Jonathan Evans

Review Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse by Jonathan Evans

(5 / 5)

Within this current Superhero renaissance that we are experiencing Spider-Man is the one that has seen the most iterations. Since his cinematic debut in 2002 (directed by Sam Rami, starring Tobey McGuire) there have been two other live-action interpretations as well as three animated shows. Superheroes are meant to be handed to other creative teams and have other actors give their interpretation for a new audience. But within one generation we are now very aware of how malleable these characters are, especially Spider-Man.

This movie is all about accepting that malleable. About how you can have the same character and shoot them through a prism and see all the wonderful spectrums they can cast. We are introduced to our Spider-Man (Chris Pine), he tells the story we all know, he was bitten by a radioactive spider, gained superpowers, his Uncle Ben was shot, with great power comes great responsibility and for the last ten years, he has been your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!

Living his life in the city as well is a young boy named Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), he is entering a special school which he feels he doesn’t belong in however his cop dad (Brian Tyree Henry) insists on it. Miles isn’t having a fun time but likes to kick back with his uncle Davis (Mahershala Ali) and one day while wandering around New York’s underground Miles gets bitten by a mysterious spider. The next day his body begins to go through changes (not puberty), he is sticking to walls and can sense incoming danger. He goes back to the underground to investigate and while there comes across a battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, he attempts to shut down some giant sci-fi machine but it goes boom and Spider-Man is crushed and dies under the debris. This is the end of the hero and Miles is left with questions, while visiting Peter Parker’s grave he’s visited someone else, Peter Parker!

Yes, that machine was a portal to other, alternative universes where another Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) has crossed over. He is more of a self-pitying screwup than the one that perished but Miles certainly lacks experience so this looks like a student mentor set-up to me.

Of all the other Superhero movies this is the one that literally looks like a comic book come to life. There are numerous movies that have adapted and taken visual cues from the source material but this one, due to it being animation literally looks like the characters were drawn and were printed with ink on paper. This comes from neat touches like having their shadows be represented by lines, or printing spots and even speech text and sound effect words appearing on-screen. Adding to this they cut down on the frame rate to make the characters movement blockier, a similar effect was used in The LEGO Movie (makes sense because Phil Lord and Chris Miller serve as story developers).

This is a graphic heavy world told through the perspective of a bi-racial character living in Brooklyn, so it only comments the vision that the soundtrack reflects that. Daniel Pemberton serves as the main composer while Post Malone and Swae Lee also contribute original songs to the movie. It is fast and upbeat and compliments the intensity of the story and tone.

Being that we are dealing with characters whose defining ability is to stick to surfaces and maneuver them we get some fun playing with that shifting of perspective. The camera doesn’t stay upright like what a regular person would, it follows the Spider-Men and when they walk along a wall then the camera adjusts for them and the surroundings look as if they are shifting. It is a refreshing and fun way of conveying wall-crawling.

Along with this other Peter, there are still more Spider-Men. There is Gwen Stacey as Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Peni Parker (Kimiko Elizabeth Glenn) a Japanese, Anime inspired little girl that pilots a robot suit that has the soul of her father in it, Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage) from the nineteen thirties and exists in Black & White, finally there’s Spider-Ham/Peter Porker (John Mulaney) a cartoon pig that is probably the least serious out of the gang, also my favorite.

Along with their different design they are drawn differently, have a unique style of animation from one another and each has their own characteristics. Spider-Gwen is like a graceful dancer with fluid leg movements and able to stand on the tips of her toes. Peni, typical of anime, has her expressions change within one frame and have symbols flash on her forehead, Spider-Ham moves like an old Fleisher or Looney Tunes cartoon, with a bounce in his walk, stretchable limbs and even able to hovers slightly.

You have to roll with the continuity. Don’t want an in-depth understanding of every character and their history. See there is a character named Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) and understand he is the bad guy that hates Spider-Man. See someone in a crazy costume and just accept that this is Superheroes and they are everywhere. This movie moves too fast and throws too much at you for it to be smoothly explained.

Of course though with every story to really work it needs its center. There is a lot going on in this movie but it is always Miles story about how he is able to rise up to this legacy and responsibility. As well as that even beyond the fights is the interaction between all the different Spider-People and Miles family and friends. As long as you have a core and stay true to it you can layer it as much as you want.

We have been served a great amount of-of movies of the Superhero genre in the last ten years, but before that, they had already endured for over sixty years. They are able to do so because stories about good and evil are constant and they allow for fantastical imagery and ideas. As well as that each character has their core and is able to be handed to different people and adjust for their interpretation and adapt for a different time. We have seen so many different Superhero tales, from the dark grittiness of LOGAN, the mad colorful comedy of Guardians of the Galaxy to the epic scale of Avengers: Infinity War. This is a tale of a great enduring character and the genre itself and why they will endure forever.

 

Review Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 by Jonathan Evans

(4 / 5)

Werner Herzog, the great German director, once said that “We must not avert our eyes” he was talking about getting up and out into the world and looking at what is popular because that says something about what the people want, be it stupid, abstract, misogynistic, violent etc. The internet has absolutely allowed people to embellish in their base instincts and shows what the people want in some sense. Whether this was something the filmmakers had in mind while making this movie I cannot say but it stems from the same mentality.

We pick up the story where first Wreck-It Ralph movie left off. Ralph (John C. Reily) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) are sentient gaming characters that live their lives being played by unsuspecting humans and during the night they travel to other arcade consoles and partake in what they have to offer. They do this every night for the past six years. Ralph being the incredibly simple character he revels in having his best friend by his side and fun activities to keep them occupied, Vanellope, on the other hand, is growing bored with the repetition and would welcome something new. Luckily…

One day there is something new installed in the arcade, a WiFi box, at first the other gaming characters decide not to mess with it but one day the steering wheel on Sugar Rush (Vanellope’s game) breaks and a replacement can be bought on eBay but at an expensive price. So our hero’s quest begins!

The WiFi is connected and into the internet, they go. While being initially flung in we see all the familiar names and logo’s, Google, eBay, Twitter, Snapchat (easy to see how this movie got funded). The landscape of the internet itself is like a sleek city with each website being represented as a building. Everyone that logs on is represented as a simple human with a square head and navigates the city, there is plenty of high-speed transportation to get them from one site to another.

They then come across on an online racing game that is much more extreme than Sugar Rush and is populated by some more intense drivers. Head of the gang is Shank (Gal Gadot), one of the purest embodiments of cool you will ever find, with a leather jacket, always beautiful hair and a smirk that tells you she is always in charge. She points them in the direction of making online videos to get money to buy the steering wheel. This then leads them to a video website (clearly meant to be YouTube) that is overseen by a programme named Yesss (Taraji P. Henson) a blue, snappy go-getter that brings a lot of energy to her scenes and has a different costume for each of her scenes.

Being that there are all kinds of different websites and different users for different purposes it only makes sense to incorporate various animation and design styles. We have characters that log on for gaming and they are simple designs that are jittery in their movements, advertisers that take the form of street hustlers, and an assortment of other creepy things. It is a testament to not only the talent of the animation capabilities working at Disney but also the variety of the ability to portray such a variety of designs and styles.

I guess I can’t really call this a complete review without acknowledging the giant tiara in the room. There is a segment where Venellope goes the Disney website and along with seeing a few other familiar characters, MARVEL and Star Wars she enters a room with all the Disney Princesses’s. All the voice actors that are still alive to voice them return for their few lines, they all get an even amount of screen time and lines so no favorites will be shortchanged. For the ones that were originally 2D animated have been converted to 3D, I think they look fine. This is not a throwaway gag and does serve a purpose to the movie. All of this considered I was pretty helpless throughout and loved it.

Ultimately though this movie is about the bond of friendship between Ralph and Vanellope and moving forward. Friendships can be the same in some elements but things have to change because otherwise, they will inevitably become stagnant.

This is a sequel that expands on the scale of the first movie greatly and pushes the characters forward while doing it. It is very clever in its visualization of navigating the internet and using the elements of that platform for plot points and some characters. Though you will not be greatly changed in your use for the internet itself after watching, it does acknowledge the good, bad, and plain stupid elements of it. It has what made the first a really good watch and just makes it a bigger serving.

 

Review Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald by Jonathan Evans

(2 / 5)

So this franchise train is happening whether anyone likes it or not. Some fans of this world will be along for the ride no matter what and they are legion so like the last movie it will undoubtedly due well financially. Let’s proceed.

Fantastic Beasts isn’t a bad concept and even then a seemingly bad concept can be elevated with great writing and craft. A character loves creatures and wants to understand and document them, being that this is a world of magic they are creatures with special designs and abilities. This could be charming, simple fun, yet for some reason, there must be a big bad and an overly complex plot throughout.

So in the first Fantastic Beasts movie, it was revealed that one of the characters was Grindelwald, a powerful wizard that seeks to elevate the wizards from their hiding. He was imprisoned in the last movie and when this one opens he escapes, obviously. Playing him is Johnny Depp and this is the best performance from him in a while, recently in his career, he’s been gliding by with simply being quirky and not really giving much to his characters that made his name. He doesn’t have a lot of screentime here (odd being that his character’s name is in the title) and what he does I don’t believe will cement him as one of the great villains of movie history, but he is much more on-point. Gracefully moves and poses like a superstar, with a sleek British accent making him a mix of charming and sinister. Along the course of the movie, he is responsible for a few deaths that cement him as a legitimate threat.

Like in the last movie we have Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, the gentle soul that is awkward around human beings but is truly at peace in the company of his magical creatures. This will probably be the character Redmayne will be most remembered for and being that he had another movie to practice he has made this role his. As soon as he is introduced he is quietly sitting by himself but begins to play with his pet stick creature, this moment of charm is what is most enduring about the character and these movies, pity the plot must butt in.

Credence, some kind of special wizard (I don’t know, I still don’t understand it from the last movie) is still alive and must be hunted down and killed. Also, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), who has regained his memories from them being erased from the last movie is also back on the scene. So two big emotional impacts from the last movie meant nothing. Also, Newt has realized that he loves Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), this barely adds too much because with everything else going on their relationship has barely any time. The point is, everything is happening in Paris, so that is everyone gotta be.

Already the form of this franchise has become clear. Each movie will take place in an iconic city of a different country. This is to break the franchise out of the narrow view it has set up previously with just the school of Hogwarts based in England. It’s not a bad way to go about it, it allows for variations with the imagery, having different cultures and keeps the characters moving.

Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, the gentle soul that is awkward around human beings but is truly at peace in the company of his magical creatures. This will probably be the character Redmayne will be most remembered for and being that he had another movie to practice he has made this role his.

Like in the last movie it is the beast themselves that are the real stars of the show. They vary in all kinds of shapes and sizes with unique movements and quirks. Some are majestic, others are cute and will most likely make great toys while others are frightening. The actors themselves do a convincing job of seeming like they’re interacting with these C.G.I. creations that aren’t really there in front of them.

It must be pointed out that the people working on the visuals for these movies are some of the best in the business. From the costumes, the sets, props and digital animation there is so much effort and care put into all the stitching of the clothes, the details in each wizards distinctive wand and the numerous digital animations they have to create, these people are great craftsmen.

However, while the movie was playing out and we saw all these special effects and at one point a vertical and rotating library I was thinking “So what.”It felt like a case of the tail wagging the dog, rather than the image be built on a point or lyrical meaning it just seems like someone in one of their departments said “Hey wouldn’t this be cool!” and they decided to incorporate it into the movie.

Near the end, the main detriment of the last movie happens again, in which they come out and hit you with a revelation that comes out of nowhere. While it was playing out I did not understand it at all, I was so confused. I understand going into it and understand what comes of it, but the in’s and outs of the details were a complete blur. Characters you don’t know get named fast in a complicated series of events that is like an entire Agatha Christie novel told to us within the course of three minutes. When it was done I felt like the movie stopped, slapped me in the face with needless complexity, then carried on its merry way.

In terms of a tone that runs through the movie and plot structuring with things being set up and coming back or a visual that pay off later this is a more solid movie than the first, so maybe by the end of these five movies, we will have a really good experience on our hands. It is still troubled but less so.

Another glaring problem with this franchise, which is much more obvious now that other familiar characters from the Harry Potter franchise are introduced is that the outcome of all the drama is already known. We know Dumbledore (Jude Law) wins and is alive and well at the end, Grindelwald loses, so why are we here?

Well, the first movie had its charm and was competent in the mechanics of filmmaking and had great artists to bring the world to life, but light tones of Newt and Kowalski shenanigans mixed with the dark unpleasant and complex elements also going on made it a confused package. This time around more is fixed and the tone is consistent. Though a few improvements on a not very good product don’t make a very good product, just a lesser mess.

 

 

Review The Girl in the Spiders Web by Jonathan Evans

(4 / 5)

The cases of Lisbeth Slander, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, are not for the faint of heart or the for people that lack the ability to pay attention to the details happening on-screen. They are sharp, modern Gothic thrillers that never go easy on the characters and won’t let leave you feeling too optimistic by the end. As soon as this movie starts there is images and visual hints for the rest of the story at hand, two sisters playing chess together and a spider crawls out from under one of the pieces, their father calls them into his room and he pats some kind of machine, the sister Lisbeth takes her sister by the hand and runs away. On the edge of a balcony, the sister goes back to her father while Lisbeth takes the chance of falling out of a balcony and into the snow.

Then kicks off a wild opening sequence that incorporates key imagery of the movie and launches us into present time. It is unique, memorable and effective.

Filling the big black boots of Lisbeth Salander is Claire Foy. She fit into the leather jacket and trousers well while being given an appropriate punky head of hair. Foy’s true strength comes through when the character says hardly anything, many times in the movie she must process information, or listen intently or clearly be pushing her emotions down.

One day she gets a new assignment from a rich man named Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), he has created a programme called Firefall which is capable of giving whoever has it full control of any missiles in the world. This, of course, was a terrible idea and only now does he regret making such a thing (say nothing of that this is something out of a Saturday morning cartoon idea). So Lizbeth has another case on her hands.

Lizbeth successfully takes Firefall and a special National Security Agent, Edwin Needham (LaKeith Stanfield), whose priority it is now on Lizbeth’s trail. One night while she is quietly bathing she hears a rummaging and men in masks are in her place and they take the laptop with Firefall and set her place aflame. Being that all this is happening there is, of course, a story here and investigating needs doing so in comes Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason), her lover/partner from the previous stories and head of Millenium Magazine. Along with all these players, there is the crime syndicate called The Spiders with a figure that has a very important connection to Lisbeth’s past.

The original Millenium Trilogy was published posthumously from the author Steig Larsson but alas an endearing character and success mean that nothing is really sacred so the books were continued with different authors. I actually cannot attest to the quality of the book because I have not read them. However, the question is raised about being true to style, characters voice, and message.  This is a world of victimized women, brutality, information is true power and there are either bittersweet or certainly no happy endings.

Being the established tone of this world director Fede Alvarez was a good choice to take the reigns as director. With his remake of Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe, he is a creator that has a talent for creating haunting images and visceral experiences. These are Gothic tales, where moments from the past carry over to the present and such such images must be striking and say something about the story, I won’t describe them, you will see them and understand. Also, there are more than a few visceral encounters throughout and you feel the impact of the punches and bullet shots, with the use of a shaky camera that always knows what to focus on and sharp sound design, hearing every tightening rope, gasping breath and shattering glass.

The whole stories construction is well built. Characters have their own voice, serve their purpose as players in a game, yet you still believe they are real people, there are a MacGuffin and plenty of twists and turns throughout. Though there are just a few times when things play too neatly for Lisbeth and the concept of Firefall is not the most feasible.

Heightening most of the scenes is the score by Roque Banos. He invokes Bernard Herman’s score in Psycho with mostly strings played fast to produce a shrieking effect. Other times he brings in drums to emphasize the rhythm and time sensitivity of the scene at hand.

This world and these characters have become like Sherlock Holmes, Zatoichi, James Bond or Batman. Where it is fertile landscape for stories, though they are distinct and the characters are defined but also malleable enough for other actors, writers, and directors to come in and give their interpretation of the world.

If you are a fan of any of the other movies then this one will also appeal to you. If you care for hard-hitting spy thriller then this one will check all the boxes also. If are a fan of both of those but also care for deeper subject matter in terms of characters and why they do what they do then this one, again is for you, if not then pass on by when you buy your ticket, but if so get right on it!

 

 

Review Overlord by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

Nazis are great, easy villains. They have a simple, distinct name, have an iconic look and logo so can be easily visually recognized as well as overenunciated accents. Plus they obviously committed such atrocities that they lend themselves to any deplorable situation, whether it be factual or some fantastical, made up scenario. This movie is the latter.

Overlord is not a movie like Apocalypse Now, Paths of Glory or Platoon where you come away from it with a unique view of war as well as the human condition. No, it is like running the gauntlet of video game levels where characters are simple, the explanation is minimal and about the experience. From boss fight, the sneaking around to full-on shooters this is like a really cool video game you won’t get to play but is still really cool to watch.

Little time is wasted, as soon as the movie starts we are in a plane filled with paratrooper ready to be dropped into their mission. Said mission is to destroy a radio tower, in France, that is blocking communication for American soldiers which makes it difficult. Bullets start popping up from below them so now it’s time to jump out.

On the ground, some survive the journey down and others don’t. Who we do have is Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo) one who is possible too gentle a soul to face the harshness of this war, Captain Ford a very experienced, no-nonsense soldier that has a Kurt Russell swagger about him (convenient because he is his son), Tibbet (John Magaro) a wisecracking sniper that is by no means sensitive or an optimist, Chase (Ian De Caestecker) a photographer, Dawson (Jacob Anderson) that wants to write a book about all his experiences after the war and Rosenfield (Dominic Applewhite) Boyce’s friend.

During the course of the movie characters die, I don’t mean the Nazi’s themselves or some random character that was introduced for a minute then gets their brains blown out, I mean the core group that we get introduced to. We get to know them, they have their characteristics and some happen at different points in the movie. These people aren’t invincible and it adds to the action because now we know there are in fact stakes. I consider myself to be wise to the usual way conventional movies playout and there were some surprises to me so there may be some for you too.

When we get under the radio base we learn that there is much more going on that blocking signals. They are using some hidden element and using it to raise the dead. Yes, that’s right, Zombies! In fact Nazi Zombies! But not the Romero dumb, slow walking ones, these seem to remain intelligent but are driven mad because of the heat and are imbued with great strength, feel no pain and are no easily killed at all (then again what zombies are?).

This is stylized action and depictions of the war. The explosions are VERY loud and the soldiers don’t ever seem to suffer the consequences of being rather near an explosion (except the ones that die). Also whenever someone is shot there is half a bucket of blood that is thrown out from the other side. It’s not at the level of a Tarantino movie, but it’s near it, most likely inspired by it.

During the sequence where – sneaks into the base, I realized that the camera was just following him around and the story was being told through visuals. This is the movies Hitchcock scene, usually, these kinds of movies don’t have much faith in their audience to keep their attention beyond gunfights and yelling dialog, but in this scene, it shuts up and embraces the cinematic, visual storytelling element of cinema. This isn’t necessarily a great scene, but it is much more than what I would have expected.

When all is over the war is still going on and some characters survive which opens it up for a sequel which will most likely happen

 

Review Widows by Jonathan Evans

(5 / 5)

We have a gang that performs heists together, they all have wives, during one job it goes as bad as it can and now all the members of the gang have widows that must go on without them. A simple and solid set-up that can lend itself to many different end products, what we get is one of the greatest heist movies I have ever seen.

Pretty much as soon as the movie begins you realise you are in the hands of a master. Showing one married couple while startlingly parallel cutting to a disastrous heist that all the husbands are a part of. Already we efficiently have a grasp of who these characters are, how they relate to each other and what the setup is.

The couples are Harry Rawlins (Liam Neeson) and Veronica (Viola Davis), Carlos Perelli (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Florek Gunner (Jon Bernthal) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki). All come from different worlds, are different ethnicities, have different relationships and would certainly never be together by their own choice if we’re not for the job and their husbands.

Their husbands may be gone but the consequences are still waiting for them. Harry stole money from a man named Jamaul Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) a crime boss that is also running for office but still wants his money back, also is his younger brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) a truly merciless creature that kills and tortures without any sign of sympathy.

Veronica is living in a penthouse and has some things to sell but nowhere near the amount Harry stole, however, he did keep a notebook with detailed notes on how to do every job, including the next one that none of them can perform now but the target and money is still there. All that’s required are people that are willing to do it and have the incentive.

Steve McQueen as a filmmaker has never shied away from the tough subject matter. For his debut made Hunger, about IRA prisoners that slowly die due to a hunger strike, then made Shame about a spiraling sex addict and 12 Years a Slave about a free man taken into slavery. Widows is a solid premise that is actually based off a miniseries in the eighties, which McQueen, along with coscreenwriter Gillian Flynn (who also doesn’t shy away from the tough material) have taken the concept and modernized it as well as shifted the setting to the United States. Within his works, we are always given a variety of techniques, from wide still shots to a scene being played out in closeup and sequences of rapid editing. He also incorporates sound very skillfully, some scenes will play very quietly then there will be a loud bang to cut the peaceful mood, others there will be a continuous sound through to the scene to provide timing and texturing of the scene and mood.

Veronica’s and Harry’s penthouse is a slick modern all-white suite that looks out on the city. Also are most of her clothes (slick, modern and white). When she decides to descend into the world of crime by performing a heist there is the inclusion of some black items of clothing before wearing all black for the job itself. Not the most subtle filmmaking ever but effective is effective.

This is a heist movie. However there are still many variations to be had within a genre, recently I reviewed Oceans 8 and talked about how it had a graceful, smooth camera throughout. Such an approach is appropriate for that movie because it is very Hollywood, about witty talking characters and, glamorous outfits and has an upbeat tone. This is street level with, obvious brutal realities and things can go very wrong very fast. When they do the camera goes to shaky hand-held, this is so we feel like we are there in the midst of the running and the catastrophe.

Widows succeed because like any other genre it is not really about the subject matter but a framing. Godzilla isn’t about a monster but a catastrophe, Apocalypse Now isn’t really about the battles but the mentality of war itself and we are not invested in LOGAN for the action set pieces but the character in that situation. Little of the movie’s runtime is the heist itself, but before we go into it we learn who all the characters are and why they are doing this and what is at stake. It is a story about bold, beautiful, damaged and flawed characters dealing with the very difficult hand life has dealt them.

 

Review Halloween (2018) by Jonathan Evans

My god, this franchise is confusing. Ironic because the original movie is so a simple, and minimal with its story.

John Carpenter’s original Halloween is one of the essential watches for horror lovers and movie fans in general. It is the perfection of the slasher genre, with a killer that is pure evil, a simple but effective way of shooting it and a score that hooks itself deep in your brain. Yet at the end of the movie it seems like it was done but the success meant more had to be made and so they made seven more movies, then Rob Zombie told his version of the material with two movies and now we are here, forty years later from the original and ignoring all the middle material. But this is the third movie to be titled Halloween. Told you it was confusing.

Opening the movie are two British podcasters that host a show about killers, crimes and other such grim subject matter. They go to Smith’s Grove Rehabilitation Hospital where for forty years Michael Myers has been kept locked away from the rest of the world, never speaking a single word. One of them has something for Michael though, the mask he wore on his night of rampage. This sends the other inmates into a frenzy but Michael still stands there not saying a word.

Cutting then to the classic score we all know from this franchise and a rotten Jack-O-Lantern that slowly reforms back to life, a symbol of Michaels reawakening, the franchise and this whole gruesome affair.

Carpenter himself does not fill the directing chair this time around but he is back as the composer. Carpenter composed nearly all his movies and Halloween was arguably his best job. A dark theme that is like the pulsing of the heart that grips you in tension and then a movement that ignites fright. In recent years he has been more focused on his music and he is very good at it. Here he gets to do one of the things he does best, he doesn’t completely reinvent the theme or copy and paste it, it stays true to the core of the score and adds little things, like a power chord from a guitar and other layerings to deepen then experience, it’s a great score that has received an appropriate update.

Filling in the directors chair is David Gordon Green. He has a diverse filmography, nothing that would make someone point to him and say “He’s the man for this job!” but we’ve had plenty of surprises of directors taking on franchises and actually doing great things with them. He and cinematographer Michael Simmonds incorporate a few intricate long shots that build up the suspense well and he portrays the kills with loud screams and plenty of blood.

Whenever something becomes truly popular and others seek to replicate it and/or a franchise is kicked off there is a big risk of homogenization. We want to feel like this is the world and characters that we’re familiar with but not a color-by-numbers experience. This gets a little closer to it but luckily strikes the right balance of being its own thing while taking its cues from the original and also giving a few nods while it’s at it. An example of this is that a key image is a white mask Michael wears, there isn’t any true significance to the mask itself, it was chosen because it has blank features which reflect the character, in context Michael stole a mask while getting ready for his night of slaughter. Same for the boiler suit, he happened to cross paths with an unlucky worker, here he by chance kills another worker in a similar navy blue boiler suit, would he have taken a red one? Or not killed him if it was yellow?

The most original part of this entire movie is how it portrays Laurie Strode. She is now a grandmother, slightly estranged from her daughter and granddaughter, living in a fenced off house ready of anyone that comes looking for trouble. It’s not that unbelievable yet I can’t think of many other movies that have done this, so many characters in horror sequels seem to go back into normal life after the traumatic events. Laurie was just a regular teenage girl and for no real reason came face to face with her friends being killed and pure evil. Jamie Lee Curtis fills the role with badass authority, taking no nonsense while she loads her guns and fragility, clearly having to live her life in fear and paranoia.

This is a refocus of Michael Myers as an unstoppable force of nature. A slow monolith of death that will keep coming no matter what. This was the original intention and is what makes the character so endearing. But in the first movie he was twenty one years old, now he’s in his sixties, I have to question whether his slow pace is because he doesn’t need to rush or because he’s getting on in years. Another interesting touch is that Nick Castle is playing him again, he hasn’t done that since the first movie. His average height and build add to his inconspicuous nature and his smooth walk with an upright posture adds to the unsettling nature because he’s about to commit the most barbaric act. An extra touch is the prominent sound of his boots while walking, like the ticking clock of death, they sometimes abandon this when he needs to pop out of the shadows. I guess that would make him easier to find.

This is probably the best sequel that this great movie ever got (though there truly isn’t much heavy competition), it caters to the fans while invites new viewers in. But part of the enduring quality of the first movie was how it could show horrible acts but could be quiet and slow. This movie is more generic and loud. In terms of slasher horrors this could be much less subtle and more poorly made, for Halloween, it could be better but is worthy enough to have the name.

Rating: 3 stars

Review Ant-Man and the Wasp by Jonathan Evans

 

(4 / 5)

 

Another season another MARVEL movie. I remember a time when we might only get one Superhero movie a year (if that), or at least one MARVEL movie a year, now we are at the rate of two or three a year. What the studio has done which allows itself to be maintained is stuck to style and principles but allow the correct amount of diversity and identity among its many ongoing characters. This is a genre movie like any other, we already understand the basic flow of the narrative, we need just enough surprise, variation and high level of competence to execute the project so it is enjoyable and not stagnant.

The plot of this movie is based on events that are carried over from the previous as well as a little bit of the events of Captain America: Civil War. The original Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and daughter Hope Pym (Evangeline Lilly) are seeking to rescue Janet Pym (Michelle Pfeiffer) who’s been trapped in the Quantum Realm for years. However, there is a gear in the works because Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), the new Ant-Man is under house arrest.

The humor is the element that is most on-point in this movie. Not since the first Guardians of The Galaxy have I laughed so hard and consistently during a MARVEL movie. Yes, the movies have all had a generous serving of humor and none of them have been unfunny but this one especially tickled me. One particular joke about truth serum stands out.

As the title would imply in this movie is the inclusion of the character The Wasp. She is Hope Pym, she has the same shrinking powers as Ant-Man but comes with wings that greatly help in maneuvering and stingers, gauntlets that shoot paralyzing blasts and are able to expand and shrink objects they hit. She is pretty much superior to Ant-Man, but a job is always easier accomplished with more than one person so he’s along for the ride too.

Causing other problems for the heroes this time is a mysterious specter that is named Ghost. They are named so because they have the mysterious ability to phase through solid matter i.e. walls, cars etc. They wear a white costume with small red, glowing eyes, so they are mysterious and threatening and once we learn they’re the motivation they also become sympathetic. Ghost isn’t as deliciously overpowered as Hella from Thor Ragnorok, or tragic and threatening as Killmonger in Black Panther, but they are a solid character and obstacle for our heroes.

A few ties these movies have taken older actors and for the purposes of flashbacks reverse aged them. They have been working on this technique within a few movies and here we get to see it reach the pinnacle of perfection. We see Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Laurence Fishburn look how they did twenty years ago with almost no sign of artificial tampering. Along with that are seeing fully grown adults be shrunk to three feet tall, a regular sized human next to a colossal sized human and even when they are shrunk down huge fat dust particles float around them. There’s also the right mixture of practical-camera effects and giant props.

With the introduction of the growing, it adds another element to the action sequences. The shrinking was also a rich element, two cars can be racing and when you shrink you can go underneath the other vehicle, now mundane objects and be thrown which become obstacles for others to traverse or even straight up block them. Also when the heroes grow the seemingly large threat is now an annoyance. Along with this Scott’s new suit was a rush job so it doesn’t work perfectly. All this abides with the “But and Therefore” mentality towards narrative and action mentality.

One of the key distinguishing elements about this movie is what I liked so much about the first Ant-Man, the smaller scale. Infinity War was such a massive project, with some genuinely dire tones that have a movie that takes place within one city, that is not at risk of being blown up and some funny humor comes as a nice change of passe.

Payton Reed has stepped into this world and characters and made it his. This is the playful, toy mentality chunk of the MARVEL cinematic universe. It is slick, inventive, colorful and fun!

Jonathan Evans

Review The Secret of Marrowbone by Jonathan Evans

Horror works best when the frightening moments are left in the blank spaces. We can have scream’s and see horrific sights but the elements that truly grip us are what we do not see or the things that go by unexplained and we are left to conjure the terrifying within our own minds. The Secret of Marrowbone uses this as the launching point to hook us as audience members and keep us watching through the experience.

A family enters a run-down old mansion way out in the middle of the countryside. The mother marks a line in the dust and says once they cross it all things before will be forgotten and this is their new start, especially Father. The family is Jack (George MacKay) the eldest at twenty years old, Billy (Charlie Heaton) the angsty younger brother, Jane (Mia Goth) the peacemaker and little Sam (Mathew Stagg). They live in the house under the name Marrowbone, fix up the house and have a fun time, one day out all of the children meet Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy). Meanwhile, the mother is getting sicker and sicker and eventually passes. If her death is known before Jack turns twenty-one the children will be put into care so it has to remain a secret. One peaceful day a shot comes through the window, Jane looks through and there is a man standing across the house, she yells, Jack runs and then it cuts to months later. This is where the movie truly begins.

Now it is months later and all the mirrors have either been removed or covered in sheets, there is a large red stain on the ceiling and they all speak of a ghost in the loft. Only Jack is allowed to venture into town for the essentials.

While in town one day he meets up with Allie and they clearly want to be together, however also on the scene is Tom (Kyle Soller) a lawyer that is also interested in Allie and is seeing to the Marrowbonbe’s affairs.

The cast is one of the most solid elements of the movie. Everyone fills a certain role but they are able to reach different emotional levels, from being passive aggressive to full rage. The standout is Anya Taylor-Joy, who brings such realized, caring nature to the performance.

Some of the most effective moments of the movie are the sequences of fright. We all know them, dark room, something’s in there, and somethings gonna go boo! But this movie times its shots very well and there is an appropriate amount of buildup to them. The most effective element is that there are moments when something can happen and all the air gets sucked out of the room for a few moments. Sometimes something does go boo, others nothing happens so we are always left guessing.

Within these moments are tender ones though, moments of the family having fun, joking. An entirely doom and gloom movie would ultimately become a purely depressing experience, contrast needs to happen.

By the end of the movie, all is revealed. Perhaps if all wasn’t it would be a better movie, but I digress. It took me a bit to go over some of the details that didn’t sit right with me immediately when everything was revealed but after going over it it does all hold up well.

The Secret of Marrowbone cuts deep by leaving you not knowing when it will cut or even what by. When it does it is sharp and efficient. It has a heart, which many horror movies lack, comes with a talented and invested cast and understands the mechanics of the genre very well.

Rating: 4 stars

Review The Incredibles 2 by Jonathan Evans

We are now in the renaissance of Superhero entertainment. Every blockbuster is a Superhero, on television, there’s plenty of choice of Superheroes from adult entertainment to kids animation. Many other toys and games as well, they are deeply embedded in our culture at this point. When the first Incredibles movie came out, it wasn’t amongst such heavy competition, when a Superhero movie came out in 2004 it had about one other Superhero movie to compete with as well as probably not another one coming out the year before or after that. Now, how does it distinguish itself from so many other movies of the same genre?

The movie picks up just about where the last one left, with some crazy supervillain, armed with a giant drill wreaking havoc on the city. The Incredibles launch into action, during the pursuit Superheros, are still illegal and the villain gets away, this doesn’t help their case. Fortunately, an enthusiastic fan of Superheroes is eager to bring them into the spotlight. He is Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) the head of a flashy technology company, he’s the face while his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) is the idea genius that relaxes behind the scenes.

When it comes to action sequences we need the same thing that’s required in a narrative arc. We need one character with a want and then a but so therefore and then a but again and so on and so forth until it is somehow resolved. Take for example our opening action scene where Mr. and Mrs. Incredible is chasing The Underminer. He has a huge drill and is sinking buildings and robbing a bank. They need to get inside so Mrs. Incredible turns into a trampoline for Mr. Incredible, but it goes underground making is difficult for him to hang on, he gets inside but then gets sucked into the large hose he’s using to suck up all the riches, therefore he must punch his way out of the vault and so on and so forth. Along with this, it must be shot clearly, usually with wide angle shots so we see all of the characters and get a sense of their surroundings, with a few extreme wide angle shots and close-ups so we gauge the bigger scenario and see the characters reaction so we emotionally connect with them. Being that this is animation the camera is allowed to smoothly move along with the characters in long, unbroken shots that would be nearly impossible in live action. Along with all of this, we have people with superpowers so its a case of utilizing their abilities for their situation or against eachother. Director Brad Bird and his team are simultaneously enthusiastic kids playing with their toys and sophisticated storytellers, efficiently utilizing and visualing the different elements at play.

The Parr family is still just the same as they were, only with a new situation to deal with. Mr. Incredible/Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) is eager to get back into crime-fighting but is detoured so now must deal with the struggle of raising his family, Mrs. Incredible/Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) is ever concerned for the family but also has a passion for crimefighting and makes the decision to commit to that and trust Bob. Violet (Sarah Vowell), the adolescent with the power to turn invisible and create forcefields, she the constantly questioning her parent’s decisions as well as going through her own personal troubles, she is also my favorite. Dash (Huck Milner, replacing Spencer Fox from the first movie) is the young energetic kid that acts on impulse, add superspeed to the mix and it’s a perfect analogy. Finally, there’s little baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) who in fact has multiple powers, from laser eyes, to teleport, to turning into a literal little devil.

Causing trouble this time is an entity that calls themselves the Screensaver. A plotter that wears a gas mask like mask and takes control over people through the screen using a hypnotic strobe effect. They believe the people have become lazy in this age of television and convenience, so they plan to flat out enslave them anyway. Like with Syndrome in the last movie it seems if you choose to don black and white for your costume, you are the villain.

Later in the movie, more Superheroes are introduced. The Incredibles costumes are mostly red with a sleek, minimal design to them to other heroes all have a unique silhouette and color scheme to their costume so they become instantly recognizable even if you squint your eyes. This is a sign of the clear visual storytelling that animation can allow. But it is peppered nicely with a few scenes that have a majority of the shot in black, adding a threatening nature to the mood and only allowing the bare essential information to be absorbed.

The heart of the first movie is still the heart in this one, family. The Superhero genre is about taking a common emotional problem and greatly escalating it through powers and extravagant situations. The Parr family is a like any other, they drive each other crazy, support one another and when an obstacle come they do what they can to hurdle it, like any family drama, they just have the added spice of powers and villains.

In this time of many other superheroes, the original Incredibles still stands as a slick, punchy action adventure movie with a lot of heart and maturity. But through its unique visual style and interpretation of the Superhero genre is unique among its peers, the sequel is exactly the same.

(4 / 5)

Boa Review 

The opening short revolves around food and the emotional connection we develop with it. It is allegorical and has beautiful texturing with the many different types of food is puts before us. You will most likely be hungry while watching it. Though I do believe the ending will have children more confused and asking questions that immediately understand.

(3 / 5)

Jonathan Evans