Monday, August 29, 2016

"This is Now a Land of Wolves...."

After sitting on my television for quite some time, I finally watched the film Sicario. This is the synopsis of the film in a nutshell an idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to assists in the escalating war against drugs at the border between the U.S.A. and Mexico. I visited El Paso quite a bit within the last year visiting my sister and nieces, which of course is right next to Ciudad Juarez; quite a bit of the film takes place around this area. It was definitely something being that close to one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and if the movie is even a small fraction accurate with its depiction then it is definitely not a place I would ever care to visit without some impervious shield/force field. Emily Blunt played the lead idealistic FBI agent, and she did a good job playing the straight arrow, although it didn't seem natural for her; it seemed very forced and not executed well, and she was the only one with whom it was like that. Benicio Del Toro was utter perfection in this film. Calm, cool, mysterious, and excellently executed; this is another film that showcases how well the man can act...but I also really liked his character as well. Josh Brolin pretty much played himself; satirical, humorous, but with a slight edge of seriousness to lighten the rather dark film up a little. Victor Garber had a nice little supporting role as Emily Blunt's boss/supervisor, but it wasn't anything very outstanding.
The film is quite slow, and it reminds me of something more of a technical feature with a lot of emphasis on the cinematography, visuals and music than having the dialog carry the scenes, although there were also times when the action carried the scenes, but that was much later on in the film. I do not know much about the border war with drugs and the cartels, but I do know it is not a pretty picture. When a person comes between a person with no qualms who he or she kills or how and their source of income, be prepared for an unpleasant ending. I think oftentimes the public and public leaders of the world ignore the ugliness of these horrific actions until it hits close to home and affects their polling numbers or their source of income. I saw it frequently when I worked in mental health; no one wants to talk about, they just want it taken care of, and away from the public eye. In the film, there is a very gritty, realism approach about how to deal with drug cartel problem. This is led by the Brolin and Del Toro characters, but you have Emily Blunt pushing back barking that what they are doing isn't by the book. Del Toro has a good line he says to her "....you should move to a small town somwhere. You won't survive out here; this is now a land of wolves, and you are no wolf." Denis Villeneuve directed the film, and for the most part did quite well; it definitely felt quite real to me, but the screenplay could have used a whole lot more work. And honestly, I really think they should have gotten someone else to play Emily Blunt's character; she just didn't seem to really have it in her. The sound design was quite well done and the music by Johann Johannsson while not something you want to listen to on it's own, did such an amazing job of heightening the tension of the film. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards in Cinematography, Original Score, and Sound Editing. It isn't a happy go lucky film, and has a conflicted ending, so be forewarned, but it is a good film and I think I'd definitely watch it again. The beginning of the film will definitely get you hooked...quite literally. If you want a clear, and true picture about any issue, always talk to the people on the front lines and ignore the pundits, media, and public officials who sit comfortably in air conditioning behind desks (something else I learned working in mental health). There doesn't seem to be any really good news that I can find lately, and it seems as if the entire world is having a 1970's flashback from what I understand from the time. God help us all.

Sicario interviews

Sicario trailer

Thursday, August 4, 2016

King of the Jungle?

I have to admit that I didn't expect much when I went to see The Legend of Tarzan, and for the most part I was correct in that regard. David Yates (Harry Potter) directed the film and he did a relatively good job with it all things considering. The story takes place apparently after the initial story of Tarzan before he departs for England to live as an English Lord. Africa was divided up by the Colonial European powers, and Belgium received the Congo and began to take every resource they could. However, according to the film the King of Belgium went broke doing this and thus sent in his man to change the situation in his favor. Enter Tarzan who is returning to Africa to make right the wrongs of Colonial Europe. Whether or not most of this is historically accurate remains to be seen, but it made for a compelling plot at least, although it could have been fleshed out more. Alexander Skarsgard as John Clayton/Tarzan worked quite well I thought (as much as anyone in that situation could be), but I was looking for more depth, and it was almost there. Christoph Waltz as Leon Rom, the film's main antagonist, was of course perfect; not necessarily all powerful, but strong and evil enough to see his goals through. Samuel Jackson as Tarzan's sidekick, George Washington Williams, was boring, flat, and definitely a stereotypical character for the actor. I would have liked to see someone like Anthony Mackie play that role or Michael B. Jordan. Margot Robbie as Jane Clayton, Tarzan's wife, was great but could have been better. 

Visually the film was pretty impressive; they took pretty good advantage of the location and period they were filming, but there was a lack of depth oftentimes to the shots, they were quite linear, which I attribute to David Yate's filming style. Perhaps my biggest complaint in this film was the writing; the film touched upon a subject and historical period that isn't typically filmed or spoken about in the big or silver screen world. How the European powers plundered and ruined Africa, thereby engineering many of the current conflicts that exist in modern Africa, is a fascinating and heart wrenching story that is unheard. For some reason, Americans only seem to care or are interested in the oppression that African Americans endured during times of enslavement and colonial advances, not actual Africans. This film barely scraped the surface of what could have been something truly remarkable, as they could have gone more in depth about what European countries like Belgium were doing, rather than focusing on the Tarzan nonsense of communicating, living, and fighting with animals. There were some good moments in the film of drama, some good shots, and some good humor, but overall the film was mediocre at best. It could have been something so much better, but the actors and actresses weren't given enough to make it better than that. Even the action was mediocre at best as well. The only thing that stood out to me was the story of the plight of the people who lived in the Congo, nothing else. I really wish more filmmakers would take the period of 1700-1900 and film more of that time period of Africa; I think they could really get some really good compelling stories and heroes, like David Livingston. So in the end, the film was entertaining, and interesting to a point, but other than that nothing really stood out. If you don't see this film you won't miss out on anything, if you do, well.....you might like or you might not.

Alexander Skarsgard & Margot Robbie interview

Legend of Tarzan trailer

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (actually looks rather dreadful)

How I and several other Americans feel about the upcoming U.S. Presidential Election

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How to Survive.

Now, I didn't mean the title to infer that The Revenant is about how to survive (even though it really is), what I meant was how to survive watching the film...and even I don't have a good solution for that. I spoke to several people who really enjoyed the film, and yes it was reasonably financially successful, but I really don't know why. Honestly, the only thing that I thought was excellent, or just the best part of the entire movie was the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, for which he won an Academy Award for (which was quite well deserved). I'm not entirely certain, but I think the film takes place in Canada during or right before the American Revolutionary War; the film wasn't clear on this end, which now that I think of it, the film wasn't clear on a lot of things. A man/scout is leading a group of fur traders/trappers through the wilderness when they are assaulted by a group of Indians and a lot of them die. They then make the harrowing trek back to the fort, but in the process the scout is viciously mauled by a bear and is constantly cared and watched over by his half-white/half Indian son. But the other Indians are hunting them, so a few of the men stay behind to watch over the scout (including his son) to see him healed of his wounds, or die of them. But one of the more dominant members of the group gets tired of waiting and kills the scout's son, and then talks the other remaining man to leave the scout behind for dead after witnessing his son's death. What then follows is the scout surviving the brutal wilderness half-dead by himself.

So, the film is your basic hero almost killed/watched his family die/now on a mission of revenge which he will stop at nothing to see through. Not a very inventive plot, but there you have it. Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his Oscar for this role, and I honestly have no idea why. Of all the roles he played, this one had the least amount of dialogue, least amount of character depth, and was the least interesting. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, he should have won the Oscar for The Great Gatsby as that was a fascinating character of great depth, and was also a very unusual type of character for him to play; happy, not dark, depressing, or brooding. Tom Hardy as Fitzgerald, essentially the villain of the film, I was told was amazing, but I was sorely disappointed. His performance reminded he completely of his performance in the film Lawless, which I didn't care for whatsoever. His character didn't really become interesting until the very end, at which point there wasn't much chance for redemption. In the entire film the only character that I liked and found interesting was played by Domhnall Gleason (Captain Henry). He was likable, interesting, and had depth as you could see the internal conflict playing out, but sadly he had such a small role. The rest of the cast wasn't memorable in the slightest. I was so miserably bored out of my mind for nigh the entire film that I almost just stopped it several times, but I wanted to finish it so I pushed on through. The director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu, somehow received the Oscar for Best Director when it should have gone to the director of Spotlight. The film is essentially a glorified documentary on frontier wilderness and survival from the time period it is depicted happening in. It is violent and quite visceral, and perhaps that is the attraction; Freud always said people are driven by sex and violence. The screenplay by Mark L. Smith and the director was dreadful; the dialog was boring not compelling, and the story and plots were very fragmented with many of the questions brought up never resolved. Yes the scene where the bear mauls DiCaprio was intense, but so what; what is so cool about being mauled by a grizzly bear. DiCaprio's character grunted more in the film than he actually spoke, and although I'm certain physically the acting for this film was quite difficult, any man in shape probably could have done the same exact thing. I don't think it took a great deal of talent. The only technical element of the film that was good was the cinematography, everything else was mediocre. This was such a boring film, that wasn't even interesting, profound, deep, or thought provoking I would never recommend anyone see it. Yes I am eviscerating The Revenant but I really thought it was a complete waste of my time and I would be more than happy if I never saw it again. Oh, don't bother watching the news; all of the bad news seems to be overshadowing any good news if any exists.

Tom Hardy & Leonardo DiCaprio interview

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu interview

Justice League trailer (looks potentially good)

Wonder Woman trailer (kind of looks good)