring Catholicism to shogun-era Japan. At times the film is difficult to watch but it is undeniably a masterpiece from one of the most talented filmmakers of our time.
The plot centers on two Jesuit priest who journey from Portugal to Japan in the 17th century to locate another priest and spread Christianity. The priests travel to several small villages to facilitate the conversion of the locals to Christianity. Their task is complicated by government soldiers who terrorize the village and its residents for practicing Christianity yet the priests never back down from their mission because they truly believe that converting the inhabitants of rural Japanese fishing villages to Christianity is a worthy endeavor. The priest named Rodrigues (played by Andrew Garfield) is captured when a fisherman named Kichijiro betrays him by luring him into the hands of the soldiers. Rodrigues is then brought to Nagasaki where he “the Inquisitor” explains to him why Catholicism does not have a place in Japan. Rodrigues also meets with his old mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who encourages Rodrigues to give up his mission because he believes that it is a lost cause. Ferreira has assimilated into Japanes culture since he believes that continuing to convert the Japanese people to Catholicism will only result in more suffering for the Japanese and the Catholic priests. Eventually Rodriuges gives in to Ferreira’s request and commits apostasy by stepping on an image of Jesus.
In Silence nothing is automatically right or wrong. There are many characters with ideas of what is right and what is wrong, but the film itself never seems to formally recognize any ideas as being better than others. The only true thing about this film is that the world is complex and often there are no easy answers to questions about humanity. People believe that everyone should be Catholic but actually trying to convert people in a foreign culture to Catholicism when another religion already exists is a task fraught with difficulty. The priests in Silence are flawed by their belief that Christianity should exist in every part of the world.
In addition to its intellectual strength, Silence is also breathtaking at times and features fantastic cinematography. Its great that Scorsese’s latest films are so long yet entertaining. It’s as if Scorsese was so used to making films the old way that making films nowadays is like going from safety scissors to actual scissors. Scorsese continues to hit home runs every time he steps up to the plate.
Manchester by the Sea stars Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, a janitor who must become the guardian of his nephew when his brother dies of a heart attack. The film is written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan.
The film begins with Lee Chandler’s daily janitorial routine. Chandler comes across as quiet yet competent. However we also see Chandler’s dark side when he loses his temper with a customer and he gets into a fight at a bar. One day Lee learns that his brother Joe has died of a heart attack so Lee moves in with Joe’s teenage son Patrick.We learn through a flashback that Lee accidentally caused the deaths of his three children when he drunkenly forgot to place a screen in front of his fireplace. Lee and Patrick must figure out where Patrick will live following the death of Patrick’s father.
Manchester by the Sea is an easy watch due to the strength of its characterization. It’s the kind of film that makes you uncertain whether you should be laughing or crying while watching it. I’m always impressed by movies that can pull off this kind of tonal balance.
While Manchester by the Sea is clearly successful at what it attempts to do, I find myself questioning how much I should champion this film. The film is being marketed as an award-winning film and it looks the part. Manchester by the Sea is the type of film that fits so easily into an award ceremony. If it doesn’t win at least a few awards, then it will at least garner several nominations. For this reason I feel that I should avoid giving Manchester by the Sea more credit than it will most likely seem to possess during award season.
Manchester by the Sea is a great film with some serious emotional gravity. It will feel incredibly powerful while you watch it but it will disappear from your memory shortly after you leave the theater. The more I think about Manchester by the Sea, the more I want to conclude that the movie is fluff, a simplistic story that fits into an existing system that fails to present anything new or noteworthy. Manchester by the Sea is not a film that will challenge you or make you aware of something from a new perspective. Its film that knows exactly what it needs to do and does so in a workmanlike fashion, catering to your desires like a butler in a rich man’s house.
Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, is the story of an African American man named Chiron told in three parts. The three sections are called Little, Chiron and Black. These labels refer to the name that Chiron is known by during the section. Moonlight is a incredible feat of storytelling and structure. Its a rare film that presents many questions without ever attempting to answer those questions in a simplistic way. Moonlight uses a specific story to explore universal themes such as identity and how people are formed by experience.
The first section of Moonlight introduces the character of Chiron as a young child living in Miami. When Chiron is chased by bullies, he hides in an abandoned building and is found by a drug dealer named Juan who becomes a father figure for Chiron. In this section we see the beginning stages of Chiron’s development as a person. We see a budding relationship with another child named Kevin and abuse by Chiron’s mother. The second section of Moonlight is Chiron’s teenage years. Chiron is constantly harrassed by other kids in school and his mother’s addiction has only gotten worse. Chiron has his first sexual experience with Kevin on a beach but later Kevin is pressured into assaulting Chiron by a bully named Terrel. When Chiron retaliates against his bully, he is arrested.
The third section of Moonlight shows Chiron several years after being arrested. He works as a drug dealer in Atalanta and he goes by the nickname “black”. Chiron visits his mother and forgives her for the roughness of his childhood. Chiron also visits Kevin who now works at a a restaurant in Miami. Chrion reveals that Kevin is the only man to ever touch him which prompts another sexual encounter between the two men. The film ends with an image of young Chiron looking back towards the camera on the beach.
The story of Moonlight could easily occur in reality as it is incredibly personal. The film tends to focus on moments that are mundane but these moments are filled with meaning. You could easily watch Moonlight and think that most scenes are pointless but the truth is that every single detail is important. Moonlight is the kind of movie that you can’t help but think about for days after you watch it.
Moonlight is easily one of the most important movies of the year. It’s a film that shows the facts of a human life without making any assumptions or drawing any conclusions about what those facts mean. It teaches you that the world is an unfair place and often people have no control over their futures. Watch Moonlight to become see a compelling story and become a better human being.
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Blair Witch is the sequel to 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. It is amazing that the original Blair Witch Project hit theaters nearly 18 years ago. The reboot is directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett. These two also collaborated on films such as The Guest, You’re Next and V/H/S. Judging by their past work, it would appear that Wingard and Barrett are the perfect people to write and direct a rebooted blair witch film.
Blair Witch takes place many years after the events of The Blair Witch Project. Heather Donahue’s younger brother James plans to enter the Burkittsville woods with two friends and documentarian Lisa Arlington who hopes to make a film following James’s search. Two local residents accompany the search as well. It doesn’t take long before shit starts to hit the fan. The group inexplicably sleeps in until 2:00 PM and then finds stick figures hanging from the trees around the campsite. It only gets worse from here as more supernatural things interfere with the group’s search.
The original Blair Witch Project is credited as being one of the most crucial films in the history of horror cinema. It was the first film to utilize a found footage premise and it did so with an incredibly effective marketing campaign. The end result was a film that left viewers unsure whether it was real or not. The film achieved an stunning level or realism that encouraged viewers to believe that it was real “found footage” that was discovered in the Burkittsville woods. Any effort to reboot this film cannot have the same effect because of the rapid developments in technology over the past couple decades. Blair Witch understands this fact and smoothly incorporates present-day technology such as drones and webcams into its narrative. However one must suspend their disbelief to an extremely high level to accept the idea that this new Blair Witch is true found footage. The chances that this amount of footage would survive the events that occur are slim to none. The skills with which the film is shot and edited also helps diminish any “realistic” qualities.
Yet I assert that Blair Witch succeeds on both a technical level and with regards to entertainment. I was enthralled by every moment of this film. Perhaps I am predisposed to enjoy watching unsuspecting people meet a horrific downfall and the closer this downfall appears to reality, the more invested I am. Wingard treats this film as a longer version of a segment from V/H/S, where found footage is utilized throughout. Blair Witch starts innocently and the ending is where the real meat of the film resides. The only complain I can muster is that Blair Witch uses too many “jump scare” moments that are cheap and do an injustice to the film’s goal of realism. The original Blair Witch Project had no jump scares so you would think that the reboot would do the same. The tendency of my fellow audience members to react loudly to these jump scares exacerbated my hatred of them.
Aside from this small complaint, Blair Witch is a must-see film for horror fans.
Hell or High Water is written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by David Mackenzie. While I am unfamiliar with Mackenzie, I know that Sheridan wrote the script for Sicario which is one of the best films of last year. Once I knew that Sheridan had wrote the script for Hell or High Water, I rushed to the theater to see the film. That was the first time I had been to the theater in several months.
Hell or High Water stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as two brothers who rob banks to pay banks. Pine plays the quiet and intelligent brother while Foster is more of loose cannon. The brothers’ plan is to steal only a few thousand dollars during each robbery so that the FBI will not get involved. Jeff Bridges plays a nearly retired cop who decides to investigate robberies with his partner played Gil Birmingham. We spend significant amounts of time with both duos and the dynamic between both is quite entertaining. The brothers’ goal is to pay the debt on a reverse mortgage so that their mother’s home will not be foreclosed. This honorable intention justifies their illegal behavior in my mind and provides a commentary on the difficulty of surviving in the United States where debt slavery is a very real problem. I was definitely on board with the brothers’ goal.
One of my favorite things about Sheridan’s writing is the realistic quality of the dialogue. Everyone from Pine to the most ancillary character sound incredibly realistic. The most attention grabbing scenes in the film are not the heists but the interactions involving everyday people living in Texas. Truly this is a testament to Sheridan’s abilities as a writer. As a psychology and linguistics nerd, these scenes are by far my favorite in the film.
Hell or High Water does not contain an agenda. The film simply presents a realistic story and lets the audience draw their own conclusions. I find this kind of film so refreshing because it seems the majority of films in theaters these days are needlessly complicated. Hell or High Water is as entertaining as film gets for me. While I could nitpick certain elements that bothered me, I would much rather celebrate the movie for what it accomplishes than degrade it for minor personal annoyances. I would hope to share my appreciation for this film so that others can understand and share in my love for it.
Hell or High Water is an interesting second step for Sheridan. Sheridan has made a film with more local color that seems more personal than Sicario. With Hell or High Water, Sheridan has transitioned near seamlessly from one project to another.
The Nice Guys is the latest film from writer/director Shane Black. The film stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as detectives in 1977 Los Angeles searching for a girl who is involved in some shady dealings.
Shane Black is known for creating films such as Lethal Weapon and Iron Man 3. I had no real exposure to Black’s films prior to watching The Nice Guys.
I regret not seeing this movie in theaters because it is truly a fantastic film. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are both perfectly cast and there is a ton of humor in the film. I don’t usually laugh at movies but this film had so many moments that were simply hilarious. I was pleasantly surprised at just how funny this film was.
The Nice Guys also succeeds on a technical level. You just know while watching that Black and company made every effort to make this film as good as possible. This is most visible in the production design meant to replicate a 1977 Los Angeles setting. Every scene in the movie feels perfect and the plot slowly builds to an incredible climax.
This is the kind of movie that I hope to watch again because I know there will be details that I missed the first time around. From experience I know that if I feel willing to watch a movie twice, then that movie is something special.