spoilers

Okja Review

When a cold front hit Florida, no one knew how to respond. How did I survive the arctic-level weather conditions? With heated blankets, chili, and a movie marathon, of course! Near the top of my list was the Netflix original movie Okja.

The world needs food and the genetically modified super-pigs are the solution. In an attempt to cover up the horrific conditions these animals live in, the international Mirando Corporation sends several of the cutest pigs to be raised by farmers across the globe so in ten years’ time they can crown one as the best super-pig. What the heartless organization didn’t account for was one South Korean super-pig’s best friend Mija. When the time comes to collect Okja, Mija has other ideas.

I will warn you, this review contains spoilers. Since the writing of this movie stuck with me more than any technical or performance aspect, this post will be mainly discussing the story itself. If you’d like to check it out before reading, it is available on Netflix.

 

I was drawn to this movie by the sheer cuteness of Okja and Mija. Watching the trailers and stills of the movie, I couldn’t help but ooh and ahh. I suspected there would be powerful social commentary, but that it would be subtle compared to the main story about Mija saving Okja.

Boy was I wrong. If you aren’t in the mood for a heavy movie, maybe this isn’t the one for you. While I agree with every point this movie is making about the horrors of the meat industry and the cruelty with which these animals are treated, I think they could have been made in a much more subdued manner. It’s a powerful message that deserves to be told but this film, pardon the expression, beats a dead horse.

I will give it props for its premise. Using a fake animal that’s actually genetically modified is a great way of getting the message across without it being too scarring for a younger audience. The super-piggies are adorable (well, the ones chosen for the competition are at least), which makes them easy to love. Their intelligence and caring nature mimics that of dogs or actual pigs so they hit home as a pet we all know and love, even if they are fictional.

Okja’s special relationship with Mija was one that I wish we had gotten more of. The beginning of the movie really shows their dependence on each other. Early on, their family-like bond is disrupted by Mirando and then we don’t get to see them together until the end. It’s heart-wrenching yet also boring. So much of the movie was filled with the Animal Liberation Front, a group that really exhausts its message until you can’t really take it seriously anymore. Rather than listen to Paul Dano’s character explain the horrors of Okja’s dire situation, I would have rather actually watched Mija come to these conclusions and speak on them herself.

With all that being said, this movie still does its job. I actually had to put my chili down because I had the “I should be vegetarian; this is disgusting” struggle that I deal with far too often. It may be brutally preachy in its message, but you still feel for Okja and Mija and want to see the Mirando Corporation crumble.

Overall, I was more exhausted watching this movie than I was entertained. It got its message across but at the cost of the reason we turned on the movie in the first place: Mija and Okja. It wasn’t a bad movie by any means, but I could skip re-watching this one.

What did you think of Okja? Were you moved by it? Did you find it to be over-the-top or do you think that melodrama was necessary? As always, if you have any recommendations, let me know. See you soon!

Banner from tv.bt.com.

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The Post Review

Looking at the current box office line up, there are no movies out as powerful socio-political commentary as The Post. This biographic piece about The Washington Post and the value of the First Amendment has popped up at a crucial time in history. The newest Spielberg film may seem like a movie about old news, but it will leave you reflecting on the state of our press and government today.

The New York Times reported on the infamous Pentagon Papers, a government study detailing the true nature of the Vietnam War. Much to the surprise of Americans, the war was a failure. To quiet the scandal, the Nixon administration tried to silence the New York Times by taking them to the Supreme Court. When The Washington Post, under the control of the first female newspaper publisher Katharine Graham, received the rest of the study, she had a decision to make. She could risk the losing the paper, her wealth, and her freedom entirely or she could turn a blind eye to the government’s abuse of power and and not publish the article. She chose to publish.

Before discussing the cultural significance of this movie, I’d first like to talk about the artistic merits of the film itself. Being a Spielberg production, you can expect great quality filmmaking and writing all round. However, what I didn’t realize until the end of the movie was that he actually directed the movie. His high attention to detail and ability to guide your focus to the most crucial part of the scene was everywhere. His masterful way of crafting stories and molding scenes to tell a clear and complex tale was yet again at play in The Post.

 

Not only does this movie have a legend for a director, it also has some of the most well renowned actors of all time. When Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg all make a movie, you just know it will be incredible.

I don’t think its possible for Meryl Streep to give anything less than a stellar performance. There was an immense amount of nuance in her portrayal of Katharine Graham. Graham was thrown into the family business after the suicide of her husband. While her circumstances weren’t revealed in the very beginning, her portrayal of a stressed and uncertain woman showed an internal struggle beyond regular business. She has a slight shake in her hand whenever she spoke publicly, or tried to. There was a quiver in her voice whenever she felt the spotlight was on her. I almost cheered when she finally found her confidence and stood up for the principles her father laid in the paper. Streep actually placed me in the life of a woman I never even knew existed.

Tom Hanks acted in a role perfectly designed for him, as usual. There’s no denying the similarities in all of Hanks’ characters in his recent films. While this role fit the cookie cutter, Tom took his performance to another level. Having the honor of playing one of America’s most respected journalists, Ben Bradlee, seems to have lit a fire in Hanks. His performance was full of passion for everything his character stood for and fought to protect. I’ve always loved Tom Hanks and this film is now another reason why.

Josh Singer and Elizabeth Hannah met the perfect balance between storytelling and commentary when writing this script. The story of The Washington Post under Katharine Graham is enough to inspire reflection. Singer and Hannah really drove it home by showing reactions from the White House itself. Recordings, quotes, and historical context show that some administrations will protect themselves before the citizens they’re sworn to protect. You can’t help but wonder; if history were to repeat itself today, would we have a Graham to oppose them?

Choosing the perspective of The Washington Post over The New York Times for this movie may seem puzzling at first, but it was the right choice for several reasons. We got a sneak peak at what life was like for women in positions of management in the news industry. Graham was the first of her kind, and not necessarily by choice. It was a role she had to grow into and seeing that transformation was liberating both as a viewer and  a woman.

We see the business side of a paper that was struggling financially. As the journalists desperately struggled to find stories, the publishers rubbed elbows with high officials and bankers to protect the jobs of the writers and the American public from monopolized news sources. Choosing to publish one story could have resulted in losing close friendships, mass unemployment, and having freedoms revoked entirely. It’s was high-stress field riddled with risks from the bottom of the working ladder to the top.

Most importantly, we see first hand how important the resulting Supreme Court case was. That trial didn’t just affect the New York Times. It affected every single American citizen. Our first amendment right to speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition is in place to protect the citizens of the United States. When the government tries to take that away from us, do we let fear and greed stand in our way? The Post stood with The New York Times and inspired other papers to be bold and protect their duty as government watchdogs.

In a day and age where news is a business and the public has little to no faith in the journalistic integrity of any media outlet, this movie is refreshing. It reminds us of the value of skepticism and serves as a reminder of what makes the United States so great. It is a country governed by the people and that ideal needs protection. Both officials and journalists should be held to a higher standard. An informed public is more important than corporate profit margins. Freedom of speech should come before any elected official’s ego.

As someone majoring in communication, this case has been discussed countless times in my classes. Actually seeing it play out struck a chord with me. Without this case, my current career path wouldn’t exist in its current form. In fact, news and media as a whole wouldn’t be the same as it is now. The debate of censorship and protection is a complicated one that can change from case to case. I’m just glad the precedent is set that our papers exist to protect us, not any one administration.

What did you think of The Post? Did you find the lack of action boring? Were you inspired by what happened? Do you think the timing of this movie helps to reinforce its message? As always, I’d love to check out any recommendations you may have for me. See you soon!

Banner picture from MovieTavern.com.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

Yes, I’m already back on schedule with a new movie review. Today I will be adding to the flood of Star Wars reviews in your timelines with my take on The Last Jedi. This post will be chock-full of spoilers so if you haven’t seen the biggest blockbuster of the year by now, I recommend doing so before giving this a read.

I need to preface this post with my thoughts on the newest Lucas Films ventures. When The Force Awakens rolled around, I was beyond excited. Finally, the most over-hyped franchise is back. This movie HAS to be good, right? Well, not quite. Actually, not at all. I hated this movie the first time I saw it. Then Rogue One was released and I begrudgingly went to the theatre and came out overjoyed. Finally, a modern Star Wars movie that I can put on par with the originals! This got me excited for The Last Jedi and even pushed me to give The Force Awakens a second chance.

Opening weekend was finally here and I had to see it before the full chaos of Christmas kicked in. Well I’m not surprised to say that I have mixed feelings towards this movie. While it’s flawed in all the ways The Force Awakens was, this movie is well made and fun to watch. I hope you can bear with me since this will be a long, long post as I try to explain the conflicting nature of this controversial movie.

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This movie was yet another remake, but this time of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. How The Force Awakens didn’t incur outrage over the fact that was a crappier version of A New Hope is beyond me. Even the producers admitted to it and it somehow passed with the fans. I’m glad to see viewers are finally speaking out about the cheap writing of these movies. You can’t expect your die-hard supporters to be okay with you overhyping a massive blockbuster for it only to be the same exact movies they’ve already seen. It’s ridiculous to sit in a theatre after paying for an overpriced ticket to have the same exact plot points thrown at you.

After releasing Rogue One, this series has no excuse for its writing. If they can release an entirely new story and create a masterful addition to this expansive universe, then they can pick up this series and push it forward without the help of the older scripts.

I will say, I do enjoy the homage to the original movies. I think this film tows the line of remaking movies and paying respect to them. As cheesy as Luke’s death was, I did like the double sun on the horizon touch they added. I also think throwing Yoda into the movie was a great touch. While my dad predicted that before we even got to the theatre, it was fun to see Luke and his master reunited. Things like having a planet of salt instead of snow just doesn’t make the cut of giving tribute. That’s just a copy and pasted scene from the original trilogy.

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There was at least one entirely new story added to the movie. When Finn and Rose escape to find the master code breaker, they find themselves on a planet filled with the richest souls in the galaxy. It was important for Finn’s character development, Rose’s introduction to the series, and sprinkles some political commentary throughout the movie. However, there was no point to the entire sequence. This chunk of the movie took up a large amount of time for absolutely nothing productive to the story to come of it. It was a complete Raiders of the Lost Ark moment for the series and ended up being a cheesy way to push character development on an audience.

There were also many moments in the movie where I could practically feel the memes oozing from the screen. There definitely are some cringe worthy scenes that you can’t help but giggle at. Kylo’s high-wasted fashion disaster? That’s been circling around twitter since its debut.

The Last Jedi also suffers the curse of predictability. There really wasn’t any major plot point that wasn’t heavily implied. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I did still love watching this movie, even if I knew what was going to happen. There were some good shocks and surprises thrown in so it wasn’t unbearably bland.

Okay, the majority of my ranting is done. I do want to highlight some aspects that made me enjoy it so much. The first of which being the characters themselves. This series thrives on flawed characters who we all become attached to. Heck, Luke, Leia, and Han are some of the most annoyingly flawed characters that movie-goers have every rallied around.

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Rey’s character is being fleshed out even more. I’m glad they let the mystery of her parentage finally drop. She can move on and we can have a hero that isn’t bound to the Skywalker name. She can be more than just another member of Anakin’s soap opera. I love her temptation with the dark side and really want to see why she’s so connected with Kylo Ren.

Speaking of which, let’s discuss Kylo. I’ve never hidden the fact that I genuinely dislike this character. I think he’s spoiled, annoying, and isn’t much fun to watch. However, this movie did throw him a bone. He’s much more interesting than I gave him credit for. He may still be an infuriating man-child, but he has some interesting conflict within him. I’m excited to see if the writers do something interesting with this inner-turmoil or if they just pull a Vader and call it a day.

Finn got some much needed characterization. I wanted to like him in The Force Awakens but his character dragged the movie down for me. He finally seems to be finding himself and making his place in the universe. Rose is also a fun addition to the movies. I love her uplifting attitude and I really hope to see her shine in the next one.

However enjoyable these characters have been, there were two that really did wear me down. Luke is back and as whiney as ever. After all this time, he’s still just that lost teen in The Empire Strikes Back. I wanted more of his story but less of him. He has an epic redemption scene which is neat to watch, yet I was happy to see him go in the end.

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Poe was a favorite of mine from The Force Awakens. We didn’t see much of the rambunctious pilot then. In this movie they tried to push a weak story him. His non-stop whining and short-temper became exhausting to watch. When he finally learns his lesson, it was through an awkward story time with him and Leia that just doesn’t land. It was a cheesy way of implying that he will be taking Leia’s place as leader of the rebellion and really weighed down one of my favorite characters. I’m hoping this sets him up to have some quality scenes without it focusing on his ego.

While the writing lagged in many ways, this movie was actually pretty funny. I found myself laughing regularly when the tense scenes were over. I think the comedy really helped the time whiz by. Being the longest Star Wars movie to date, it needed something to keep the audience going other than action.

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Finally, we need to discuss how downright gorgeous this movie is. The CGI was nearly flawless as new worlds and creatures were brought to life. The natural landscapes used are beautiful, every visual of space or the ships is near perfect, and the creativity behind all of the design is inspiring. They really knocked this one out of the park when it comes to visuals.

The movie was extremely polarizing for the fans and I can sympathize with both sides. It’s a remake filled with cheap writing. It takes advantage of fans and casual move goers as it is the blockbuster of the year. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to watch. It’s funny, it’s dramatic, and it’s just beautiful to look at. I rank The Last Jedi above The Force Awakens but it doesn’t even some close to touching Rogue One.

What do you think of this movie? I’d love to hear from die-hard Star Wars fanatics and the casual fans who may not know much about the series as a whole. I’m quite captivated by the backlash this movie received compared to the warm welcome of the less-deserving The Force Awakens. As always, let me know if you have any recommendations for me to check out. Thanks for bearing with this long, rambling post and I’ll see you soon!

It’s a Wonderful Life Review

Since Elf, a light-hearted comedy, was my favorite modern holiday movie, you’d probably expect a happy-go-lucky flick to be my favorite classic Christmas film. I’ve got a curve ball for you, it’s actually a movie about economic hardship and suicidal thoughts. Yes, late December I torture and treat myself with It’s a Wonderful Life.

George Bailey has big dreams. He’s going to explore every nook and cranny of this great big world and then leave his mark on it. The loss of his father and newfound love traps George. As he takes over his father’s old business, financial hardships strike and George considers ending it all. It’s up to his guardian angel to show him how life would be without him to save his life.

Jimmy Stewart has always been my favorite classic actor. He’s always had a larger-than-life charisma that makes each character of his charming. That remains true as he plays George Bailey. While George can be a complete jerk, when he’s in a good mood, you can’t help but root for George. He’s a monster when he’s crumbling but an explosion of energy when he’s happy.

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Donna Reed deserves some major props for her role as Mary. She balances out the extreme mood swings. Her character is a ray of light from the darkness of the movie. Reed rocks the role with her sweet demeanor. She has a subdued acting style that gives her one of the most realistic and comfortable performances in the film.

Yes, this movie is dated. There are plenty of things in this movie to laugh at or poke fun at. There are also plenty of things that wouldn’t pass any production company’s PR standards. However, this is one of the fullest stories of any older movie I’ve ever seen. It’s full of flawed characters, starts a conversation about a controversial topic, and follows the emotional paths of several different characters. While people may skip this one due to its age, I think it’s one that should be cherished.

With each passing year, It’s a Wonderful Life means something different to me. I’m always picking up on new things and themes every time I watch it. In recent years, I’ve focused on Potter. He can out-Scrooge Ebenezer himself. Previously I was captivated by the creativity and large scale of the movie. Of course heavy themes always weigh heavy when watching this movie. I’ve never watched this movie and not felt horrible for George, even if he does frustrate me at times.

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While it is a dark movie, the last five minutes make up for it entirely. George has a new love for life and Mary yet again saves the day. As the entire community comes together to save the Bailey family, I always tear up. When The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is found amidst the pile of money, there’s always a smile on my face. As emotionally tormenting as this movie can be, it ends up being one of the most rewarding ones to watch.

This has always been a favorite of my mom’s and when I was younger I never really understood why. Now, I cherish this movie. It’s one that I can’t even imagine skipping for one year. With a meaningful story that makes you realize that every decision you make can change your life, it’s a movie that shouldn’t be missed.

What do you think of this movie? Do you think it’s too old-fashioned for your tastes? Do you think it hits the mark on the suicide topic or opens a door for conversation and a new perspective? As always, I’d love to check out any recommendations you may have for me. See you soon!

Love Actually Review

It’s hard to believe that, as a movie fan and a lover-of-all-things-Christmas, I’ve never seen one of the most over-hyped holiday movies of the 2000’s. For years I’ve heard the words of praise from devoted fans, seen all of the cringe-worthy gifs, and watched the adorable film clips that people share every year. Finally, after all of these years of stubborn avoidance, I watched Love Actually.

Following the lives of multiple people through their quest for love, we’re taken on a roller coaster of emotions. Through the whirlwind of romantic cuteness, we discover that these stories all weave and clash together at the climax of the movie. Spoilers to come.

This movie takes just about every cheesy trope, stereotype, and overdone plot point and throws it in the viewer’s face. As tragic as that sounds for audience, it somehow works. From the moment the movie started, I was sucked in by the heartwarming sappiness. Even though it’s highly predictable and hopelessly mushy, this movie really touches the heart.

While a lot of this love overload is acceptable, some of the characters and ideas just seem forced. Makatsch’s character comes to mind first when I think of contrived characters. She plays a pivotal role but she’s so brass that it’s not believable. One of the more annoying stories was Marshall’s which unfortunately ended happily-ever-after. Of course we can’t over look the King of Cringe Lincoln’s sign-holding scene is just as bad, if not worse, than that gif you’ve seen floating around.

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Yes, it’s campy and some characters would be better-off forgotten, there are some solid stories that I got very attached to. I was most invested in Neeson and Brodie-Sangster. Sure, it’s slightly disturbing how nonchalantly both of them act in response to their wife/mother’s death, but that’s one doozy of a cuteness overload. Heck, that story alone could be its own movie. I also, surprisingly, latched on to Grant and McCutcheon’s little love fest. Even though it was put on a back-burner for the middle chunk of the movie, it was one I was constantly wondering about.

Of course this movie wouldn’t have come together if it weren’t for Bill Nighy. Not only was his character vital for the resolution to Sam’s journey, he was a much needed rest from the lovey-dovey nonsense. His character’s self-awareness and blunt honesty made him a joy to watch. Even his big epiphany scene was sweet in a trashy rock star kind of way.

There are two storylines in this movie that I believe deserve some justice. Two of the most compelling women in this rom/com fest of happy endings and Christmas miracles were left out to dry with a resolution no where near satisfying. Laura Linney’s character just seemed to disappear after a plot-twist of romantic interest sprung into her life. Instead of giving one of the hardest-working and self-sacrificing characters a happy ending, they give it to Colin Frissel, the epitome of Nice Guy culture.

Emma Thompson’s story also ended in a genuinely upsetting manner. While she stays true to her character, I wanted to see her shine as an independent mother. She gives her kids the world and in return she has to sacrifice her fiery gut instincts and her chance at finding loyal, true love elsewhere. I’m probably just too passionate about this because I love Emma Thompson but Karen deserves better and I stand by that.

While there were other characters and romances that I didn’t mention, I enjoyed watching them all. Even if some were slightly infuriating and others unrealistically sentimental, it was all a joy to watch and discover how they all weave together. I’m sad to sad to say I waited so long to watch this movie. Much to my surprise, I actually love Love Actually.

Let me know what you think of this movie. Are you sucked in by its charm or revolted by its overdone shenanigans? As always if you have any recommendations, let me know. I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

Blade Runner 2049 Review

I’ll keep it simple: Blade Runner 2049 was the longest three hours of my life.

If you haven’t seen Blade Runner 2049, you should before you read this review since there will be spoilers. If you haven’t seen the original Blade Runner, you should since it’s an amazing movie.

Let’s start with the original Blade Runner. I only saw this recently in anticipation for 2049 and fell in love. It’s very 80’s and it is dated but the immersive qualities make that unimportant. Its editing is choppy and the music is too loud at times but that adds to the uniqueness of the movie. The plot is simple but the story is complex and makes you think about life and your perspective on it. You follow multiple emotional journeys and end up having one yourself. It’s a masterful movie in every aspect. 2049 had a lot to live up to, but it had plenty of potential to be just as incredible as the original.

While there was a lot that disappointed me in this movie, I’d like to focus on the things I really enjoyed first. I think the modernization of the future is a great commentary on today and the 80’s. The original movie was set in a futuristically junky melting pot of cultures. It both celebrates and disregards cultural significance. In 2049, Everything is sterile and dead. I think this shows the level of optimism and realism from the times in which both movies were written. While 2049 wasn’t as immersive as Blade Runner, the disconnect between viewer and movie doesn’t feel wrong. It seems like another commentary on how people of today feel, out of touch.

Not only was the concept interesting and modern, it was portrayed beautifully. The cinematography was gorgeous and let us take in all of the different aspects of the future. The CGI was spectacular. There are usually some awkward moments created with CGI that don’t look right but I can’t think of a single moment like that in 2049. It was just a visually stunning movie from beginning to end.

There was one aspect of the movie that I need to give some major praise to, Ryan Gosling. His character’s storyline was the only one I truly cared about. The journey of a replicant realizing he’s alive, experiencing emotional highs and lows, having his dreams crushed, yet still accepting that he’s experiencing life regardless of what society allows is a rollercoaster. It was a rollercoaster that we felt ourselves through Gosling’s amazing performance. He brought the essence of the original movie into 2049 and his performance left me contemplating the themes and ideas he represented.

I wish his strong story line had been the focal point of the movie from beginning to end. Unfortunately, once Harrison Ford came into the movie, its focus shifted to revolution and reunion. These are very valid themes in the movie, but they overpowered the essential emotional experience that is so important to both Blade Runner movies. Even switching the order of the last two scenes to show Gosling on the steps in the end would have added so much to the story.

So much in this movie seemed wasted. The entire first movie’s plot was pointlessly invalidated with a mediocre and illogical attempt at complexity. The interesting love story in this movie was also invalidated. Instead of letting there be another thoughtful take on love in the AI universe, they stripped it away to corporate control. Even Harrison Ford’s character was given a mediocre story to work with and he seemed like a token in the film instead of being given the chance to re-embody an iconic character.

This movie tried so hard to replicate the slow burn and complexity of the original that it became boring and tedious. Not every plot point, location, or character needed the amount of time it was given. Not subplot line they included needed to be in the movie. As a viewer, I felt overloaded with so many characters and paths to keep track of when there was only one I cared about. It took away the simple complexity that makes the original so thought provoking.

2049 was also extremely gendered compared to the original. Why were there only ever advertisements for Jo, the female companion? Why were there only female prostitutes? Why were there so many naked women and barely any naked men? It can be argued that they were trying to normalize the female body, which is something I think should happen through media and art. Unfortunately, it was done so tastelessly and forcefully that it portrays a highly sexual view of women. There are movies that have succeeded in this aspect, but it fell short in 2049.

Blade Runner 2049 isn’t a bad movie by any means, just a disappointing one. It’s visually beautiful, has a phenomenal performance by Gosling, and keeps the Blade Runner universe alive. If it had a few characters and subplots removed, this could have been an amazing movie for Blade Runner fans. Unfortunately, it will forever be one of those sequels that just doesn’t compare to the original.

As always, I’d love to know what you thought of the movie. It seemed to be an overall success with fans, so maybe I was too critical. Let me know what you thought and how you think it holds up to the original. If you have any recommendations, let me know. I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

Train to Busan Review

Train to Busan is one of those horror movies you think you’ll just turn on to pass the time. It starts with a simple set up and basic zombie attack gore. The simplicity doesn’t last long. Suddenly this seemingly one dimensional horror show becomes a gripping story about family and redemption. What was going to be a fun flick becomes a suspenseful and gut wrenching story that demands your attention.

The movie begins by following a funds manager as he takes his neglected daughter to visit her mom in Busan. What should have been a simple train ride/nap for Seok Woo quickly turns into a battle for survival as a zombie boards the train and begins infecting passengers. His battle for survival quickly twists into a tale of redemption as he saves his daughter and proves his worth not as a businessman, but as a father.

This review will have quite a few spoilers that you’ll regret reading if you haven’t seen Train to Busan yet. If you enjoy zombies, yelling at your TV, and crying occasionally, you’ll definitely want to check it out.

Looking at the vast zombie genre, there are only a few shows that stand out. Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and the first few seasons of The Walking Dead are some recent winners in the zombie universe. But why is it that there are so many stories that fall short with such an interesting concept to play with? Simply put, there’s usually too much focus on the zombies themselves. Instead of using them in the story, many movies like to hide their story behind them.

Train to Busan is one of the few exceptions. Instead of watching strangers react to their changing environment, the people themselves are changed by their circumstances. The character development in Seok Woo (Gong Yoo) is both painful and beautiful.  From monster into man, he becomes the self-sacrificing leader his daughter needs. His pain in realizing his company aided in this outbreak radiates from the screen and forces you to feel it in your gut. Tears can’t be held back when he’s saying goodbye to his daughter and remembering her birth.

There were some other amazing characters in this movie. Hands down, Sang-Hwa was my favorite supporting character in this movie. He was the necessary comedic relief and a great catalyst for Seok Woo’s transformation. He and Jung Yu-mi were adorable together and watching her react to his death was heart breaking. Acting as a child is difficult, but Kim Soo-Ahn nailed it. She was both vulnerable to her environment and powerful to those around her.

This movie didn’t try to explain the science behind zombies, which is refreshing. So many movies, like World War Z, uses the science behind zombification as a major point in the story. This opens opportunities for plot holes and can break the intensity of the movie. This film shows us the fun quirks these zombies had, which adds their twist on the lore without bogging the movie down.

This movie also stands out from the majority of the genre because it lacks major political or environmental commentary. Using your art to convey messages that are important to you is great, but sometimes it gets exhausting for your audience. By focusing the conflict on the monsters and Kim Ui-Seong’s character, anyone, regardless of societal standing or beliefs, can enjoy the conflict without feeling singled out.

The special effects were good without being overpowering. The intimate setting of the train gives viewers the chance to really study these zombies, so makeup artists and animators made sure they held up under close scrutiny. The zombies looked realistic enough with makeup and some digital touch-ups that ensured awkward CGI moments were kept to a minimum.  There are no outlandish weapons or massive explosions as there are in the majority of monster movies. This only raised the stakes for our protagonists, keeping movie goers on the edge of their seats.

With such a hit or miss genre, I was skeptical. I kept my expectations low but I was blown away. Not only is it a good zombie movie, it’s also good horror and tragedy. This movie tackles some of the most overdone concepts in film and creates a fresh new story.

As always, I’d love to know what you thought of the movie. Let me know if you agree or disagree with what I said. Of course, if you have any recommendations for me, I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

Me Before You Review

Every now and then you need to put the sci-fi away, turn off the comedies and hide the horror to let your heart get ripped out by some otherworldly attractive couple on the big screen. I mean, what’s better than that first sob after you’ve been holding back for the past hour of movie watching? Well if you’re looking for your next sappy yet gut wrenching flick, Me Before You has got you covered.

Now this movie has a twist that I didn’t pick up on until I watched the movie. Because of this, you should definitely watch it before reading this to save you the spoilers.

Me Before You follows Lou (Emilia Clarke) through her new job as a caretaker/professional best friend. She keeps Will (Sam Claflin) company, gives him medication, and eventually they fall in love. Shocking, I know. The real twist comes in finding out that Will has decided to end his life to escape his misery in his new crippled form. Lou tries to change his mind and we see both of them struggle with the harsh reality of the situation.

This isn’t your basic mind candy movie. From the trailer, I thought this would be an interesting romance to keep me busy for a night. I had no idea I was watching a movie with such heavy themes and topics. From unfulfilling love lives to disability to euthanasia and how each affects personal relationships, this is a movie that you’ll be thinking about for hours.

The same titled book by Jojo Moyes is what inspired the movie. Moyes’s story gave light to that painful reality that sometimes love requires you to let go. Any story with this theme is naturally painful to watch, this one is no exception.

By adding in that controversial topic of assisted suicide, this becomes a political commentary that can show that as scary as the concept is, sometimes suicide is a logical decision made by someone in severe pain. This doesn’t cover up the horror that follows or the effect it has on loved ones. There’s an argument that could be made for each side of the debate on this topic, but for the sake of the story, love wins. Maybe it doesn’t win in the way we expect or want it to, but if love is there, love wins. I know, sappy yet heartbreaking.

Yes, you can argue that the romance is very Beauty and the Beast-esque. They spend so much time together they fall in love by default. While it’s cheesy, it sure is cute. He loves her innocence and positivity. She loves his wit and sees that playful sense he had before his accident. It’s simple yet adorable.

The actors deserve their credit in making two characters with seemingly nothing in common convincingly fall in love. Emilia Clarke’s Lou was bubbly, bold, and most importantly, genuine. Clarke took that lovable, quirky girl-next-door character and actually made her believable. She didn’t rely on the weird clothes or the fact that she reads to make her seem interesting. She took Lou and brought her to life.

Sam Claflin, as we’ve seen on the screen before, plays a good rich boy with attitude problems but heart of gold. However, he added a new side to this role he seems to excel at by showing genuine distress and sadness.  Will has experienced a tragedy that changed his life, took everything away that he enjoys, and causes him severe pain and illness regularly. He has no privacy, no outlet, and has had no positive interaction until Lou. We realize his desire to be alone and stare out the window is actually his coping mechanism for his depression. His embarrassment of being singled out in public was just as confining as his chair. His happiest moments with Lou were still riddled with misery by his own reality. Claflin had to show all of this using only his face and voice. I’d say he’s proven he’s more than a one role wonder.

There were some amazing supporting actors in this movie as well. Charles Dance (Stephen Traynor) and Janet McTeer (Camilla Traynor) deserve some praise as having some of the hardest roles this Will’s life. They didn’t have many scenes compared to Clarke and Claflin but still had to show their struggle with Will’s decision which is a major theme in the movie. They held their own and our heart broke with theirs as they realized Lou’s efforts failed.

I also need to mention Matthew Lewis. Lewis had a cringingly clueless character that was both infuriating and funny. As happy as I was to laugh at him in scenes as the worst boyfriend in the world, I was just as happy for him to leave since he played that ridiculously selfish character so well. Lewis isn’t just Longbottom anymore.

I enjoyed this movie much more than I expected to. While it’s not my new favorite, this is one I do recommend to friends who get the itch to watch a romance. I wasn’t blown away with the details or the bond between the characters. I think this movie’s strengths really lie in the individual acting and in the themes presented in the story.

Let me know what you thought of Me Before You. I’d love to hear your opinion, especially since it got some mixed reviews. It definitely left me feeling bittersweet for quite some time. When I emotionally recover, I might read the book. If any of you have read it, I’d also love to know if you think it’s worth picking up.

The Big Sick Review

With as many blockbuster releases as there are right now, people will be flocking to the theatre for Spider-Man: Homecoming, War of the Planet of the Apes, and Dunkirk. However, I think there’s another movie you should be making your way to see, The Big Sick. I had no expectations going into Big Sick and it was not what I was expecting at all. When I hear rom/com, I think of predictable jokes and a basic but enjoyable love story. While Big Sick was enjoyable, it definitely wasn’t predictable or basic.

Fair warning before I jump into my review, this will be filled with spoilers. If you haven’t seen The Big Sick yet, please do so and then come back and let me know what you think of it. Until then, enjoy the movie unspoiled. You won’t be disappointed!

The movie starts backstage of a comedy club with comedians including Bo Burnham and Aidy Bryant. From here, the roller coaster begins. We see sparks fly between Emily and Kumail, a forbidden romance that’s kept secret by Kumail. When Emily discovers the truth, things go down hill. Emily gets sick and Kumail signs as her husband to put her into a coma. After some awkward bonding between Emily’s parents and Kumail, he realizes his mistakes and fights to win her back. It seems to be too late when she wakes up so our lead moves to New York only to discover that his love came to find him. A classic happy ending.

So what sets this movie apart from the other rom/coms? Plainly put, the lack of Hollywood. This story was genuine. Seriously, it was based on a true story written by Kumail Nanjani and his wife Emily V. Gordon. When you saw this movie, you watched a love story written by the people who experienced it. With some artistic liberty taken in the script, I still think its honesty is apparent throughout the movie. It was a relationship set in the real world, experienced by real people, with real problems. It’s hard to find that level of reality and honesty in a movie. It’s also a plot with a twist. When Emily gets sick and goes under, it’s heart-wrenching to watch. Emily is a character that’s hard for anyone not to love. Seeing Kumail start to crumble without her and being a viewer waiting for a majority of the movie for Emily to come back was hard. I was sure she was actually going to die and it tore me up. Her sudden revival was as exciting for us as Kumail. Without the Hollywood touch of outlandish romance and lack of realism, this movie stands out among the blockbusters.

As touching as the honest romance is, it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a while. Being written and acted by comedians, I shouldn’t expect much less. Not only is a stand up comedian the star of the movie, the movie is full of other comedians so every scene’s witty banter is perfectly timed.  It makes light of hard situations and brings light to some funnier aspects of relationships. Kumail Nanjani was hilarious. It’s hard to write or act as a sarcastic character without them seeming rude. Kumail handled it perfectly, even moments when would show his sarcastic side, it was more charming than rude. While the comedy focused on a lot of modern topics, this is a movie any generation can laugh at. The theatre I was in had a good mix of baby boomers, generation x, and millennials and everyone was laughing so hard it was difficult to catch the next joke.

A big theme in this movie is family. From Kumail’s side, we got a glimpse into the life of a Pakistani family in the United States. More specifically, we got to see a light hearted take on arranged marriage. It’s a controversial topic with a new perspective. We learn about it from people who believe in it, people who grew up with it, and people who struggle to break free of it. Adding a variety of opinions and a lot of comedy, it was handled tastefully. Zenobia Shroff had one of the most intense scenes in the movie as she told Kumail he was not her son. It was shocking to see after the cute mother we saw who was goofily awkward presenting a new girl to her son each week.  Anupam Kher, the stylish father, was the line of communication to Kumail’s mom after he was disowned. His final scene with Kumail was heart warming as he reached out to his son. He may have been disowned, but he was still loved. I think it’ll be a great way for people to educate themselves on it even if they don’t agree with it. Disagreeing doesn’t have to mean bashing, and Kumail did a great job demonstrating that.

Emily’s family was another great touch to the movie. Usually, the father is the one that cracks down on the boyfriend or ex while the mother is more sympathetic. This movie was the exact opposite. Holly Hunter was the bull dog mom and Ray Romano was the one rooting for Kumail. They had their own issues and arguments to deal with and ultimately helped push Kumail to make some big changes in his life. Not only were they vital to his growth, they were absolutely hilarious. Watching Holly Hunter go into mom mode and defend Kumail in the comedy club was touching and had everyone laughing. Ray Romano’s failed jokes were laughably bad and his attempts to give advice were perfectly awkward. It was a great new twist on the overprotective parents we see so often in rom/coms.

Overall, The Big Sick was a touching romance, a phenomenal comedy, and a great feel good movie with a journey that didn’t always feel so good. It handles controversial topics with grace, shows how people can feel regret for unforgivable mistakes rather than blowing by the issue, and gives away the big secret that girls do indeed poop. It was quite complex for a rom/com. This is an independent movie that made it to the big screen across America and I think it deserves some major recognition. With all of the Hollywood blockbusters coming out this month, I really hope people make time to see this gem.

9¾ Reviews: The Chamber of Secrets

Welcome Muggles and Magic-folk alike to the next 9¾ Review on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. If you’re new to 9¾ Reviews, this is a series dedicated to the Harry Potter series done by a Potterhead grown-up. If you’re interested in starting from the beginning, you can ready my review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone here. For the few of you who know nothing about Harry Potter (I’m very sorry you don’t), you should check out the amazing series before reading my reviews filled with spoilers.

In my review of Sorcerer’s Stone, I mentioned loving it because it was very episodic. There were little adventures to teach us about the magical world and it took away from the heaviness of the plot. Chamber of Secrets is where we see the first big shift in Rowling’s writing style. They switched from little adventures to plot driven books. One of my favorite things about this series is as we read them, we see Rowling’s writing style grow. It is like we grow up with the characters and with J.K. Rowling.

Plot driven does not exclude little adventures. Those fun scenes of the trio doing something stupidly brave still exist. They now have a purpose greater than teaching us about magic. Nearly Headless Nick’s death day party is a prime example that nothing in this book was written without it aiding the plot.  It was a great adventure to read about and was an alibi for the trio when the first attack happens.

While the style of writing has changed in this book, the trio is still choosing to be involved. In later books like The Goblet of Fire, the characters are forced to participate in Voldemort’s wicked plans. In the earlier books, our three heroes chose to snoop for answers and eventually ended up in the midst of chaos.

Writing style wasn’t the only thing that caught my attention. Some characters in this book really stood out to me. The group that stood out to me most was the Dursley family. More specifically, how cruel they were to Harry. Obviously we all knew Harry wasn’t treated well by his aunt and uncle, but this book really showed how much fear and hatred they had toward Harry. Aunt Petunia tried to swing a frying pan at Harry’s head, trapped Harry in his room except for monitored bathroom trips, and fed him barely any food. I’m not sure if this disturbed me as a child as much as it does now, but I was shocked to read the little details of their abuse.

Staying on the subject of vile people, let’s discuss the Malfoys. Whether it be because I’ve seen the movies so many times or because I watch A Very Potter Musical too much, I completely forgot how horrible Draco Malfoy was. Yes, it was his horrible family that warped him into such a cruel person. Yes, in future books I do feel a bit more sympathetic toward his position in Voldemort’s ranks. However, I don’t have any sympathy for him in this book. Wanting to help murder people, guessing who would be next, and pouting when those people attacked were saved in the end reminded me of why I’ve never been able to be a Draco fan. The movies portray him as a horrible person also, but they definitely toned it down. Lucius Malfoy is downright evil in this book. Reading about his son and how he treated him in Knockturn Alley shows just how good of a dad he is (or isn’t).

Yet again we can see how J.K. was preparing for the rest of her series in these early books. In Dobby’s visit to Harry at the Dursley’s home, Dobby hinted that there is dark magic that even Dumbledore doesn’t know about. Dobby was likely hinting at horcruxes made by Voldemort. She also mentions Mungdungus Fletcher in this book whom we meet later on in Harry’s journey. Something I never realized until my second time reading this book, Snape is the professor who taught Harry his signature spell, Expelliarmus, during the dueling club. If not for that dueling class, who knows when Harry would have learned the disarming spell that saved his life many times.

As always, there are differences between the book and movie. In the movie, I always miss the death day scene for Nearly Headless Nick. I think that’s one of the more unique ideas written about in this book. I know in the directors cut that is played on Harry Potter Weekend, we see people really believing Harry is the heir, but not in the regular version. While I think it’s ridiculous that anyone suspected Harry, it was a great pressure added to Harry in the books. Surprisingly, I actually prefer the fight scene in the movie. The book’s battle scene, while still good, was much shorter than I remember. That being said, I do find the concept of the basilisk in the book to be scarier and actually got chills the first time reading the voice as Harry hears it.

The Chamber of Secrets may be creepier than Sorcerer’s Stone, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to read. Scenes with the flying car, visiting The Burrow, and freeing Dobby, prove that this book is as full of warmth and mischief as its predecessor. This book is an important transition in the series that sets the tone for future books. I’d love to know your thoughts on The Chamber of Secrets so if there’s anything you’d like to discuss, let’s talk in the comments. Keep an eye out for my next 9¾ Review of Prisoner or Azkaban, my personal favorite.