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Welcome to the human race...
I see...I post a couple reviews and Iro's just got to post more.
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I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.



Welcome to the human race...
IT COMES AT NIGHT
Trey Edward Shults, 2017


A family living in a woodland cabin following the spread of an apocalyptic virus must deal with the appearance of a desperate stranger.

Does a film become more or less scary when you go in expecting it to be a horror film? Is one well-deployed jump-scare really enough to maintain a feature-length sense of unease? At what point does nothing-is-scarier just become a whole lot of nothing? I can't really treat It Comes at Night as a straight horror and I get the impression that, barring a sudden musical sting here or a graphic display of illness there, it really isn't trying too hard to be one. It treads familiar ground with its loosely-defined post-apocalyptic premise where survivors take whatever means necessary to survive in the face of an infection that has driven them to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. It's that sense of isolation that gnaws away even as the fear of both infection and invasion ebb and flow across the film's running time - even the sudden arrival of friendly strangers does little (if anything) to ease that psychological distress for long.

The approach that It Comes at Night takes to being both a post-apocalyptic thriller and a psychological drama has its strengths and weaknesses. There's a messiness to the way that different threads of plot and character development are frequently raised but only occasionally elaborated upon that can seem less deliberately ambiguous than frustratingly vague. At least any looseness to the narrative is compensated for by the perpetuation of a constantly foreboding atmosphere, especially on the part of the sufficiently capable cast. As it stands, It Comes at Night manages to build an effective enough mix of existential dread and visceral fear off the back of a simplistic story. This isn't enough to make it an instant classic or completely keep it from resorting to conventional horror tactics, but that doesn't stop it from resonating either.




Welcome to the human race...
BABY DRIVER
Edgar Wright, 2017


A young man reluctantly works as a getaway driver for a local crime boss and runs into trouble when he tries to quit.

Walter Hill's Streets of Fire justified its hyper-realistic mix of rock stars and street gangs by describing it as a "rock-'n'-roll fable" that belonged to another time and place. That's as good a means as any to describe Edgar Wright's blend of car chases and non-stop music, which owes obvious inspiration to Hill films like Streets of Fire and The Driver. The narrative is extremely archetypal with its tale of a young man (Ansel Elgort) who's forced to play wheelman for a tough-talking kingpin (Kevin Spacey) in order to pay off a long-standing debt. Throw in a charming waitress (Lily James), a lovable foster father (CJ Jones), and a handful of crazy crooks (Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Eiza Gonzalez) and there's enough of a story upon which Wright can build all manner of cinematic magnificence. The hook for this very familiar-sounding set-up is that Elgort's driver constantly uses iPods and earphones to drown out the tinnitus he acquired from a childhood accident, which leads to him soundtracking every moment of his life with whatever music he can find. As a result, every scene from simple exposition to high-speed pursuit plays out in tightly-edited synchronicity with the soundtrack - and it rules.

You can definitely take the film to task for relying on its cast to flesh out some rather slight characters (with James making the best of what little material she has to work with as Elgort's love interest), but such a talented ensemble has the chemistry to make it work even without Wright's notoriously precise sense of cinematic rhythm guiding each scene's timing down to the second. It's certainly in Wright's thematic wheelhouse with its tale of a protagonist whose attempt to treat his life as a happy-go-lucky joyride (often by using music less as a passion and more as a coping mechanism) are ultimately thrown into sharp relief by the world and people around him - there's nothing too elaborate here, but there are enough little touches (such as a tender relationship with his deaf-mute foster father) that make Elgort and his journey as well-rounded as those of any other Wright protagonist. It's certainly enough to add the requisite amount of depth and emotion to a series of tightly-wound set-pieces that don't necessarily depend on the nothing-but-deep-cuts soundtrack to function properly but just wouldn't be the same without such a perfect pulse. It's a marvel of practical techniques that will make you notice the craftsmanship in all the right ways. Time will tell how it sits within Wright's already-formidable filmography, but a film like this demands that you recognise its power in the now - and it doesn't get much more high-powered than this.




Welcome to the human race...
THE BEGUILED
Sofia Coppola, 2017


During the Civil War, the occupants of an all-girls boarding school in Virginia discover a wounded Union soldier and decide to harbour him rather than turn him over to the Confederates.

When I find myself paying attention to the editing of a film during an initial viewing, it's usually for one of three reasons. One, it's noticeably good. Two, it's noticeably bad. Three, the rest of the film isn't really keeping my attention. I can't tell if watching Coppola's The Beguiled so soon after the similarly slow-burning It Comes at Night worked for it or against it. The same sense of dread starts to creep in as you know that this tale of a Union soldier being taken in by a handful of Southerners is probably not going to end well, but the film doesn't go in for horror conventions. The emphasis on low-key dramatics suits this ensemble piece as all performers are placed on equal footing - established award-winners like Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst find suitable foils in the up-and-coming actresses playing their students. A combination of stationary camerawork and a near-total lack of non-diegetic music emphasise the stage-like nature of this bottled-up narrative to solid effect - perhaps that's why the editing stands out more. When a cut between shots of different distances occurs in the middle of a sentence, it is very much a cut from a double-edged sword.

Beyond the subtle yet appreciable ways that it works on a technical level and the solid ensemble that pulls together, The Beguiled is still a comparatively straightforward film. Its brief running time is a point in its favour as it heads towards an inexorable (but not necessarily predictable) conclusion and develops its characters just enough to guarantee that they will slowly but surely gravitate towards or be repelled by one another as the plot demands. It's a little light on the thematics, but it's not saying anything particularly objectionable in terms of how it negotiates both social and personal politics (though I couldn't speak to Coppola's deliberate removal of a slave character from the source narrative). I already described this as "the most OK movie of 2017" and there's not a whole lot going on that can change that for better or worse.




Great review of It Comes at Night. I think I'll award it with half a popcorn higher, but my thoughts are more or less the same.

I had kept myself away from everything about it, except the very first teaser, and all for the better. People expected a full-blown, action horror with intense scenes and zombies from the woods... I didn't expect much and loved to sit and wait for where it would go next. It could've been better than it was, but I liked it.

LOVED Baby Driver, so glad to see your high rating of it. I didn't expect anything else though, I knew you would dig it. Had so much fun in the theater I had to go twice...

Not seen The Beguiled, but I looked forward to it when I heard about it. Don't know when or if I will ever see it though.



BABY DRIVER
Edgar Wright, 2017




I feel like Edgar Wright is among the handful of popular American artists who are keeping the "rock and roll" alive in mainstream. Mainstream used to be a semi diverse place where you could feel taken care of with some truly inspiring films. There don't seem to be many left in that area. Hopefully Wright's style gets some tasteful new talent to not copy his work, but still carry the torch of a directive to bring original storytelling back to mainstream cinema without always relying on the overused non-linear/mindf!%ck, depressing, apocalyptic means that has become a trend that won't go away soon enough.



28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
*Sees Iro reviewing again...looks at the top spot*







Saw Baby Driver for a second time, I'm still a fan, but do feel that the film fumbles a lot of things in the final act.
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"A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

Suspect's Reviews



Welcome to the human race...
I feel like Edgar Wright is among the handful of popular American artists who are keeping the "rock and roll" alive in mainstream. Mainstream used to be a semi diverse place where you could feel taken care of with some truly inspiring films. There don't seem to be many left in that area. Hopefully Wright's style gets some tasteful new talent to not copy his work, but still carry the torch of a directive to bring original storytelling back to mainstream cinema without always relying on the overused non-linear/mindf!%ck, depressing, apocalyptic means that has become a trend that won't go away soon enough.
He's British, but yeah. He's been around for well over a decade but I couldn't really tell if he's had that much of an influence on other filmmakers since then - maybe a bunch of attempts at knocking off Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I daresay Matthew Vaughn has been trying to appropriate some of Wright's stylistic trademarks (or maybe just drawing inspiration from the same spots), but that's about it.

*Sees Iro reviewing again...looks at the top spot*







Saw Baby Driver for a second time, I'm still a fan, but do feel that the film fumbles a lot of things in the final act.
You held it long enough, revel in your time and all that.

I do worry whether giving it a 4.5 means that I'm setting myself up for disappointment if I try to revisit it.



Welcome to the human race...
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
Matt Reeves, 2017


In a post-apocalyptic future, the leader of a colony of sapient apes sets out to get vengeance on the human militia that attacked his home.

A spot of graffiti glimpsed late in the film draws extra attention to War...'s most immediately recognisable influence, but it really does just drive home the paradox that makes the Apes prequels some of the most interesting contemporary blockbusters and yet somehow kind of boring as well. There's certainly something to be said for the go-for-broke audacity of its premise that doubles down hard on the already-dim view of humanity seen in the previous installments, ditching the sympathetic human characters of Rise... and Dawn... in order to pit its simian leads against a cult-like battalion of human soldiers led by an implacable commander (Woody Harrelson) who shows no mercy to those he considers a threat. Once things get personal between him and protagonist ape Caesar (Andy Serkis), what follows is a remarkably bleak excuse for a PG-13 tentpole blockbuster that dares to push its plot and characters to the edge in a tale of vengeance, genocide, and what it really means to be human or (much more importantly) ape. Of course, what the film's blockbuster status is able to confer in terms of technical scope is also countered by the ways in which it does occasionally defer to four-quadrant limitations; the most obvious example of this is the inclusion of Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), whose role as a gormless and funny-looking comic relief makes sense in the middle of such a grim film but can prove a little too distracting as a result.

It is to War...'s credit that it is able to either keep these tentpole concessions to a minimum or at least do a somewhat acceptable job of folding them into its bigger picture, and what a bigger picture it is. Though there's no denying that it wears its main influences on its sleeve, it's certainly proved capable of expanding upon the series' core themes regarding systemic injustice and its varied effects on the individuals who either suffer or prosper because of it. The material here is strong enough that one may even worry that the presence of computer-generated apes comes dangerously close to trivialising the sensitive matters that the film wishes to address (with many scenes invoking images associated with institutional slavery or death camps), especially if one can reasonably expect a film of this nature to conclude with a generically bombastic third-act spectacle. The same goes for when the narrative skews a little too close to unfortunate clichés even in the name of its bigger picture, which is borne out by some fairly loose pacing during its first half. Even so, War is still a marvel in the company of the year's other big franchise installments, inviting its fair share of comparisons but still doing a decent job of standing alone. Michael Giacchino's haunting end-credits music still echoes in my mind as I type this, and not without good reason.




[quote=Iroquois;1744885]
I feel like Edgar Wright is among the handful of popular American artists who are keeping the "rock and roll" alive in mainstream.

He's British, but yeah. He's been around for well over a decade but I couldn't really tell if he's had that much of an influence on other filmmakers since then - maybe a bunch of attempts at knocking off Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I daresay Matthew Vaughn has been trying to appropriate some of Wright's stylistic trademarks (or maybe just drawing inspiration from the same spots), but that's about it.
Funny, I knew he was British as Ive been a fan since 2004. Must be his style that had me slip that up. He's American in my book.



Welcome to the human race...
ATOMIC BLONDE
David Leitch, 2017


In the days leading up to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, an MI6 agent undertakes a mission to recover highly-sensitive material from within East Berlin.

Balancing style with substance is tough - constructing a deliberate imbalancing might actually be tougher. It certainly seems that way with Atomic Blonde, a solo feature from John Wick co-director David Leitch. It's certainly unapologetic about mixing and matching authentic 1980s aesthetics with 2010s retro-fetishistic exaggerations of the same, creating a world that goes from Cold War desaturation to New Wave decadence at the drop of a needle. This also applies to a plot that stumbles along the fine line between stark spy drama and lurid action thriller, following Charlize Theron's British spy as she recounts the details of a mission that sees her travel into Berlin in a search for the classic spy MacGuffin that is a list of double agents. In addition to fending off any enemy agents who would try to eliminate her, she also has to keep her wits about her when dealing with potential allies that she knows not to trust but still needs. The plot being rife with double-crosses and shifting loyalties definitely reflects the flaw that ultimately compromises Atomic Blonde - for a film that screams style over substance, it definitely wants to spend a significant amount of time on the substance. Though one can give the film points for granting Theron's ice queen a battered sense of humanity that anchors its convoluted plot, those same convolutions stretch the film out and loosen the pacing enough to affect its capacity for swift action beats (to say nothing of how they can and do lapse into some rather unfortunate clichés, especially when a physically versatile performer like Sofia Boutella is relegated to playing an exposition-dumping love interest).

There is something to be said for Atomic Blonde's spots of action, such as they are - Theron's definitely got the necessary physicality to convincingly shoot, stab, and punch her way from reel to reel. The problems stem from how she is utilised in various sequences that have trouble providing much in the way of innovation or even a compelling sense of style; one fistfight that takes place during a screening of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker is somehow less eye-catching than the images of apocalyptic stillness playing in the background. Even the film's most memorable set-piece, which has already come to be known simply as "the staircase scene", feels strangely inert and overly belaboured in trying to deliver a blistering long take; in many ways, it's a perfect demonstration of the core inconsistency that compromises Atomic Blonde as a whole. Every scene oscillates on a sliding scale between cool and cold, pulling in two opposed directions that are almost irreconcilable. Even so, I doubt that all its problems could be solved by committing solely to one of the two approaches, though given its lack of weighty material I'd personally prefer that it owned its coolness beyond splashing a few scenes in neon and piping in some era-appropriate tunes. A band like Ministry made music that is custom-built for brutal action yet here it's used for a simple scene transition (but what a transition it is). Atomic Blonde may want its audience to soak in its differing styles the way that its heroine will soak herself in a bathtub full of ice, but you can't soak in hot water and cold water at the same time. The result would feel very much like this film - lukewarm.




Welcome to the human race...
A GHOST STORY
David Lowery, 2017


After a man dies in a car accident, his ghost returns to his home and observes how his partner deals with her grief.

The simple logline and even simpler title really do not speak to the power of A Ghost Story, which certainly goes far beyond what I expected. For its first third, it plays out more or less how I expected - it sets up an unnamed couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) living together in a small house before having Affleck die suddenly in a car crash within the first few minutes. He then becomes a ghost that resembles a simple bedsheet-with-eyeholes ghost costume and makes his way back to his house where he watches Mara as she continues to live without him. That's about as much of the plot as I'm willing to expound upon at this point because this really is better off without too much forewarning. Needless to say, it certainly proves to be about more than just Affleck's ghost hovering over Mara, though it definitely takes its time in focusing on that (with the film already gaining some notoriety for a protracted scene in which Mara spends several uninterrupted minutes eating a pie while the ghost stands in the background). The film's got a lean running time that clocks in at just under 90 minutes, but it will make you feel every second of the first 30 minutes or so of this barely-fantastic dourness.

However, there's something to be said for how A Ghost Story gathers some serious steam in its back half in some ways that are...quite surprising, to say the least. This is very much true of the film's emphasis on visual storytelling that knows how to make the most of static shots of a guy in a bedsheet standing in the middle of a room, if only because of the editing. This is definitely a film where you notice the editing in the best ways as it demonstrates a ghost's perception of the world around them in ways that are great and (more often) small but never without some measure of devastation. It can feel like it's laying its existentialist woes on a little thick at times (such as through a rambling monologue that stands out in this mostly laconic film for both good and bad reasons), but there's very little on display that feels truly unnecessary. Though I can't shake the feeling that this ground has been covered better in other films (I could name the filmmaker whose work this most reminded me of but even that would feel a little too close to spoiling it for my liking), I can't say that I felt disappointed by the experience. It may be a film of two halves, but the emotional turbulence that fuels the second half is definitely strong enough to make up for any sense of sluggishness that its first half may contain. You'll get sad and think about death and stuff, but at least it'll be in a way that feels worth it.




Welcome to the human race...
BOYKA: UNDISPUTED
Todor Chapkanov, 2016


When an MMA fighter accidentally causes the death of his opponent, he decides to help the opponent's widow pay off her debt to a mobster.

I've written in the past about my mild fascination with the present state of direct-to-video action movies and how they prove surprisingly watchable despite their cheap production values and often rudimentary approach to narrative and thematics. The obvious examples would be John Hyams' Universal Soldier sequels, which are much more impressive than their theatrically-released predecessors; the same goes for the DTV sequels to Walter Hill's underwhelming prison-boxing flick Undisputed. I didn't see Undisputed II, which introduced Yuri Boyka (Scott Adkins) as the villainous champion of a Russian prison-fighting league, but I did catch Undisputed III: Redemption, which saw Boyka attempting to atone for his dark past while also trying to survive another deadly underground tournament. While I couldn't speak to it being high art or anything, it's still appreciable as a lean and mean action film that is capable of accomplishing quite a bit with such little resources, throwing out some brutal and well-choreographed fight scenes in the process. Follow-up Boyka: Undisputed ratchets up the redemption angle as a guilt-ridden Boyka risks everything - his shot at a legitimate fighting career, his freedom, even his life - to come to the aid of Alma, a woman who's been left devastated after Boyka inadvertently caused her husband's death in the ring.

The plot is nothing new - to clear Alma's debt to the local kingpin, Boyka must do multiple prize-fights at the kingpin's nightclub - but its clichéd nature doesn't matter as long as it stays functional between fights. Adkins has his limits as an actor, but he's got a certain magnetism that helps to sell Boyka's inner conflict in ways that written dialogue can't quite manage (especially not this dialogue). It's mainly down to his status as a physical performer who can quite readily do his own stunts and fighting, which shows in the film's many fight scenes. While there's something to be said for how the film gets actual fighters who can deliver some swift and powerful brawls, they can threaten to get a little repetitive and are very much on par with the fights from Redemption. They're not technically awful - you can see everything that goes on in some fairly long wide-angled shots without it becoming sluggish as a result - but there's only so much that can be done with the format and it really starts to show towards the end. Boyka: Undisputed is a serviceable action flick that does enough things right so that it can be honestly described as simple fun, but it doesn't feel like an improvement on Redemption - if anything, it feels like a very slight step down. I'll definitely recommend it to those who enjoy an uncomplicated, competently-made, and earnest beat-'em-up, but there's not much here that makes me think that it's worth special consideration in that regard.




Welcome to the human race...
Yeah, he's either starring in DTV stuff that's always a gamble quality-wise or he's getting bit parts in big movies that don't make good use of his talents. I saw someone on Twitter sum up his Doctor Strange character as "a guy who gets beaten up by a cape" and it really did drive home how much his potential can get wasted. His part in Zero Dark Thirty is almost literally blink-and-miss-it.



I agree with a lot of your points towards War, but personally I did come to think less of it the more I actually thought about it. In many ways, a brave blockbuster compared with the modern standards, but also in danger of becoming more bland and boring, at this point and with this angle in the franchise. The bleakness definitely has something to do with it, but I just also found the cliches a little annoying and the handling of themes and morals a little hollow and/or heavy handed. The influences was indeed also more prominent then ever, sometimes for good, other times for worse...

I looked forward to Atomic Blonde a lot, though admittedly primarily because it had that slick John Wickian style to it and that's what I also really wanted. So hearing all over that there is a surprisingly huge focus on a mystery or at least crime type story line that just didn't work does make me a little less excited.

Good reviews though as always.



Welcome to the human race...
DEATH NOTE
Adam Wingard, 2017


A high school student discovers a magic notebook that has the power to kill anyone whose name is written in it.

When it comes to whitewashing, I've started to notice the emergence of a subtle variation on what is a fundamentally disagreeable practice. It's one thing for a film to involve white performers and creators because of Western society's ingrained acceptance of whiteness as a sort of default setting that can't help but disregard the complexity of the human experience, but it does become notable when its deployment actively changes non-Western source material for better or worse. This year's Ghost in the Shell was another Western adaptation of an acclaimed Japanese property; while that film's whitewashing ultimately compromised its source's complex transhumanist themes for the sake of generic blockbuster antics, Death Note actually offers a distinctive enough variation on its source that it almost justifies its existence. The basic premise of a maladjusted high-schooler (Nat Wolff) using deadly magic in order to anonymously execute evil-doers (or maybe just whoever he deems unworthy of life) certainly seems like it'd translate all too well to American soil even when the source's distinctively Japanese elements (such as the "death god" played with appreciable motion-capture gusto by Willem Dafoe) effectively have to be hand-waved. Having the story's Sherlock Holmes-like antagonist (Lakeith Stanfield, another highlight) be a black man who wears a hoodie certainly compounds the film's pointed commentary on the intertwining of death and justice, as does the inclusion of a cheerleader love interest (Margaret Qualley) whose seemingly improbable collusion with Wolff makes a surprising amount of sense in context.

Of course, even that justification for Death Note's Westernisation only goes so far in making the film as a whole work, though at least it's a mixed bag instead of a travesty. Wingard brings back the pseudo-retro aesthetic of his 2014 thriller The Guest, playing up harsh neons and pulsating synths to an appreciable (if occasionally misguided) degree. It's not especially horrifying - attempts at scares or graphic displays of violence tend to feel comical more than anything else - but I don't get the sense that it's really trying too hard to be scary in the first place. The plot definitely feels overstuffed as it tries to distill a dense series into a mere 100 minutes, though it still does a surprisingly decent job of making its increasingly convoluted plot easy enough to follow (even when there are the occasional disruptions of suspended disbelief such as Wolff and Qualley having a loud argument about the Death Note in the middle of a busy high-school hallway). Even Wolff's grating turn as a stereotypically angsty white boy - ostensibly a betrayal of his composed Japanese counterpart - still manages to serve the story even as it reduces the potential for nuanced characterisation. Death Note is a curious film, alright - I went in expecting a tone-deaf disaster but the end result proves much more tolerable than I could have imagined. I'm not about to argue for it being some kind of unappreciated masterpiece here, but I have to be honest and say that it definitely exceeded my expectations (however low they may have been).




DEATH NOTE
Adam Wingard, 2017


I'm not about to argue for it being some kind of unappreciated masterpiece here, but I have to be honest and say that it definitely exceeded my expectations (however low they may have been).

I think I felt the same as this and another review I've read on this site about it. It was definitely ambitious. I could not forgive that end credit roll, though. So unbelievably tasteless (showing outtakes of green screen and motion tracking usage mixed with 1980's styled sitcom smile candids, oy). That ending actually sucked any chance of the movie being anything great right up it's own ass.



I'm actually a bit surprised by that Death Note rating. I thought it looked **** and it's been taking a lot of **** too. But perhaps it's not complete ****, maybe just a bit ****...