Category Archives: Film

Films, movies, whether they’re in theaters or on demand.

BlacKkKlansman and the Hollywood “True Story”

Be aware: You should probably watch BlacKkKlansman before reading this…

My initial viewing of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman was taken at face value. “If the movie is saying it’s true, then it’s probably mostly true,” my stupid brain told me for the five hundredth time I’ve seen the title card: “Based on a True Story.” Of course, films always embellish the truth, changing aspects of history for the sake of theme or plot, and BlacKkKlansman changes a lot, all the while presenting itself as “some fo real, fo real shit”.

In the past, that initial face-value assessment of a film was all you had. Unless you were educated in the subject at hand or willing to put in some serious time, it was difficult to confront the legitimacy of these “true” stories. Today, it’s hard to resist the temptation to jump on Google or Wikipedia immediately after the credits roll.

If a film is going to explore a historical topic — especially a more recent one — every twist of the truth is a chance for a positive opinion to sour in retrospect. In the case of BlacKkKlansman, my post-credits examination turned a film I mostly adored into a muddled mess. Continue reading BlacKkKlansman and the Hollywood “True Story”

Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado – Film Review

The title Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado evokes memories of straight-to-DVD Blockbuster Video exclusives. The embarrassing marketing, with a skeleton holding an assault rifle, draped in a US flag, doesn’t help. Topping it off with a Rotten Tomatoes score hovering at a disappointing 64%, it seemed safe to say that this would be a Sicario sequel in name only.

Perhaps it helped then, that I watched the original Sicario just two days before. With the original fresh in my mind, I felt like I watched a very different sequel from many critics. Sicario 2 takes the pessimistic worldview of the first film and dives in even deeper, leaving behind Emily Blunt’s Kate Mercer as the one idealist we could root for. We’re left with the morally-ambiguous fixer Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and revenge-fueled hitman Alejandro (Benecio Del Toro), off on a new mission to shake the hornet’s nest at the US/Mexican border. Continue reading Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado – Film Review

Best F(r)iends, Part 1 – Film Review

Best F(r)iends, Part 1 might be a carefully crafted, perfectly executed attempt to replicate the lightning-in-a-bottle that was The Room. It might also be another unintentionally hilarious trainwreck from disaster artists Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau. That this is only part one of a four hour epic only serves to complicate things — is Best F(r)iends the result of incredible hubris on the part of its creators, or a brilliant marketing ploy, ensuring all of Part 1’s guinea pigs return for Part 2 with additional friends in tow?

Best F(r)iends could have been so many things. I had half-expected something darkly serious, with director Justin MacGregor somehow wrangling Tommy Wiseau into a coherent performance. The only other option seemed to be that Best F(r)iends would try to be The Room 2, ultimately failing because you just can’t do something like The Room on purpose. Continue reading Best F(r)iends, Part 1 – Film Review

Ready Player One – Film Review

It’s tough to review Ready Player One (the film) on its own merits when so much has been said about Ernest Cline and Ready Player One (the book). I never read the book, so I can’t comment on the minutiae that sets Spielberg’s adaptation apart from the original, but I do know some of the broad strokes.

Cline’s novel obsesses over 80s pop culture, while the film is a free-for-all, referencing everything from Atari games to The Iron Giant and Overwatch. Cline’s novel also gets into some messy territory, mishandling its female characters, dipping its toe into transphobia, and just generally being kind of creepy. The film, conversely, strips out most the problematic details, striving to develop its primary female character with more purpose and agency.

With these changes and streamlining, writer Zak Penn and director Steven Spielberg have crafted a crowd-pleasing, mostly inoffensive adventure (Asian stereotypes notwithstanding — this is Hollywood, after all) packed with surprisingly well-done CG action sequences. They’ve also streamlined to the point of absurdity, presenting a poorly-realized world that makes it difficult to get invested in anything that happens. Continue reading Ready Player One – Film Review

Pacific Rim: Uprising – Film Review

The original Pacific Rim left a lot of room for improvement. The film had so much promise, referencing Godzilla and mecha anime, but with a big budget and recognizable actors. There were ideas at the heart of that first film — the whole concept of drifting, where two people merge their minds to pilot their mecha successfully, for example — that elevated it beyond things like the Transformers films. The world-building of Pacific Rim was unmatched. Unfortunately, it stumbled when it came time to drive a plot around that world. The end result felt like a mash-up of the anime Evangelion, and the 1995 US Godzilla movie. It was really weird.

Pacific Rim: Uprising brings nothing new to the table, nor does it manage to succeed at the basics of storytelling. Rather than build on the cool ideas established in the first film, it quickly acknowledges the ideas before going for the lowest common denominator. Continue reading Pacific Rim: Uprising – Film Review

Red Sparrow – Film Review

Watching Red Sparrow felt like deja vu. Just six months ago I was in a theater watching mother!, another poorly-received, Jennifer Lawrence-led film. Just six months ago I was watching Lawrence give, perhaps, a little too much of herself to a role. Both films show her character beaten, punished, disrobed, tortured, and gas-lit by men in power. In both instances, I wouldn’t blame viewers who thought it was all a little too much. Yet, in both instances I was also pleasantly surprised. I absolutely loved mother!, and Red Sparrow was far from the train wreck I was led to believe.

The film that some had hoped would be the Black Widow film we’ll never get, or another Atomic Blonde, is in-fact, neither. Red Sparrow is a graphic, deliberate, and convoluted spy fiction tale. The Sparrows are Russian secret agents that use their bodies to manipulate men in power. They are trained to find weaknesses and exploit them, all the while ignoring their own sense of shame or pride. Continue reading Red Sparrow – Film Review