Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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As Chris Stuckmann said, "it's not every day that you get a new Steven Spielberg film as well as a new score by John Williams" (one of the most famous director-composer partnerships in all of Hollywood). And based on the box office numbers, the premise of a new Spielberg [this time opting to reunite with the other folks involved in the production for "E.T"] film on its own wasn't enough to get viewers interested to see it.
I think, and this is just MY opinion, that the marketing for this film was terrible. The trailer made the film look like another CGI-heavy flick for kids with no substance aside from its visuals. None of the trailers that I saw said anything along the lines of: "based on the beloved book from the author of classics like "Matilda" and "Willy Wonka" comes a new story whose time has come. Steven Spielberg presents...The Big Friendly Giant." Imagine if Disney had hired the epic trailer dude to recite that, bam, that's all you'd need to get me in the theater. But instead, the title that Disney went with was "The BFG," and that's not a title that would exactly motivate me to want to pay to see it if someone else were doing the directing. It's almost as if Disney wasn't confident in this project at all, handed out money to Spielberg to see what would happen, and then didn't even bother with trying to promote it properly.
The real shame of its poor box office returns is that "The BFG" is a warm and magical film. Though neither spectacular nor unexciting. There's something about the film that just wins you over, and I couldn't help but smile throughout the film. Maybe it's the performances, maybe it's "just" the visuals, or maybe it's the music. To be honest, I don't care. Spielberg gives movie-goers, despite what all the naysayers would have you believe, something special. This is a special film, made with obvious care and heart from beginning to end.
Mark Rylance plays the titular character and right away--I mean, as soon as the giant started talking--I found him very likable. He's like a silly grandfather or something; you almost want to hug the guy. And speaking of talking, Mr. Rylance must have spent countless hours doing verbal exercises because the BFG's vocabulary is pretty "squiggly" (that's the word used in the film) and it never feels like he's just memorizing a bunch of wacky words like 'Scrumdiddlyumptious' [the spelling's probably off]. I'm reminded of 2013's "Romeo & Juliet"; a lot of that movie involved a bunch of regurgitation where the actors were almost babbling nonsense as if merely to get the scenes over with, but with the BFG I never doubted the actor/character once. ["Speak with criminal slang. That's just the way that [he] talks, yo. Vocabulary spills, [BFG's] ill"].
I'll admit that the CGI isn't always seamless, particularly when the BFG and the human characters interact, but fortunately a lot of attention went to Rylance's face. I believe a lot of facial scanning and all that was used for the BFG; the face has so many muscles that, ultimately, that's the one thing that needed to be no less than 'perfect' because the face can say a lot with or without any dialogue. There's so many emotions and expressions that can be made and here, it all feels naturally, well, because it is natural. It's literally the actor's face [which means that he has to ACT in the role as opposed to 'simply' lending his voice] that you're seeing and it helps make the BFG feel more "believable."
Ruby Barnhill is the young and talented actress who plays Sophie, and I thought she did a really great job. She has these mannerisms of innocence and childlike wonder, and with that, she's able to build this friendship with the BFG [not unlike, say, Spielberg's own E.T] in a way that it never feels forced. What has happened in other films is that you'll have this friendship that just comes off as fake, the interactions are wooden or seem too scripted, but that's not the case with "The BFG." Steven Spielberg as of late seems to know exactly what he wants in his shot and then somehow manages to achieve those shots, and he's in no hurry to rush things along. In scenes where the CGI doesn't always hold up, the quibbles and exchanges, as well as the chemistry between Miss Barnhill's Sophie and Mr. Rylance's the BFG, are there for the important support piece. To make us believe that the two are really talking, that it's 'actually' happening. Like I said, I never doubted the film for a second.
And how can I talk about a Steven Spielberg picture without mentioning the highly regarded and [to quote Ennio Morricone] esteemed, John Williams? The 84-year-old composer seems to be aging backwards with the impressive score for 'The Force Awakens' behind him, Williams [peace be upon him] adds another solid entry to his already legendary resume. Those woodwinds, yo, those woodwinds. The score for "the BFG" is far from being a 'classic' but with the baton in Williams' hand, the results are undeniably respectable.
This is the first instance where I was able to buy the CD and listen to it a few times BEFORE seeing the film. I have to say, the music [in my opinion] works better in the film than on its own. The score [as other scores do, both by Williams and other composers] is so connected with the film that it almost seems like Williams was writing the music live while Spielberg was directing; it's difficult to imagine that one existed without the other at one point.
I do wish to add that a reviewer of non-profession said that the music sounded like the early Harry Potters; overall, this is not the case. I think this person took notice of the numerous woodwind performances and inaccurately labelled it as Harry Potter-sounding [which reminds me of the time, allegedly, a professional reviewer said that John Powell's score for "Pan" sounded like Williams' greatest hits, and that turned to be a rubbish claim]. The composer's efforts might not impress casual listeners on the surface but make no mistake of this: the music for this film is still better than Most of what you'll hear elsewhere from Hollywood.
My praise for "the BFG" aside, there are flaws with the film. If one were to divide "the BFG" into 4 parts, the third quarter of the film had the weakest parts. The antagonists (the 'monsters' of Giant Country) while mean and effective on-screen bullies, also had some dorky moments where it was difficult to find them menacing or even slightly intimidating. I don't know, to me, they just seemed too silly at times. The ending, while sweet and all that, didn't have the punch that I thought it would (it wasn't terrible or anything, I just think it could have been more emotional or something). There's lots of minor stuff I could bring up and it doesn't really matter, it's not going to affect my opinion of the film THAT much. To me, "the BFG" is a 80 out of 100.
I will say this, though, usually when a movie does a fart joke. I consider that to be a sign of desperation and failure. Fuck it, Steven Spielberg gets a pass from me. Not because I love the guy's work, but because of its place in context of the film. It's not an awkward fart joke or the type of fart that producers/directors/writers think that audiences will bust a rib over, it actually works in "The BFG" and I was a bit surprised. Fart jokes can work, guys [Adam Sandler, please don't read that, not that he ever actually will, and add more of them to your garbage, I mean, movies]. Oh, and no, I haven't read the book (the BFG). But I did read "Matilda" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" in the 4th grade.
[5/1/16] The short version: It's good. The kids will love it, the older ones will love it, adults can love it, etc. It's an exciting take on the classic story; and there's no lacking in stunning visuals, captivating characters, and a solid score.
The long version: Walt Disney brings the classic story to the big screen in the second(?) live-action adaptation of the children's book. Say what you will about these live-action, previously-animated movie features; when they miss, they miss. But when they hit, boy, does it hit, and "The Jungle Book" is [unexpectedly, for me] easily two powerful blows of "story retold" done right and overall amazement.
I never read The Jungle Book and I haven't seen the old cartoon movie nor the 1994(?) live-action version. However, I think it says a lot when I say that the audience will care about characters like Buloo and Bagheera not because they're cute or famous, but because of how the film treats them. Idris Elba unleashes his inner-demon and provides an intimidating voice, definitely suiting his character's appearance, that younger viewers may find him genuinely frightening. When I looked up the cast, I was a bit "whoa" about seeing Idris' name-great stuff, I'd never have guessed it was him. Bill Murray knocks it out of the park, you just want to hug the guy and chill out with him [the same applies to how his character is animated]. Ben Kingsley gives his role all the wisdom and maturity that his character cherishes. Lupita Nyong'o doesn't have a major role in the film but there is one scene where she gets a chance to shine, the warmness in her voice projects a sense of motherhood that must have been very hard to pull off. And, obviously, the young actor, Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli deserves praise, especially since his character is the only main human in the film.
The interactions between these characters is something that's special. There's no shortage of dialogue and fun in a film where a kid has to act in [from what I understand is] a mostly green-screen environment. I imagine you really have to get your timing dead accurate to accomplish what the film ultimately does whether it be comedy-oriented or action-oriented scenes. But like I was saying, when these characters interact, it feels so natural that you almost forget that Mowgli is "just" talking with animals. I know some folks hate it when films anthropomorphize animals but, here, let me be frank, blow it out your rear end. Okay, there are films that deal with human actors that can't even get their characters down.
Setting up confrontations is another aspect that the film does well. I think that people who are familiar with the story might find them predictable. But, from my seat, I thought there were scenes that had a great deal of build-up. There are particular characters who go up against a particular villain, and you're at the edge of your seat hoping that nothing bad happens to them NOT because of the visuals but because we're familiar these characters. By that point, there's a certain amount of investment that the audience has in what they're seeing-basically, we care about the animals/humans that we (as viewers) are watching because we either like them or can relate to them.
On top of that, nearly everything is CGI. And I know that CGI gets a bad rep, but when it's done right-it's jaw-dropping. Texture and lighting and color, these are things that can make or break the look and feel of visual effects. "The Jungle Book" is a breakthrough in that type of technology, I have never seen such quality since James Cameron's "Avatar." I don't like to post spoilers, but, man, it's hard not to. Shots of forests, trees, vines, landslides, water running (waterfalls, rivers, ponds, etc), fire, and more were rendered beautifully. It's a level of visual deliciousness that you-as an audience member-never doubt, and in some cases, you might even confuse the CGI for the real thing (it's THAT good). The animals are equally as detailed but there are some scenes where they look a bit unconvincing; I really didn't mind just because the visual effects aren't there to replace plot or character development, the effects are there to enhance/support the story.
John Debney's score is an early contender for 2016's score of the year, in my opinion. I know that the composer references tunes from the older films in a few places [that's not a con, by the way]. I'm not familiar with them, I'm sorry, and so I can't dive into that aspect. I also couldn't always pick up on the music just because there's so much to absorb from the film and, thus, I don't know how strong the score is [thematically]. But from the bits that stood out, and there were a number of moments that did (such as the numerous choral cues and rhythmic action pieces that feature exotic percussion. I admit that my ears didn't catch everything), Debney's score is great. It's a step below heavyweight scores in the fantasy genre, such as efforts by James Newton Howard for "Maleficent," but Debney's work for "The Jungle Book" is certainly above the two previous major superhero motion pictures. And, without spoiling where in the film it is heard, there is a glorious orchestral interpretation of "Bare Necessities" that is simply incredible-the only con is that it's about a minute long when it probably should have been its own concert suite.
Back to the film, "The Jungle Book" is a winner. It's a solid effort by Disney and appropriate for all ages. The visuals could probably be considered groundbreaking but that's not the film's defining component, it's the characters that carry this book adaptation. The score by the film's composer, John Debney, is great; the performances are fantastic, and the direction is sharp and engaging. Re-telling a story that's been told is tough and Disney handled it with relative ease. For those who don't know, Warner Bros. is planning on releasing their own adaptation called "Jungle Book" in 2018...good luck, because besting this year's results is going to be near impossible.
As a joke, does anyone else think that Buloo and Bagheera would make an awesome same-sex couple [albeit of different species]? Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have said that. "Boycott Disney" is about to start, what have I done? Lol
[Originally posted on 4/2/16] The short version: That was disappointing in just about every aspect. Jesse Eisenberg, my gawd, that was terrible but I blame the writers. Snyder would Not be my choice for directing something of this size and significance [and it probably shouldn't have been Warner Bros/DC's]. Interesting visuals, but the rest of the film has almost ZERO subtlety.
The long version: "Batman v. Superman" is-and I say this hoping for, no, wanting, no demanding the opposite-a pretty forgettable film that will be remembered for the first major live-action motion picture to feature two of America's most iconic heroes on the big screen. The first signs of trouble came about when "Man of Steel 2" was announced to be in development and the title for some time was just "Batman v. Superman," then "Dawn of Justice" was added and suddenly the film seemed to be contradicting itself [which it does]. The trailers came out and they basically summed up the entire movie. Yeah, after seeing the film, I can safely say that if you've seen the BVSDOJ trailer then you have seen the movie (and almost in chronological order, too). You'd think Warner Bros would be paying attention to audience reception to other trailers that have spoiled the very films that they're supposed promote.
For this film, I didn't read (or watch) that many reviews. I wanted to watch the film and form my own opinions and whatnot. So while I may/may not (and probably do) have my own biases, I'm going to try to approach this review, my review, from a neutral perspective. Okey, let's get into it.
Zack Snyder is not a terrible director, and even for this film I would say that holds true, but, man, I really don't think he was the right guy for the job. And if he had his pen moving for the script, he wasn't the right guy for this assignment or for the genre at all.
I don't know who approved of this film's take on Lex Luthor, but it robbed the film of a villain that could have been. I don't know a damn thing about Lex Luthor, but the guy I saw on the big screen-there's no way that was Lex. Jesse's a fine actor; here, he's just annoying [and the way his character is written and handled is just pretentious]. I don't know why "every" behind-the-scenes mastermind (who typically invents impressive technological feats and is more than financially secure) esque villain has to have the following qualities (a) obvious inability to maintain self-control in terms of mannerisms and behavior (b) the "rapid fire" talking (c) no...real...motivation.
Ben Affleck was really the only guy who felt like he was trying to give the fans something. That something could be anything because, let's face it, when your nemesis *cough* ally *cough* is Henry Cavill's Kal-El (who, by now is two movies in, and is a flatter character than Batman) then there's really not much to compare Affleck to.
This part of the review, I actually wrote before the movie even came out, but I'm going to edit a few things: Despite the marketing attempt to get you to believe that this is the first collaboration between Junkie XL and Hans Zimmer, Junkie XL was actually involved on "Man of Steel." Also, three other composers, in addition to Zimmer and JXL, have "additional music" credits, bringing this collaboration effort up to 5 members, raising questions yet again as to how much of this music should be credited to Zimmer. The score is yet another example of Zimmer's "if we play loud, people will think we're good" mentality, no question about it. With an even louder percussion than what was heard in "Man of Steel," Zimmer (and 4 more composers) provide less-than-impressive results for the film with drums that drown out any clear sense of thematic development. Note that a weak score =/= bad music. The music itself is adequate [Wonder Woman's theme isn't my cup of tea, but it definitely conveys a sense of "square up, I dare you muthafucka. I double dog dare you" and I liked that badass quality], and if you're down with bombastic action music that resembles Mad Max in volume and propulsion, this is for you. To me, it was distracting (at times) and felt like the composer (and the director) intentionally wanted to hammer some chords over the audience's head, or rather their ears. Subtlety is almost non-existent, and if you're looking for some kind of musical storytelling-say, if you're wanting to hear Batman's new theme go up against Supe's theme from Man of Steel-it is with great regret that I inform you that you're going to be disappointed. On one hand, yay, for continuity music-wise [take notes, Marvel]. On the other hand, despite the 5 composers coming up with a theme for each character [another kudo for that], they don't really do anything with those themes aside (they rarely, if ever, mingle with each other). Funny story, actually, I saw a Halo 5 trailer at a Best Buy earlier this year and I was listening and I thought: "yawn, it's the same uninspired "sound" that we're accustomed to hearing [in trailers, in movies, etc]." I walked away when it occurred to me that I had been listening to music from Man of Steel. True story.
Back to the movie: I saw a comment somewhere that said, "If you love plot, you're going to love it. If you hate plot, you're going to hate it." The 'it' being "Batman v. Superman." I get that it's an opinion and all, but it's still worth a chuckle. No, really. BVSDOJ doesn't really build up to anything, it sets up the friction between Batman and Superman in a way that I "get" but it's still a weak reason to have the two go at it. After two long and exhausting hours of drumming and dialogue without any emotion and pseudo-philosophical discussions and court hearings [the last two actually kind of could have been interesting], we get to the big fight.
Batman versus Superman. God versus Man. All that hype. All that glory. All that salvia-dripping awesomeness that we've only tasted from the "old" Superman cartoons. And, it literally lasts less than two minutes. And even those two minutes weren't directed with enough...oooo, how do I want to word this? Skill? Precision? ...to make it worthwhile. And right away, they introduce Doomsday and the battle is abruptly set aside in such an obviously lazy move where Superman says "Martha" and Batman just happens to have a mom with the same name. That "convenience" wasn't what bothered me, I COULD have totally bought it. What really bugs me is that Batman hacks a device with "military grade encryption" from Lex earlier and, so, what exactly prevented Batsy from doing a bit of research on the guy that he views as a "threat to the entire galaxy" to prevent that type of mental distraction???
The narrative of the film was all over the place. That was the main problem I had with the film. It doesn't flow (at least, to me it doesn't), and the editing [as well as how certain scenes transition from one another] was just not working to BVSDOJ's favor. A lot of it has to do with the fact that Warner Bros/DC has multiple objectives here and it shows by how much they crammed into this project. They want to rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they want to set up the Justice League [including the in-your-face revealing of the Flash and the other three right before (or was it after?) the Batman-Superman fight], they want to create their own standard of superhero movies, and other stuff that I don't feel like mentioning. Ultimately, "Batman v. Superman" feels like different movies that were cut and forced into the mold of one massive mess of Superhero cinema.
We've all seen these debates online. "Well, Marvel's for kids and the jokes are so corny, bruh. DC makes mature films that so realistic, bruh. The Dark Knight, bruh. The Dark Knight." At least Marvel can make a good film AND at least they were smart enough to start out by introducing their heroes separately instead of slapping them onto the second film of the entire franchise. Oops. Hey, hey, I'm no Marvel fan. I might like the MCU but that's only because they've been lucky to not have the results that I saw in theaters today. If the DCEU wants to stick with this gloomy, charisma-less, borderline depressing tone and look, go right ahead. And judging from a report I saw that they're re-shooting "Suicide Squad" and adding in more humor and jokes, hmmm. I won't praise a film if it's not good, and I didn't really see [or hear, for that matter] anything that I really appreciated here.
I grew up watching Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Batman Beyond, The Justice League TV Series, and Superman: the Animated Series. Batman's my boy and all. Again, I might be an MCU fan but I'm sure as hell no Marvel "Mister Gon' Deny Everything Good that's Not Marvel." I really wanted to like "Batman v. Superman," but I don't. And, honestly, I have no desire to watch it again whether it be on TV, theaters, or home video. That doesn't mean I won't, it just means that I don't want to. "Suicide Squad" better be, at the very least, entertaining because the market's oversaturated with films of this nature, I don't need to spend "my" dollars on a subpar product [that applies generally, mind you]. Also, ummm, and I'm only asking because it popped up often, where's all the people at who said that this would be bigger and better than the Force Awakens (or the people who said that even the score would be better?) Hmmm...........
I watched this on Netflix yesterday [3/27/16] and, hmmm, where to even begin, eh? There's two teens, two boys if you didn't know (note the sarcasm), they fall in love, well one of them immediately falls for the other, and the other is struggling with his inner feelings. 'the other' is our protagonist, his name's Sieger, and he's not sure if he's gay or whatever. I'm not into the romance genre and so if I wasn't all that impressed, then I'll be the first to admit that I'm biased. However, I did not see much of anything that would draw me to watch this again. You could switch the characters with any gender; boy and girl, girl and girl, etc, and I don't think the story's all that. What I'm saying is that the plot's a bit generic and doesn't offer much to compensate for its rather restrained conflict. Rather than have the couple experience external pressure to be apart, the film mainly focuses on Sieger's inner-struggle to juggle his feelings [he's kissed a boy, he's trying to hook up with a girl to...feel normal(?), and he has some minor friction with his brother]. The direction was the highlight, without a doubt. And I suppose the two boys have chemistry, that lake scene was cute or whatever, but then they never really bond after that, and, to me, that was the biggest "sin" of the movie. Sieger distances himself from Marc (the boy that Sieger loves) and I sort of get why, but Sieger's just not an interesting enough character to carry this film [although, I should clarify that his performance wasn't the issue. The acting's good] but that's not to say that one doesn't feel some sympathy for him. I would have liked to have known why Sieger felt so conflicted, it doesn't appear like his family or friends would have disapproved. Heck, one of his buddies almost seemed happy when he hinted that he kind of knew what was going on. Rather than have a "pure" love story, you get two boys who almost immediately start eyeing each other, they have a "date," inner conflict almost breaks them up, and then they hook up [at last] at the end. Sorry, not my cup of tea. Not my cup of tea in general. In my opinion, if you're going to keep them separate, have some clear motives [or better yet, a more interesting story to keep things engaging], man.
If I treat today as though it were still 3/12/16, then this would be the fifth review I've written today. Today's featured Facebook is about the 2016 sequel(?) to the successful found-footage film from 2008, "Cloverfield," and-just to get out of the way early on-both films couldn't be further apart from each other. Yeah, whatever you thought about the first Cloverfield movie (whether you liked or not), whatever your impression of that movie was, throw it out because there is nothing in "10 Cloverfield Lane" that even resembles its predecessor, and it's for the better. "10 Cloverfield Lane" has such a tense first and second act that by the time the film switches gears and does more sci-fi oriented stuff, it fails to live up to the hour or so that came before. And what's curious about this film is that it is actually more restrained (in terms of setting, number of characters, outer worldly elements, etc) than "Cloverfield" was and yet, it accomplishes so much with so little. There were a number of scenes where I sat in my seat thinking, "wow, you know, that was unexpectedly well written. What's GOOD character interaction and dialogue doing in a movie like this?" And despite how isolated these characters are from the world and how small the place they're staying in is, the filmmakers make the most of it and pump a great deal of tension [more than I thought was possible] into the script that one (as an audience member) becomes almost completely disinterested in what's going on with...whatever's going down with Earth. And the score, while not a solid score, is extremely effective in this film and it goes to show how music can make a scene far more engaging than if it were just a visual experience. "This-these characters, the situation and how they're dealing with it, surviving in a bunker-this is far more interesting than if we had gotten a movie about just creatures and action," that's what you should be thinking when you leave the theater. I mean, honestly, anyone who watches "10 Cloverfield Lane" and, somehow, is still unable to find anything to appreciate, umm, I don't know what to say, you're wrong as fuck. But, unfortunately, I expect this film to not be all that popular with the general audience. It's like they can't separate their own ridiculous expectations from the actual quality of the movie. Having an opinion is one thing as in "I didn't like the movie 'cause blab la bla." But it's another thing to fail to recognize that a lot of effort went into this movie from various perspectives: the performance perspective, the filmmaking perspective, the editing perspective, the writing and screenplay perspectives, etc. Oh, and shout-out to the main actors because they did such a great job, especially John Goodman. Also, Wiki says that "10 Cloverfield Lane" is a spiritual successor to "Cloverfield," that explains why it felt more like a stand-alone film, either way it was great.