Movies

This Is Kung Fury

I’m going to sell Kung Fury to you in just a few lines.

An 80s love song of a movie featuring kung fu, evil arcade machines, time travel, dinosaurs, Thor, Valkyries, Hackerman, Hitler, and a triceratops cop named Triceracops.  Seriously, the trailer was one of the best and most ridiculous things I’d seen in forever, and the film tops it by a mile.

For a while I thought I was watching a live action Streets of Rage.  That’s possibly the highest praise I can give anything.

Just go.  Watch it.  It’s free.  Have a blast.  Then watch it again.

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Movies, Uncategorized

This Is Avengers: Age of Ultron

I doubt my impressions are going to come as a shock or a revelation.  Rather than just saying “Yes” over and over again, a few things I disliked:

1. There is so much action,  most character development (or progression) goes out the window.  The exception to this is Hawkeye.

2.  The story is a little far-reaching with so many moving parts, there is little time to give decent focus to all those pieces making things feel either unfinished or unexplained.

I think that’s it.

It was beautiful, insane, way over the top, and gave me exactly what I signed up for.

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Movies, Uncategorized

This Is Noah

I’m indifferent to Darren Aronofsky as a director.  Maybe indifferent is the wrong word, but he doesn’t light me on fire in any way.  I enjoyed Black Swan.  Thought The Fountain was okay.  Requiem for a Dream is one of those movies I thought was fantastic, but I have no intention of ever watching again unless I desperately need to feel better about myself.  Noah seemed like one of those movies that might be interesting, but not movie theater interesting, and in the end left me feeling flood water tepid.

For a subject matter with the potential to be – and I hesitate to use the word – epic, Noah is surprisingly flat and without character.  Most of the film is plodding and on-rails, moving from one point to the next with minimal flair never much rising above its lumbering narrative.  There are moments of interest when the film skews more towards the fantastic, these Aronofsky handling with his typical artistic flare, which lent Noah some much needed excitement.  I suspect most everyone who wanted to see the film are familiar enough with the story of the ark without needing too much history (much in the same way I tire of origin after origin story for every superhero reboot), and the pieces which may be unknown to some are not compelling enough to win wavering attentions.  There is a sub-plot pitting the Men of Cain (bad guys) again the Men of Seth (Noah, “good guys”) explained through some spliced cuts and quick story moments, though the conflict is largely bland black-and-white.  I suppose when the source material is largely black-and-white there is some excuse, though that feels flimsy instead of doing some work and making the motivation of Cain’s people less Bond villain blatant.

Time is an issue with Noah.  There is an obvious moment when a jump occurs as the children become adults and near-adults, but beyond that break the rest is ambiguous.  They’re working on the ark.  Animals start coming.  They keep working on the ark.  But then it starts raining, so I guess they’re done with the ark but there’s still scaffolding.  Then Hermione gets pregnant and the next scene she’s having babies.  A stowaway on the ark comes aboard secretly (kinda) right when the flood hits, and there’s a bit of a Hollywood fight scene between Noah and Bad Guy as Hermione is having the kids, meaning Bad Guy was on the ship for at least nine months without anyone noticing.  In a movie with angel rock giants, talking snakes, nine-hundred plus year old men, and all those animals, it may be strange that’s my moment of disbelief, but there we are.  It’s indicative of the film as a whole: somehow rushed and somehow plodding.

Everyone in the film was fine.  Seemed like they had all the time in the world and were mostly unexcited about anything.  But fine.

I’m trying to think of more to say about Noah, and I honestly can’t be bothered.  I mean, it’s not bad, there’s just no reason to care about it.  That last sentence should be the review.

 

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Movies

This Is Wolfcop

The credits and opening shot-plus-filter make you think you’re getting Grindhouse, but once the title appears, that train leaves the station becoming something else entirely.  In fact, up until Lou Garou (clever, right?) becomes the Wolfcop, the movie is mostly uninteresting.  Lou is an alcoholic in a small town.  Small town people do small town things.  Some punks dressed as pigs rob a place.  You know.  But once Lou gets that pentagram carved on his chest in the middle of the night, things start looking up.

Special effects are a mix of An American Werewolf in London and Little Monsters.  When Lou’s transforming, it’s the former, when he’s Wolfcop, it’s the latter.  When someone gets their face ripped off, which happens with some frequency, it’s also the former.  Wolfcop as a person is a little the Punisher if the Punisher was a werewolf.  Bullets don’t hurt him, except a blunderbuss the Shapeshifters use.  Yup.  Shapeshifters.

Let’s see.  There’s a fairly involved sex scene with Wolfcop which is a little unnerving.  Wolfcop is extra strong because he drinks while he’s a wolf.  Oh yeah, and the best part of the movie is:

BAD GUY:  “Where are you?”

WOLFCOP: “The fuzz.”

And then Wolfcop shoots him in the face.

Recommended solely for that exchange and watching Wolfcop drive around in his Wolfcopmobile fighting crime.

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horror, Movies

This Is It Follows

It Follows is a love letter to early horror.  David Robert Mitchell knows his stuff, and certainly knows his influences.  Carpenter’s style and tone are all over this thing alongside Hooper, Craven, Cunningham, and Raimi.  It Follows proudly displays it’s late 70s, early 80s roots.  Every detail in the film is a part of this time capsule from the filter to the costumes to the décor to the music to the strange almost out-of-place wrongness to the It following.  As a result, the entire experience has a feeling of a lost era about it, a sense – strange as this sounds as I type it out – of mothballs and mummies buried low beneath the ground.  The texture is perfect, simultaneously familiar and displacing.

Horror has a long history with disbelief, a history It Follows is a proud part of.  Little time is spent explaining the threat of It Follows, a fact which works in the film’s favor forcing audiences to either get on board or wonder just what in the world is happening.  The immediacy of “this is what you’re dealing with, there it is, now run” has an interesting juxtaposition to it given how jolting the realization of what’s happening is when laid against the steady pace of the “creature” itself.  Where a fair amount of modern horror relies on the quick scare, It Follows relishes in the breath you think you’re catching.  You will lower your guard, and it will always be at the wrong time.

There are very few missteps.  One of the main characters could be removed entirely and you wouldn’t notice.  A second main character could be removed entirely and you would nearly not notice.  Without giving away much of anything, the supporting cast exists solely to enforce the film’s mechanism with little in the way of development or purpose.  And, though I loved it, the music too can be off-putting, a nod to the era it’s inspired from without Carpenter’s more delicate guidance.

It Follows is the best horror film I’ve seen since Let The Right One In.

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Movies

This Is The Maze Runner (Movie)

The full name of the film with the inclusion of its subtitle is The Maze Runner: Just Run With It.  At least I’m assuming that’s the full title.

There is an amnesia village full of Lost Boys.  There is a maze surrounding amnesia village.  Every night the maze closes because cybernetic hybrid mutant robots known as Grievers live inside it, and they will ruin your day.  Once a month, a new boy gets added to amnesia village.  Runners go into the maze, an elite sub-section of this vaguely Lord Of The Flys oligarchy who map the structure and its ever-shifting net of walls and dead ends.  If a Griever stings a Runner, because these cybernetic hybrid mutant robots have stingers, the Runner goes crazy.  Crazy = zombie.  Why?  Because every new young adult enterprise needs to be dystopian, and the zombie vein isn’t as dry as I thought it was.  Some of the kids who get stung don’t become zombies, or at least they do, but only for a little while.  No one explains why.  Fast forward a bit.  The Lost Boys (with the addition now of a Lost Girl who gets added later, a Lost Girl arriving with a note explaining something to the effect of “she’s the last one” which may lead you to question “Last what?  Girl?  Teenager?  Addition to amnesia village?” all queries which will also go unexplained) learn they’re in the future.  The sun scorched the earth destroying everything.  Then, a virus came along which made people go crazy (crazy = zombies), which has no cure.  Except it does.  Kinda.  Teenagers are immune.  But I think only some of the teenagers.  So survivors built this super maze full of cybernetic hybrid mutant robots in an effort to test the teenagers who were immune to make sure they were tough enough to face the world of Mad Max and virus zombies and, I’m assuming, save everyone.  It’s never explained how the sun scorched the earth.  Maybe global warming.  But it rained at one point, and the maze wasn’t in an artificial structure making it a natural rain, and I’m not really sure how weather works in this scorched earth scenario, but rain felt a little scientifically wrong.  At the end of the movie, we learn the sequel, AKA Phase Two in the Just Run With It Trials, is about to begin.  The lady who explained what the future is to the kids, and the lady who shoots herself in the face after explaining what the future is to the kids, tells a board room full of people to start up this so-called Phase Two.  I guess she was alive after all.

I rate this movie a “Huh?”

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Movies

This Is Chappie

Like a potpourri made of spices hand-selected not for their complimentary qualities but rather their sole aromatic strengths, Chappie is a sensory assault of clashing confections which manages to, in the end, produce a pleasant experience.

Neill Blomkamp is one of the best things going for science fiction currently.  In a number of ways, he reminds me of Philip K. Dick, exploring many similar themes with the same realistic stink and weary inevitability.  Dick’s future was a bleak one, one where the machinery and possibilities of were built with the same flaws and evolutionary muck-ups their creators possess, one where we grafted our own broken image onto something else.  Blomkamp has much of this same texture, if not fueled by as large a helping of melancholy.  In District 9, he used aliens and their quarantine as a parallel for South Africa’s struggle with apartheid.  Elysium follows some similar threads with its focus on the disparity between classes.  And while I’m simplifying these two films for both ease and sake of space, Chappie is a larger undertaking altogether with what it chooses to discuss and how, with the result becoming the aforementioned scent.

Chappie is a film unsure of what it wants to be.  It is one part a conversation about what it means to be human.  It is one part a conversation about class.  It is a conversation, to degrees, about xenophobia.  About upbringing.  About morality.  Science fiction is known so well for addressing these themes time and again – look to I, Robot, to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and The Day the Earth Stood Still – and here Chappie is no different, though the way Blomkamp pushes these issues together into one vast cauldron is what makes the dialogue interesting.  As such, the missteps are not with these explorations so much as they are the film’s tone, at times cycling furiously between dramatic dark and humorous farce.  A large part of the issue is found in Blomkamp’s choice to use South African hip-hop duo Die Antwoord as two of the main characters, and Chappie’s largest sphere of influence in the film.  If you are remotely familiar with the group, you’ll understand the curiosity of their use, both Ninja and Yolandi, respectively, having, respectively, less… conventional proclivities, many of which are displayed front and center.  For those of you unfamiliar, which I suspect will be many, I do not recommend looking them up and traveling down that particular rabbit hole.  Know only they are a group I am simultaneously fascinated and horrified by.

Their acting is fine.  Ninja – I feel ridiculous even typing that out – did not receive much critical reception from what I can tell, but I was genuinely surprised.  He played himself, and though there are levels with which that can go awry, he did himself well.  Yolandi too.  Their style is known as “Zef”, which a preliminary search explains to be out-of-date and “trashy”, not something I much picked up on, where I would more likely tell you to imagine a Chav living in a trailer park in the southern U.S in an effort to explain them.  At any rate, these are Chappie’s mentors.  Loosely.  As such, Chappie, the only robot with a consciousness and true sentience, learns from them in the way a child does, mimicking their posture, their vocabulary, their ideas of right/wrong, and even a sad understanding of what passes as “normal” to them.  I’d recently watched the documentary Rich Hill which is a heartbreaking look at the cyclical nature of the struggles of America’s poor, and I couldn’t help but see a fair amount of comparisons in the way Chappie would emulate his adoptive “parents” much as the children of Rich Hill would theirs without knowing any better.  Admittedly, the goofiness in Chappie’s learned personality does an excellent job of highlighting his child-like qualities.  Though a robot, I immediately took to him as the toddler he’s described as being, and in this way, his innocence is clearly apparent, a fact Blomkamp does a fantastic job of capitalizing on in his exploration of those traits of ours we pass along to whom we teach.  Though it’s an interesting lens to view yourself through, forcing a look at what words we choose, what actions we convey, what person we choose to show ourselves as to others, its juxtaposition alongside the heavier moments makes for large swaths of disparity.

Hugh Jackman plays what I suppose is the film’s main antagonist though, I could argue, there are a handful of these.  His actions are clear while being largely unexplained.  He is the xenophobe, fearful of truly intelligent A.I. with a zealot’s fervor, a fact which is never much addressed aside from a number of sign-of-the-cross gestures leading me to assume his concern is for the blurred line between who can or cannot play God.  Jackman’s character otherwise does not strike me as remotely religious appearing more a crazed army vet with a penchant for instability, making me wonder if my creationist theory is a wrong one.  Part of his issue with Chappie’s creator Deon, and yet another reason he’s the main antagonist, is the two work for the same company both attempting to create the next best robot.  Deon wins.  Jackman spends all his time and energy trying to get their boss to give his project a go while sabotaging Deon in the process.  He’s just petty, which may be the real answer here, coming off as incredibly one-dimensional and prone to tantrums.  Not too exciting.

My friends felt Chappie overstayed its welcome some, but the run time didn’t bother me.  I enjoyed the two hours or so I spent in that world.  Chappie is not an action film, another plus for BlomKamp in my book.  Though he doesn’t always get it right, he is unafraid of exploring what he wants to explore in the way of his choosing, fearless in the way a storyteller with something to say must be, and through its (at times) odd filter and slower pace, I was treated to a number of interesting concepts I began thinking on from the time they were introduced right up through the typing of this sentence.  And this sentence.

A fair amount happens here, none of which I want to give away as plot-points beyond theme.  There are no real twists in the Shyamalan sense, but a handful of “Ahhhh” moments do exist, all of which are wonderfully handled.  Chappie is more a true successor to the brilliant District 9 than Elysium, and one I would recommend on that merit alone.  Again, like Chappie himself, the film is a little unsure of who or what it is, a little too ripe with the possibility of its blank slated potential.  Though there are struggles, Chappie does what every good piece of science fiction should do: make us relate to the seemingly unrelateable and, in turn, come to better understand ourselves in the process.

I’m anxious to see what Blomkamp does now that he’s been tapped for the new Alien film.  Him being in control of one of my favorite properties has me ridiculously excited.

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