Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Andrew's Greatest Movies Ever #1: Jurassic Park

Hey all!

It's been a year or so since I've lasted posted a review. While I apologize for this absence, it was necessary due to school and other activities that required my full attention. I dabbled a little bit in filming YouTube reviews, but for now I'm going to stick to my forte of writing.

I decided that I would publish a series of reviews analyzing my favorite movies. This would help ease me into blogging again. I love writing and have recently realized that I wasn't satisfying my creative outlets sufficiently, so here I am again. Returned. Ready to entertain all with words on a screen. Hopefully, I haven't lost my mojo. Did I really ever have a mojo? Don't answer that. Or do. The Internet is mean, so it would make sense.

For the very first entry into my canon of fantastic movies I will be adding my thoughts on the great film Jurassic Park. This movie essentially raised me and continues to inspire me in my late 20s. It's the most likely choice and well-deserving of #1 on my Greatest Movies Ever List. Keep in mind, this list will mainly consist of my favorite/guilty pleasure movies. This isn't a list that's meant to say, "These are the greatest movies ever made." This is merely a list of movies that I could watch over and over again, without tiring. In a way, we could probably call it "Andrew's List of Endlessly Re-watchable Movies."

Screw it. Call it whatever you want. Call it, "Andrew's Stupid List of Movies That Get Him Hot and Bothered" or "Andrew's List That is Proof He Has No Concept of What Makes a Good Movie." It's up to you.

So here we go. Hold on to your butts.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park is the epitome of great science-fiction mixed with great action. It sets the standard for which all action/killer animal movies should be based. This movie literally changed the game. And what's amazing about it is that it still holds up even today. 

Spielberg used a high percentage of practical effects in this movie and not as much CGI as we see in today's movies. This is heavily apparent in the scenes with the poisonous dylophosaurus and the T-Rex attack. Nothing has ever been more terrifying than the scene where the T-Rex originally escapes her paddock and roars her first roar. That sound she makes is synonymous now with dinosaurs and is endlessly recognizable by anybody who's even barely seen the movie. It's incredible how it still remains relevant and scary today. Using practical effects, Spielberg brought a realness and reality to this movie that other directors may not have been able to grasp within a plot that talks about genetically engineered dinos. 

Just check out how scary this scene is and how realistic it looks. If you watch the T-Rex, you can even see individual muscle groups moving and his eyes shifting. That's something not well-enough appreciated about this movie. They got as close to a real dinosaur as you possibly could at the time (and perhaps even now):

I don't know about you, dear reader, but I have goosebumps. If I could chose who I died, I would feel privileged and honored to be eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. 

Besides the brilliant use of practical effects, Jurassic Park does an incredible job of bringing depth to a movie that had no business having any sort of depth. Because it's based on a brilliant novel by Michael Crichton, the creators were able to utilize some of the interesting themes written about by Crichton: man playing God, the ethics of creating life, man vs. nature, etc. These themes crop-up throughout the movie and are represented in brilliant ways. 

Most notably, Spielberg uses a great cast of characters to embody some of the characteristics talked about in the novel. John Hammond (Richard Attenbourough) is the creator of Jurassic Park and envisions a destination for families and adventurers that can realize their most treasured dreams. He's as idealist as it gets and can't fully grasp the danger and inherent unethical aspects of this park he has created. Hammond essentially plays the God-like figure that has attempted to harness creation powers and create something beautiful. 

John Hammond, the god

While his intentions are pure, he dreams a little too big for his briches and unintentionally puts his guests into danger. Spielberg brilliantly represents Hammond with a Godlike appearance, with him wearing all white and sporting a bright white beard and personifying charming personality traits. He appears wise and dreamy, but comes across as out-of-touch and selfish enough to push his dreams forward, regardless of the cost. Hammond gradually changes throughout the story, but one wonders if he would've been able to see the need of shutting down the park if his grand-kids weren't smack-dab in the middle of the danger. 

On the opposite side, Spielberg has a character named Ian Malcolm (brilliantly played by Jeff Goldblum). He represents man's reverence against God and nature. He's originally brought in as an expert to endorse the park, but from the get-go he shows how truly against the park he truly is. Some of the questions surrounding man attempting to play God are brought up by Malcolm and he openly questions Hammond's intentions. Early on, you can see in his facial expressions and his demeanor that he is incredibly uncomfortable with the park and with the idea that dinosaurs have been brought back to life. With Malcolm, Spielberg cleverly showcases the exact opposite ideals of Hammond. He even dresses him in all black, with a leather jacket and beady dark eyes, mainly to show the clear opposition that Malcolm represents. While he may not be evil in the true sense of the word, he represents the main instigator and challenger to the fulfillment of Hammond's dreams. 

Malcolm doubting Hammond.

Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern) are also brought along as the wide-eyed scientists with an almost-childlike reverence for prehistoric creatures. They are overwhelmed by the majesty and power of the park, but slowly realize the dangers brought along with the creatures. There are also a few kids brought into the picture (Hammond's grandkids) and are used as a plot device to eventually show Hammond that he is putting families in danger and, in this case, his own grandchildren. 

Of course, there are some disposable characters included like the "blood-sucking" lawyer who is unceremoniously and rightfully dispatched while hiding-away on a toilet. And Spielberg is able to represent true evil and greed with Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight), the obese and slimy computer programmer who becomes the reason Jurassic Park goes haywire. Side note: one thing I'll never understand is why they would only have one specific person able to override and maintain the security features of the park. Shouldn't there be a team of people in charge of such important details? Not only that, but they put the most suspicious and gross people in charge of all of it. It's almost like they were setting themselves up for failure. 

And, of course, we can't end this discussion without mentioning the raptors: the stars of the entire show and, arguably, the franchise. They are introduced early-on in the movie at Grant and Sadler's dig-site in Montana and Grant has a well-written scene where he explains the dangers that surround a creature like the velociraptor. I'll let you watch it for yourself: 

Little does Grant know, but he'll soon come face-to-face with the danger and smarts of the raptor that he so respects. The danger of the raptors is evident early-on as well, with the full animal not being shown until almost the end of the movie. All we see are claws or  we hear eerie and blood-curdling screeches. This is brilliant film-making and really builds up the tension surrounding the inevitable reveal of the stars of the show.  From the beginning, there are numerous scenes where all we are shown is a torn-up harness used to feed the beasts, along with lines delivered by the gamekeeper Muldoon about how completely unpredictable and dangerous the raptors can be. While the raptor is being fed, viewers are only able to witness the characters stunned and horrified expressions as they see what the beasts are capable of as they feed on an innocent cow. The raptor is still never shown: 

We don't get a full glimpse of the animal until Ellie is attacked while trying to reboot the security systems of the park.  Even Muldoon, in the end, is no match for such creatures when he is eaten alive. Due to all the tremendous build-up, the eventual raptor reveal is well-earned and satisfying. They become just as scary and dangerous as we imagined throughout the movie. 

Can you tell I love this movie? I've thought about it a lot over the years. I am even subscribed to a podcast that examines the movie and breaks it down to the very minute. Each episode is about a different minute of the movie. Ridiculous, I know, but love makes a person do crazy things. 

Jurassic Park is definitely meant to be a fun and entertaining movie; something for kids and adults alike. It's brilliant film-making and blockbuster gold, but the deeper themes help this movie to maintain a cult-like status and last the test of time. This movie will forever be regarded as one of the best, especially in my mind. But that's easy to say when you cast Jeff Goldblum in your movie and he has a laugh like this: 

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Good Dinosaur Movie Review

I finally feel inspired enough to write another movie review. I apologize to all my followers (all 3 of you) that I've been MIA for so long. School has taken up all my time and I've been very sidetracked by other projects. I will be attempting to do a movie review (either by YouTube video, which will be starting next week or blog post). Right now, though, its easier to stick to blog posts until I can figure out the whole YouTube editing process. That'll take me some time. I also would like to make sure I don't look like a complete and total buffoon in front of a camera.

So what brings me back to my beloved movie blogging? Well, unfortunately it's the disappointment of a highly anticipated animated movie that I've been hearing about for MONTHS. This was a year of two Pixar movies: the first being an iconic and top-notch feature film in Inside Out (seriously, that movie was incredible), and the second being The Good Dinosaur, a movie reminiscent of the old-school Land Before Time and We're Back (minus the modern day).

If you know me, you'd understand why I've been anticipating this movie from the moment I saw the trailer. ITS A DINOSAUR MOVIE. That's the first thing that stuck. But once I started hearing that it would incorporate something of a western theme/feel within the dinosaur world, I was sold. This would be the movie I would show my future children first before anything. This would be the greatest movie in the history of animated movies, dinosaur movies, western movies, or dinosaur-themed-western movies (small sample there).

"Hello, my name is Arlo and I'm afraid of fireflies."
The overall story follows a young terrified-of-the-world brontosaurs/brachiosaurus type dinosaur named Arlo who happens to be the runt of his family. He has a brother and sister who have defined skill-sets and a very hard-working, stern father who expects greatness from him. Initially, this story-line stuck out to me, because I grew up as somewhat of a runt in my family and I struggled with a lot of irrational fear of the world. I also always worried whether or not I was living up to my parents' huge expectations for me. Arlo's story felt a lot like MY story. I knew I was going to enjoy this initial aspect of the film, which appeared to be Arlo's search for an identity in the world and his desire to impress his father. A number of sad things happen in the very beginning of the film that make you feel like this is going to be a tear-jerker for the ages.

Unfortunately, this movie does not live up to the hype. A lot of the problem with the movie can be linked to the fact that it switched directors halfway through production (this usually spells doom for ANY production). You could feel throughout the disconnect with the story and the overall feel was that there were a lot of ideas trying to be adapted within the story, which contributed to an overall confusing and weird story.


Before I get into what didn't really work, I want to make sure I point out what did draw me into the film. Obviously, you can't talk about Pixar without talking about the mind-blowing computer animation. In the case of The Good Dinosaur, the animation of the landscape felt so real and so lifelike that it was hard for me to believe the filmmakers weren't using actual footage of landscapes. It was incredible. I think I bugged Abby by asking her about 10 times during the movie, "Are you sure that grass is animation?" or "There's no way in hell that water is fake." or "WHAT THE F%#&*# WHO HAS TIME TO MAKE SOMETHING LOOK THAT COOL?!?"

Phenomenal. Incredible. Jaw-dropping. AMAZEBALLS.

I also really enjoyed the dynamic between Arlo and his human pet Spot (I called him Plop for the majority of the movie). It was a relationship they really didn't develop like they should've throughout the story and both Abby and I believed the movie would've worked a LOT better if the focus was on their friendship and their individual search for meaning within the world. Unfortunately, that entire plot-line got derailed within everything else that was going on.
"If you ain't afraid, you ain't alive."

It was cool, as well, to see the T-Rexes used as allies to Arlo and Plop, rather than enemies. They were essentially cowboys who were herding longhorns. It worked pretty well in my eyes. Plus, you can never go wrong with Sam Elliott voicing a character. I could listen to that man read complete gibberish and still get goosebumps.


BUTTTTTTT unfortunately there were a lot of things that didn't work. A lot of things. :(

First and foremost the entire plot-line felt muddled. It seemed like a number of people were trying to shoehorn their ideas in there and the heart and charm behind the story got lost along the way. It jumped from being a coming of age story to a western...than jumped into being a buddy journey movie...with a bit of Croods thrown in...back and forth back and forth...and ended up trying to be a "what would've happened if the comet DIDN'T hit Earth and kill the dinosaurs. In the end, I'm not entirely sure what they were going for and I'm honestly not sure they achieved ANY of those.

"Excuse me, but do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior the STORM?"
There were also a lot of characters that just didn't feel right to me. The main culprits were the pterodactyls. They were almost borderline offensive, and I'm not easily offended. Were they supposed to be overly religious extremists? Maybe I'm overthinking it, but those characters could've been done without. Most of the minor characters did not work and it seemed Pixar was trying too hard to make interesting and witty characters. I appreciated the risk involved, but I don't quite get what they thought they had with some of these dinosaurs.

In the end, I was entertained by this movie. I laughed. I almost cried (dudes, that father-son story-line got me good). But I was mostly disappointed. I expected a lot from this film and this definitely will be not be going down as one of Pixar's best outings. It's still enjoyable and kids will LOVE it. Was it made for that reason? Was it made to sell toys? Probably. But the movie, I would say, is still worth a family outing. Just don't expect anything thought-provoking or mind-blowing. If you want that, rent Inside Out on Blu-Ray and prepare to be blown away.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Alien Anthology Movie Review: Ranking the Alien Movies

If you knew me growing up, you could confirm the fact that I was utterly and completely terrified of the thought of aliens taking over the Earth. This all began during a movie theater viewing of a recently released Space Jam (yes, I saw that movie in theaters. I'm old). Before the movie began, there was a certain preview for a certain weird, parody-filled Tim Burton movie called Mars Attacks. For some odd reason, the images and sounds from that one preview stuck with me for over 10 years and I was convinced that if alien kind were ever to visit the Earth, it would be these horribly-CGIed monsters from Burton's movie. This was terrifying because these "martians" were obviously hostile, lacking in mercy, and even shot a dog during the movie. The thought of these aliens destroyed me for years upon years. There were full summers where I was convinced that I was the only one who could prevent the world's inevitable destruction and that everyone around me was merely blind to the oncoming horror of our extermination (do you think I'm exaggerating? 11 year old me was very . I eventually got over these fears and was able to live like a normal human being.

Why am I babbling about my weird youngster fear of aliens? Well, mainly because this fear kept me away from a lot of movies that I otherwise would've enjoyed if I hadn't been deathly afraid of little green men. Since my triumph over this fear, I have been able to enjoy movies such as Signs, War of the Worlds, and Marvin the Martian. I've watched many of these without any lasting emotional or mental trauma. While I have yet to be able to watch Mars Attacks! again, I did recently undertake the task of watching the Alien anthology, directed by Ridley Scott. What follows are my thoughts and feelings regarding this epic and AMAZING franchise. Before I begin, allow me to just leave a gif here of the martians from Mars Attacks! I want you all to join me in my DREAD.

Seriously, though. Isn't that above gif just terrifying? That's what nightmares are made of.

Anyway, if you haven't heard of the Alien movies...well, you've probably been living under a rock or you're Amish. EVERYONE'S heard of Alien. It's one of the most successful franchises of all-time and was the movie franchise that put both Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver on the map. The first one (Alien) came out in 1979, with Aliens (1986), Alien 3 in 1992 (or cubed or whatever) and Alien:Resurrection (1997) all following and adding to the franchise. Ridley Scott also helmed and directed a prequel (the first addition to the franchise without Sigourney Weaver) in 2012 called Prometheus.

I decided to watch all these movies back to back to back on a Sunday and other days. So technically they weren't all back to back...and I didn't watch Prometheus until a few weeks later. Whatever, I'm not a liar so don't start with me. Let's just say...I thoroughly enjoyed these movies (except for one) and may have found a new movie obsession. If you're unaware of the premise of these movies, it's pretty simply. Essentially there's a character named Ripley (Weaver) who in each movie somehow gets stuck on a small spaceship, planet, or something with bloodthristy aliens (called xenomorphs) who like to eat humans and use them as hosts to give birth to more aliens. The movies are gory, the action is top-notch, and the mythology is absolutely riveting (watch Prometheus for more on the mythology). I won't get into too many details about the specific plot points of each movie, in order to avoid spoilers for those that haven't seen it. But let's just say that each movie consists of people gradually getting picked off one by one...with these aliens completely dominating the entire time.

Here's how I would rank the movies (in order of best to worst):

Best Alien Movie- Aliens

My girlfriend can confirm how much I enjoyed this addition to the franchise. We had just finished Alien and went straight into watching this one. From the moment the movie started to the end, I was on the edge of my seat. I may go as far as to say that I enjoyed this movie MORE than I enjoyed either Jurassic Park or Jurassic World.

If you know me, you'd know how blasphemous that is for me to say. This sequel absolutely enthralled me. There were points in the movie where I was legitmately giggling like a little kid. I adored it.
The plot is pretty much the same as Alien, but with a bigger budget, better acting, and better effects. Instead of just one alien this time, there are numerous. Add in Bill Paxton as an idiot, and Sigourney Weaver straight kicking the queen alien's ass, and you got yourself a good time. Pop in this movie, turn off the lights (don't eat while watching...ugh), and go on a fun ride.


Alien, the first in the franchise, wasn't nearly as riveting as Aliens. Sure, it introduced us to these aliens, the characters, and the overall theme but it still suffered from feeling like a low-budget, monster movie. Regardless, Ridley Scott made the most of what he had at that time. It's hard to believe this movie came out in 1979. It still holds up today.

The overall feeling of dread and claustrophobia is nauseating. You truly feel for these characters that are stuck in a tin box (spaceship), running from something they don't fully understand. Add in that nasty facehugger and I was cringing throughout. This movie gets bonus points for casting old Bilbo as an android (Ian Holm) and Tom Skerritt even makes an appearance (one of my favorite, more underrated actors).


While this movie doesn't technically count in the original anthology, it was still the only other one besides Alien and Aliens that was actually directed by the great Ridley Scott. It's a prequel and has much less "alien" in it, but it still tells the story of where these aliens evolved from, and gives us a cool story about where humans came from as well. It's all a load of bullcrap, but it's still fun to watch.

Essentially, we learn how the USS Prometheus got stuck on LV-223 (did I mention that's the name of the planet where the aliens come from). While it has no Sigourney Weaver to hold it down, it DOES have some great performances from Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron (Hail FURIOSA!!), and the great and magical Idris Elba. I love Idris Elba. He may be one of my favorite actors of all-time. It will be a travesty if they don't make him the next James Bond. I mean look at the guy,

This movie was almost in fourth place, but it gets bonus points for having both Idris Elba and one of the grossest scenes I've ever seen in film with a lady giving birth/sorta cutting out an octopus from her womb.

Alien: Resurrection

This movie, while slightly entertaining, suffered from poor direction and a weird, weird storyline. They essentially took everything that was awesome about Ripley's character and turned it on it's head. I also wished more people died in the film.

Honestly, this movie just had a weird plot and felt like a bad 90s action movie, complete with weird music, goofy acting, and laughably bad CGI. In reality, it had TOO MUCH CGI. Regardless of those weaknesses, there were some good moments. I enjoyed the scientific touch and really enjoyed Winona Ryder's character. She was one of the best additions to the franchise since Sigourney Weaver herself. That's saying a lot. I enjoyed her storyline a lot and the chemistry she developed with Weaver's character.

Alien 3 (cubed)

I think I made it through about half this movie before Reddit and good conversation distracted me. THIS MOVIE IS HORRIBLE. It may honestly be one of the most boring, snoozefest movies that I have EVER seen.

Not only was the plotline just weird, but they completely screwed up the awesome ending of Aliens and made it a completely irrelevant movie. Everything that Ripley fought for in that movie was rendered moot because of Aliens 3. I can't say anything good about this movie. Not only was I unable to follow the plot, but I didn't understand the dialogue, and EVERYONE WAS BALD. Legitimately. Every character was bald. This made it nearly impossible to figure out what was going on. This movie also lost a lot of points with me for having a dog die. That's a big no-go for me.

The sad part is that this movie is directed by David Fincher, he of Se7en, Gone Girl, and Zodiac fame. Who knows what wrong with this movie.

If you haven't seen these movies already, you need to. Keep in mind, they definitely aren't for the faint of heart or easily squeamish. But they are definitely modern-day horror classics and a good testament to the amazingness of Ridley Scott as a director, complete with a fantastic alpha-female character (which is quite lacking in cinema nowadays). The franchise, as a whole, is a great addition to any movie/blu-ray collection.

I shall now end with another Mars Attacks! gif and then go cry myself to sleep for even attempting to face my martian fear. Ugh, these things are the worst.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jurassic World Movie Review

Y'all got your Star Wars and Star Treks...your Marvel superbros and your colorful ponies...but I have always had JURASSIC PARK.

Growing up, I probably could've (and still can) tell you the main character names in all 3 of the original Jurassic Park films... especially Lost World for some strange reason (Roland Tembo for the win). Here's a rundown of how important and influential these movies were for me:

1. At one point (or maybe twice), I had a Jurassic Park-themed birthday party.

2. I had a collection of about 10-15 Jurassic Park action figures (my Ian Malcolm was my prized possession, RIP)

3. One of the first CDs that I ever purchased for myself was the soundtrack to Jurassic Park III (I could probably still sing it along with the movie from memory).

4. When the Interweb first came out, I discovered a site that had the addresses of actors. My first fan mail/letter was sent to the address of the amazing Jeff Goldblum (Ian Malcolm). How do you NOT write to this stud?

5. I have been carefully and patiently keeping tracking of the "Jurassic Park 4" page on IMDB since it appeared somewhere around 2005. It gradually morphed into what is now Jurassic World.

I guess you could say I've been anticipating this movie for quite some time.

But, the question is, did I enjoy it??

Before I answer that question, let me explain what exactly I was looking for when I went to see the movie. Honestly, all I needed to see from Jurassic World was some form of that same magic that accompanied Jurassic Park and part of The Lost World. I urged to feel that same 12-yr-old-boy wonder that was captured in the very first film when Dr. Grant sees the dinosaurs for the first time. My biggest fear was that this movie would turn into nothing more than what was Jurassic Park III was...a monster movie with a bigger budget and no relation to Jurassic Park except for the name.

I needed to feel that magic again. I wanted to be awed by the dinosaurs and excited to see the park. At the same time, I wanted the film to address some of the original themes from Michael Crichton's novel and the original movie. For example, the dinner scene in Jurassic Park remains, to this day, one of my favorite movie scenes that I have ever seen. This is the scene where Hammond, Ian Malcolm, and the rest debate and analyze the ethics of creating the dinosaurs and whether or not it was ever a good idea. I'll include the video below. My favorite line from the entire dialogue is spoken by Ian Malcolm, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

I LOVE that line. Watch the clip for your elf and get those same chills. 

Anyway, I was worried that Jurassic World wouldn't explore those same themes that were the focus of the first two Jurassic films. From the trailers, it seemed like they were approaching the themes, but I was worried it wouldn't fully delve into the potential of them.

Those were my main worries...and I can now officially say that I LOVED Jurassic World. I went into the film with very muted expectations...I didn't want to be disappointed. I also didn't want the movie to be just a dinosaur-themed action movie liked Transformers, with no heart and all CGI. 

It's safe to say that Jurassic World is the sequel that Jurassic Park always deserved. It grabs the original themes of the first and body slams into the 21st century. Not only does it add so much to the franchise, it successfully sets it up for even more additions in the future.

The best part of the movie is easily the tension brought on by the Indominus Rex. I loved how they didn't reveal all of it's secrets in the trailers or even at the beginning of the movie. The killer dinosaur remains a mystery even up until the ultimate climax of the movie. Many of the times that the dinosaur is in frame or in the scene, you definitely feel a sense of dread and actual fear for the main characters. 

Chris Pratt's Owen was an amazing addition to this movie. His character, as well as the two kids, were the ones that worked the most for me. He was just a straight-up bad-ass. I didn't expect to like the taming of raptors idea, but they hit it out of the park with this one. He had more chemistry with the CGI raptors than he did with any of the other humans in the entire movie.

I really enjoyed the kids, opposite of most reviews, because I was able to relate to them the most. The youngest kid (played by Ty Simpkins from Insidious) easily reminded me of myself from that age. His awe, wonder, and overall excitement at being at a fully functional Jurassic Park was very believable and got me all sorta of teary-eyed. 

Unfortunately, a few of the characters did not work. Bryce Dallas Howard was a little over-the-top in her character. She was supposed to be the Hammond-type all-business lady. But honestly, I thought it was a little over done. Also she never took her heels off for the entire movie. Her scene with the T-Rex towards the end was her one saving grace (spoilers...ahem). 

Vincent D'Onofrio (from Law and Order: Criminal Intent) was also a little overdone, which is disappointing considering how well he's done as Kingpin in Marvel's Daredevil (Netflix, watch it). I thought the weaponizing idea was a little far-fetched and his villainy to be a little comical.

Overall, though, this movie satisfied the Jurassic Park-nerd inside of me. I do wish they had explored the themes of creating a new dinosaur a little bit more. There was never a scene in this movie that was quite on the thought-provoking level of the scene above. It lacked a little of the "hmmmm....interesting"-feel that was so prevalent in the original. A lot of those themes got lost and muddled once the Indominus Rex started terrorizing things. 

In the end, Jurassic World was fun and a worthy addition to the Jurassic Park canon, while lacking a bit in character and thought-provoking themes. The weaknesses, though, are few, and neither stops this movie from grasping and running with the same charm that was brought to the table during the original Jurassic Park.I gave it an 8.5 out of 10. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road Movie Review

What a lovely movie. Seriously, what an absolutely disturbing, action-packed, lovely, THRILL of a movie.

If you haven't seen it yet, buy yourself a ticket and go see Mad Max: Fury Road, the latest from Mad Max creator George Miller. This is a movie that absolutely MUST be experienced on the big screen.

This is an incredibly difficult movie to describe, but I'll do my best. Essentially what George Miller created was an epic, unforgiving look at the future. With Mad Max, he depicts a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future that is dusty, dirty, without water, and insane. The people are insane. The cars are insane. The way people interact is insane. THIS WORLD IS INSANE.

The entire movie revolves around the most ridiculous car chase I've ever seen. Charlize Theron (playing Furiosa) is trying to help a bunch of women flee from the slavery and self-proclaimed god Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne). She teams up along the way with Tom Hardy's Mad Max and a creepy, former follower of Joe, the highly-entertaining Slit (played by X-Men's Josh Helman). All the performances are spot-on, dirty, gritty, and above-all else....absolutely riveting.

It honestly should be unfair how entertaining and action-packed this movie was. Let me just make a list of things in this movie that SHOULD make you want to go see it:

1. Epic choreographed motorcyle battles (with motorcycles leaping over cars dropping bombs)

2. Amazing cinematography (truly phenomenal use of colors) that transports you to this unforgiving and desolate wasteland.


4. Cars covered in spikes

5. Truly insane stunt work and little use of CGI. Seriously, the guys in this movie do some straight ridiculous stuff.

If I haven't convinced you yet, let me try to convince you with some stills of the main characters in this issue. Don't tell me these people don't look purely fascinating!

You should want to see this movie. I really have nothing witty to say. This is entertainment at it's finest. Mad Max is the reason we go to the movies. Pure spectacle, with a story that actually has heart to it. George Miller created a crazy, insane, weird world that WORKS. I loved it and can't wait to see more.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Andrew's Cinematic Adventures: Horror Movie Super Review (Unfriended, Babadook, Silence of the Lambs)

I have realized that if I want to be taken seriously as a movie reviewer...or at least be well-versed in all the different types of movies out there...than I should be willing to watch ANY type of movie. This includes movies that I wouldn't necessarily seek out. I love all types of movies for sure...but I tend to avoid the creepier, horror-type movies. Regardless, I have decided to watch ALL movies that come out, scary or not. It's been tough, but my nightmares have been worth it.

This review will include three separate horror movies that I've watched recently. Each one was very different and affected me in a different way. If you don't feel like reading a review of each, then just skip to the one you want to read. Included here, I will have reviews of the movies Unfriended, the Babadook, and Silence of the Lambs.

Unfriended (Skype is a serial killer...)
Let's go ahead and get this started with one of the weirdest, yet satisfying movies I've seen in my entire life: Unfriended.

The only reason I knew this movie existed was because I saw a trailer for it at pretty much every movie I went to last year. It's a pretty easy movie to explain...essentially a girl at a high school kills herself due to cyber bullying and uses the Internet to achieve revenge against all her friends/bullies that gradually pushed her to commit suicide. Simple premise? Yes...but the entire movie actually takes place on a computer screen...using Skype, YouTube, Spotify, and other common computer tools to tell the story.

Essentially we get to a see friend group gradually get picked off one by one by this girl....all using the technology they are using to communicate with one another. They are unable to kick the "mysterious visitor" out of their Skype convo and she gets to each one...wearing them down and turning them against one another.

Sounds stupid? Yes, it kinda was...but for some reason I could not tear away my eyes from the screen. There's something about hearing all those familiar Skype sounds, Spotify music, YouTube whatnots, and seeing them used in a truly terrifying manner against people that are eerily familiar to those you would know in real life. It was mightily effective. There were times during the movie where the camera was solely focused on one computer webcam, with nothing happening...but it was unnerving because you knew something was ABOUT to happen. You were waiting for a jump scare. And then nothing happens. Very well-done horror if you ask me. I've spoken in this blog before about horror movies using cheap jump scares to get the audience terrified...well, Unfriended did not use those overdo those tactics. Every scare in the movie was effective.

Unfriended also made effective use of actors/actresses that are unknown. It was refreshing to see a lot of faces in this movie that I didn't recognize. That contributed to the overall scare factor. Like I said, because the faces were unknown you felt like you were watching real people dealing with real terror. While the actual characters in the movie all had extremely stereotypical high personalities (they had the cute couple, the token fat stoner friend, the douchebag alpha male, the slutty friend, and the friend that they all talked to but secretly hated), it was still enjoyable and didn't feel too much like another cheap teen movie with poor dialogue.

This, as far as I can tell, was Levan Gabriadze's first movie. What a great first entry into the horror cannon of Hollywood. I'm intrigued to see what he does next. It was very fun to see a little bit of new vision and something completely different added to the horror genre.

UNFRIENDED VERDICT: 5/10 (fun the first time, probably would never watch again)

The Babadook

Dat Babadook doe, amirite? But seriously, Abby and I had heard about this movie for months. It was talked about on all the movie blogs, movie YouTube channels, and whatnot as one of the most well-done and terrifying horror movie of 2014. But yet we could never find it in theaters.

But then...NETFLIX came through. And oh boy were we glad we finally were able to watch it. Even though we both had pretty hefty expectations for this movie, we were still completely entertained and utterly unnerved by this movie. THE BABADOOK. Dun dun dun.

This movie was completely different than what I was expecting. The trailers, posters, etc all marketed it as a creature feature. It appeared to be a movie about a small family dealing with a terrifying presence in their home...something that was a mix of Slenderman and Edward Scissorhands. Seriously, though....look at this thing:

I dont care who you are. That thing is terrifying. The movie, though, ended up coming across a lot deeper than I was expecting. While yes, the plot does revolve around a mother and child recovering from the death of her husband while battling some sinister and evil presence in her resonates a lot deeper than that when you actually think about the movie.

I'm sure if you've read about this movie, you've heard the analysis about it being essentially about depression and learning to live with it. The Babadook, they say, is sort of a representation of "depression and the struggle with always having it around." The woman, espescially, in the movie is the one gradually being taken over by the "babadook/depression" and it effects everyone around her (including the dog, sigh).

I like that analysis. It's hard to miss when watching the movie. But even just on a less-deep level, this movie has effective scares. The Babadook is hardly ever seen and the music contributes to an overall feeling of dread throughout the entire movie. I watched it with my roommate and my girlfriend and we were all feeling very unnerved the entire time. It all hit a little too close to home. AND THAT'S NOT A BAD THING. The fact that this movie could somehow get to all three of us on some level (even though we are all incredibly different personalities) speaks to how effectively this movie was made. That, to me, is the mark of a great movie.

I also loved loved loved the bleak atmosphere this movie portrayed with it's use of dark and dreary colors throughout this woman's home. No bright colors, just a lot of black, white, and gray. This isn't something I would've noticed if I wasn't watching the movie with someone who has an eye for art and such things. I love it when movies try to achieve a subtle feel even through just lighting and color. It's not something I've ever noticed before. But because I've been watching these movies with someone who has an eye for this stuff, it's cool to start seeing it in other movies. I love it. MOVIES. ART. GAHHHHH.

I can't finish my review of this movie without acknowledging the amazing performances of the two lead actors in this film. Since this was an Australian film, the two actors would be unknown to most of us. Regardless, Essie Davis as Amelia (the mother) and Noah Wiseman (Samuel, the child) were perfectly suited to their roles. Wow, wow, wow. Especially wow for Noah. Count me as one of the people easily annoyed by child actors. A lot of times they can come across as stupid or annoying (just watch the Phantom Menace) Noah Wiseman, on the other hand,  showed a lot of talent with his performance in his movie...and somehow DIDN'T come across as annoying. Top notch performance.

I would highly recommend this movie. But keep in mind, it's not for the squeamish. Remember this is STILL a horror movie, but more on the level of a psychological thriller mixed with a creature feature. Watch it with friends if you want the best overall experience. It'll become one of those movies that you can analyze long after the final credits have rolled.

THE BABADOOK VERDICT: 9/10 (must buy, great rewatchibility factor)

The Silence of the Lambs

I've been meaning to watch the Silence of the Lambs for years. I would always hear about it from friends but yet I never actually got around to watching it. Once I finally found it on Netflix, I knew it was only a matter of time before I give in to the peer pressure.

Boy am I glad I did. This movie is, obviously, a well-known classic and included one of the most iconic movie villains/killers of all-time in Hannibal Lecter. I usually go in to these classic movies that I've never seen with muted expectations. I'm always afraid I'll be let down or find out that the movie is overrated.

The Silence of the Lambs is NOT overrated. Anthony Hopkins is truly chilling in the title role as Hannibal Lecter. He steals the entire show. The weirdest thing about this movie is that Hannibal isn't even the MAIN VILLAIN. He's in prison for the majority of the movie and merely acts as a helpful voice to Jodie Foster's character Clarice.

The main plot revolves around Clarice attempting to catch a serial killer who is skinning his victims. For some reason or another, Clarice goes to Hannibal for help since a lot of the killings resemble what Hannibal did to his victims. While helping Clarice, Hannibal is also clearly manipulating her. He appears to have some sort of interest in her as a person and sees something truly intriguing within her.

Whatever that was, I have no idea. Allow me to just say that I hate hate hate Jodie Foster. She's probably my least favorite actress and always come across as whiny and just plain unlikeable. Ugh. Hannibal, c'mon man. She's not THAT great. Add her to my list of least favorite actresses along with Tea Leoni and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Anthony Hopkins, on the other hand, is a truly phenomenal actor. I have never once been disappointed by a Hopkins performance. I was raised watching his movies (my dad is a huge fan). Whether it was the Mask of Zorro, Instinct, or the Edge, Hopkins has always been able to put out a magnificent character and convince me that he has truly become that character. I cannot believe how well he performed Hannibal. My what a chilling man.

My favorite part of the movie was every time he chillingly said, "Hellllloooo Clarice." Ugh, so good. I really just wish I knew someone named Clarice, so I would be able to say that all creepily to her. It's become one of my favorite lines in the movie history. :)

If you're going to watch this movie, keep in mind that is is NOT for the faint of heart. Remember that Hannibal is essentially cannibal and there are some truly bloody and horrific scenes within the movie. I don't want to spoil anything if you haven't already seen it. Just remember not to watch with your children. Obviously.

But do you want to see a master class in acting? Watch it for Anthony Hopkins' performance alone. The movie would be just average if it weren't for his character. Everything else happening in the movie pales in comparison to his few moments on screen. He steals the show in every way. I'll be adding this to my library for sure.

SILENCE OF THE LAMBS VERDICT: 8/10 (purely because of Hopkins the God of Actors)

A lot of horror talk here. Do you need a little more joy after reading all this? Here's a picture of a duck. Also, be prepared in the next couple of days for my Avengers: Age of Ultron review and Mad Max: Fury Road. Woohoo!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Andrew's Cinematic Adventures: It Follows Movie Review

I definitely enjoy a good horror movie. Weirdly enough, I get an adrenaline-rush when something scares me and I just can't get enough of the feeling of fear. ITS JUST FANTASTIC.

Sorry for yelling. But really, being afraid during a movie is a great time and I was really looking forward to the movie It Follows. It's been awhile since Hollywood has released a decent horror film. Last year, we were blessed with horrible films like Oculus, Ouija, and Annabelle. None of them were scary and every single one of them failed to deliver for most horror movie fans. They relied too much on jump scares, predictable plots, and well...lots and lots of boredom and an extreme lack of character development.

That's where It Follows comes in. Even with a weird plot, it somehow delivers an effective and suspenseful horror experience. It's not groundbreaking by any means, but it entertained me for a good two hours and brought me back to the days of 80s horror movies like Friday the 13th or Halloween.

The first thing you need to do when going into this movie is get rid of everything you've heard about the movie being symbolic of what an STD does to someone who has it. While, yes, I can see the connection...let's go ahead and put that aside as a very far-out (while weirdly valid) interpretation of the source material. Now that I've said that....let me explain the plot of this movie....

It Follows follows (hehe) the exploits and adventures of a young high school girl named Jay. After sleeping with her boyfriend, she is unfortunate enough to be the recipient of a curse...the curse being that she is constantly being followed by a supernatural entity (it can take the shape of any human being). She has to avoid being touched by this...thing...otherwise she'll be dismembered and mutilated. The funny thing about this curse is that it's passed on through sexual she received the curse from that douchey boyfriend (he knew about the curse and was attempting to pass it on). The only way to get rid of the curse is to sleep with someone else....the demon will then move on and FOLLOW that person you slept with...

Ok, fine. It's probably about STDs. PRACTICE SAFE SEX (OR DON'T HAVE SEX AT ALL) AND YOU WON'T BE FOLLOWED BY A DEMON. That's what they should teach in high school health classes. Honestly, they should just show this movie and scare the kids into abstinence.

Regardless of that, this movie remains rather effective. It has the feel of an 80's horror movie and keeps the viewer very unsettled throughout the duration of the movie. I honestly had no idea what was going to happen and was on edge throughout. The most effective part of this movie HAS to be the music. It's eerie, unsettling, and all-around absolutely perfect. I actually have listened to the soundtrack a few times on Spotify since watching the movie. I enjoy the feel of consistent dread apparently, since I listen to that soundtrack during normal hours...

This movie also works because the characters feel real. Jay spends the majority of the movie trying to rid the curse while being helped out by her group of misfit friends. All of her friends feel like real people and the types of people most of us would know in real life. This is especially true of her friend/childhood crush Paul. Honestly, he reminded me of me in high school. Kinda naive, kinda pathetic...but yet oddly charming. I loved the portrayal by relatively new actor Kier Gilchrist. Check him out...doesn't he look familiar to EVERYONE?!?!

It Follows also doesn't rely on jump scares to achieve it's purpose. If anything, it focuses on keeping the viewer unsettled and consistently guessing. There are many times throughout the movie that the music/scene is building towards a jump scare but ultimately ends in absolutely nothing except a calm look out a window. That, in my opinion, is more effective than jump scaring me every five minutes. It keeps you unsettled and on edge. In the end, once the scares actually happen, they are much more effective. The movie builds you up and works up to the best scare possible. Quite impressive I would say.

The movie also stuck with me for a good amount of time after viewing it. I am now constantly double-checking if something is following me. Oddly enough, since the movie, someone has always been randomly walking behind me. A bit unsettling. That's the mark of a good horror movie as well...does it keep somewhat of an effect on you long after the movie was seen? Does it stick with you?

It Follows does all those things and more. Give it a watch with your lady/guy friend. Enjoy the ride. I give it 5 Wallsters or whatever...I still haven't come up with a valid rating system. ;)