Anon

 

Anon is a crime drama set in the near future in which any and all human interactions are recorded into a network known as the Ether. Clive Owen stars as a tortured detective who is thrown off by a case in which the murderer cannot be immediately identified by the Ether’s records. Unique and convincing in concept, the premise is dragged down by its stale acting, and nonsensical plot.

 

Unfortunately for Anon, the most memorable things about the film end up being its most glaring problems. Clive Owen’s character felt completely phoned in throughout the movie, perhaps in part to the writing itself. Many characters continuously made decisions that felt very out of place and stretched any suspension of disbelief that I had. It felt like over and over scenes were placed in the movie for no other reason than the screenwriter “felt like it should be in the movie”. The only real twists in the movie aren’t even really twists at all. Instead, the film tells you that your expectations are to be subverted and then I am expected to be surprised when they are? The premise and concept of the futuristic hyper recorded world that’s built is convincing in its own right. Muted in color scheme, and looming cinematography gives a clean, otherworldly version of our own without feeling dystopian and unrealistic. Worth mentioning is that throughout the film we are switched between regular camera angles, and tracking POV shots to depict what someone is viewing via the Ether. While it does become less jarring as the movie goes on, all of them are a camera sliding on a track, which doesn’t showcase in any capacity the natural feeling of a person’s point of view whether they are walking, running etc. Finally Anon attempts to make a sort of social commentary on the rapid disappearance of privacy in the modern era, but it does so only through trivial quotes and platitudes. There aren’t any consequences showcased as to why the lack of privacy is a bad thing so the movie falls flat here as well. This film is competent enough but falls short on so many of what appear to be its core draws that I can’t really recommend it unless you’re bored on a weekend and like the way Amanda Seyfried’s face looks.

 

1/4 stars

Veronica

Veronica

Veronica is a film loosely based off the real-life story of Estefanía Gutiérrez Lázaro after her use of an Ouija Board. Veronica, a 15-year-old girl living in Madrid with her 3 younger siblings and single mother, plans a Séance with 2 friends during a solar eclipse. The results of which lead her to believe an ill-intentioned presence now threatens her. Exceptional in its pacing, Veronica slowly draws you down the rabbit hole with an ever-growing sense of dread. Clever camerawork and impeccable sound complete this film and when the cast of characters are both written and played this well. It results in an immersive and genuinely terrifying experience.

 

I love horror movies. Both in practice and in concept the genre fascinates me, as does the idea of experiencing fear for entertainment’s sake.  I think that this review might end up biased based on how many movies fall short where Veronica triumphs. Perhaps I am in the minority but it’s almost commonplace how desensitized you can become to absurd levels of gore and violence with the advent of modern filmmaking, and jump scares quickly end up predictable the more time you spend in front of the silver screen. There’s something to be appreciated from the use of subtlety and patience in a horror film and Veronica capitalizes on it in seemingly every scene. There is hardly any fat on this film and every shot is either directly progressing the plot or evoking a sense of dread with little details and premonitions which are tucked away into more scenes than not. The Characters, while not overly complex, are all well written and more importantly played professionally by everyone involved. This is especially noticeable in the acting abilities of Veronica’s younger siblings, as they add to the immersive depth of the movie rather than distract from it. The leading lady herself, Sandra Escacena does especially well at characterizing an increasingly convincing feeling of dread, paranoia, and restlessness which grips unto me the viewer with vice-like engagement. The latter is worth noting considering the movie’s run time of 105 minutes which absolutely does not feel its length. Veronica takes a genuinely chilling stab at the horror genre. It doesn’t make any grand leaps of faith or take genre changing risks. Instead, it uses its source material effectively, capitalizes on the devilish details woven into its cinematography, coupled with a solid cast of young actors. This film is a nightmare come true.

4/4 stars.

Ready Player One

Ready Player One

Ready player one is a teenage adventure story centered on a young man, Wade Watts. Set in near future Cincinnati, the majority of the movie is actually set within a virtual reality world of the Oasis, where the titular hero must solve several challenges as well as prevent the IOI Corporation from taking control of the Oasis itself. Predictable in a Spielbergian type of way. Visually pleasing, and depending on what era you’re from, crammed to the brim with relateable pop culture.

 

I should preface this review by mentioning that I have not read the 2011 Novel this film was adapted to although I have checked out a summary to determine the differences after having seen the film. The main critique that seems to be floating around regarding this movie is that this film isn’t garnered towards any particular audience and that the story was difficult to follow. This didn’t resonate with me. I recognized references left and right and felt the story was straight forward and easy to follow, if somewhat contrived. Now when I say that I was recognizing characters left and right I don’t necessarily mean that as a good thing. I scoff at the amount of nostalgia that the Disney’s Star Wars attempts to scrape dollars with in recent years, and I felt the same level of shamelessness in the amount of references they tried to invoke. I do give Ready Player One more of a pass however given that nostalgia and pop culture is a central theme of the overall set piece. The movie is visually stunning and I am perfectly fine with the decision to tell the majority of the story through the CGI generated Oasis. It was what I was expecting going into the movie and I wasn’t disappointed in that regard. This isn’t actually that big of a compliment considering every big budget film looks so good these days, but the set pieces they chose were more than interesting enough to keep me engaged. The story moves forward pretty seamlessly from plot point to plot point and I never felt bored with the exception of the last 20-25 minutes. The ending ran along the same lines as the atypical marvel movie in that no matter what can be occurring within the plot (See Black Panther) there has to be a contrived large battle. I don’t hate it, but would have liked to see something more original for an otherwise unique plot.

 

2 ½ stars

The Brothers Grimm

 

The Brothers Grimm

 

The Brothers Grimm is a self-aware adventure Schlock film set in French occupied Germany when fantastic tales and faux history collide. Distracting accents, excellent costume design, and boredom were the main points I remember from watching this film. If I had it my way I would have forgotten more.

 

I had seen the Brothers Grimm when it first arrived in theatres in 2005. Long before I developed a sense for what I did or didn’t like in a movie. At that point I wasn’t even deciding what I had for breakfast so it’s understandable that a film like this didn’t retain the stark disdain that it deserves. I decided to re-watch it expecting mediocrity but after 15 minutes in I was dreading the remaining hour and 45 minutes. That’s right this movie is criminally long at 116 minutes total and most of it is plainly put, forgettable. The thing about the Brothers Grimm is that it deserves to be forgettable. With the exception of a few interesting set pieces (the torture chamber scene for example) the movie just doesn’t hold my attention. When it is holding my attention it’s because I’m distracted by the poor performance and accent by Matt Damon, the flat and predictable comedy, and everyone’s exceptional dental care. The costume design is pretty spot on and most of the special effects hold up reasonably well 13 years later but that wasn’t enough for this movie in 2005 and it certainly isn’t enough now. More than anything else this movie is boring, the score is forgettable, the characters are flat and uninteresting and apart from a brief scene between Matt and Heath I had zero investment in any of their well being. Skip this one or waste your time.

 

 

1 star

Pacific Rim Uprising

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Pacific Rim Uprising is the melodramatic, half competent sequel of Pacific Rim. Once again the title has almost nothing to do with the plot of gigantic monsters fighting massive man-made machine counterparts. Stunning visually, humorless (although not without trying), and altogether as forgettable as its characters. I found Pacific Rim Uprising to be needless and without any entertaining value with the exception of the graphic design and CGI.

 

The first thing I need to say about this film is that I came in knowing what to expect. The story is an almost childlike premise of hilariously large monsters and robots fighting each other, held together by mostly forgettable and flat characters who have one or two distinct traits but lack any actual depth. I don’t know if this is because so much of the film is devoted to action sequences or if the writing is just stale and reeked as if it had come from an assembly line. The movie runs 111 minutes and perhaps I’m expecting too much from a film that is clearly devoted to exceptionally produced CGI robots and monsters clashing across cities and landscapes alike. And that concludes everything good I have to say about Pacific Rim. In Actuality I do appreciate the attempt at an original story told during a sequel. Most sequels attempt to ride the coattails of what made the original successful and while Uprising is no different I felt there was at least some creativity in how the two movies tied together plot wise. While the visuals hold up in spectacular fashion the same cannot be said for the sound. Usually I don’t have much to say regarding sound design unless I am struck by a particular score, however the sound in the movie from start to finish was grainy, hollow, and poorly mixed with the exception of scenes exclusive to dialogue between a few characters. Being so devoted to over the top action sequences, one would think the proper mixing of sound effects, to dialogue, to the punching yet synth like soundtrack would be something an audience aren’t supposed to notice because it’s seamless. Instead I found myself highly distracted and put off from the moment I noticed it until the credits. In conclusion I found myself feeling almost pity at the ad-libbed humor dotting the film’s dialogue in what I have come to expect from any major block buster. I appreciated the attempt at the lighter hearted interactions between characters but can’t help the fact that every single joke fell flat for me. Maybe it’s John Boyega’s inability to act or seem natural without coming off as campy and slapstick. Personally I blame the writing.

 

1/4 Stars

DUDE: Review

DUDE

DUDE is a coming of age tale revolving around 4 girls in their senior year of high school. The story is one that’s center theme is one of loss. Loss of your friends, your lovers, and your familiarity before entering a bigger more complex universe. While the first half or so fell flat to me, the dialogue, emotional engagement, and cinematography seemingly improved throughout the length of the film.

 

DUDE begins with the titular girlfriends enjoying the prom of their junior year, the death of Thomas, a boyfriend/brother of the two main characters brings us a skip in time to the actual start of the plot, roughly 3 weeks before the anniversary of his death and the end of their high school career. The film is paced reasonably well, moving organically from one plot point to the next. However, early on in the film I couldn’t help but cringe at the writer’s attempt to mimic young, millennial sounding slang. This film does take place on the west coast however so maybe I’m out of my depth in terms of what the youth sounds like in California or if the absurd glorification of minor’s drug use is true to form. The humor fell flat to me, in part I suspect because it relies on female gross out humor (including quite possibly the most out of place masturbation scene I’ve ever witnessed). This doesn’t strike me as an excuse however, snappy and clever writing can make up for something I don’t empathize with directly (insert Bridesmaids). Towards beginning of the second half of the film I stopped wishing it was over and felt genuine engagement towards the emotional fate of the characters. The dialogue is actually well written when it doesn’t involve awkward colloquialisms that could have been cut entirely. The film really shines when it is focusing on character driven drama based dialogue and set pieces. There is an overwhelming representation of green in this film. From the consistent references to marijuana, the clothing, the set pieces, and the backdrop of many shots are a bright contrast of green against more subdued & muted colors. I don’t think this has any symbolic meaning necessarily, however it is a pleasing visual tone and I thought it was worth mentioning for its consistency. DUDE begins as a chore to watch, but slowly transitions into an emotionally engaging, meaningful take on the distressing experience of growing up.

 

2 ½ Stars

Avengers: Infinity War

 

Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers Infinity War is the Pinnacle culmination of the Marvel Expanded universe series of movies, typically I find these films to be somewhat done out as the plots are usually low risk, spectacle filled action sequences intermingled with character development here and there. Infinity War breaks the mold a bit due to its entirely unique set pieces, refreshing plot decisions and seamless interaction among over 40 characters.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

This movie is not in any way a stand-alone film. I am well acquainted with the marvel franchise and therefore wasn’t plagued by being contextually lost, and I can’t really recommend the movie to anyone who would be. The pace of this film is fast and tight, there are too many large events going on with multiple groups of characters that there isn’t time for re-introductions or any real character development with the exception of our main villain. And a welcome development it is. Too many super hero archetype films have a villain whose sole motivation for being bad is to facilitate a conflict with the hero and forward the plot. Thanos on the other hand has a chilling conviction towards the elimination of life in order to control a universal overpopulation problem, one that was afflicted and impacted him as a youth on his home planet. That same home planet serves as one of the many unique set pieces our array of characters divide up to explore and engage in. The fact that they developed a competent plot that gives so many unique players a legitimate role without things feeling cluttered or pointless is really an achievement in and of itself. The writing is snappy and enjoyable as is typical of the films in this franchise and seeing characters interact with each other has always been some of Marvel Studio’s best dialogue. The movie climax’s with a stereotypical culmination of heroes and their attempt to stop the primary antagonist, but ends with an extremely bleak outlook as Thanos succeeds in obtaining the six infinity stones (plot Macguffin) and completes his goal of wiping out half of the universe’s intelligent life. Extras, and heroes fade into ash before the audience and while I’m sure children around the country had teary eyes on their way home from the theatre the refreshing risk marvel took with this is undercut a little by the fact that these actors are all contractually obligated to more films, meaning the end truly isn’t the end for some, if not most of them. This is a minor contrived grievance in an otherwise seamless movie. Enjoyable from start to finish and does not feel its length.

 

3 ½ stars