Zero Popped Corns

I Just Watched This Movie; “Avengers: Infinity War”

***SPOILERS***

Antagonists. The greatest of heroes are measured by the villains that they defeat. Most modern superhero movies forget this and have their protagonists face off against a singular villain with super strength, a sky beam, and a mindless army. If you study all of the battles from the previous 18 films, you’ll find that the most exciting battles are actually conflicts within the Avengers team. It takes a meticulous re-watch to even identify a villain in “Captain America: Civil War.” Thankfully, Marvel discovered this flaw, and created the perfect protagonist-antagonist conflict in the new movie, “Avengers: Infinity War.” The film follows Thanos (Josh Brolin), a purple hulk who chooses to wear only one gauntlet (did he lose the other one? or is it a Michael Jackson thing?). Realizing the necessity for an objective way to control overpopulation, Thanos comes up with the most efficient solution: halve the population in a painless, unbiased, and instant act. As simple as his plan seems, he must face off against several adversaries. These villains are actually the Avengers. That’s right, Marvel has brilliantly shown us the full power of the Avengers through the 42 previous movies just so that we understand how powerful our hero Thanos is when he fights them. By the way, did anyone know that Josh Brolin was that big? He must be at least 8ft tall!

Money. Movies can’t get made without money. Everyone on set needs to get paid, from the stars to the unpaid PAs. When a movie is in preproduction, funds are raised, investors are brought in, and a budget is created. For movies in the Marvel franchise, funding is not a problem. The movies are consistently lucrative and a fairly safe investment. However, while audiences didn’t seem to be fatigued from the Marvel superhero format after the previous 71 films, investors seemed to be. This film was underfunded and it showed. Early on, a fight scene takes place in New York City. The fight starts in a street, but quickly moves to Washington Square Park. If Marvel had a real budget, that scene would have been in a better park like Central Park, or at the very least Tompkins Square Park. Even worse, they obviously recycled sets from “Black Panther.”  Even the effects suffered. Vision (Paul Bettany) was rarely in full make-up which gave the false feeling that he was a person, and not just Siri come to life. Hulk as well was absent in most of the film because they couldn’t afford the VFX. But perhaps the worst part, was that towards the end, the VFX artists were shut down mid render and so a bunch of characters just disappear.

Relatability. When we watch a film, we enter into the story and the reality in which it takes place. This can be jarring for an audience if there is not an entry point that allows them to relate and understand the world. For this reason, superhero movies often include non-heroes that the audience can identify with. While all 112 Marvel movies have done this, unfortunately, the non-hero character does not exist in Infinity War. Every character has some sort of super power. It makes you wonder; where are the normal humans like Nick Fury, Jane Foster, or Hawkeye? Furthermore, as the Earth is attacked, where are the militaries? It seems awfully haughty of the Avengers to not ask for the help of the other 7 billion people. Practicality aside, the movie is just hard to understand. Like, I don’t have super strength, and I don’t see any characters without super strength, so how am I supposed to understand just how strong Thanos, or Thor, or Captain America are? Like they could all be weak compared to a normal human and we would never know. And how can we understand how these stones work without super intelligence? Usually they need to explains how things work to some average human side kick, but without one, we’ll never know basic answers to questions like: Why can’t the infinity stones create enough resources to support a larger population? Why does everyone across the galaxy speak english when there are thousands of languages on the planet Earth alone? Why is Gamora?

Over the course of the past 1200 Marvel films, audiences have come to know the formula of these movies. It’s hard to ask for too big of a change when the standard works, but “Avengers: Infinity War” does just enough to improve on its action, humor, characterization, and structure to create a fresh and compelling experience. I should note that this rating is contingent on viewing the film in a full theater; I give it zero popped corns!

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One Popped Corn, REVIEWS

I Just Watched This Movie; “The Post”

Casting. A cast can make or break a film. While it’s important that the actors fit the roles that they play, it is even more important that they deliver on the acting ability that got them the role in the first place. Meryl Streep. Tom Hanks. These are the names of two of the most talented actors of all time, but they aren’t always the best, as the new film “The Post” proves. It seems that the casting directors, with a Spielberg blank cheque, decided to just grab the first actors that came to mind. They should have known these overworked actors were due to phone one in. Meryl seemed to have no idea what the blocking was, opting to simply follow other actors around during scenes. Additionally, she was especially clumsy, dropping books, knocking over chairs, and stumbling over lines as if her character would be that nervous taking on the responsibilities of running a newspaper at a time when women were significantly less respected. Tom Hanks on the other hand, just seemed to have not learned the script. Often, he would improvise or just repeat the same first amendment preaching. And when he just couldn’t remember his lines, he would stare (as if a reporter would ever take a moment to contemplate whether to publish a significant but controversial, and potentially costly, article). In regards of the rest of the cast, there were several mistakes made. One, Bruce Greenwood was cast as former Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. Greenwood’s a great actor. The issue, though, is that he played McNamara’ s boss, John F Kennedy, in the film “JFK.” How can anyone separate his two performances to believe he’s either one of those people. Two, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross appear in the film together as fellow reporters. But they aren’t funny. Why cast the stars of the HBO sketch comedy “Mr. Show with Bob and David” if you don’t intend to let them perform sketches. And lastly, another reporter was played by Jessie Mueller (Broadway: “Beautiful: the Carole King Musical,” “Waitress”) but she was not given any musical numbers. So disappointing. This paragraph was too long- it’s the movies fault for having so much high profile talent.

Media. Thanks to the digital media age, we consume information in so many ways and at a rapid pace. This movie made me want to buy a newspaper though. You may be able to get a constant stream of news through Twitter, but can you feel a tweet? Can you hand a tweet to your friend? Can you cut out a Twitter clipping and post it on your wall (I mean a physical wall, not Facebook)? The answers are no. Online news just isn’t represented in it’s own physical form. Though, we do have personal printers so I guess we could print them to paper ourselves. Actually, newspapers seem to be useless nowadays. But this was still an interesting movie to see how journalists and publishers interact. Though, I guess that’s probably outdated too. I get all my news from random clever people, friends, and celebrities who post on social media. They all have different takes that are much more exciting than what journalists and publishers are willing to print. I mean, I learned this week that the U.S. President is, like, really smart. You aren’t gonna see any journalist writing that. Anyway, while I find the movie and it’s newspaper plotline to be outdated, maybe some people will find something relevant in the film.

Expectations. A great film matches the audiences expectations perfectly. It is jarring when a movie manipulates an audiences’ assumptions by presenting new and different information. When I see a trailer for a movie about the Pentagon Papers being published by the Washington Post, I want to see that happen in the movie. Thankfully, “The Post” is about just that. While they make some attempts to tease the audience that maybe the post won’t publish the top secret information, the movie never manipulates the audience to believe that the story will go any other way than the way it happened in real life. Thus, the stakes and suspense remain low, and the audience doesn’t have to worry or get invested too much. A nice and easy viewing experience.

While the acting and directing was as expected with the talented people involved, the straightforwardness and familiarity of the story prevented the film from going much deeper than a timely statement on the importance of the first amendment. I give the film one popped corn.

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I Just Watched This Movie; “Darkest Hour”

Fresh Talent. Every great movie star had their start somewhere. Directors are always taking chances, casting relative unknowns with the hope that they will be the next big thing. The new film “Darkest Hour” takes the ultimate chance by choosing a total neophyte to play the lead role of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The actor, Mr. Oldman, an obvious stage name reflecting his advanced age, may not have been recognizable to audiences, but he still brought a tremendous presence to the role. As an older, unattractive, heavy man it seems that Gary hit the jackpot with a role that fit his physical features perfectly. His performance was astounding as well, though he mumbled a bit too many of his lines. Another first time actor, Kristin Scott Thomas, proved herself to be just as, if not more talented than her notable twin brother Daniel Day Lewis. In a supporting yet significant role, veteran actress Lily James (“Cinderella”, “Baby Driver”, “Downton Abbey”) delivered a strong performance as well.

Duration. It’s important that movies are a reasonable length. It’s scientifically proven that humans cannot sit in a chair for longer that two hours and thirty minutes without either falling asleep or having to urinate, so movies are kept within this limit. However, some directors look to push their captive human audience to the limits. Christopher Nolan is one such director. His films have progressively increased in length through the Batman series up to “Interstellar.” He ultimately reached a breaking point, though, last year when his epic film about Dunkirk hit the mark of three and a half hours. At such a length, the theaters declined to show it, and he was forced to split the film into two separate movies. The 2nd Unit crew, led by Assistant Director Joe Wright, took on the responsibility of refining the fourth parallel plot about Dunkirk, the one focused on Churchill, into its own full feature. After seeing the 90 minute “Dunkirk” and this 120 minute “Darkest Hour,” I am beyond excited to watch the original “Nolan Director’s cut” once released on DVD.

Historical Accuracy. Often the biggest controversies surrounding historical dramas is the accuracy of the events and people shown. The film, “Darkest Hour,” deals with an extremely important event in world history; The Second World War. During the movie it struck me as odd that the United States was only mentioned once, and really had no role. Here the British Prime Minister was dealing with the end of Western Europe and the threat of invasion at the hands of the Nazis, and not a single American was there to help. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the allied forces were dying, and even more civilians were being killed, captured, and thrown in concentration camps, and yet the movie refused to show any American assistance. This made no sense to me. I mean, didn’t the USA win World War II? So we must have been involved from the beginning of the war, right? Oh well, the Brits rewriting history I guess. On a side note, I will say that the film was accurate in it’s depiction of the British parlement. They have a much better system than the American congress. We should have our two parties sit on separate sides in stadium seating and let them yell and throw blank sheets of paper at each other.

While “Darkest Hour” was filled with a lot of talking and speeches, the film kept up its energy not just with clever dialogue and engrossing performances, but also with adept editing and deft camera work. I give it zero popped corns.

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I Just Watched This Movie; “The Fate of the Furious”

Star power. Early on in the history of the film industry, “star talent” became the driving force of audience’s attendance. If your movie could boast an actor or actress with a large following, the film would succeed at the box office. “The Fate of the Furious” is an example of taking this too far. The movie stars Vin Diesel (played by Dom Toretto), obviously named after his favorite car engine, as a man who can only say the word “Family.” Or does the movie star The Rock (played by Luke Hobbs), obviously named for his rock hard physique, as a man who just wants people to stop asking him to save the world? Or does it star Jason Statham (played by Deckard Shaw), obviously named after the famous actor known for action movies, as a man desperately in love with The Rock but too afraid to admit it? There is no clear star, and therefore, how do audiences know which one to go see? What if you’re a Toretto fan but the movie has more Hobbs than Toretto? You don’t want to risk that. So what if the movie broke the record for most pounds of muscle on a single screen? When I saw it this morning at the first showing of the day, the theater was practically empty. What a box office bomb! Add Charlize Theron to the mix and your aiming for such a wide audience it’s destined to fail.

Action. An action movie is one in which characters do more than just sit and talk. To be a great action film, there needs to be high-octane movement. Frustratingly, “The Fast and the Fateful 8” falls short of being even just a good action film. Sure it has a few fistfights, but every time the suspense gets built up, they just sit down on leather seats and gab. For the majority of the film, all of the main characters sit down in their cars, tap their foot, wiggle their arms, and say clipped catchphrases. The filmmakers think that they can fool us into feeling tension and danger by throwing in a few explosions behind them, but it’s clear that their cars can withstand any damage so it’s just a bunch of gimmicks. Even when they get out of the cars, they’re mostly just flirting and playfully insulting each other. Where’s the breakneck pacing and adrenaline inducing activity. I will admit that initially the film got some suspense from my fear of pedestrians being injured by the speeding cars. But by about a third of the way in, I realized that the film takes place in a world where all humans have superhuman reflexes and can jump out of the way to avoid a vehicle driving 11o mph through a busy sidewalk.

Cars. Thank god for the invention of cars. Can you imagine a movie like this, but all of the cars were horses! “The Furious Fates of the Fast” featured 15 times more cars than humans and all but *spoiler* were wrecked or destroyed. The budget breakdown for this movie must have been: $210 million for cars, $30 million for Vin Diesel, $8 million for the family, $2 million for fancy computer graphics, and 800 pounds of cod for The Rock. I have never seen so many cars in my life. They were literally raining from the sky. And honestly, they were the real heroes. If you look at the movie from a script analysis perspective, Toretto and his team were all flawless characters. It was the cars who pushed themselves to their limits and often sacrificed so much of their bodies to save the humans inside of them. At some point, the producer’s are going to eliminate all of the actors from the franchise and we’ll realize these were all just prequels to Pixar’s Cars (it ain’t just a theory).

Despite raising many questions like; Why didn’t any of the characters go into NASCAR? Does Dwayne Johnson write all his own lines? And was Scott Eastwood meant to be a replacement white guy for Paul Walker? because otherwise Scott was useless, the movie kept to the successful structure, tone, and theme of its predecessors. All in all, “The Fast and the Furiosa” was so much fun and deserves only praise for the way it perfectly combines giddying action with meaningful family drama. I give it zero popped corns!

 

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I Just Watched This Movie; “La La Land”

Show biz. There’s a whole industry based on chance encounters and capitalizing on chances to show your talents, it’s called show business. This environment is an untapped wealth of stories about pain, romance, triumph, and music that is explored for the first time in Damien Chazelle’s groundbreaking new film “La La Land.” The film follows a couple of young people dreaming of a career as an actress and a jazz musician. The pair, played by actual real life famous entertainers (how fun!), struggles to get noticed for their unparalleled talent. However, through love and support for each other, they’re able to persevere and find their own successes in the star-making world of Hollywood. Who doesn’t appreciate this kind of story? The answer is absolutely no one. This movie is universally acclaimed, proven by winning the most Golden Globes in history and receiving the most Oscar nominations in history.

Historical context. Sometimes a film can capture the zeitgeist perfectly and serve as a window into the time period at which it was released. As “La La Land” is enshrined at this years Oscars as the greatest film in history, it is comforting to know that it will represent the last moment before a great shift in this country. That shift, is the introduction of self driving cars. This movie, more than anything, embodies all of the issues that current society has with cars. They’re always getting stuck in traffic. If you are an actor or musician, you can’t practice your craft while driving. If you go to a party, you have to walk forever to get to where you parked. If you go to pick someone up, you can’t leave your car to go to the door so you must honk obnoxiously. What makes the film even greater is the casting. They chose the most well known driving actor of our time, Ryan Gosling (the Driver in the movie “Drive”). Gosling shows a cool, sexy ownership and control over his car that only he can. This movie will go down in history similar to how “Top Gun” remembers a time before drones when it was the epitome of cool to be a fighter pilot like the maverick, Tom Cruise.

Music. Everyone loves music. Music has the power to communicate deep themes and move an audience subconsciously to experience all forms of emotion. “La La Land” unfortunately failed to speak to today’s audiences through its many musical numbers. Perhaps to a viewer from the 1940’s, this movie would be jazzy, beautiful, exciting, powerful, and sentimental, but today’s audiences respond to new types of music. For a good comparison, take the most popular musical right now, “Hamilton.” Listen to the soundtrack, you’ll hear rap, hip hop, and R&B styles, styles that are completely absent from the “La La Land” soundtrack. Or think about all of the genres of music that have come since classical and jazz. We have rock, alternative, funk, electronic, beyoncé, and disco, but guess what “La La Land” went with? (none of them!). Seriously who cares about Jazz nowadays? We have better music to listen to, like John Legend or something.

Everyone has their own opinion on “La La Land,” but mine is that it was an extremely enjoyable film with catchy music, interesting cinematography, and a fresh look. I give it zero popped corns.

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I Just Watched This Movie: “Silence”

Coming-Of-Age. A genre of film, coming-of-age shows the maturation and education of a young character aimed to connect with an audience who’s all been through it before. Taking place a long time ago in a country far away, “Silence” is a coming-of-age story about a young priest who learns the age-old lesson: Christianity doesn’t take root in Japan. An odd period piece that combines the origin story of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), “Silence” shows men torn between the light and the dark side, and having to decide whether to believe in Christ or the Force. A bearded and confused Andrew Garfield plays the main character who bears a striking resemblance to the white European representation of Jesus. Garfield puts on a perfect Portuguese-English accent that’s unfortunately hampered by an apparent tongue injury that occurred prior to the shoot. Over the course of the film Garfield and his friend? brother? cousin? partner? roommate? take a gap year to travel around Japan and hear people’s sins. Unfortunately, their trip goes all wrong when the government decides to imprison them and kill/torture all of their new friends. That’s when they learn what it really means to be a grown up Jesuit priest.

Religion. Religion is all about questions.Lots of questions. What is a Chruch? Who can go inside? Who is God? Who is God’s immediate family? Where is God right now? Can I talk to him? Did he watch this movie too? Any good film about religion needs questions, and this movie had an abundance. The main character wrestles with many questions about his own faith and God’s role in the horrors he’s witnessing. The movie raises a lot of questions for the viewer too. Is it wrong to force these people to believe a new religion that allows Jesuit priests to be treated like royalty among the Japanese peasants? or is wrong that the Japanese government brutally kills so many of these believers? Characters are forced to step bare footed and trample on an image of Jesus to renounce their faith, does this action doom them to hell, or will God understand their plight? What are the answers to these questions? The movie really doesn’t provide any. Should a movie answer the questions it presents? Should the audience deal with leaving the theater unsatisfied? Who knows?

Auteur. An auteur is a film director that transcends the title of director and reaches a level where they take all of the credit for a film. Martin Scorsese (“New York Gangster Movie,” “Other New York Gangster Movie,” and “Boston Gangster Movie”) directs his latest masterpiece that’s being praised by literally every critic and has reminded everyone yet again why he is an auteur. It’s clear that Scorsese had complete control of his craft on his long awaited film that reflects his personal beliefs and experiences that only he could tell after having been a priest in Japan for most of his childhood. A sign of Scorsese’s mastering of the craft would be the way he uses pacing. Normally in a film, scenes of great importance are allowed to be drawn out to give the audience time to process and feel the depth of the drama. Scorsese knows this and maximizes it. Every scene in Silence is treated with this technique giving the film a run time that any auteur would be proud of.

A long movie that requires endurance and an undying appreciation for Scorsese, I found “Silence” to be unsatisfying and a bit painful to watch. With that being said, a whole lot of critics liked it so what do I know? I give it three popped corns.screen-shot-2014-10-04-at-3-50-30-pm

 

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One Popped Corn

I Just Watched This Movie; “The Founder”

Inspirational. Films often use real life success stories to inspire viewers. The new movie, “The Founder” follows the inspirational true story behind the expansion of McDonald’s into a staple of American culture. The movie follows McDonald’s founder Ray Crook Kroc as he sells the concept, and dream, of McDonald’s while cleanly disposing of the restaurant’s real founders and actual history. Unlike the business heroes portrayed in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “Wall Street,” this movie shows the right (legal) way to succeed. As a result, Michael Keaton as Kroc, ends happily wealthy with a wonderful wife he took from an associate and a franchise he took from a couple of nice guys. This movie will surely inspire a new generation to go out and grab what they want in life, staying within the law of course to ensure they get away with it. In the motivational words of Keaton’s character: “If my enemy was drowning, I would shove a hose down his throat.”

Commercialization. Art in it’s essence is an expression of emotions, thoughts, aesthetics, and many other lame touchy feely stuff. The true power of art is when it is used to mimic these motivations, but with a real financial goal behind it. “The Founder” is an expertly crafted commercial that the general public has been fooled into thinking is just a movie. I attended the screening of the film with a packed audience. They all had paid to see this movie with the anticipation of being entertained by Michael Keaton and as they put it “those guys are from tv shows right?” (it was an older audience). Anyway, when the credits rolled the entire crowd broke off into conversations about where they were going to eat lunch. Do you know what places they named? Literally everywhere but McDonald’s. You see, a conglomeration of restaurants; Wendy’s, Burger King, etc., made a movie about food and restaurants and convinced the audience that McDonald’s was born out of the pure evilness of it’s ‘founder.’ This was a perfect negative ad about McDonald’s that subconsciously convinced the audience to both eat out, and avoid McDonald’s.

Prop food. A movie isn’t shot all in just one take. For every camera set up, you can expect that the filmmakers have filmed several takes. In each take, the actors repeat their actions and lines more or less, with minor variations to performance. Due to this repetition, actors will often have fake looking food and mime eating. That way at the beginning of each take, they have just as much food as the last take (also you don’t want the actors to get fat because then that would be a mess for continuity, costume design, etc.). “The Founder” involved some of the best act-eating and prop food that I’ve ever seen. Even the extras eating McDonald’s cheeseburgers showed the same passion and delight as they would in real life. Michael Keaton is shown with food in multiple scenes and always fakes his chewing like a pro. Luckily the film fills most of it’s eating sequences with dialogue and actions as to suspend the audience’s disbelief. If there were awards for eating on screen, this film would take the cake, chew it, swallow it, and leave it untouched for the next person.

Though the protagonist is not the most likable (to say the least), the film’s editing and writing make the movie compelling and interesting to watch. I give this movie one popped corn.

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