Ghost in the Shell film review [SPOILERS]



It was always going to split opinions. Making a live-action Ghost in the Shell out of a classic anime and casting Scarlett Johansson as the Major made a lot of people, including myself, quite sceptical. I went into the theatre bracing myself for the worst, but by the end of it I found myself breathing a sigh of relief. It certainly wasn’t without flaws, but it wasn’t ruined either. And in the age of terrible remakes and sequels, that’s saying something.

What makes a human, well, a human? This question is at the core of “Ghost in the Shell” and its universe as a whole. Major Mira Killian (played by Johansson)  is a first of her kind: a cyborg with a fully prosthetic body and a human brain. A killing machine created by Hanka Industries and employed by Public Security Section 9, the Major acts as a powerful weapon for the government. As she goes on a hunt for terrorist Kuze, the Major tries to remember the past and understand her own self.

Visually, the film is stunning. It does a great job of capturing an already established environment of Ghost in the Shell and adding its own unique details to it. The CGI is stellar (except for one small moment towards the end), the action sequences are exciting and the specific colour scheme of the cyberpunk genre has been preserved.


They’ve also done a good job of staying true to the source material. Some scenes and shots that would not only resonate with fans of the original but also impress first-time viewers were recreated as close as they could without directly copying the visuals. Great references, even surprising but completely justified cameos show up in the film, which should evoke a big nod of approval from fans. The soundtrack keeps the pacing even though it doesn’t provide any memorable compositions. However, I was very happy to hear Kenji Kawai’s new take on his masterpiece theme at the end of the film.

Scarlet Johansson does a decent job as the Major. She was never an expressive character to begin with so Johansson’s monotone performance is justified. Another well represented member of Section 9 is Batou, played by Pilou Asbaek.  Batou’s stoic yet caring nature manages to come through in the limited screen time he gets.


While the Major and Batou carry the film throughout, other members of Section 9 don’t get nearly any screentime at all. I was really interested in seeing Ishikawa, Section 9’s tech and computer expert, yet in the film he barely gets a frame. Togusa, the only fully human character among the unit practically gets two lines. It is Aramaki, though, the chief of Section 9, that I believe is completely misrepresented. His role as a tough leader, unafraid to wield a gun, works within the Hollywood tropes, yet is completely off from what he is in the manga, original films or the tv series. Having him speak Japanese while his team talk English to him and amongst each other also felt quite awkward.

Continuing in the vein of characters who don’t really fit within the narrative is Kuze, the hacker terrorist and the villain of the film. Played by Michael Pitt, Kuze is on the warpath to eliminate all those who have made him neither man nor machine; a broken being. And here is where my problems with the film arise. There are major spoilers coming your way so be careful if you choose to “ghost dive” past this point…



Let’s start with Kuze. Kuze is a combination of the Puppet Master from the 1995 film and Hideo Kuze from the second season of the tv series “Stand Alone Complex” (“2nd Gig”). He has Puppet Master’s purpose, which is to seek out the Major and merge with her as the next step in evolution, and Hideo Kuze’s childhood connection to the Major before she became a cyborg. And it’s precisely because he is a combination of those two characters with distinctly different purposes is why he fails at being either. He is a poor character whose motivations are never justified.

Kuze constructs a network, just like the Puppet Master who came from it. And just like the Puppet Master, Kuze asks the Major to join him at the end of the film in the scene that closely resembles the finale of the original. Yet it is never explained why, with Kuze basically saying “so we can be better than them”. The Major rejects by saying “I belong here”, a statement that is also completely unfounded. While wanting to belong to something in the real world (told, once again, through exposition) we never see why the Major would suddenly decide that her place is here and not with someone of her kind.

Cutter, the CEO of Hanka Industries that was responsible for both the Major and Kuze turns bad towards the end of the film for the sake of being bad. And once again, it might work in a conventional Hollywood story, yet sticks out like a sore thumb in a re-imagining of a philosophical masterpiece.

And since we’re on the topic of philosophy, here is the biggest issue of the film: the themes that Ghost in the Shell explores have been lost. Concepts and ideas are never taken far enough. The film beats you over the head with what the “ghost” and the “shell” mean .The meaning of “ghost” is even repeated 3 times within one line of dialogue early on  yet the film does nothing with it. The importance of memories as identification of self fall down the same drain as the idea of the soul. And even though the Puppet Master from the original was sort of present in the film, within Kuze’s character, the Puppet Master’s whole point of being a “living, thinking entity created in a sea of information” did not even get a mention. And the film’s Hollywood ending was a jarring error within a cyberpunk universe.


I think it was foolish of anyone to believe the Holywood reimagining of Ghost in the Shell could come close to the original in terms of meaning and significance. However, it more than holds up as an entertaining film and should be viewed as a good introduction its world and cyberpunk genre as a whole. Unfortunately, the big budget spectacle comes with a watered down plot. They tried to combine the original film and  tv series in one and, as a result, the film ends up not being strong in any particular direction. Nonetheless, I believe it succeeds at bringing the world of Ghost in the Shell to the new, wider audience and hopefully would encourage those who have not seen Mamoru Oshi’s 1995 film to… dive in.

Score: 7/10

Warcraft: The Beginning

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: (It’s in bold, caps letters, so you know it’s official) Hello ladies, gents, and other such creatures. I apologise for my prolonged absence, but I have hitherto been indulging in all the distractions and adventures that my new Japanese surroundings provide. Also, alas, for all the robots walking around, underwear vending machines, and real-life Pokemon, Japan has its movies coming out several decades after its Western counterparts. But hopefully with more persistent piracy, I’ll catch back up.

So, without further ado, we have Warcraft: The Beginning! This movie received as polar reviews as they get. The outraged Alliance of all things pompous and critic proclaimed it a CGI heap pile of droppings, while the Horde of years-long fans roared their approval and clamoured for more.

The movie, as the title so wisely tells us, takes us to where the games more or less start out: the Orcs’ first invasion of Azeroth. The Orcs’ home world of Outland is quickly dying, and the Orcs seek new lands that promise life. Under the evil rule of Gul’dan, a demon possessed Orc warlock, the Horde takes its first steps in Azeroth through the Dark Portal, a magic gate that bridges the two worlds. One of the chieftains from the Horde, Durotan of the Frost Wolves clan, worries that Gul’dan’s reign will bring nothing but further death and desolation to his people. As he and his pregnant wife, Draka, enter Azeroth, he struggles to find a path that may give his people a future. On the side of the Alliance, we have Ragnar Lothbrok, better known as Lothar, vaguely known as Travis Fimmel. He’s a noble warrior and commander, and he is charged with discovering the source behind the mysterious attacks that have been plaguing nearby posts. He is accompanied by a young exile mage, Kadgar. Having recently left the Kirin Tor, the high mages of Azeroth, he too is drawn into the intrigue of the dark invasion. He goes to seek the help of the legendary Medivh, The Last Guardian, a Magus with immeasurable power charged to protect the world of Azeroth. And so the wheels of our story start spinning.

Myself, a humble half-breed, I’d have to side with the Horde. I never got around to playing World of Warcraft, but I definitely lived in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne for more years than it was healthy. Not only were the games pure fun, with many community-made maps to keep it fresh, but it had a surprisingly well written story line that made for a very immersive and satisfying campaign. The drama was good, the characters were awesome and interesting. We had the mighty Hellscream, noble Thrall, damned Arthas, the cunning Ner’zhul, and the proud Illidan, and many more. It was a fully crafted world, with intrigue, might, magic, and war. It was any teenage boy’s world, and I am sure some girls got lost in there as well.

Blizzard’s cinematics are legendary, despite the shaky success of some of their games, I don’t think any fan could ever put a hand on their heart and claim that a Blizzard cinematic was merely OK. It is then little wonder that someone put 2 and 2 together and realised that the Warcraft universe was ripe for the big screen. When I heard about this movie, I had my doubts, but the trailer, and later the viewing, quickly banished my doubts.

As a fan of the Warcraft universe, you can’t help but be at awe at a full-feature cinematic. And that is more or less what this movie is. Even though it is a movie, it is still very much so one large cinematic. And it has all the strong suits of a good cinematic: gorgeous and immersive visuals, interaction of impressive characters, and entertaining conflict. This movie is almost entirely all green-screen. However, all the combat looked absolutely brilliant. I was very worried that we would just get the usual Hollywood shaky cams and poor action directing, but the movie looked every bit as good as the Blizzard cinematics in that regard.

I got absolutely giddy seeing the floating city of Dalaran, the ABSOLUTELY gorgeous Stormwind, and the barren wastes of Outland. And when I saw the shrowded statues next to the Dark Portals, nerd chills were aplenty. Now, this is far from a great movie, and really, you just shouldn’t take it as such. The critics hated it because, really, without any background love or knowledge of the story, this is just one big, cheesy, epic fantasy. But as such, this big, cheesy, epic fantasy gave the fans everything they wanted and more. The battles were glorious, the landscapes and props were absolutely on point, the characters were decently acted (which doesn’t say much, but still a plus). There’s a few moments where you are watching this movie and you feel like you stumbled into a high school play written by the local D&D champion, but you just shrug it off and quickly forget about it as the movie continues to deliver so many awesome little gems that you have grown to love over the years.

And as such, I think it is fair to say this movie was a success. If you’ve never played or read anything Warcraft related, this flick might not be for you. That being said, if you are open to just some good old-fashioned fun and fantasy, you might still enjoy it if you remove the broom handle from your posterior. Much worse CGI pornos have come out in the past and with more critic acclaim at that. As cheesy as some of the movie undoubtedly is, it rests on the pillars of what is actually a very well crafted and written world. So even with its weak moments or three, the engaging and immersive world of Warcraft pulls you in.

Creed: A knock out? (this title: click bait?)

CreedLadies, gents, and creatures of other such varieties, today we look at Ryan Coogler’s Creed. This was not a movie I was excited to see by any stretch of the imagination. I liked the first few Rocky movies, they had cheesy montages, inspiring speeches, and were just generally good fun. That was until Satan decided that Rocky IV had to be spawned from the deep canals of Hell, and melt our collective faces with undiluted, demonic BAD. Then Rocky V followed suit, like an unwanted middle child. Sure it was slightly more mature than its older brother, but it still packed a bag of “meh,” that altogether made us feel that this family really should stop breeding.

But alas, an open Friday night and no plans made my feet wander into the movie theatre.

The story, for those of you unfamiliar, focuses on Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son, Adonis, and his struggles to make a name for himself in the wake of his father’s massive shadow. Unlike the other Rocky movies, he’s not really the underdog, or at least not in the traditional sense. He’s been raised by his foster mother, Apollo’s wife, had a good education, a well-paying white-collar job, and grows up in a mansion.

This already sets a strong contrast from the what we’re used to – lower class nobody, no money, no options in life. So far the Rocky movies have been just that – the struggle of the underdogs to make a place for themselves in this world, to get some recognition, some fame, and maybe the opportunity for a more prosperous life. This movie, however, decides to take a different direction and run with it. What’s more impressive is that it actually makes it work really well. Adonis doesn’t dare use his real name lest people compare him to his father. He wants to make his own way in the boxing world, but how is he to do that when he can’t get a decent trainer? His father’s old trainer rejects him from his gym on pretty much those terms – “You’ve lived off the silver spoon, you don’t belong here.”At every corner and boxing match he’s reminded that he’s just the product of a famous name and nothing more. He throws caution to the wind and knocks into none other than Balboa’s restaurant and asks him for his help. Little by little the two start developing a relationship, and the movie takes off.

One of the things that really make this movie stand out is Adonis, played by Michael B. Jordan. He’s really well fleshed out as a character, and he’s very, very likeable. In previous Rocky movies, there were some characters that were just fillers, two-dimensional, walking stereotypes, just there to deliver the lines to move the script forward – Rocky’s son in Rocky V comes to mind. But this movie takes its time to tell you who this kid is, show you his struggles – which despite his advantages in life are actually very real. And you really do start cheering for him scene after scene because this movie, unsuspectingly manages to get the feels hooks in. And this is quite the feat. It’s very easy to make a character sympathetic by taking away everything from them, and then having them climb for the top. However, it’s much more impressive to show a struggle of self rather than a struggle of class. This movie just goes to show that no matter how much money you have in your pocket, or how big the house is that you grew up in, things like your past, the death of loved ones, and the desire to prove yourself can be just as real for someone who’s presumably had “every advantage in life”.

Following up on that note, Sylvester Stallone doesn’t disappoint as usual. Again, his role isn’t too monumental or overly dramatic, but for the bit that he has, he really sells it, and sells it well. It really shows that he knows this character, and he wears his skin like his own. You really start feeling for the big softy – the old hero with the good heart who has nothing but ghosts for company. Having followed the series up until now, it packs even more of a punch (so not intended), as we’ve seen Rocky at his start, we’ve seen him at the top. And therefore it’s all the more gut-wrenching to see him having ended up like this – alone, useless, having outlived everyone in his life that matters (excluding his son, because f*** him). There’s definitely a moment or two in there when the air vents in the theatre must have been spitting mad dust because this proud, masculine, young male got choked up and and a little teared up in the presence of his equally proud, masculine, and young amigos.

One last note here, this movie actually has quite a few good laughs. And I don’t mean the lame, poorly written, sports jokes that have their own “cue laughter” button. But I mean some really fresh material. The humour in this was actually really good. One joke had my friends and I laughing like the hyenas from the Lion King for a good 3 minutes. Obviously I won’t tell you which joke, because I also want you and your lot to laugh like hyenas for 3 minutes (or more if you so desire). The jokes weren’t clichĂ©, they were excellently timed, and quite plainly, pretty damn funny.

Mad props to the director, for whom this is only his second feature film. So, I don’t even know what to say – wow – wtf – omg -srsly? And big props also must make their way to Mr. Stallone and Mr. Jordan. Great performances by both – they really sold the characters and made them much more likeable than I’m used to seeing in movies these days.

You got your boxing montages, you got some good laughs, you got a few tear-jerkers, and you got some proper ass-kicking. Pretty solid movie, definitely one of the better boxing/martial arts movies out there right now. Definitely worth the price of admission. Go check it out!

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

Review by Ryan

MIRNYour mission, so you choose to accept it, is to read this review and either go see the film or not following my recommendation! You decide. Admission probable. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, “Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation” is the fifth entry in the 19-year-old franchise. While it may not be the best mission yet, the film does what it set out to do: take the audience along for a ride! This may be the final mission in the franchise, so if you are interested in reading a spoiler-ish free review, and honest opinion, hang around, but don’t set off any alarms.

Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise, and his Impossible Mission Force (IMF) have been dissolved, leaving him no choice but to act on his own as a rogue agent to respond to another rogue group (The Rogue Nation known as “The Syndicate”)– an evil organization that will stop at nothing to remove the IMF from the face of the Earth.

The plot of this film is more complex than it really needs to be, making it difficult to keep track of who is on whose side. If you can see past that for what it really is, an action flick, then you’ll enjoy most of it. I enjoyed the first hour or so of the movie. My tired eyes were fully awake after a long day of work, and my ass was on the edge of my seat for the action scenes, comedic relief, and I was in sheer awe of all the stunts involved in making this movie entertaining. As with all classic action movies, what really matters is the characters and how they overcome the impossible.

Tom Cruise takes centre stage as Ethan Hunt, the man who doesn’t stop running and somehow survives. Call it achieving the impossible or smart luck. He’s doing pretty well for his age (holding on for dear life on the side of a plane, diving into a pool and holding his breath for several minutes and making it out alive). It’s either his body type or his onscreen charisma that gives him the believability that other actors in the genre (Liam Fucking Neeson) can’t seem to grab. This movie makes it really all about him, though, and that was one of the reasons why I really enjoyed the previous entry, Ghost Protocol, more than this film. Rogue Nation packs a punch with the stunts it puts Ethan through, but lacks the suspense and intrigue the relationships of the previous film had.

Speaking of relationships, Ethan just happens to come across what could be his next romantic partner, but instead the movie doesn’t force it and treads lightly. Hug me if I’m crazy, but not all action movies or mission impossible movies need to have romance. Rebecca Ferguson plays Ilsa Faust, a double agent who plays both sides and struggles to maintain trust of the men she is required to play. She does quite well in this movie performance-wise. Ilsa joins Ethan, and Benji, played by Simon Pegg, as the stars of the show, leaving other actors with really meaningless screen time.

Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner play minimal roles, which really make their support amount to one time use weapons from Q that James Bond would have at his disposal. These characters that have been vital to the franchise are given probably 15 minutes total. Alec Baldwin, sits on the other side of the court, and thinks Ethan has lost his goddamn mind. If they wanted a stubborn and angry old actor, they should’ve called on Jack Nicholson to yell at Tom Cruise again. But that would’ve made the main villain look even weaker.

The main villain is Solomon Lane (played by Sean Harris) who is the weakest villain I’ve seen in a movie for some time now. His most noticeable trait is the laughable voice that begins to make you cringe as the story moves along. He sounds like he would’ve been threatening in the Godfather franchise, but not here. They set him up as a man who did evil things, and yet you rarely see him do evil things. I want to love and hate a villain at the same time, not be annoyed in every scene. In the end his character (spoiler-ish alert) succumbs to a very anti-climactic what-the-hell-do-we-do-we’ve-got-to-finish-filming end. You will be seriously disappointed. If this is the final movie in the franchise, then this was the worst way to do it.

This movie was fun for the first hour or so, then as it tried to wrap itself up, it tripped over itself, and just didn’t satisfy me. I give the movie great props for its action, but characters and story falter through twists and turns of an unnecessarily complex plot. You’ll enter the theatre singing the classic tune, but leave with a “meh” feeling. That feeling of let down when you think “damn, so close but the laser was in the way!” A great Mission Impossible movie is still within reach. I want there to be one more, and have the team hand over the torch to a new group. It’s possible! Man can dream! After all… nothing is impossible.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Review

Reviewed by Vladi

Ladies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, praise the lord! Mr. Guy Ritchie walks the Guy Ritchieearth once more. He’s that cool, pleasant dude who takes you out for a pint of beer, and has just enough funny stories to last a conversation. The smiles and laughs come easy, as he tells you a few jokes. The jokes themselves aren’t too special, but he tells them just the way they have to be told to get some genuine laughs out of you. You offer to split the bill, but he waves it off with some bravado, tips the waitress too much, shakes your hand and goes on his way, leaving you thinking “I wish we could hang out more often.”

Guy Ritchie is one of those directors that makes movies just his way. If you’ve seen oneThe Man From Uncle Main of his movies, then any time you see something from him, you’ll go “Oh, that’s a Ritchie flick.” He is probably most famous for Snatch (2000), RockNRolla (2008), and the Sherlock Holmes series (2009-2011). The thing you are absolutely guaranteed when you watch a movie by Guy Ritchie is that it will be a) Hella’ fresh, and b) Fun. Just simply put, Guy Ritchie likes to make fun movies. And The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is no exception.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a remake of a 1968 spy sitcom. The main premise is that during the Cold War, the C.I.A. and KGB team up their two best agents, Napoleon Solo (Henry Caville) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) as an unlikely pair to fight and solve super crime.

-Quick aside: I can not EMPHASIZE just how perfect it is that ARMIE HAMMER is playing Illya, a super Russian KGB spy. I mean, just process it for a second. ARMIE(Y?) HAMMER. It sounds like a Soviet super hero. The stars clearly aligned for this movie. Moving on.

The plot premise for this movie is that both agents have to work alongside Gaby (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a recently missing nuclear scientist. Through her, they hope to be able to infiltrate the people who have kidnapped her father with the intent of building a nuclear missile to threaten the world.

Truly, what else do you need in a spy flick? Oh, good humour, sound track, acting, and authenticity, you ask? No worries, on its way with a side of EPIC WIN.

The movie’s balls of fun. Every scene without fail is well thought out. What I mean by that is that there are no scenes that are just fillers to move along the plot. You give Guy Ritchie a car chase, and he’ll make sure that he makes it HIS car chase. He’ll organize the scene in a way you’re not used to seeing it in other movies, he’ll put build up and tension in it without the use of loud explosions and shaky cam. He’ll add a soundtrack that you’re not used to hearing. In fact, he’ll make half the movie just percussion and make it WORK. A combination of percussion and subtle wind instruments will dictate the pace and tension in the scenes like they are characters in them, and they’ll do it with perfection.

-On that note, Daniel Pemberton, you’re THE MAN! This man knocked this music score OUT OF THE PARK, and then he burned the park down. Seriously, the score is 10/10 on this flick. Absolute pleasure to listen to it along side the movie. More of this, less Hanz Zimmer copycats, pleaaaaaase!

You give Guy Ritchie a montage, you’ll see montages shown in split-screen shots that are straight to the point, entertaining and original. You give Guy Ritchie puns and cheap humour, and he’ll make sure that they are timed to the millisecond, just when they are needed, just quirky enough and over the top to make you laugh with your snobby dignity forgotten. Nothing about this movie is lazy.

The casting in this movie is actually perfect. Not great, but PERFECT. Every character is cast on point. Every actor fills out their role just as they should and they take up screen presence when they do it. Henry Caville is literally THE perfect classy, charming, panty-dropping, Bond-like spy. He’s got sexy and class coming out the ass. Armie Hammer also nails it with Illya. He’s over the top just enough to be funny, and nowhere near annoying. Kind of like a perfectly filled pint of beer, with that millimetre or two of foam resting on top of your pint, inanimately asking you how gravity allows such perfection to materialize in front of you. Alicia Vikander is fun, fiesty, sexy, and intriguing all rolled into one. It’s nice to see women in spy flicks have their own character aside from just a figure 8 body in lingerie (though we do get some of that, courtesy of Marianna Di Martino, despair not). And everyone else as well is spot on, there’s too many to name in this little review, but you’ll see what I mean when (not IF) you see this film. Even the less prominent roles are done perfectly. A sense of presence is demanded from every actor in every scene of this movie.

Uncle Trio
Illya, Gaby, and Napoleon doing their thing and being fly as f*#%.

I can go on and on and on and on about how this is movie-making done right, but really, I’m trying to keep it short and sweet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a movie buff or not, if you pay your ticket to see this movie, YOU WILL HAVE FUN. Guaranteed. But if you happen to also be a movie buff, you’ll greatly enjoy the touch of creative and original film-making that Guy Ritchie is so used to delivering. On that jazzy note, I rest my case. Go see zis mooouvie comerade!

Soviet Bear

Ex Machina: A Review

Reviewed by Vladi

Ladies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, summer is here and with it the promise of decent cinema. In the glorious month of May there are a few exciting releases. It’s easy to get overshadowed by the hype of blockbuster giants such as Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Mad Max. However, one pretty kick ass movie also came out recently which is well wort our notice.

I’m talking about Ex Machina. The movie is directed by Alex Garland, best known for 28 Days Later, and Dredd. If none of those movies add credibility to his name for you, take away this: the man’s a master of mood and suspense. He orchestrates his films very precisely and knows exactly how he wants you to feel and think through each separate scene. In that sense, his films feel very complete and very unified. Kind of like an album that’s an album and not just a casual selection of songs. In that respect, Ex Machina is no exception.

The plot should be no mystery to most people. It is the not too distant future and we are developing AI. Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a search engine mogul invites Calep (Domhnall Gleeson), one of his top employees, over to his house/lab to help him test the most advanced AI made to date, Ava (Alicia Vikander). Unlike simpler AI, she doesn’t have just a narrow question-response programming, but instead she is developed to form a consciousness of her own. So it’s up to Calep to interact with her and to see if she can pass the Touring test, a test developed by Alan Turing to see if an AI can fool a human into thinking that it’s a human. And that’s it. Do robots dream of electric sheep?

I think AI has been addressed a lot of times in cinema, with movies like A.I. (duh), Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, Bladerunner, I Robot, Transcendence, Ghost in The Shell, and more recently, Chappie. And while many of those movies pose good questions about the nature of A.I. and its impact on the human condition, Ex Machina takes it a step further to try and visualize what it would mean to have true A.I. What would it mean to birth a consciousness into our world? What would it mean to give that consciousness access to the internet, the most condensed source of information that we have? And more importantly, what would this A.I. think of us? How would it react towards us. Would it like us or hate us? Would it want to befriend us or destroy us? These are questions that I find can be absolutely chilling if you begin to comprehend just what the answers might be, and this movie does a great job of flirting with some of them.

Am I human? How do I know I’m not a robot?

The pacing is absolutely perfect. No scenes are fillers, none of them drag, and none of them are cheap. The mounting tension is handled very professionally, gradually building without your notice. An effect reinforced by a very solid soundtrack which has a narrative of its own. You could take this movie, play it on mute, and just play the soundtrack with it and it would still make sense. The music fits the story like a glove, and adds goosebumps up and down your spine on more than one occasion.

The cinematography also deserves a nod as the shots are set up beautifully. There’s a strangely calm and quiet grace with which the scenes follow one another. For a movie that’s a thriller, the shots are very calm and composed. Almost meditative. Yet that seems to only draw you into the movie more, making you want to jump in the protagonist’s shoes and make his decisions for him rather than just watch as a spectator.

This movie was a lot of fun. It is beautiful to look at, it will get you thinking, it will explore a very interesting concept, and it will probably disturb you on a few occasions, something that I think is the hallmark of any good sci-fi-the ability to shake your confidence in the world you live in. 4/5, very well made. Go give the theaters your money!

By the end of this movie, this scene should probably haunt you. Despite the movie being a thriller, there’s a lot of moments that just stand out on their own. Just so well constructed that they put you in a temporary state of awe and wonder.

What We Do in The Shadows

Reviewed by Vladislav (just this once)

Ladies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, it is the year 2015, and what better way to celebrate than to acknowledge that most of the movies this year have been lackluster. Therefore, let us travel back in time to glorious 2014 to dig up a little gem of awesomeness.

As the reviews humbly point out in a non-hegemonic fashion, this movie is HILARIOUS! Also, vampires.

Comedic duo Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement bring us What We Do in The Shadows, a mockumentary on the lives of four vampire flatmates and their struggles in the twenty-first century. We watch these guys struggle with the adversaries of the modern world: the internet, club bouncers, hooligan werewolf packs, and the ever present need for acceptance. Also, this year isn’t just any old year. This year welcomes the Unholy Masquerade: a costume ball for all creatures dark and undead. Banshees, vampires, zombies. And every year there is a very special guest of honor. Needless to say, our little quartet of vampires is very keen to make a good appearance. But what with their new and rebellious fledgling, Nick, and his benevolent computer buddy, Stu, will they be able to make the cut?

We have Viago, Deacon, Vladislav (yay, me :D), and Petyr. Viago is an eighteenth century Dentist who is the cheerier of the lot. He has almost a maternal feel to him as he does his best to make the little vampire coven feel like a family. He also harbors a love for a mortal woman called Josephine, which is in the bloom of her mortal life, in a retirement home.

Vladislav leaks male machismo whenever he’s in the shot with his epic mustachios and brooding eyebrows. He used to be the vampire of vampires. A creature renown through the ages for his brutality, lust, and grand acts of debauchery. Alas, ever since his encounter with the “Beast” he has never been the same. He now struggles to regain his former glory.

Deacon, himself, is the “bad boy” of the group. He was turned vampire by Petyr in a “dark and creepy castle.” To go into his story doesn’t seem like a good way to give you a portrait of his character. So I have this gif instead:

Case and point.

And lastly, we have Petyr, the oldest vampire from them all. He seems to be a lot more savage in his manner and more closely resembles Nosferatu from the original vampire flicks.

Anywho, this little film is a ball of fun. It definitely feels like a documentary, and all the jokes are spot on. The characters are a riot to watch, and the stupid situations they get themselves in should crack a smile or ten. It’s well written, and a lot of creativity went into it. The laughs are actually quite clever and well thought out. With vampire flicks having such a bad rep, this movie definitely did its best to up the game on the Vampire genre, comedic or otherwise.

Overall, a definite yarn ball of fun, AND YOU’RE THE CAT! Go unravel that ball. RIGHT NOW.

Also, this, because, yeah…

Taken 3

Review by Ryan

Taken 3It hasn’t taken me much time to realize that Liam Neeson has been a part of the same movie several times over. It’s clear the man is making films just for the sake of working. I feel bad for the guy and what has happened in his life recently. He really does deserve much better. The now 62-year-old, who once appeared in unforgettable films such as ‘Schindler’s List’, is scraping the bottom of the barrel as a dimming action star. The ass kicking senior is back and we’re led to believe from the poster that it ends here. Did anyone ask for a third Taken, and will anyone ask for a 4th? I really do hope it ends here for Taken and for Liam Neeson’s career as an action star.

Brian Mills, the hero of the Taken trilogy, is living a normal life again. He has real life problems like any other divorced, single father living in America. But yet again, because no one can resist, Brian’s dangerous career sends this story and movie into a tailspin. This dying dog can’t find his own tail. Go live in another country Brian. Bring your family to Canada to be with the wolves. Run away into the sunset and never look back. Buy your own island like a real action star (I’m looking at you Sean Connery; at least you knew when to quit.) Yet you still live the way you live.

And you like to live dangerously. No one is safe. Brian becomes suspect #1 number one for a crime he didn’t commit, and all hell breaks loose. Brian’s reputation as a clean man is taken from him, and he’ll stop at nothing to protect the ones he loves. It’s quite clear Taken 1 and 2 at least lived up to their name. But straight up, if you think someone could get taken again in this movie, you’d be… mis-taken. At least not in the most literal sense, does anyone actually get taken, but more “taken from us” early in the movie. The title is called Taken, so someone should be taken. That should be the main character’s motivation. Taken 3 has taken away what made its first two films somewhat exciting. Any attempts for this movie to establish flow is lost with contrived, “subtle” hints and foreshadowing to try to back up a lack of “Taken” motif that falls flat on its tail.

With its tail between its legs, Taken 3 is anything but subtle, despite how hard it tries to be when presenting its ironies to the audience. You really see everything coming, except for the next unbelievable thing that will happen. The movie has blatant plot holes like how Brian appears just out of nowhere in locations, somehow survives inescapable disasters, and, need I remind you, how he resists arrest from a police force without having a heart attack! To score another point for lack of believability, Brian’s daughter is played by a 30+ year old actress who is supposed to resemble a young darling in college, but who is intimate with a boyfriend who looks like he actually goes to college. To top it off, things are explained using flashbacks and baffling callbacks, and make you face-palm at everything this story is about. Apathy of Taken 3’s cinematography is the most obvious irony of them all.

I had fun watching the action sequences of this movie at times – between face-palms (trying to believe a 62 year old man run away from police and clear rooms of henchmen). But I digress. The main problem with these action scenes is that the frames were way too messy in how they were shot or edited together. The quick cuts had an effect early on, but kept going and going. Any fun was taken away as I was feeling sick at how quick you’d see something then see something else. The shaky-cam effect, to make you feel like there is more happening that there actually is, was nauseating. Much like the bigger picture, this is a movie that tries too hard to be more action packed that it actually is. Hmm, that sounds familiar.

An Oscar winning actor named Forest Whitaker may ring a bell, as well. Two academy award nominated actors and an action packed idea for Taken 3. How can this possibly go wrong? This is a January release! None of these actors deserve this. Much like how Liam Neeson deserves better, so does Forest! These two men should be filming the next big thing, and probably working with Oprah. But he’s playing as the cat to Brain’s mouse (or dog), inspector Franck Dotzler, who just chases him all movie long, and 95% of the dialogue is over the phone. Their only scene together has them sitting and taking about some loosely tied up story clue that really makes hardly any sense whatsoever. Hmm, that sounds familiar.

If you haven’t taken your time reading this review and skipped to the very end, you may think to yourself; “well then, why should I see this movie?” I can only think of one good way to see this movie now. Get severely inebriated, watch this movie that has taken itself way too seriously, and laugh your ass off at how unbelievable this really is! If I can use the word in “taken” more in this review than this movie can in two hours. This movie has taken time away from my life I can never get back.

It’s sad how these movie stars, who could be doing so much better for themselves, are willingly letting Hollywood take away their reputation as respectable actors in the industry. Liam Neeson needs to retire. If there is another T4KEN movie, I hope Brian is taken from us. Take time away from kicking ass Liam, because I really feel as though you’ve kicked your own ass one too many times.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (The Movie on Fire That Burned Down Horribly)

Ladies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, today we look at the film (loose use of the word) that is Mockingjay: Part 1 of the Hunger Games series. For those of you who don’t know – nah, let’s cut the shit, you’ve all heard of this steaming turd, let’s get right into it. We pick up from where Catching Fire left off. Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence has been rescued from the last Hunger Games by the rebels. I’m sure they have some other name, but really they are just a backdrop for Katniss’ emotional turmoil, so they’ll remain “the rebels.” Finnick and several others have also been rescued and brought to the underground headquarters of the rebels at District 13. Katniss is reunited with Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth, and her family. She is introduced to President Coin, played by Julianne Moore, which urges Katniss to spearhead their own propaganda campaign against President Snow, and in return offers to save Peeta. Though as they only report stuff that’s actually happened, I don’t know why they bother calling it propaganda, but hey, it sounds more political that way. The plot conflict comes in the shape of ol’ whiny, mumbling, unsure-of-himself-and-highly-annoying Peeta. A dumbfounded Katniss stares at a TV screen as Peeta seems to have become President Snow’s face of propaganda, pleading with the other districts to not take part in the rebellion and be complacent with the Capitol. The rebels show instant anger towards Peeta, and Katniss has to reconcile the fate of her friend and the responsibilities she now bares as the face of the rebellion.

Peeta does what Peeta does best – whine and look crushed.

Honestly, that’s the best I can do without vomiting and hating myself as a pseudo-reviewer. The reality of this film is that it’s EXTREMELY boring. I’m not one for mindless violence or action for that matter, but in the first two films you at least had the actual games to keep you entertained. I was highly skeptical of this franchise as it seemed to me like another Twilight teen fiction. However, female colleagues and friends vehemently and loyally swore otherwise, convincing me that there’s a lot socio-political factors at play which makes this series worthwhile. Well, NO. While I have to watch Katniss’ inability to make one adult decision and put the fates of thousands before the fate of just one of her friends, I have to watch what I can only accurately sum up as a dystopian American Idol. What dress will Katniss wear? How can we bring out the angry Katniss, how can we bring out the true Katniss, the Katniss that will INSPIRE. And while I’m watching this and trying to figure out what’s the least disruptive way to kill myself in a movie theater, (after all I care about my fellow movie goers,) I get glimpses of one of the two scenarios. A whinefest between Peeta and Katniss, or a somber, brooding Katniss being comforted by Liam Hemsworth, whose only purpose is to be a handsome shoulder to cry on.

*Wipes away tears* You got a lot of heart, girl, and a lot of spirit. Your singing was good, and you look fabulous. Now if you just work on that 10-year-old attitude of yours, you can be a real star! 7.4! *que audience applause*

I’m not going to get into the ending of the movie so as not to spoil anything, but I will say this: under logical scrutiny, just about every premise on which the writing hangs falls apart at the slightest touch. It’s designed poorly, it has plot armor all over it, and makes this feel like a Saturday morning cartoon as opposed to a dystopian film. In reality, people die, and not just the ones we introduce 5 seconds before we kill them. In reality, cruel and intelligent dictators don’t make silly gambits that a Bond villain would. In reality, this is just silly teen fiction and its socio-political context is so absurdly black and white (rich vs poor, good vs bad) that even a high schooler should laugh at this. Boring, poorly made film. 6/10, don’t waste your time. BUT, there is Natalie Dormer in it with a bad-ass haircut and tattoos. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

All hail the goddess, savior of lame films!

***SPOILERS*** Just food for thought for those of you who’ve seen the film. Let’s be honest, if this was actually written to be remotely realistic, with a competent dictator, Gale and every other commando rescuing Peeta would have entered that building only to see crossbowmen on the parapets with Rains of Castamere playing. G bloody G.

This man would get shit done. The Thirteen Kingdoms would be under his foot before you could say ‘shits gold.’

Unbroken: Movie Review

Ladies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, today we look at the film that is Unbroken, directed and produced by Angelina Jolie. It’s based on the non-fiction novel by Laura Hillenbrand called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

The story is that of Louis Zamperini, a US Olympic runner, who falls captive to the Japanese during the second World War. We follow his journey from his Olympics debut to his inevitable capture. We see the struggles of his fellow soldiers and himself as they try to preserve what small piece of humanity they can in the brutal and dehumanizing conditions of the P.O.W. camp. The camp is run by Mutsuhiro “Bird” Watanabe, a young and bitter corporal, who goes to great lengths to punish and humiliate Louis, mostly because of his status as an Olympic athlete. Two strong wills collide, as we watch the power struggle between these two men; one a captive, the other a captor, and both unrelenting.

So, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The movie is well polished, the scenes are set up nicely with a good pace. Jack O’Connell’s performance as Louis Zamperini is alarmingly strong. He show us a great range of ability and skill as he goes through the highs and lows of the character’s emotional journey. He makes acting look easy, and he is absolutely flawless in every single shot he’s in. Nothing but respect for the man. The rest of the cast did similarly as well, though none really stood out as much. Corporal Watanabe, played by Takamasa Ishihara seemed to be a bit over the top in most of the scenes he was in, but perhaps that was just director’s take. Even so, he gave a pretty solid performance as well.

Clash of wills, Takamasa Ishihara and Jack O’Connell

What the movie really lacked was direction. While the first set up of the film isn’t too bad, with the plot unraveling at a steady pace, the latter part of the movie feels like one big drag. Not a lot of development happens, and the story’s pace slows down to a crawl. And for about 30 minutes or so, we just have torture scenes followed by motivation scenes in constant succession. And with a lack of character or plot development, this quickly becomes dull, and as a viewer you grow numb to any awe or inspiration you should be experiencing.

Angelina Jolie doing directing things, because, yeah…

Also, as most “inspirational” movies, this movie wants you to take a lot at face value. We have one or two scenes where Louis is being reprimanded by his family for his hooliganism, and is subsequently told that he’s capable of better things if he would only try. Next scene he tries, ergo said attitude for life. I understand that the movie is supposed to cover roughly 15 years of a character’s life, and that screen time is limited, but as a viewer I feel I am being cheated. Maybe it’s simply this genre of film, and not the director, but again, this felt weak. The movie tries to awe with its ques of epic soundtrack and cheesy lines as opposed to actual character development and drama. For that, it gets some ‘fail points.’

All in all, it’s an average movie. Nothing special, nothing too horrible. If you have any interest in the history of Louis Zamperini, or simply that time period/topic, you might like this movie. It’s worth its money if nothing else. If you’re standing in front of the showtimes board at the theater and you’re juggling between this and Madagascar, Horrible Bosses 2, Night at The Museum 2, and other similar garbage, you might as well spend your money wisely and watch this. Otherwise, meh.

Angelina Jolie with the real Louis Zamperini. It’s based on a “True Story,” therefore it must be good. Right? Wrong.