“Kita Kita” (2017) Review – The Same Old Love Song

Kita-Kita

Warning: This review contains major spoilers for Kita Kita.

Romantic-Comedies are the kinds of films I have the least expectations for because of how fucking similar and shrewed they tend to be. Once in a while, a romantic movie breaks free of this mold, but Kita Kita is not that rarity.

Kita Kita follows the loveless tour guide Lea (Alessandra De Rossi) after she loses her eyesight following her stressful life in Japan. Tonyo (Empoy Margquez), Lea’s equally lovelorn neighbor, then decides to help her out. The two slowly fall in love, and learn that they have a lot more in common than they initially realized.

Though its appearance may fool some, Kita Kita is not the romantic independent darling they hoped for. Rather, it’s almost just as vapid and out-of-touch as the bullshit that mainstream Filipino studios shit on a regular basis because they’re that creatively bankrupt.

Banana X Heart

Kita Kita, at the least, is a movie that took dedication and effort to make. Kita Kita is gorgeously shot, and its cast is made up of actors who are right for their roles. Praise should be given to both De Rossi and Marquez for portraying their characters perfectly, one being a cynic and the other being a likable loser.

Despite a cliché-ridden script that’s burdened by predictable jokes and painful pick-up lines that feel at home in some whiny fucker’s Facebook page about unrequited love, the leads turn in compelling performances. Because of this, it’s hard not to get invested in their onscreen plights – even if it feels like the script was written by squeeing teen-aged brats who think Nicholas Sparks movies are intellectual.

But these saccharine cosmetics only serve as distractions from Kita Kita’s major faults. Though not the worst local movie ever made, Kita Kita’s is so problematic that it turned what could have been a disposable but somewhat entertaining romantic tale into something worse than expected.

Annoyance Is A Virtue

A problem with Romantic-Comedies is how the creepiest things are callously glossed over because of love. Specifically, Kita Kita romanticizes stalking among other things. By the second act, it’s revealed that Tonyo knows how to get close to Lea because he fucking stalked her and actively interfered in her personal affairs to advance his own benefit. But since Tonyo gets flattened by a fucking car, stalking’s romantic and not disturbing at all. To say that the movie’s lack of nuance or self-awareness is appalling would be redundant and rhetorical on my part.

Kita Kita was already a chore to sloth through because of its cheesy dialogue, but its second half made it a good example of everything wrong in cinematic romantic storytelling. Aside from the fact that he doesn’t look like a model, Tonyo is no different from the other entitled “Nice Guy” motherfuckers in the lead romantic role who always gets the girl by annoying the shit out of her or doing something questionable. Simply put, I’m not convinced that corny jokes, mangled English, and invading someone’s personal space will quickly get anyone a relationship. That kind of scenario belongs in self-indulgent escapist telenovelas and stories with self-insert protagonists aimed at those who learned their social skills from some shitty harem-themed anime, not a relatively grounded and realistic romantic comedy.

Even if Tonyo starts out with an innocent enough crush on Lea, this devolves into something on par with an obsession straight out of a sleazy 90’s thriller about mistresses and batshit-crazy nymphomaniacs. And yet, Tonyo’s actions are portrayed as playful, whimsical and quirky – complete with a droning cover of a sappy nostalgic song. Intentionally or otherwise, Kita Kita implies that as long as scoring some booty is the goal, the ends justify the means. If this is your idea of “romantic,” I don’t even want to know what the fuck is wrong with you.

Same Love, Different Day

To give credit where it’s due, Kita Kita is heartwarming at times and some jokes land. Bereft of cynicism, the filmmakers’ admirable passion and talent is obvious in each well-shot sequence. But a couple of decent scenes and great performances can not save Kita Kita from being, at best, forgettable and predictable. At worst, it’s emotionally manipulative, insufferable, and tedious.

Because someone is bound refute my thoughts on Kita Kita by getting personal, let me be clear and say that I am not opposed to romantic movies if they’re done right, like the impressive I’m Drunk, I Love YouAnd no, my lack of a significant other didn’t cloud my judgment, you predictable, straw-man fuck.

While Kita Kita has its moments, it’s a recycled story that does nothing to alleviate its framework’s fundamental problems. Just because Kita Kita was presented differently doesn’t mean it’s somehow automatically better than its romantic contemporaries, because it’s essentially the same old shit shoved in a better looking wrapper.


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‘Annabelle: Creation’ (2017) Review – Good Old Fashioned Demon Dolls

Annabelle-CreationLet’s cut to the chase: most prequels are shit, and Annabelle is one of the worst fucking prequels ever made. The first spin-off in The Conjuring franchise is painfully cynical and is so devoid of any creativity, that it took a fucking prequel to a prequel to fix things.

Annabelle: Creation reveals the origins of the infamous Annabelle doll when a group of orphaned girls discover a secret that was better left alone. As the demonic presence within the doll grows stronger with each passing day, the girls and their guardians must band together to survive the oncoming horrors in this lead-up to The Conjuring movies.

On paper, Creation is a recipe for disaster with a plot that seems perfect for a horror movie parody. But in execution, Creation manages to be better than expected by being an old-fashioned ghost ride that makes people shit their pants silly.

Old Reliable Scare-Tactics

The first Annabelle’s failure – aside from being a blatant money-grubbing piece of shit – was that there was nothing more to its creepy fucking doll gimmick. Its story was bland, lazy and pathetic, and the “scares” were just loud noises that are as fun of some punchable kid yelling at you when you least expect it. Long story short, it was a modern-day horror movie that was hurriedly crapped out to take advantage of the Halloween season and brain-dead audiences.

Creation, on the other hand, turns back the clock by being a horror movie where the story was written by actual creative filmmakers instead of some hack frauds in a studio’s advertising department. Though formulaic at best, Creation’s otherwise simple plot serves its purpose perfectly and portrays the soon-to-be victims as compelling humans you don’t want to see get fucked up by a demon doll. The scares may be predictable – especially to horror movie veterans – but each fright and surprise drives the story forward instead of forcibly stretching the movie’s run time.

The well-timed scares are complimented by amazing visuals and sound design, both of which turned the limited geography of a farm house into a claustrophobic nightmare that amplifies the movie’s already foreboding atmosphere. Since Creation was directed by the guy behind the sleeper hit Lights Out which relied on a good understanding of lighting and shadows, this should come as no surprise. But like many examples of the horror genre, Creation falters when audiences give the otherwise straightforward fright-fest too much thought.

Problematic and Demonic Mediocrity

To describe Creation as “basic” would be too kind because there is literally no subtext to speak of. Since Creation is just a simple horror movie that knows what it is, the lack of depth both helps and hinders what is an otherwise solid movie.

On a positive note, Creation is free from the need to establish itself as a part of the larger world of The Conjuring, allowing it to focus on its individual story. This makes Creation the equivalent of a random ghost story someone in The Conjuring may or may not have heard, thus strengthening its status as a justified spin-off in a shared cinematic universe of ghost stories and exorcisms. On the other hand, Creation is nothing more than a collection of creepy sequences and a certain porcelain doll that was ill-advisedly marketed to children.

The most disappointing thing about Creation is its underlying mediocrity. If more effort was exerted in its story and themes, Creation could’ve been a truly unnerving demonic tale in the vein of The Witch. Instead, Creation’s lack of thought turns it into a standard horror movie and an accidental comedy, where the demonic antagonist comes off as a petty, cross-dressing asshole who just fucks with crippled people for the yucks. Though this opinion is indeed subjective, it fucked up the tension and gave me more laughs than frights.

A Horrific Simplicity

While Creation has its share of stupidity where characters could’ve avoided the horror by using some common fucking sense and too many unintentionally humorous moments, it’s still a solid popcorn movie that’s as scary as a carnival’s ghost train.

And I mean that as a compliment – Creation may be nothing more than a disposable horror movie, but it does exactly what it set out to do and gives audiences what they want. For that dedication alone, Creation deserves praise. Especially since most mainstream “movies” these days either set up shitty franchises nobody wanted or whore out by letting excessive product placement get shoved up their asses.

Annabelle: Creation is the perfect, textbook example of how to make a generic yet effective horror movie. Though its bare-bones story leaves a lot to be desired, this prequel to a prequel is better than it has any right to be and reminds people why collectively shitting your pants in fright is fun in the cinemas.


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‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ (2017) Review – Swords and Seizures in Stone

King-Arthur

The epic tales of King Arthur and the knights of the round table may be some of the most recognizable stories in fiction, but the titular monarch and his friends don’t really get that much love on the big screen. Which is why a cinematic reboot directed by the guy behind British gangland cult-hits was totally necessary.

In King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, the back-alley scoundrel Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) discovers his true heritage as the rightful king of Camelot. Now wielding the magical sword of Excalibur and backed by a resistance movement, Arthur must face his destiny and reclaim the throne from his traitorous uncle, Vortigern (Jude Law).

All jokes aside, King Arthur is a good example of how well-written ideas don’t always translate to the big screen. King Arthur had interesting ways to tackle its source material, but it still screwed up almost everything else.

Knights of the Edgy Table

For the most part, the original Arthurian lore is a collection of straightforward heroics. Merely retreading these chivalrous tales won’t cut it with today’s audiences and trends – especially since definitive Arthurian adaptations like Excalibur (1981) already exist. If there was a fantasy epic that deserved a retelling, it was King Arthur’s.

This is where Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur shines: reinterpreting Arthur’s origins into an edgy dark fantasy helped Legend of the Sword stand out as its own stab at Arthurian myths. Though this led to predictable elements like a standard good versus evil plot or nonsensical bullshit like a final fight between Arthur and Skeletor from He-Man or a giant fucking snake, King Arthur should be given credit for having some creativity.

The changes affected the characters too, who are far from the smug assholes who have dominated the fantasy genre ever since Game of Thrones became a thing. Arthur and company may be a bunch of stereotypes, but they at least belong in this grimy take on a familiar epic. The self-serious and obviously evil antagonists, though, looked lost in this seedy take on Camelot. If Vortigern and his cohorts were concerned with ruling Camelot instead of gaining bullshit evil magic, King Arthur would have felt more like Ritchie’s version of Arthurian yarns instead of a Medieval-themed Marvel movie knock-off.

Ritchie’s Epic Problems

King Arthur implodes because of how poorly executed it is. The already formulaic story of Arthur’s journey to becoming a hero isn’t helped by tiresome plot cliches and tropes that could be seen coming a mile away, turning any attempt at emotion into shitty melodrama.

Ritchie’s direction is also jarring, since he’s at his best when he tells small-scale stories about a gangland – not in a massive blockbuster fantasy epic. This leads to conflicting tones and the inkling that King Arthur feels like two movies: a run-on-the-mill fantasy epic that apes The Lord of the Rings, and Ritchie’s signature fare. It’s obvious that Ritchie cares for one style over the other, turning the movie into an inconsistent mess where individual parts are better developed than the whole. You know a medieval epic is fucked when the swordfights induce more boredom than a bunch of smarmy stereotypes shit-talking for the nth time.

The editing is fucking atrocious and incomprehensible too, and this proved detrimental to the movie. The quick-cuts and editing tricks used to spice up Ritchie’s fast-talking scenes don’t work with the battles that feature magic and giant elephants. Instead, it looks like some coked-up asshole shoved the movie in a blender and left people confused as to what the fuck is going on. It’s easy to get lost in the sparse action sequences more than the lore, and given how surprisingly intricate the latter isthat’s saying something.

A Soon to be Forgotten Legend

Unlike what most critics claimed, I don’t think King Arthur is this year’s worst cinematic offering, but it certainly is one of the year’s most fucking physically painful experiences I’ve had while watching a movie. Dreary visuals and epileptic editing turned this movie into an overlong clusterfuck that sucked out whatever entertainment value it could’ve had, and it’s a movie I wouldn’t bother revisiting in the future.

The worst thing about King Arthur is the amount of wasted potential it had. Revamping King Arthur’s story into a dark fantasy was good on its own, but it’s an idea that was better executed on paper than on film. Instead of being a cool epic that had Ritchie’s classic underdog swagger, King Arthur is a relentless assault on the senses that’s as formulaic as any failed blockbuster franchise can get.

It’s been said that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was meant to kick-start a franchise of six movies set in Camelot. Thank fucking Christ that this will never come to pass, since the last thing audiences deserve are more Excalibur-induced migraines.


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‘Atomic Blonde’ (2017) Review – Neon Colored Blandness

Atomic-Blonde

Every now and then, a movie comes along and frustrates you because it had everything going for it, and yet it fucks it all up. Such is the case for Atomic Blonde, a spy movie from one of the masterminds of the impressive John Wick movies.

Berlin, 1989: the dying Cold War has yet to end for the spies entrenched in the German capital. Here, MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is tasked to recover a microfilm that could expose the identities of all Allied spies before it falls into Soviet hands. But upon arriving in Germany, Broughton learns that her latest assignment is more dangerous and twisted than expected.

Despite a title that references an explosive force that can wipe out an entire city or more, Atomic Blonde is as explosive as a dud. Theron’s latest starring vehicle may not be horrible, but it sure as shit could have been a lot better.

Random Atomic Bursts

As expected from John Wick co-director David Leitch, Atomic Blonde boasts some of the most visceral action scenes of this year. Anyone who feels that the action genre lost its balls will be in for a blast in Atomic Blonde. Each fight is as brutal as it should be, and this added sense of realism makes them stand out. Sure, it may be fun to watch Theron kick ass, but the ensuing bruises and cuts are anything but exciting. If anything, the injuries add more to Broughton’s character and prove that vulnerable badasses are the best kind of cinematic badass motherfuckers.

Helping elevate the action is a cast made up of talented actors who give their respective roles their all, despite the formulaic plot they have to follow. Theron delivers a subdued yet charismatic performance as Broughton, and she interacts with the likes of the eccentric Percival (James McAvoy) and the alluring Lasalle (Sofia Boutella) just to name a few. To their credit, the  supporting cast does more than necessary to make the seedy underworld of Atomic Blonde come alive.

But as good as these elements may sound, they do not make up the whole of Atomic Blonde. Sadly, the movie utilizes these exciting scenes and sequences on a sporadic basis, instead focusing on too much filler. When Broughton shoots people in the face, it’s entertaining but before that, audiences need to slog to god knows how much bullshit.

Conspiracies Spread Thin

For a conspiracy-driven thriller like Atomic Blonde, exposition and informative dialogue are a must but this particular Cold War espionage tale takes these necessities to an unnecessary extreme. Before audiences could make sense of the clusterfuck of a plot that includes double-crossing on all sides and too many ulterior motives, Atomic Blonde dumps even more twists on an already needlessly convoluted conspiracy. Though I was able to follow most of these plot threads, piecing them together felt more like a chore than the smart adrenaline-fueled ride Atomic Blonde should have been.

Complicating matters is the movie’s inconsistent tone, which is the product of combining two very different types of spy movies into one. While Atomic Blonde may have a serious cut-throat spy game at its core, it still wants to be a pulpy romp that features colorful spies with snazzy codenames. These tones clash in the worst ways possible, where the procedural segments with Broughton trying to unravel the mystery become filler between the action scenes that are more at home in something without a stick up its ass.

By trying to have the grounded grit of any Bourne entry and the comical insanity of the Kingsman movies, Atomic Blonde loses sight of its own identity and becomes a neon-tinged hodgepodge of recent spy movie trends. Considering how much effort was put into its visuals, it’s a shame that Atomic Blonde didn’t have the story to back it up.

Broughton Misses Her Mark

Atomic Blonde was advertised as a kinetic thrill ride that would have been the female counterpart to Keanu Reeves’ John Wickand while this Cold War spy game shines in parts, it mostly fell flat. Theron’s spy feature is not bad, but it’s a fucking drag to watch and it’s doubly harder to give a shit about what’s going on – despite the occasional face shooting and witty editing tricks featuring a sweet ’80s-themed soundtrack.

The worst thing about this movie is how serviceable it is and nothing more. Back in the days of the VHS players, Atomic Blonde would have made for the perfect rental that would be forgotten after a weekend of bumming around and too much junk food.

With a tighter script and better direction, Atomic Blonde could have been fucking amazing. Instead, it’s just a disposable and interchangeable Cold War thriller that just so happens to have a large budget and some good actors in it.


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‘Dunkirk’ (2017) Review – Nolan Makes A Documentary

Dunkirk

World War 2 movies and their simplistic moral codes have been out of the spotlight for a while, and with good reason: the subgenre has run its course and there’s almost nothing left to tell. And yet, some filmmaker finds a new story to tell, which brings us to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. 

Based on the real-life Operation Dynamo from World War 2, Dunkirk takes place during the mass-evacuation of 400,000 British and French soldiers from the titular French beach. Dunkirk focuses on the efforts of British soldiers and civilians on land, sea and air to save as many stranded Allied troops as they can before the German army reaches them.

Dunkirk may be a new addition to a tired, old genre, yet it still stands out not through its technical feats alone, but by the fact that it’s both a rescue movie and a technical marvel. But standing out is not all it takes to make a great war movie, which Dunkirk is not despite looking majestic as fuck.

One Hell of a Rescue

The best thing about Dunkirk is how quickly it drops audiences into the heat of battle. Unlike most other World War 2 movies or war movies in general, there’s a lack of build-up and filler in Dunkirk. The movie could be described as a two hour battle sequence, and this wouldn’t be an unfounded claim. To put it in context, Dunkirk opens by having hapless motherfuckers get shot for a few minutes, right before the screeching Stuka dive-bombers release their deadly payloads on the soldiers. And all these takes place in the movie’s first ten minutes or so.

In contrast to other large-scale movies where overlong action scenes can murder the living shit out of people’s senses and brains, Dunkirk keeps its pacing and tension properly balanced throughout its entire run time despite lacking breaks in between the immersive, white knuckle sequences that were expertly brought to life with amazing practical (and minimal digital) effects. Leave it to Nolan to turn the act of a desperate, tactical retreat into a tension-filled ride on glorious IMAX screens.

Dunkirk focuses more on the events of Operation Dynamo rather than the heated yet iconic politics of World War 2, making it a different kind of depiction of the time period. This is hammered in by the lack of patriotic rabble from the Allied soldiers and the absence of any Nazis despite their constant attacks and the unspoken rule of cinema that demands Nazis to be in every fucking World War 2 movie. This ramps up the foreboding atmosphere in Dunkirk, further amplifying the hopelessness and determination of the soldiers stuck on a beach that’s literally a day away from their homeland.

Dunkirk: The Best War Reenactment Ever Filmed

While Dunkirk scores perfectly in all of its technicals and visuals, it fails to exert an equal amount of effort in its human aspect. Nolan has been accused of lacking humanity and emotion in his films, and while this is something I don’t personally agree with since parts of the schmaltzy yet otherwise decent Interstellar almost made me cry like a bitch, it’s apt in the case of Dunkirk. 

The desperation of Britain’s evacuation efforts may be appropriately tense and the circumstances the soldiers find themselves in are frightening, but the fact that none of the audience members I saw the movie with could name any of the characters should mean something. As mentioned earlier, Dunkirk has its priorities set on showing the events of Operation Dynamo but in the process, forgot to have compelling characters for the audiences to follow or even give a fuck about. The closest there was to a character and not some stand-in was the pilot played by Tom Hardy, but again, everyone just referred to him as “Tom Hardy” rather than whatever his character’s actual name was.

Dunkirk thankfully lacks the cliches and stereotypes of a Hollywood war movie, but this robs Nolan’s latest work of any character and personality it may have had. Realism in film does have its appeal, but a strict adherence to it can lead to a dull movie that betrays the very notion of cinematic storytelling. Add in a jarring editing sequence in the film’s middle, and Dunkirk feels more like an expensive war reenactment that was spliced in between the interviews of a TV-documentary about Operation Dynamo rather than an actual movie.

World War IMAX

Dunkirk is far from perfect and I may forget about it in a couple of weeks, but it should be appreciated for even existing. Original movies of this scale that lack superheroes are a rarity, and Nolan still made one regardless. By all accounts, the only reason why Dunkirk was made is because Nolan told Warner Brothers he wanted to make a World War 2 movie, to which the producers replied by creaming their pants in unison.

If the story of Dunkirk beach was left in the hands of a lesser director, the end result may have been a melodramatic piece of shit that was punctuated by a needless love story and too many explosions. But with Nolan, Dunkirk is a slightly disappointing yet visually-stunning technical feat that pays respect to the actual mass evacuation of 1940.

Dunkirk is the equivalent of a well-made World War 2 themed music video set to Hans Zimmer’s grand orchestral score instead of a true war epic, but it’s still an impressive IMAX tech-demo that deserves respect.


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‘Cars 3′ (2017) Review – The Geriatric Good Ol’ Cars

cars-3

The Cars movies (and its spin-offs, Planes) are a strange oddity in Pixar Studios’ otherwise strong line-up of animated features, since it exists for marketings’ sake alone and it doesn’t even fit cohesively into the theory of the “Pixar Shared Universe.” Cars 3, the grand finale of the series, emphasizes this by not only being another goddamned two-hour toy commercial, but by being out of touch as well.

In Cars 3, legendary racer Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) realizes that his racing days are coming to a close. With the arrival of a new generation of racers like Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) who are slowly taking over the racing circuit, Lightning decides that he won’t bow out quietly and races for one last time.

Cars 3 joins Finding Dory and Toy Story 3 as an epilogue to nostalgic Pixar titles, but unlike those two, Cars 3 is strangely bitter. Where the movies about a forgetful blue fish and a toy Tom Hanks bid a fond farewell to those who grew up watching their adventures, Cars 3 seemingly hates its viewers for even watching it.

The Two Sides of Cars 3

Cars 3 sports the best animation of the Cars movies. When the races commence, the animation comes alive and it’s hard not to get sucked into the visuals onscreen. A lot of effort was obviously put into realizing the races of the movie, but it would have been better if an equal amount of hard work was used in the writing department as well.

This movie feels like a strange amalgamation of two wildly different scripts, since its tone jumps all over the fucking place. Cars 3 starts of bleakly to signal the end of McQueen’s generation, before jumping into an hour-long whimsical training montage that comes with some heartfelt moments courtesy of McQueen’s young trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). It’s as if Cars 3 started with the intention of imitating sports dramas like Creed or The Wrestler before giving up halfway through, at which point it decided to revert to being a typical kids’ movie where the writers couldn’t give two fucks about originality.

To call Cars 3 formulaic would be too nice, since it follows the standard sports movie formula to the letter. To be specific, anyone who has seen a Rocky movie (especially Rocky IV i.e. Rocky vs the Cold War) will know which narrative paths Pixar’s latest will choose. But where the Rocky movies balance equal shares of drama and camp to get their respective messages across, Cars 3 has no goddamned idea of what it wants to do outside of scolding at the young ‘uns for being young.

The Paradox of Aging Cars

The strangest thing about Cars 3 – and the Cars series by extension – is how seriously it takes itself. Cars 3 takes this to the logical extreme by trying to be a commentary about generations, and Millennials’ lack of respect for their elders. This is hammered in Jackson Storm, who’s depicted as the cocky rival racer to hate because he trains with the latest technological advancements. If you wanted more from his character, then you’re shit out of luck because that’s all there is to him.

Meanwhile, McQueen is shown as the wise mentor figure despite being a cocky asshole himself who can’t be bothered to get on with the times because apparently, using modern technology means you’re a lazy motherfucker. A better Cars 3 script would have had McQueen and Ramirez combining the best of their generations to defeat the Millennial caricature that is Storm while learning about one another. But alas, that’s too hip and young an idea for the true classic that is Cars 3, which goes the extra mile in self-indulgent nostalgia pandering by setting most of its middle act in the Deep fucking South. Here, the “real, good old-fashioned America” (i.e. the ’50s) is not just alive and well, but put on a mile-high ivory pedestal. Cars 3’s solution to everything is to take ten steps backwards not because an old aged idea can be improved, but because the wankers in the retirement home said so.

Cars 3 may have been conceptualized as a clash between old and new racers who eventually learn how to harmoniously co-exist. But instead, it takes an unnecessary shit on the idiotic young folks and demands that the status quo established by McQueen and his generation be maintained for sentimentality’s sake and nothing more.

The Problem With Old-School

Cars 3 is a movie that relishes in reliving its glory days even if the Cars movies never had any to begin with – outside of maybe selling a fuckton of McQueen toys to kids. This movie is beyond preachy, making it the cinematic equivalent of watching an old man rant about how much better things were in his day because he couldn’t figure out how to open the fucking web browser. And by the way, this is supposed to be a family picture.

But as much as I may rail on Cars 3, it’s actually not a horrible movie. Objectively, Cars 3 has its moments, yet it will never make it to my list of personal favorites and it’s pretty weak by Pixar standards. But by god, its efforts to be a timely commentary about “them disrespectful kids” are so clumsy and laughable that they become adorable and enjoyable. Maybe the movie (and its writers) wouldn’t be so fucking uptight if it got its head out of its ass and tried adapting to an endlessly changing world while guiding the younger folks when in need instead of wagging fingers and chaining itself to the past.

Coming from a guy who was only looking forward to seeing Larry the Cable Truck blurt out his catchphrase when he entered the cinema, Cars 3 gave a whole lot more than expected and I’m not one to complain about free bullshit.


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‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ (2017) Review – Ape-pocalypse Now, Please

War-for-the-Planet-of-the-ApesReboots and remakes have a negative reputation, and with good reason. Revived properties tend to pale in comparison to their predecessors or just fucking suck and insult their source materials. Surprisingly, the Planet of the Apes reboot/prequel trilogy remained a consistent exception to the rule, and this legacy is carried on in War for the Planet for the Apes. 

Two years after the events of Dawn for the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his loyal apes are on the run from a ruthless soldier known as “The Colonel” (Woody Harrelson). After a brutal attack from the Colonel’s forces inflicts heavy casualties on Caesar’s followers, the messianic ape embarks on the path of vengeance that will decide which race of sentient mammals will inherit the planet.

Given the glowing reception of the previous installments (Rise and Dawn), the overall good quality of War seemed like a no-brainer. What people weren’t expecting, though, was for War to not only be a grand finale but to be one of the best fucking blockbusters made in recent memory.

No Monkeying Around

An issue with the previous Apes prequel movies was their misguided focus. The real stars of these movies were Caesar and the other apes, but for some fucking reason, the prequels paid too much attention to the flat human stereotypes walking around in the background. The apes were well-developed characters who evoked so much emotion through body language. Despite their limited vocabulary, they had a lot more interesting shit to say and do when compared to the boring human characters who only existed to be generic dumbasses or assholes.

War corrects theis by giving an entire movie to Caesar and the apes, allowing them to relish the spotlight that was previously denied of them. This gives Serkis and the other talented motion-capture actors behind the apes their time to shine, as the fledging ape society is realized with incredible acting and visual effects. In contrast, the few speaking human characters are forced to up their game and be more than just cardboard cut-outs. Thankfully, characters like the Colonel are compelling and memorable, since they make the most of their limited screen time.

The worst that could be said about the cast of War is that they’re all based on stereotypes. Anyone who’s seen enough post-apocalyptic movies would know how each character would act and behave, making certain arcs, events and deaths predictable. Archetypes such as the perfect leader, a plucky comic relief, a saintly child, an evil fucking military man, and others are present, but War shows them in such a way that they feel both justified and relevant to the story – a rare feat that most modern lazy blockbusters don’t even bother trying to do.

Humans Suck: As Written by Humans

From the start, prequels to Planet of the Apes (1968) were something I didn’t take kindly to. This was because the ambiguity behind mankind’s fall and ape-kind’s rise was an appeal all on its own, and any explanation to these events would take away the themes and mystery of the setting. All that was known in the Apes franchise is that mankind somehow killed itself and became stupid before the ape bystanders took over.

The prequels tied the histories of both races together and claimed that humanity was wiped out by some virus born from a faulty vaccine that gave humans the flu but granted apes intelligence. These films blamed humanity’s demise on mankind’s scientific progress and the apes’ natural biology, implying that humankind was too altruistic and idealistic for its own good – thus betraying the nihilistic central theme of the Apes series where humans were simply too fucking stupid to live. Thankfully, War brings this old theme back and returns to the franchise’s pessimistic yet thought-provoking roots.

Without giving away too much, humanity’s end in War is more cathartic than dramatic, and the apes’ rise is the only logical conclusion. The previous installments tried to justify that apes were better than humans by pitting the best apes against the blandest and/or shittiest humans, and this “moral” argument fell flat on its face. This time around, the apes don’t give a fuck about the destructive humans, and the races’ respective, eventual fates becomes more apt and poignant as a result. War felt like an old-school Apes movie rather than a generic post-apocalyptic movie, and this is a return to form that’s greatly appreciated.

This Damn, Dirty Ape War

War could be considered an experimental blockbuster thanks to its approach to the usual action-packed summer movie formula and its reliance on digital apes with basic vocabulary as its protagonists, and these risks paid off spectacularly. Not only does War provide a perfect ending to the competent prequels and serve as a fitting lead to the original movies, but it stands as one of the best blockbuster movies made in recent memory.

Visually stunning,  smart and better than a prequel movie has any right to be, War is the heady kind of blockbuster movie that has been sorely absent from the movie landscape for the longest time. Blockbuster movies should be entertaining, but they shouldn’t just be forgettable popcorn fodder where shit explodes to no end. War for the Planet of the Apes, on the other hand, proves that blockbusters can still have their napalm fetish and jokes about literal monkey shit while leaving audiences with a lot to think about.


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‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ (2017) Review – Another Generation, Another Spider

spiderman

After making a scene-stealing appearance in Capt. America: Civil War, it was only a matter of time before Spider-Man returned to the cinematic spotlight. Too bad his latest outing is more of an afterthought than something a pop-culture icon truly deserves.

Spider-Man: Homecoming follows Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as he impatiently waits for a chance to prove himself to his impromptu mentor, Tony Stark (Robery Downey Jr.). His time finally comes when the webslinger uncovers Adrian Toomes’ aka The Vulture (Michael Keaton) arms dealing operation. But Parker soon learns that he may have bitten more than he could chew when balancing his high school life with his superhero duties proves harder than expected.

Homecoming finds itself in a unique position, since it’s the only Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) entry made in the shadow of previous, well-known films: Sam Raimi’s critically-acclaimed Spider-Man trilogy and the fucking stupid The Amazing Spider-Man movies. But when given the chance to surpass its predecessors, Homecoming gives the bare minimum amount of effort before settling for mediocrity.

Highschool Life, Highschool Fun

Just like every Marvel stand-alone movie, Homecoming combines its superhero antics with another genre (ex. Capt. America: The Winter Soldier is a superhero and an espionage movie). In this case, Homecoming emphasizes Parker’s highschool life in the style of old teen-centric movies. Where previous Spider-Man films dedicated roughly 30 minutes to Parker’s formative years before cutting to life in the Daily Bugle, Homecoming gives his teen days an entire movie – and it works.

Not only does Parker’s mundane student life reinvent Spider-man’s supporting cast in a relevant, diverse manner which leads to fun downtime moments, but it also doubles as the perfect contrast to the usual bombastic superhero fare. This came to a point where the serviceable action scenes became a hindrance to the character development and Parker’s school life, which were infinitely more interesting than whatever bullshit Vulture and his friends were up to. Homecoming gives a good look at the MCU from a bystander’s point of view – a perspective that has been sorely missing in the 20 fucking Marvel movies or so.

A criticism of the superhero genre as a whole is that it feels elitist, accidentally glorifying the idea of a select (and privileged) few defending the lowly masses who are too dumb to wipe their assholes after a shit. Homecoming acknowledges this with its bystanders’ perspective, but fails to capitalize on it. This turns Spider-Man’s return into just another Marvel movie that just so happens to have spiders and “Penis Parker” in it.

Working Class, My Ass

Homecoming was billed as the “blue-collar” approach to the MCU since its primary antagonist Toomes was a regular working Joe who got screwed over by Stark after the thwarted Chitauri invasion from The Avengers (2012). Rather than try to dominate and/or destroy the world like almost every dumbass comic movie villain, Toomes just runs a small racket to scrape a living for himself and his accomplices. Interesting as this premise may have been, Homecoming is a blue-collar movie as much as Ant-Man was a heist movie: it’s a description that only fits the advertising.

This “blue-collar” approach is only brought up whenever Toomes is onscreen, and nowhere else. A smarter, creative, and daring Homecoming script would have had Parker, who himself is from a working class environment, question his adoration of a controversial public figure like Stark due to his unintentionally callous attitude towards those below his economic status. Stark would then have to prove himself to Parker, and the two would understand that Toomes doesn’t represent all Working Joes despite his claims and motivations. Instead, Toomes is portrayed as a spiteful petty thief who must be stopped not because what he’s doing is illegal and dangerous, but because he’s fucking with Parker’s homeboy Stark.

The ending of Homecoming hammers in the movie’s inconsequential nature when everything is wrapped up just in time for the mandatory happy Marvel ending that promises future superhero adventures. Without spoiling too much, Homecoming concludes on a hollow uplifting note where the status quo has been successfully defended and the most generic cliches about heroism were espoused. Nothing too dire occurred and nothing too drastic that could shake or strengthen moral foundations and friendships was learned. Instead, the day is saved from some bland bad motherfucker wearing funky power-armor and more Marvel movies are coming your way.

Spider-Man, Does Whatever Marvel Demands

As harsh as I may sound, Homecoming is far from bad and it’s one of the better stand-alone Marvel movies. There’s a distinct lack of connections to the larger MCU and the human moments are fun to watch, making Homecoming stand strong as a solo-feature in contrast to boring shit like the Thor movies prior to the upcoming Ragnarok. 

But this doesn’t change the fact that Homecoming is just another MCU movie that’s a slave to the superhero formula. Rather than go the extra mile and delve deep into its ideas, Homecoming scrapes the surface of its core conflicts to prioritize the quirky young adult shenanigans geared towards a younger audience.

Homecoming is a serviceable time-killer that corrects the errors of The Amazing Spider-Man, but pales in comparison to Raimi’s Spider-Man. While it can stand on its own, it’s still forgettable and disposable. Ultimately,  Spider-Man: Homecoming represents not only another wasted narrative opportunity that could have taken advantage of the superhero genre’s foundations, but Marvel’s continued refusal to take risks.


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‘Wonder Woman’ (2017) Review – Wonders of Wonders

Wonder-Woman

After a string of disappointments, a lot of pressure was on Wonder Woman to not only impress but to redeem the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Needless to say, the cinematic debut of DC’s lasso-wielding heroine did not fail to impress.

Set against the backdrop of World War I, Wonder Woman shows how Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) became the Amazonian warrior who saved the world. After Capt. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands into the Amazonian homeland of Themyscira, Diana follows him back to the outside world to bring an end to the war to end all wars by hunting down the god of war himself, Ares.

When compared to a neon-colored ode to schlock and a two Superman movies that were so far up their own asses that the dialogue unsurprisingly sounded like bullshit, it’s easy to call Diana’s origin movie a cinematic masterpiece, but that would be unfair to its individual merits.

Old-School Super Heroics

Wonder Woman has everything a good superhero movie should have: a compelling lead, a good roster of supporting characters, kick-ass action scenes, a balanced tone, and most importantly, a great cinematic origin story. This may seem like a tall order, but Wonder Woman does a fine job of balancing everything. Each element compliments the other, making a simple yet engaging origin story.

It’s hard to not like Gal Gadot as Diana, since she effortlessly turns the Amazonian warrior into someone who’s easy to relate to. As Diana learns more about the world, the audience sees what lies beneath the badass motherfucker she is today.  She may go through some predictable character arcs, but Diana’s transformation from naive newcomer to experienced heroine earns the right to show these moments. If given to another director, Diana’s banter and eventual romance with Steve may have come out as cheesy or corny, but in the hands of director Patty Jenkins, it comes out as heartfelt and emotional in Wonder Woman.

Technically speaking, the worst that could be said about Wonder Woman is that the middle act needed trimming, the supporting cast needed more time to shine, and the movie follows an all too familiar formula. It’s hard for Wonder Woman to stand out among other superhero origin stories, but what sets it apart is how enjoyable yet dramatic it is. Where other superhero origin movies lazily follow a checklist before calling it a day, Wonder Woman shakes things up by doing everything the DCEU wanted to do but failed miserably at.

The Right Shade of Dark

Wonder Woman doesn’t feel like a DCEU movie, and that’s what makes it worth watching. Gone is the needless cynicism of Man of Steel, the juvenile angst of Batman V Superman, and the chaotic clusterfuck of Suicide Squad. In place of these crippling flaws is a well-structured origin story about a heroine who struggles to make sense of the new world she finds herself in.

The DCEU was proudly heralded as the adult-oriented counterpart to the family-friendly Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but this shared universe was as “adult” as what a teenage edgelord lurking in the comments sections might say. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, has no such pretense and embraces the fact that it’s based on a comic book, not a simplistic, college-grade understanding of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Combining its comic book origins with a good understanding of how to tackle heavy themes regarding mankind’s evils – which is amplified by the general senselessness of World War I: a historical conflict rarely seen in film due to its amorality – Wonder Woman speaks a timely message that hasn’t been heard in most superhero movies and gives the movie an unexpected emotional weight.

Even if said theme is debated by Diana and the movie’s overall antagonist through a super-powered fistfight with cliché-ridden dialogue that would feel at home in a Saturday Morning Cartoon featuring talking cartoon animals, Wonder Woman comes out as sincere instead of preachy or stupidly bleak. This is due to how Wonder Woman was written as an even-handed approach and stab at the various issues it tackles, resulting in a fair and balanced movie that will leave viewers thinking about some seriously heavy shit by the time the end credits roll.

A New DCEU

The biggest fault of the previous DCEU movies was that they failed to entertain and inspire people, despite each entry having its own dedicated set of fans. Wonder Woman achieves both of these goals and creates a great superhero origin story that just fell short of achieving perfection. Diana’s story of self-discovery is a fun, colorful and hopeful movie that shows the best and worst of humanity in all of the ways a good superhero movie should.

For those like myself who were burned out by the DCEU and were close to giving up on any future DC movie that wasn’t animated, Wonder Woman will rekindle that confidence and excitement first felt when the teaser trailer for Batman V Superman deceived people into thinking that DC’s first major cinematic crossover would be anything but a pretentious piece of shit. Simply put, Wonder Woman is fucking awesome.

Hopefully, Wonder Woman won’t just earn a profit but will pave the path for more equally well-made DCEU movies that can inspire their respective target audiences to do more than fanatically defend some of the worst superhero movies of recent memory.


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‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ (2017) Review – The Bland Finale

POTC-5

Having grown up with the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, news of a fifth entry inspired more doubt than interest in me. As far as I was concerned, the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow ended with the third movie, At World’s End, and Dead Men Tell No Tales does little to change that sentiment.

Down on his luck and past his prime, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) must hunt down the legendary Trident of Poseidon to save himself from his long deceased rival Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) – who came back from the dead to exact vengeance. Other parties (both friend and foe) have their eyes on the Trident too, and Captain Sparrow must beat them to the chase if he wants to sail the seas again.

To be fair, Dead Men Tell No Tales is not a steaming piece of shit like the fourth Pirates entry On Stranger Tides was, but its existence still begs the question why sequels were made after At World’s End. 

Back to Basic Piracy

Dead Men Tell No Tales thankfully learned from the mistakes of On Stranger Tides, and this should somewhat please those who were unimpressed by a movie with a main villain who had the ability to control fucking ropes. For the most part, the fifth Pirates movie did its job of rekindling the spark of the older Pirates movies that was missing in its immediate predecessor

If Dead Men Tell No Tales feels familiar, this was intentional and it’s not just you being an observant, cynical asshole who’s seen too many movies like yours truly. In an attempt to revive the Pirates movies, Dead Men Tell No Tales borrows the entire set-up of The Curse of the Black Pearl while sprinkling it with the sequels’ best elements.

From killer ghost sailors to Captain Jack Sparrow being relegated to a supporting character for a pair of lovebirds no one gives a fuck about, Dead Men Tell No Tales brings the Pirates movies back to their roots. Rather than try to surpass the previous movies, the latest sequel narrows its focus to a smaller cast and a chase for a mythical object not unlike the Heart of Davy Jones from Dead Man’s Chest. 

Dead Men Tell No Tales feels and looks like a proper Pirates movie. But besides being a homage to the franchise’s better days, Dead Men Tell No Tales doesn’t have much else to it. Despite being an improvement over On Stranger Tides, this sequel is still wholly unnecessary and worse, lifeless.

Apologies of the High Seas

The common sentiment among Pirates fans is that the series ended perfectly with At World’s End, and whoever thought On Stranger Tides was a good idea is a dumb motherfucker. If Dead Men Tell No Tales is anything to go by, it’s possible that even the cast and crew agreed with fans’ complaints.

Everything in Dead Men Tell No Tales feels obligatory – probably because everyone on board stopped caring years ago and are just present for a paycheck. Minus Captain Salazar, none of the characters give a fuck. Even Captain Jack Sparrow felt like a bumbling parody of his once clever self, as if he had better things to do than look for a magical ocean fork. The stakes are nonexistent because the characters’ flimsy motivations for acquiring the Trident are interchangeable. That, and everyone just decides they want the damned thing before knowing what the hell it does in the first place.

Even the movie itself felt as if it were just following a checklist instead of showing a brand new adventure. The humor was repetitive and forced, and the plot was as predictable as any forgettable disposable summer adventure movie could get. The biggest fault of On Stranger Tides was continuing a story that already ended, and Dead Men Tell No Tales remedies this by tying up every loose end possible while acting like the fourth movie never happened. Though this apology is appreciated, Dead Men Tell No Tales still missed the chance to end the Pirates movies on a high note.

Laying the Pearl to Rest

Advertised as “The Final Adventure,” Dead Men Tell No Tales doesn’t bother giving the franchise a proper send-off, preferring to quickly get shit over and done with so it could go home and get hammered on rum while recalling the glory days of the Pirates movies.

Despite these, Dead Men Tell No Tales is still watchable and even heartfelt in the right places. It may be cynical, lazy and generic when compared to the creative madness of the original trilogy, but at the very least it’s a competent, serviceable movie that won’t offend anyone over its 129 minute run – the shortest runtime of a Pirates movie to date. If this doesn’t emphasize the feeling that Dead Men Tell No Tales wanted to leave cinemas in a hurry, then I don’t know what else could.

The best thing about Dead Men Tell No Tales is its intent to end the Pirates movies once and for all. Pirates of the Caribbean has been going on longer than it should have, and Dead Men Tell No Tales accepted this hard reality. There’s nothing else to be told in the story, and it’s better for Captain Jack Sparrow to heroically sail into the memories of fans and never come back, because his legend is better remembered than being needlessly prolonged.


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