‘Black Panther’ Review

Director: Ryan Coogler

Writers: Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker

Synopsis: T’Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one fans have been waiting for, and one that fans have been making a good uproar about. For the first time, there is a superhero movie – at least in the modern age of superhero movies – with a predominate black cast, and one that’s actually good and doesn’t rely on stereotypes. While the race element is something someone can talk about more clearly than I can, Black Panther is without a doubt something special and different than we have gotten before.

Black Panther starts off with a brief history of how the fictional country of Wakanda and the Black Panther came to be, and from there we jump to a brief scene in 1992 with a young King T’Chaka. However, we then jump to the present day and see T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), as he takes the throne in his home country with the people closest to him by his side. His mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), his youngest sister and head of the science/weapons division Shuri (Letitia Wright), the Dora Milaje general and friend Okoye (Danai Gurira) and his former lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).

However, T’Challa reign doesn’t go too smoothly as Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) comes back into the picture, along with some help from the mysterious Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). T’Challa must now decide what kind of king he wants to be, and stop threats from all around him.

Like I mentioned, Black Panther is something special and different. The movie doesn’t strive away from touching on the racial issue unlike other Marvel films. They usually touch on them and move on to the bombastic action scenes, which is fine for me, but Black Panther doesn’t shy away from at all. In fact, it doesn’t even try to hide them and hits them all on the head without sounding preachy or forcing it upon us. Everything touched on makes sense, and when you take a step back, you start to realize what the message is coming from a superhero film of all places.

There there’s Wakanda itself. The technologically advanced country is a sight to see, with technology that doesn’t yet exist, but also with African tribal touches everywhere you go. Speaking of that, there is a lot of African tribal touches throughout the movie that just make Black Panther more authentic to its roots and gives it the extra touch above other films, especially in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

When it comes to everything else about the movie, well, it’s still pretty damn good. The cast are all fantastic from top to bottom. Of course, we already saw Boseman as T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, but his character here really gives us a better sense at what to expect of him in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the other hand, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is arguably one of Marvel’s best villains to date. He reasoning is sound and most importantly, he’s well-written to the point that I wish there was more of him in the movie.

The other men fair well with Martin Freeman returning as Everett Ross in a bigger role than I thought he’d have. Get Out breakout Daniel Kaluuya has a small, but hopefully bigger part in the future, role as W’Kabi, T’Challa’s friend that takes an interesting turn. Andy Serkis’ Klaue returns in a hammed up approach that surprisingly works and is a ton of fun to watch. Finally, Winston Duke, who plays rival M’Baku is definitely one of the breakout stars here acting in a way that you wouldn’t believe he would at times.

But let’s talk about the women. The women in Black Panther are freaking badass! Danai Gurira as Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje, is a force to be reckoned with anytime there’s a fight. Letitia Wright’s Shuri brings a spark of energy and fun every time she’s onscreen, and Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia acts like a bit of a moral compass for T’Challa, but also brings up the concept of what would you do for your country versus what should be done. Finally, Angela Bassett just commands the scenes every time she’s on because, well, she’s Angela Bassett.

Now, the movie does have a few faults. It does fall into the Marvel final battle cliché of being a bit too CGI-heavy with the final fight between T’Challa and Killmonger. Also, while we get to see Wakanda and its interesting history, along with its traditions, I would have liked to see a little more of the actual city.

All in all, Black Panther is an important movie no matter which way you look at it. Not only is it a superhero movie with an all black cast, but one of Marvel’s best films to date. With well written characters, a story that isn’t all over the place, and a deep and personal message and theme, Black Panther is a movie you should go watch as soon as possible.

 

Black Panther

4.5 out of 5

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Review

Director: Rian Johnson

Writer: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis and Benicio Del Toro

Synopsis: Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysterious of the Force and secrets of the past.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

When The Force Awakens ended, everyone went crazy trying to figure out how the next movie was going to approach everything we just saw and was introduced. Enter director Rian Johnson and when that first trailer dropped everyone went crazy all over again after hearing Luke’s words of “it’s time for the Jedi to end.” Since then The Last Jedi has been on everyone highly-anticipated movies of the year. So now that it’s here, was the wait worth it? Is it too over-hyped? Both? Neither? Well, let’s find out.

The Last Jedi has three stories going on. The first is the story that ended The Force Awakens, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and is there to try and convince him to come back and help the Resistance, but to also help her find her place in everything and help her with her newfound abilities. The second follows Poe (Oscar Isaac), along with the Resistance Fleet fending off an attack by the First Order and butting heads with Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) and even Leia (Carrie Fisher) herself. Poe, finding out something dire, decides to send Finn (John Boyega) and a technician, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), to another planet to find someone that can help them. The final story is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) still struggling with the darkness inside him and finally trying to prove himself to Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

The Last Jedi is an interesting film. On one hand, it is a true Star Wars film that is filled with great visuals, great cinematography – here by Steve Yedlin – an amazing score by John Williams and great moments that the franchise is known for like epic battles and twists. On the other hand, the film feels a bit too messy for its own good, but in that messiness it does bring some surprises that is obviously causing some fans to be very divided. Yes, that’s vague but this is a spoiler free review.

What I’m okay with saying and giving away is The Last Jedi does have some pacing issues. You definitely feel that the movie’s length by the end of it all, but at least director and writer Rian Johnson is able to make it captivating that you don’t really care too much – at least at the end of the movie. The subplot with Finn and Rose going to a different planet and run into Benicio Del Toro’s DJ, feels a little off from the rest of the movie, and while I think I understand what Johnson was trying to do with that part of the film, that section could have been cut down a little.

Other big thing that The Last Jedi does is that it does take some risks – at least in terms of revelations – with its storytelling. However, those risks/revelations are the things that are diving fans, at last from what I’ve seen. Storylines and teases from The Force Awakens are brought up and played around with, even going as so far to give us some answers or, unfortunately, more questions. It’s these little things that pile up that keep The Last Jedi from being the awesome and great film we’d hope for, and instead being a messy Star Wars film that has awesome and great moments.

This isn’t me saying The Last Jedi is a bad film – you notice I never said that – but after watching The Last Jedi I felt a lot of conflict – like Kylo Ren – about my impression of the movie. I’ve seen it twice now, and while the second time I had some more fun with it, the flaws are there once you start to dig around and discuss the film. That said, the pretty great moments are there too, but that’s not enough for me.

All in all, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is definitely a film that Star Wars fans will argue about for a long time. Does it have everything a Star Wars film is suppose to have? Yes. It’s fun, action-packed and funny when need be. Does it extend the ideas and uses the storylines that were paved for it in The Force Awakens? Yes, but it also does something that is frustrating, and has made frustrated which I understand. However, at the same time, I see what Rian Johnson was trying to do, so I can’t be too upset over it.

Needless to say, if you’re a Star Wars fan, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is worth the watch, and, for the most part, you’ll have a great time watching. Visually, the film is great to look, and the cast is finally able to cut their teeth in more meaty material this go around. Finally, yes, like The Force Awakens, this draws a lot on past Star Wars movies – whether that’s good or bad is up to you.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

4 out of 5

Mini-Reviews – Justice League, Lady Bird, Coco & Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. I know I’ve been slacking on my movie reviews, so please forgive me for that, I have been watching movies but I haven’t had a real chance to sit down and write full reviews. So this is going to make up for it, with some of the big movies I’ve watched. Movies not included are Daddy’s Home 2, Roman J. Israel Esq., Murder on the Orient Express.

 

Been a while since I’ve done one of these, so please, bare with me. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Lady Bird

Director: Greta Gerwig

Writer: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Odeya Rush, Timothee Chalamet, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott and Tracy Letts.

Synopsis: In the early 2000s, an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old comes of age in Sacramento, California.

 

Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial effort, Lady Bird is a great coming-of-age story following Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who wants out of her town but is not financially able to go to a big college. It also doesn’t help that her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is working non-stop and thinks she should think more logically about college. During all of this, we follow Lady Bird, which is what she wants to be called, go through her final year at school, love and thinking what her future holds for her.

I had heard a lot about Lady Bird during its film festival run, and when I finally got the chance to see it, I can see why people really loved it. Gerwig’s writing was fantastical, nothing ever felt forced and Ronan is simply amazing as Lady Bird. The main thing for me about the movie is, despite the movie being set in 2002, it doesn’t really feel that way. Sure we have flip-phones and the whole, “the government is going to put trackers on us” mentally by one of the characters Lady Bird interacts with, and the news of attacks overseas by our government, but the time period isn’t really that important – at least from my point of view of watching.

The thing that makes Lady Bird work for me is the chemistry between Ronan and Metcalf. Any time they are on the screen together it makes the film pop, and it’s both fun and hard to watch as you see them argue and fight one minute and then suddenly have a heart-to-heart the next. It would be really hard to imagine if none of these ladies including Gerwig, are not nominated for the major award shows.

All in all, Lady Bird is a greatly acted film with top notch writing and humor that feels real. While I did feel it loses only a slightly bit of steam near the end, the cast and the script really make Lady Bird worth the while.

Lady Bird

4 out of 5

 

 

Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Joe Morton, Connie Nielsen, Amber Heard, J.K. Simmons, Diane Lane, Henry Cavill and Ciaran Hinds

Synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

 

Justice League has had a long and hard road to get to the big screen. From the scarped George Miller-directed movie, to the DCEU’s battle to get fans and critics to go all in for their movies, the movie has finally arrived and it’s just okay. If you didn’t know, Zack Snyder directed the movie at first, but had to step down for the reshoots because of the death of a loved, and Joss Whedon – who had done some script work – came in to take over.

To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of hopes for this. I still had the bad taste of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with me, but I was willing to really give Justice League a chance. Unfortunately, Justice League was a huge misstep for me. The CGI was really off in places – I’m looking at you Henry Cavill mustache removal!

Justice League has a rather simple plot; Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) gathers together the team of the Amazon, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the speedster Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), the loner Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and the cybernetically enhanced Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to stop the threat of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), an intergalactic threat that comes to Earth to find the Mother Boxes, cubes with massive power. It’s up to them to stop him and save the world.

The problem with Justice League is, besides some of the terrible CGI, is it doesn’t really take the time to get to know the new characters. We know Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman, but we get the cliff notes of Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg, which doesn’t help considering we’re suppose to care for these characters, and they’re the new big characters we’re going to follow. Miller’s Barry is too jokey; Stone’s Cyborg is a bit too stoic – although he does loosen up at the end – and Momoa’s Curry/Aquaman is a bit too “bro” for me, which is fine for a new approach, but I didn’t really get into it.

All in all, despite all that, yes, Justice League does have some fun and cool moments, but a lot of the negatives and drawbacks of the movie – some I didn’t even mention – really make it hard to enjoy the moments entirely. Justice League does take the DCEU into the right direction of more hopeful and fun, instead dark gritty. Hopefully, the DCEU continues down this route, otherwise the franchise is in a lot of trouble.

Justice League

2.5 out of 5

 

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes, Amanda Warren, Samara Weaving, Kerry Condon, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Clarke Peters, Sandy Martin, Zeljko Ivanek, Abbie Cornish, and Peter Dinklage

Synopsis: In this darkly comic drama, a mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder, when they fail to catch the culprit.

 

Martin McDonagh, who directed In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, is a director that I will also keep a look out for now. When I found out about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and the cast, it immediately jumped into my “Must Watch” list, and I’m glad I did, because this was a film that really stuck with me.

The film follows Mildred (Frances McDormand), who has recently lost her daughter in a brutal way, and after the police have seemed to give up on the case, she decides to buy three billboards that target the police for not doing their jobs. The billboards get the attention of the police, more specifically Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), and the townspeople who are heavily against them. The film then follows Mildred as she deals with everyone seemingly against her, and Dixon and Willoughby trying to finally figure out the case.

There is a lot more going on in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that I won’t even hint at here, mainly because this film really does lend itself on knowing the least amount of information possible to thoroughly enjoy it and really get into the world that this movie takes place in. I will say it’s a dark comedy, so prepare yourself for that, and if you seen McDonagh’s other films, then you’d know what to expect.

I will say Frances McDormand is great as always, but I’d argue that this movie belongs to Sam Rockwell. He’s absolutely fantastic in this, and dare I say, this is one of his best performances he’s ever done.

All in all, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a wonderfully entertaining dark comedy with great performances by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. Seriously do yourself a favor and try to avoid anything about the movie, and go watch it.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

4.5 out of 5

 

 

Coco

Director: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Writers: Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich

Voice Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Edward James Olmos and Benjamin Bratt

Synopsis: Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.

 

I am willing to admit that I had serious doubts about Coco. I knew that Pixar had been working on a Dia de los Muertos movie for a while now, but I was a huge fan of another Dia de los Muertos film called The Book of Life. However, Coco completely blew me away. The movie follows Miguel, who is banned from playing, listening or even thinking about music, but like all kids, he doesn’t follow his family’s rule. Miguel is inspired by a deceased musician from the town, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), and through magic, enters the Land of the Dead on The Day of the Dead to find de la Cruz and find his place in the world.

Along his journey there, he meets his deceased family and a con man named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal). But, Miguel finds out that he has to get back to the living world before he’s stuck in the Land in the Dead forever.

Like any Pixar movie, the movie has a great story, great characters and amazing visuals. The beautiful and bright colors of The Land of the Dead really pop and I kind of wish we could see more of it as a whole, and not just sections. I also liked that they really dug into the actual culture of everything, and it’s cool to see that represented in a movie like this.

More importantly, and the thing that will put any movie on my list of anything, this tugged on every emotional string that I had. I’ll admit, I was on the verge of tears A LOT. The characters actions and even some of the music, more specifically “Remember Me” started up the waterworks.

All in all, Coco is a great film with eye-popping visuals and an amazing soundtrack. I will admit, something in the final act was a little jarring, especially for a kids and Pixar movie but I guess it worked out at the end of it all.

Coco

4.5 out of 5

 

‘Geostorm’ Review

Director: Dean Devlin

Writers: Dean Devlin and Paul Guyot

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Zazie Beetz, Eugenio Derbez, Daniel Wu, Talitha Bateman, Ed Harris and Andy Garcia

Synopsis: When the network of satellites designed to control the global climate start to attack Earth, it’s a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide geostorm wipes out everything and everyone.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Natural disasters movies are probably, and arguably, the best escapism movies in Hollywood. There’s something about watching cities and monuments getting destroyed that we see every day or want to visit. But, let’s be honest, natural disaster movies have kind of lost their luster. There’s only so many times you can watch the Statue of Liberty get destroyed, or a massive wave destroying a city. Eventually, everything is going to get done, so you’re left with trying to do something different.

Off that note, Geostorm already had an uphill battle against the plethora of other natural disaster movies, so it decided to include all of them, and add the sci-fi element of a machine that can control the weather. Does it sound ridiculous? Of course it does! But we’re talking about people being able to control the weather with a machine. Oh, and it’s directed by Dean Devlin, who has produced all those disasters movies.

Geostorm is set in a world where after climate change has gotten so out of control, the world leaders finally band together to create what is dubbed “The Dutch Boy,” after the story of a boy who stops his town from flooding by putting his finger in a hole. The Dutch Boy is a series of satellites that control the weather from the International Space Station, the creator of the program is Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), but it taken away from him after a series of events and given to his younger brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), who then has to fire him. We skip forward a few years, and after dangerous malfunctions starts happening, killing thousands of people, Max finds Jake and sends him back to the station to figure out what’s going on.

Meanwhile, Max, who is having a secret relationship with a secret service agent played by Abbie Cornish, deals with the problems on Earth as much as he can, before finding out there is something bigger to the whole picture. Now, the two brothers have to put aside their different and stop whoever is using the Dutch Boy as a weapon, and save the world.

I didn’t want to dislike or hate Geostorm, unfortunately the movie doesn’t do itself any favors. Like I said, Geostorm had an uphill battle from the beginning, and it also didn’t help that the movie came out after real natural disasters that people are still recovering from. Moreover, the movie did end up doing a lot of reshoots to apparently fix a lot of issues (I can only imagine what those were).

That’s not to say Geostorm doesn’t have some good aspects to it. There are some dumb popcorn-movie entertaining moments, and some descent funny lines, but the movie doesn’t really have anything groundbreaking that we haven’t seen before. It’s a rather safe natural disaster movie which kind of defeats the purpose on the genre.

All in all, Geostorm is an uninspired natural disaster movie that never really capitalizes on its own “new” concept. The acting is borderline flat, with the destruction being a mix-match of things we’ve seen before, but more importantly, Geostorm is rather predictable with its twists, which take you out of the movie a bit. Like I mentioned, I didn’t want to dislike or hate Geostorm as much as I did, but the movie didn’t do itself any favors.

Geostorm

2.5 out of 5

‘Happy Death Day’ Review

Director: Christopher Landon

Writer: Scott Lobdell

Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Rachel Matthews, Jason Bayle, Laura Clifton and Rob Mello

Synopsis: A college student relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Slasher movies are a dime a dozen in the horror genre, however, what use to be the dominant subgenre in film has pretty much kept itself to VOD or Red Box rentals. That’s not to say the subgenre isn’t great anymore, but it’s not as good as it was back in the day – probably. That being said, you got to give props to anyone who has the gull to do a modern day slasher nowadays and give it a twist. That’s what the folks over at Blumhouse did, giving Happy Death Day the Groundhog Day treatment, and despite my early thoughts on the movie, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. However, it does misstep on a lot of areas.

The movie follows Tree (Jessica Rothe) – short of Theresa – on her birthday. She wakes up, hungover, in a dorm room that belongs to Carter (Israel Broussard), and as she leaves she comes across certain things; her father calling her, a weird guy checking her out, an activist trying to get her to sign a petition, sprinklers going off on a couple, a car alarm going off, a pledge off, an admirer, dealing with her sorority sisters and meeting with her married professor. Along with a few other things, it all comes to a head when a masked killer kills her – however, when she dies she wakes up back in Carter’s room and relives the day. Tree must then try to put the pieces together, and find out who has been trying to kill her. Lucky for her, she has an unlimited amount of lives.

Happy Death Day was not a movie was I really looking forward to, but I kept my reservation to myself and took the movie in like I do for every movie. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, but that’s not to say the movie was all that great. Happy Death Day has a pretty good concept, and I applaud writer Scott Lobdell and director Christopher Landon for fully embracing it and not making the movie too cliché. The movie does unfortunately carry some tropes with it, but the concept and the movie not trying to take itself too seriously, does help it out just a tad.

Given the concept, Jessica Rothe is left to carry the movie on her shoulders, and for the most part she carries pretty damn well. Rothe’s Tree does make bad decisions like expected, but she does bunker down to try and figure out what exactly is going on. Tree also isn’t the most likeable person either. In fact, none of the characters, with the exception of Carter and a random girl sitting outside the sorority, are terrible people and not likeable at all. It’s to be expected, but it is off putting for a while.

Although, I’m not one to complain about a movie’s rating, Happy Death Day’s rating of PG-13 doesn’t do it any favors. Which is odd, considering you can get away with a lot in PG-13 movies nowadays, and this movie could have benefited more with a hard PG-13 rating. Given the concept, I thought there would be some elaborate or even at least one creative kill, but the movie shows them off-screen, and even when they are shown, they’re very bloodless – unless you count the blood on the masked killer’s knife. I know there’s a lot of debate amongst horror fans about PG-13 and R-rated horror movies, and while I don’t need every horror movie to be rated-R, Happy Death Day could have benefited by pushing the rating, at least for one kill.

Another con I would point out is even though the movie has a brisk one hour and thirty-eight minute runtime, Happy Death Day loses some steam before the final act. However, the final act does tighten everything up. Additionally, there is one particular subplot that involves Tree that seems rather important, and hints at connecting to the overall story, but it’s never really fleshed out and feels rather weird when it’s bought up and stops the movie completely. Landon has mentioned in interviews that this would be bought up in a potential sequel, but it is rather glaring when you sit down and think about it after watching the movie.

All in all, Happy Death Day is rather entertaining, and Jessica Rothe carries the movie on her shoulders. However, Happy Death Day also has glaring and unfortunate missteps that make the movie okay as opposed to be potentially great.

Happy Death Day

3 out of 5

‘Blade Runner 2049’ Review

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writers: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James and Dave Bautista

Synopsis: A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The first, since Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel, Blade Runner came out in 1982 and was directed by Ridley Scott. The film, in many people’s eyes changed the way sci-fi films, and even regular films, were made. The film raised questions and with all the different versions of the film, made the audience fill in some gaps. With the sequel, it expands on a lot of points the first film brought up, while giving us an enthralling story, great characters, and beauty cinematography.

That being said, I want to note that this review is going to be pretty vague. Not because the movie is a sequel – although if haven’t seen Blade Runner by this point, will you? – but because I think the less you know about the movie the better.

Set thirty years after the events in the first film, Blade Runner 2049 follows new Blade Runner in LAPD detective “K” (Ryan Gosling), who hunts down the synthetic humans created as a work force called replicants. On his recent assignment, he comes across something that is not only surprising, but something that can change everything. This eventually puts him on track to find former Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who has been missing for thirty years. Unfortunately for K, this also puts him on new replicant creator Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who sends his employee Luv (Syliva Hoeks), to keep an eye on K.

Right from the opening scene, we know this story is going to be different on a lot of levels. Most of it comes from Gosling’s K. Again, I’m going to give you very little about the film, and even the characters because it’s pretty great to watch them evolve and react in front of you. Gosling does do a great job here, having K be a man of a very words when need be, and having a certain restraint for most of the film. On the other end, there’s Harrison Ford, who thankfully doesn’t even give an impression that he’s phoning it in. Although, I will let this slip, he’s not in the film as much as you think or as the ads would make you think as well.

The rest of the cast is a mixed bag, not in the usual way where there’s good or bad performances because the film is filled with great performances, but in terms not everyone has enough time to shine. Most of the characters that enter server their purpose like Lennie James’ Mister Cotton, Barkhad Abdi’s Doc Badger, Hiam Abbass’ Freysa and Dave Bautista’s Sapper, but it’s the other characters that you think would have a bigger amount screen time. Jared Leto’s Wallace, who could easily be the “villain” of the movie only has a handful of scenes, while Hoeks’ Luv does all the heavy lifting on the antagonist side of things. Mackenzie Davis pops in as Mariette, and has a scene that I’m curious how people will react too, and Ana de Armas plays Joi, which will undoubtedly make her a household name.

However, one of the best things – besides the mystery story – is the production design by Dennis Gassner and cinematography by Roger Deakins. If anything, the film is stunningly beautiful to look at it. The use of colors and sets are pause worthy so you take it all in. I don’t want to say this is Deakins best work – only because I haven’t seen all of it – but I don’t think anyone would argue with that statement.

Unfortunately, not everything about Blade Runner 2049 is great. I’m not one to complain about a film’s runtime, but Blade Runner 2049 does feel like a long film. That’s not to say the movie is boring, but there are a lot of shots that are long and maybe too drawn out for their own good, but the run time did way on me, which doesn’t happen often. If anything, that would be one of my complaints and cons for the film.

All in all, Blade Runner 2049 is a great film with amazing production design and, to no surprise, amazing cinematography by Roger Deakins. Ryan Gosling delivers on everything he given, and works well with the supporting cast of Harrison Ford and especially breakout star Ana de Armas. Take my word for it, the less you know about the film, the better the experience will be. Also, if you can, watch it in IMAX, or at least Dolby.

Blade Runner 2049

4 out of 5

‘It’ Review

Director: Andy Muschietti

Writers: Gary Dauberman, Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga

Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Nicholas Hamilton, Stephen Bogaert, Jackson Robert Scott and Bill Skarsgard

Synopsis: A group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based off the novel by Stephen King, at least the first half, Pennywise the Clown is back to make us afraid of clowns again. Of course, most of us know the two-part TV movie with Tim Curry playing Pennywise, but while that version may have scared us with some uneasy visuals and Curry’s performances, this new version of It is here to be a little more faithful to the original source material. and add the real horror that was written by Stephen King himself.

To be fair, I hadn’t watched the TV movie in a long time, and I ended up watching some clips online. While some of it sticks, for the most part I didn’t end up remembering half of the things in it. Seeing that – and that this film was going to be more faithful – my judgment and now broken bias was going to be left at home. Granted, the trailers proved this version of It was going to crack up the horror to eleven, and this was going to have a movie budget, against a early 90s TV movie budget. Either way, do yourself the favor, and try not to compare the two versions since they are very, very different, but more importantly, you’ll miss out on a great movie.

Set in Derry, Maine in 1989, people – most kids – have gone missing by the dozens. The film starts off by showing us the much promoted disappearance of Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott), the younger brother of Bill (Jaeden Lieberher). It is also were we are introduced to Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard) for the first time. We then jump forward a year, Bill holds on to hope that his younger brother is still alive, but we are now introduced to his closest friends; the always joking Richie (Finn Wolfhard), the germophobe Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stan (Wyatt Oleff). The three eventually become friends with the new kid, whose obsessed with Derry’s history, Ben (Ray Taylor), the home-schooled Mike (Chosen Jacobs), and Beverly (Sophia Lillis).

They forge a friendship and call themselves The Losers Club. However, before they can try to enjoy their summer, they deal with bullies, lead by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), but also have to face their fears when Pennywise puts all of them on his radar. It then becomes a race against time for The Losers Club to defeat “It” before one of them disappears. Because everyone floats down there.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m sure we all know someone that has seen the original It, or maybe even read the novel. Either way, Pennywise and The Losers Club have a following so this new version of It had a lot of eyes on it. Thankfully, it turned out great, because not only is It a great horror movie, it’s a great coming-of-age story with humor and heart to back it all up. That said, I applaud director Andy Muschietti and the writers in Gary Dauberman and Chase Palmer – Cary Fukunaga is also credited, since he was the original director and writer of the film, but dropped out due to creative difference – for being able to balance all the tones in the film and make it work for the film instead of making them work against it.

Next to the balancing act working, it’s the young cast that really makes It shine. Each of them having their moments to shine, and face their respected fears, but it’s the fact that we get to know them that makes us not only root for them, but also worry for them. Lieberher gets to shine the most as Bill, who is determined to find out what happened to Georgie and holding on faith that he’s still alive despite what people think. Lillis’ Beverly, personally, gets the more complicated and emotional arc as she seen as the town’s slut, but also the fact that she has to deal with her father, played by Stephen Bogaert, who makes uncomfortable advances toward her. Jeremy Ray Taylor’s Ben has probably one of the most realest arcs for a kid his age that involves Beverly.

Not everyone has the opportunity of being fleshed out unfortunately. Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley doesn’t really have too much going on other than being the Jewish kid who is about to have his bar mitzvah and wants to ignore everything. Finn Wolfhard’s Richie can sometimes come off as annoying and has a fear of clowns, but that fear doesn’t come up until after the group acknowledges that Pennywise exists. Jacobs’ Mike, obviously the only person of color, has his own problems especially with bully Henry Bowers. Finally, Jack Dylan Grazer does have his moments, but for me, his big moment comes near the end and has nothing to do with Pennywise.

However, the biggest drawn here is Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. Bill, the youngest of the Skarsgard family, will probably become a household name with his performance here. We don’t see a hell of a lot of Pennywise, but just enough to know when he pops up, you better be scared – or at least unnerved. His introduction scenes with Georgie is disturbing from the get go as we can see him salivating which just adds that creepy layer to Pennywise that was, arguably missing from the previous version. Yes, Tim Curry’s Pennywise was creepy, but he was creepy when the character had to be, Skarsgard’s version is always creepy.

All in all, It is like I noted earlier, not only a great horror movie, but a great coming-of-age film. The young cast is great, and the best part is they actually act like kids, so when they’re put into a fearful and dangerous situation we want them to make it through and we see can the genuine fear they have. Not only that, their chemistry is top notch, I can believe they’re friends and they have a bond, and when they face Pennywise, it is something special.

Whether you prefer the 90s It or this version of It, there is no denying that Stephen King’s story has touched everyone. Everyone has their fears, and the question becomes will you face them head-on yourself? Or have someone there to face them down with you? This version does lend itself to be horror especially considering this has a movie budget opposed to a TV movie budget – and R-rating which they take full advantage of. Whatever the case, the cast – including Skarsgard’s Pennywise – and their chemistry together make It not only a worthy adaptation of Stephen King’s stories, but a great film.

It

4.5 out of 5