Monday, February 29, 2016

Spotlight Review

I let out an audible bellow last night when Morgan Freeman announced that Spotlight had won best picture. I could not believe that such a forgettable movie beat out the likes of the Revenant or even Mad Max: Fury Road (it never had a chance :/). I mean if I'm being honest the Oscars have devolved into what the Grammys have been for the last decade. They seldom award or acknowledge movies that clearly deserve it because the academy is compiled of a lot of older-school folk. I mead did you know you don't even need to see all the films nominated in order to cast your vote if your in the academy? How's that fair? How does that demonstrate your credibility in the industry? And how lazy do you have to be to not watch all the movies in a field in which you earn your living? The Oscars are a whole different conversation, but despite its loss in prominence, I am still beside myself that they bestowed their highest achievement to the vanilla ice cream, Toyota Camry of a movie that is Spotlight. I'm so frustrated that I wanted to pen my thoughts down so I can refer to it when someone wants to argue that this was the best movie of the year.

I remember when I first saw this movie walking out of the theateres scratching my head as to why it was so hyped and praised. Okay okay let me start by saying this isn't a bad movie at all. In fact its kinda good.... no..... no that's me being worn down by all the people praising this movie. If I'm being honest its alright at best. The best part about this movie is it's acting. Mark Ruffalo is the star here as he totally transforms into Journalist Mark Rezendes. Michael Keaton and Liev Schreiber both do a good job here too, although I can't really say they did anything special. Rachel Mcadams was fine but I couldn't separate her persona from her role. Actually the more I write and reflect upon this movie, the less special I think it's ensemble was other than their clout. The storytelling is also pretty good too. It's neat seeing things unfold bit by bit into a larger scale issue. But where people are blasting sunshine up this films skirt and the writing department (how this movie WON best original screenplay, let alone got nominated over the Hateful Eight is an absolute mystery to me), I see a movie like the Big Short do the unfolding of a scandal even better. There was little to no emphasis on each pivotal moment as there should have been. It's hard to explain but see both movies and watch as they unfold and I think you'll understand. If I had to rate a movie only on story telling, I'd give this one a 7.5-8 /10. Even if it was a 10/10 that's not all you have to rate/critique a movie solely on. And that's what everyone is forgetting when they hail this film.

Alright here I go, the bars are off. This movie did nothing artistically. Nothing. There is not a single moment in this film that could be interpreted as an artistic liberty or as artistically driven. Why is that important? Well I'll try and explain. Movies can be boiled down to two types: Realist and Formalist. Realist movies are movies that are told and portrayed as they would be in real life (so no dream sequences, no narrations, no altering of history, it can be fiction but no breaking the laws of physics, etc.). This is what Spotlight falls into. Formalist movies are movies that fit under the bill of anything I described in that parentheses. Generally speaking (in my opinion), formalist movies tend to be more interesting and memorable BUT that doesn't mean that it can't be done for realist films. They can (must) use cinematography, music, and a great script to breach mundanity. You need artistic interpretations in each of those areas in order for a film to be memorable or at the very least good. My example for this is Lawrence of Arabia. A movie that could have easily been forgotten as a British ambassador trying to settle disputes in the middle east, is remembered as one of the greatest epics of all time. Why? Because how how it was shot. It has some of the most beautiful, grand, and breathtaking cinematography of all time. The shooting feels epic and so we as an audience feel like we're embarking along an epic journey. That's the power of camerawork. Oh my god Spotlight looks like it was shot by a first time camera man. The shots were so bland and uninspired, I can't remember more than like two locations in this movie. Someone on Reddit (the cornerstone of all opinions and excellence) actually tried to make the argument with me that the underwhelming cinematography was deliberate because it complimented the tone (ie these people weren't big heros// they were understated) of the film AND he even compared it to the simplistic writing style of Earnest Hemingway. To which I said: doing absolutely nothing artistic shouldn't be praised just because it may go with the significance of the film. Hemingway's writing style was completely deliberate and that's one of the thing's he's most remembered for. I don't think this filmmaking style was deliberate in the same way [random redditor] is claiming it's intended, that's giving it way too much of the benefit of the doubt. On top of that no one is going to remember this movie years from now for its cinematography (or at all). Now why waste my time justifying a stupid argument with someone I will never have the distinct privilege of getting to know? Because that is the majority opinion  people seem to have on this movie, and I'm not too sure why. Musical score and supervision is nonexistent here. I would not be surprised if they took the score from a stock website or something. There is no costume design either (not that there needs to be an eccentric one considering the story but it's less than what this movie calls for). There is no coloration design reflexive of tone at all. There's just nothing.

To those of you who have not seen this movie yet, I want to ask you a question that I want you to keep in mind throughout the film: If this movie's story wasn't true, would it be as good as it is in your eyes and the eyes of others? To those of you who have seen it I ask the same question. Your answer is what separates a documentary from a movie. A movie should not be supported on the merits of its truth. I think I can be elevated by reality, but it should not be held up on that sole premise. Film is the one medium where you can present and alter reality into art (visually speaking). This movie did not take advantage of that at all. If you do something different and innovative to the true story I promise it will be more remembered for it. Take American Hustle and the Wolf of Wall Street. Both movies released the same year, both based on a true story, and both nominated for best picture. However one told the story as it was, and one told it in an innovative and interesting way. Which one is the one that people are still talking about today? I haven't heard anyone say anything about American Hustle since the 2014 Oscars. People are still quoting the Wolf of Wall Street today, they're doing the chest bump thing, there are memes and gifs still floating around the internet, there's even a Jordan Belfort song that frats photosynthesize to. And I guarantee you there wouldn't be any of that if Scorsese had told the story as it happened and not in the stylistic way that the movie is. That's truly my biggest problem with Spotlight. And I wouldn't have ripped it a new one if it hadn't been so universally praised. The best picture win was the last straw. If you still like the movie despite all I've said than awesome! I honestly have zero problem with that because opinions are just that, and movies are made to entertain. My hope isn't for the you to go "well if Nick thinks it's got problems than I'm not sure how I feel."My only goal was to help show the underwhelming presentation of this movie. I just want to bring to (spot)light (haHA) the other aspects film making that not everyone talks about. I saw it completely glazed over by so many that I couldn't just let it go. At the end of the day, only time will be the real critic of this movie and we'll see if we're talking about it years from now (or in a week). 6/10

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why Comedy Sequels Never Work

Damnnnnn Nick, back at it again with the unpopular movie opinions (sorry). But yeah, there's no real anecdotal intro I can write that can soften the blow of what I'm trying to prove. I truly, personally believe that all comedy sequels are failures that never work. I guess I should ask you first, name me the 5 best comedy sequels that equal or surpass the original film in your honest opinion. Go ahead I'll give you time to think. Pretty hard to come up with huh? I can hardly think of any (I'll get to the ones that did come to my mind later on). I think we should first start with what I think makes a sequel good in general, regardless of it's genre.

The best sequels are the one's that aren't actively trying to recreate the charm of the first film. They are contributing new and great memories, stories, and moments while using the framework of the established characters and world from the first film. This involves a continuation of a story that was left unanswered (Empire Strikes Back), development of a character or insight into their background that wasn't established in the first film that helps deepen said character (Empire Strikes Back), introduction to new environments that feel fresh yet fit into the established world (Empire Strikes Back), and new obstacles that aren't forced or contrived that up the ante and present the protagonist with a new challenge (Empire Strikes Back). I'm only using Empire as a goof, but I also think it's one of the best executed sequels of all time. I think it's also exhausting and redundant to list all of the great sequels in movie history, there are lists and lists of them and its been proven that it can be done (I am of course speaking of sequels with original screen plays and not of franchises that were adapted like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings). And while there are plenty of good examples of successful sequels, there are far more cases of failures. It's not easy to make a good sequel, you can be blinded by the success of the first film and attempt to capitalize on it's charm, or studio execs get in the way and try milking all of the marketability of the first film and it compromises the integrity of the sequel. So why is it nearly impossible for a comedy to accomplish what I previously listed? Because they have the huge handicap of having to accomplish all of that AND still be funny.

A lot of comedies are remembered for their jokes or their funny situations. There are seldom memorable comedies that have better characters/stories than the actual humor they produce. So if a lot of a comedy's success are based off of jokes, that means the sequels will try to capture the same essence of the best jokes of the first film. The problem is, what makes a joke successful or funny is the element of surprise. You're not expecting the joke to happen so that's what makes it funny. It catches you off guard, it goes beyond what you expect, it pushes the limit. So if you're watching a comedy sequel, you're expecting the same jokes or something similar to when you saw the first one. Now the jokes can be pushed further, refined, or executed better in the sequels, but the fact remains that you're either expecting it to happen, or you know exactly what happens before joke reaches the punchline. Duplicating the jokes can do well for fan service, but at the end of the day it just isn't the same as when you saw the first joke for the first time.

What's even worse is when a comedy sequel is made for a film that was made more than ten years ago. As we evolve as a society, so does our humor. Movies are a great time capsule for displaying what we as a culture thought was funny at that point in time. It makes movies more endearing, and some can be held up from it, but if you try and replicate 1970's humor in 2016, I guarantee it'll come off as extremely stale. We find these older movies still funny because of their sentimental value or that we're cognoscente of the context and time in which the film was made. Some movies had humor beyond their time (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) but trying to replicate any of that today without a new age spin would definitely fall flat amongst audiences. The movie is better off rebooting itself and taking the same story and/or characters and placing them in the context of today.

Now there are exceptions to the case (as there always are), but we call them outliers for a reason. They say it's physically impossible to lick your elbow, but I've met someone who can do it. So nothing is exempt from possibility. But I can at least explain how or why some of these sequels pulled it off. The Austin Powers films are some of the most fun and charming parodies I've ever seen. While it does have an "up the ante" style of jokes for each of their films, I think they present enough different scenarios and different characters that make each film distinguishable and memorable from one another. Not to mention there is an unfinished story in each film that makes sequels basically necessary. Despite all of this, the third film in the franchise Goldmember gets some flack for not being original enough (I still enjoy it past its flaws). Exhibit B: Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. Now let me be clear, objectively this isn't a fantastic movie. The humor is pretty shallow, the characters aren't the most interesting, and it's filmed and presented like it was made for Comedy Central. BUT when people talk Harold and Kumar they're always talking about Guantanamo and not Escape from While Castle. Why? Because this movie is almost completely different from the first. White castle was just as crude, but it was a lot more subdued and in a situation more trivial than escaping from the government. The sequel throttled everything about the first to an whole new level, and it is able to not only escape the shadow of the first, but become the staple movie of the franchise. And even though I say it's not objectively a "classic" amongst other comedies, I still find it very memorable, very funny, and very enjoyable to watch on multiple occasions, which is all the really matters. My last example is 22 Jump Street. A movie that uses the same scenario as the first film but yet manages to stay funny and fresh. That's because the movie is so meta, and so aware of what it is and what its doing that it's just funny to see it comment on it's own cliches and exploits. It's original because no other film has really done that to this extent. The end credits of the film hit the nail on the head for what I'm talking about. It gets a pass on retreading the first film because it basically tells us it's retreading the first film. I would say I prefer the first slightly, but I know many who love this one even more. Now they're making a 23 Jump Street and I'm not so sure it can make magic happen a third time, but we shall see.

Other comedy sequels that are received as "Good" are usually because they can be carried by the main actor or ensemble. Does anyone remember anything from Anchorman 2? I remember watching it (thrice) and I can't tell you a single thing that happens in it. It got good reviews, and I thought it was funny enough, but it tried too hard to be that unpredictable and spontaneous movie that was the first Anchorman. Ghostbusters 2 was a great film but it doesn't nearly come close to the first. It was elevated by an insanely original concept and an insanely talented cast of characters. Plus I feel like when it comes to Ghostbusters, the jokes aren't as memorable as the story and characters themselves. I could go on with examples but I'll just be saying the same thing over and over. What I'm trying to say is that a comedy sequel can still be considered "good", but nine times out of ten it's not nearly as memorable as the original, or it leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you think back on it.

It seems like every time a comedy sequel is announced, everyones loses their minds and gets extremely hyped for it. I don't understand how we haven't been conditioned to this point to expect a disappointment. I remember how excited I was for the Hangover 2, only to be almost insulted with a carbon copy of the first film. I don't even know how they made a third (oh wait yes I do the second made record amounts of money). Ever since that movie, I have been distrusting off all future comedy sequels, and don't expect too much from them. It's better this way in my opinion, it makes the genuinely good sequels an extremely pleasant surprise! Some people prefer to be perpetually optimistic towards everything in life, but I personally feel like I can ruin things based off of expectation. I mean maybe people are beginning to learn. The internet was so excited for Dumb and Dumber To and Zoolander 2  to come out, and not only did they fail critically, but they were box office duds as well. There will always be hype surrounding a successful film sequels upon announcement and first trailer, but I think beyond that people know what they're getting themselves into. This was an extremely pretentious piece to write about, but I feel like it's important that it be said in one form or another. There are a bunch of film givens that are well known (video game movies suck, too much CGI kills a film, Nicholas Cage is always the best and worst thing about any movie he's in) and I feel like this should be added to that mix. Hopefully one day consumers will stop accepting mediocre sequels and advocate and support movies that dare to be different (A la Deadpool and R-rated blockbusters). For now though, we have Now You See Me 2 to look forward to! An unintentional comedy sequel set to answer all the questions you had after the first one such as,"Why?" and "Wait Mark Ruffalo was a magician too? I thought he was the cop trying to stop the magicians? Wait what?" Spoiler alert 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Noir Time! #1: Double Indemnity (1944)

Now that I've fully expressed my love for Noir, it's time to introduce the first film of this series. It's an important one, seeing as this is the first I write about. It better be the best go-to noir film. I have so much love for this genre (not a genre) that it was really hard to choose which would be the first to write about and potentially expose some of you to this wonderful world. I didn't choose the first Noir ever made (The Maltese Falcon {not the first Noir by any means but the first to become popular and the first for many to realize there was a movement happening}), I didn't choose the most popular one (The Big Sleep), and I had to choose one that was made in the hay day of Noir so no neo-noir (Chinatown, a movie in my top 10 all time favorite films). //By the way Neo Noir is any movie made with noir style after Orson Wells' Touch of Evil. I even didn't choose my favorite noir from 1940s-50s (That's a tough one but my go-to has always been Detour). I chose what I personally believe to be the most perfect film noir movie ever made: Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity.

Why do I think this is the most perfect Noir? It's not even about a rough around the edges Detective who stumbled upon a case that was bigger than he could imagine. It's about an insurance salesman. Huh. Nothing screams interesting and memorable like watching a man try and sell earthquake insurance (that does happen by the way). Yet Wilder makes it happen. No but seriously, the way this movie is shot, the time period, the characters ,and all the noir stereotypes are amongst the best in all of Noir. Walter Neff (played by Fred MacMurray) is equally flawed as he is sympathetic. Phyllis Dietrichson (a character nailed by Barbara Stanwyck) is one of the nastiest femme fatals you'll ever come across. Barton Keyes (played by Noir veteran Edward G. Robinson) provides much needed comedic relief without taking away from the tone of the film, as well as being the foil to our protagonist Walter.

The film is about how Walter comes across the mysterious Phyllis in an attempt to sell her husband insurance. She is resentful of her husband and convinces [ ;-) ] Walter to sell him life insurance so that the both of them can stage his death in order to run off together with the money. They wish to use the "Double Indemnity" clause which allows them to be paid double the life insurance if Mr. Dietrichson died in an accident. Things don't go as planned. Right away when the film opens, we see a wounded Walter leaving a voice memo to his boss Keys about how he committed murder and insurance fraud. Rest of the film (up until the end) is a flashback of his account of what happened to get him to this point. The film is immediately stressing that there is no twist to look out for, there is no build up to a particular moment. We know what is going to happen to Walter right at the very beginning. So what is important than? The journey, the downfall, the spiral, and the exposure of character flaws are what is being emphasized here. The cautionary tale of not to trust a women you just met to kill her husband and run away with her in the name of "love." Walter is pulling off a pipe dream, and we as the audience want to pull for him and want him to get away despite him being a blatant criminal. Because in a way, we all want to live vicariously though Walter's risks. If I could borrow a line from the ladies of TLC, Wilder is essentially telling us not to go chasing waterfalls. You can't force your way to happiness (ie killing someone and staging his death). It's a very pessimistic way of warding off those who covet a better lifestyle.

The locations of this film are some of the most subtle yet perfect fit in all of Noir. I for one love seeing a real 1940's LA on film, a time where traffic was less busy and corruption was rampant. This film does a nice job of using the city as a character. There are plenty of memorable set pieces from a local (not-so) mundane grocery store, to the prestigious Hollywood Bowl. The Dietrichson house is a beautiful terra cotta Spanish style house that was common amongst the wealthy and upper middle class of the time. The house still remains as it was in the film to this day in the Hollywood Hills, on the outside at least. I feel like Wilder was inspired by the use of this house, and incorporated what he learned into his future 1950 magnum opus Sunset Boulevard (don't worry we'll get to that one) which also used a house as a character, even more so. The weather and lighting are some of the best examples of mood and foreshadowing through visuals in any noir. All Noirs are great have have their own way of expressing these traits, but Double Indemnity does it amongst the best because it's so clear to the audience what Wilder was intending to convey. I could spend hours just listing all the visual motifs of entrapment and light vs. dark but that would take up a lot of text, and sometimes it's more fun to spot them for yourself!

I'll spend a little time talking about Phyllis. She is one of the most conniving femme fatals in any movie. I mean you can tell she's up to something the second she appears on screen. What makes her awful is how she ruins this man's life in order to benefit her own. She doesn't feel too much remorse disposing of her husband. That extreme close up of her face as Walter is doing the deed in the car is one of the earliest examples of a powerful facial expression that says more than words can. What makes her worse than most femme fatals is that a lot of other femmes are attached to a case, or are revealed to be the main culprit behind a crime a detective is solving. Her best interests are to making sure the detective she's seducing doesn't connect the case back to her. But Phyllis instigated everything for Walter. He would have payed no mind if she hadn't dragged him along this wild ride. She only needs him for the explicit reason of the crime she wants to commit and nothing else. That to me is worse than trying to cover up a crime. Barbara Stanwyck knocks it out of the park, and she is most definitely in my pantheon of Femme Fatals. I'll spend a little time each week brining up the femmes if there are any and describing their personalities a little, but seeing as this is the first noir time, I would like to talk about the cultural significance of Phyllis as a character which can be applied to many other femmes in other films. Even though it's crazy to think that there was such a powerful part for a women at a time like this, I still think the part is a little demoralizing towards women. She is exaggerated to the point of evil to stress the fact that chasing women without rationality is something you should avoid. In order to properly convey that, these femmes have to appear as nasty and as apathetic towards men as possible. So while it is a breakthrough portrayal of a female, it's a shame that it takes the worst presentation of them to caution men from looking beyond them as an object.

What else is there to say about this film other than to see it? It is slap dab in the middle of the golden age of the Film Noir movement and does the best job at representing said movement to all of it's traits. The story is perfect, it'll keep you on your toes the whole time even though you know exactly what's going to happen the whole time. The acting is superb, Edward G. Robinson and Barbara Stanwyck command each scene they're in. The cinematography is top notch, a grade above other movies before this one. Wilder is clearly a master at his craft, he's made so many timeless classics and is my favorite director of Noir films. I cannot recommend this movie enough, even to those not interested in Noir. But for the sake of this series, I can't think of a better first Noir to start off with!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Noir Time: What is Film Noir?

Hey everyone,

So I decided to add something unique and different to this blog to at least make it different from the rest. I figured the best insight I can provide to a film subject that is not widely talked about is film noir. Noir is my favorite movement in all of cinema. So many timeless classics that hands down have the best mood and atmosphere out there. So what I am going to do is once a week (or so) I'm going to make a post about a Noir film (usually a detective thriller) and do a little review on it and why I appreciate it so much. However, I understand a lot of people out there don't really know what noir is, or what characteristics of a film are considered noir. This first week I am going to share an essay I wrote my freshman year of college on how I define Noir. It's a little on the drier side and not as personable as some of these other posts but I think it offers decent insight and is a nice reference for anyone who want's to understand or find some Noir films on their own. Anyways I'm excited to share some of my favorite movies in the coming weeks and hopefully a few of you will be inclined to watch some of these films and become a fan of noir as a whole! I'm going to be calling this series "Noir Time." Below is the essay I wrote for my English 49B class at PCC. I've updated it a little for the sake of clarity and for spoiler warnings.

Film Noir is one of the most unique concepts in all of cinema. Born in a period where times were definitely tough, it proved to show that moviegoers were more mature than prior films tended to incline. But what exactly is Film Noir? A genera? A period in time? A solemn mood? It is trickier to define than most people think. I personally believe it is a combination of the three, and that’s not necessarily a cop out. I find film noir as this complex entity that engulfed movies during a certain period of time, and petered off into a few in the future. They were all heavily influenced by the history of the time, as a giant war had been waged over seas. They were genuinely reflective of the feelings of the time. They all had a very distinct lighting style, that used chiaroscuro (lighting technique that describes low lit characters in art and film) techniques. They implemented setting to convey the mood. They had damaged leads, with a corrupt supporting cast, most notably the dreaded femme fatale. The dialogue was snappy, yet the plot never rushed out of the gate. These traits were exemplified in a large number of films from the early 1940’s to the late 1950’s. Generally speaking if your film had any of this, it was probably a noir. The only contingency I have with my definition is that true noir fall between that 40’s through 50’s time frame. I feel like anything after that is simply paying homage to the idea (Chinatown, Blade Runner, etc.), and even then they have to be blatantly noir. Vagaries don't apply, for me at least, when color and self aware filmmaking come into play. That being said, Let’s dive deeper into what film noir truly is.
First and foremost, I believe you have to take in the time period into account. America had just transitioned from a great depression into a full fledged world war. Though it is said that the war was one of the key factors into getting us out of the depression, the fact that one came after another was a huge blow to the security and peace of mind of many American citizens. The feeling of the times was definitely more cynical. So naturally directors and writers correctly assumed that the moviegoers would be able to handle darker stories, with crime and no real closure at the end. Something else to take into account is the influx of German directors from UFA who fled Nazi Germany to avoid persecution. They brought German Expression with them, a movement in Germany that depicted the feelings of many post World War I Germans. German Expressionism in film consists of psychological themes such as skewed angles and dream sequences, and depicted the hardship of the working class during the time. All of this plus the hard boiled, to the point dialogue in pulp fiction novels, helped make the film noir into what it is. In Murder My Sweet, we see Marlowe drugged and taken to the phoney hospital, and we see him go through a psychological trip, along with the after effects with his spider web vision. This is very expressionistic, giving us a look at what he was going through in his head, along with giving us a POV (point of view) of his symptoms. The Maltese Falcon is probably the finest example of hard boiled dialogue. Everything in that film moves at a mile a minute, and to me is probably one of the faster paced noirs of the time. As for movies demonstrating the terrors of war, all of the noirs depict that in their own subtle way. It is more of the unnerving pessimistic feeling of the time portrayed in the films. The corruption with the cops, the lying central female female, and most notably, an ending without full closure. The Maltese Falcon, an early Noir, ends on a note that probably didn't satisfy most at the time, as the real falcon hyped up the whole movie was never found, or at least confirmed. [SPOILERS] Double Indemnity and Detour both have our protagonists meeting the fate of the police, almost feeling like their efforts the entire film were for naught [END SPOILERS]. All of this make reflect how people felt during and after the war, at least before Eisenhower, and that was cynical. And all of this to me is a key component to defining Noir.
Now we dive into the more technical aspects of the film. How they were shot? All film noir must have stark contrast between lighting. Characters moods are generally portrayed through the lighting, significant characters are more or less light up than the rest, and lighting is used as a means to tell the tale. One stereotype I like to think must be consistent in noirs is the venetian blinds. The silhouetted lines it creates brings a shadyness (no pun intended) to the scene, especially since they’re used in the offices of private detectives. Speaking of silhouettes, character silhouettes are huge motifs in many movies as well. They tend to stick out more than they naturally would and are very ominous. [SPOILERS] In the Maltese Falcon, at the end of the movie we see the elevator cast a shadow over Brigid’s face, simulating a talon of a Falcon. She was thwarted at the hands of the falcon,and the lighting is emulating that metaphor [END SPOILERS]. In Double Indemnity, we have plenty of venetian blinds in the Dietrichson home, foreshadowing the ultimate fate of our two main characters that happens at the home in the end of the film. In Detour, when Al goes into a flashback and has inner monologues, the background dims, and we see a prominent light on his face. Also in Double Indemnity we see Walter Neff exit the home or room on multiple occasions, but we always see his full silhouette before he leaves, showing a double side to his motives. Dark rooms, dark offices, dark streets, the main theme of it all is darkness. It is the overarching tone of film noir. It’s even in the name, which translates from french to “black film”. Lighting is must be included when defining noir.
Setting is also a very key part of film noir. Many Noirs take place in either Los Angeles, New York City, or San Francisco. All of these places contain unique set pieces and bring themes into the movie just by being a city. New York has many alley ways, and is a place for foggy potholes and streets. Los Angeles has many iconic locations that can be engraved in many audience members head. From the twisty Bradbury Building in D.O.A., to the Hollywood Bowl in Double Indemnity, to the beach house in Murder My Sweet, there are plenty of places that are memorable and moody. San Francisco has very unique hilly streets, which are a good representation of the mind bending, and the foggy bay, bringing an atmosphere like no other to films. Another aspect of the setting that creates mood is the weather. No matter what the circumstances it will be raining. Even Los Angeles on a summer day. Rain is placed at the point where bad begins in the movie, and at the climax of the film (neither are mutually exclusive). [SPOILERS] When Walter Neff decides to help Phyllis Dietrichson kill her husband in Double Indemnity, it is raining in his apartment building [END SPOILERS]. That is a blatant example but weather is a big factor in conveying the mood. To me, I enjoy an atmospheric film, and none are more so than film noirs. I feel like a key component of that is it’s setting.
Finally, let’s delve into the characters of Film Noirs. First we have our lead. He can either be a detective, like Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon, or a criminal, like Walter Neff in Double Indemnity (not a spoiler you find this out in the opening of the film). Generally our lead is damaged. He is safe from being harmed fatally, by always pulling a sneaky move to hijack a weapon, but still is very vulnerable emotionally. Marlowe from Murder My Sweet had many guns pointed at him but he always got himself out of it, yet allows himself to be seduced by an evil woman, and drugged by the man he’s trying to stop. Sometimes we even start the movie at our characters end, showing that a noir is not about the destination, but rather the journey. The movie Detour finishes almost immediately after Al’s Monologues do, so we know what essentially happens to him, he lives. I think we as American’s are supposed to see a part of us in the lead, and empathize and root for him. Then we have the Femme fatales. These ladies are nasty and backstabbing. All noirs have one. Some are much worse than others, Brigid from The Maltese Falcon doesn’t nearly stack up to the murderous Phyllis in Double Indemnity, but never the less they all lie about their motives. They play very prominent roles, which is especially surprising to have women portrayed so strongly at a time where they had considerably less rights. And finally there are the corrupt institutions. Some are bad and don’t believe the protagonist, and some are just double crossed. In the Maltese Falcon, the other detectives never believe Sam until he has physical evidence of his innocence at the very end of the movie. A corrupt institution reflect the insecurities Americans had with the government following the World War. They were not so quick to trust them after they promised to stay out of a war that they didn’t. Overall, no other movie class has these array of characters in their repertoire like the noir.

In conclusion, it’s hard to put a word that correctly describes film noir as a whole. Sure the word “dark” comes to mind, but that alone does not do it justice. Dark fits with its tone, its mood, its ambiance, but not all of its attributes. There is still the history behind it all, the characters driving the film, where the film is set and so on. That is what makes noir so unique. In such a short span of time, this movement made such a lasting impression in the world of cinema. I would say it is probably the most creative time in terms of innovation (aside from the practical effects of the 80’s). Film noir evokes an emotion in us that no other medium really can. It is one of thick sfumato (not a typo an actual term for moody art) atmosphere, dark motifs, lurking evil, an unsolved mystery. Film Noir still stands out today as one of the greatest movements in film history and it’s not hard to understand why. The Darkness does indeed encapsulate us (groan).

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Is Disney Playing it Too Safe?

What can be said about Disney that already hasn't been said before? They basically own the world, at least in the entertainment industry. They are owners to some of the most valuable franchises and IP's, along with super profitable networks, music labels, and even video games. Above all of that, they are known for their tireless efforts to make sure their name remains spotless in the face of adversity, and they go through great lengths in order to protect all of their licenses. As of right now it seems there's nothing stoping the mouse for a complete media take over. I, however, think they have one big enemy that will inevitably bring them down in the coming years: themselves.

I have begun to notice that Disney is playing things all too safe with what they're putting out. It can be boiled down into four notable factors: Star Wars, Marvel, Animated films, and television. There are striking elements in each of these areas that are spelling out the downfall of the company. Don't believe me? Don't think it'll happen? Well at least hear me out in each aspect and draw a conclusion for yourself.

First theres the behemoth that is Star Wars. I mean who doesn't love Star Wars? A visceral world full of creative and memorable characters, with a main story arch that can transcend all ages, genders, and remains timeless in the eyes of many. With the critical "failure" that was the prequels, Disney saw that they needed to do something that will make the fans rejoice. They probably spent millions and millions in R & D in order to produce the script that is the Force Awakens. And it shows, as Episode seven has been considered for the most part a resounding success! Can there be more diverse characters in the Star Wars universe? Check. Can the effects be less computer animated and more puppet style like in the original films? Check. Can most of the main cast come back to reprise their roles after all these years? Yessir. But if there is one flaw that many have with this film, is that it's almost a carbon copy story arch of A New Hope. While that's not a deal breaker right now (J.J. gets some slack for trying to establish a new universe), I guarantee if Episode 8 is anything like Empire Strikes Back there's going to be a problem with fans. Say what you will about the prequels, but they took risks. And though many consider those risks to be a failure, its an admirable effort, especially considering when you're dealing with something as precious as Star Wars. I don't know what to make of the spin off movies yet because there's never been anything like that in Star Wars before (yeah tv shows and expanded universe books, but nothing of this caliber). What's worrying is Disney's stance on the franchise. They want to make a movie every year until the cash cow isn't producing any more milk. Why would anyone be okay with this? Disney is practically admitting that they're going to run the franchise into the ground. Go out with your head held high. Wait another generation to make a trilogy at least so our pallets can be cleansed from this one. The best TV shows go out on their own terms, the good one's have their run and fizzle out after it's 7th season or so. It's sad that this is probably what's going to happen to young sweet Star Wars, but hey that's not for like another ten years! More BB-8 toothpaste plz. (Also Colin Tommorrowver... Trevormore....  Trevorrow! Yeah him. I don't trust him directing Episode 9. Homeboy's track record is Jurassic World (nooooo) and an independent movie with Aubrey Plaza and Nick from New Girl, so nothing can go wrong right!!!)

Next we got Marvel. Poor lass is just about a little past her apex of success. The Cinematic Universe was such a cool idea, and very very surprisingly well handled, as all of those single super hero movies built up to the Avengers! And then the Avengers happened and everyone was all like "Cool!" and it made money and Disney was probably feeling the same way. And then the euphoria of all these super heros sharing one screen wore off and people were like "Now what?" So Disney said "Now what? How about we do this again! and again! and we plan all of our movies out until 2020 regardless of whether or not we think each will perform well, and you're gonna be okay with that!" and then people were like "Cool....!" I think we're starting to see that hesitation from fans come to fruition with Marvel. The Avengers 2 has made around 150 million dollars less total gross than the first movie. Now whether or not it had to do with subpar reviews, or oversaturated fans, I think that's pretty telling that people didn't respond nearly as positively as the first. I mean the first one proved it was capable of being a good film. Then there was that whole Ant Man issue with Edgar Wright. Wright was originally set to write (HA) and direct the film but Marvel kept interfering with his screenplay because it was taking too many "creative liberties." If you're familiar with Wright's work, you would see that as a great thing! Joss Whedon, the director of the Avengers (who now is no longer returning to the franchise because he started to get a little to creative himself), even went so far as to say "It was the best Marvel screenplay I ever read." Frustrated with all of the interference, Wright abruptly left the film where it was handed off to world renowned director of the timeless classic Yes Man, Payton Reed. And the movie did... pretty not bad! It is the tenth (outs of 12) highest grossing film in the Marvel cinematic Universe (the Disney one so not Spider Man [yet] or X-Men) so thats nice! To be fair Ant Man isn't the most popular or most marketable hero ever, so I mean bless it's heart. But I think the precedent has been set, and we will start seeing the decline of Marvel movies up until the last scheduled film on Disney's gauntlet. I mean me personally, I haven't enjoyed a single one since the first Avenges, they're all the same and really are predictable (cuz they play it safe ! ! !) // but also all the non Disney Marvel films aren't my favorite either, comic book films are starting to become stale I think.

Then there's the animated films. These ones are a tougher sell on my end. This is where a lot of people are like "shut up Nick, they're kids films, don't be all critic and analyze them so hard you sad piece of sand paper." Which has always puzzled me because we (I mean not "we" but still) nominate movies like Toy Story 3 for best picture, and yet we're supposed to treat it like it's just for kids? Like one of my favorite channel on youtube YMS ( always says, if we're gonna elevate this (animated) movie and hold it to a higher standard then it deserves to be analyzed and critiqued as such. If you want it to be treated as just a kids film don't go around acting like the movie is on par with Lawrence of Arabia. Anyways, some of you may or may not know, but after the Princess and the Frog, Disney announced it would be ceasing to make 2D animated films in favor of 3D ones. I'm kind of a purist so I truly think it's a shame to begin with, but regardless, why completely stop making them? Why limit your creativity to one medium when you have multiple ones? I'm no animating expert so I assume it has a lot to do with the money-to-effort ratio but I know there are people passionate enough out there to make it happen every once in a while. That was their first mistake. Then Frozen happened. We have yet to see the end of it. It's the most marketable animated film Disney's made since the Lion King and that three-sweep of princesses (Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine). They're already making Frozen 2, and pushing out many animated Frozen shorts with hardly any effort trying to recapture the magic or the original film. I don't remember the last time a Disney (not Pixar) animated sequel did well critically. I bet 5 dollars and a ham sandwich it's going to overly rely on the charm of the first film, instead of trying to create some new and genuine charm on its own. But hey, crazier things have happened. Do I even touch Pixar? I mean it's like the holiest movie studio, ever, speaking ill on them is a big no no for many. I don't know lately their work has been less than stellar. It's starting to become more and more obvious they have a very skeletal structure for most of their films: character established in their world, meets conflict, is thrust out of their comfort zone into unknowns of their world against their will, have a sidekick(s) and meet new characters as they try to get from point A to B and have an introspective moment on their self towards the end of the film that helps them get to their final destination. I mean tell me that doesn't describe half of their movies (I still love you Up). Now it's their creativity of the worlds they create that is something to be commended, and for the most part can cover up this formula. But after seeing Inside Out it's starting to become a little inexcusable. Whether it's Disney calling the shots, or writers block, they're gonna have to take a risk sooner or later or else their status as a studio will start to decline. Zootopia looks good though, I have hope for that one (ALTHOUGH, the movie did experience a drastic rewrite after a significant portion of the film was made so we'll see).

Finally theres television. This one is my most abstract sell as I don't know how much of their thumb Disney sticks into the channels they own, but I'll do my best to make a case. First off there's Disney Channel. I mean every female star from shows I grew up with as a kid (Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Levato) are still relevant today. How come there hasn't been another heavy hitter star since? I looked up shows that have been on Disney Channel since I stopped watching years ago and I was so surprised to see how many I had just straight up never heard of (because I'm totally the litmus test for relevancy when it comes to kids shows /s). I don't recognize any of the stars (Be llela Throne) and I feel like there would have been some craze that everyone had heard about by now (like the Jonas Brothers). Their XD channel is doing well with shows like Star Wars: Rebels and Gravity Falls, but they're unusual for Disney because they take risks (hmmm) and are more mature than you would think. Then there's ABC. It seems like all of their shows are either a Shonda Rhymes related or a show about a niche or culture centered around a family (the Goldbergs, Blackish, F.O.B., Modern Family, etc.). They sell and their clean but I don't know. Something about it is lifeless. I could say that about most network TV, and I will, so maybe it's more of a byproduct of circumstance if anything. And finally there's good ol reliable and totally not agenda driven ESPN. This is a whole different beast as it has less to do about movies and creativity and more to do about Journalistic integrity and the world or sports. All I have to say is they only talk about Stef Curry, Lebron, Cam Newton, Johnny Football, and other polarizing sports figures, instead of having a thorough distribution of sports news for all fans. Not to mention they actively try and subdue any controversy to their own down fall (See what happened to Bill Simmons). The numbers can speak better than me though, they're down 7 million subscribers in the last two years, and 56% of people said they would drop the channel if it meant they would save money on their cable bill. There are plenty of other channels Disney owns, but these are the big ones to address.

Congratulations! You made it to the last paragraph! Sorry I don't mean to patronize you, but I appreciate it if you took the time to read and actually hear out what I had to say. It's certainly not the most popular opinion, and it's definitely not the most glamorous either. A company that started off as a humble animation studio, grew and grew into one of the most recognizable and protected companies in the world. Their growth is more than impressive, and I do believe they have grown in all the right ways up until this point. I think they're so scared of losing what they have, especially in a world where you can express opinions more freely and through social media. They don't want to ruin a good thing, I get it. And if it ain't broke don't fix it. But we can't keep getting fed the same meal year after year and still expect it to taste as good as when we first had it. I think it would do Disney some good to take an outlandish risk, slow production on Marvel and/or Star Wars, bring back 2D animation, fund a show with a similar tone to a Breaking Bad. I think they're big enough right now to test the market, make mistakes, and learn from them. In order for their company to keep up this massive growth that's really what they're going to have to do. It can be done, it remains to be seen if changes will be made. Call to action yadda yadda yadda. Thanks for reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree with any of the points I make!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Hail, Caesar! Review

If there were ever a conversation at this moment for the best living directors, the Coen Brothers would certainly be in that mix. Their track record is practically spotless, and their work can almost be polarizing at times from the Goofiness of The Big Lebowski, to the dark and intimidating vibe of No Country for Old Men. And sometimes they just hit the sweet spot between the two, like in A Serious Man. Whatever the case, whatever the genre, the two have clearly proven themselves as auteurs of the highest respect. When I heard they were going to make a film centered around the golden age of cinema, I couldn't wait to see it. And with a cast that would sink a 1000 ships, this film had a very positive trend going for it. The only puzzling aspect was why it was being released in February (movies of their caliber are normally released towards winter aka awards season). Not that a movie should solely be about awards (Grand Budapest Hotel even got recognition from the Oscars even though it was released in March that year), but when a movie has oscar buzz people are more inclined to see it (Unfortunately, this is one of the Coen's lowest grossing films so far with an 11.5 mil opening weekend).  Did the February release have anything to do with the quality of the film?

The movie is set in 1950's as we follow Eddie Mannix (based off a real studio fixer played by Josh Brolin), a studio fixer who is seemingly never off the clock helping his studio Capitol Pictures stay afloat and away from bad PR. One of his movie stars, Baird Whitlock, is kidnapped and he is tasked to bring him back to the set of his film "Hail, Caesar!" before word gets out that he's gone missing. Along the way we meet an eccentric cast of characters that each represent a gleaning aspect of film at the time.

The movie does a fantastic job at paying tribute to the genres and staples of 1950's cinema. From westerns, to musicals, to noir (I know it's not a genre sorry professor), and of course the biblical epic the film garners it's name from. Its not even that we're visiting sets from movie to movie, although that does happen at times, but characters themselves represent a particular genre as a whole. Alden Ehrenreich's Cowboy character is super dim but only has the best intentions for everyone around him. He can't seem to escape his role as a Cowboy even when he's not filming (lassoing with his spaghetti cough cough cough). Scarlett Johansson's character is portrayed as a beauty in her films but is rough around the edges in real life (kind of like Lina Lamont in Singing in the Rain, but not as blunt). I could go on about who means what but that is a whole essay in itself. The point being this movie is more about the characters and who they represent. We follow Eddie as he almost does a studio tour for us and we get to experience a nice caricature of what these genres were like back in the day

I also like the dichotomy of the twin reporters played by Tilda Swinton. Both argued for integrity but at the end of the the day, they were both smut gossip columnist. Not to mention they were practically indistinguishable from each other, a visual play on the kind of journalists they were. There was a lot being said here but not really with words, and that can put off a lot of people.

The movie argues that things aren't as simple as it seems ("would that it were so simple"), when in fact it kind of is. I think that's the point it's trying to make. That the movie industry seemed like a magical mysterious place that had some much going on behind the scenes, and it sort of does in a sense. But not in the way the general public imagines. Most of what Eddie does is to just cover the ass of the studio, but in reality, it's not all that significant. And that might disappoint people (especially with it's underwhelming climax and abrupt ending). I for one think it was a deliberate effort and not a result of writers block. They stress the idea of simplicity and that's really what it is.

My real issues with the film are how some of the characters are criminally underused. Jonah Hill, Francis McDormand and Channing Tatum (that dance scene) barely have more than a scene or two and are just begging for more. I guess its like getting a great meal to eat, then complaining that you can't have seconds. Just be happy you got that great meal in the first place.

The great Rodger Deakins is behind the camera, but other than some well framed shots and visual motifs, this isn't his crowning achievement. Not that Coen bro's films are known for their cinematography but still. There is plenty to find and see when you watch, but it's not breathtaking like Sicario. This is definitely more of a comedy on the side of the Big Lebowski and Burn After Reading. Their comedic timing and directing is indistinguishable from any other film maker and that is an achievement in its own right.

I can't tell whether its active denial or it's my uppity sense of critiquing, but despite this movie not wowing me I still liked it a lot. It's by far not their best film but it's nowhere near their worst either. Something about me just loves a good homage. Not everyone is going to like it and I can see why they settled for a February release. If anything this is a passion project/tribute from the Coen's to film itself. This movie is hard to review because there's not a lot you can say without spoiling or even in general. It is very much worth a watch today considering what else is in theatres, and very much worth a watch down the road for all people who love film. 8/10

The Finest Hours Review

I'm gonna level, I normally hate movies like this. They're usually so generic and rely so much on the whole being an honorable hero is all that matters vibe, and that puts me off. This movie had a real uphill battle to win me over going into it. I was really expecting it to be like that Ashton Kutcher film The Guardian from 2006 which bored me so much. With that being said the Finest Hours almost got me good.

Directed by Craig Gillespie, This film stars Chris Pine as a dim-witted and anxious, but honorable New England Coast Guard Bernie Webber, as he is tasked with the practically suicidal assignment to rescue a half sunken rig off the coast of Massachusetts. Taking place in 1952, this true mission is still regarded as one of the most impressive and heroic rescues in the history of the Coast Guard (suck it Ashton).

If there's one thing this movie did that almost blew me away, it was how they portrayed their (main) characters. Webber is not a classic archetype for a heroic lead. He isn't confident, he isn't smart, and he isn't even high ranked. He has trouble asking out the girl who is clearly head over heals for him, and even when she proposes to him, he get's all anxious and shifty. He even went as far as saying he had to ask his Commanding Officer for permission to get married, even though it was an outdated formality. This was so interesting to me as I wanted to see how this would play out later on in the film as he lead the rescue. More interestingly was his female counterpart Miriam (played by Holliday Granger). Oh man this girl made me uncomfortable (in a good way)! She was more than overbearing, more than a concerned "dame" waiting nervously and supportively for her hubby to come home (in the beginning of the film at least). She was boarderline insane with how clingy and spastic she was. She would make Bernie ask a respected to sneak on his boat, she erratically asks him to marry her (not that there's anything wrong with that, but the way she did it was off-putting and not to mention the time period they were set in when masculinity was a big deal). She would call Bernie several times a day, barge into Bernie's office unnecessarily, and insist that Bernie ask his CO for permission to get married. She reminded me of the character of Alice from A Place in the Sun, who always put me off weirdly. These two characters together made me cringe but it also made me immersed. This is how real people act, movies are sometimes too afraid to show this side of humanity. Unfortunately the rig had to go and get sunk.

This to me is where the movie takes a turn for the worse. We are introduced to Casey Affleck's character, Seabird, an aloof ship engineer who knows the ship better than anyone. His character is interesting enough but we really don't get any development for him. Yeah he's shy and he keeps to himself but we don't really get a sense of who he is back home or what made him so into the boat. Some would argue that it's not necessary but I believe little things like this are what push movies the extra mile. Little bits of his life here and there in passing dialogue would have served the film well, and there were definitely opportunities for it. Forget about the other side characters. Best I can describe them as is just there. Nothing to them at all. Which is fine in some films but more jarring here since Bernie and Miriam are so exquisite in personality.

The other characters aren't even isn't worst offender of the movie. The worst offender of this film is what happens to Bernie and Miriam as soon as Bernie has to go off and rescue this ship. Their characters take almost a full 180 and turn into the heroic archetypes you'd expect out of a movie like this. Bernie becomes confident, head strong, and stubborn in the name of heroism. And Miriam shifts from spastic overbearing significant other into concerned and supportive wife-to-be back home. I was so disappointed by this and I was seriously pulling for this movie up until this point.

I have a bit of insight/theory of what happened. This movie was filmed back in 2014 and put into development hell for about a year (this is when a move is set up with either a script or is completely filmed but no one wants to produce/make it). At some point Disney came along and said we'll make it, but you gotta play by our rules. Something tells me the characters were altered in a way to make them seem honorable and stable during the critical moments of the film. I could be completely wrong but that's the impression I get.

On that note, this isn't really a typical Disney film either. Hell, there's even a shot at a dead body floating down the ocean (though its as tame as it possibly can get). People are going to wonder why they even bothered with a movie like this, it's not the most marketable film and they're doing so well elsewhere (Star Wars, Marvel, Frozen) that they really didn't need this one. But My theory is that Disney wanted a film that parents can show their kids (ages 8-10) in order to ease them into more adult films. In that sense, this movie is perfect for that, as it has nothing that would immediately traumatize a kid, but still mature enough to take away some of the bleakness of the real world. And that's really all this movie has to be.

Production and set design are great here. Most of the sets are hand built for the film and a lot of the effects are practical. There is a great parallel between the land scenes and the scenes on the rig that make for good talking points. The costumes and setting are very polished to fit the 1950's winter sea town vibe. The acting is acting, nothing stellar but there aren't any weak links. I saw the movie in 3D and it was... whelming I guess. It's a post-production conversion (meaning they didn't shoot with 3D cameras) and I'm not the biggest fans of those (there was one very cool slow motion moment though).

I can't say this film didn't entertain me. It didn't meet my expectation of being a colorless hero porn movie, but it still managed to disappoint me. I guess because it caught me off guard with some outstanding qualities that I began to expect more from it. But it's the best one of "these" movies I think I've seen and I guess that says something. Not bad for a January blockbuster!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Review

Zombies are an oversaturated subject in any medium of entertainment. It seems each year there's a new film, tv show, video game and so on that tries to pull off an undead tale. I mean who can blame them, they sell extremely well (see: the Walking Dead), and any good businessman will tell you to follow the money. But consumers are beginning to catch on that the industry is beginning to beat a dead (ha) horse with the whole post-apocalyptic, infection outbreak tale from any point of view. If a movie is to succeed with zombies, its really going to have to innovate. And if critics gave out awards solely on creativity regardless of the outcome, I'm sure this film would get a nomination or two.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is based on the Seth Grahame-Smith novel of the same name, which is based off of the Jane Austin novel of the same name (minus the zombies). It follows the same characters of Ms. Austin's world renowned novel about coming of age of a young woman in Victorian England, except in this one, zombies. We are introduced to this world with the understanding that there have been zombies for nearly one hundred years, and everyone is so accustom to it, that killing zombies is a practically routine task. So routine that fathers send daughters off to East Asia to learn martial arts and combat in order to protect themselves.  Depending on where they're sent sort of describes the social status of the respective young lady. This is Writer/Director Burr Steers' only real play on the whole social/finical situation of Victorian England in the film (I have not read the novel the film is based on, so perhaps there in more in there). We follow Elizabeth Bennet (played by Lily James), the second of five Bennet sisters, and arguably the most head strong of them all. She in thrust into the world of high society by her parents, and tasked into finding a suitor. She is pushed very hard into marring a Parson (played by Matt Smith//best character in the film), is at odds with a well off and capable yet jarringly apathetic Mr. Darcy (played by Sam Riley) and falls into favor for the charming and mysterious George Wickham (played by Jack Huston). That's about as much as I can write about the story before you can begin to piece together the rest of the film. Not that I'm spoiling anything but that it's a pretty predictable story arch.

What really had me interested in this movie was the tone. There are so many ways you can go about presenting this film: serious, gruesome, hammy, over the top. With the name of the title, one would expect it to be a ham fest with the film not taking itself seriously at all. However, the movie subdues itself at times, and there are some genuinely chilling and shocking moments in this film. And yet at the same time there are moments where the movie gets over the top and self aware. I think it found a surprisingly nice balance between the horror and the humor as you will get your fair share of laughs and shrieks. There is a humorous juxtaposition of high society England and gorey disgusting zombies that kind of exposes how ridiculous of a time it was back then to sort of use your daughters as power pieces. One other aspect I enjoyed, that probably is more due to the books credit than the films, is how the zombies were portrayed. When people turn into zombies they are not immediately brain dead monsters, and they can in fact hide and function in normal society. It was a very interesting approach and I wish it was explored even further.

However, the film seriously suffers in the writing department. It felt like the movie had too much going for it with the source material and it got a bit overwhelmed. It spent a lot of time with exposition, which I did appreciate since I am not too familiar with the world, but there wasn't a fluid transition into the climax. One minute the zombies are sort of just around in the background as a nuisance, the next there's an all out war, and the movie took no time to explain how this happened. And there were some elements that were introduced that were kinda swept aside immediately after (the Lazarus Church). Not to mention how cliche and predictable (pretentious statement alert) the third act was. Not that I was expecting Citizen Kane out of this thing, but I was so impressed with how well the film immersed me initially that I was disappointed with how things ended up. It doesn't help that this film was dumb'd down to a PG13 rating when it desperately asked for an R rating (although I will say it did the best it could for what it had to work with).

Cinematography, set and costume design were about what you'd expect in a film like this. The makeup of the zombies is top notch (that one booger zombie) and thankfully there are more practical effects than CGI. The action choreography was above average but nothing to write home about (better than a shaky cam but not as good as the church scene in Kingsman: Secret Service). I especially enjoyed the acting, all the British quips and mannerisms really add to the charm of the film (Matt Smith steals the show). This is clearly a film that had a good amount of effort put into it.

I wouldn't call it a complete shame that it turned out the way it did. It's very admirable for what the movie promises to be. I would say the only shame was the lack of marketing budget for this movie because the only ones who will probably see it are fans of the book (5.2 mil opening weekend yikes). I think it accomplished what it set out to do which was entertain. I like to pick apart films, and praise or chastise their aspects, but at the end of the day this movie isn't trying to do more than its advertised. There's not a whole lot of subtext or talking points of the movie (unless you count that stupid cop out post credits scene). Oh yeah that ending kind of annoying... Oh well it doesn't kill the movie where it stands, but rather anchors it in its place as a potential future cult film that some future mainstream hater will dig up and claim this to be the underrated gem of our generation. For now though, it's aite. 6.5/10