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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review

Months ago looking at the extensive line-up of summer blockbusters, there was one movie to wrap up the season that I was undeniably stoked and nervous for. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the continuation of the Jurassic Park franchise was set to release in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park. While the trailer looked awful, I held out hope for one of my favorite series of all time and set out on opening night to get my dino fix for 2018. I guess I should have just stayed home.

Jurassic World has been abandoned since the predictable downfall of the new park in 2015. While Jurassic World would have only been a few years old, a volatile volcano that the park was apparently built on threatens to wipe out what remains of the facilities and dinosaurs. The previously heartless business woman Claire now heads up an organization to save the creatures that once tried to brutally kill her, her nephews and her boyfriend. After receiving an offer to help her prehistoric pals, she gets a team of millennials and everyone’s favorite raptor daddy Owen together to rescue Blue, the fan favorite dinosaur. Little does she know, to save the creatures she now apparently adores, she may have made a deal with the devil.

Before getting into this review, I need to preface you with what the Jurassic Park series is to me. I’ve been watching these movies my entire life. I grew up hearing that iconic T-Rex roar and saying “dinosaur” in the same goofy way the animated DNA strand in the first movie does. I’ve always gone to bat for the second and third movies and even Jurassic World. I mean, there’s Spielberg-designed dinosaurs on the screen. Can’t we ignore a few plot holes for that? I went into Fallen Kingdom with low expectations but still knew in my heart I’d enjoy the film for the sheer fact that Chris Pratt and dinosaurs would occupy my life for two hours. So just know that as I write about just how awful this movie is, it actually pains me. I’m not even comically angry like I was with Pacific Rim Uprising. I feel nothing but sheer disappointment as a life-long Jurassic fan.

The main issue with this movie all comes down to the writing. Anyone who has watched this entire series knows that after the first movie, the quality of writing steadily declines. Yet, the movies are still insanely fun and enjoyable despite some weak storylines and dialogue. Fallen Kingdom takes that next step in ridiculous writing but neglects any of the redeemable qualities found in previous Jurassic films that could have saved this movie from its soulless fate.

The premise of Fallen Kingdom is simply boring. It fully displays the fundamental theme of human error that is present in the entire series but to an obnoxious level. I don’t want to watch an entire movie about humans escaping humans. I watch the Jurassic series to see dinosaurs and the unknown relationship they’ll have with humans. The plot itself was weak. There’s a clear outline to follow but there’s so much hollow fluff that its easy not to care about what’s happening on screen. That’s without even considering how many plot holes there are in Fallen Kingdom. Heck, there’s plot holes that now span across the entire series. Hammond had a partner? They built Jurassic World on an active volcano? Dinosaurs can now cry actual tears? It felt like the writers were trying to outdo the last movie in terms of humans creating problems in nature so forcefully that the story itself is hokey at best.

Sure the plot was bad but all these movies need are dinosaurs and great characters. With that mentality, Fallen Kingdom should still be a good time, right? Wrong. Unfortunately,  the characters in this movie were all either boring or painful to watch. Claire and Owen both seemed to be totally different characters than they originally were making any hope of familiarity with the enjoyable Jurassic World nonexistent. In a desperate attempt to connect to youthful audiences, they added two insanely annoying millennial characters proving yet again that Hollywood is just selling a formula despite being out of touch with the generation they’re pandering to. Finally, to make this a true Jurassic Park film, there’s an insufferable child who is so infuriating and annoying to watch that walking out of the theater doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

Other than the gigantic predators from millions of years ago, the Jurassic franchise is held together by characters that audiences can’t help but care for. Everyone wants to see the rigid Dr. Grant step into a fatherly role with Hammond’s niece and nephew. All Jurassic fans get excited to hear Dr. Malcolm’s chaos theory for the billionth time. The Jurassic series has been home to some of the strongest female characters to grace the big screen. I mean Chris Pratt is the star of the Jurassic World series for Pete’s sake. With a rich history of simple, witty characters, the Jurassic franchise sold out to follow the recipe they think sells the best rather than balance the formula with actually interesting characteristics, traits, and backstories.

The majority of these writing flaws come down to one major issue for me. Every other Jurassic Park movie builds intensity with sheer simplicity. Dinosaurs are scary enough. Audiences don’t need a psychotic new breed of dinosaur to be engaged in the movie. Dinosaurs don’t have to be practically human for us to care for them. Jurassic World did such a great job of introducing a new species that was disturbingly smart but still seemed like a dinosaur. It also did an incredible job at balancing the relationship the raptors had with Owen to show that as empathetic as they are, they’re still deadly. Any ounce of realistic behavior that was in Jurassic World was lost in Fallen Kingdom. The extremes in which they tried to amplify the intensity of the new dino only made it seem more boring. This series is complex enough with layers of ethical debate woven into the very premise. Yet by forcing this complexity, the spirit of its predecessors is lost and therefore resulted in a lackluster, lifeless product. 

As I mentioned before, I really hated the characters in this movie. I wasn’t crazy about the new ones and I can’t buy how drastically the old characters changed. That being said, I still think the actors did well with the task at hand. I really had no issues with the actors and am glad they all got the chance to star in a Jurassic Park movie, I just feel bad it had to be this one. I mean honestly, I can’t really be mad at the incredible talent in this movie. I especially can’t be upset with a corny Jeff Goldblum monologue, even if I wish it featured some character-fitting chaos theory rather than just environmental pandering.

Now I do have one good thing to say about the film. The CGI is incredible, as expected. The dinosaurs look spectacular and the special effects are top notch. While there were some scenes that I think looked cheesy, those moments were due to the concept of the shot, not the effects themselves. There were also a couple of dinosaurs that looked a bit too cartoonish and therefore stood out but for the most part, the dinos were still ridiculously fun to look at.

Overall, I did not like this movie. Shocking, I know. I miss the excitement that came with seeing people or dinosaurs react to new environments, the charming or comical characters, and the time when dinosaurs were good enough just being dinosaurs. I’m sure when I rewatch this movie in a year’s time I won’t be as butt-hurt over it but for now, I’m going to rewatch the first four and try to forget this movie entirely.

What did you think of Jurassic World? Did you like this new dinosaur or think it was just slightly out of your range fictional belief? Did you like how the two main characters changed in this movie? What do you think of the secret co-creator of Jurassic Park? As always I’d love to check out any recommendations you may have for me. See you soon!

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Avengers Infinity War Review

Do you realize how hard it is to avoid any spoilers for the biggest blockbuster of the year, let alone the decade? After ten years of backstory, the Marvel-verse collided and created what is deemed the most ambitious crossover event in history, Avengers Infinity War. Being the Marvel fan that I am, I was dying to see this movie from its opening day. Purging myself of all social media and exiling myself from society, I waited five grueling days to see it and now I have a lot to say about the latest Avengers. Pour yourself a drink and break out the snacks because this is going to be a long, rambling, spoiler filled review.

Thanos has made quite the name for himself as the universe’s cruelest villain and yet he still isn’t satisfied. As our favorite heroes have gallivanted the universe saving the infinity stones from nefarious schemes, Thanos has been tracking them down for a plan of his own. Now that he’s decided to make his move, Avengers and Guardians alike will need to team up for the sake of half of the universe.

If you didn’t notice in my opening paragraph, I did mention that this review will contain spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t ruin it for yourself now. Go see it and then come back and let me know what you thought of it. Alright, back to the review.

Infinity War starts off with a bang and just doesn’t stop. With nothing but back-to-back plot points, it really doesn’t give viewers the chance to digest what’s happening, let alone react to it. Normally, I’m all for relevant dialogue and action but I think the strictly-business writing of the screenplay really did a disservice to the overall story.

 

I attribute this to poor planning, not poor screenwriting. With ten years of back story and new characters being thrown in left and right, this movie simply had too much to fit in, as obviously shown by the length of the film and the chaotic poster. Cramming that much story into two hours and forty minutes resulted in limited character interactions and awkward introductions. I really felt like the only time the movie allowed for quality intermingling was during scenes with the Guardians.

Considering the ending of the film was planned far before its story was written, I just don’t think the plot holes are easy to overlook. With 14 million possible outcomes, how is it that destroying the time stone didn’t come up? How is it that Doctor Strange didn’t observe the outcomes before arriving to Titan? These huge holes have left me thinking that the inevitable ending was more important than the details to the creators of the movie. That mentality leaves a trail of gaping holes that will dominate the conversation for the film among fans.

That being said, this movie is really just a blast to watch. Any Marvel fan who sees Infinity War is going to have a great time watching it. We see all of our favorite characters on the big screen again. While I think character bonding should have been a larger part of this movie, what was included was great. Not everyone made logical decisions for their characters but I really can’t say that even negates how awesome and massive this movie is.

I think massive is the best way to sum up this movie. Even in other Marvel films, we’ve never seen quite this much world building this quickly. This Avengers really gives us a scope for the amount of possibilities available for future films. There are several story arcs that need resolving and now we aren’t solely limited to Earth for it. This movie also opens up the doors for future crossovers between the Guardians that aren’t just limited to the Avengers titles.

Now I know you’re wondering why I’m so optimistic about future movies and crossovers when a majority of our favorite heroes are gone. Well, I honestly don’t see this as the end. If it is, boy this is going to suck. But for now, I’m certain that by the newest Avengers in 2019, we’ll get some clarity and hopefully our heroes back.

Speaking of heroes, I absolutely loved seeing Robert Downy Jr. as Iron Man back on the screen and not as the villain that Civil War attempted (and failed) to make him out to be. Yet again he nails the role of everyone’s favorite rich, superhero jerk. I really got a kick out of seeing him and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. I think their relationship dynamic is interesting and I’m excited to see how it progresses in the future after this predicament gets sorted out.

As expected, I loved seeing the Guardians of the Galaxy since they are my favorite super morons. Chris Pratt still kills the role of Peter Quill as he shows even more that he can balance some emotionally heavy scenes with his hilarious charm. Bradley Cooper’s voice is always a delight to hear as Rocket, especially when giving Thor a hard time while fathering a teenage Groot. Speaking of which, this most recent stage for Groot was great to watch and I’m hopeful that we can see some more of the pubescent plant before he fully matures.

Now two characters that did have some unique character progression were Thor and Hulk. I am biased since I am still obsessed with Ragnarok but let’s face it, these two are a golden duo. Mark Ruffalo is back as Bruce Banner who’s having some performance issues. I’m loving seeing Ruffalo back as Bruce but I’m also enjoying seeing him try to communicate with the Hulk. He’s really doing well at showing that they’re two completely different parts of the same person. Hemsworth is back and this time with an ax. My biggest concern for Thor after Ragnarok was the hammer so I’m glad to see they’re setting him up for his next appearance and film.

There were two characters that I think were written out in quite a strange way. Tom Hiddleston is back as Loki with his newfound conscience in full swing. While his death was early on, I wish he had stuck around in the film. I think seeing Loki, the ultimate trickster, try to play nice would have been a great layer of intrigue to add to the story. That being said, I don’t think Loki is really dead and if he is then I’ll be both shocked and devastated. He has far too much potential to be killed in an underwhelming way (I mean, he’s survived the Hulk for Pete’s sake).

Then there’s Zoe Saldana as Gamora, daughter of Thanos. As usual, I think Saldana is perfect for the role of the universe’s fiercest woman with daddy issues. I really loved seeing her new relationship with her sister take flight as Gamora becomes more vocal about her emotions. While I loved her presence in the film, I hated her death. I think the situation was far too convenient to seem remotely realistic. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to her character to be killed in this movie, but I realize this movie wasn’t exactly fair in the death department. While her fate truly does seem sealed, my fingers are crossed for some sort of ridiculous miracle for her.

We can’t discuss the many characters in this movie without talking about Josh Brolin’s Thanos. I think Brolin did a great job as the tyrant titan. I think he exuded cruel confidence and emotional depth that wouldn’t seem possible for a character like his. I am looking more forward to seeing him in the newest Deadpool movie but I think he makes a great Thanos. That being said, I do wish he had been written to seem a bit more unstable. A man who feels fulfilled by wiping out half the population at the cost of his daughter clearly isn’t sane. Yet, he was written as an extremely logical character. I think there are great ways to balance crazy with cunning and I wish we could have seen that take place.

Aiding the background worldbuilding, the CGI for this movie has somehow exceeded any of their other previous visual masterpieces. There were a few scenes with some awkward effects, like the introduction of Tony’s new suit and technology, but the general level of near-perfection only enhances their incredible new Marvel-verse.

I was also extremely impressed by how the filmmakers were able to combine all of the styling of each character’s solo movie. Character-specific details were carried throughout the entire movie so when you saw Thor on the Guardians’ ship, you felt like you were watching a Guardians movie. On the other hand, when you were watching Thor, Rocket, and Groot walking into the forge for the first time, you felt like you were watching a Thor movie. The extreme detailing that went into transitioning helped break the monotony that was in Ultron and Civil War while giving each character the chance to stand out in ways they’ve already proven they can.

Technically speaking, there’s only one complaint I have: the music. I know, it may seem like a small trivial complaint but music can really make or break a movie. Marvel has been rocking their scores lately so I wasn’t even considering it when I went into Infinity War. However, the music was so loud and overdramatic, it felt like it was trying to force an emotion on me rather than guiding me to that emotion. Now, I don’t think the music broke this movie, it just added a little too much power to an already overwhelming film.

Yes, I still have some major issues with the way the Avengers movies have become that were only reassured by this movie. I think there is a big conversation to be had about how overpowered these characters are and how that affects the stakes and urgencies of future films. I’m honestly still pretty pissed that this movie didn’t clear up the infuriating and nonsensical Captain America v Iron Man rift in the Avengers. Despite all of the issues that I have with the Avengers series after the original, I think this movie is far superior to Age of Ultron and will ultimately lead this series in a better direction.

What are your thoughts on Infinity War? How do you feel about the use of the time stone and the rumors that time travel will be the solution to this cliffhanger? Do you think it was too busy or did you love the non-stop action? As always, I’d love to check out any recommendations you may have for me. See you soon!

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Love, Simon Review

I’ll admit, I didn’t have high hopes for Love, Simon. I actually had no intentions of even seeing it in the theater. I’m not the biggest fan of movies about teenagers in high school so the trailer was a turn-off for me. However, during a much-needed ladies’ night and fueled by carbs and sangria, the girls and I decided to check it out. After two hours of laughing, crying, gasping, and cheering, I’m happy to say that against all odds, I loved Love, Simon.

 

This review will contain some minor spoilers. While they aren’t huge by any means, if you’re hoping to go into this movie with no prior knowledge, I’d recommend watching it before reading this.

Simon Spier is a senior in high school with a pretty sweet life. He has a group of friends who love each other, a supportive and happy family, an adorable dog, and a functioning car. It seems like he’s living the teenage dream. Well, not quite. Simon has a secret he isn’t quite ready to reveal to the world. Simon is gay, in love, and at the mercy of a blackmailing theatre geek. Based on the beloved novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is both a coming of age and a coming out story.

What’s so engaging about this movie is its laser focus on the main point. This movie is purely about a teenager who isn’t ready to come out but is ready to find love. While being in high school is a big factor in his decision to keep his secret, the setting doesn’t entirely rule the movie. This isn’t Mean Girls, where the plot is surviving school. Instead it’s about the power and freedom that comes with embracing who you are, regardless of your setting.

This movie does recognize the privileged situation Simon was in. He had a supportive and liberal family that would accept him regardless of his sexuality and the writers didn’t hide that fact. The film still showed that regardless of having a good home life, coming out can be difficult and being outed can be traumatic. This movie didn’t promise that life would be easy, but that it doesn’t always have to be hard either.

The message was sweet and the movie was surprisingly relevant. Being a millennial watching a coming-of-age film that actually mirrors the age of its intended audience is refreshing. There were relevant references that I could easily understand. Even mentioning things as recent as Obama’s post-presidency look strengthens the connection it has with viewers. It felt good to watch a movie about high school students that more accurately reflected the influence that social media has on their everyday lives.

Relevance is a good thing for engaging the current audience, but it also means Love, Simon may not age gracefully. It’ll be a movie that is adored by this generation and viewed by future ones as an old school classic. In ten years, this could be our Clueless. I personally don’t think this is a bad thing since it is meant to reflect the current atmosphere that a gay person faces when coming out.

Okay, this movie isn’t all dramatically inspiring moments like I’m making it out to seem. Love, Simon is actually a funny movie. Some characters have a charismatic charm that sets you at ease during the stressful parts of the movie. The completely inept characters keep you laughing at their ridiculous antics and silly slip-ups. The sheer awkwardness of some situations make you giggle nervously. Even the unavoidable old guy trying to be hip and with it (Tony Hale) is actually funny rather than insulting and alienating to the audience. Sure, some of the jokes and stereotypes are formulaic, but it doesn’t work against the comedy.

While much of this movie is predictable, it does leave you on the edge of your seat. Yes, there is obnoxious drama but that can be expected from any high school movie. Yes, there is a plethora of cheesy and unrealistic teen moments but that’s practically a requirement for any coming of age film. Yes, there are sappy scenes that must accompany any romcom. However, the mystery of Blue’s identity and the sense of abandonment that Simon feels from his friends builds undeniable suspense. It felt like the entire theatre was holding its breath near the end of the movie and the sigh of release ended up being a roar of cheers. It masters playing with your emotions despite using predictable tropes.

It does help that the cast was filled with some of the hottest young actors on the scene. Nick Robinson has been hopping around the teenage romance scene for a few years now with some pretty big titles and it seems like he’s found his big breakthrough with Love, Simon. He’s shown he can be quite the chameleon with acting styles and embodying his character’s traits. Compared to his other movies, he sheds the cloak of angst and dons a youthful yet subdued nature.

Drawing even more appeal to this already popular movie is some of the actors from the Netflix hit 13 Reasons Why. Katherine Langford is cast as Leah, an emotional and sensitive girl who struggles with her feelings. Having proved she can already rock this kind of role, she does well in Love, Simon. Miles Heizer plays a secretive and distant character. While he doesn’t have a huge role in this film, he shows he can play more than just an angry, problematic kid.

Overall, this film checked off all the necessary boxes to be a successful teenage experience film. A coming of age story paired with a coming out story made the film even more interesting. It’s a film that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster but you just can’t help enjoying the ride.

What did you think of Love, Simon? While the reception from audiences has been positive, I do know a few people who really didn’t enjoy the film. Do you think it was too childish? Do you think it did a good job of focusing on the main issue? As always, I’d love to check out any recommendations you have for me. See you soon!

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Pacific Rim Uprising Review

Simply put: I love Pacific Rim. In terms of giant robot fighting movies, it’s the cream of the crop. It has its fair share of plot holes and cheesy writing but the action sequences, characters, and creativity in the film all make it a blast to watch. Del Toro waved his wand and yet again gave our bland world a bit more magic. This begs the question: if Pacific Rim were so good, how could Uprising be a category 5 Kaiju sized pile of steaming garbage?

This review will have spoilers out the wazoo. If you’re planning on seeing this movie, don’t. But if you’re still set on seeing it, check this review out after you’ve wasted your money.

Ten years have passed since the war with the Kaiju has ended. The late war hero Stacker Pentecost’s son Jake has been living in the ruins of coastal cities as an opportunistic party boy. When he and a young uneducated orphan, who is inexplicably an engineering prodigy, have a run-in with the law, they’re forced to join the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps. There, Jake is tasked with training a group of actual children on how to fight giant aliens that haven’t had contact with the planet for ten years.  Just in case, I suppose. When the unthinkable (and even less believable than an inter-dimensional rift in the ocean) happens, Jake and his army of literal children have to suit up in Jaegers that are armed to the nines with gimmicky weapons to battle Kaiju and save the entire world. Who needs middle school when you have war, am I right?

I set off to write that description in a fair way but I just couldn’t manage. While I thought the trailer for the movie looked stupid, I at least thought it could be two hours of action-filled mind candy. Boy was I wrong. I hope you have a snack because this is going to be a long one.

Before diving into the negatives, I want to put in my one positive note for this movie. These actors all did well with the script and direction given to them. No one stands out with a notable performance but the acting has nothing to do with the unacceptable qualities of this movie. In fact, there were quite a large number of young actors who proved they have the chops for an action intensive film and for that, I applaud them.

While the acting was fine, the story was not. The thought that one of Pacific Rim’s most beloved characters, the quirky Newton, ends up being some possessed evil genius capable of single-handedly bringing Kaiju back to the planet to finish what they started is beyond my capability of disbelief. Not only was it utterly ridiculous, it ruined a Charlie Day character – a crime punishable by a Sister Wives marathon.

Not only was the overall story just bad, the details that could have made the movie worth watching were mind bogglingly nonsensical. The mere idea that the world is using Jaegers for police work is terrifying. We have tanks but that doesn’t mean our cops ride around in them. Why would Jaegers be on the streets when there hasn’t even been a Kaiju in ten years? It makes sense that Jaegers would still exist and that we’d have pilots and trainees but it is beyond me as to why they would be used in any civilian setting, whether it be for policing or publicity.

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What really doesn’t make any sense is the use of literal children in the pilot program. The reasoning the film writers have was that children have better neural handshake capabilities. Because as we all know, there’s no other age group as emotionally stable and self-aware as pubescent kids. I mean, children are the obvious choice for Jaeger pilots as clearly shown in the first movie when they needed the best available pilots… oh wait. Okay maybe it doesn’t make any sense in the slightest but I’m positive the writers had a good reason for it. I’m sure it has nothing to do with cranking out as many subpar movies as possible to a young, easily manipulated audience for the sake of marketing merchandise.

Oops that got cynical. Let’s focus on something we all love, Mako Mori. That’s right, everyone’s favorite last minute Jaeger pilot makes a return in Uprising as Jake’s older sister. I was so excited to see Rinko Kikuchi that I almost looked past how pointless they made her character. That’s right, our war hero was killed off after a few lines of awkward dialog with her brother. All of her strong character development that added so much dimension to her character and to Pacific Rim was flushed down the toilet for the sake of Jake’s uninteresting character growth.

Okay, I may not be fair with my criticism of her death. Characters die in action movies and we all need to be prepared for that when we buy our ticket. Had I felt the other characters in the movie had been written well, I honestly wouldn’t have minded. Yet, Lambert was a mostly pointless character. Victoria’s bizarre hatred of Amara and then-sudden admiration for her was completely unfounded on both accounts. Amara’s age didn’t even make sense with the timeline of the film and her ability to single handedly design and build a Jaeger is ludicrous. Shao seemed to be around twenty-two years old but wouldn’t stop screaming about her life’s work being tarnished even though she doesn’t seem old enough to have her life’s work complete.

While we’re on the topic of Shao’s work, lets take a look at her projects. Jaeger drones are a great idea and I’m glad the concept was worked into the movie. But an entire Jaeger Drone army that was infiltrated by Newt who proceeded to work Jaeger brain into their systems and add a special inter-dimensional rift opening feature? Okay, it’s not a great plot point but I’ll overlook it. A giant Jaeger that attacked an entire city with a Kaiju brain piloting it and no actual resolution as to who made it, sent it, or the reasoning behind it? I guess I can accept it even if there were no resolution. A standing army of robot bugs whose sole purpose is to surgically deconstruct several Kaiju to then build the remains into a mega Kaiju? You’ve lost me.

Now I know what you’re all thinking. “But giant robot fights!” and “what about the Kaiju?” Well, I’m sad to report that there was literally only one true Kaiju vs. Jaeger fight in the movie. If you’re interested in seeing it, just watch the trailer. It’s practically all there anyway. I’m the kind of person who can overlook a somewhat mediocre or “repurposed” story if something about the movie is interesting. Any action movie fan would say the same thing. There simply just weren’t enough action sequences, or any interesting ones for that matter, to make up for the other elements of this disappointing movie.

To answer my earlier question to how this movie could be so bad, this movie is horrible because Hollywood got their grubby hands on the rights to a sequel that they mangled for the sake of making money off of kids. It’s a cheap story with mediocre action sequences and disgraces the potentially impressive franchise that Guillermo created. For that, this movie deserves no mercy.

What did you think of Pacific Rim Uprising? Do you agree with me or actually think it was worse than I made it out to be? I’ll be back soon with some much more uplifting reviews, but twitter spoke and this review had to exist. See you then!

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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!

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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!