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It Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Sep 18 2017 · 90 views
It, Stephen King, horror
:kaukau: I watched this movie because I heard good word of mouth. Prior to the movie coming out, there wasn't much buzz. It was just some movie coming out later this year, which a date that I didn't bother remembering. And yet somehow, it grossed $123 million domestically on its opening weekend, more than any other movie this year except Beauty and the Beast and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. War for the Planet of the Apes didn't even gross half as much on its opening weekend, nor did Dunkirk, Cars 3, and other films that we couldn't stop hearing about. It even outgrossed Spider-Man: Homecoming and Wonder Woman's opening weekends.

And the hilarious thing is, it's a bad movie.

Yeah, I heard a lot of good reviews. People were saying good things about it, audiences and critics alike. But I laughed at all of the serious moments while I was in the movie.

I'm not complaining that it's bad, either. I sincerely had a good time. And ultimately, I'm actually rather happy that it made so much money on such a small budget. When you're essentially an indie film and you're out-grossing some of the biggest names in comic books, that's power to you. Stick it to the establishment!

But anyway, allow me to explain what's bad about it, and why I had such a fun time because of it, or should I say, because of It:

This is one of those movies that you could tell was based off of a Stephen King novel, even if you had never heard of It before. It contains just about every King cliche out there. There were times when this movie felt as disjointed as The Room, when people would do random things to fill up the runtime. I suppose it's supposed to have a bit of a Stand By Me feel to it, but it kind of ruins the pacing it has as a horror film. And it's awkwardly paced in general. And there's basically no plot for the first half of the film. And even when you do get to the main plot, there's some strange editing. And when I mean strange editing, some of the tense scenes will end and you will cut to the main characters in another, safer situation. I'm like, "wait, that scene resolved itself at that moment? I had no idea that they were safe yet."

More cliches: every one of the Stand By Me kids (they're technically called the Losers Club) has abusive parents. With some of them, it's only implied, or you only see it in one scene, but with others, there's some uncomfortable screen time to be had. How is it that every single parent in this town is inhumanly awful? The bullies are just as bad, if not worse. I've seen cliche bullies before, but these guys take the cake. They will literally carve their names into the flesh of fat people, and they bully just about everyone. They'll even shoot at people's cats. It gets to the point that they will even murder. These guys are pretty messed up. Hands down, these are the most over-the-top bullies ever. And on top of it all, the main bully has to offend me with his awful late-80's mullet. That was painful to look at.

Thank heavens that the Losers are somewhat decent people! They're so decent that they're . . . honestly, kind of annoying, too. And each person is bascially only a walking quirk. And then there's the kid played by Finn Wolfhard, from Stranger Things. I don't even know what his quirk was. As far as I can tell, he was supposed to be more obnoxious than the rest of them, but as far as I was concerned, his quirk was that he reminded people of how Stranger Things was much better and therefore the directors had to hide him behind a giant pair of glasses that never came off. So hopefully people wouldn't notice that he's basically Mike Wheeler.

Well, one character was significantly improved. Beverly. She didn't do a certain thing in this movie that she did in the book. Ahem. Stephen King has a weird mind.

So yeah, the first half of the movie is just random encounters with the clown which don't really add up to anything. And the clown, which has all the powers of shape-shifting in the world, doesn't actually use any of them to kill the main characters. He's a very lousy serial killer. These scenes hardly have any buildup that would otherwise make them eerie. They're not directed like actual horror scenes. They actually come off more as gimmicks. And then the scenes end abruptly. And the characters who nearly got killed in these scenes? They go on living as normal for the first half of the film. One of them, this Jewish kid (that's literally his only trait as far as I can tell), nearly gets eaten by It, and I assumed that he had until in a later scene when he eventually actually talked about it. It turns out that this similarly-looking person actually was the Jewish kid this whole time, only he had lost his yarmulke and I didn't recognize him. Seriously, how did he not have jitters in his next scene? And that goes for all of the other kids.

And this pattern continues. These kids are really good at going on as if nothing abnormal had happened. There's one moment like this before the climax, but my favorite scene where they got the mood all wrong was when the shapeshifter came from the drain with tentacles of hair and nearly choked the girl, and then sprayed blood all over the place. When the rest of the Losers Club visits to see this really disturbing thing, they randomly decide to have a moment where they all cheerily clean up all of the blood. Seriously, they see all of this blood and their first thought it "we need to clean up!" And it's not even depicted as ironic. It's like I was watching the wall-painting scene from Bridge to Terebithia.

Did this movie even know what tone it was going for?

I'll be the one to say it: the movie advertised itself as being loyal to the book, which is probably one of the reasons why it's successful, but I think that it would have been a lot better if it had removed half of the characters and kept the story between three individuals. Just have the Losers Club be a trio. You could develop the characters much better.

Anyway, the film is not without its merits. If you want something gimmicky, this is good. The clown can do some pretty interesting things, and with modern technology, they actually fully realize some of its more creative shapes. Its scenes don't necessarily come off as "scary" so much as "fun." Because they are fun. I think people ultimately went to the movie because they thought that the clown would have a special presence, which he does. He's well presented, and he's a solid concept, and he does leave an impression. If you think about the movie as a villain film, I'd say that it works. Actually, It is actually a better villain than most Marvel villains, come to think of it.

I still find it hilarious that this opened higher than Spider-Man: Homecoming.



Dunkirk was a terrible movie

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Jul 29 2017 · 403 views
Christopher Nolan, sucks and 3 more...
Dunkirk was a terrible movie :kaukau: I haven't felt this strongly about a film since 2013.

Good cinematographer
Good sound technicians
Good production designer

Everything else sucked. You don't feel for a single character, not to mention that literally everyone on-screen is fictional. I remember when he released this thinking, "Ah, for once Christopher Nolan can make a traditional film in a genre that should be larger than him as a director. If nothing else, we won't have any more of this non-linear storytelling." As it happens, I was wrong. And if anyone can shoehorn non-linear storytelling into a movie where it doesn't belong, it's Christopher Nolan.

Seriously? We're going to do this with a WWII movie? And all in the space of one battle? Really, Nolan? He's beginning to remind me of M. Night Shyamalan, who makes strange directing choices that scream "Hey look! I'm directing!" and "Ask me what it means!" This is basically proof that Christopher Nolan cares more about patting himself on the back for being an auteur than actually making a good movie. He loves himself more than he does film. And he somehow has the gall to market himself as "the last remaining vestige of classical, decent and respectable film making."

No. No, Mr. Nolan. You are not. You are a hack. You are a snob. All you care about it creating this illusion that you're smarter than everyone else, and being hailed as a savior for the modern film making business by delusional fans. You want to be important. In every film, you create a ridiculously conspicuous awareness that you're directing, overshadowing everything else about it. Want to make an historical epic about World War II? Nope. There's no such thing as an actual World War II film in Christopher Nolan's mind, only a Christopher Nolan film that happens to be set in World War II. Then, just like all of your other films, include some things that sound deep, and then do non-linear storytelling to make people think that you're making a much deeper point than you really are, to convince them that "only smart people appreciate them, and I'm sorry that your unsophisticated mind can't comprehend it."

Well, I'm calling the emperor out on having no clothes. He's butt naked. He's a fraud.

And on top of that, while Hans Zimmer has put out a few good scores, his collaborations with Nolan represent everything that I hate about modern movie music, and his Dunkirk score took it to the extreme. 99% of the score for Dunkirk mimics the ticking of a clock, or a heartbeat, or panting, or whatever else goes to a high-strung tempo. It's all one-note, and it's always taught all of the time. It always sounds like it's about to crescendo. And it all sounds the same. Guys, I think I've discovered the ultimate Hans Zimmer soundtrack. It's every negative stereotype associated with Hans Zimmer taken to the utmost extreme. It doesn't even fit the setting, because it sounds so ridiculously modern.

With Dunkirk, there is so much story that you can tell. For example, how Winston Churchill organized it all. That's fascinating. You can tell a huge story about organizing this. No such story. You can tell a very interesting story on the reasons speculated as to why Adolf Hitler halted hit troops' advance. You could tell any other number of stories. You could tell any story, actually.

But Christopher Nolan literally has no story. He just randomly jumps back and forth, in a non-linear fashion, between three different casts of characters that you don't really care about. Some faceless guy on the beach. A family who runs one of the boats. A couple of pilots. You don't try to make us sympathize with any of them, because you're too obsessed with telling a non-linear "story" in order to look smart. None of these characters go through any arc's. And for your film's supposed theme that the soldiers of Dunkirk were heroic, you don't actually try to make anyone feel the same amount of fear that they do. You don't humanize them.

I'm going to go out and say it: I hate this movie just as much as Pearl Harbor. I watched it with a few elderly people, and they liked it, but they're not aware of the context of this film. The release of this film takes place within the context of a world that has Christopher Nolan fever, and a fan base that campaigns for his name to be lauded as the greatest director of all time. People speak of him as though he were infallible. It has gone to his head. Not a single one of his films comes off as sincere to me, other than his earliest movies. I know that a lot of World War II veterans won't be offended by this film. They'll think "Hey, it's about us!" No, this isn't about you. It's all about him. It has always been about him. He's only using you to get more power. He's exploiting the Greatest Generation to gain immortality.

So suffice to say, I don't like Christopher Nolan. He used to merely just not be my style, but now I intensely dislike him.

Go watch Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets instead.



The Room Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Movies, Reviews Jul 27 2017 · 106 views
Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero and 3 more...
:kaukau: I just watched the most famous bad movie of all time. Various Youtube channels have completely spoiled the movie for me, so I've basically seen the entire movie already, so it was a bit of a downer. My suggestion is that you don't watch any of those videos out there about the film. Instead, take my word for it, and be one of the few who actually goes out and buys the DVD off of Tommy Wiseau's site, and watch it with minimal knowledge of the movie (save for the part where there's uncensored nudity; you might actually want to be mentally prepared for that in advance). Just take my word for it. It is gloriously bad, in every conceivable way.

In the near future, I think I plan on watching the film several more times, memorizing the scenes, in order to prepare myself for one of those cult screenings. I really look forward to watching one of those someday. Sure, it will cost me a fortune in plastic spoons, but it will be worth it.

Oh, hai SPIRIT!



War for the Planet of the Apes review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Movies, Reviews Jul 26 2017 · 71 views

War for the Planet of the Apes review :kaukau: Instead of being named after the original Planet of the Apes, this series should have titled itself after Caesar. If you think about it, this series has very little to do with exactly how the planet of the apes setting came about. Asides from the initial accident which created the virus that wiped out humans and shot up the ape IQs, none of the actions of any of the characters ultimately did anything to determine the course of history. Nothing Caesar did had any impact on what the planet of the apes would look like a hundred years in the future, in the year 0 C.H. (Charlton Heston). In spite of title of this most recent film, nothing in the trailers suggested that the war would be a crucial turning point that would determine anything of lasting importance, other than the survival of one specific village of apes.

This isn't a bad thing. However, now that this series has supposedly wrapped up, I look back on it and realize that my initial impression that it was an origin story was wrong. The only film that really made for an origin story was the first one. All of the rest have been less about the worldwide consequences of the apes becoming the dominant species and have been more of a personal story for Caesar.

Even though Caesar does absolutely nothing to contribute to the titles of these films, he still does make a significant difference to the people in his life. His life story is amazing, and he goes through a genuinely riveting personal journey throughout these films. This is the main takeaway of these films. All of that money, all of those special effects, and it all goes to a personal drama. That basically never happens. I really have to credit these films for daring to invest so much in something that isn't as immediately flashy as, say, a superhero movie. People point to Marvel and Christopher Nolan as the most innovative forces in Hollywood, but I actually think that these films push the envelope more with what can be accomplished in a tentpole production.

Andy Serkis's motion capture performance is breathtaking. I wondered how on Earth they could improve it from the last film, but the magicians at WETA succeeded. Andy probably won't get nominated, but the effects artists will finally win for how well they bring to life this character. There are moments where the special effects and the performance come together to create something genuinely Oscar worthy, and none of these amazing moments are given away in the trailers. Serkis's voice is also incredible. Caesar has been talking for a while, and his voice has changed from previous films. He's also one of the few apes who ever speaks, so there must be a certain gravity to his speech, something that makes him special. Serkis completely sells it.

Who knows, maybe he will get nominated for an Oscar, or even receive a special achievement award. Regardless of the recognition he receives, one thing is absolutely certain: all hail Caesar.



Spiderman: Homecoming: Review: Semicolon;

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Jul 21 2017 · 156 views
Spider-Man, Spiderman, MCU and 1 more...
:kaukau: Pros:
  • Michael Keaton as Birdman really rules this movie. Absolutely amazing. I related to his character a lot. Working man, has a team of guys in a special garage with him. Enjoys his job. Good stuff. I sympathized with him. This is truly the first time since Loki that Marvel Studios has put a good villain in its film. YES!
  • Spiderman fought the villain on multiple occasions before their climactic final fight. I like that. So often, heros and villains don't meet each other until the climax, and it's underwhelming. It takes away from the tension and rivalry building up between the two. That, plus watching heroes with special powers fighting villains with special powers is, you know, fun.
  • Instead of getting into an origin story, they create a "coming of age" story.
  • Like most everyone else, I love the expressiveness of the new Spidey-eyes.
  • The other movies have put him in high school, but this is the first to legitimately go full-blown John Hughes. Kudos for bringing out a quintessential aspect of Peter Parker.
  • The trailers didn't spoil everything. A lot of people were saying that they did before the movie came out.
  • Great job of capturing contemporary New York City in ways that the first two series didn't. They managed to capture a lot of the diversity that's in the city.
  • The bully, Flash, happens to be a fellow nerd. Which is cool, because you don't necessarily have to be a jock in order to be a bully.
  • Good character development.
  • Again, this movie revels much more than the others in the high school setting.
  • This hands-down has one of the better film scores to date. Michael Giacchino came up with an actual, memorable theme that I found myself humming after the movie theatre. And he also did something that I loved, which was make the entire end credits interesting and have some genuine fun building up to the perfect final note.
  • I always feel that something is missing if a hero is introduced without an origin story, even when we all already know the origin. Origin stories just ground them, and I like to see the characters at the very beginning of their journey. I know people have seen it all before, but I miss Uncle Ben. I miss Harry Osborn. I miss "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility".
  • Wait a minute, where did he go to get bitten by a radio-active spider? Was it Oscorp? So far, they haven't been mentioned anywhere in this universe.
  • One of the most fun parts of a superhero film is when the hero first discovers what he or she can and cannot do with his or her powers. That's something that the first Spiderman film did well, and also the first Iron Man movie. You have a lot of him discovering powers in this film...but all of the powers that he's discovering aren't his, but Tony Stark's. This is actually incredibly frustrating for me. It seems to me that Spiderman isn't his own hero, but an experiment of Tony Stark's. Almost all of his powers in the movie are Iron Man powers.
  • In fact, not only are all of his new powers Iron Man powers, but they even get rid of one of his most classic abilities: Spider-senses.
  • Artificial intelligence speaking to him in his suit? No thanks. I hated it. I really did. The only good thing that I have to say about that is that it was voiced by the transcendent Jennifer Connelly. I like Spiderman when he's on his own.
  • I'm not sure what to think of Zendaya's character. She has a name that's very similar to another character from the comics, but her character is nothing like that character. According to Feige, she's just an homage to that character. I hope that the actual character shows up sometime in the movies. Otherwise, I'm not too fond seeing that character's role in these movies replaced by a similarly-named character with a completely different personality.
  • It doesn't have the same, amazingly cinematic three-act-structure of the original Spiderman. It doesn't feel quite as quintessential a big-screen experience. There's something so mythic about the original Spiderman.
Final thoughts:

There are pros and cons. I definitely think that it's a good movie and manages to do some things that the other ones haven't managed to do as well. They also manage to make this distinctly the "shared universe" Spiderman. I'm not one of those guys who wants every property to go back to Marvel. I'm perfectly fine with Fox, for example, making their own X-Men movies, since I don't see how they would benefit from the MCU. Spiderman, however, definitely fits into this universe.

That having been said, I don't think that this is an improvement over previous Spiderman series. The first two films are still my favorite, and I actually rather liked The Amazing Spider-Man, so I'm not jumping on-board with the people who all think that the MCU "saved" Spiderman and that Marvel Studios is the only studio that can be trusted with superhero characters. In my opinion, the character was doing well before, and the only reason why he "needed" Marvel Studios was in order to branch out and do new things that haven't been tried before in a Spiderman movie.

It's a decent film. I can't call it the definitive Spiderman film. If I were to pick out one, I'd say that that would be the original, simply for how it's the quintessential big screen, mythic, three-act experience that also revels in the relative freshness of the genre without feeling that it has to "mix things up" in any way (later superhero films would include sub-genres). I can see any one of the three Spiderman series being someone's favorite, since they all do certain things better than the others.



Transformers 5 Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Jun 24 2017 · 80 views
Transformers 5, Michael Bay and 3 more...

:kaukau: I've decided to do something different. Here's my video review.



Cars 3 Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Movies, Reviews Jun 17 2017 · 35 views
Cars, Cars 3, Disney, Pixar
Cars 3 Review :kaukau: This is going to be pretty short and to the point: If you saw the poster, you know what this film is about. Unlike Cars 2, which had just about nothing to do with the first one, Cars 3 is as natural of a continuation of the first movie as you can get. It's all about Lightning McQueen learning to be more like Doc Hudson. I think one of the great things about this movie is that Lightning is actually far more mature than he was when we first met him in 2006, and you can see how he applies a lot of that humility and loyalty and team-player spirit throughout his daily life. Yet, there is one more lesson left for him to learn.

And boy, in learning that lesson, they call back Doc Hudson. The people at Pixar really held Paul Newman in high reverence.

Other than that, I have nothing to say that's suited for review. You know how it's going to look, how it's going to be directed, and that it will have a classic Randy Newman score (Yay! I love it when Pixar uses their OG composer!). All I have to left to talk about is the story, which is hard to discuss in a review. I think that it's pretty good, and pretty fitting. Of course, it's a bit predictable, but so was the first film. The point is that throughout the journey, and all the way to the very end, there's this very fulfilling emotion in your stomach.

This is a pretty good sequel, and a good sports movie. What's more, it makes me love the original even more, and now I want to go back and watch Paul Newman's last major role one more time.



Cars 3 Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Movies, Reviews Jun 17 2017 · 56 views
Cars, Cars 3, Disney, Pixar
Cars 3 Review :kaukau: This is going to be pretty short and to the point: If you saw the poster, you know what this film is about. Unlike Cars 2, which had just about nothing to do with the first one, Cars 3 is as natural of a continuation of the first movie as you can get. It's all about Lightning McQueen learning to be more like Doc Hudson. I think one of the great things about this movie is that Lightning is actually far more mature than he was when we first met him in 2006, and you can see how he applies a lot of that humility and loyalty and team-player spirit throughout his daily life. Yet, there is one more lesson left for him to learn.

And boy, in learning that lesson, they call back Doc Hudson. The people at Pixar really held Paul Newman in high reverence.

Other than that, I have nothing to say that's suited for review. You know how it's going to look, how it's going to be directed, and that it will have a classic Randy Newman score (Yay! I love it when Pixar uses their OG composer!). All I have to left to talk about is the story, which is hard to discuss in a review. I think that it's pretty good, and pretty fitting. Of course, it's a bit predictable, but so was the first film. The point is that throughout the journey, and all the way to the very end, there's this very fulfilling emotion in your stomach.

This is a pretty good sequel, and a good sports movie. What's more, it makes me love the original even more, and now I want to go back and watch Paul Newman's last major role one more time.



Wonder Woman Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies, Superman Jun 09 2017 · 44 views
Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, DC and 2 more...
Wonder Woman Review :kaukau: When Superman starred in his first tent-pole production, it became a beloved classic. As the first major superhero film, it set the tone for all future superhero films. It became the gold standard against which all other superhero films are measured, either by how well they capture the classic comic book atmosphere, or by how they break from comic book movie lore. Superman: The Movie wasn't only a classic because it was the first, though. Director Richard Donner knew exactly what tone to give to this previously unexplored genre, crystallizing the concept. John Williams bestowed the film with one of the most iconic scores in film history. Mario Puzo scripted a story that told a modern myth. Christopher Reeve played the character as uplifting. Everything about the movie had an optimistic, wish-fulfilling personality that also longed for simpler times filled with old-fashioned American citizenship and Norman Rockwellian values.

Batman, likewise, nailed his first outing. It continued to define the feel of the superhero genre. It established an atmosphere quite unlike anything felt in any other movie. To this day, there are people who prefer the original Batman to the Christopher Nolan films, which went out of their way to make comic book movies feel no different from any other film.

Spiderman managed to nail the comic book genre perfectly on his first major swing at the big screen as well. It's optimistic, exciting, colorful, and feels exactly like a comic book movie. It entirely nailed the feel of an origin story. It captured many of the dramas inherent to the myth of the superhero, such as the relationship between power and responsibility, and the moral conflict of being able to pursue one's romantic interest but finding that all of the responsibility that comes with the wish-fulfilling power carries the realistic burden of putting those that you love in danger.

These are some of the greatest comic book heroes of all time. Their names are synonymous with the genre.

So is the name of Wonder Woman.

She is a giant. A titan. Kids buy t-shirts with her symbol on it. Nerds dress up like her at comic con. In any standard lineup of iconic superheroes, she will be included. Everybody knows her costume, and whenever anyone makes changes to it, expect controversy. People know her powers, that she has a magical lasso of truth, and gauntlets that deflect bullets. She is one of those foundational characters who was there as the beginning of comics. Wonder Woman is so important to the superhero genre that her, Superman, and Batman are called the Holy Trinity in comics.

And now, after every other superhero film under the sun has been made, she finally gets her own film. This is a huge event in comic-book history. On those merits, it will be remembered.

There are two ways in which I will be judging this film. First, I want to know if this is a good representation of Wonder Woman. Does this correctly represent the character? Second, is this film worthy of Wonder Woman's grace? Is she not only in a good Wonder Woman film, but specifically a great film? Is it a good enough example of film making to be considered a classic? It is important for this film to fulfill both functions. As the first Wonder Woman movie, all future Wonder Woman movies will be compared to it. It will set the tone for all future Wonder Woman films.

First of all, I think that I should get this out of the way for anyone who's a fan of movie-making, I don't think that it lives up to the standards that will make it a classic. It is breaking records as the first high-grossing and positively reviewed comic book movie with a female lead, and it will be go down in history for that. But that's not necessarily because of the film itself, so much as it is because of what it achieved.

I'm a little disappointed, because I was told that Patty Jenkins was brought on board not because she was a woman, but because she was the best person for directing this movie, and that she had a vision. While she certainly did have enough vision for it to not suck and for it to live up to the standards that have been set for superhero movies lately, I don't really look at it as a visionary film, and as a matter of fact there were better directors who could have done this film better. Unfortunately, those directors were male, such as Spielberg and Peter Jackson. I'm not saying that I disagree with hiring Patty Jenkins as a director, since she's talented and it was fitting to hire a woman to direct this film, but because Gal Gadot built her up to be this amazing director, I was expecting something that a cinemaphile could really look at and appreciate on the same level that people appreciate the Christopher Nolan, Tim Burton, Sam Raimi, and Joss Whedon forays into the genre and say, "Only they could have pulled that off the way they did."

None of this is to say that she did a bad job. As many people have noted, the movie is actually good. It does its job, and it entertains. It even has an awareness for the genre that the other DC movies haven't had. There are some callbacks to older tropes in superhero movies that have dropped out of mainstream superhero movies. My favorite moment is when Wonder Woman acts like a hero for the first time, saves the day, and has an audience of witnesses to applaud her for her general awesomeness. There's also smaller moments, like the costume reveal, which actually felt a little special and that I didn't expect to show up in a film like this. She also managed to make this more fun and superhero-y than other DC movies. DC is rediscovering the genre and realizing that no, they don't have to give all of their heroes the Christopher Nolan treatment. Patty Jenkins finds her own way with Wonder Woman. Of course, I wish that her own way was even more distinct than this, but it's she has her own feel nonetheless. I especially like that it's an adventure film and that there are daring uses of color and contrast.

What are some things that I would have liked from this movie that would have made it, in my opinion, a classic? There were certain things on my wish-list that went unchecked, and so I'll list them in the order in which I think they are the easiest for the Patty Jenkins to implement.

1. Have the Germans speak German. This is the easiest creative decision to change. There is a little bit of foreign language use in this film, since it's one of Wonder Woman's cool superpowers. Having there regularly be German dialogue would have really driven that point home. In addition, it would have sold the atmosphere and setting. My guess is that the creative powers that be decided that it would have taken away from the comic book feel, which if that's the case I respect the reasoning behind their decision, but overall I think that it would have done better to have actual foreign languages in it, for the two reasons I mentioned earlier, enhancing the atmosphere and making Wonder Woman more sophisticated and enviable. On a personal note, I simply love foreign languages, German in particular.

2. The cinematography could have been better. I mentioned its colors as a positive, but on the flip side, sometimes things look slightly over-saturated. There are times when I'm definitely aware that the production consists of a green screen as well, which might actually be more of a production design critique than a cinematography critique, but in this particular instance they're related because of of the issue of lighting. Nighttime scenes in particular look a little off, and don't have that same magic that other classic night-time scenes from the 70's and 80's and 90's had. Many times it's obvious that the great colors are due to special effects and filters. I'm aware that many of the battles have to be computer generated, but I would have liked it if the lighting itself could have been more practical. One movie that really got this right was La La Land, and also the original Batman and Superman, which had amazing image quality that didn't have to rely on filters to get a rich feel to them. All of those examples bring to mind very classic film-making, the type that's a little self-aware, the type that really wants you to revel in the production. I think that Patty could have also looked to Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, and especially James Cameron when it came to dictating the look and lighting of nighttime scenes.

3. The directing style could have evoked a lot of nostalgia for older styles of film-making and storytelling, especially with respect to this genre. It did a little of that, but I think that it could have got away with more. I like it when movies show a deeper awareness of film history. Again, I must bring up examples like La La Land, and how it managed to capture the feel of older examples of its genre while simultaneously being updated for modern audiences and carrying a deep story. Am I saying that Patty Jenkins needs to direct something as artistically particular as La La Land? No, but I definitely think that she could have stylized the film more and borrowed from some older styles in order to make the film feel timeless, and therefore stand out from the crowd enough to become a classic on the merits of its directing.

4. While its music was good and dared to be expressive, as a comic book movie ought to, I do wish that there were three or four additional memorable themes on top of Hans Zimmer's screetching thirty-second theme, which really only works for action scenes. It would have nice is some basic story pieces had their own themes to really make the story of the film memorable. A theme for Themyscira, a love theme, a theme for Diana's gentility and not just her warrior training, and maybe a memorable theme with the lasso. There could have also been a theme for the villain and the basic ideas that she's struggling against, which would have really driven the story home, and which feeds into my next point. Overall, this is all very hard to do, and to do it memorably and magically in the same way that movies like Forrest Gump, Home Alone, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban do it, so I don't hold that as an expectation for this film, but I know that such a score is possible, but I do hold that as a standard, especially since John Williams made that standard a very real one when he composed for Superman: The Movie.

5. I mentioned that the themes of the movie could have been represented through music, which takes me to the next point: the themes of the film were actually pretty good and rather fitting for the character, but not everyone has been talking about them. I know enough about audiences that the themes are going to go over their heads or that they'll entirely forget about them. How many times does a critic write a review where they miss the entire point of a movie's story? One of the things that Patty Jenkins, and also the writers, could have done was to get the audience emotionally invested in the themes of the story before they're even aware of what the themes are. That's actually pretty hard to do. The people who are able to do that are masters. Robert Zemeckis, Chris Columbus, and Alfonso Cuaron come to mind, but the folks who do this better than anyone else are the creative minds behind Pixar, the masters of storytelling. Somehow they get people eager to care about the themes of their stories every single time, and their stories leave a lasting, memorable mark. They do this in part simply from good stories, but also through very good storytelling. I didn't expect Wonder Woman to feel like a Pixar film, but I'm just giving examples of what really good emotional investment in a theme looks like in order for people to understand the point. I would have liked a movie where people couldn't help but care about the theme of the story and discuss it afterword. Some of the best Superhero films have done this, in particular Superman: The Movie and Spiderman.

6. This last point may sound simple to some, but it's actually incredibly difficult. Basically, the film could have been a tearjerker. There was one moment that I think was meant to be sad, but it didn't necessarily break my heart or make me even that emotional. Patty Jenkins isn't talentless because of that. That just means that she's in the top 1% of directors, but not the top 0.001% of directors. I think that very few directors can make true tearjerkers. That talent is so rare that people who can make movies well enough to succeed in that department are freaks. True tearjerkers are fairly rare, and they're the types of masterpieces that, when you look at them, you have a lot of respect for them and understand that it's unrealistic to expect all movies to be that good. We all want movies to be perfect, but we're generally forgiving when films don't match the examples set by nearly perfect movies, such as: It's A Wonderful Life, Life Is Beautiful, Schindler's List, Dead Poets Society, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Stand By Me, Ghost, Home Alone (oddly enough), Requiem for a Dream, Forrest Gump, The Fox and the Hound, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, Up, the Toy Story movies, Inside Out. You may be noticing that these last several have all been Pixar films; as I have said, they are the masters, the best of the best. For superhero films, there's Logan, although that required eight films of buildup to make it work, plus a leading performance in Les Miserables. That wasn't much of a superhero film like Wonder Woman and more of a drama and a Western, though. For more action-packed movies, there's T2: Judgment Day. For adventure films like this one, there's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And if I really wanted to give an example of how a classic superhero movie is a tearjerker, I personally tear up a little when Jor-El sends baby Superman off in Superman: The Movie, although that's just me. Manipulating people's emotions of happiness and sadness on such a level takes utmost mastery. It wasn't something that I expected out of the director, especially not with the way that the film was advertised, but I can tell that there were some moments that looked like they wanted to make people emotional. If she had made those moments as emotionally real as any of those movies that I had mentioned, that would have been amazing. How could she have actually achieved that? I don't really know. I'm not one of those elite storytellers. Perhaps she could have looked at any one of those movies that I mentioned, for example The Lion King or Ghost, and used that as a specific inspiration. I don't know. I don't know how much she intended to control the emotions of audiences. If that wasn't something that she constantly thought about, I think that she definitely should have thought thought more about that with every single scene. I she was indeed trying, than I don't have any actual advice for her, although I commend her for not coming off as pretentious. She could have easily gone down that direction.

Alright, now I've talked about the reasons why this isn't a classic, and why it isn't perfect. I'm done with my nitpicking. Now it's time for me to talk about the things that I like, and particular the things that are great about Wonder Woman.

There was a lot they could have got wrong about a Wonder Woman movie, especially after they betrayed the essence of Superman's character and literary history in Man of Steel. Fortunately, Wonder Woman doesn't follow the trend that it's been setting with other DC characters. She hasn't been entirely modernized. This is actually a fairly classic Diana of Themyscira. Apparently, since the story hasn't been told to larger audiences before, there was no need to put a spin on it to add any novelty. The original, unedited idea for Wonder Woman is novel enough. So for the devoted fan, they got that right. They delivered a classic Wonder Woman. She's ENFJ, compassionate, devoted to truth and peace. She's a warrior who's willing to achieve peace through strength. She deflects bullets with her gauntlets, makes people tell truth with her glowing lasso.

Probably the only thing missing is the star-spangled swimsuit bottom, but her look still essentially sticks to the classic image, and I hardly noticed the changed. It looks Amazonian and practical for fighting in. There's also a special moment when she first gets the suit, and the film is self-aware enough that this is an important moment.

Probably one of the best things that the writers and director did with Dianas character is that she felt old-fashioned. I don't know whether to credit the writers, the director, or Gal Gadot, but there's something about Diana that makes me nostalgic for some older values from simpler times. Her morality is pretty straightforward, and I appreciate that it makes me think of Superman. You get a good idea of what she stands for, and she's pretty idealistic. Gal Gadot plays this side of her wonderfully. She captures a sense of innocence and good-naturedness that we innately want to see in our heroes in a similar way that Christopher Reeve does.

Her relationship with the men surrounding her was healthy and functional. She learns to appreciate men, and even grow to have affection for them, just as the men (her love interest in particular) learn to appreciate her in return. I love, love, love that she's a loving person who uses her strength to build up the people around her. This is Wonder Woman as I know her. I love this.

The only real area where they fail as a Wonder Woman movie is in the villain. I won't give away who the villain is, since he/she isn't shown in any of the trailers. He/she is a classic from Wonder Woman's mythology, and very important in the comics, and truly the quintessential villain to start her out with. For such a huge villain, I wish that there was more interaction between him/her and Diana. I understand that due to the nature of the plot the villain couldn't have much screen time, but there are plenty of examples of villains who have very little screen time and yet dominate their respective movies with their presence. They aren't seen, but they are felt. Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is one such villain who only appears at the end, and yet the buildup to him made his minimal screen presence all that more awesome and not disappointing at all. The Emperor from Return of the Jedi is another example. Most people wouldn't be familiar with this, but BIONICLE fans might be pleased if I brought up the Makuta, and how he had an amazing presence both on-screen and, briefly, on-screen. The villain here could have been like that, and indeed really had the potential to and rise to the level of being very, very cinematic, but I think that he/she was merely okay. There were definitely things that I liked about him/her, though, and I'd say he/she is better than the average Marvel villain.

However, this leads into perhaps my favorite thing about the movie. The defining thing about DC's storytelling is that they focus on a character's beliefs and values, and they become symbols for these things. Heroes each stand for something, have to be someone's ideal. DC gets us to ask "Why does society need Superman? Batman? Green Arrow? Captain Marvel? Wonder Woman?" Diana grows and develops in this film, at first assuming that mankind is inherently good and merely the victims of corruption. She naively believes that mankind can be cured of evil, and that she can bring mankind back to peace. I absolutely love this because it gives us a true origin story that shows us how the character develops from merely being Diana of Themyscira to being the wise Wonder Woman that we know. Starting off with these basic, Rousseau-like assumptions, she has them challenged when she meets the villain, who gives her a counter-thesis that she must disprove, and yet at the same time forces her to grow beyond her old assumptions. What she learns is that mankind is inherently evil, at which point she's forced to take on a level of wisdom and maturity that truly makes her Wonder Woman: she's going to love humanity in spite of its wickedness, and save and serve people anyway. She decides that though nobody deserves love, this won't affect her loving nature.

This is, if you pardon the expression, a wonderful moral. It sets Wonder Woman apart from Batman and Superman, and is makes her vitally important to the DC Holy Trinity. It makes her an important figure on our culture. Although not many people will be talking about it upon leaving the theatre, I encourage encourage people to do so.



Ghost in the Shell Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies May 31 2017 · 74 views
Ghost in the Shell and 2 more...

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:kaukau: The one thing that I knew about this movie going into it was that it had very good aesthetics, and that it was on the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 level of prettiness. I guess you could say that I also knew that it starred Scarlett Johansson, although that wasn't really a selling point for me. Actually, that was a point against it, because it made me think that it would be a lot like Luc Besson's dumb Lucy movie. I enjoyed Lucy, but I didn't want a retread of that.

Now that I've seen it, I can say that it isn't quite as psychedelic or as shallow as Lucy. The science is a little more believable, the themes a little deeper. Its editing and mood are significantly less eccentric. It has a very different story, although like Lucy, I wouldn't say that it's a significantly innovative one in the history of Western cinema.

What I can say is that this was based off of an anime of the same name. I don't go out of my way to watch anime, or to read manga, but I'm familiar enough with the genre to say that Ghost in the Shell is very loyal to the storytelling style of Eastern anime. Its mood and atmosphere, its directing, its character types, and its story all feel like something that would specifically come from an anime. In that sense, if it wasn't for the casting, this is probably as good as any live action adaptation of an anime is going to get for a while. People who like the feel of anime will get something out of this.

By Western standards, this isn't the greatest movie. I've seen themes of humanity and robotic played out many times in anime, and that genre has a unique way of going about it, which I can't really describe in words. It's just one of those things that I know when I see it. There's usually something moody about it. In any case, Ghost in the Shell goes through some generic themes that movies have tread over many times before, namely "Humanity good, robotics insufficient," and "Corporations are all like Weyland-Yutani and will sacrifice a ton of innocent lives in order to make a profit." Nothing new here, nothing that is going to cause someone to think, and ultimately the story seems inconsequential.

The characters are also a bit generic. They are well defined in the sense that you understand immediately what archetype they belong to, but that's all they are, archetypes. I actually don't have anything against that form of storytelling. Sometimes an archetype is all that you need. I just don't want people hoping that the characters will have more depth than that. They exist to pull you into the atmosphere of the movie, not to get you invested in them themselves.

The one area where the movie succeeds it that it is indeed very well directed. Rupert Sanders, for an Englishman, has a good instinct for what feels right for Anime. His editing, pacing, and atmosphere are all solid. He makes the world seem very real, and establishes rules for the world that, like everything else, contribute to this movie functioning as a live-action anime. He has a very good grasp on what this film is. Above all, he has a sense for visuals.

I heard good things about this film, visually. Someone even said that it was the prettiest film she had ever seen. I went in with high expectations. I wasn't disappointed, but as a point of fact I have seen prettier films this year, namely La La Land and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I can't say that every single shot in this movie is a masterpiece. Personally, I think that the movie is the most beautiful during the opening credits. The colors and the subjects were captivating and pulled me in, and I was hoping for the rest of the movie to be like that. The rest of the movie didn't quite live up to the hypnotizing concept art of the opening, but still managed to look very attractive overall. I won't say that it is one of the most beautiful films of the ages, but its cinematography is still a notch above the style of other science fiction and action movies, and while I don't think that every film can be as beautiful as, say, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 because I have realistic expectations, I do think that blockbusters can realistically aspire to be as good-looking as Ghost in the Shell.

There are two final things that must be said about how loyal this movie is to its anime roots. No review of Ghost in the Shell is complete without wagging a finger at it and tut-tutting it for casting a white actress, Scarlett Johansson, to play a Japanese character. That really isn't right. Of course, the blame doesn't land squarely on the film makers. It falls on us as well, since the movie American audiences haven't turned out in droves to make any specific Japanese or Japanese-American actress marketable. The only way that this was going to get a budget and make money was if it had a famous actress at the helm, and if there were any popular Japanese actresses in America, I think that the creative team would have gladly cast her. Tao Okamoto would have been a good fit for the role, for example, but American audiences don't know who she is, and just because she wasn't in it, that suddenly makes me a fan of her, because now I want to see her in more things. I swear, I'm going to start bringing her up more often, just to bring about awareness of her so that she just might become popular one day in America, and then we won't have to cast white actresses for Japanese roles anymore. Outside of the main character, though, the movie had no excuse. There movie was populated with white actors, none of which were played by people who would have made any difference in the box office, and there was really only one Japanese actor in the entire main cast. It was a travesty.

But that leads me to something amazing which this will will forever impress me. "Beat" Takeshi Kitano is famous in Japan, and he played Daisuke Aramaki. I mentioned that all of the characters were basic archetypes, but some of them legitimately did charm me. If you're going to have basic character "types" in place of fully developed characters, they might as well be likable. And so was Daisuke Aramaki. Beat played him well, and what truly blew me away was that this old businessman had flamboyant live-action anime hair...and actually pulled it off. I never thought that it could be done, but my hat is off to this film. Of all of the movie's beautiful visuals, none blow me away quite as much as this guy's hair. It's magnificent. I love it.



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Username: Jean Valjean
Real name: N/A
Age: 23
Gender: Male
Heritage: Half Dutch, 25% Hungarian, 12.5% Swedish, 6.25% German and Irish
Physical description: Looks like the eleventh Doctor
Favorite food: Chicken, turkey, and beef.
Least favorite food: Vegetables of any kind
Favorite band: Queen
Favorite singer: Billy Joel
Favorite song: American Pie
Favorite movie: Schindler's List
Favorite TV show: Smallville & Arthur the Friendly Aardvark
Favorite play: Les Miserables
Favorite color: Silver
Second favorite color: Brown
Favorite board game: Risk
Favorite athlete: Michael Phelps
Lucky Number: 53
Past-times: Writing, reading, politics, drawing
Political party: Republican
Religion: Christian
Language: Not English, but American.

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