Blade Runner 2049 Review

As a lifelong follower of the science fiction genre, Blade Runner has always been revered as a classic. Pioneering many awe-inspiring visuals that films today look to for guidance. While I respect Blade Runner for its visual achievements, emotionally the film has done very little for me. I find it a bit mundane and heavy-handed, with little going for it other than the artistic style.

In many aspects, Blade Runner 2049 is very similar.

The film takes place about thirty years after the events of the original Blade Runner. Since then, the world has fallen into somewhat of a dystopian mess. With a new era of blade runners (hitmen, essentially) hunting down replicants (a term for bioengineered humans) of the past.

Blade Runner 2049 follows Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a particularly skilled blade runner on a mission with enough significance to throw what’s left of the world into complete chaos.

Beautifully crafted sets, enticing visuals, and monumental sound design all blend together to make Blade Runner 2049 artistically stand out. Concepts and knowledge only briefly mentioned in the previous film are expanded here tenfold. Scenes are shot and crafted with such delicate precision that viewers like myself will be left completely spellbound. The level of imagination in its design is on par with the Star Wars trilogy, and the perfectionism in the lighting and set pieces is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

However, it is here where I’d argue the film does too much expanding, to the point where it exhausts itself. Dramatic scenes that, overall, carry very little weight last for ten to fifteen minutes, when they could be summed up with two simple lines of dialogue. Instead, the film goes for this melodramatic, philosophical dialogue so that it may beat its themes and messages into the viewers head.

And unfortunately, the themes are all recycled from the first Blade Runner. “What does it mean to be human?” Boiled down, that’s the question Blade Runner 2049 poses to the audience. Only it takes them three hours and way too many dialogue pauses to say it.

With so many needlessly lengthy scenes, the conclusion of Blade Runner 2049 felt all too rushed by comparison. Plot lines that needed more depth and discussion get no such thing, which leaves the audience with just as many questions as answers.

So, while most of Blade Runner 2049 was still entertaining to watch (mostly due to the visuals and Goslings straight-faced performance), I think the story and themes have very little to offer viewers.

The Verdict: B-

-Zachary Flint

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review

In the same vein as its predecessor, Kingsman: The Gloden Circle is an outlandish spy movie full of plot twists and zany gadgets.

Taking place about a year after the events of the first film, Kingsman follows the English Secret Service agent Eggsy (Taron Egerton) as he, once again, must save the world from complete destruction. This time around, Eggsy must team up with an American spy organization known as the Statesman, led by Champagne (Jeff Bridges) and Jack Daniels (Pedro Pascal). Together, they must work to stop the new supervillain of the week Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), a criminal mastermind that specializes in illicit drugs.

Kingsman is one of those movies that thinks it needs to be two and a half hours long. So, in a feeble attempt to buffer its runtime, the film overcompensates and tacks on too many subplots. The ensemble of characters, sets, and plot devices felt very long-winded, and a bit overwhelming. It would’ve served the audience much better if the filmmakers cut the fat away and focused on creating a more condensed movie.

Even the action scenes, which were used somewhat sparingly in the first Kingsman, felt unnecessarily bloated here. The opening scene cuts right into a ten-minute car chase sequence that I believe jumped the gun. The action was highly stylized, with very fluid camerawork and choreography that made the fight scenes mesmerizing to watch. It was only when they dragged these parts out that they became tedious and mundane.

The entire cast, old and new, had so much fun with this film that I couldn’t help but do the same. The energy and excitement in the performances elevated some possibly underwritten characters to new heights.

The humorous nature of Kingsman is still alive and well here in the sequel. With situations and moments that are so unusual that you wouldn’t expect them from other more reasonably grounded films. One of the more comical aspects of Kingsman was the inclusion of Elton John (a rather peculiar celebrity cameo) as a minor character, who takes part in the action-packed climatic showdown.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is most enjoyable when you cease to take the film seriously. It teeters between nonsensical and extravagantly excessive, in this little unique world of spies that it has built itself. Kingsman isn’t high art, nor is it trying to be. It knows its core audience, and will deliver plenty of enjoyment to those who liked Kingsman: The Secret Service.

The Verdict: B+

-Zachary Flint

 

The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review

It was obvious from the get-go that The LEGO Ninjago Movie would be the least inspired installment of the continuing LEGO Movie franchise. Based loosely off a children’s cartoon series (which in turn was based off a preexisting toyline), The LEGO Ninjago Movie tells the story of Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco), who lives in a metropolitan city constantly threatened by the evil Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Lloyd happens to be the most despised individual in the entire city, mostly because of his relation to Lord Garmadon.

Luckily, Garmadon never comes close to ruling over anything, because the LEGO city is protected by a secretive ninja force led by Master Wu (Jackie Chan). And, unbeknownst to just about everyone, Lloyd happens to be one of those very ninjas. He, along with the rest of his ninja friends, is about to embark on a dangerous quest to stop Lord Garmadon for good.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie features many bizarre creative choices that I found to be quite delightful. The tone and the genre of the film, for example, are ever-changing and seem to be a blend of many ideas.

This film should’ve come with a hyperactivity warning, as there are very few breathers for the audience. Not only are the scene transitions quick, but entire plot points fly by at a rapid pace. What felt like five minutes of watching LEGO Ninjago turned out to be an hours’ worth of the film.

Sadly, most of the characters didn’t have any depth or personality to them. Other than the lead antagonist Garmadon and Master Wu, none really stood out as being interesting. I noticed multiple talented voice actors behind the little brick figures, but I guess the script didn’t call for utilizing their full potential.

Probably the best aspect of the film was the clever humor poking fun at popular action/adventure genre tropes. In one scene, they mock the overuse of the popular sound effect dubbed the Wilhelm Scream (heard in Star Wars as well as Indiana Jones). In another hilarious scene, they comment on how the wise character in action/adventure movies always withhold incredibly important knowledge until they’re in the process of dying. Very funny.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie had plenty of comedic, fun-filled moments, yet unfortunately lacked the charm of its LEGO predecessors. There are a plethora of scenes attempting to teach kids very simple and valuable messages. But where these scenes came off as cute in LEGO Batman and The LEGO Movie, here they’re just sappy. Those looking for a fast-paced children’s comedy won’t need to search any further. However, if you were expecting anything more than that, you may find yourself disappointed.

The Verdict: B-

-Zachary Flint

It Review

The choice to remake a popular horror film is far from a new concept. And with Hollywood’s recent drought of creativity, the horror genre has become stale, boring, unexciting, and lacking any passion from the filmmaker’s end. Occasionally something unique will slip through the cracks (It Comes at Night comes to mind), but more often than not we get unoriginal slop (Poltergeist (2015), Rings, Annabelle, and so on).

So, when I heard we’d be getting another film of Stephen King’s It, I was fairly certain that It would fall victim to the same level of incompetence as its peers. Yet, in a surprising turn of events, just the opposite occurred. Rather than getting a boring, run-of-the-mill remake, moviegoers are being treated to a highly appealing horror flick with a terrifying antagonist and talented cast.

Set in the quaint town of Derry, Maine, an evil entity preys upon the fearful youth. Often appearing in the form of a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), this entity awakens every twenty-seven years to devour the children of Derry. However, when some of the neighborhood children (labeled as the Losers’ Club) band together, their friendships and fears are put to the ultimate test. Facing off against an evil force with power unlike anything imaginable.

It was delightfully scary in the utmost creative and unexpected ways. The film went with a mix of tension building, creepy moments, as well as quick jump scares that are followed by loud spikes in the sound. The jump scares were pretty standard and didn’t get the strongest reaction from audiences. The scariest scenes of It were when the film took its time building suspense through creepy imagery, all leading up to great payoffs featuring Pennywise the clown (whose eerie demeanor completely stole the show in every sense of the word).

Not only a terrifying horror flick, It contained a clever narrative on the struggles of teenage adolescence. Each character in the film was dealing with some sort of real life dilemma, such as a hypochondriac parent, grief, and child abuse. This not only gives our unlikely heroes motivation, but makes them feel all the more genuine, resulting in the audience connecting with them more. Even the stereotypical bully, a character whose writing I was fully prepared to loathe, had a tragic backstory that gave him more depth.

The dialogue and personalities of the child actors reflected how young kids might actually behave. Incredibly foul-mouthed and crude, they felt less like Hollywood twerps and more like normal everyday children.

While a few characters here and there could’ve had a little more time devoted to them, I’m really stretching to find issues. The reality is that It is a fantastic work of fiction, with dedicated filmmakers striving to make a movie that entertains viewers. With plenty of grotesque scenes, memorable performances, and a great use of camera angles, I think there’s enough here for just about any horror fan to be completely satisfied.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

Motion Picture Association of America: History and Controversy

Introduction

The Motion Pictures Association of America has stood the test of time as one of the most influential companies in the world. With control over the film ratings process, as well as strong political ties with the United States government, the MPAA has the power to manipulate how the world views the medium of motion pictures.

Maintaining this kind of power, you would think most people would have basic knowledge of the MPAA. When in reality, the MPAA remains unknown to many, often staying out of the Hollywood limelight.

Therefore, I find it essential that people have a general concept of who the MPAA is, what they stand for, and what they mean for the film industry as a whole. I will briefly discuss the history of the company, major criticisms they face today, and the impact film ratings have on the box office and the art of filmmaking itself.

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Logan Lucky Review

Logan Lucky has what seems like a standard heist/comedy plot, but takes it to the nth degree. Cutting away the fluff and filler of usual heist films and giving audiences the weird scenes and exciting performances that they never knew they wanted.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike), Logan Lucky tells the story of a Southern family man named Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), who decides to rob the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. To help him, Jimmy has his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver), his hairdresser sister Mellie (Riley Keough), and an explosives expert named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Through an absurd turn of events, we the audience witness this group of unusual individuals attempt to steal millions during a famed NASCAR race.

Most of the cast of Logan Lucky felt more like actual backwoods goofballs than A-list actors, which makes many scenes all the more engrossing (and hilarious). And given the eccentric nature of the film, I often had no idea where it was going next, or even what purpose it served. All I really knew was that Logan Lucky didn’t feel obligated to play out like other films. The plot progression, for example, didn’t include many transition scenes to show characters getting from point A to point B. Alternatively, we are only ever shown what is absolutely necessary for the sake of understanding what’s going on, which ends up making the film all the more entertaining.

And rather than going with typical blockbuster banter, the humor in Logan Lucky is often very dry, deriving the hilarity from the bizarre personalities and interactions of the actors. Adam Driver and Daniel Craig were too of my favorite characters, playing two very weird individuals vastly different from what they’re used to. Driver goes most of the film with the same deadpan expression, and Craig has this maniacal look in his eye that I couldn’t help but frequently laugh at. Not all the humor of Logan Lucky was directly aimed at this Southern style mentality, as proven by Seth MacFarlane’s comical performance as an uptight British businessman.

Logan Lucky never tries too hard to dazzle, be funny, or impress the audience with usual Hollywood gimmicks. Instead, the film naturally comes off as impressive because of its charming actors, engaging story, and outlandish plot progression. And with the help of some clever camera work from behind the scenes, Logan Lucky transcends to what I would consider a fantastic work of art. It’s an oddly exciting, heartwarming film that I’d recommend anyone interested to give a watch.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

The Hitman’s Bodyguard Review

The idea of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson acting in a buddy comedy together sounds like a match made in heaven. The type of roles they typically play are tremendously different, which would theoretically make for a highly interesting film. I say theoretically, because The Hitman’s Bodyguard perfectly displays the sad truth that, just because you have good actors, doesn’t mean you’ll have a good movie.

The film stars Reynolds as Michael Bryce, a protection agent who’s called upon to help protect a notorious hitman named Darius Kincaid (played by Sam Jackson). With a long, complicated history between them, Bryce must now escort Kincaid across Europe so that he may testify in court against a ruthless dictator (Gary Oldman).

Ryan Reynolds and Sam Jackson are pretty funny as individual characters, but don’t work well off each other’s comedic style. Most attempts at jokes dragged on for far too long, and nobody in the theater was even laughing to begin with.

This poor comedic outcome is due to the writers going for the double act style of humor, which is what you see in most buddy comedies of this caliber. Double act works in films like Tango & Cash and Men in Black because the characters are written with complete opposite personalities. Well, herein lies part of the problem with The Hitman’s Bodyguard, as neither of our protagonists have well-defined personalities

Jackson was more severe than Reynolds, but neither ever stuck with a singular set of characteristics. Jackson would often go from being a cold-hearted killer to a more sensitive and understanding person, almost at the flick of a switch. So when the actors don’t have defined personalities, it’s hard for the audience to relate to one of those characters, which entirely defeats the purpose of double act.

The villain of the film, played by Gary Oldman, is a bland Eastern European stereotype with absolutely no depth to his character. After having just watched The Hitman’s Bodyguard, I can’t remember anything about him. Now, Gary Oldman is one of my favorite Hollywood actors, and I think he can play a very diverse range of roles. So I’m incredibly confused as to why he was given so little to do the entire film. He never says or does anything of importance, making his character one of the more forgettable villains of past months.

Some of the action scenes were energetic, while others were fairly lackluster. Take the grand boat chase seen for example. It has a mix of clever and generic moments, however what really ruins the chase sequence is that it goes on for an eternity. The best chase scenes (and action scenes as well) are short and to the point, condensing what the viewer is shown into the most exhilarating moments. The Hitman’s Bodyguard unfortunately wasn’t all that exhilarating, or exciting.

When you boil it down, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is about as standard as a buddy comedy can possibly get. It attempts to go through the same motions of other films in its genre, but because of the lopsided writing it fails to leave any lasting impression on the viewer. It had some funny, even hilarious scenes. However, even the most enjoyable moments of The Hitman’s Bodygurad are overshadowed by sloppy writing and a sense of mediocrity.

The Verdict: D+

-Zachary Flint