Jonathan Evans

Review Isle of Dogs by Jonathan Evans

(4 / 5)

What connects Wes Anderson’s work? His style is instantly recognisable as having characters center framed and facing the camera, staging most of the shots like a play and quirky characters that talk fast. But what does he have to say as an artist? They are all so him while being so different. Isle of Dogs is unlike anything else but at the same time could only have been made by Wes Anderson.

A tale about a time in Japan where a virus has spread among dogs so all the dogs in Japan have been dumped onto a remote trash island and left there. While there, a pack has formed between Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray) and Duke (Jeff Goldblum). This pack is a democracy, no single dog is the leader so every decision must be voted on. This leads to it being used three times and the third time is the true punchline. One day a little plane fly’s over and crashes on the island. From it, a little pilot emerges. It is a boy named Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), he is looking for his lost dog Spots, so begins this quest to find this little boy’s lost dog, that he loves so much and face obstacles and meet other characters along the way.

I don’t know how Wes Anderson continually gathers the most impressive cast anyone can possibly have in a movie. There are his usual collaborators here like Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Murray and there are high profile actors that have never worked with before like Bryan Cranston, Greta Gerwig and Yoko Ono. Some of it is surely helped by the fact that he is a high-profile director and working with him would be a rewarding endeavor. Maybe because when he asks these actors to play these characters they would never get asked to play anything like them again so they jump at the chance?

This is one of Cranston’s best roles and performances. We have seen that he is capable of being funny, dramatic and very threatening. Chief gives him the ability to be all. He is a stern leader, a tough fighter that nobody should mess with, the comedic straight-man and tenderly emotional. Through the microphone, Cranston delivers these adjustments in the character in the most controlled way.

This is Andersons second stop-motion movie, the first one being Fantastic Mr. Fox. He enjoyed the process so much that for a while this movie was simply known as “Untitled Stop-Motion movie.” There is something about the texture and mentality of the exact medium of stop-motion that Anderson is suited for. Perhaps it is the mix of cutting down on frames so you can see the skips in the movement? Perhaps it’s how precisely envisions things that animation allows him to execute said vision to a tee? Maybe the handmade quality which makes it more organic? Whatever it is exactly this is an artist working in a medium they revel in.

Usually, with a movie about humans and animals going on a journey the humans are the ones we can understand and its the animals we interpret through behavior. Here, in a delightfully refreshing switch up it is the other way round. I do question how this will translate for the Japanese audience, part of the point is that they cant understand the language but understand them through tone and gestures. In other scenes with just humans, other things like tone and visuals help us understand the information. Will they just bite the bullet and have both dogs and humans speaking the same language? Or will they translate the humans into English or another language? Either way, it will seem odd.

Being that the movie is set in Japan this movie marks a big aesthetic shift for Anderson. His movies have been heavily western focused but now with the large location change he has immersed himself in the culture and narrowed in on the most beautiful aspects that he can also utilise into his own work. The human faces are sculpted to look Asian (and are not offensive), he embraces having kanji over most things and utilized more classic Japanese imagery like Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Also, pay attention for a Seven Samurai reference.

Anderson isn’t so much interested in plotting his movies as is traditional (actually nothing about Anderson is traditional). He really delves into settings and scenarios in which he is allowed to highlight character moments and indulges in visuals. The plot doesn’t really play out, more unfold.

So what is the connection with all of this and the others of Anderson’s work? Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pro dog, he really loves people and giving his character’s quirks. They all go on journey’s of some kind of self-discovery but that’s just one of the hallmarks of storytelling. I guess he’s just a man that loves to make things and has a certain style of going about it but allows variation.

 


Review Ready Player One by Jonathan Evans

 

(2 / 5)

 

“Hey, that’s *blank from so-and-so. I love that movie/game” “Ah! They quoted/referenced that movie/TV show I love!” This is the reaction that Ready Player One seeks to get out of you with every moment it has onscreen. It pulls from so many pieces of instantly recognizable pop culture that there will be something that everyone will be able to recognize, whether it be a character walking by, a vehicle, or a line of dialog. Yet it has almost nothing to say or do anything inspiring with said big toys at its disposal. The experience is only surface deep.

We see a future where the rich have gotten richer and the poor are indeed poorer. Trailer park neighborhoods are in abundance but so much so that they are stacked up high on top of each other. It is a gray, muddy place to live and is not the hardest thing understand that people would want an escape. So they go to The Oasis, pretty much the internet that you can virtually enter. Our guiding character for the story is a young man named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), that just wants to get to The Oasis as fast as he can each day and search for the great McGuffin that exists there.

The Oasis was created by a man named James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and the great programmer was also a big aficionado on pop culture and hid three keys in this world that will allow the owner of all three to take a final test and become the owner of The Oasis.

An undeniably strong element to the movie is its worldbuilding. Worldbuilding is the construction of a fictional world and how it operates. In bad worldbuilding, it doesn’t make any sense and you are just left with questions, good world building you understand how it operates and has a solid grasp on how you would live in it. Because The Oasis has become so integral to life everyone logs in and when they win games they earn coins in the game that earns them money in real life. They can buy equipment that allows them better reflexes in-game and feels the touch of the world itself, also ordering stuff.

What bothers me greatly about the way the world is conveyed is that there doesn’t seem to be anything nourishing to the art. I believe that real art, be it cinema, literature or music exists to enrich those who consume it in some way. The world portrayed before us it seems like it’s just about seeing all high-status pop-culture movies out there and memorizing every facet of it, nothing about what it means or how it has shaped them as people. This is a world where the people can make anything, yet they all they do is recreate someone else’s creations.

A fundamental flaw as the movie was playing out is that Halliday is revered amongst the people in The Oasis, they have learned everything they can about him, his favorite movie, favorite pizza topping, quotes he lived by. He made a list of every movie he ever saw and when. I don’t think they realise how sad this man is. He lived his whole life alone, apart from one friend who he eventually kicked out. This is a man to learn from by avoiding all his mistakes.

As a movie what this offers is the chance to have nearly everything that is classic popcorn, crowd-pleasing entertainment. There is a race scene, martial arts fight, shootouts, dancing, sneaking around etc. Of course Speilberg is one of, if not the, greatest living visualiser working today and he clearly and effectively brings them to life. It’s just that it lacks a should because I feel how empty it is, I wasn’t invested in the characters goals because I just wanted them to log out, get outside and read a real book, see the sights and interact with actual people.

If this was an episode of Black Mirror or handled by Satoshi Kon then it would probably be taken to a much darker and interesting place. Truly examining why humanity rejects the real and takes comfort in the artificial. But this isn’t either of those and is only here to push your joy button.

Going into the big battle near the end I did start to feel a connection for the characters and understood that there were real stakes. Remove all the characters from movies, TV shows and video games and what you have is a well-composed battle where you understand the geography and key players bring contribute different things to it.

In the end, the message for this movie is that you should maybe spend a little less time dwelling on pop culture and spend some time in the real world and form actual relationships with people. Duh! I don’t need a movie to tell me that and it should be so intrinsically built into us that we shouldn’t need to spend over one hundred and fifty million dollars to make a movie to project that message.

In the end, I want so much more. I’m not against or even above being charmed by references, far from it. But I want them to take the essence of those precious moments I love and channel them into something that can stand on its own. This shows a world where originality seems to have fizzled out and all we can do is regurgitate the same.

For a movie with a similar premise but with much more depth and heart, I point you towards Mamoru Hosada’s Summer Wars. This, there is a good chance you’ll be tickled by all the appearances but everything else is so shallow.


Review Unsane by Jonathan Evans

 

(4 / 5)

 

Ow my, that is such a bad title! Of all the things that it could have been named, “Insane Asylum”, “Not Insane”, “Sanity Prescription”,”Rational Insanity” those are terrible too but not as bad as the one this movie has been forever stamped with. But I digress, now to talk about the movie.

This movie treads dangerous ground, I don’t just mean that it’s a delicate subject matter to tackle of course it is, but it can go off-course and find itself in misogynistic, women are crazy territory.

First, we move through a dark forest seen through a blue lens. A voice tells us that he loves someone, mostly in blue because that is the color they were wearing when he first saw them, he believes that they are most beautiful in blue. We then see Sawyer, seen from afar, through leaves. She does financial work and does not sugar coat when her clients have bad news. Her boss tells her that her report is airtight and sort of hits on her. When meeting a blind date she takes him home but when intense kissing starts she freaks out and run to her bathroom and locks the door. She googles for support for people affected by stalking.

She takes a drive to Highland Creek and after talking to a doctor about her issues feels a little better. After her talk, she fills out a form to arrange more sessions. Once she passes the form to the clerk she is guided to a room where her personal items are taken away and are asked to remove her clothes. It seems that she should have read the forms more carefully because he’s inadvertently signed herself up for voluntary twenty-four hours of being a patient.

All this is bad enough but when it comes time for her to take her pills she recognises the clerk handing them out, it’s her stalker.

Highland Creek is a regular hospital as you’d expect, with ugly browns and tans and the walls and the floor and there are a few lights in the hallway that don’t work, creating dark shadows.

There is an understanding, that in a movie you either have a simple plot with complex characters, or vice-versa. This is the first option. This movie has other supporting characters around her that are well developed and very well acted and through scenarios and glimpses into what she has gone through we understand how her mind operates and why she is the way she is. She’s not sugar-coated either, she says things that are quite tasteless.

Steven Soderbergh has tackled equally risque material in his previous works (Side Effects). This movie understands that nearly all of the fear comes from losing control, in the beginning, see Sawyer telling people the plain facts regardless of politeness and making the parameters of a date. Now she has been fooled into signing herself up into this hospital and must be told where to go when.

There is no shortage of good acting going on but the main star is obviously the highlight. There are many close-ups that go on for a while, you can see the facade she is putting on, but also the little glimmers of how underneath the surface she is breaking up. Sometimes she lets out the anger and frustration and after she does she’s the one most surprised by it.

The movie is most certainly not for the squeamish or the easily unnerved. It is made by a bold filmmaker with a rock-bottom budget but with that allowed to revel in characters, subject matter, and techniques that would be opposed to him otherwise. I just wish they were able to come up with a better title!


Review A Wrinkle in Time by Jonathan Evans

 

(2 / 5)

 

Like the book, A Wrinkle in Time has truly high concept ideas that are about beings and scenarios that far exceed the characters that they revolve around but also cuts deep into the tender emotions that power us forward. It takes these and crafts wild and bold images through costume, colors, sets and special effects. I’d wish something more memorable happened during it though.

The book is intended for children and the writing plays out for that audience, simple and clear. The movie is also meant to be a children’s movie, the colors are varied, but also stimulating, reds, greens, white, orange, blues, very little grays and just the most careful use of black. It is a world where even showing a school makes it look like a fairytale world.

This story tells the tale of a young girl named Meg Murry (Storm Reid) that was having a perfectly fine life until four years ago her father (Chris Pine) inexplicably disappeared. Now she is’nt very motivated to get involved in schoolwork, social events or anything.

I am not sure whether or not Charles Wallace is her stepbrother or not, I either missed that detail or it isn’t very clear. But for whatever reason Meg, as well as everyone else in the movie, refers to him by his full name of Charles Wallace (I hope you like that name because you will be hearing it a lot). No bodies for everyone and Deric McCabe is not for me. He’s only nine years old (younger when the movie was being filmed) and he is definitely confident in his performing but I feel it comes from a script level rather than anything else. He is apparently a natural genius and is never frightened by anything and always in the know. He comes off more obnoxious than anything.

One night there is an oddly dressed woman that has let herself into their living room. She goes by Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), she describes her motivations very vaguely and whimsically. Then she leaves. Later Charles Wallace leads them into a house where Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) sits waiting for them. She has apparently evolved beyond verbal language but can repeat other peoples famous quotes. This makes no sense. Finally is the leader and the eldest of the mysterious women, Mrs. Which (Oprah).

Later Meg’s schoolmate Calvin (Levi Kailing) is present and gets wrapped up in the plot. That’s it, he doesn’t really add anything or is opposed to anything going on nor does he even get that shocked.

The problem with these children is that, apart from Meg, they aren’t really interesting. They are just thrown into spectacular environments and meet odd characters and just go with whatever is asked of them. Calvin is asked by a strange woman he’s never met to come on a journey and responds with a blank expression “Sure!” Meg, on the other hand, has doubts second guesses her decisions and askes questions about all this madness that is happening around her.

Not since Doctor Strange have we seen a Hollywood movie with such wild visuals. The clothing, make-up, and C.G.I. create truly surreal images from funky patterns to sets that are striking while minimal. But they are just here to impress, there is a scene where the children go flying and the scene adds nothing. There’s also one set which I’m pretty sure is a reference to Jorodosky’s The Holy Mountain.

There are examples of movies getting bad critical reviews on the first release and going onto becoming treasures of cinema. Freaks, Labyrinth, Ferris Buller’s Day Off and others. So what does this mean for the rest of my review? Well, it means that art is subjective and there are things that can transcend simple criticism.

The book has endured because it has such wild, imagination-sparking ideas within it. The movie tells the same story and puts forward the same ideas and is accompanied by bold patterns, sets, and costumes. Though it never really comes to life and the sequences don’t really connect. It does distinguish itself from nearly any other movie out there. Children will be entertained and maybe even inspired while watching it, though I don’t believe they will be nourished by it in any way and adults will find it hard to connect with this very thick layer of whimsey.


Jonathan Evans

Review Pacific Rim: Uprising by Jonathan Evans

 

(2 / 5)

 

Pacific Rim was a grand painting of a nerdy dream with a genuine meaningful message underneath it all. It had a vision of giant robots (referred to as Jagers) and monsters (referred to as Kaiju) fighting and had a budget to bring it to life so it looked grander than it had any right to. However, it’s message was about the human race coming together in a time of bleakness and seemingly impossible odds and prevailing.

It seemed like a sequel would be a dream but four year’s later we have one. Guillermo Del Toro was busy making the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water so he has been replaced in the directing chair with Steven S. DeKnight.

Picking up the baton is Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of Marshal Pentecost from the previous movie. He is content with not being a part of the military or anything official really, merely salvaging parts from the giant robots, partying and making a profit where he can. Until one day he gets wrapped up in the drama of a young girl Amara (Cailee Spaney), now both of them are pulled into the modern Jager program.

For the old characters, they do things I am not a fan of with sequels. They don’t ignore them but they certainly are not well utilised. Ones like Ron Perlman’s Hannibal Chow and Charlie Hunnam’s Riley are either simply mentioned or just forgot about. It does a disservice to the development that has gone into them in the first movie and the investment we initially felt for them because now we learn they go nowhere.

The Jagers are upgraded in this movie. They are more shiny and sleek, where previously they were muscle cars here they sports cars. Also, it seems like the technology has been developed to allow smoother and quicker movements of the limbs, even a few kicks, and rolls. A bit is lost from having this. The true sense of weight and scale seems decreased and seem more like humans in costumes put amongst a playset. I also felt the Jagers were too narrow in the hips to support the weight of these giant things.

As for the Kaiju. We get about 6 new ones for this installment. Each of them has a distinct silhouette, this is good because it makes each one distinguishable from its shape. A few new things are added to them too but to go into greater depth on that would be spoiler’s so I’ll let you watch the movie.

What is retained are all the little details that give the world character and gravity. For example, there are a lot of buildings that get smashed through the course of these gargantuan battles taking place and you can see every little piece of rubble and dust fall, crash and bounce off surfaces.

The movies passe is unrelenting, or at least non-stop. Something is always being said or an action scene is happening or a chase. That’s not necessarily a bad thing like we learned from Mad Max: Fury Road, we can have a movie constantly on the go, we just need to understand what is happening and who the characters are, as the action moves along.

Being that this is a sequel to an action movie it is expected that escalation would happen. It is handled in the most basic of ways, there are more robots and more monsters and they’re all bigger. Some other things are added to both the Jagers and the Kaiju which is an adding of the mythology. So there is originality going on.

This is a more shined-up, smashy sequel that does some cool things but a lot of it is simple. There is still plenty of fun to be had and it is never meaningless noise and I still believe the spirit of the first movie has been carried over here. There are so many worse big budget action movies that have been released but at the same time, there are also so many better ones.

 

Review Tomb Raider by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

Lara Croft is really about the action set pieces. It has about six that where clearly in-mind when they were developing it and they rest was focused on connecting them together. So this movie’s quality should be determined by how much you care about the characters in the scenarios, how well do the connections from one to the other work and how engaging are said action set-pieces.

From what has been established in the other games and how she has been represented through advertisement Lara Croft is a cunning woman that is pretty much the female Indiana Jones in terms of her being a action star archeologist that finds herself in constantly escalating situations of peril. Her personality though? Well she’s cool, that’s pretty much it to be honest. That’s how she has been able to be sold in so many ways and be put into so many different scenarios over the years , her character is simple and you don’t need a deep complex character when you are controlling them in a video game cause you can project what you want onto them. But now that there’s a movie we need to deal with it. Alicia Vikander is one of the great young stars we have right now so she would seem like the right choice. She went through months of training to get into shape for the role and it shows a few times when she gets to expose her abs, but she also runs and climbs and generally traverses like a natural. I feel she’s a little too skinny to convincingly beat up these muscle bound dudes she goes up against but meh. But for the point of her personality she is more smiley and peppy that other interpretations, she cracks a few jokes and is more down-to-earth. She is also clearly very intelligent and driven, along the way she must present herself as heartfelt, bad-ass and vulnerable which Vikander is able to clearly convey with a few delicate expressions of the eyes.

The movie is filled with action sequences which range from chases to puzzles with deadlines to gunfight’s to fisticuffs. The goal of the movie and the scenes are to deliver a visceral experience so the camera shakes and the sound of fists hitting heads and bodies slamming is clear and feels hard. There are many shots where Lara is on the move (something she often is in the movie) and the camera is either behind or in-front of her, like the camera operator is along for the run. It creates a sense of engagement by making us feel the momentum of the running and the turbulent nature of traversing the area.

For reasons Walton Goggins plays Mathias Mogel, the villain of the movie. He has been on the island for seven years, unable to go home until he gets the treasure he’s been sent to retrieve. He has gone quietly mad, nothing too over-the-top but his eyes never blink and are very open, his voice wavers and there’s never any hesitation when he kills. It isn’t a great villain or a reinvention of the role but it does come with a little more control that we don’t usually get.

At the ending of the movie they force in a twist which isn’t even that clever and which is also a clear ploy to turn this into a franchise. The days of having standalone movies are not done but the days of having a standalone blockbuster do seem to be dead and buried, at least for now. Is is so bad to go to the theater, buy your ticket, take your seat, be entertained for ninety minutes to two hours and leave satisfied, not knowing that you will have to be back over a year later to see the story continue? Sequels have gotten better over the years but just because they are not longer the stake in the heart for the movie doesn’t mean that they are now a necessity. Well, at least the movie still works well enough on it’s own.

We seem to be getting a few movies that attempt to or at least put on the facade that they are witty plot twisters when they simply aren’t. There’s nothing wrong with a simple, clear story telling that does it’s job well. That was one of the reason why Kong: Skull Island got so much praise from me. One a technical, performance and adaptation level this movie is quite capable, go knowing that this is based on a video game so it is about making you feel like you’ve gone on a ride and you’ll leave having felt it.

Jonathan Evans

Review Red Sparrow by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

It seems that there are two types of spy movies. There’s the dark, gritty one where the duty takes it’s toll on the one that must be said spy. Then there is the romanticised world where everyone is attractive and things are sleek. Red Sparrow is the latter but with peppering of a dark gritty world.

We open on a raising red curtain. We are at a ballet and the dancers perform. Somewhere else a man deciphers a code and goes out into the cold of Russia. The dancers dance with Dominika (Jennifer Laurence) being the star. The man meets another man and they pass something between them, a close call causes him to fire his gun so the police will chase him. Near the end of the ballet Dominka’s leg is crushed by a mistake of her co-star leaving her dancing career broken.

A few months later Dominka is recovering though with a ill mother her options are limited. Luckily, or unluckily, her uncle Ivan Vladimirovich Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts) who has pull in the government offers her a position of training. The Sparrows are specially trained agents that are masters of getting under the skin of their targets. So begins the question of what are they willing to do for their country and where is the line if there even is one.

Jennifer Laurence is no stranger to an action leading role, with her career being built on Katniss from The Hunger Games. She speaks with a very thick Russian accent, how accurate it is I cannot say but there is not trace of her real American accent which is impressive. Though her focus is in her body movement and subtlety in her face. She starts as someone broken, then thrown into a world that asks her to do things she never thought of doing, and then finally becomes accustomed to her environment. This is reflected in her body-language, and shows the arc of her character.

There are moments in the movie, particularly within the opening sequence where it looks truly ravishing. The Ballet setting is reminiscent of Powell & Pressberger’s The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffman. For the opening chunk onward, it becomes less stimulating, still sharply shot but the colors are more muted and setting less memorable. I would guess this is to show the changing from one world into another though it more feels like an unfulfilled promise of a really good looking movie.

Being that this is an American movie and with all the tensions brewing between them and Russia recently it is surprising to have a spy movie that shows the experience from the other side. Ultimately you can guess who is painted as the villain and the noble country in the end but it was refreshing and important to see that there are noble and good people that come from other countries.

The big talking point for this movie will most likely be the violence. There are a few very overt moments of sexual content and savvier harm being inflicted upon the characters. One of the main recipients is Dominika herself, I’m usually quite sensitive about depiction of brutality towards women but here I feel it’s in the right place. Firstly, it’s a brutal spy movie, you should know what your getting within a few minutes, secondly, everyone gets brutality inflicted upon them, there is no beating discrimination going on. So ultimately I feel it’s fair.

Red Sparrow has talent behind and in-front of the camera and does some bolder things that will make it memorable. It is not as clever as it believes itself to be but it  avoids being blatantly stupid or misogynistic with plenty of refreshing material to a genre we’ve already seen a lot of so it makes the ride.

Jonathan Evans

 

Review Lady Bird by Jonathan Evans

 

(5 / 5)

 

Is it possible for the youth to really listen to their parents when they give them advice, or do they have to live long enough to appreciate what they’re telling them? At the same time do parents really know better than their kids, or are they just set by their own experiences?

There are many stories that put forward a similar dynamic about the tension that happens between a parent and child. What is the important element is how it paints it’s world and characters and the voice it gives them.

Our first image is a mother and daughter sleeping face-to-face in a bed, they straighten out the room and head home. While driving an argument arises about Christine now wanting to be called Lady Bird and go off to attend New York college while her mother doubts her abilities, her retort is to roll out of the moving car giving her a cast for most of the movie.

Lady Bird’s goal is simple yet so connectable. She wants to forge her own identity, she rejects the name her parents gave her in favor of one she gave herself, she doesn’t listen to her mother or others telling her that there are more reasonable paths for her to take her future because she is unlike anyone else ever (in her mind). It is that time of adolescence where you begin to learn that the rules that the adults force on you are not absolute but at the same time you are probably self-obsessed. It’s just something a lot of us go through.

Saoirse Ronan embodies the character perfectly. She is already a veteran actor and perfectly masks her thick Irish accent. Because of the situation dynamic it call on her to shift moods quickly, take one scene where she’s in the midst of arguing with her mother in a store and when her mother shows her a dress she becomes joyful, or another where it starts with her seeking sympathy from her friend but it turns into a heated argument. Good script-writing can only take it so far, it needs actors to bring it to life.

Laurie Metcalf is Lady Birds mother and she is the other great pillar of a character in the tale as well as the other great performance. There are moments where she has to internalise much but persevere. Two examples are when she is dealing with a patient and what they have to tell them is heartbreaking but she still needs to ask them essential questions. The other moment is when she’s chatting with Lady Bird’s boyfriend and he says something that hurts her, the expression of hurt flashes on her face very quickly but you can feel it in that half second she has to show it.

As an experienced actor herself Greta Gerwig fits into the directing chair with great ease. Her shots are simple but greatly effective and her definite great power is to get extremely well crafted performances out of her actors. They are all perfectly capable actors themselves but Gerwig adjusts them for the right level of funny, furious, vulnerable and sad.

Because Lady Bird’s self obsession lends itself to revelations about other characters. She becomes more sympathetic to others and picks up on details. It is an organic and refreshing way of having character revelations that is not contrived.

Lady Bird has the same subject matter as many other movies that I could name. But what matters is how such subject matter is framed and crafted. It is framed by a woman that is in her thirties so she has been the adolescent daughter but is also entering the age of the mother so she is at a point where she can gauge both perspectives. It is an experience which eloquently portrays the zany energy and sass of youth and the melancholy of looking back as an adult.

Jonathan Evans

 

Review I, Tonya by Jonathan Evans

 

(4 / 5)

 

As the saying goes, there’s how you remember it, there’s how history will remember it and there’s what really happened. I, Tonya clearly has this in-mind from it’s inception, where it shows a story recounted by different characters that all see themselves as the others victim, disagree on the details and apologise for just about nothing.

The focal point is obvious the character that the movie is named after, Tonya Harding. We get footage that is set-up like a TV special on the people (again, focusing on Tonya). We see her, played by Margo Robbie, her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly played by Sebastian Stan and her mother LaVona played by Alison Janey. There are a few others but these are the pillars of the plot. Basically Tonya was an Olympic competitor and took home a few medals in her life but never got a any real recognition. She started skating at a really early age and kept it up.

Skating is clearly what Tonya lives for and all other aspects have no class or stability what-so-ever. Robbie has always been cast with attractive characters in mind, to be sure they were defined and she was very good at playing all the other roles but here she plays a character that requires her to be very rough around the edges. She cusses, is put into goody outfits that she has to make herself and smears the make-up on too heavy. And is very much realised in her performance, a smart choice and a wise move on Robbie’s part.

Jeff describes his time with Tonya and her mother like he found himself between two of the craziest human beings ever, one would attack psychologically while the other would fire a shotgun at him, also he denies hitting Tonya. Alison Janney as Tonya’s mother is one of the great beasts in movies. She operates on tough love and that greatness is forged in fire, so she makes Tonya’s life hell. It takes something for an actor to play this kind of character There are people that deal with challenges differently, some thrive with a challenge, others do better in calmer environments and others channel stress or nay-sayers into their best work. It seems that Tonya is the latter of these examples, when she has both verbal and physical abuse in her life right up to the point she skates she does what almost no other woman did in ice skating. When it’s the closest to stable/healthy she misses the landing.

An element that the movie puts forward is that Tonya brought home the gold or even the silver or the bronze because her great skating didn’t come in a pretty package. They want to present their winners and the besets prettiest girls from classic, wholesome American families. She was not this and therefore got a few points deducted.

I don’t know about any training Robbie went through for the skating scenes, in-fact it’s not even necessary these days, through digital manipulation you can put an actors face over the actual sportsman and you’d never know, there were also a few times when I could tell that her whole body was C.G.I. However none of this is really a detriment, I don’t need to know how much the actor put themselves through for a role or what parts aren’t authentic, what matters is what is on-screen before us. They are the highlights of the movie. The camera comes alive most in moments when the facts are ambiguous and it follows a character running and such, but there is the truest example of adding camera motion to give life to a scene in the sequences where she skates.

How accurate the movie itself is may vary on of few of the moments, that is however to be expected, we still a movie to flow narratively and adjust itself accordingly so to work as a movie. But how could it ever be properly chronicled with events this crazy and people in it this warped? It couldn’t really, what really happened happened and some things are indisputable while others we’ll have to just choose to believe. however one thing is for certain, at the end they show footage of some of the real people an how accurately they captured them, some of the footage is of Tonya skating, she sure was a great skater.

Jonathan Evans

 

Review Black Panther by Jonathan Evans

“You don’t feel as real if you don’t see yourself reflected in the media. There’s something very powerful about seeing yourself represented.”

-Dwayne McDuffie

 

(4 / 5)

Black Panther is here to make up for lost time. It is not the first Superhero movie to have a black lead, that goes to Steel, but we are now ten years into these MARVEL cinematic movies and now they have enough capital and are allowed to explore other characters that are nonwhite people. It is here with a mission. It is here to give the spotlight to characters and actors that aren’t Caucasian, to represent black culture in both Africa and America and deliver a message of legacy while proceeding forward.

In Captain America: Civil War one of the standout characters was Black Panther himself. Chadwick Bowesman embodies this character with his physicality and majesty with how he walks into a room or a fight and owns everything. This is a time where monarchy is a tricky subject, I wont throw my opinions in here but I do believe he is an engaging likable character so if people are able to pin down their beliefs for the sake of the movie I believe they’ll be very appropriately entertained.

The country in Africa in which T’Challa reins is Wakanda. It is a city that has reached the pinnacles of modern technology. The buildings stand and pieces of modern art, shining bright underneath the sun and with high-speed trains that go from the skyline to the deep caves of the land itself.

The movie also comes with a generous colour pallet. Many different, vivid colours are onscreen making it visually stimulating. In Wakanda the sets have colder colours or blues and whites and a characters costume has yellows, reds or green to make them pop, it is an effective way to make the people and surroundings instantly identifiable.

Director Ryan Coogler has already built an impressive resume for himself. His directorial debut was the  poignant Fruitvale Station, then followed by the sublime Creed. So he is able to handle delicate moments of emotion and fight scenes. Something that I believe helps to sell the fight scenes is the sound, they have convincing punching sounds so when a punch or a kick lands you believe it. Coogler has made two very strong movies on a low scale and now he’s proven he can handle a blockbuster, this is a man with a promising career.

The cast is ninety percent black, being that most of it takes place in Africa this just seems like a logical move but we’ve seen studios whitewash stories that should include non-white people but they’ve found a way. I foresee people complaining about the filmmakers having an agenda and pushing it onto the audience, there have already been other examples of this. For that I say of course, yet if the cast was comprised of white men nobody would cry fowl, it is a case of people needing to rethink about representation.

Adding again the immersion of black culture in the movie is the soundtrack by Ludwig Goransson and Kendrick Lamar. Its fast paced and even spiritual at times, using Hip-Hop and African instrumentals which distinguishes itself from the other MARVEL movies as-well as most other blockbusters that come out.

This movie, like all the other ones, comes with a serving of jokes. Visual ones, one liners etc. I am fine with this because I believe that superheroes should be fun, they can be other things but if they’re not fun something has gone terribly wrong. But I do take issue with that T’Challa seems to have changed to someone that is much more chatty. When we saw him before he was the dry, stoic one, are these movies incapable of having longer sequences of silence?

Michael B. Jordan plays Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (yeah that’s a pretty on-the-nose name). He clearly has an agenda that will link him with T’Challa, the writing clearly tells us that he’s quite intelligent and Jordan brings his great physicality to the role where he is able to sleekly handle guns and perform hand-to-hand combat effortlessly making him a physical threat and the cherry on-top is his  tooth-filled grin that he has when walking into a fight, saying that he will take some malicious enjoyment out of this.

The plot holds a few surprises but none that will really shake you up during the experience. They do many clever things with the the technology and visuals and there are moments of laughter and the action is high concept but you also feel the impact. The movies true strength is in immersing itself in black culture and representing it before the mass audience.

Jonathan Evans