Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2016

January is usually the time of year where I catch up on the prior year’s films, because there are a lot of really good films that expand into theaters during this time. And let’s face it… January is dumping ground for new studio releases. Instead of being down in the dumps, and complaining about the dull and unimaginative new YA movie release, this site would be better off looking at some of the potentially great new movies we have coming this year.

Now, let’s whip out the calendar and look at films that are worth screaming in anticipation for…

My Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2016

10.) Captain America: Civil War (May 6)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The Age of Ultron is over, and now the Marvel Cinematic Universe is at Civil War. This film has Captain America, Iron Man, the rest of the current Avengers crew, Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Spider-Man, two villains, and a couple government staff. Talk about capacity overload. Even so, it looks like a story of a family divided that’s anchored on the Steve-Bucky p̶a̶r̶t̶n̶e̶r̶s̶h̶i̶p̶ love. I adore how Writers Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely brought Captain America into modern day with a film about post-war adjustment and soldiers returning home, so I can’t wait to see how they approach Civil War. Plus, they’re reteaming with Directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who look like they’re tackling full-on superhero for this one, so this may end up as the event film to kick-start the Summer season.

09.) Moana (November 23)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Disney can keep Zootopia, and even Finding Dory, because Moana looks like the animation treasure of the year. Disney has been making improvements in diversity during their recent resurgence, with films like The Princess and the Frog, Frozen, and Big Hero 6. Those films are such substantial standouts in the recent animation pool, so there’s nothing hindering me from thinking Moana will end up the same. Ron Clements and John Musker (of The Princess and the Frog) are directing and writing this film, with Taika Waititi also writing. This is a film with a female lead from the South Pacific and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Polynesian demi-god. It sounds incredibly fun and like a total rebound from Lava last year.

08.) Assassin’s Creed (December 21)

20th Century Fox
This may be the first time in a while that an Assassin’s Creed product has appeared on a Most Anticipated list, but for good reason. Last year’s Macbeth was made totally watchable by Kurzel’s directing, and Fassbender and Cotillard’s performances. This film looks to be a Macbeth 2, in the sense that all of the highlights of that film are returning. Cotillard is a grace to every screen she is on, Fassbender is brilliant at playing captivating, villain-like characters, and Kurzel knows how to portray bloody, brutal imagery. The film will most likely have an easy time locking in to the Assassin’s Creed atmosphere, while also taking the franchise somewhere new.

07.) The Jungle Book (April 15)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures 
Admittedly, Disney is 1 for 3 when it comes to their live-action remakes of their animated films, but last year’s Cinderella really showed me the beauty of revisiting and modernizing these properties. I trust Director Jon Favreau enough with the technology to deliver a beautiful, vibrant, and character-driven adventure film, much like I remember the original animation to be.  Even the voice cast is summing up to be great, with talents such as Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, and Giancarlo Esposito comprising the cast. There’s only a slight chance I won’t be in tears, singing along, when Murray starts singing “The Bare Necessities”.

06.) Suicide Squad (August 5)

Warner Bros. Pictures
Turns out waiting for that second trailer was worth putting off this list for. This looks like the most insane and most visually interesting comic book film we’ve gotten in a while. I feel like Director David Ayer is a good match to this film and DC’s overall aesthetic, because he can confidently tune in to punk and irreverent, as well as otherworldly realism without letting the “dark and seriousness” consume the film’s characters or narrative. The characters look weird. The action sequences look insane. And more importantly, the film looks fun.  With a film titled Suicide Squad, that’s all I could ever want.

05.) Midnight Special (March 18)

Warner Bros. Pictures
Writer/Director Jeff Nichols solidified himself as a filmmaker to look out for with his coming-of-age film about love, Mud. That film really hit with me, and I had no idea what I to expect. Now, we arrive at his next film, a sci-fi thriller that resembles the dark sci-fi films of the past. It sounds right up my alley. The film stars Joel Edgerton, the always compelling Adam Driver, and Michael Shannon as the protective father, which I find very interesting. This will probably end up being something special.

04.) Hail, Caesar! (February 5)

Universal Studios
The first and only Coen Brothers directed film I’ve seen is Inside Llewyn Davis, and that film is enough to get Hail, Caesar! in my top 10 most anticipated films of the year. The film itself, as depicted by the trailer, gets it in to the top four. The film looks like a stylish and hilarious romp through 1950s Hollywood, with a silly kidnapping plot as an added bonus. Also, George Clooney as a movie star playing a Roman, Scarlett Johansson as an actress playing a mermaid, and a Channing Tatum dance number as three more added bonuses. Even with the unlikely chance this film disappoints, I’d still pretty much give it credit for getting me to start on that Coen Brothers filmography.

03.) Everybody Wants Some (April 15)

Paramount Pictures
“Goodbye 70s… Hello 80s!” should be the tagline of Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused. And coming off Before Midnight and Boyhood, there’s no way I’m not excited for the new Linklater. I just love the way he captures time and meaning with his loose narratives. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just check out Dazed and Confused and Boyhood. With the former being the more recommended one, because this film looks like an 80s version of that film. It looks like a joy to watch and a film I can’t wait to experience.

02.) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The Force awakened, made money, and is now moving on to a spin-off film. Rogue One takes my number two spot not because it’s a Star Wars film, but because it’s a Gareth Edwards film. In case you missed it, Edwards hit some Spielberg-level high with the ending of his first feature film, Monsters, and he also made the best modern monster film with his Godzilla film back in 2014, so obviously, you give that guy a Star Wars film about rebels stealing the Death Star plans. Rogue One is going to be insane. Not only is that diverse cast exactly how I want an intergalactic operation to be portrayed, but they’re incredibly talented as well. I’m pretty intrigued to see some actual footage from the film, considering they have people from sci-fi films like Edge of Tomorrow and Jupiter Ascending, and war films like Zero Dark Thirty, Saving Private Ryan, and Black Hawk Down working on production. This is the Star Wars film to get down and dirty into the actual war part. Surprise me, Edwards.
01.)  The Nice Guys (May 20)

Warner Bros. Pictures
If you follow Audiences Everywhere (which you should), you’ll already know my most anticipated film of 2016 is Shane Black’s The Nice Guys. I’ve been looking forward to this after Black announced he’d be doing more movies after Iron Man 3. In some way, I’ve been programmed to look forward to this after I saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Black is known for the two previously mentioned films, as well as Lethal Weapon, Long Kiss Goodnight, and Last Boy Scout. This will be his third directorial feature, and hopefully, my next Christmas tradition. The film pairs the problematic duo of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling to solve a bigger-than-expected crime, as is the Shane Black way. The film looks wacky and insane, aka the Christmas gift I can’t wait to open.

All these films look like gifts I can’t wait to open. It’s months of waiting, but once I’m watching the films, I’ll be in total bliss delving into them.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My List of the Top 10 Films of 2015

This past year, I broke my record of the number of times I’ve watched a single movie in the cinema (which was previously three times). I’ve watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens five times in theaters. In its first 10 days of release, in fact. I’ve watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens five times in theaters and it isn’t even in my top 10 films of the year.

It could be a testament to how much of a really good year it was in film, or it could be a testament to #brand loyalty. I definitely see The Force Awakens as the former, but seeing that it came out in the last month of the year, I also choose to see it as a summation of the year in film. The Force Awakens, and a couple other films this year, excelled at picking up from where they left off in their filmography, and progressing further with something new. A few of the films in this list share that same attribute and so do a few other films not on this list. It’s exciting to think that in a few years, we’ll be looking back at 2015, and remembering it as a monumental year in film.

The Top 10 Films of 2015

Paramount Pictures
Director/Writer Christopher McQuarrie took Mission: Impossible to new heights with his continuously decreasing action sequence structure. It’s just amazing how the film starts off with its biggest action set piece then progresses with each action sequence getting smaller and smaller, with the momentum of the film never faltering. It’s an intricate blockbuster and an incredibly fun ride that makes for a really good double feature with Ghost Protocol, because of how different the two installments are.

20th Century Fox
This past year, I was thankful Ridley Scott took a break from dour films like Prometheus and Exodus: Gods & Kings to give us a bright and hopeful sci-fi film about human survival. The Martian is funny, gorgeous, and a completely satisfying movie-going experience. The film is supported wonderfully by its cast and even more so by its director, who delivers on his first great big-budgeted film in a while.

08.) The Mend

For a film about a deadbeat, The Mend has a lot of life. Director John Magary’s debut feature film is hilarious, sad, angry, dynamic, and ultimately about brothers and truth. Follow the incredible Josh Lucas and Stephen Plunkett on a film that’s like a rollercoaster, but with no slow build-ups, just a lot of impressionable downs. The editing of this film is majestic. There’s no way I’m not going to give myself time off to watch this again.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Pixar went back to basics to awaken the child in me. After years of teaching kids how to deal with emotions and life through animals, inanimate objects, and other non-human characters, they actually went and made a film that features emotions as the main characters that teach the audience how to handle emotions. The result is pretty spectacular. Characters that could’ve easily been one-note all took on so much life and meaning. They built a cute and vibrant world around the characters in a clever way. And the film completely nailed its silent, emotional gut-punches. The scene where Joy accepts sadness at the bottom of the Memory Dump was pretty much when I knew the movie would be at my Top 10 at the end of the year.

06.) Crimson Peak

Universal Pictures
Director Guillermo Del Toro has proven himself a creative genius willing to break the boundaries of genre filmmaking. Del Toro confidently challenges the horror genre with a dark romance that is atmospheric and hauntingly beautiful. It doesn’t have a shocking twist, it doesn’t follow the “build up, scare” structure, the story simply unfolds as it follows Del Toro’s vision. The set pieces take on a life of their own (sometimes literally) and the actors completely fade into the pageantry of the piece. It’s Del Toro channeling classic and foreign horror techniques, and with his firm handling of cinema in the director’s position, it’s a stand out horror film that should be remembered for quite some time.

05.) Clouds of Sils Maria

IFC Films
This is my Birdman. Clouds of Sils Maria is a perfect marriage between text and subtext, and boasts one of the most intelligent and thought-provoking screenplays presented this year. It completely succeeds at being a film about coping with age and the overtaking of the new generation, and all of its meta commentary, with the excellent use of perspective – both from the two main characters and the audience. It also has two stunning performances from Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, and even a really good performance from Chloe Grace Moretz. It definitely has loads to unpack on its first viewing, but further viewings and analysis has proven this one of the best films that 2015 had to offer.

04.) Room

A24 Films
Room is a bold, emotional exploration of the mother-son bond and the world a parent creates for their child. Writer of the film and the novel on which it was based on, Emma Donoghue crafts a sometimes tearful, but mostly uplifting coming-of-age drama that is accented beautifully by Lenny Abrahamson’s nuanced direction. The film also features two of the best performances of the year in Brie Larson, who is an absolute cinematic treasure, and Jacob Tremblay, a nine year old actor who has the perfect balance and command over his role that most adult actors dream of having. It’s set on a small scale, but it’s definitely one of the most breathtaking cinematic experiences I’ve had in 2015.

Warner Bros. Pictures
Most people think I’m joking when I say Magic Mike XXL is in my top five movies of 2015. I’m most certainly not. Magic Mike XXL is the definition of a “pleasure movie”, but where it differs from the likes of a Star Wars: The Force Awakens or a Kingsman: The Secret Service (films that aim to pleasure fans or audiences craving for a hyperviolent escape in cinema) is that it aims to serve the female audience. And that’s a film I can thoroughly get behind. Producer Steven Soderbergh and director Gregory Jacobs perfectly and intentionally deliver a no-conflict, road trip film that’s all about having fun. And the drivers never take their foot off 11, as the film is complete with spot-on comedic timing, insane dance numbers, and one of the best single scenes in movie this year. There’s nothing fundamentally different between this film and the other inventive and entertaining blockbusters I’ve put on this list, other than the dudes being healers instead of fighters.

02.) Creed

MGM Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures
All I wanted to do was chant “Creed! Creed!” multiple times after watching this film. Director Ryan Coogler brings back the Rocky series after a nine-year resting period with a film that passes on the torch from Rocky Balboa to Adonis Creed. It solidifies itself as *the* boxing movie of the 2010s, as it incorporates the familiar “underdog” story utilized a lot in sports movies with the fresh perspective and unique sensibilities brought by Coogler. Also, this one of the films I mentioned earlier that shows respect for the legacy left behind by the old generation, while also showing willingness to progress further with new and relevant stories. That frame right there with Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone (who are both phenomenal in the film) perfectly captures that. I’ve never watched a single Rocky film, but I can’t help but feel that the way I feel for this film is how audiences felt for Rocky back in 1976.

Warner Bros. Pictures
The 80s had Die Hard. The 90s had Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The 2010s? Well, if you ask me, I’m going to say Mad Max: Fury Road. Director George Miller resurrected his 80s Austrailian, dystopian action series with a jolt of adrenaline mixed with gussoline, and I don’t think the action genre shall ever go back to the way it was (at least, from my point of view). Fury Road’s true genius lies not in its simplicity, but its ability to tell a complex, multi-layered story mostly through action and visuals. I’m always astounded that a blockbuster film in 2015 was able to tell a convincing romance story, a villain-turned-hero story, and a story about a man and a woman forming a genuine camaraderie to overthrow the patriarchy, all with only brief moments of exposition. It’s the type of filmmaking that makes me fall in love with the craft all over again. Plus, the gorgeous cinematography and color pallete, Miller’s use of practical effects, and Charlize Theron’s absolutely amazing performance as Furiosa make the film endlessly rewatchable. There was not one film in 2015 I deemed perfect… except for Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a perfect film. Witness.

That was my 2015. It was a pretty good year, and I can’t wait to see where I am when I look back at it with more age and new knowledge. It was a monumental year, one that will hopefully be remembered for ages to come.

Monday, December 21, 2015


Not so long ago, on the screen of your computer (which is hopefully nice, and if not, you should ask for a new one this Christmas)...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the seventh instalment in the Star Wars saga. It brings back original cast members Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and General Leia (Carrie Fisher) to help transition us into the new generation of Star Wars characters led by Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). There’s also an awakening in the Force and some warring in the stars.

Instead of what the typical “what Star Wars means to me” introduction, here’s what I see Star Wars as in the history of blockbuster cinema. Star Wars (Episode IV/“A New Hope”) revolutionized blockbuster cinema in 1977, and is still one of the best sci-fi/fantasy films. It was followed by Empire Strikes Back (my personal favorite Star Wars film) and Return of the Jedi, which cemented the Skywalker story in the hearts of fans. To have Star Wars return to cinemas with follow-up stories is definitely a magical thing that has already proven to unite generations.

Just like his work on Star Trek ’09, director J.J. Abrams revitalizes this series through characters and character relationships. He proves that he understands Star Wars characters and their legacy while also showing the willingness to move forward with it. There’s a mix of the old and the new generation, but the film is quick to emphasize these are very Star Wars characters, but for the new generation.

These are characters from very different walks of life that come together and grow a bond in the heat of the moment. The actors sell the strong bond on their chemistry and facial expressions alone, which is why the emotional connection to the characters is already strong after one TIE fighter fight or one chase scene. It’s also such a Star Wars way to handle characters, but although it may follow the same beats as, say, A New Hope, it’s vastly different, contextually.

Instead of having a Luke Skywalker, The Force Awakens has (arguably) two main protagonists that would run away from the scope of their bigger destiny. Instead of creating a villain reminiscent of Original Trilogy Vader, J.J. executes everything George Lucas wanted Anakin Skywalker to be in the character of Kylo Ren. In just a few scenes, too.  Instead of the film emphasizing the bold spirit of adventure, it actually explores broken families and the severed bond between generations. J.J. and writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt goes to Star Wars for structure and recurring themes, but the film is a different story altogether.

One major difference between The Force Awakens and A New Hope is how that film works as a standalone feature while this film is clearly structured as a starting point. Some characters are side-lined in favor of the bigger characters, but their fates are left open for sequel possibilities. Perhaps the biggest flaw of the film for me is how a big chunk of Rey’s arc seems edited out, to be saved for a sequel. I feel like the bulk of her arc was intertwined with her (possible) lineage in the overall saga but was removed so that it could be further explored in the sequels. That problem never existed with Luke, because his arc in the first film never depended on future story material. Leaving it open to mystery is definitely J.J. Abrams’ mode of operation. It’s not favorable, but it doesn’t deflate the film.

A Star Wars character that does get his arc serviced is Han Solo. The sequence that introduces (or re-introduces) his character comes naturally and totally fits with the character. His character arc is completely consistent with the character we met in A New Hope and the one he evolved to in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. His development may have been different from the one Harrison Ford envisioned back in 1983, but nonetheless, it totally works the same and has the added benefit of fitting in with the larger theme of the film.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is J.J. Abrams’ labor of love. Everything from the set design to the writing of the characters feels like it’s coming from a place of genuine admiration and devotion. Even if there are a few shortcomings, it’s hard to visualize a more satisfying love letter to a galaxy far, far away.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

SPECTRE movie review

I officially start the #LeaSeydouxForNext007 campaign.

SPECTRE is the 24th Bond film, and the fourth film with Daniel Craig as James Bond. This next chapter in Bond's story ("next chapter", yes!) follows Bond as he confronts this shady organization, SPECTRE, and its head, Franz Oberhauser.

Craig's first Bond film was Casino Royale, and as a kid who never really liked the older Bond films, I loved it. It's darker and more serious than most other Bond films and it takes the basic character elements of Bond and deconstructs him and all his in/famous elements, and makes a really compelling character study. It was followed by the messy but still not bad Quantum of Solace and the fun and beautiful Skyfall. With the most recent installment, SPECTRE, I'm reminded why I particularly love the Craig series in the first place.

At first glance, SPECTRE is your standard, old-fashioned Bond flick. It has exotic locations, fast cars, a big, menacing henchman, gadgetry, and most obviously, Bond being suave and deadly. At its core, however, SPECTRE deviates from the norm more than any film in the Craig quadrilogy. Yes, for the first time ever, the term "quadrilogy" is applicable to the usually-serialized Bond filmography, and that is what sets SPECTRE apart.

Bond is back, but he isn't Bond. The aftereffects of the deaths of Vesper (in Casino Royale) and M (in Skyfall) carry over into this film, and even kick-start the story (not unlike the opening of Quantum of Solace). There are some callbacks to previous films here and there, then the film takes the bold move of revealing that all the films are connected (intended or not) through the titular organization. Revealing inter-connectivity is a risky move for a franchise built on serialized, disconnected storytelling, and I definitely would've been bothered by it had it not been the centerpiece to a (mostly) fulfilling culmination of a quadrilogy.

There's two things the Craig Bond movies have been about to me; Bond maybe not needing to live this lone assassin life, and the better portrayals of "Bond girls". In Casino, Bond fell in love with Vesper (Eva Green, the best Bond girl so far) and almost left the spy life to settle down with her. However, she's killed and Bond returns to the spy life. In Quantum, Bond and Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko) go on the same "revenge" journey, which ends with a great moment with them in a burning building. In Skyfall, Bond's relationship with M is challenged when he goes MIA for a few months due to mental and physical stress from his job and when a scorned ex-agent of M's returns. SPECTRE excels in and continues the use of both those aspects, having Dr. Madeleine Swann (the amazing Lea Seydoux) being Bond's out of the assassin life. Granted, the film doesn't execute this perfectly, as the relationship between Bond and Swann could've been developed more and the finale could've been drawn out longer to really resonate more, but for what it and was and its intention, it was a wholly satisfying fourth and final part of a larger story.

Other than Bond and Swann and their respective portrayals, there's still much to love in SPECTRE. Director Sam Mendes delivers what definitely is the best Bond opening of the Craig series, utilizing a beautifully done tracking shot for almost half the opening. Following this, the audience is treated with a variety of set pieces and locations, which cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema captures astoundingly, and those completely different locations and set pieces all manage to remain visually coherent with each other throughout the rest of the film.

Dave Baustista enters the frame as Mr. Hinx, and his screen presence is so good. He only has one line, but he's easily the most enjoyable villain in the film. Christoph Waltz' Franz Obenhauser is just fine. Watlz is serviceable in the role, but the film does not do anything to justify keeping the character shrouded in mystery in the film's advertising. They had the opportunity to make a really compelling villain that was tied to Bond's fictional past (another fundamental of the Craig series), but they cop out at the last act and stage a reveal that is unimpactful and unnecessary. Note that I say reveal and not "twist", because it's not a twist. It doesn't change the story or the perception of the story whatsoever. The story cites an irrelevant name and leaves it at that, showing no interest in expanding upon it. It's by far the weakest aspect of the movie, but too insignificant to make a dent in my real liking for the film.

SPECTRE is many things; bold, grand, beautiful, personal, fun, but old-school Bond is not one of them. That is perhaps why I love it and the Craig series so much.

Friday, October 23, 2015

It's Time the World Knew Her Name: JESSICA JONES trailer review

The very first trailer for Marvel's Jessica Jones has been released, and it's like falling in love with Brian Michael Bendis' Alias all over again.

The trailer opens with the very first scene of issue #1 of Alias, the comic that introduced Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter). The opening serves the same purpose for the trailer as well, and then we learn later in a conversation with Luke Cage (Mike Colter) that Jessica was a superhero before, but now she's over that part in her life. It's made clear that she's a private investigator and a somewhat gloomy alcoholic. The trailer sets up its tone and main character really well, somehow continuing the darker and more grounded nature of Marvel that was introduced in Daredevil while also showing that it has an entirely different approach to it. Like, if Daredevil was a crime drama, then Jessica Jones is a psychological thriller. It's clearly seen in all the scenes with the series' main villain, the Purple Man (David Tennant), as you see all the pain and suffering his mere presence triggers.

I like that we're adapting Bendis material onto Netflix now, because it allows for the exploration of Marvel's darker material without having that darkness and seriousness as the characters' defining traits. It's an amazing trailer, and I invite everyone to binge watch this series on November 20, because it's about damn time that this character got the praise she deserves.

Marvel's Jessica Jones hits Netflix on November 20.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

THE MARTIAN movie review

They found water on Mars and I found this to be a good movie, so Mars is pretty much on fire this weekend.

The Martian is the Ridley Scott directed film adaptation of the novel by Andy Weir. It stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut accidentally left on Mars by his crew and who has to survive until help gets there. By "there", I mean around 140,000,000 miles away.

I'm not the biggest Ridley Scott follower. Alien is brilliant and one of the best horror movies I've seen, but I'm really only familiar with his post-2010 films, which haven't really gone well with critics. However, I myself do enjoy them, as I do kind of like Prometheus and find The Counselor great. The Martian is no exception to this trend, because not only is it his best directorial effort post-2010 but it also sets itself as a nice counterpoint to Alien, one of the best science-fiction movies.

One of the biggest surprises of The Martian, at least to me, was that it wasn't a survival/thriller as the marketing made it out to be. It's more of a science-fiction/adventure movie than anything, and that's the aspect of this film that brings me the most joy. It's not a story of man struggling to survive on a desolate planet, it's actually a story of a scientist finding hope and new ways to solve problems in order to get back home. And in an age of the hardcore, distressing survival/thriller, it's rather nice to have a film that embraces intelligence, optimism, and exploration so wholeheartedly. In some ways, it's Scott's love letter to Math, Science, and uncharted territories - which pretty much makes it the opposite of Alien. Hopefully, the two prove to be an interesting duology some day.

Scott tackles the dunes of Mars in this film and does a great job directing. He manages to keep most of the film afloat with just Matt Damon, who's a natural. Visually, the film is impressive as well. The locations are really beautiful, the color pallet of the film is visually interesting, and the cinematography is amazing. Thankfully, Scott doesn't get lost in the scope of the film's visuals as it's still very much character driven, something Prometheus (even though I enjoyed) would've benefited from being.

Damon reaffirms his movie star status, while the rest of the substantial ensemble cast turn in good performances. Drew Goddard's screenplay shines the most, as it's equal parts intelligent and witty. The relationships between all the characters is well defined and the cast's chemistry is outstanding. The film is way funnier than anticipated as well, going back to my previous point about the film embracing optimism wholeheartedly.

Truthfully, the only downside was that the pacing of the film was off. It feels like the filmmakers did their best with what they had, but what they had was a story that ranged across several months on two separate planets with a main cast of about thirteen people, so the origin of the shortcoming is quite clear.

In The Martian, Ridley Scott boldly embraces the love for Math, Science, and the adventurous spirit, and makes one of the most spirited and intelligent outer space movies of the past few years.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


My world is fire and blood.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the second film in the Maze Runner series, based upon the YA novel series of the same name. Following the events of the last film, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and company are taken in by Janson (Aidan Gillen), who is protecting them from the Scorch. However, Thomas soon finds out about some things related to his past, which drives the team into the Scorch, where they must survive.

I actually quite dug the first Maze Runner movie. Its approach to the a young adult novel adaptation and thrilling action sequences made it an entertaining watch (and definitely better than those god-awful Divergent movies). But while the first film piqued my interest and excitement for another good YA film series, this second film just threw it aside.

One thing a sequel could (and most times, should) do well is further developing the characters and pushing forward the plot in a coherent and interesting way. This sequel does neither of those. Sure, the introduction of the Scorch and its different areas and factions is interesting, and the somewhat exploration of the mysteries left behind at the end of the last movie is welcome, but those positives are relatively minor, compared to the lackluster characters and, at this time, unengaging plot.

Other than Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the story doesn't really express any interest in developing the main cast. Thomas proves himself to be the one-note main protagonist-type character, and the other characters simply pay service to moving the story along, not really doing anything remotely interesting. 

For one example, the film introduces this one character, Aris (Jacob Lofland), and he plays a pivotal role in the beginning film, but he ends up literally not do anything in the middle portion of the film. He merely stands in the background, among these group of characters, waiting for when the story is in need of him. He ends up getting lines in one scene towards the climax, used for plot purposes, but then he's completely forgotten by the climax and the ending of the film. That's just one of the character mistreatments I can recall from the film, but it gives a good idea to the film's attitude towards plot and characters.

What's even more frustrating is that the film introduces even more characters. Granted, it was a pleasant surprise to recognize talented actors that I've seen in their other works, but none of them add any substance to the film. The film is mostly keen on spending the down time in between action sequences in favor of the less than interesting plot.

Even the action sequences disappoint by failing to live up to its predecessor's. The first action sequence is thrilling, comes together nicely, and ends on a pretty high note, but once they get out into the Scorch, sloppiness kicks in. Most of the action sequences are set during nighttime and staged as running-in-the-dark sequences. It's disorienting seeing the camera shakily follow the runners, equipped with their seizure-inducing flashlights. It's confusing... just like the plot!

The visual style is quite plain. There's nothing visually interesting or appeasing when it comes to the daytime Scorch sets, and the nighttime Scorch sets and creature mechanics look like they were pulled straight out of The Last of Us video game- you'll have to see it to believe it. It may just be the fact that Mad Max: Fury Road came out this year, but there's nothing distinct or good-looking about the visual style of the movie, as the promotional material made to believe.

Somehow, the director of the first Maze Runner film, a film that showed a promising story, cast, and action (for a YA film, at least), delivered a film that's weak on character and story developing, and is just an all-around incoherent jumble of a sequel. It shows little promise, and is a big sprint in the wrong direction.