“Sinister:” A perfect film to watch of Halloween
Oct31

“Sinister:” A perfect film to watch of Halloween

If you ask any of my friends, they can all tell you that my favorite holiday is Halloween. I go all out. I watch at least three horror films a week during the month of October. One movie, though, has come back throughout the years. Some watch “Halloween” every October 31, for obvious reasons, but I watch Scott Derrickson’s “Sinister.” Not only is it one of my favorite horror films, but it’s also one of my favorite movies. It’s an understatement to say that Scott Derrickson is talented. Looking at his filmography, there are few movies that are below average. The standouts in his film catalog are Marvel Studio’s “Doctor Strange,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “Sinister.” Each are very different films and great on their own regard, but I’d argue that “Sinister” stands out above the rest. “Sinister” follows Ellison, played by Ethan Hawke, a murder novelist who moves his family into a new town. The problem, though, is that he moved his family into a house where the family before was found dead. They weren’t just found dead, but the entire family was found hanging from a fallen tree branch. Ellison made the decision to not tell his family about this incident, instead acting like everything was okay. Soon, Ellison finds reels of 8mm film that contains footage of the family who lived in the house previously being hanged and other murders. Slowly, Ellison finds that these murders are connected in a terrifying way. These connections lead Ellison down a dark path as he unravels what is at the heart of the murders. “Sinister” is one of the most tense experiences I’ve had watching a film. The film is unrelenting as it masterfully builds up to scares. Even though they start in a cliché manner, every scare in the film finds a way to twist the cliché in a way that audiences don’t see coming. From the famous lawnmower scene to extremely flexible children, each scare is great in its own right. Oftentimes, horror films rely on loud music and flashy camera tricks to scare audiences, but “Sinister” never pulls away. It racks up the tension by never backing out of a scene until the film feels that it earns its scares. The film, though never graphic, makes you feel every second. Time goes slower watching Ellison sift through the reels of film. Sometimes you may want to look away, but you just can’t bring yourself to. This is a sign of not just a good horror film, but a great one. It’s a masterclass in filmmaking, and one that will haunt your dreams for years....

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Two Will Smiths can’t save “Gemini Man”
Oct25

Two Will Smiths can’t save “Gemini Man”

From “The Life of Pi” to “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,” Ang Lee crafts technical and action-packed marvels of cinema… sometimes. “Gemini Man” has everything going for it. The film has star power with Will Smith playing two main characters in the film, the budget for the film is roughly $140 million and it has a talented director behind the camera. Sadly, none of these aspects of the film can save the bore that is “Gemini Man.” The film is fascinating, but sadly for all the wrong reasons. I really tried to find a positive note in the film, and the only thing that could be considered positive is the VFX. The de-aging technology used in “Gemini Man” is the best that the technology has been. Most of the time, the technology is seamless and I never thought about how young Will Smith looks. That being said, there are scenes where the technology doesn’t look right. Will Smith looks closer to a character out of a video game rather than a realistic version of Smith in his 20s towards the end of the film. There are elements of “Gemini Man” that could have been great, but the film isn’t able to pull through on the story. The philosophy of cloning could have been a really cool touch. The film tries to hit the deeper notes, but doesn’t get into anything that could be considered worthwhile for the audience. Instead of going deeper into what could make a great film, “Gemini Man” decides to play it safe and never even scratch the surface in anything worthwhile. We instead follow bland characters through exposition dumps and action, of which none contribute to the film. The action doesn’t know how it wants to work. Sometimes the action is underwhelming: the action is shot close-up and you can’t tell what exactly what is going on. What makes this even worse is that the action is either boring or completely over the top. People try to push each other off of motorcycles, bullets glow orange when shot and the fight scenes easily go too far into the realm of cheesiness when trying to be serious. The whole problem is that “Gemini Man” doesn’t mean to do anything. When trying to be serious, the film comes off almost comedic, when trying to be comedic, the film comes off as cheesy and when trying to be fun the film comes off as boring. I really wanted to love Will Smith and Ang Lee’s newest outing, but I found myself wishing that the film would just end. Rating:...

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Brad Pitt soars in career defining “Ad Astra”
Oct11

Brad Pitt soars in career defining “Ad Astra”

The Hubble telescope estimates there are 100 billion galaxies in our universe. Outer space is an inconceivable, infinite place. Ad Astra is Latin for “looking to the stars,” which has been a sign of hope on our Earth, a symbol of a kind of goal for humanity to achieve. We’ve been looking for life outside of Earth for so long. What happens if we figure out that there is no other life? What if we’re all alone in our galaxy? Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is struggling in “Ad Astra.” His father (Tommy Lee Jones) left Roy when he was 16 to search for alien life at the edge of our galaxy. Roy’s wife has left him. He has no friends in the space program. He is just a machine with no true goal. He’s stopped struggling with his depression and now, he’s just living. He’s alone, just like humanity. When the space program comes to McBride with news of his father’s survival on Neptune, McBride does not know what to feel. He just knows that he needs to see his father again. Maybe he’ll finally feel something. The movie “Alien” was released in 1979 with the tagline “in space no one can hear you scream.” In “Ad Astra,” apparently no one can see your pain either. In a lot of ways, Brad Pitt’s character is screaming for help. With every fiber of his soul, he wants to help people so that they see him. He can get people out of the most difficult situations. He can fight space pirates, but he also has to fight his thoughts of worthlessness. That’s depression for many people. It’s an inner struggle that you just can’t escape, no matter how much you want out. “Ad Astra” is a slow-moving movie. Almost in the vein of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” there are scenes in the film that merely show off the sheer beauty of space. That beauty, in all forms, is a testament to what McBride truly wants. He hopes that one day he won’t feel so alone. “I am looking forward to the day my solitude ends,” Pitt narrates at one point of the movie. We all hope for that same thing, right? Recently the sci-fi genre has been groundbreaking with its cinematography. Movies such as “Annihilation” (2018), “Arrival” (2016), “Interstellar” (2013) and “Blade Runner 2049” (2017) are beautifully shot. Sci-fi is a genre that is truly able to revolutionize the way we look at films, and “Ad Astra” keeps that trend going. The film studies themes of solitude and depression not just through the story, but through the lens...

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The Peanut Butter Falcon – Movie Review
Sep20

The Peanut Butter Falcon – Movie Review

It’s September, which means that we’ve finally reached my favorite season of the year. Oscar Season. The Peanut Butter Falcon is a perfect start to the art house and indie film segment of the film cycle. The film stars Zak (Zack Gottsagen), who plays a man with Down Syndrome. His character Zak runs from a state nursing home to have his hero, The Saltwater Redneck (Thomas Hayden Church), train him to become a professional wrestler. While running from his nursing home caretaker (Dakota Johnson), Zak meets a fisherman on the run named Tyler (Shia LeBeouf) and so begins a fantastical Mark Twain style film in the deep south. On the surface, one could argue that The Peanut Butter Falcon is typical Oscar bait. The film has great acting, a great script, a diverse cast and is beautifully shot. These are all typical for Oscar films, but Falcon stands out because of its authenticity and boldness as well as because of the particular message that it carries. For instance, actor Zak Gottsagen actually has Down Syndrome like his character. This makes The Peanut Butter Falcon groundbreaking and exciting, especially because Gottsagen’s performance is so great. Hollywood films are often criticized for their portrayal of people with special needs and for not casting actors in the films who actually have those needs.  Recently, The Upside comes to mind. In that film, Actor Bryan Cranston gave an earnest performance of a man with Cerebral Palsy. However, Cranston doesn’t have Cerebral Palsy, there are actors who actually have Cerebral Palsy who should have been given a chance.  Another film, Rain Man, featured Dustin Hoffman giving a beautiful portrayal of a man with Autism, but he also did not have the condition of the character he played. Gottsagen isn’t the only standout of the film. LeBeouf plays his best role yet. LeBeouf has had quite a series of missteps lately in his acting career, but Falcon shows off his acting in an exciting way.  LeBeouf and Gottsagen have chemistry that is off the charts, and their friendship is what drives the film. LeBeouf gives an astounding performance as he displays the many layers of his character, Tyler. He is a rough person, but also loves Zak so realistically and beautifully throughout the film. There’s a scene where Zak tells Tyler that he isn’t a hero because he is “a Down Syndrome person.” Tyler responds beautifully with a question: “What’s that got to do with your heart?” The Peanut Butter Falcon’s message is clear and impactful. The film isn’t afraid to go to places that aren’t often shown on screen. Zak is consistently belittled by...

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