Jonathan Evans

Review Deadpool 2 by Jonathan Evans

The first Deadpool movie was rude, crude and meta as all hell. It was juvenile but also revealed in how juvenile it was. It knew what it was and poked fun of itself as much as the Superhero genre, which made it hard to dislike. Now the sequel is here with more money and characters.

At the start of my review of the first movie, I made a point that Deadpool was not a hero due to his lack of moral center and just being a hired gun. It seems like this movies goal is to definitely make him a hero, one of the lewdest you’ll ever find, but a hero none-the-less.

The movie opens with Deadpool (Ryan Renolds) being a hired gun and killing all sorts of over-the-top villains, he makes it home to his beloved girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) when she is shocking shot down before him! What follows is a parody of a Bond opening that is just as shocked that they made such a decision. Deadpool then falls into depression and is pulled into joining the X-Men as a trainee, when they need to deal with a young rouge mutant Russell Collins/Firefist (Julian Dennison) this go very bad and both of them end up in Jail.

Things only elevate and complicated with the arrival of Cable, a gun-toting, robotic armed mercenary from the future. He is played by Josh Brolin, who also plays the antagonist in Avengers: Infinity War, this is a bit odd and they do indeed use it for material. Brolin himself is playing the role like he wasn’t in a comedy at all, he is playing this character as if this movie was a serious time traveling science fiction movie. This adds to the comedy greatly, he is the straight man that contrasts with the cast that are virtually living cartoon characters. He doesn’t really look that out of place with a glowing eye and robotic arm but through the interactions you see he’s is out of place.

Other players from the last movie return. Firstly there is the reliable taxi driver Dopinder (Karan Soni) that now wants to be an active member of Deadpool’s business. Weasel (T. J. Miller), the very snarky barman that get’s a little more wrapped up in the drama of the plot this time around. My favorite character throughout these movies Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who may have even less screentime than the last movie but like the last one every time she appears she makes me laugh, so I’ll take it. Then there’s the big, friendly Colossus (Stefan Kapičić), who continues to try and make Deadpool the best person he can be, it’s an uphill battle.

Along for the ride are also new characters. Most prominent is Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose superpower is luck, this lends itself to some well-constructed and creative action set-pieces that are well thought out and executed, and she is a fun character in her own right. There is also Bedlam (Terry Crews), able is dish-out large amounts of power, Shatterstar (Lewis Tan) is an alien who is apparently better than humans in every way, Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård) has the ability to spit acidic saliva and then theres Peter (Rob Delaney) he’s just a regular guy that showed up and they decided to take him along for the ride. There is also Vanisher, but the least I say about them the better so just go and see the movie.

I didn’t mention it in the last movie and it’s still present here so I’ll make up for it. Ryan Renolds costume in the movie covers his face completely and uses that limitation to emote through his entire body. From subtle head nods to iconic body posing and moments of energetic movements he brings the character to life.

I know that this isn’t the most sophisticated of comedy but sometimes that doesn’t matter and the results speak for themselves. I laughed during the movie, multiple times and somewhere rather big laughs. As did the audience at the screening so it seems to be hitting the right nerve.

This is an R rated action comedy that is meant for teenage to young men. It knows this and revels in who the character was made for and is still sharply shot and the script is solid. This is much more emotionall grounded than the last movie and I would say after the journey Deadpool is a hero, not the best example of one but there we are.

 

Review Avengers: Infinity War by Jonathan Evans

 

(5 / 5)

 

Avengers was the accumulation of years of planning and character development that had originally started in 2008’s Iron Man. It wasn’t the first to bring multiple characters together from other movies but this was the one that clearly had a plan, each character got their own movie so they could all be here and gathered together. In the end, it made a promise of a villain that there was more. Infinity War is the payoff.

Now, ten years later and eighteen movies we have arrived at where the plan was apparently alway to be. Many heroes, many different locations, visuals, effects, moments etc. This movie takes everything in the toy box and throws it at us and introduces new ones while doing so.

Only recently has MARVEL done better in having better villains in their movies. But most of them weren’t really serious threats, they were scene chewing, fun bad guys. Thanos (Josh Brolin) is one of the biggest and baddest of villains in the comic book world and has now been realised on the big screen. He stands eight feet high, bulky with muscle and a plan that will devastate everyone. He believes that there is too much population in the universe so he has taken it upon himself to wipe out half the population to stabilise it. This is quite mad and the characters point it out. Dread is packed into the way the characters talk about him and he proves that he is indeed someone to fear. Not only does he pack a punch, but can take one and has a sophisticated way with words and philosophy. Brains and brawn, he most certainly has a few key elements of a great screen villain.

His plan revolves around acquiring six Infinity Stones that all control a certain aspect of existence (reality, mind, time, soul etc.). Once he has all of them he can accomplish his goal with a literal snap of his fingers. These Infinity Stones have been scattered throughout the other MARVEL movies so for us watching we can connect the dots. Now the race is on to either get to a stone before he can, get them away from him or destroy them. Failure means the death of half the universe.

To describe all the different scenarios going on and who is where will take up too much space in the review, so I will simply name the players. Iron Man (Robert Doweny Jr.), Cpatian America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Panther (Chadwick Bosseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Winter Soilder (Sebastian Stan), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cummberbatch), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bentny), War Machine (Don Cheattle), Falcom (Anthony Mackie), Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper). There are a few more but that’s enough.

This is obviously a big cast. Approximately twenty characters that are not just present but are essentially their own main character. What helps is that they have had their own movies previously to help develop them so they can come into this movie smoothly, a lot has been established so the writers have plenty to work with and the actors know the characters inside and out. But what if this is the first movie you’ve seen and have not viewed any of the others yet? Well, you’ll probably suffer from overload, I don’t recommend this as your first MARVEL movie but it will definitely be someones. There is just enough in terms of efficiency establishing the characters in their moments of introduction to understanding who they are and roll with it for the rest of the movie.

Beyond having all the characters on-screen at the same time what the filmmakers have to consider is the different visual style all the other heroes have. The Guardians have a stronger, disco colour pallet, Black Panther has more jungle colors and Dr. Strange comes with psychedelic visuals. All of them have to be represented here. They are. Along with that, this is (along with tone) the darkest MARVEL movie color wise. There is a lot of blacks on-screen, deep, true blacks, contrasting with other deep, vivid colours that pop out. It makes for an engaging image and adds to the dire nature of the story.

As I have mentioned at least once in my recent review’s of the MARVEL movies the screenwriters are prone to adding quips in the dialog. Or sometimes having what feels like mandatory jokes happen every ten minutes. The tone of the movies has always been a light-hearted one to a degree so it wasn’t off-tone and they were funny so that also wasn’t a bother. They are present here as well, a character makes comments on the others attire, name, mentality etc. But these are moments of characters either being themselves within moments of respite or even dealing with this seemingly hopeless situation.

This movie naturally comes with its share of action set pieces. As previously stated we have had many other movies to get to know these characters and in the time they have in this movie is enough to connect with them. So we care a little about who is going into battle. But when it comes to the fights everyone has different abilities and they use them like great pieces in a strategy game, others get close, while one attacks from a distance and another distracts (these are just examples).

A popular criticism of other MARVEL movies is that their aren’t any real stakes because none of the main characters ever die. Only a handful of important characters have died and these movies are light as a feather and so forth. Well, it’s as if this really was all part of the plan because now characters do indeed die. I won’t spoil who (go see the movie!), but early on they do and later on others. So being that some can it means anybody can die, which adds great gravitas to the action scenes that now have the biggest stakes of all.

I have to mention directors Anthony and Joe Russo and scriptwriting team Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely that took on this monumental task of juggling all these characters and taking all the story threads and weaving them into something not only consistent but effective.

This movie doesn’t work as a single character arc, nor does it work as a self-contained story, because of the immense story and characters, this is actually part one of two. This is a grand accumulation of seeing all of the characters and worlds we have come to know and love over the course of many movies and face something that is too big for any one of them to handle on their own. It shows all the amazing images and feet’s of imagination and drama that the world of Superheroes is able to present before us. All the fun times and pulp from before is brutally stripped away and since we had that mindset in the previous movies the darkness and brutality hit all the harder.

 

Review Mary and the Witch’s Flower by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

With the fate of Studio Ghibli still uncertain, what are all the talented artist and storytellers to do that worked there to do? Get up, form their own studio and make a movie. Good for them!

Mary and The Witch’s Flower is the movie debut of Studio Ponoc and they take it upon themselves pick up the baton to create accessible movies for children that are just as filled with whit and inspiring images that would wow an adult.

From its first scene, it is here to intrigue and impresses. A hooded figure runs away from other hooded figures, they carry something. They grab a broom and fly away on it, grey, blobby being chased them and the tree city they came from explodes. While being pursued what the hooded figure has is dropped into a forest and so is their broom. We instantly have many questions and there is a lot of color, sound, music and beautifully realised animation to kick off the movie already.

We then see a little house in the countryside and a young girl by the name of Mary (Hana Sugisaki) is moving in. She wants to help but she is a terrible clutz, not even being able to tie a flower or pick of a box of her stuff without causing a mess. While exploring her new home she comes across two cats, one grey one black. They lead her into the forest and there she finds a broom held by a tree with vines and a flower that is so blue it seems to be glowing. One night the broom starts moving by itself and takes Mary through the clouds and to a place like no other, Endor College for witches.

It is the sequence where Mary is introduced to the headmistress Madame Mumblechook (Yuki Amami) and is shown all the facilities of the college that is easily the best part of the movie.

The animation is just like that of Studio Ghibli, with thick lines, blobby movement, and simple but expressive character designs. Being that the new studio is composed of almost entirely former Ghibli staff this isn’t really a surprise.

There is a wealth of generosity paid to the animation. Sure it’s pretty and smooth but the generosity comes in little things that most people wouldn’t even notice but they did and put in the extra effort. Take a moment where Mary is being guided through the school, we see the big establishing shot and when the camera is closer to her face we can still see something going on with someone else. Animation, particularly hand-drawn animation requires one drawing at a time to be produced to create the illusion of movement and when it’s done must be colored in, which is also time-consuming. These little things which take up much time and go by so unnoticed shows that the people working there are passionate about bringing the whole world to life.

Eventually, sinister intentions are revealed, our hero must use her wits and bravery to overcome them and we are left with a satisfying ending.

The movie is the tale of a normal person being swept up into a world of magic and having to maneuver this new world where there are stakes and plenty of creative visuals along the way. It will entertain your children with it’s easy to understand plot, likable character and vivid color pallet. Adults will also be sucked in.

 

Review Peter Rabbit by Jonathan Evans

 

(1 / 5)

Ow, my. What a waste of talented animators time and effort. Such a shame that pretty cinematography would be used to portray such pandering material. A cast that could lend itself to much better material yet is stuck in this feature that is trying so hard to impress yet comes off as desperate in the end.

Is this really the hardest thing to get right? A family of rabbits need to survive and there is a source of food in a nearby garden, so they go and take what they need from it, but the owner of the garden is the mean old Mr. McGregor. This is essentially a tale of Tom & Jerry but with a rabbit and a human.

We have the titled character Peter Rabbit (James Corden) getting up and getting ready for another day of stealing from old Mr. McGregor (Sam Neil). He takes his triplet sisters Cottontail (Daisey Ridley), Flopsy (Margo Robbie) and Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki) and their cousin Benjamin (Colin Moody). Instantly the problems start, Peter, is a motor-mouthed, obnoxious twit that believes themselves to be so great and even speaks right into the camera and addresses the audience telling them about how smart, fast, well dressed etc. he is.

The special effect people really have created good work in bringing the animal characters to life. They do look like the actual animals they’re based on and have found a way to have them stand on their hind legs and emote their faces without looking off or ending up in uncanny valley territory. The rendering of the fur and the denim jackets they wear are also rather convincing. It’s such a shame that all this effort was wasted on pandering, obnoxious characters.

One day, in the midst of a conflict old Mr. McGregor, dies of a heart attack and with his dead body laying there Peter repeatedly pokes him in the eye. Survearly distasteful. So with him gone his great-nephew Thomas McGregor (Donmhall Gleeson) has inherited him home. So now the rabbits have a whole new McGregor to deal with.

The dynamic between a hero and a villain is simple really. We root for the hero because they inhabit goals and morals we connect with while the villains oppose them. So through experiencing the story playout we root for our hero and hope they overcome the villain. There are variations on this but this is a basic staple. I more morally complex material we can understand the villain and why they do what they do but a sign of failure is when we agree with the villain. Thomas McGregor is uptight and quite odd but it is shown that he is indeed a hard worker and is capable of being considerate as well as having a reasonable goal. Now, these obnoxious rabbits break into his property and give him such a hard time. Sure the argument is made by Bea (Rose Byrne), the neighbor, that they’re animals following they’re basic instincts, but they’re not, we see that they talk and discuss and wear clothes, they are aware of their actions. So I’m rooting for the “mean” human that has a dream and is willing to put in the work while the hero is selfish and would support cooking him into that pie.

How is it that the moments with the human characters are so much more concise than the moments with the animated animals? It costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time to render these talking animals on-screen and yet the filmmakers seem to fall in love with the material the actors were either improvising behind the microphone or reading from the script and decided none of it need editing down or being cut out. It does, so much of this, a waste of time or isn’t funny and sometimes both.

When I was sitting in the theatre one child was laughing and the adult next to them was on their phone, I can’t say I blame them. This will probably make the children laugh but it won’t make them any smarter by the end of it and when they’re older they’ll probably realise it’s tripe.

If we took out all the animated rabbits and had an off-beat story about a city slicker coming to the country and being charmed by someone then we might have had something here. Yes, I know that that formula has been done to death but at least it would have been something stomachable. I have no patience for these rabbits.

For a well made, charming, intelligent children’s movie based on a British series of books, I point you towards Paddington.

 

Review A Quiet Place by Jonathan Evans

(5 / 5)

 

You can go outside, you can eat, bathe, all the other things, just don’t make a sound, for then the monsters will get you!

This dark tale picks up after what would usually be the in-sighting incident. The monsters have already come and wiped out a lot of other people. A family is surviving fine, they all go out into an abandoned town and enter a mostly empty abandoned store, they gather what they need and leave. While walking home the youngest boy puts batteries in a toy plane he found, it lights up and makes noises. Dread instantly fills the faces of the others, the Father races to him, all the others can do is cover their mouths so not to make any noises themselves, the father races and races, something moves in the trees and before he can get to his son something has leaped out and taken him.

We gather through careful and skillfully placed visual information that monsters have come and they are blind but are very sensitive to and instantly attack sound. So all they need to do is not make a noise.

What cinema offers as a medium, is to show you things through movement. Not tell you things, if you want to be talked to you can get that in comics, books, or radio plays. Cinema is about expressing its story or message through the image and the movements on the screen, that is what Hitchcock referred to as “Pure Cinema” which is what is present here.

The best visuals require no dialogue. If the dialogue is good then great, but the truest essence of something visual should not require an explanation. All the actors are rendered mute for approximately ninety percent of the movie, yet through body language, they are able to convey their fear, determination, even a little bit of humor into their existence. Emily Blunt as the mother, Millicent Simmonds as the deaf daughter (who is deaf in real life)

Noah Jupe as the young son all brings to life people that must feel many things through this story and with virtually no words. Special credit goes to John Krasinski who plays the father as well as serving other duties as director, writer, and producer, this is clearly his vision that he has worked very hard to create.

Immense care has been given to constructing the families lifestyle to living without making a sound. They use sign language to converse (which is accompanied with subtitles), they pour powder down on a path where they walk to soften the sound of their footsteps, the house where the floorboards creek have paint marking where it is safe to step. They play board games and have to roll the dice onto a cloth and the game pieces are made of foam, plush or sponge. Such details like these show how well the concept has been thought through and help us connect with the characters living situation.

The creatures themselves are of course a major focus point. We don’t really know if they are aliens, a science experiment went wrong or demons. But such knowledge is out of the characters to reach and is superfluous anyway. What matters is the situation they have put the character in. They are very threateningly designed, though I will forgo a description and let you watch the movie for yourself. What truly matters is the skillful way in which they are not seen, when a loud noise is made there is so much dread that fills the scene, before anything of them can be seen or heard we register that these things mean death, pure and simple. For most of it, we only get flashes of them as they strike lightning fast and they disappear. Don’t worry, we get a good, full look at them, but these early scenes serve to wet our appetites.

Whilst it is built on a very intriguing premise, one that could fuel a classic literary work or a very memorable episode of The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, it is in the thinking through and execution that makes A Quiet Place one of the most well made and striking horror movies to come out in a while. It is minimal in exposition details but deep in thinking through how to deal with the situation and masterful in crafting it’s scares.

 

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.