Monday, June 27, 2016

Young Ones

Spoiler-free.

Young Ones is a genre mashup of western and science fiction. Think of Cowboys & Aliens. Then think of the exact opposite of that. That is this movie.

In the near future (ah, I love the near future -- a place of infinite possibilities in storytelling) the land is experiencing a severe drought. Farmland has turned to desert, and the farmers have left in search of water; but not Ernest (). Ernest believes that the water will return and all he needs to do is wait for it while taking care of his land, and his family: His rebellious daughter Mary () who is dating his neighbor's shady son Flem () without his consent, and his son Jerome () who he teaches everything he knows, and who follows eagerly in his footsteps.

Written and directed by .

As a sci-fi and as a western, this movie takes the subtle approach. On the western side it's unusual just because it's set in a modern time. Besides the desert, it looks more like sci-fi, but its themes are distinctly, classically western. The look is sci-fi, and even quite dystopian with people doing things like washing dishes with sand and always looking dusty because that's how rare water is. There's also some real-life leading edge technology on display, and some that seems only just out of our reach, like a robotic rigging system that allows the family's paralyzed mother to walk herself around like a puppet. But there are no aliens or anything of the like, so the sci-fi remains very grounded and realistic.

But mostly this film's style is independent. Even bordering on art house type stuff. There's very little exposition, no audience pandering, and large amounts of symbolism and telling the story through camerawork rather than only through the script. Instead the script devotes its spoken lines to sounding realistic. At the beginning we seem to have come across this family in the middle of their story, and at the end we leave them to continue on without us. Conversations develop naturally and have that classic indie feel. You have to dig in a little to glean character development from them, and they are rich and memorable. I loved the scenes between Ernest and Jerome especially.

The robotic mule is a 'Big Dog" built by Boston Dynamics.

In fact, I really liked Michael Shannon in this film. Before, I'd only seen him play bad guys and side characters, which was enjoyable enough, but I've always figured he'd really grab my attention someday, and today is that day. Ernest is established so resolutely, and it's immediately obvious that the film will never be able to explore all the sides of his character even if it tried. He strongly evokes characteristics of hardened, on-edge ranchers of the old west, who mow down villains without a second thought, but are also dedicated family men. The film's first act is his, and later when the film shifts focus (to Flem in the second act and finally Jerome in the third) the absence of the charisma he brought to the screen was noticeable. Not to say the rest wasn't good; I just mean to point out that he was especially dynamic.

Kodi Smit-McPhee's performance as Jerome is second on the impressive list -- which is impressive in itself since Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning are also in the cast. Jerome is who the story is really about in a fitting coming of age plot line, and it was really neat to watch him develop from the kid who just follows his father, to a young man who takes charge on his own. By the end he has developed his own uniquely commanding presence.

Nicholas Hoult was interesting, playing a bad guy for an odd change. He was a good choice for the part because he plays bad well, but also I was influenced by all the distinctly good and innocent characters he's played, which created a neat conflict as I tried to figure out the character. Elle Fanning I think did a good job. Her character really annoyed me, but I think she was supposed to. So she was basically in the same boat as Hoult, but it didn't work as well for the movie.

"In a future without water vengeance will rain." Now that's a tagline. Too bad the film's title isn't so good.

Young Ones has mixed reviews from critics, but one thing everyone agrees on is that it's visually spectacular. The location in South Africa was beautiful and the practical effects helped out, but what I loved most was the camera work. Not just the framing of a shot to encompass the beauty of what was there, but the movement too. The camera was very often in motion -- panning through wide shots or utilizing extreme zooming to create several shots in one -- and that motion drove the film forward; keeping the plot from sinking into monotone. It also added interest to the film's artistic side, creating symbolism or deepening the story and performances. Imagery was the biggest impression this film left on me.

It is arguable that this film lacks in plot and character development. At first I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. I certainly wanted to see more character, plus I didn't "get" a few details, and thought that I missed some of the symbolism that would have gave the movie more meaning. But the longer I thought about it, the more I warmed to it. I felt a lot of meaning attached to the story, just not in an overt way. The plot happens and doesn't dictate or pander or explain itself. It was simple, but it compelled me; at times it was staggeringly bold. And characters, if at all underdeveloped, were probably done that way on purpose. It makes us work to understand them which I think is fitting.

There's room for personal translation.

When this movie ended, I sat for a while thinking, and eventually figured that I'd have to watch it again just to understand it well enough to review it. But I re and replayed it in my head as I remembered it and finally came to my above conclusions. Now I want to see it again to understand and appreciate it even more. Because, unlike the film's farmers whose wells have long run dry, the deeper you dig into this age-old tale woven neatly into a futuristic setting, the less dirt you will find.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Boy

On this blog, I've always claimed that I don't like horror movies, but so far, the only ones I've reviewed I've given good scores to, with a disclaimer that they are an exception to the rule. Well, today I'm reviewing a horror movie that requires no such disclaimer.

Yep, I watched a horror movie featuring a creepy doll. Do I regret it? Well...

In The Boy, Greta (), an American woman moves to a rich mansion in the English countryside to be a temporary nanny to the child of a couple looking to go on holiday. Things get very creepy very fast when Greta meets the child -- Brahms -- and discovers that he is not a child at all, but a child-sized doll. The parents treat him as if he were a child though, and expect Greta to as well. The charming grocery delivery man Malcolm () explains to her that many years ago the real Brahms was killed in a fire, and soon after the doll took his place. Strange and creepy though it is, Greta decides that the situation is harmless enough, and the pay is good, so she settles down for a couple months of paid down time all alone in a giant old house. But Brahms has a list of rules -- of things that must be done every day -- and he doesn't take kindly to neglect.

I'll go ahead and mention right now that this is a movie that I never would have watched on my own volition. Credit goes to my little brother who saw it in theaters and... wanted me to see it. And while I'd never expect to enjoy a film like this as much as he does, The Boy was interesting in a few big and unexpected ways, so I'm glad I watched it. Even after seeing the trailer, which I expected would ruin the experience at least a little, the movie impressed me with the way it handled its mystery, and was actually enhanced by the trailer if anything.

Effective fear; not effective storytelling.
However, this is exactly the kind of horror movie that is not my kind of horror movie, and for the most part while watching it, I didn't enjoy myself. I understand the idea that being scared produces a fun thrill, and I actually have experienced and enjoyed that kind of entertainment, but for me, the thrill of fear can never replace the thrill and enjoyment that comes from regular entertaining and exciting storytelling. This movie is very consistently scary, but is not consistently entertaining. The scary aspect cannot stand alone. There are notable moments where real interest and excitement -- mostly in places where reveals were being made -- and in those moments I did enjoy the film, but they were too far and few between. Mostly the film tries to get by on stagnate fear and suspense, perpetuated by too-long close-up shots of the doll's face.


Lauren Cohan as the leading lady is nothing special. The character is smarter than perhaps she might have been which is good, but doesn't really have any noteworthy qualities. She's there to have to plot happen to her, and that is all that she does. Rupert Evans is only really noteworthy because he's Rupert Evans, and maybe I could say this for Cohan if I'd seen her in anything before like I have him, but he really didn't get to do anything. His character was there for a purpose as well -- mainly for exposition -- and besides that he (and her) were left alone too much. There was no meat to the two characters, and nothing for them to overcome. I suppose that's par for the course for cheaper horror flicks though isn't it? The parents served their purpose in a way that didn't leave them lacking, but they were smaller characters in the first place.

The plot is the first and last thing this film as going for it. I would have told it differently -- paced it differently, faster, and added more to the final act (though I can't figure out how or what), but the story on a basic level is interesting and worth the watch. If you like that kind of thing, of course, but then you can't know what exactly "that kind of thing" is until you've seen it. I approved of the direction taken, but thought ultimately that the presentation fell short of anything compelling. And in the end it left a few holes, and very little satisfaction. I realize that's a horror movie's mantra, but in a lot of ways, The Boy was neither your typical horror film, nor your typical boy.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Payback

In this modern noir-style revenge film, Mel Gibson wants his 70,000 dollars back, and exacts justice against every villain whose path he crosses in his pursuit of it. Well -- actually it's 70,000 that he stole, but it was from the Chinese mob, so it's okay. In fact, that's exactly the sort of thing that I love about this movie, and this genre in general; there is no time wasted pondering on what is or isn't morally acceptable. It's just a lot of smart and entertaining stuff going down in various very cool ways.

Gibson is Porter, an anti-hero, but the film neither cares nor makes any effort to point the fact out. (The movie's tagline does, however, but that's a different matter.) After he is double crossed by his partner in crime and his wife, he sets out to put his life back in order -- and a lot of other people's lives out of order. Joined by a pretty call girl with whom he has a past () and coming up against a boatload of bad guys with bigish names and recognizable faces (, , and to mention a few).

Written and Directed by .

There are two things that make this movie really memorable. The first -- my favorite and the most obvious -- is the style. The film casually and confidently throws back to 40's noir films in all the classic ways. There's a jaded and sharply worded narration from Porter. Classic 40's tunes play ironically in the background to great effect. Suits, fedoras and revolvers are popular amongst characters. And the film is almost a complete monotone of dull blue. My only regret is that they weren't bold enough to go for the full black and white.

But secondly, and more importantly, the plot features a near-constant stream of those noir action moments that are tricky to define because they are so broad, but are instantly recognizable when it happens. Those moments that make you laugh because they are so smart and unusual in content, yet executed so coolly and with so little pomp and circumstance that it makes it all the more awesome for the lack of exertion. If you appreciate that kind of thing, you'll know exactly what I mean. And this movie exists to make them happen.

So really the noir element is, all around, this film's best feature.

Performances are good and serve the plot instead of vice versa. Gibson makes a good lead, but I wished a few times that he'd been more consistently cool. Every so often a little bit of Conspiracy Theory comes through. Not a bad thing in itself, but less than welcome in a pic like this one. Bello was pretty neutral. My favorites were the villains, who really seemed to be enjoying themselves in their villainy.

The film earns it's R-rating, but not excessively so, and is appropriate for the style. Mostly it relishes its violence, which is sometimes cringe-worthy. Also, it is based (probably loosely) on a book (The Hunter by Richard Stark/) and you can tell it in the plotting. While most films stretch their plots to fit a movie's run time, this one feels ever-so-slightly trimmed to fit. That's not meant to be a totally negative observation though. While I imagine that the book fleshes out the plot more, there's no real noticeable lack of anything in the film. At any rate, I'd much prefer to have to work at understanding a plot as it breezes coolly by, then have it attempt to spoon-feed me information. This one leans pleasingly to the former side.

It's very appropriate that most of the stills from it are B&W.

I have a bias toward this type of genre, so it was a no-brainer pick to watch for me. Still I was impressed with it -- with how effortlessly it was able to capture that element of noir that I'm partial to but have yet to be able to satisfactorily define. I doubt everyone would feel the same as I do, but I also am fairly confident that if you wouldn't feel the same, you would never bother to turn on Payback in the first place.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Deadpool

Yep, I watched it.

Off VidAngel, of course. And I didn't really want to, but my brother did, so I kept him company, figuring that at least it would give a little more credence to my already-expressed low opinion of this film.

I'm very glad I saw it; now that I know how dumb it is, I can forget all about it. And it only cost me 2 dollars! (I am not sponsored by VidAngel, but dang, I could be!)

When the trailers came out, and the film released in theaters, this movie's existence made me mad. And sad. At first I thought it was a purely selfish reaction; that because I wouldn't allow myself to watch a film with content like that (but would have been very interested otherwise) I was annoyed that they didn't cater more to my preference. And while that is a little true -- obviously I'd wish all movies to be exactly my kind of movie -- I slowly realized, and have now confirmed the bigger truth behind the matter.

The truth is that I have never predicted a movie with such pinpoint accuracy as I did in February's Upcoming Movie post. Now I have seen my success.

Deadpool made me angry from the very beginning by exploiting its content. It seemed to exist only to be inappropriate. I didn't think that a movie like that could possibly be faithful to a comic book, so I did the only thing that could settle the matter for me, and started reading Deadpool comics. I've been reading them since before the film released, so I've got through a decent amount of them, and therefore had established an understanding of Mr. Pool's character all on my own before ever seeing this film. And I'm really glad I did. Not just because the comics are very entertaining and commonly hilarious (which they are) but because I now feel qualified to hate this film's rendition of the character to my heart's content (which I do).

Don't worry buddy -- after this I love and appreciate the comic character even more!

I'm not sure yet if I want to make direct comparisons between the comics and the film, but let's start out with a very broad statement on the subject: the only way the film could be less faithful to the comics is by changing its lead's name to Captain Mossbeard and having his superpower be an uncanny ability to completely avoid all injury with no effort at all. Okay, maybe not quite; comic Pool does have a penchant for babes (which never goes anywhere) and swearing (which always comes out like "@$&*$," even at a PG-13 level) and violence (which is directed way more towards him than his victims) and wacky jokes (which are original, funny, and comparatively quite clean). But in this movie's eyes, that's all there is to him. (I guess I did want to do some direct comparing.) And while I'm on the subject, the scene with the pizza delivery guy was pulled right out of the comics. Just sayin' -- that why it was cool. If only they'd done that for the rest of the movie.

Now on to the film. We set the VidAngel filters so that the film was basically rated R for violence (if we cut that out there wouldn't be anything left to watch), and PG for everything else. Oh, we left the S-words in -- but I soon regretted that. And you know, I don't mind sitting through language if the movie is worth it, but I didn't think this one would be worth one single F-bomb, and it turns out I was right. Watching this film was... an interesting experience. With all the sex, nudity, language and crude humor out of the way, all that was left to notice was the story that was under it all.

At heart, Deadpool is a romance. One of the most typical and distracted romances I've ever seen.

This is my overall impression of the movie: Dude falls in love with woman. Contracts cancer. Pushes woman away. Gets a cure which messes up his good looks. Tries to get his good looks and his woman back. On this base level, it's just drivel. Minus the good looks bit it's nothing more than a Hallmark movie -- and even then it's typical. But it doesn't matter that the basic plot is what lonely women paint their nails over on lazy Saturday afternoons, right? Because it's just a platform for everything else; a blank canvas to splash blood and gore on.

I guess everything that filled up the run time in between the plot was meant to distract so well that no one would ever notice. Extremely epic and violent superhero battles! Endearing romance! A non-stop onslaught of the most brilliant comedy you will ever see because you will die of laughter after you see it! Plus that one thing that's so unique to Deadpool that makes everyone love him; breaking the fourth wall! At this point who remembers that plot anyway? The movie's originality and brilliance is in those things, right?

Short answer: No. Long answer...

Noooooooooo. Let's start with an easy one; those fourth wall breaks -- one of my favorite things about Deadpool. (Besides the yellow and white thought bubbles that he has full conversations with, his random obscure references, and the plot twists that is.) They were made super easy by having the movie be narrated by Deadpool. So he'll just look at the camera while doing it every once in a while. I know. Riveting stuff. It was better when he did it more casually, like acknowledging the existence of Ryan Reynolds (even though he is Ryan Reynolds!), but the worst was the fourth wall within a fourth wall bit. "That's like, sixteen walls!" Um, no, it isn't. It's still just one. Apparently the movie's writers don't know what a fourth wall is. Or how to break one without ripping off Ferris Bueller.


"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it." -- not Deadpool.

On to the comedy. This will be quick because practically half of the punchlines were muted. Of what was left, most of the jokes didn't make sense (sixteen walls) or were just too immature to be funny. I counted about four moments total that I considered funny. Two of them were related to Megasonic Teenage Warhead, and one was the Hugh Jackman mask.

The romance was too closely connected with the plot to be any good. It was so typical and cliched it was ridiculous! I'm wracking my brain for one thing that was even slightly original and the only thing I can come up with is that the romance was between a prostitute and a mercenary. Even that sounds trite when I say it out loud.

Acting wasn't terrible. This kind of movie doesn't need it to be exceptional so it worked, but there was nothing noteworthy. I'd heard that people were impressed by Reynolds' performance, but it's really only good in comparison with Green Lantern, which is arguably the worst thing he's ever done, and also arguably the worst thing anyone has ever done. In comparison with his endless stream of dumb rom-coms, it was par for the course except with a hardcore haircut, and then uglifying prosthetics -- wait, forget that one... Just Friends. Personally, I was much more impressed with him in Safe House, and when he steers clear of any kind of comedy altogether.

Certainly not the definitive Deadpool.

Now the biggest disappointment: the action. And this was the one thing that I was expecting to actually be able to enjoy, but man, it was all pretty pathetic. And that really surprised me, especially considering that the action was completely unedited for my viewing. There were the parts that were R-rated, mainly on the bridge, totally only there to be R-rated, and nothing special besides having extra gore and unrealistically sized bullet holes. And then there was the stuff that was the action; fighting, running, spinning jumps, dodging bullets and mowing down the faceless extras. And guys, it is with a shaking head that I write this: That stuff was boring. I kid not. I exaggerate not. It was completely lifeless. I guess that's what I get for expecting DisneyMarvel-quality action out of a FoxMarvel movie, but there were no cool stunts, and almost no choreography at all let alone good choreography. And everything looked very cheap. They spent their whole budget on strippers I guess.

One more thing to rant about and then I'll wrap up. The ending. The ending is where all the terrible elements previously mentioned come together and really let loose with their cheap boring terribleness, but it also reminded me of how no effort was put into the plot at all. The romance side of it was a Hallmark movie, but the action side? Nonexistent. I was honestly expecting a neat plot twist wherein Deadpool actually had a plan and saves the day is classic Deadpool fashion, but nothing happened! He saves his girl from falling off the cliff by throwing her off the cliff, and then kills the bad guy is a completely unsurprising move. And that's it. Someone flips the channel back to Hallmark where the plot's drama is resolved out of nothing, there's some kissing, and then you just kinda sit there wondering what the takeaway is supposed to be.

I need hardly tell you that in this film, there is not positive and/or moral takeaway -- of any kind. You may be interested to know, however, that in the comics, there often is, because in the comics, though Deadpool kills people (bad guys) he also always does something noble and heroic too. So there's a balance. Here; none.

Bite me.

And please, riddle me this: Why, when your superhero can get shot an unlimited amount of times and still be fine, would you still think it necessary to have him fight through raining bullets from multiple gunmen and come out miraculously unscathed? WHY?? Why did that happen in an R-rated DEADPOOL movie? What excuse could possibly be given? Did they forget who their main character was? How could they overlook such a shining opportunity to riddle Deadpool with bullet holes? It actually makes me mad how many opportunities for quality this film tossed away, like an ignorant kid who eats the rat-poison cherry off the top of a milkshake, and refuses to even taste the rest.

Of all the stupid things this film does, my favorite was how they couldn't think of an extremely graphic way to kill the alien from Galaxy Quest, so they just had Deadpool tell us to look away. And that basically sums up the problem with this movie; they couldn't be bothered to be original, so they just covered it all up with cheap cop-out distractions. And if any superhero deserves originality, it's Deadpool.

I detest this movie because the goal of it was to make a shocking movie, not a quality one. I hate it on a personal level because I would have loved to see a good, faithful, and original Deadpool flick, but it also offends me as a movie lover, and as someone who understands -- at least a little bit -- what a good movie is. Because that is the last thing this cinematic trash is. I can thank it for one thing: being so pathetically terrible that it drove me to the comics, where the true Merc with a Mouth thrives.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Upcoming Movie Roundup - June

Last month, Captain America: Civil War hit and I saw it opening night... and was one of very few people who didn't absolutely adore it. In fact it left a very bad first impression on me -- which has toned down a little since and I'm looking forward to hopefully being able to ignore those things and focus solely on what I liked the second time round. But that opportunity has yet to come. Much like the opportunity to see Love and Friendship and X-Men: Apocalypse, both of which I still want to see, in spite of middling reviews for the latter. Unfortunately, extra time for theater trips is not readily available to me currently.

The month of June is looking very fine with three or four releases that if I don't get to the theater to see will still be watching at some point all the same. What movies look good to you this month?


Me Before You
Jun 3rd; PG-13
This romance's large British cast led me to read the book, and for the first time in my life reading a book before the movie came out didn't make me more interested in seeing the movie. I didn't love the story, and though it was well-written, sometimes funny, and very memorable, I don't care to see the story play out on the screen. However, I am still slightly interested, because the cast still is what it is. Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke in the lead, with supporting favorites like Jenna Coleman, Charles Dance, Janet McTeer, and Brendan Coyle. (I am disappointed that the actor playing Nathan is from Australia, not New Zealand though.) And there is an element of plain and simple curiosity to know how well it was adapted. So I may watch it someday, but not anytime soon.




Now You See Me 2
Jun 10th; PG-13
Haha! "We thought" (and hoped) "they were gone forever, but now they're back!" Minus Isla Fischer, but hey, that actually a good thing. If it weren't for me having sat though the original movie I wouldn't even be mentioning this one. I'm really surprised it even exists. Plenty of people may have enjoyed Now You See Me more than I did, but did anyone really enjoy it enough to warrant a sequel? This one certainly doesn't look one bit better then the first, in spite of having "cooler" tricks. It's all just movie magic anyway, so really, what's the point?




Warcraft
Jun 10th; PG-13
I'm not a gamer and have never played any Warcraft games. My brother tried to make me play Hearthstone once, but I was confused and bored within seconds. But, I want to see this move. No, it doesn't look like a great movie, but something about the over-the-top Lord of the Rings impression it evokes really really appeals to me. I like that motion-capture was used for the Orcs, and the CGI looks like real effort was put into it, which is a good sign. And I like the cast. Video game movies have never been good before, but with a movie like this it doesn't necessarily have to be good to be enjoyable. Early reviews are not boding well for the film's quality, but for the enjoyment part, I'm pretty determined to see for myself.




Finding Dory
Jun 17th; PG
For these upcoming movie posts, I make a list of all the movie I might want to talk about and then go watch the trailers. I got to this one and said a sarcastic and disappointed "Oh, great." Which says a lot about what I think about this movie already. I still haven't watched it. I don't want to. I don't want this movie to exist and add on to one of my childhood favorites -- even it if it turns out decently -- which I kinda doubt it will. Okay watching it now.... ..... ....Help me. Well... there was one good joke. Maybe I watched the wrong trailer, but I sure as heck aint gonna risk watching another. I'm done. Nope nope nope nope nope.




Independence Day: Resurgence
Jun 24th; No Rating yet
Man, this trailer gets me with the nostalgia every time during the speech from the first movie. This could very easily not be a worthy successor to the original, but for me the original wasn't too great for it to not be worth a good shot. Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman are back and Liam Hemsworth has been added, and there's nothing particular in the trailer that makes me thin it'll be really good, but there's nothing that makes think it'll be bad either. It's a good trailer that doesn't give away a whole lot and doesn't have to since everyone can figure out what it'll be about pretty much on their own. And I'm definitely interested to see this movie.




Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Jun 24th; PG-13
Now, this. This is my movie. This is my pick for June. If I could only watch one movie in the whole month it would be this one. If I could talk about only one film in this post it would be this one. I could tell you about how it's set in New Zealand; how the trailer makes it feel like a Wes Anderson comedy; how it has raving reviews and a perfect score on RT; or more personally, how it reminds me of another summer flick from three years ago that inspired this whole post series in the first place -- The Way, Way Back. But never mind all that. Just watch this trailer and see for yourself.




Have a lovely June everyone!