Shenyongo’s Movie Review: A Cure for Wellness
While I had earlier said I would do a review of this movie, I had almost hesitated to see the movie due to the negative to mixed reception the movie was getting; the movie currently holds around 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. However after some thought yesterday I decided to just go with my gut feeling and watch the movie. After having seen the movie, I can say that I have no regrets in seeing this at the theater (even though there were only a few other people in the theater room since a Cure for Wellness is bombing…..). While the movie does have its flaws, it also has some strengths that lift it up thanks to Gore Verbinski’s directing. So how does the overall movie stack up?
STORY (little spoilers)
The basic premise of the movie is as follows:
An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps, but soon suspects that the spa’s treatments are not what they seem.
The movie starts off strong as we are introduced to a view of black towering skyscrapers, where we then witness an overworking employee (whom we are given some brief information about such as having family) get a heart attack and die. This employee is immediately replaced by the main character, played by Dane DeHaan, whom is an ambitious young executive that seeks to get to the top, which really does a good job at showing the heartless environment of the corporate environment and plays into some of the ideas the movie is trying to express; in fact what prompts him to try to retrieve the CEO is the board members threatening to pin unsightly business deals made by the company on him. When he arrives at the spa and is forced to stay due to a “broken leg”, he slowly begins to suspect that there might be something sinister going on in the spa, which might have some connection to the experiments of the Baron who lived in the original foundations 200 years ago as well as to a girl who has lived at the spa her whole life.
A common criticism the movie is getting from reviewers is that the story is predictable, poorly structured, and too long. While there are plot details that somewhat make me scratch my head, I honestly felt the story was overall fine. Personally I was fine with the length of the movie (2.5 hour runtime); I never felt the narrative was over staying it’s welcome. The main character, while not instantly the most likable, is understandable and he is a character that is you can root for as he tries to figure WTF is going on at this weird spa and there are moments of sympathy and humanity in him. The mystery, along with its twists and turns, while derivative is well executed, with certain details being foreshadowed throughout the film allowing the twists to have a decent pay off. If anything I would say the flaw of the story is that it juggles too many ideas. Now granted the narrative is a lot more focused than say The Lone Ranger, however on one hand it is exploring the ideas of the dangers of ambition, as well as the use of humans as merely tools (as both the corporations and the main villain are shown doing), and on another hand it is about the villain’s quest to create a “pure human breed” though incest (not making that up….). Nevertheless I can appreciate what the narrative is trying to do.
However, even with a somewhat flawed story, the performances of the actors lift the narrative, as the acting in this movie is damn superb. Dane DeHaan is fantastic as always, with his brilliant performance as the lead that is subtle when it needs to be and emotional when it needs to be. Jason Issacs, as the villain Dr. Heinrich Volmer, pulls of a very subtle yet also menacing performance as the villain.
CINEMATOGRAPHY + VISUALS
The visual representation of this movie is another strong point of this movie. Director Gore Verbinski really does pull off some damn mesmerizing shots, from a specific choice of camera angle, to where what is placed in the view of the camera, the cinematography of this movie not only looks cool but it also creates a eerie atmosphere for the movie that helps lift the narrative up even at its weakest points.
The atmosphere is also aided by a very well-done set design.
The CGI used in the film is decent enough. It is easy to know when something is done in CGI but it doesn’t take you out of the experience of the movie.
The music used in the movie does it’s job at giving the movie it’s eerie atmosphere. Each piece is well-composed and fits their respective scenes. Here is one song from the soundtrack in order to show what I mean.
Personally I think this movie could have been better, but for what it is, it is still good. While the movie does have it’s flaws, I think a Rotten Tomatoes Score of 40% is blowing those flaws out of proportions. While the narrative of the movie isn’t the best, it serves its purpose, the film-making is ambitious, and I am still thinking about the movie and its ideas. I would give this movie a 7/10 and I would recommend watching it at the theater (at night that is).
Unfortunately, it appears that A Cure for Wellness is bombing, having only grossed $ 12 million globally on a $40 million budget (not including marketing costs) globally so far. Those box office numbers likely won’t get much better considering that audiences are going to likely instead watch the newest “ground breaking” horror film from producer Jason Blum GET OUT…….
Note: Feel free to comment on your thoughts on the movie, as well as any constructive criticisms on how I can improve for futures reviews. I will likely be putting up another review pretty soon for another horror movie that I have been wanting to talk about for a while.
Sorry about the riff on Get Out. Turns out I was being paroniod and let my bias from seeing the the trailer get the better of me.
Also sorry for not having put out another review as soon as I soon as I said I would. Was busy with stuff. Will likely try to in a few days, and it will likely be a double review as I have recently saw LOGAN and plan to review that movie as well.
Well I have been procrastinating from doing this review for way too long…..
While had previously said that I would do a double review of Logan and a particular horror film I saw months back, after having seen the new Hollywood Ghost in the Shell twice, having gone from really liking the live-action adaptation to complete cynicism towards it, I have decided to review all 3 reviews in one round.
Shenyongo’s Movie Reviews: Triple Feature
LOGAN, Ghost in the Shell (2017), and The Similars
To start this off (since this is the most recent of the 3): Ghost in the Shell (2017)
I will admit I have not grown up with Ghost in the Shell, or rather I was not exposed to the property until Cinemax and Laughingman’s discussion on Ghost in the Shell Arise and how it stacked up compared to the other adaptations/reimagings of the property. It was after having seen their discussion that I was compelled to check out the 1995 film, first through an obviously pirated and sped-up version on YouTube, then rewatching it several times on Hulu (back when Hulu allowed those without an account to watch the movie with ads). Having seen the movie several times, the 1995 Ghost in the Shell movie quickly became one of my favorite movies to the point where I purchased a DVD copy (would have gotten the Blu-ray version but I only got a DVD player). And why not, it is a thought provoking movie about the evolution of mankind in the age of cybernetics, whether or not there truly Is such a thing as “the soul”, while also pushing animation as a medium with its technical innovations. So yeah, it goes without saying that the Hollywood adaptation had quite some shoes to fill. And after years of development hell, originally being helmed by Steven Spielberg himself, we finally see the result.
Before I get into more specific details I would like to talk about the movie’s visuals first as that will likely be the most positive thing about the movie mentioned in this review:
The movie does look visually amazing. Now I know that may make me seem like one of the people that allow the TRANSFORMERS movies to keep making money but honestly I think the TRANSFORMERS movies look TERRIBLE in terms of visuals; too much cluttering detail and horrendous designs of all of the robots that aren’t Optimus Prime or Bumblebee. The Ghost in the Shell movie, the Hollywood version that is, actually looks visually pleasing. The CGI looks really good, showcases the world of the movie with creative visuals, while the movie also makes use of some really good practical effects work. I should note that a lot of the visuals look very close to the 1995 film, aside from the giant holograms, but perhaps that’s the problem; perhaps the movie is trying so hard to recreate the look of the 1995 film without really understanding the substance of the 1995 film. For instance the few recreations of scenes from the 1995 movie, while offering a cool visual update, seem to lack something the original scenes had. Which brings us to the plot of the movie…
Now granted, when I first saw the movie I had thought it to be a streamlined but at least nuanced movie, though my college roommate felt something was a bit off. It was after I had seen the movie a 2nd time with a friend that I began to feel that something was off as well..
It was only after seeing how certain YouTubers that I avidly follow that I realized what that was:
The plot of the movie was lackluster. Not because it’s different from the 1995 film, though it seems to try to be the plot of the 1995 film but not, but because of what it tries to do. Where as the 1995 film was about a cyborg questioning whether or not her ‘ghost’ is real only to realize the insignificance of the so-called consciousness, this Hollywood version seems to go for this Robocop (2014)-eques plot that basically boils down to an evil corporation doing evil things to people. The funny thing is that it seems like the movie is trying to have some deeper meaning within this context, with many references to consent, choice, and the Major being viewed as more of an asset rather than an individual. Unfortunately all these ideas are told to us through forced dialogue that constantly tells us how to feel and think (which might have been why I had thought the movie to be “deep” at first), and it doesn’t help that the CEO character is a one-dimensional evil businessman villain that we have seen numerous times from Hollywood. Not to mention that whereas the 1995 film (as well as the manga and other adaptations of Ghost in the Shell in general) celebrate the potential of cybernetics as benefitting mankind, the Hollywood version seems to rather demonize cybernetics as being a threat to humanity. Now granted that would have been fine if the movie had been more open ended rather than one-sided with its ideas. However I have heard that apparently there was an ‘original cut’ of the movie that was supposedly would have been this; apparently it would of involved a plot detail where only a fraction of the Major’s brain was still organic, having the movie focus on the implications of whether the Major was human or an artificial intelligence, with this even coming to play in the supposed original ending where she and Kuze merge their consciousness in order to transcend their physical forms. The reason this was not seen in the final cut is that apparently Paramount Pictures had the movie heavily edited in post-production in order to shift the focus of the narrative and ending (however we are talking about a film made by Mr Snow White and the Huntsman so might as well take this with a grain of salt). And I might as well mention the twist of the movie. I will have to admit that I had actually known about the twist before most people found out about it and that I had thought it to be really interesting. However the movie does absolutely nothing with this twist, merely using it as some M Night Shyamalan plot twist that was likely only written into the script as some ill-conceived attempt at appeasing all the people complaining about ScarJo being cast as the Major.
Speaking of which I might as well add that Scarlett Johansson does a really good performance as a the character (or rather as a women in a machine body), and the actress who plays Dr Ouelet does a competent performance that gives more emotional weight to the character than deserved, as her character is mostly used for forced exposition. Micheal Pitt does an interesting performance, unfortunately his character, this film’s version of Kuze, wasn’t as interesting. Batou and Aramaki were ok, but we barely get to know the Section 9 members other than that Ishikawa likes to drink a lot. I know the 1995 film only showed a few of the Section 9 members, but when you claim that audiences will dig the Section 9 members then people are going to expect a little more prominence to these characters.
Overall the Hollywood Ghost in the Shell movie, just like last year’s Ratchet and Clank movie, is a missed opportunity as well as a display of Hollywood dumbing down for the sake of a “wider audience”, which in this case is ironic as the movie has been bombing thus far and is expected to lose about $60 million. So much more giving Ghost in the Shell a wider audience…..
But to put that movie aside: Logan
Considering that the movie has already been out for a month, therefore most of y’all have likely already seen it, my review of Logan will be short and sweet.
First off, not only is Logan the best Wolverine movie it is also probably one of the best superhero movies of all time. Period. Where as most superhero movies have a save the world plot, Logan focuses more on the personal stakes, The movie is about Logan going through depression as not only have mutants becoming nearly extinct but that also his healing regeneration has been slowly fading but he is not able to ‘end it all’ yet. Logan finds himself having to keep a mutant girl that turns out to be a clone of him safe from the company that seeks to weaponized mutants, and actually is responsible for the near extinction of the mutants. While I might sound hypocritical considering that I criticized Ghost in the Shell 2017 for having an evil business man, the thing about it being in Logan is that the goal isn’t about money or being evil but rather ambition and is executed much more subtlety in GitS 2017. The acting is also phenomenal, as Hugh Jackman does what he has always done best as Wolverine while also portraying the tortured and weathered-down side of Logan, Patrick Stewart continues to be a great Xavier, while Dafne Keen showcases her talent as a young actress. The plot of Logan is also very well-written and tight, with a script and narrative with real emotion, rather than telling us what to feel; even the part about X-24, a clone that resembles a younger Logan, that seems to be pulled from the schlocky dark era of comic book movies of the 2000s, said element is executed so well and subtle that it doesn’t derail the movie (in fact is works as a representation of Logan’s internal structures).
Overall Logan was not only a great send off to Hugh Jackman’s long run playing Wolverine but is also a demonstration of what can be done with a comic book movie. I would say it is up there with the Dark Knight.
And finally: The Similars
I could try to describe this movie detail by detail but honestly I think is something that is best experienced without any spoilers, as the premise itself actually sounds pretty silly on paper but is so damn well executed that you go along with it. Basically the best I can describe this movie without spoiling anything is that if you are a fan of the original Twilight Zone tv series then you will probably like this movie, as this movie, stylistically and narratively, serves as an homage to The Twilight Zone. The movie is also very terrifying due to being very well-directed, its atmosphere, absurdist humor, and surreal nightmarish horror that really drives home the sense of paranoia that serves as the theme of the movie. This is a movie I highly recommend. If you live in North America you can find the movie on Netflix.
Ghost in the Shell (2017) – 3/5 – Average at best, doesn’t due the source material much justice
Logan – 4.5/5 – A great send-off to Hugh Jackman’s role as Wolverine and one of the best superhero movies of all time
The Similars – 5/5 – a must-see for anyone who is a fan of horror and the Twilight Zone.
Well I am glad to finally get that out of the way, so that I can later get around reviewing a certain other movie.
Before I start my review I want to discuss some things about what I feel has been a bumpy road for my reviews forum as well the path I will likely take with this forum. I am honestly not sure if anyone reads my reviews but I just wanted to say this. I feel that when looking back at my first review, of the movie A CURE FOR WELLNESS, I was a little biased towards the movie as several days after having written the review my mind started to pick apart things wrong with the movie (not to mention my embarrassing behavior in regards to the movie Get Out; I am sorry about that). Meanwhile with my Ghost in the Shell 2017 review I can’t help but feel that I didn’t really articulate my thoughts on the movie all that well, while my reviews of LOGAN and The Similar were too brief to really be called reviews. So in order to improve the quality of my reviews I will not only wait a couple days after seeing a movie to start on a review but I will also try to watch it a few times in order to get a better idea of whether or not I actually like a film and why. This is also to avoid as many typos as possible which have plagued a good amount of the posts I make on these forums. I will also focus a lot less on categories as I feel that splitting my reviews into categories have ironically made my reviews feel disjointed (from my perspective that is). So with that said, here is the review I have spent a couple of days working on and thinking about.
Shenyongo’s Movie Reviews:
Nicolas Winding Refn is quite an interesting director to talk about. While a very prolific and acclaimed director, he is by no means a conventional filmmaker. In fact his films can be rather divisive and polarizing for audiences. A lot of his movies tend to explore very controversial topics such as violence, and because of his very unconventional style of filmmaking his movies are often both highly praised and criticized simultaneously. And the film BRONSON, based on the life of notorious prisoner Charles Bronson, is no exception.
Starring Tom Hardy as the titular character, BRONSON is biographical crime film about Britain’s most notorious prisoner, Charles Bronson, that focuses on Bronson’s rise to notoriety as well as his very violent personality. Now BRONSON as a film does exaggerate a lot of the violence and events of Bronson’s life but does so in order to explore the mind of this character of a person. Often compared to Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, BRONSON is a film that explores not only the ambition of Bronson but also violence as a means of his “artistic expression”.
[BRONSON] follows the life of notorious prisoner Michael Gordon Peterson, who was renamed Charles Bronson by his fight promoter. Born into a respectable middle-class family, Peterson would nevertheless become one of the United Kingdom’s most dangerous criminals, and is known for having spent almost his entire adult life in solitary confinement.
As stated by the title character, Bronson wants to be famous, an ambition that drives a lot of his actions throughout his life. It just so happens that the only thing he is “famous” for is being an out of control and violent prisoner, as seen in the scene after Bronson’s little monologue directed at the audience which is lit in a bright blood red, meant to symbolize Bronson’ ambitions and passion. The color red is constantly used as a motif for Bronson’s passion and ambitions, which is also constantly contrasted with the color blue meant to symbolize Bronson’s frustrations and failure to fulfill his dream of fame beyond notoriety.
One thing to note about BRONSON is that despite its seemingly standard premise, director Nicolas Winding Refn takes an approach to storytelling for this movie that is anything but mainstream. First off the movie doesn’t merely depict the moments of Bronson’s life in a strictly linear fashion that way more mainstream biopic films tend to do, rather it presented in a surreal narrative of connected vignettes, which are punctuated by vaudeville interludes where Bronson tells his tale in a vaudeville-style theater in front of a live audience. And while being based off Bronson’s life story, the depiction of the moments of his life and the violence are often exaggerated for effect. The fact that the movie is exaggerated, along with the film’s surreal narrative, turns the movie into an artistic expression rather than a completely realistic story. This is something to be taken into consideration when examining Bronson’s character in the movie.
While it is easy to just discuss how Bronson wants to be famous, after having seen this movie several times and watching movie clips on YouTube over and over again, I think Bronson’s motive extends to more than just fame. He doesn’t just want to be known and respected by people, he wants to be able to connect with people as well. Bronson’s problem however is that he doesn’t really seem to know or realize how to communicate with other people, and due to some cuddling from his parents, as seen in the scene where the school teacher suspends him from school and his mother shuts the door in front of his teacher who wanted to discuss his violent behavior, he tends to let his emotions control him very easily which prompts him to make rash decisions without necessarily thinking it through.
This is all punctuated through Tom Hardy’s mesmerizing performance. One particular scene that I really liked was one of the interludes in which after attempting to murder Mr. White, a pedophile in the “Funny Farm” Asylum Bronson was sent to, as an attempt to get back into prison (his “hotel room”) he shifts between playing himself and playing one of the Asylum nurses who informs him that he will not be put on trial as intended and just moved to another Asylum while belittling him (which is amplified by the nursery rhyme music that plays in the background while he plays the nurse). This scene to me really embodies not only Bronson’s frustration that things don’t exactly go his way but also his relation to other people; he is afraid that people don’t take him seriously.
It also needs to be mentioned that Tom Hardy really captures Bronson’s violent nature through his body language and wild mannerisms, which while exaggerated is done so because of one thing: the only way Bronson really knows how to express himself is through his fists. Throughout the film Bronson isn’t just getting into fights with other inmates and prison guards, he’s enjoying it. Not just the attention he is getting from it but also just the very act of violence in general. To him, the act of fighting is basically his art form. This is made abundantly clear during his brief period of freedom when he has a fighting career, with his manager being a former prison mate he served tea to, in which he isn’t really earning much money as he gains an unpopular reputation due to his juvenile behavior, such as literally peeing on one of his opponents after winning. Despite his fighting career not looking very good, symbolized by the presence of blue lighting, Bronson doesn’t really care as he seems to care more about the fighting itself, which fills him with excitement, even going as far as to up the stakes by going up against two opponents and even a ferocious dog.
However what makes Bronson an interesting character is that while he tends to be very violent he is also a little more complex than that; deep down he is just emotionally confused and yearning to connect with other people. One example of this is a sexual relationship he engages in with a women he met at his uncle’s place during his brief period of freedom, whom he falls in love with only to learn that she already had a boyfriend. In a rash attempt to win her affection, Bronson steals an expensive ring only to be turned down by the woman, who reveals that she and her boyfriend will be getting married, and sent back to prison. Another example of this is when he takes the prison librarian hostage (for no reason other than he just felt like it), alternating between screaming at his hostage and peacefully asking him about his family, though bringing the conversation to an end once the guards are near saying “I’m done talking. Fucking pointless”.
Bronson’s rash behavior does eventually mellow down once he starts attending the prison art class and embraces drawing and cartooning, in which he uses to vent all his confusion and pain into vivid imagery of birds and grotesque creatures. However much to his dismay he learns that the art studio will be closing. His art teacher tries to comfort him by reassuring him that not only could his art get him an early release from prison but that through his drawings he will “finally get what he always wanted” (fame), to which Bronson simply replies with “what do you know about what I want”. Bronson then reverts to his old behavior by taking the art teacher hostage, which leads to one of the most mesmerizing and symbolic climaxes I have ever seen in a film.
First off all he strips himself naked and has painted his body black as he demands music be played or else “he will kill the art teacher”, who is tied to the staircase rail with a symbolic blue cover over him (it should be noted that earlier the art teacher was wearing a purple sweater, which being a combination of red and blue is meant to be symbolic of Bronson being given a choice on what path he will take). He then turns his hostage into a human still life, painting the face tan, as well as painting a mustache similar to his own onto the face as well as blue eyes on the eyelids. After shifting the head upward he adds the “finishing touches” onto the human still life (the hat and sunglasses he is wearing at the moment). He grunts menacingly as to intimidate the art teacher as he does this and then says “Oh yeah. That’s a fucking piece of me” (which is in reference to the art teacher suggesting that he find a piece of himself within his artwork) at which the art teacher sheds a tear out of fear. What he has done is literally project all his insecurities, how people view him and the constant feeling of imprisonment, onto the art teacher before having one final brawl with the prison guards as he accepts his fate, tying up all the movies themes about violence, ambition, and artistic expression into a nice bow.
With BRONSON, Nicolas Winding Refn once again showed that not only does he have the balls to cover controversial topics such as the life of a notorious prisoner, but that he is also talented and skilled to the point where he can make a prisoner into an oddly compelling character.
Like Mr. K I have been posting movie reviews on LetterBoxD, and I have decided to one of them here as well.
Here is the link to my page: https://letterboxd.com/shenyongo/
Shenyongo’s Movie Reviews:
Only God Forgives
I have stated in my review of Bronson that Nicolas Winding Refn tends to be the kind of filmmaker whose films can cause a clear divide amongst the audience, and Only God Forgives is definitely one off his more polarizing works.
The best way to describe Only God Forgives is taking a seemingly simple story and telling it in the most complex and confusing way possible. This is a film that can confuse people upon first viewing and the story itself on surface level doesn’t seem all that interesting. However once you understand what the story is trying to do, along with the symbolism and taking the title “Only God Forgives” into consideration the movie becomes a little easier to grasp and appreciate.
To start off with the simple stuff, the movie is visually stunning with its cinematography and lighting, as does any Nicolas Winding Refn movie. One thing to note is that where as Bronson had some many memorable and quotable dialogue, Only God Forgives focuses much less on the dialogue (with Ryan Gosling’s character, Julian, having only a few lines throughout the whole movie).
As for the story, to put it in simplest terms:
-Bangkok. Ten years ago Julian killed a man and went on the run. Now he manages a Thai boxing club as a front for a drugs operation. Respected in the criminal underworld, deep inside, he feels empty. When Julian’s brother murders an underage prostitute, the police call on retired cop Chang – the Angel of Vengeance. Chang allows the father to kill his daughter’s murderer, then ‘restores order’ by chopping off the man’s right hand. Julian’s mother Crystal – the head of a powerful criminal organization – arrives in Bangkok to collect her son’s body. She dispatches Julian to find his killers and ‘raise hell’.
While I will be discussing the story throughout this review, the focus will be less on the plot, instead focusing more on the motifs and symbols used in the movie as understanding what those motifs are is the key to understanding the movie.
One of the most prominent symbols within the movie is “hands”, which are used as a reminder to Julian of his guilt and desires. The reason for this is that hands in the film are meant to be a motif of sin; the fact that we are able to do wrong by the will of our own hands. This applies to Julian as he deal with the guilt of having killed his own father, “with his own hands” as stated later in the film, at the order of his verbally abusive mother. Hands also very much symbolize Julian’s desires, such as his little dream of a woman he is having a strange relationship with rubbing his hands, as well as a pretty messed up scene where he has himself tied up to a chair to watch her masturbate in front of him (though you only see Julian’s face as the action takes place). This scene, while messed up on the surface level, is meant to establish Julian’s sexual frustrations; he wants to have a normal life and a normal relationship but due to his guilt and upbringing he has been rendered unable to achieve these. This is important to remember as that will actually explain why there are so many scenes of the retired cop chopping off peoples’ hands. The cop is actually meant to be “God” in this film; he brings justice to those who do wrong. while also showing some compassion, as seen in the scene where he spares one of the men who tried to arrange his assassination when learning that the man only arranges assassination contracts in order to get money for his crippled son. Julian is fascinated by the cop character due to his own desire to be punished. By the end of the film he does find redemption when saving the Cop’s daughter from one of his hit men but still willingly has his own hands chopped off by the Cop.
The plot of the film essentially becomes a story about guilt, redemption, punishment and forgiveness. This not only makes the confusing story a little easier to grasp but also a little more relatable.
One thing to note is that the film has a lot of graphic violence. Most of the time the violence does serve the story, however there is one torture scene that I think goes a little too far in how graphic the violence goes. Though don’t take my word for it though, judge for yourselves:
Overall Only God Forgives is still a very well-made movie from Nicolas Winding Refn that tackles its themes in a mature and complex manner. I wouldn’t say that this is a movie for everyone, but it is still nonetheless a cinematic experience worth checking out.
Shenyongo’s Movie Reviews
I have strong feelings about this movie. Strong feelings of contempt that is. I have recently watched all 4 ALIEN movies, and I have gotta say this one was THE WORST.
200 years after the events of Alien 3, Ellen Repley is cloned by the government in order to get access to the DNA of the xenomorph inside her, which they seek to weaponize the xenomorphs. However when the xenomorphs escape, the Ripley clone and a band of mercenaries must escape and destory the research ship before it arrives on Earth and releases the xenomorphs onto the human populace.
Now by reading the plot summary you’d think this entry would have a lot of tension and suspense given the high stakes. Unfortunately you would be wrong as there is barely anything tense about this movie. It never feels like the stakes mean anything as this movie seems to not know whether it wants to be more light-hearted or dark. Which brings us to the characters and “acting”.
You know how one big criticism of Prometheus was that everyone in the movie make stupid decisions despite supposedly being “the smartest”. Think that but add in hamfisted acting and bafflingly cartoony portrayals and you get ALIEN: RESURRECTION. Every character except Ripley feels like they were ripped straight out of the Joel Schumacher Batman movies (for instance that General character in charge of the experiments was unbearable to watch). Even then Ripley 8 (the clone) isn’t all that compelling as a character because of the mediocre script. For example, during the “emotional” scene where she discovers the room containing all the previous clones and kills clone 7 out of mercy had no weight whatsoever, completely failing to make use care about Ripley 8. I am actually shocked that the script for this movie was written by Joss Whedon, the man behind FireFly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and MARVEL’s The Avengers (though he did also do Avengers 2, with Ultron as a stock 80s cartoon villain who is constantly telling everyone how EVIL he is so there’s that).
As for the effects of the xenomorphs. Oh good lord, those were some cheesy effects. The practical effects for the aliens were poorly handled, causing the aliens to feel like Jim Henson muppets who are always slimy now for some reason. Even the chestburster scene looked goofy rather than terrifying. Not to mention the scene where the human-xenomorph hybrid, which was thrown in the last minute with no foreshadowing, has its insides sucked into the vacuum of space was so unintentionally hilarious due to its cheesy effects that it took away any “emotion” from the scene (as its technically Ripley 8’s baby….). And whenever they are rendered in CGI they look even worse, becoming akin to the awful Roland Emmerich Godzilla.
It’s not like I went into this wanting to hate it. I was hoping for just a fun dumb action film since it wasn’t going to be a masterpiece of horror like ALIEN. But it didn’t even get that right as the action scenes aren’t really all that interesting or fun, not to mention being predictable. And the movie seems to still want to be a horror film due to the corny attempts at jump scares laden throughout the movie.
So yeah, not a fan of this one. Not only can I not recommend this one but I also can’t accept this entry as being part of the ALIEN franchise.
I vented a lot of rage in my review of ALIEN Resurrection, so tonight I want to discuss a certain special movie from my childhood
Shenyongo’s Movie Reviews
Disney’s ATLANTIS: The Lost Empire
After the Disney Renaissance of the 90s, the Disney brand was beginning to struggle as numerous formulaic copycats made audiences weary of the classic Disney-animated-musical style and the rise of CGI animation with Dreamworks’ Shrek during the 2000s. In response to the latter Disney tried a ‘compromise’ by trying to implement CGI in their hand-drawn movies, but also tried to do something a bit experimental by straying away from the classic musical format with adventure movies like Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The latter which I am about to talk about.
One thing I should say is that when I was little I would watch almost every Disney animated movie, from Pinocchio, Dumbo (which I can barely remember the plot of honestly), Bambi, Alladin, Lion King (I even had a stuffed Simba when I was 3), Little Mermaid, Mulan, to the PIXAR movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. I guess I could say that I grew up on Disney. That being said, I was always pretty fond of ATLANTIS: The Lost Empire. However, that also said, I decided to rewatch the movie just to see how much of my fondness of the movie is nostalgia.
An inexperienced young adventurer becomes the key to unraveling an ancient mystery when he joins up with a group of daredevil explorers to find the legendary lost empire of Atlantis. A naive-but-determined museum cartographer Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox), dreams of completing the quest begun by his late grandfather, a famous explorer. When a journal surfaces, an eccentric billionaire funds an expedition and the action shifts to high gear.
For one, the animation uses mostly 2D hand-drawn animation while using computer animation for certain objects such as the submarine and Atlantian technology. And both are used together very well (likely because of the cel-shaded look of the CGI). The art style also deviated from the typical Disney style, with comic book artist and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola hired to do designs for the movie that gives it a distinctive visual style not only among other Disney movies but also other western animated movies in general.
As for the plot, I kind of have mixed feelings about. At first the movie starts very strong, beginning with a big explosion that causes a massive tsunami that submerges the advanced civilization of Atlantis. This opening scene was amazing as it showcases not only does it start with a shift from brief peace to a effective and sudden dramatic note, but it also showcases that fall of Atlantis in a way that sparks your interest (which is important for a movie about finding the lost city of Atlantis).
After the strong opening scene the movie continues strongly as it introduces our main protagonist Milo, a linguist mocked for his research on Atlantis (which is shown that he is interested in Atlantis because his grandfather who raised him when his parents died was an explorer trying to uncover and prove the existence of the lost city). The other cast of characters are also pretty interesting despite being rather simplistic. For instance for some reason I really like Vinny, the Italian demolition expert, despite his simple character and development due to just how the character is portrayed.
I want to say that Kida, the princess of Atlantis who is semi-immortal along with most of the other Atlantians, was an interesting character but I would be lying if I didn’t say she felt a little underdeveloped as a character (and no it wasn’t because the animators at Disney were being a bunch of sexists). I think this issue has much to do with the middle of the plot itself, or when they finally discover Atlantis.
The thing is when I said witnessing the fall of Atlantis sparks your interest into the movie, it has a lot to do with the lore of the city of Atlantis, which is a bit explored in the middle of the movie. You see the reason why the Atlantians had access to advanced technology and were semi-immortal is because of this powerful crystal of pure energy they have and revere almost like a god. In fact it’s not only revealed that the reason Atlantis was submerged into the sea was because the king attempted to use the power of the crystal as a weapon but also that the main antagonist of the film wants to sell the crystal for the highest bidder to nations who would seek to use it as a weapon. This is some serious Lovecraftian stuff here. Just I wished the movie was able to explore this a little more as honestly the time spent in the lost city is rushed (hence why Kida feels underdeveloped as a character). Thus the antagonist’s motives and the revelation of why Atlantis was submerged feels very last minute. And even the whole thing about the crystal feels unexplored and out of the blue. And I think this has very much to do with the 1.5 hour long runtime rather than pacing. I personally think this movie should have been at least 20-35 minutes longer in order to allow more time to let the plot and lore breath.
However, overall this was still a decent movie and a very special addition to Disney’s slate of animated movies that deserves to be seen.
For once SONY releases a competent movie
Shenyongo’s Movie Reviews
This. Was. Literally. The. Most. Fun. I’ve. Had. At. The. Movies.
And this is including having watched both Guardians of the Galaxies at theaters. From visionary comedy director Edgar Wright (director of classics such as Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, and The World’s End), Baby Driver will capture your attention and inspire you.
Having lost both of his parents in his youth, a young man, who goes by Baby, with a love of music works as a getaway driver for a kingpin and a rotating crew of bank robbers. Eventually he falls in love with a diner waitress, thinking that his debt to the kingpin has been paid off, but is sucked back into the kingpin’s world of crime.
Where to start with this movie…..
For one, the plot is pretty simple enough to not be bogged down by pointless exposition but also allows for the film-making to be inventive. The characters are likable, even the kingpin played by Kevin Spacey who sort of sees Baby as his own son in a way, and the more impulsive robber Bats played by Jamie Fox (the latter character being a so bad you like him character without coming across as cliche or hammy). The romance subplot is also very believable and actually serves an important role in the overall plot rather than just being there to pander to audiences as a lot of romance subplots tend to be. It is also worth mention, given that this is an action comedy film, that not only is the humor actually funny, relying more on characters and cleverness rather on random poop jokes, but the action is also well executed and adrenaline-pumping. Given that the main character, Baby, is a getaway driver there are a ton of car chase/getaway scenes were Baby pulls of some of the maddest driving skills I have seen on film (which the awesome soundtrack makes these moments even more awesome). The action feels very responsive and quick as Baby himself has very quick reflexes and is able to respond very quickly to a difficult situation. If you have a friend who likes the Fast and The Furious movies then they might like this movie.
However what I loved the most about this movie is how it uses its soundtrack. Ever since the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, Hollywood has tried to put in classic rock or pop songs into its movies, whether it be in the trailers or even the movies themselves. Whereas in both Guardians of the Galaxies the music serves a narrative purpose, it seems that in other movies the music serves as more a gimmick than a story-telling device. Baby Driver on the other hand knows how to implement the music into its story.
In Baby Driver a lot of the actions from the characters are synced to the music Baby plays, as is very common in Edgar Wright’s films. However in Baby Driver it serves a bigger narrative purpose. The reason Baby constantly listens to music is because the very car accident that took the lives of his parents had left him with sever tinnitus, using the music to block it out. However as you will see in the movie it seems like he also uses music to distract himself from the consequences and lives being hurt because of the crew of robbers, as he is seen being very conflicted about his role as a getaway driver at times (which eventually causes everything to get chaotic in the last third of the movie). However considering that a lot of the actions of the characters are synced to the music Baby is listening to, what the film is doing through its soundtrack is not only emphasize his love of music but also that he can not escape the reality of the fact that by helping criminals he is putting in danger the lives of those around him, including the people he cares for (such as his deaf foster father and his girlfriend). I found this to be a very clever, creative technique that shows just what an inventive filmmaker Edgar Wright is and how Marvel Studios should feel sorry for driving him away from Ant-Man.
What Baby Driver also shows is that comedies don’t have to be pandering, made-by-committee Adam Sandler flicks that rely on low-brow humor like fart jokes, pop culture references that will become outdated within a year, and racial/gender stereotypes (I saw Grown Ups 2 on TV which during commercial break had an interview from one of the writers who basically admitted that he was just throwing a bunch of random shit into the script and passing it off as “humor”). Baby Driver serves as an example of how comedies can be much more inventive and engaging (not to mention actually funny)
If you haven’t seen this movie yet or are experiencing artist’s block, go see Baby Driver.
Ever consider doing YouTube video reviews? Just a thought.
Ever consider doing YouTube video reviews? Just a thought.
I would like to consider doing YouTube video reviews, in fact I am considering maybe doing Let’s Plays of Panzer Dragoon Saga next year since 2018 will be its 20th anniversary essentially. It’s just I don’t know where to start. Do I try to implement images and/or animation for video reviews, or just use a webcam for now and build up from there?
Note: I am considering doing YouTube video reviews. While I have come up with some potential topics, I am still trying to formulate just how I should format these videos, how long should I make them, as well as how to present myself. Any advice would be appreciated. Anyway, onto the review…
Shenyongo’s Movie Reviews
Before I start this review I have to say that I LOVE the 1927 Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang. It was a truly ambitious science fiction silent film that explored religious themes and classism. Not to mention it boasted a very high production value for the era, as well as for the German expressionist film movement in general. While the movie was criminally overlooked when it came out, the movie has garnered much more acclaim over the past few decades. It’s a movie that deserves and needs to be watched by every film fan out there. Taking this into consideration, the question is how do you remake a groundbreaking science fiction film? In the case of the anime Metropolis, you push it even further. Beyond the limit.
While the anime Metropolis is based off the Osamu Tezuka manga of the same name that was only loosely inspired by Fritz Lang’s film, the anime movie shares so much more elements with the Fritz Lang movie than it does the manga that it’s practically a remake of the Fritz Lang movie. It should be mentioned that the challenge that comes with remaking a movie is whether or not there is a vision to distinguish the remake from the original as well as are there ideas from the original that can be expanded upon. Normally a lot of remakes fall into the trap of either copy and pasting the original movie without really saying anything new, or taking the ideas of the original at face-value and ended up with a stale product all the while also using “homages” to the original movie as a crutch. What makes a GREAT remake, such as Hideaki Anno’s Shin Godzilla, is when the remake takes the ideas and themes of the original work and expanding upon them while also adding in some bold new ideas. Thus the anime Metropolis is an example of a GREAT remake.
A future society, where humans and robots co-exist. Amidst the chaos created by anti-robot factions, detective Shunsaku Ban and his sidekick Ken-ichi are searching for rebel scientist Dr. Laughton, to arrest him and seize his latest creation, a beautiful young girl named Tima. When they locate them, Shunsaku soon realizes that the eccentric scientist is protected by a powerful man and his fierce desire to reclaim a tragic figure from his past and therefore is beyond their reach.
Where as the creation of a female sentient robot was more of a plot device in the original movie, in the anime it is expanded a billion fold as the film explores Tima’s reactions and awe at the world around her, the development of her bond with the Ken-ichi, as well as the place of sentient robots in society. While robots and humans co-exist, there is a strong resentment towards robotkind by the working class due to the robots taking up all the jobs as they don’t require pay for their labor (which is where the ideas of classism play into the anime). This not only provides a fresh new take on the original concept but it also presents a lot of relevant questions on whether there is a difference between humans and sentient robots. While not on the same philosophical level as something like Mamuro Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, the anime’s portrayal of this relationship is heavily inspired by the Shinto religious idea of there being an abstract delineation between animate and inanimate objects; meaning that robots have souls just like humans do. This idea of machine life having a soul is explored through Tima whom, unaware of the fact that she is a machine meant to control a powerful weapon, experiences many human emotions throughout the film. Her realization that she is a robot was one of the most heart-breaking moments I have seen in a movie, providing a lot of weight to the last thing she says before her death “Who am I”, driving home the movie’s philosophy on the soul.
While I have spent most of this review discussing the themes and ideas of the movie, it would be a crime to not talk about the animation of the movie which is not only fantastic but eye-popping as well. Like several Disney animated movies released around the same time like Atlantis and Treasure Planet, the anime Metropolis makes use of both great 2D animation and CGI environments that are blended in perfectly together in a way that allows for some amazing camera shots and some beautiful animation. These are the kind of animated movies I want to see more of, ones that push the medium to its limits and offer mesmerizing experiences for the audience.
The anime Metropolis is a GREAT remake that takes the concepts and ideas of the original movie and expands them in ways even the original was not able to explore. Not just that, this movie is by a far a MASTERPIECE of animation. I highly recommend this movie.
Something I wanted to clarify real quick: when I said that the 1927 Metropolis has religious themes, what I meant is that it makes use of religious symbolism (mainly Christian symbolism) in order to drive the themes of the movie, such as making reference to the Tower of Babel in order to symbolize the city being the pinnacle of human civilization.
Beautiful. Just Beautiful.
Having been heavily influenced by Noh, a form of Japanese theatre, while creating this movie, YouTuber M Dot Strange creates a narrative this is less about absolute cohesion and more about the emotions of the characters and how they have to deal with having to live in a cruel, hellish world. While some might dismiss it as nothing more than an overblown mess made by an edge-lord, Heart String Marionette is actually a beautiful and compelling work of art thanks to M Dot Strange’s effectively twisted style, the impressive cinematography, and an outstanding soundtrack.
Honestly I don’t think words are enough to describe this movie. It’s really something that you see the movie for yourselves, which happens to be available for free on M Dot Strange’s YouTube channel:
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