Category Archives: Film

The Future is Now

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Blade Runner is a classic, not just in terms of filmography or overall cinematic narrative but quite literally from the source material itself. Pretty much everything that Philip K. Dick has penned has gone on to inspire greatness- look no further than Blade Runner and Man in the High Castle, inspired respectively by Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and The Man in the High Castle.

Therefore it only makes sense that eventually someone would want to cash in on the concept of such an ingenious universe and narrative created by the 1982 neo-noir film. Do not mistake Blade Runner 2049 for just another shameless plug and attempt at rejuvenating or remaking the most famous films of the twentieth century however, as it is being made for the actual purpose of furthering the plot and passing it onto the next generation. I think that’s an admirable concept at the least, regardless of how this film inevitably compares to the original.

Whereas the original saw Harrison Ford gunning down escaped replicants and hunting at the merest hint of an existential crisis of faith, it also featured a brilliant setting and amazing cinematography. Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t seem so different in that respect as it also features Harrison Ford in some capacity, probably has several twists and turns in store for its characters and the audience alike, and also looks to feature prominent and iconic cinematic moments. The trailers have been simple but beautiful and I love the color palette and world on display.

It’s interesting to note that the film also features such prominent personas as Harrison Ford (reprising his role from the original), Ryan Gosling (as the next Harrison Ford), Jared Leto (probably being all method and pissing his fellow compatriots off), Robin Wright (not playing Frank Underwood’s wife), and Lennie James (hopefully wielding a bo-staff here as well) among others.

Such a talented and renowned cast isn’t always the key to success or even a good film- Star Wars did well with relatively minor talent in the prime positions and the acting greats taking a backseat albeit giving ostensibly their best performances of all time in some cases. However, I think it is fair to say that given the talented roster we are more than likely in for some interesting performances from major and minor characters alike. Gosling himself has been portrayed in some interesting role of late (La La Land, The Nice Guys, The Place Beyond the Pines) and I’m eager to see him give his own take on a neo-Rick Deckard essentially.

Harrison Ford is the man behind the mystery of the original film and I wonder how its respective conspiracies will play into the larger picture in this particular narrative. Here’s hoping Ford doesn’t take a lightsaber to the gut in this one at least, regardless of his character’s evolving arc. You can’t keep killing your darlings, man…

I’m eager to see the callbacks to the original but also more so how the original’s format is evolved and worked with in this sequel. The newest trailer has been fairly promising and also hints at a remarkable amount of content for the movie to discuss and viewers to digest. Even the simplest bits of dialogue have potential ramifications and spoiler worthy meaning if you’ve seen the first film and notice the references. Both the teaser and first official trailer thus far have been far more teasing and hinting than most film trailers are ever in their entirety and I love that.

Some of the aspects that I’m most curious about are of course how they handle the existential crises both Deckard and K seem to be having, as well as how this will tie into the ultimately overarching plot concerning both Leto and Wright. There seems to be a great deal of content and equal measures action and time for resolved reverie, so I’m also anticipating a lot of revelations and unraveling of a widening conspiracy in Deus Ex fashion along the way. In some respects, this is more Deus Ex: Mankind Divided than even Deus Ex was. And that’s not a bad comparison to make if 2049 can deliver on the concepts firmly laid by the original and expand in the right direction.

When it’s all said and done, unlike films such as Rings, The Two Jakes, or Caddyshack 2, Blade Runner 2049 looks to actually be both meaningful and memorable and perhaps the best way to toast the legacy of a classic film. Rather than spitting on what has been established it seems as if the crew is embracing it and furthering that legacy in a respectable way. Ridley Scott does have a way with backing ambitious projects to say the least.

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I May be Excited…

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May 2017 is a very unique and interesting time for most of us. Those attending universities are inevitably drawing nearer to the close of the academic year whilst the rest of us prepare for the hottest summer releases to eventually hit the market. Regardless of your preferences- be it literature, films, or games, there’s undeniably something here for all of us. In this particular blog I’ll just cover some of the films and games which have either piqued my interest already this month or remain to be judged as such when they release later on.

May 5th

This turned out to be quite an action-packed day on the film and gaming front and that comes in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Prey. I’m sure the majority of you know by now that both have largely lived up to their hype despite some discussion that GotG 2 doesn’t surpass its predecessor and that Arkane’s version of Prey is good but not quite great. Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, these two are definitely one of the high points of the month thus far and probably will still be up there come the end of May and beginning of June.

May 9th

On May 9th a relatively little-known game known as Strafe is set to be released and it’s been one of my anticipated titles for quite some time now. It’s essentially a retro-shooter set to the tune of old golden age titles such as Doom, with the exception that besides graphics it actually includes a lot of relatively new concepts as well. If you’re into that sort of thing and have a computer capable of running software that looks like it’s from the nineties, then hop on the bandwagon!

May 16th

Both Injustice 2 and The Surge release on this particular day and both titles are looking increasingly interesting for completely different reasons. The first Injustice was an excellent game and I cannot wait to see how the sequel compares. Respectively, Lords of the Fallen was a pretty good game and I cannot wait to see what Deck 13 does with the same essential Souls-like gameplay set to a futuristic robocalpyse tune. Honestly, I’m sure both will be at least pretty decent games and I cannot wait to see how it all works out in both cases.

May 19th

If it weren’t for the release of the highly anticipated and already pretty well-reviewed Alien: Covenant, I’d almost be tempted to insert the next edition of Fire Emblem in this slot as well. As is, Alien: Covenant looks to be quite a doozy and honestly it may be one of my most highly anticipated movies of the year, not just the month itself.

May 26th

I’m not quite sure what to make of this particular day because three completely different things are releasing and I’m not quite sure if any of them will live up to the hype, although I am positive that one of them will make a lot more money than it deserves to at this rate. Rime has been in development forever it seems like, so I’m really just excited to see it potentially coming out for once. Baywatch is an intriguing concept since it’s a remake with a fairly talented and unique cast (ft. The Rock everybody). And Pirates 5 will gross a ton of money despite really not adding much to a series that has only gone downhill since its third (well, first really) entry.

There are of course plenty of other goings on going on within the confines of the month of May, however these are some that personally seem to be most prominent on my radar in terms of films and gaming. If you’ve got anything else you’re looking forward to- that newest book in a beloved series or a long awaited album for example, then feel free to comment on what I’ve missed here.

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Small Crimes Review

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Small Crimes recently released on Netflix at the end of April and is the next in the seemingly endless stream of independent or miniature films to be featured on the streaming service. Unlike some of the drivel that often comes with these second chance or low budget films being made and provided on the closed circuit, Small Crimes is actually a pretty competent story as well as darkly comedic satire on turning your life around after a series of unfortunate events.

Based upon the first book in a trilogy of novels written by Dave Zeltserman, Small Crimes sees its main protagonist- Joe Denton (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) released from prison following a short term stay for attempted murder and drug abuse. Each novel in the trilogy focuses on a more or less “bad” person who has recently been released from prison and the effects this has on their prospects as well as how well (or poorly) they manage to escape their past mistakes. In Joe’s case, things get pretty grim from the outset.

Something that sort of surprised me throughout the hour and a half film was how well it manages to handle some complicated ideas and simplify things down to human nature and emotional attachment. There are a lot of ideas juggled by the film but more or less it focuses on a handful and comes out better for it- no complicated plot twists here so much as there are ironic turns of events. Coster-Waldau is easily the highlight of the film as he brings the dirty cop and hitman vibe with equal measures narcissism and grit. Robert Forster, Gary Cole, and Molly Parker also play their respective roles quite well- Forster as Joe’s father, Cole as his former partner and another cop on the take, and Parker as a love interest and nurse.

The thing that Small Crimes does the best is get the job done, quite unlike Joe Denton in many ways. It isn’t immediately apparent that it carries almost a darkly comedic and satirical vibe although there are some instances where things take a dramatic turn for the worse in the most ironic way imaginable. It’s almost like there’s some sense of ex machina except every situation takes a turn for the worse rather than ever getting any better. It is very much a film about a man trying to redeem himself and despite everything being dragged back to his old ways and old world.

Although it has a relatively short run-time, one of the best things about Small Crimes is how well it wraps up and how cleanly it does so after a messy final act that quite literally butchers the majority of the main cast. What at first began as a film that hints at the violent nature of Joe’s world soon becomes a showcase of the reality of cause and effect as well as choice and consequence. What begins as a simple hit on a former mob boss who plans to spill the beans to the local district attorney quickly devolves into an all-out war that rages throughout the small town setting. Nobody is safe, not even Jaime Lannister.

On one hand, the film may not seem altogether too deep and it has been criticized for some of its simplicity and lack of complex motives or meaning. However, if you really look closely you will see there are so many intricate dynamics between the characters and Coster-Waldau predominately embodies this in his performance which really makes you feel as if he knows his fellow actors as intimately as his character does. There is a particularly ironic and tragic bit in the very end where Coster-Waldau gives so much weight to everything that has happened and the scene is veritably dripping with emotion despite him only giving a meaningful glance to his father and wiping a knife clean of prints.

Small Crimes isn’t a simple film by any means but a lot of what it does best is create simple complexities rather than needlessly confusing plot points and obscure references. It is concise and to the point which the story definitely benefits from and it has some interesting and colorful characters that range from extreme to deranged depending on the given situation. There aren’t many unnecessary revelations but the level to which pretty much all of its events tie-in and come together almost reminds me of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and the masterful way that it tied together seemingly unique stories.

Small Crimes is by no means perfect but in my mind it is one of the better offerings we’ve seen come straight to Netflix lately and if you’re a fan of darkly humorous and ironic films, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll enjoy this one as well. Think of it as somewhere between a gritty crime film and a typical Coen Brothers production- not quite one extreme or the other, but more a commentary on redemption than anything else.

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Revisiting the Film that Reignited the Zombie Apocalypse

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28 Days Later is something of a modern cult classic but even so, it’s hard to believe that it only came out fourteen-fifteen years ago. But then again, it’s also hard to believe that it DID come out fourteen-fifteen years ago. 2007 sequel 28 Weeks Later and talk regarding a potential third and fourth series film notwithstanding, the film operates as most cult classics do so well- telling a story that is in many ways a circular journey and neatly wraps many details up while maintaining the intrigue and mystery by leaving some relatively unanswered as well. Although fans/victims of the lore and universe will know that many details and background interests have been added in the years since- comic books, graphic novels, a film sequel and more, the best part about any zombie apocalypse (besides it being horrid to be stuck in) is that anything can happen.

The sixties, seventies, eighties, and even nineties all had their famous horror zombie flicks and we’d seen many tall tales come and go- Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead to name a few. We’ve even seen some surprisingly good films since- I Am Legend, The Crazies, Shaun of the Dead, and Dawn of the Dead (2004). 28 Days Later kicked all of this off however, and not just in the film industry. Prior to the reinvention of the classic zombie thriller-horror romp many considered the genre to be dead and buried like westerns and eighties action flicks. Afterwards however we’ve been treated to a resurgence in films, literature, and even gaming. Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising are two of the bigger franchises out there and they both prominently feature the zombie apocalypse in entirely different ways.

Not only is 28 Days Later a good film and a good example of what to do in terms of filming the zombie uprising, but it deserves its status as a cult classic because it is both a harrowing experience against WWZ-like zombies and it is a cinematic experience that should be appreciated to the fullest. The camera work in Danny Boyle’s zombie thriller is spectacular- both in the long pans across the desolate London horizon and the tense emotions elicited throughout every chase sequence and encounter. Although it reestablishes the now commonplace trope that humans are their own worst enemy even in the dead uprising, 28 Days Later focuses both on the visceral feelings and emotions of mankind in reaction to the dead and undead as well.

Although we’ve been treated to two feature-length films that tell pretty decent stories within their own version of the zombie apocalypse, I’m really excited for what the future might hold for a series such as 28 ___ Later especially in the wake of the immense success of shows such as The Walking Dead (and the Kirkman comics). I would love nothing more than to see yet another quality zombie game released set in a similarly dark and gritty world to the films and perhaps even set within the same universe and utilizing some of the abundant lore as well. So far we’ve been given Zombi (originally for Wii U) which is probably the closest we’ve yet come to a fully realized and detailed experience in the vein of 28 Days Later, and that game was decent for what it offered in interesting gimmicks and mechanics.

I’m doing my best not to really spoil the great narrative even though it’s probably considered a bit cliche nowadays- not at the time, considering it is what so many movies now base themselves off of it seems. Not only is it a fully worthwhile and fundamental stroke of genius in terms of storytelling and cinematography, the acting itself is pretty spot on and the relatively unknown actors (besides Brendan Gleeson and Chris Eccleston) sell their roles perfectly. The 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead may be one of the most recognizable and pretty decent zombie films of the early 2000s, but let’s not forget the fact that 28 Days Later started things off right and paved the way not only for the shambling dead but the night-roaming mutants of I Am Legend as well. All things said and done, Boyle’s film would’ve also been fine without a sequel but expanding the 28 universe hasn’t been the worst idea either.

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Alien: Covenant- A Return to Form?

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The Alien franchise is one that has certainly seen its fair share of commercial success over the years since its initial inception. Whether it be through film, video games, or merchandise, it has been marketed to an ever-broader audience over the years. While this has its own array of ups and downs, Ridley Scott seems to be of the mind that a return to form mixed with this new-age horror business is of grave necessity and in the best interest of the saga itself. I can’t say I disagree.

Alien: Isolation was something of a rare gem for me just a few years ago when it released- managing to bring the tense action of the original film, mixed with some story background in the lore, to the forefront of a series previously only known for video games of the typical sub-par quality. Alien vs Predator and Colonial Marines are the other two most recent games of any renown in the series and neither is a good indicator of the quality work people should come to expect of it. Similar to Isolation being a breath of fresh air for the video game counterpart, I think Covenant can and should be the film iteration that bridges the gap between Aliens and Prometheus- being able to do what the first films did well as well as on the grandiose playing field of lore Prometheus introduced, albeit in a confused manner.

As the name would suggest, Alien: Covenant seeks to tie the prequel trilogy to the main body of films in more ways than just a shared history and shared name. There are bound to be countless characteristics from both the new and old films and history, plus there are still plenty new threats to be introduced on-screen that have yet to be seen. I love how Ridley Scott isn’t afraid to up the stakes by adding more revelations and more variation to the alien species itself, but that he also plans to still directly tie things together and come full-circle at some point as well. What once began as a small-scale story should and ultimately seems to be headed towards resolving itself that way as well, whatever galaxy-wide implications and revelations and earth shattering lore dumps may come between those two points.

The first film is renowned for its tense, atmospheric horror and its bursts of action, among other cinematic qualities. The second is known for broadening the scope of the infestation and introducing us to an even broader cast of characters and setting. The third film attempted to venture down some semblance of a path between the two original titles while the fourth went full-blown science fiction and started a downward spiral of plot and sensibility in many respects. As far as the four main sequence Alien films go, they taper off towards the end if only for general concerns over plot and making sense of it all.

We’ve also been gifted with a few Alien vs Predator films which managed to tie-in the popular and cult classic Predator character and universe to that of the Alien setting. While that has largely been a marketing success, it has never been nearly as successful in terms of producing quality projects on par with what each series has managed to do separately. On the whole, even the confusing and ambitious yet inevitably fallible Alien-prequel Prometheus has done a better job of that. Prometheus managed to take some higher caliber actors and throw them into the existing universe (at least for us movie-goers) while forcing them to combat a threat altogether new to their characters. It has been criticized largely for its plot but on the whole it does what it intended to do all along- establishes a baseline from which the prequels and main series can stem.

I was way more excited than I honestly had any right to be when I saw the first few trailers for Covenant just last week. I’m not sure if it was the trailer itself or perhaps my own reaction to a series that I’ve been close with since my early days, but I really enjoyed it and have thought about writing this blog for several days now. I do not think it will be the cramped corridors of Dead Space 1 (er, Aliens 1) but that’s not to say it isn’t seeking to return to the successful format of the first film in many ways. Just look at the trailer yourself- the evidence is there, even if it’s presented on a larger than life level at times. By now I think we have to in some ways embrace the fact that it is the twenty-first century and grandiose posturing is a large part of cinematic film-making and camera angle, lighting, and amazing effects are here and now. So just because Prometheus or Covenant do or did a ton of special effects should not take away from the overall story or end project quality.

I’m curious to learn more about the paradise and hell that these new and familiar faces alike have stepped into. I’m also eager to push past Prometheus and head towards Alien, both in terms of setting and story and influence. I’m more than okay with injecting new ideas and new life into what is otherwise an old tried and true formula, but I also want to see it be more successful and more simplistic and meaningful. You can have your lore and your grand plans but sometimes less is more and not the other way around. All in all, these are just my musings on the tail-end of a crazy weekend and I hope that everyone else has already formulated their own (and already seen Logan).

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The Wolverine Movie You’ve Deserved

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Logan is shaping up to be one of the best superhero films to date and that’s largely because it laughs in the face of the superhero flick ‘norms’ and seeks to be a dramatic and heartfelt film in its own right. As things go, the X-Men movies have never been too bad although they have definitely adhered more to comic books stereotypes than the typically darker Marvel Cinematic Universe installments have done. The MCU television shows have opened the door to more humanistic, darker, realistic superhero tales and I feel like the standalone Wolverine movies have begun to slowly realize the same thing- ultimately culminating with the Old Man Logan storyline coming to the silver screen.

X-Men Origins was far from well thought out. It had interesting moments and some interesting characters, and yet for the duration of it many people couldn’t help but point out what a theatrical mess it was. The Wolverine remedied a lot of these problems but still wasn’t as superb as it could’ve been, despite an intriguing story and some excellent acting. Thankfully, lighting can strike thrice and the third time may just be the charm if the reviews are as spot on as I think they are. Logan is one of only a few Marvel-based movies to receive a R-rating right now and I think that’s probably the best thing for it, especially in terms of creative direction and freedom (see: Deadpool).

While the mainstream first X-Men trilogy and the subsequent three films in the ‘First Class’ universe were okay in their own right, they never managed to focus on the human aspect or the down to earth moments as much- ironic considering the mutant element. The Wolverine titles have changed that in many ways, even if it’s largely due to the fact they encapsulate the titular character and manage to focus on one or two other side stories as well within the bounds of their plots. With Logan however, one of my favorite comic book plotlines looks like it’s coming to life and I absolutely love it- even if it probably means we’re to see the end of Wolverine as we know him and Professor Charles Xavier (again).

The X-23 story arc alone is pretty dark and gritty, which really tells you something if you know anything about Wolverine and his tragic past, present, and probable future. Reading the critic reviews and responses has really got me gungho for the movie, and considering I don’t typically pander much to critic reviews when it comes to television or films, I find it curious that a superhero film finally seems to have cracked the code and hit on themes that even hipster-esque critics can enjoy. We’ve had plenty of good superhero films in the past decade and yet many did not receive as much critical acclaim as they should’ve due to the fact that they largely ran the gauntlet from cliche to senseless action and adventure. When you bring things down to earth and run them at a smaller level (like Deadpool, in many ways) they seem to resonate better amongst us mere mortals.

If you’ve been living under a rock or trying to avoid any spoilers whatsoever, Logan is essentially a Wolverine western of sorts and definitely the grittiest take we’ve seen of the character. He lives in a world where the bad guys essentially realized they could do more harm if they banded together, and so they largely eradicated mutants both good and evil. Wolverine is of course largely indestructible and has somehow survived alongside his longtime friend and mentor Charles Xavier, whom he now protects and looks after. It seems as if Professor X’s mind is decaying exponentially due to years of stress and crazy powerful mutant telepathic abilities. Enter Weapon X-23 into the picture. Now Logan will have to do his best to protect both his friend and this little girl (who, fair enough, can also defend herself). As you can imagine, the plot is sure to go boundless places from there but this is just the basic gist of it.

The trailers alone have been impressive and I don’t think we’ve even seen the best moments of the film yet, despite there being some heavy feels and tense action in them. I really want to see the bond between Weapons X and X-23 (aka Logan and Laura) deepen as the film progresses, and I think we’re going to get that a la Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us. These two characters are bound to have their own flaws, and yet it should be heartening to see them find solace in each other considering their similarities and surely their differences as well. I expect we will see Sir Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman riff off of each other as their respective characters and bring further dimension to their bond, and yet I’m most interested to see Dafne Keen as Laura as well.

I expect we could see any number of rewritten scenarios for the Old Man Logan storyline, and I’m truly excited to see how they play up some of the most tragic and memorable moments as well as adding their own additional angle to things. I suspect that the story itself is no less comic booky or semi-cliche than the others in the majority of the MCU and X-Men films have been, and yet I feel it is the bonds that will be established and severed in this movie that will prove most stimulating and entertaining and tragic to watch. Imagine for instance if Logan himself is forced to put Professor X down because there’s simply no way to get him to safety and protect Laura at the same time. Logan will undoubtedly be dark and multi-dimensional and therefore such tragic things are not far from the realm of possibility at all.

Guardians of the Galaxy was in many ways as close to a superhero western as we were ever going to get up until Logan was announced, yet I’m fully intrigued by the desolate setting- both in terms of mankind’s evolution or devolution, and in terms of the forced character growth it can bring. What I’ve seen so far assures me that Logan is going to be dark and fulfilling as well as beautiful and memorable- from the cinematography to the characters themselves and the revelations in between the lines. Not only am I happy to see the Wolverine movie that we’ve been patiently waiting for all this time fully realized, but I’m also thrilled to see several world-class actors doing their best to do their characters the justice they deserve and deliver some of their most moving performances to date.

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Films I’ve Seen Recently

The following is just a brief list of films I’ve watched/re-watched lately either in theaters or through other means. Not all are from this year of course.

No Country for Old Men 8/10

Escape from L.A 6/10

War Dogs 7/10

Star Trek Beyond 8/10

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