Saturday, January 30, 2016
The Kung Fu Panda franchise has done an amazing job at finding the perfect balance between action, comedy, and emotion that is great for both kids and adults. The idea of a bumbling panda becoming a kung fu master is a really silly, yet hilarious premise. At the same time, it packs a huge emotional punch as we learn in the first movie that the secret to becoming special is believing in yourself. Whatever goal you have in life, if you believe you can achieve that goal and then work hard to achieve it, that goal can be reached. What a great message! Then we learn in the second movie that your past doesn't have to determine your present or your future. Another great message! Now speaking of the past, this third movie is out to teach another great lesson and it uses Po's past to set this up. If you remember the end of the second movie, we get the tease that Po's real father is still out there and is living in a thriving panda village. That clued us in early that they had an idea in mind for the third movie long before it actually was released. Five years later, that's the exact premise he goes with. Po's biological father shows up and Po goes to this panda village to learn a new lesson and prepare to stop our new villain, one that is more powerful and dangerous than any other villain we've seen in this universe so far.
In addition to the brilliant look of his character and the well-written backstory, what seals the deal for Kai is J.K. Simmons' fantastic voice acting because this character just sounds like a scary beast that you don't want to mess with. We learned in Whiplash that J.K. Simmons is excellent at being scary as he played the band teacher from Hell in that movie and that definitely carries over in this movie. Thus he is able to carry this movie on his back and make it a fantastic ride as he just terrorizes the whole country. Not even Master Shifu or the Furious Five is a match for this guy. Adding to his power is that once he defeats someone, he is able to turn them into jade zombies of themselves and use them to fight on his side, thus in addition to his own strength, he has an army of former heroes that are being forced against their will to fight for the wrong side. Thus the only person that is able to stop Kai and his army is our Dragon Warrior Po and his own army of pandas. But the catch here is that Po has to be able to teach them. That's his next step as a kung fu master. He's trained to become a kung fu master and he's learned to fight, but now he has to teach and that's what he has a really hard time doing.
Yes, this movie is quite the wild ride from start to finish. But specifically the finish. Even though this is a movie you can thoroughly enjoy even if you know the whole movie, I won't spoil what happens in the second half of this movie. You can probably see the ending coming from a mile away, but that's okay in this instance. It's not the type of movie where crazy twists and turns are needed. Needless to say that the ending is an absolute blast and probably the best finale out of all three Kung Fu Panda movies. If I'm being nit-picky, it's the first half of the movie that does struggle a bit. The first two movies flowed very well. They had the perfect balance of humor and emotion while providing a lot of fun action with a great story. This movie has all those elements, but it's a lot less engaging to start out. It still has a lot of great humor that made me laugh pretty good, but a lot of it did feel a bit forced. It felt like they were trying really hard to capture the magic of the first two movies. While they didn't necessarily fail, there were times where I could tell they were trying too hard. Certain things were a little too silly. The writing wasn't always clean and crisp. The flow wasn't perfect. But it was fine. I was still enjoying myself even if the magic wasn't fully there.
In the end, I had a ton of fun Kung Fu Panda 3. No, the magic of the movie wasn't quite there during the first half of the movie as there were times it felt like they were trying too hard to repeat what they accomplished in the first two movies, but I was still having fun with the movie. That magic was recaptured in the second half of the movie and thus as a whole I think this is another great addition to the excellent Kung Fu Panda series. I think it's harsh to call this the worst movie of the franchise. Third best is probably the most accurate terminology because all three of these movies are great! In my opinion, this third one does have the best villain of the three as well as the best final battle of the three. The ending doesn't necessarily gift-wrap the franchise up, if you know what I mean. This is the type of franchise where they could do a Kung Fu Panda 4 without making people angry. But with the way that Dreamworks is slowing things down and focusing on quality instead of quantity, it'll be at least five years before they have room on their schedule to make another one, so in my opinion they might as well call it good. If they do, they can now proudly say that they have made of the best animated trilogies ever. Well done Dreamworks. My grade for Kung Fu Panda 3 is an 8/10.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
13 Hours touches on subject matter that I personally am not too familiar with. It's also super recent stuff. As in September of 2012. Just over three years ago. This blog existed when the events of this movie were taking place. Usually they wait 10 or 15 years at least before doing a major movie on current events. But not this time. And that seems to be the trend recently as stories I remember hearing about on the news not too long ago are getting movies. I don't really know what I think about that, but okay. This here is about the war over there in the Middle East that's still going on. I should keep up with that stuff more than I actually do. But oh well. Thus when I went in, I was ready for a bit of a history lesson. Tell me about Libya, Michael Bay! Because that's where we are. Benghazi, Lybia. On September 11, 2012, an American diplomatic compound was attacked, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. This led to quite the chaotic night for a group of soldiers. That's the night that this movie is about. 13 hours of chaos on the night before they are scheduled to go home to their families.
I got the feeling that Michael Bay just couldn't help himself. It's as if he listened to all the criticism he's had over years and years of making horrible movies and decided to attempt to make a good movie this time around. And it mostly works. But he couldn't help himself. He had to include a lot of his typical Michael-Bay-isms. An overly long movie with too many action sequences. Unrealistic firework explosions. Soldiers running in slow motion. Attempted humor at the wrong time that kill the suspense. Weird camera angles, specifically camera angles where the camera is really low and angled upwards that give us the feeling that we are laying on the ground watching these super tall soldiers. And product placement. All of Michael Bay's movies have to have product placement. The Transformers movies are loaded with them. This one doesn't have nearly as much, but once again, Michael Bay couldn't help himself. I get the need for product placement, but it can be done well and it can be done poorly. This is the latter. Like there are scenes where the movie is super suspenseful, but then the suspense is completely ruined because suddenly you realize that you are in a Mercedes Benz commercial instead of a movie.
All of this was really frustrating to me because I knew there was a great movie hidden amidst all of these Michael-Bay-isms. I get that the man is trying to redeem himself, but ultimately I wish this movie was done by a different director. I think we would've had a great movie, because Michael Bay has to have his stamp on the movie. Yes, this is better than the Transformers movies. And yes, this is much, much better than his other two movies that are based on a true story. I mean, his first attempt at that he turned the events of Pearl Harbor into long, drawn-out love story with a few Pearl Harbor scenes thrown in. His second attempt, he turned a rather horrible and disturbing crime drama into a really offensive comedy. Pearl Harbor and Pain & Gain. Bad movies. In fact, is 13 Hours Michael Bay's best movie? I guess. But best Michael Bay movie is like asking which pile of dog crap you'd rather step in. In this instance, the movie is like walking through the grass thinking you're going to step in a pile of dog crap, but then checking your shoe afterwards and realizing that you didn't. It's not an experience to write home about, but at least you didn't step in a pile of dog crap. 13 Hours wasn't a great movie. But at least I didn't feel like I was being punished with my sentence being me forced to watch Transformers: Age of Extinction all the way through.
But yes, as this being Michael Bay's best movie, or at least the best movie he's made this millennium, there are some things to praise about this. Namely the last act of this movie is really good. The first two-thirds of this movie I found boring, confusing, way too shaky (I almost got dizzy in a few scenes), and stuffed with enough Michael-Bay-isms to annoy me. But holy cow was the ending of the movie great. The suspense was at an all-time high. These men are just trapped on the tops of these buildings trying to fend off the attacks and simply hoping that they make it through the night. When the attacks come, you are on the edge of your seat, biting your nails, hoping that they make it. When the downtime arrives, it's even more suspenseful because you are thinking that at any given second another attack could happen. And of course it's at these moments where you get your strong feelings of patriotism where you are super grateful for these men for putting their lives on the line as they defend our country. Even if the battle they are fighting is useless. You're still grateful. And by that I mean this is where the slight political agenda comes in. It's not a bad thing. They are just trying to be honest in stating that the United States came in with intentions of establishing democracy, but it blew up in our faces, leaving everything in complete chaos, making you wonder if we should've stayed out of it in the first place.
Overall this is not a bad movie. It's curious that they decided to do this so soon. I'm wondering what the soldiers involved in the actual events think of this movie as it has to be fresh on their minds still. In the hands of another director who is used to doing war dramas, this would've been great. As is, Michael Bay got his hands on this, and although he did a worthy job, he just couldn't help himself. He had to put his annoying stamps on the movie, which makes this a very average-at-best movie for the first two acts. I was bored, confused, and annoyed for most of the movie. It wasn't horrible, but I saw the potential the movie had and was sad that it was being ruined by a bad director. But then the third and final act came around and I was totally glued in and on the edge of my seat. I almost completely forgot about my complaints from the first two acts and I almost completely forgot that this was a Michael Bay movie. It was super intense, super suspenseful, and super emotional. Had the whole movie gone down like the ending went down, this would've been one of the best war dramas I've seen, especially since John Krasinski gives the best performance of his career in an Oscar-worthy performance. But as is, I have to give a grade to the movie as a whole and that comes in as a slightly above average movie. My grade for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a 7.5/10.
Saturday, January 23, 2016
I will admit that this is a tricky movie to review as literally the whole movie hinges on whether or not the last third of the movie is any good. As such, a good portion of my thoughts pertaining to this movie have to do with the ending. But ain't no way am I divulging any of those thoughts because that will ruin the experience for you. The whole premise of the movie is centered on the mystery of this doll. Our main character is a girl who has just got out of a pretty bad experience with a previous relationship and she is simply looking to escape the world, so she accepts a job as a nanny out in the country. The house she goes to for this job is a huge, old house in the middle of nowhere with all the windows boarded up. Her job is to watch after an older couple's 8-year-old son while they are gone on some sort of vacation or something like that. Turns out their son is a doll, which confuses her, especially when both of the parents treat the doll as an actual boy with strict rules that need to be followed. The doll is not alive. It's not possessed or talking. It's just a doll. So when the parents leave, she doesn't really take this seriously at all. She leaves the doll on the chair or on the bed and goes about her normal business. She has broken the rules.
Does saying this spoil the movie? Not in my opinion. My point here is that I want you to know what you are getting into with this. Perhaps if you look at it the right way, you might actually enjoy the movie. No there aren't a ton of jump scares or blood and gore. Yes, there is a lot of suspense and a lot of that is done in more of a natural way. We are thrown right into a very complex story that we don't know much about. As the movie slowly starts to reveal itself, we start getting an idea of what's actually going on. But it's not given all at once. The mystery shrouding the whole situation is what keeps you intrigued and keeps your eyes glued to the screen. What's the deal with this family? What have they gone through? Why are they doing the things that they do? The first thing I actually noticed was the set of the film and the lighting. This sets the tone for the movie. Instead of jump scares, we get great camera work combined with a beautiful, creepy score. We also have great acting by everyone and very believable characters. The way the older couple cares for this doll as if it's their actual son is great and believable. How our main girl reacts to this while the parents are there and what she does right when they leave is also great. The whole thing felt real and genuine. I felt like they were actually trying to make a film instead of using horror cliches to grab a few extra bucks and I appreciated that.
In summing this point up, this felt more like a thriller to me than a horror and I think that if you look at this as more of a thriller, then you might appreciate the movie more. In fact, a very comparable movie was M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit from last year. That was another movie that was a horror/thriller. It wasn't scary or gory, but it was suspenseful and it was actually really good. Much of the same qualities that made The Visit a good movie make this one a good movie. Even if we were to ignore the ending of The Boy, the way that they crafted the film and the way that they chose to build up the suspense were very admirable in my opinion. When it comes to thrillers, I'm once again going to refer to the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. None of his movies were super scary, but they were very suspenseful and the way he built that suspense was beautiful. I want more people in our day to look at the model Hitchcock set up and use that for their films. When I see it happen, I make sure that I give credit where credit is do. Last year STX delivered The Gift which I felt was a modern Hitchcock thriller, which is why I loved it so much. I went into this movie hoping that The Boy would follow the same format and I honestly feel comfortable in saying that it did. The movie was set up like a good thriller should be set up and I loved that about this movie.
So yes, as I stated earlier, this was a hard review to write. Overall I suppose a good way to sum up my thoughts is that I was satisfied. Perhaps this isn't the most original idea. I haven't actually seen a lot of creepy doll movies, but I really enjoyed the direction they took with this movie. This certainly isn't your typical slasher horror movie. This also isn't a situation where Sam and Dean Winchester needed to intervene, if you get that reference. I don't know what else to say without spoiling things, so I'm going to leave it at that. But once again I want to repeat that you should know what you are getting into with this movie. If you want a gory, jump-scare filled monster movie that so many horrors are like nowadays, this is not your movie. If you want to see a movie that scares your pants off, this is not your movie. I see this as more of a thriller where the suspense is built up in a slower, more natural way that I personally appreciate a lot more. Is this on par with The Gift? No, it's not. I have a few things to nit-pick that I can't tell you about, but I do think this is a good movie. I also think it's very comparable to The Visit. If you liked that movie, then I think you should give The Boy a shot. My grade for it is an 8/10.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
A few days ago I gave you my list of my top 10 favorite movies of 2015. If you missed that list, I have it linked right there for you to catch up on. Now it's time to do the opposite and give you my least favorite movies of 2015. As a reminder, this is my list. If you liked some of these movies, that's great. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. I didn't want to hate these movies. I always go into a movie hoping to like it, but sometimes that's just not what happens. In the case of these movies, my experience was a disaster. It's also worth noting that, once again, I did not see every movie this year. In fact, when it comes to bad movies there are some that I just had no desire to see. As an example of this, I'll let the cat out of the bag right away. I had no desire to give Fifty Shades of Grey one penny of my money. Does the movie promote rape and sexual abuse? No. Does it look like a really cheap porn flick with horrible characters, acting, dialogue, and story? Yes. So I didn't see it. It's not the only bad movie I skipped. But there were enough atrocities for me to feel comfortable doing this list. So here they are!
10- Taken 3
9- The Divergent Series: Insurgent
6- Terminator: Genisys
5- Jupiter Ascending
4- Strange Magic
3- The Green Inferno
2- Jem and the Holograms
1- Fantastic Four
10- Taken 3
9- The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Every 10 years or so Hollywood decides that it's time to remake Peter Pan again. I don't know why this is the case, but if we have to do this I can at least respect the idea of doing something different. I kinda liked the idea of doing a prequel where we explain how Peter Pan got to Neverland. The idea of Hook being a protagonist to start things off was interesting. We can tell the story of how they became enemies. Add a fantastic cast and a great director and things were looking great! Until the trailers started being released. Uh-oh. I suddenly got really nervous. The trailers were terrible. And turns out that uh-oh was right. We have the dumbest, most cliche orphanage scene to start things off. I just wanted to get to Neverland. But then the journey to Neverland felt like an acid trip and when we got to Neverland they were singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Might I remind you that this was set in World War II. That song didn't exist!!! But dumb things like that set the tone for the rest of this movie to the point where if you are a fan of Peter Pan, this movie will be offensive to you because nothing is right. It's all horrible and hard to watch. It baffles me how people like Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara can read scripts like this and decide that it's a good idea to accept the job.
6- Terminator: Genisys
Well here's a franchise that should've ended 20 years ago. If you haven't seen the first two Terminator movies, go watch them. They are two of the best action/sci-fi movies ever made. But then the rights went to someone else and then those someone elses decided to continue a franchise that was wrapped up in the most perfect way. In doing so, there were so many continuity errors that it was apparent that for some reason the new people in charge did not care for those first two classics at all. That third Terminator movie was a disaster. The fourth one had nothing to do with anything. And yet we still got a fifth one. And we might even get a sixth one. Stop it! Just stop it! Now to be fair, the initial premise of this movie is interesting. They go back to the events of the first movie and had they stayed there, this could've be a fun movie. But then they jumped into the future and the whole thing became a confusing mess. Time travel is a fun subject that I enjoy. But if you get too carried away, it easily can become a mess, thus you have to tread carefully. The first two were perfect in regards to this. But now the whole franchise is just messed up and now this this franchise has become the textbook example of what NOT to do with time travel in a movie. Personally I choose to pretend that Terminators 3-5 don't exist and I cross my fingers that they will one day just stop.
5- Jupiter Ascending
4- Strange Magic
3- The Green Inferno
2- Jem and the Holograms
1- Fantastic Four
Friday, January 15, 2016
We've finished another year in movies and so it's finally time to reveal my top 10 personal favorite movies of the year. A few things to note before we start. First, this is a list of my personal favorite movies. The movies I enjoyed most or the movies that I had a personal connection with. I've been told in lists like this that I'm wrong and that makes no sense. No, I'm not wrong. This is my list. It's biased towards what I liked. Second, I have not seen every movie this year. That's an impossible feat because there are so many that come out each year. But that's okay. It means that there's always more movies to discover from every year and I think it's good to always keep searching those movies out instead of only focusing on the new ones. In the future I probably will find several movies that should've been on this list. No problem with that, right? Finally, while I do enjoy assigning grades to movies, when creating this list I always ignore the grades that I gave. Thus you might find things in an odd order if you pay super close attention to the numbers I give out. Don't let that throw you off. A number is just a number. This is all about comparing the movies to each other, which is something I don't do when giving out an individual grade. So without further ado, let's begin!
10- Shaun the Sheep Movie
9- The Revenant
8- The Martian
6- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
5- The Gift
4- Ex Machina
2- Mad Max: Fury Road
1- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
analyzed review by Chris Stuckmann that I just linked right there. There's so much to praise! The movie is a character piece that dives specifically into both Rey and Kylo Ren. It's their movie. Rey is such a great protagonist. I love everything about her and everything she does. And Kylo Ren is such a deep, troubled villain. I love how broken and conflicted he is. It makes him a better villain. I'm excited to see where the rest of the trilogy takes these two. It was great to see Han, Leia, Chewie, and the gang again, but what's more impressive is how I cared more about our new characters. Not just Rey and Kylo, but also Fin, Poe, BB8 and others. I love the return to practical effects. I love the sets. I love the visuals. I love the cinematography. I love the John Williams score. I love the action sequences. I just absolutely love this movie! J.J. Abrams and company have successfully made the third best Star Wars movie!
10- Shaun the Sheep Movie
9- The Revenant
8- The Martian
6- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
5- The Gift
4- Ex Machina
2- Mad Max: Fury Road
1- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Monday, January 11, 2016
The Revenant is the true story of a group of fur trappers in the early 1800's. There's a ton of fascinating themes and stories that take place throughout the movie, the biggest of which is a survival movie centered on Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm not going to spoil the setup of this movie because I think not knowing that setup will make for a more emotional journey, but I will say that does involve a bear. That part is no secret as I've known about it for about a year now and it's been in just about every trailer and TV spot. Leo gets attacked by a bear. And he doesn't just get attacked by that bear. He gets mauled by that bear. It's a rather terrifying sequence that leads to his group leaving him for dead. Thus we get a man vs. nature survival story that's rather brutal. However, this isn't your typical survival movie where it's just one man trying to survive for most of the movie with a few side characters showing up for a scene or two at the beginning and end. We spend quite a bit of time on several of the side characters, which makes for a very well-rounded, deep movie. But like I said, I'm going to leave most of that a surprise for you to discover on your own.
interview with boxoffice.com, "It's the time of the day when God speaks; you hear the wind in the trees, you feel the cold, you smell the fear."
I like being out in nature. I also like photography. And yes, I really love photography of nature. When I'm out in nature, I make sure to have my camera and I'm usually snapping tons of pictures so that I can get the perfect shot. By no means am I even close to being a professional photographer, which is why I also love looking at pictures and videos from actual professional photographers. This is a beautiful world we live and this movie did a great job of capturing that beauty. Even if the story in this movie was sub-par, I would've come out with a positive feel about the movie with how beautiful the landscapes they capture in this movie are. Yet at the same time, nature is also very brutal and unforgiving at times. Leo's character in this movie is in a very bad situation. We're in the middle of the winter and he's trying to survive on his own after being mauled by a bear. In addition to capturing the beauty of nature, the way in which they shot this movie also made it so they captured the terror of nature. The movie felt very cold. Much of the movie was pretty dim. Thus it felt like you were there with Leo trying to survive. This effected me mentally as I was watching and I actually felt cold, so I put on my coat. No joke with that. Major props to this movie for pulling off what they did.
The cinematography is so good that I said that I would've come out of this movie with a positive feeling even if the story wasn't that great. But that's the thing. The story is really good. The themes in this movie are really fantastic and I love how things turn out. Much of this is propelled by the fantastic acting throughout. Much has been said about Leo's acting performance in this movie and for good reason. Leo is one of the best actors in our age because he completely immerses himself into every one of his roles. Even though he is one of the most recognizable actors, when I watch any of his movies, I see a character and not an actor. For this movie, he wasn't Leo pretending to be stuck in the wilderness on his own. He was Hugh Glass and he was a badly injured man near death in the freezing cold winter. He didn't do a whole lot of talking for several reasons, but he didn't need to talk in order to pull off an amazing performance, which is what he does. In fact, in a very long list of fantastic performances, this performance stands out as one of Leo's best. There's a reason why many people are upset that Leo hasn't won an Oscar yet, especially after five nominations. I really hope this is his year.
If you are only a casual movie-goer who only heads out to the theater once or twice a month at most, I do think this is a movie that you should give a shot to. However, if you are a fan of film, specifically the film making process, then this is a must see. Not only is this a great movie with a great story and great themes, but this is a beautifully crafted film. The cinematography is breathtaking. The camera work is fantastic. The use of natural light adds so much to the theme and feel of the movie. The costume designs, makeup, and hairstyles are perfect. The direction of the film is amazing. This is definitely Iñárritu's movie and I love what he does with it. Leo gives his all in this role and is very deserving of an Oscar win. But he's not the only actor who deserves praise. Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, and Domnhall Gleeson all add a very important depth to movie. All of them give what I call Oscar-worthy performances. If I were to pick only one to stand along Leo, I'd go with Hardy, but Gleeson and Poulter deserve to be noticed as well. There's a reason why I waited to see this movie before doing my best movies of 2015 list, because this will probably be on there. My grade for The Revenant is a 9.5/10.
Saturday, January 9, 2016
The trailers for The Hateful Eight didn't clue me in too much as to what this movie was going to be about, which I mostly appreciated. However, this was one of the few instances where I wanted a little more of an idea of what we were getting into. When I finally heard, not from marketing but from reviews, that this was a Tarantino version of Clue I immediately became intrigued and excited, especially after I dove into more of his movies and realized more of this man's brilliance as a filmmaker. I always love myself a good who-done-it movie. If this was a Tarantino who-done-it movie, I was in. That's kinda what we got. I'll get to more of that in a second. But as far as our premise, we're set in the Civil War time period, just after the war I do believe, and we have a bunch of different characters trapped in a cabin during a blizzard. We have a couple of bounty hunters. One of them has a female victim worth $10,000 that he's planning to get hanged. The other fought for the North in the war. We also have a war general from the South, the new sheriff of the town everyone's heading to, a hang man from that town, and a few other side characters. It's a very fun setup and you know something is about to go down. You just don't know what.
I hope this isn't too spoilery for you if you haven't seen this movie. We're three hours long and there's a lot more that happens that I'm not even hinting at, but I do bring up what I do in order to help illustrate that the story of this movie isn't actually that interesting, especially when compared to Tarantino's other movies. Django Unchained was a slavery, Western movie. Inglorious was a re-telling of World War II. Kill Bill was a huge revenge story. Jackie Brown was a hidden love story. This was just a bunch of guys in a room. No real depth to it. Not a whole lot of meaning. The themes aren't nearly as strong as some of his other movies. Splitting this movie into chapters didn't really have a point. Telling this out of chronological order didn't work in this like it usually does in his movies. The ideas were in place for a super interesting movie, but the execution doesn't really work in this like it usually does. There's several elements that are in every Tarantino movie and while all of his movies are good, his best movies are the movies where all of his elements fit together perfectly. This didn't happen with The Hateful Eight.
That said, this isn't a bad movie. It's just a sub-par movie when compared to Tarantino's other work. When you've made so many great movies in your career, there's almost an expectation to put out great movies each time and thus when you make a movie this is good and not great, it's often seen as a disappointment. That's just an unfair part of life, I suppose. When you spend the last 20 years making great and sometimes near-perfect movies, a misstep is a lot more noticeable and easier to criticize. But for now I'm going to be done criticizing. If my negative points are confusing, that's because I'm not letting myself go into details because the aspects that are most worthy of complaining about are in the middle and the end of the movie. As far as the good, the best part of the movie is the characters and the amazing acting performances given by everyone. I was actually really worried about the three hour run time going in, but that wasn't an issue at all because the buildup and character development with all of our characters is perfect. One of the things that Tarantino does best is his dialogue. He can often go huge portions of a movie just with people talking and somehow make it super interesting. That's the case here. Much of the three hour run time was the spoken dialogue between all of the characters and it was all really fascinating.
Part of the reason why all the dialogue was so fascinating was obviously a well-written script that kept you paying attention to every spoken word. The other part is the acting. This is one of the rare instances where I almost don't want to point out anyone because if I point out one person, I have to point out everyone and if I point out everyone, I might get carried away and spend four or five paragraphs just on the different performances. That would be excessive. So I'm just going to give highlights here and not complete thoughts. Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, and Tim Roth are our Tarantino staples and all were amazing, especially Samuel L. Jackson, who gives possibly his best performance yet in a Tarantino movie. Walter Goggins gives an excellent sophomore effort in a Tarantino movie. He was in Django, but wasn't a huge character. This he is. And he almost steals the show as the character who experiences the best and most interesting arc. When push comes to shove, the one who does steal the show is our prisoner girl played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Holy. Fetching. Cow. That woman was crazy. Bruce Dern I loved. Channing Tatum I actually wish was in the whole movie because he was fantastic in his five minutes of screen time. More people could've been mentioned, but I think that's a good highlight reel of performances.
Once again, Tarantino is a master filmmaker. The man really knows how to make a movie. With the large amounts of blood and gore in every one his movies, he's definitely not a filmmaker that will appeal to everyone, but if you are a Tarantino fan, The Hateful Eight is another score for Tarantino that you need to check out. The music and cinematography are practically perfect and that combined with an amazing script with beautiful dialogue make the build-up for this movie very good. It's a long movie, but one that keeps your attention with every move and every line. The mystery surrounding the movie makes it really interesting and fun to follow. However, when we learn what is actually going on, I will admit that the movie as a whole becomes a lot less interesting than it could've been and you realize that the story in this movie is very weak. Thus when compared to Tarantino's other movies, this is no where near as good as several of his other movies. But even with this less than stellar premise, it still manages to be intense and entertaining as you are unsure where everyone's loyalties will lie. It's not going to show up on my list of favorite movies from 2015, but it's still worth checking out if you haven't already. In a bit of a storybook finish to this review, I'm going to give The Hateful Eight, Tarantino's eight film, an 8/10.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
That's why this Christmas Special was quite the pleasant surprise. I knew it was coming, but I totally forgot about its existence until I was reminded on the day of that it was happening. Instantly my plans for that night changed and I once again dove into Sherlock. As is the case with all of my TV show reviews now, this review will be a spoiler review. I've decided with TV, my target audience is not people waiting to see the show or considering watching the show, it's the people that have already watched. I want to discuss the details of this episode with other fans of Sherlock that have already seen it, because there's a lot that happened here. If you haven't seen this episode yet, it's actually showing in theaters tonight and tomorrow (January 5th and 6th) in certain places if you feel like paying to see it. Otherwise it is re-airing on January 10th I do believe. Or you could probably just find it online somewhere. I'm guessing that PBS or BBC will have it on one of their websites, but that's just a guess. Anywho, watch the episode somehow and then come back and read this review for the episode and let's discuss!
For those reading this paragraph, I'm assuming that you have watched the episode or just don't care about knowing spoilers. So let's dive in! What I immediately loved about this episode was that it initially appeared to be an episode in an alternate universe. What I mean is that one of the great things about Sherlock is that it is set in the modern day, yet it has the tone of and feel of any other Sherlock Holmes story. Well this time the episode was actually set in the late-1800's with our current cast of characters. A lot of the stuff that was going on was the exact way it is in all the old Sherlock Holmes stories. It was classic Sherlock Holmes with the actors that we all love! I didn't know why it was happening, but it was and I was enjoying it. I just assumed that they wanted to do something fun for the Holiday Special to satisfy fans while we all wait impatiently for season 4 to finally air. I was totally down for this. In fact, I didn't need for this to connect at all with season 3 or season 4. Instead I got to thinking how cool it would be if we actually had a full-fledged spin-off series like this.
That's where the meat of this story will come. It's always fun during an episode like this to speculate on how she faked her death, just like it was fun to speculate how Sherlock faked his death at the end of season 2, which we still don't know the answer to. We speculated for two full years only to be teased for the whole third season on how he did it. All we really got was more questions as it appears with the end of the season 3 finale that Moriarty also faked his death. Now it will be a total of five years before we might get an answer to these questions. We did get a few more clues towards the end of this episode, but I'll talk about that in a second. The point is, I was fully invested in this mystery they were solving. They could've just gone on did this story the whole episode without bringing it in and I would've been totally fine, but then crazy things started to happen. Sherlock is mediating in his room when Moriarty shows up and starts taunting him about this case. Then he wakes up. He is back on the plane with Watson, Mary, and Mycroft in the modern day, right where we left off after the season 3 finale.
The whole finale to this is rather wacky, but really genius at the same time. Apparently everything that has been happening in this past is all in Sherlock's head. He's used drugs to send him into this mind simulation so that he can solve a case from 120 years ago that he feels can help him figure out what is going on with Moriarty. I don't know why I didn't make the connection earlier, but suddenly I did. The whole case with the Abominable Bride is parallel to Moriarty's case. This bride blew her brains out and appears to come back and so did Moriarty. By solving this case from, we could get clues as to how Moriarty pulled off what he did. This also dives deep into the character of Sherlock. He's not just a super genius solving cases. He's a human being with serious flaws. He has these drug addictions that are apparently a lot stronger than we initially thought and he justifies the use of these drugs so that he can feel better about himself. We even dove into his thoughts on romance as Watson interrogated him about that. I also got the feel as we kept jumping back and forth through Sherlock's mind that Moriarty has gotten to him real good. Whether or not Moriarty is actually dead, his legacy certainly lives on and if his goal has been to mess Sherlock up mentally, it seems to be working.
After jumping back and forth through time, we finally go back and it appears that we are going to solve this case. The bride faked her death at first. Then she went and killed her husband. After doing this, she kills actually kills herself to throw people off when they identify her dead body at the morgue. Then a secret group of females have been carrying on her legacy to avenge the wrongful things that certain men have done to them. I really enjoyed this specific story. A surprising reveal? No. An interesting one? Yes. But even more interesting is what happens right at the end. Sherlock is about to unmask the lady, certain he knows who he is, when he is shocked to find Moriarty, who is also supposed to dead in this dreamed up timeline as well, although through the classic waterfall death scenario. Pretty soon we are back to the waterfall where we have our second confrontation between Sherlock and Moriarty. The two big sequences we have between Sherlock and Moriarty is definitely the meat of this episode. The constant battle between the two of those is what ultimately holds this whole series together. Yes, the episodes without any sign of Moriarty are still good, but the ones with him are the best. Yes, much praise has to be given to Benedict Cumberbatch for his perfect portrayal of Sherlock, but we can't forget Andrew Scott as Moriarty for being perfect in that role as well.
In conclusion, I thought this was a very fascinating episode. Because of this series, I'm always excited to see Martin Freeman and/or Benedict Cumberbatch show up in any sort of TV show or movie, which is part of the reason why I'm stoked to see Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, but I especially am excited when both Freeman and Cumberbatch show up together in Sherlock. This episode snuck up on me, but I was so glad I got to get my Sherlock fix. This was a fun story and it was great to see all these characters in a classic Sherlock Holmes setting. Then as it was revealed what was happening, I really enjoyed how psychological we got. Sherlock was always a fascinating character, but I felt we dove even deeper into his character in this episode and saw a lot of the issues that he has and how troubled he is over the Moriarty situation. Speaking of which, the best part of this episode for me was the return of Andrew Scott as Moriarty. I wasn't expecting him to show up, but it was such a pleasant surprise when he did. Then did again. As a holiday special, this was perfect. This didn't progress the story too much, but it gave us a taste of what is in store for us next year. I just wish season 4 would get here faster.