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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Sinister Review

Sinister is a horror film directed by Scott Derrickson and stars Ethan Hawke. Released in 2012, Sinister is about a true crime author named Ellison Oswalt, who has just moved into a new home with his family. Unbeknownst to his wife, Ellison just moved them into a home where an entire family was brutally murdered.

Ellison soon discovers a box full of Super 8 footage that contains, in graphic detail, the gruesome murders of multiple different families. As he slowly investigates this mystery, unusual and frightening things start happening around the home. Ellison now fears that his family too, might be in danger.

Sinister definitely was, at times, a frightening film. The film dedicates a lot of time to this home video style footage of different families being murdered by a nameless, stalking killer. The killer first videotapes the family having fun in the backyard or watching a movie, then the footage will suddenly cut to the process by which they are murdered. I felt this was an effective way to scare the audience. The filmmakers included a lot of buildup in these scenes, as well as a freaky music score and a terrifying payoff.

This kind of imagery isn’t something I want to see, even in my horror movies. I do find these home video scenes horribly terrifying, but not on a fun, enjoyable level. I love being frightened by horror films, but not so much when it comes purely from the shock value. I guess at times, Sinister just started feeling a little too real for me.

One thing I noticed is that there were too many scenes of our main character Ellison investigating bumps in the night. There must be at least twenty minutes or so of film dedicated to him slowly searching around the house for sounds he heard, only to find nothing. I took this as the films way of attempting to build suspense, but it came off as just trying to waste time.

The film is needlessly taken down this ‘supernatural entity’ route as the source of evil. It would’ve been much more interesting if the filmmakers took a different approach to the entire second half of the film. Instead they went with the easier “It was a ghost the whole time!” logic and left it at that. Some people may disagree, but I have grown tired of this direction that most modern horror flicks feel necessary to take.

The actual ending isn’t very satisfying either. In most cases I would call the ending of this film a cop-out, but that just seems to be the way many horror films like to end. Again, I feel this way of ending horror films is overused and tiresome. How about you leave the audience feeling satisfied with a well crafted ending?

Sinister strayed far from my usual taste in horror films, but I do understand why so many people enjoy it. It is horrifying, mixing a lot of disturbing imagery with a very unsettling (and effective) musical score. And while I disliked the film’s direction and choices it made, I understand that there are people who really like this sort of thing. So if you’re a horror movie fan who doesn’t mind imagery that blurs the line of too realistic, Sinister might be one worth watching.

The Verdict: C

-Zachary Flint

 

 

John Wick: Reel Quick Reviews

After reviewing the latest John Wick film I decided to go back and look at the first one. While not as good as it’s sequel, I still get a lot of enjoyment out of John Wick.

The film stars Keanu Reeves as the John Wick, a quite and reserved man morning the recent loss of his wife. During this painful time, Wick’s home is robbed by a group of Russian mobsters, who beat him and kill his dog (a dog that his wife left him before she passed). After this turn of events we find out that John Wick is in fact an ex-hitman, but not just any hitman. He’s the most feared assassin of all, as he once killed three men in a bar with nothing but a pencil. John Wick decides to come out of retirement and hunt down the all the mobsters who killed his dog.

As I said in my review of John Wick: Chapter 2, Iv’e never been much of a fan of Keanu Reeves. Seeing Reeves in John Wick has allowed me to put a different perspective on his way of acting. When he was in The Matrix, I felt his emotionless acting made his character very flat and boring. In John Wick he’s both more expressive and interesting.

Not only is Keanu Reeves good at playing Wick, but the character itself is written very well. The writers really do a great job of building up his character as this feared being. Characters talk very over-dramatically about John Wick, as if he was an unstoppable entity out to get them.

One of my favorite aspects of John Wick are the long, carefully choreographed action sequences. John Wick will take out large amounts of his enemies in a string of flashy martial arts moves and skilled firearm marksmanship. Every action scene in the film flows great and they are very entertaining to watch.

I believe that John Wick is one of the best action films of the past few years. Reeves’s character is as fascinating as he is mysterious, and the beautifully choreographed fight scenes are wonderful to watch. Fans of action packed and stylish films should look no further than John Wick.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

John Wick: Chapter 2 Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 takes place shortly after the events of the first film, where John Wick finally believes he can take a rest and be done with the hitman lifestyle. That all changes when he gets a visit from the crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), whom he owes a favor for bound by a blood oath. Once again John gets wrapped back up into the world of hitmen and assassins, now with every hired gun in NYC hot on his trail.

John Wick: Chapter 2 devotes quite a lot of time building up the character of John Wick. We constantly see montages showing off how much fear John Wick instills into gangsters and other hitmen. Putting it simply, John Wick is just pure awesomeness. I even think it’s safe to say that John Wick is the modern day John McClane. He’s a bad ass antihero with a sense of humor and clever fighting style. In fact, the opening scene of the film acts as a great appetizer for the audience to see the fighting skills and sheer power that John Wick has. The first thirty minutes is just one continuous killing spree Wick goes on because a group of gangsters stole his car.

Keanu Reeves as John Wick was a beyond excellent casting choice. We get to see even more expression and emotion from Reeves than in the first John Wick, with many more lines of dialogue as well. Now, it’s no secret that I have never really been a fan of Keanu Reeves. I think that oftentimes his acting is dull and emotionless. However, his performances in John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 give me reason to believe I’ve misjudged Reeves as an actor. I think the character of Wick fits Reeves’s style of acting well, making for one great performance.

The film effectively builds its own world of assassins that is more vast and extensive than the previous John Wick film. We get to learn about the considerably large network of hitmen across New York City and the ins and outs of the profession. There is one scene where the audience gets to see all the connections that John Wick has around the city, as well as how many hitmen there actually are in NYC. One other big addition to the film is the idea of blood oaths and certain codes that hitmen and assassins must live by and honor. Many films that establish a clear set of rules like this tend to shy away from them at some point, but not John Wick: Chapter 2. Once it establishes the rules, the film never breaks them, which is something I admire.

The action scenes have this euphoric flow to them. They are fast, creative, excessive in violence, and sometimes funny in a morbid sort of way. There is one seen in particular where John Wick is having a shootout with another hitman as they walk through a crowd. They each take turns passively firing shots at one another, doing their best not to be noticed by others. Many people were giggling in the theater at this comedic exchange in gunshots. Another great action scene involves a fist fight John Wick has with the same hitman, except this time they both fall down three flights of concrete stairs during their scuffle. This was filmed in such a slow and drawn out fashion that, again, I believe was supposed to be funny in a dark way.

One possible problem that John Wick: Chapter 2 has is the same issue many action films like struggle with, an invincible protagonists. When you have the protagonist go through as much physical strain as Wick (like getting hit by a car on three separate occasions), it strains the audience’s suspension of disbelief. While we do see the strength of our antihero falter as the film progresses (similar to John McClane in Die Hard), it never really feels like he’s in imminent danger. This was by far the biggest issue people had with the film as I left the theater and I completely understand. Overall I think I was a little more forgiving than others towards this issue, mostly because of the nature of the genre and my love for Wick as a character.

The film is filled with dark scenery and a lot of bright neon lighting (as well as other forms of artificial lights). These, compounded with the unique use of subtitles, gives the John Wick movies a very distinct style. A style that I happen to enjoy quite a lot.

Both John Wick films are outstanding, one of a kind action movies. However, the character of John Wick is what I find truly remarkable about this film. In my opinion, Wick is one of the best action film protagonists in many years. John Wick: Chapter 2 has plenty of cool characters (including a great cameo by Laurence Fishburne), great action scenes, and a uniquely crafted world to make for an adrenaline filled experience. I strongly recommend for fans of stylized action films to go ahead and check out John Wick: Chapter 2 for themselves.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

Annoying People at the Movies

Almost every time I go to the theater nowadays, my enjoyment of watching the film is broken by someone being incredibly rude or obnoxious. Sometimes it’s a person eating food very loudly. Other times it’s someone actually taking a phone call in the theater, and they don’t courteously leave.

I would like to discuss a few of my experiences in the theater that have annoyed me greatly. These experiences are very recent and are why I have been compelled to write this.

Just recently, while viewing Kubo and the Two Strings, a mother’s young children yelled and screamed through most of the film. The mother just sat there without a care in the world, her brain hanging somewhere in space over Lake Michigan. She never told them to be quiet, and never took any of the children out of the theater. Just sat there and let them scream.

Another movie viewing where I almost mentally snapped was The Birth of a Nation. Just behind me a man was eating his food so loud I could tell exactly what he was eating. “That was a piece of popcorn. Now that was an M&M.” So on and so forth. It became so extreme I had to move my seat, twice. I could still hear him chomping away three rows down.

A third situation I was in was during my viewing of Don’t Breathe. The film was at a very dark and tense moment, when suddenly a man starts shining his iPhone flashlight in my face. I believe he was looking for a friend or something, but I’m not really sure. All I know is I had some choice words for him to hear.

I have been annoyed in a theater setting by every demographic of human being on this planet. And the list exponentially grows as to how many times this stuff is happening. Things I never thought somebody would do in a million years, people are doing. I mean, who shines a flashlight in everyone’s faces?

People need to understand that there are still a minority of individuals out there who go to the movies intending to actually watch the movie. I don’t think its too much to ask for to be quiet while watching a movie.

So please, either shut up or hit the road jack. I’m sick of this shit.

Zachary Flint