Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Civil War 3I’m a huge super-hero fan and one of my first introductions into actually reading comics was the Civil War event. The political stand-off and the idea that heroes could disagree and fight against each other in such a grand way, disagreeing over basic beliefs, was enticing to me. So, of course, I’m excited to see them try something similar in the MCU. Though, there is no way they can replicate the true scale of the crossover; I think that Captain America: Civil War has touched on something remarkable in the interaction of its heroes that makes this movie shine, even if the source material’s depth was hard to live up to.

The action in this movie was visceral and intense. The film allowed the heroes to use their powers and abilities to the fullest. Even from the start, we saw some awesome combo attacks and a wide range of new abilities and intense action scenes that are absolutely the best in the genre so far, and as the film progressed it only got better. In terms of action, if you were upset by the slow pace and low choreography of some other superhero films, this is definitely not an area where Civil War will disappoint. Continue reading

Review: House of Cards, Seasons 1-2

hocThis is a big show. I’ve heard about it from many sources before I started, and I must admit that the hype did not prepare me in the slightest. I believe this is one of the most amazing political shows since The West Wing, though I wouldn’t say it shares the tone or optimism of Aaron Sorkin’s classic. Quite the contrary, this is a bleak look at American politics that takes your idea of what politics and personal morality is an twists it into a system where only perception matters. However, no matter how absurd the plots and politics get I can’t deny the genuine portrayal of corruption in both what a character could be and what a person could be made to be comfortable with. This is a show which allows you the chance to truly relate with devils, and I can’t praise the acting and the writers enough. Continue reading

Review: Supergirl, Season 1

SupergirlAs a fan of all things superhero, it’s no surprise I picked up Supergirl when it came time for her TV debut. The show has some things going for it. It’s cute and the characters are enjoyable, but it isn’t thick on deeper content and struggles on a more meaningful level. I think the show takes its family friendly vibe a bit too seriously and could stand to pull a few of the cliched flowers out of its climactic dialogue.

When I started this show, I immediately fell in love with Kara. She does cute and awkward as good as the best of them and I immediately related to her want to be something more than her adorable but mild-mannered life. But that is the only character I can say I have real feelings for, all the character work done in Supergirl gives you real attachment to the characters. Even though there are many cliche’s interwoven into the dialogue, I find myself smiling through the cringe even in these moments and really rooting for a top quality cast. Continue reading

Review: Daredevil, Season 2

Daredevil Season 2This one didn’t quite make it there. I’ve seen only good reviews coming off this product, but, even when they do look at some negatives, I just don’t know if people know what makes a superhero story great anymore. Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea: this season had some great moments. However, it suffers from following two disjointed plotlines and fails to deliver some of the integral parts of a good hero story, namely, a compelling villain.

This season focuses on two major plotlines, as we already knew from the previews. The Punisher headlines the first story with his bloody rampage across the gangs of New York, and Electra is the star of the second major plot of the season involving the overly-menacing and unnecessarily faceless organization, The Hand. For the first five episodes or so, the Punisher has his day in the spotlight, and I believe this to be the definitive live-action version of the character. I loved his visceral fighting style, and his relationship with Daredevil as it conflicts especially with the Catholic backing of Daredevil’s convictions was especially interesting. They manage to make a three-dimensional and likeable character out of John Bernthal while at the same time demonizing the gruesome murder that he leaves in his wake. This balance made it so that I didn’t want this conflict in the show to end. Sadly that wasn’t the case. Continue reading

10 Reasons Why BATMAN V SUPERMAN is a Fantastic Movie

Batman Superman

THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Many reviews of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice seem to forget one fact: Zack Snyder has a distinct directorial style. As I’ve noted before, anyone who buys a ticket for any film by the director of 300 and Sucker Punch—which includes Batman v Superman—and is offended by the lack of subtlety and Loki-style humor has not considered Snyder’s reputation as a director.

A director’s signature style matters. I would not see a Tarantino movie if I wanted a kid-friendly romantic comedy; I would not expect a film by Sam Mendes to highlight the positive qualities of suburbia; and I would not look for Spaceballs-style comedy in an Iñárritu film. Zack Snyder was never going to allow Batman v Superman to look or feel like Joss Whedon’s lighthearted and arguably formulaic Avengers films.

Below are ten reasons why Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an entertaining and impressive movie.

1. The Opening Scenes

Critics enjoy mocking the excessiveness of Superman’s Metropolis-based battle against Zod in Man of Steel. Shortly after the movie premiered, the hazard-assessment team at Watson Technical Consulting quantified the damage. According to the team, “in terms of the strictly physical damage done to the city, the initial estimate is $700 billion.” And the death count is equally striking: “129,000 known killed, over 250,000 missing (most of whom would have also died), and nearly a million injured.” Many moviegoers look at these numbers with disgust.

So does Batman. Continue reading

Review: Victoria (2015), or “Help Me, Alessia Cara!”

VictoriaVictoria opens with strobe lights, club music, and bathroom graffiti. The first few minutes of the film feel like a particularly intoxicating blend of A Night at the Roxbury and Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void. Victoria, a young Spanish girl played by Laia Costa, dances her way through a crowd and is quickly harassed by several “real Berlin” guys. This is when the film becomes frustrating to watch.

Despite their reprehensible, arguably predatory moments early in the film, the “real Berlin” guys—primarily Sonne, Boxer, and Blinker—induct Victoria into their close-knit, Trainspotting-style group. Sonne and Victoria begin to develop a relationship, and all seems well in this hazy late-night version of Berlin—until Boxer needs a favor. Then this one-shot film becomes a blur of guns, lights, and muffled dialogue.

Like a dark, more visceral version of Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco, Victoria’s story questions the necessity of maturity. Though, as a character, Victoria has strength and courage, she possesses a sort of self-aware naïveté, a seemingly conscious willingness to allow the forces around her to guide her actions. The fact that this film is a single continuous take enhances the idea that Victoria’s life is one steady stream of pressures and obligations—she never has a moment to reflect. In this way, Victoria is more relatable than many films: there are no cuts, no blackouts, no second attempts. The audience can analyze how the ugly minutiae of every moment impacts Victoria’s spirit. Continue reading

The Most Intriguing TV Opening Credit Sequences

DaredevilNetflix assumes that I want to skip opening credit sequences, which isn’t true. Yes, Netflix, I have been binge-watching Marvel’s Daredevil for the past six hours, but I still want to see the melting maroon wax (or blood?) statue of Lady Justice turn slowly as the eerie cadence of high notes fights with the low, booming bass sounds that slowly intensify beneath them. It gets me in the mood.

A title sequence is an emotional trigger, and I appreciate the opportunity to mentally prepare myself for the narrative that follows. This article contains an analysis of some of the more musically intriguing and visually engaging opening sequences. Obviously, some opening credit sequences, like those of The Simpsons and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, are well-established classics, so I will not discuss those below. Other title sequences feature brilliant theme music but do not offer much in terms of visuals, like those of Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. Even the simple melodies of shows like Scrubs and Gilmore Girls work well as triggers of nostalgia and empathy, but they will not appear below.

Other classic intro sequences that will not be discussed here: the concise opening of The Twilight Zone, the friendly notes of Cheers, the mission statement of Star Trek, the Big History explanations of The Big Bang Theory, and the catchy expositional songs of The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island.

Dexter Continue reading

Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

10 cloverfield laneI loved Cloverfield. As an avid monster movie fan and gamer—I liken the feel of Cloverfield to a mix of Call of Duty and Resident Evil—this is not the type of sequel I anticipated. When the marketing for 10 Cloverfield Lane came out, I was baffled that what looked like a psychological thriller bore the Cloverfield title and was the supposed next entry in a giant alien monster movie franchise. All these things left my expectations low but hopeful.

The beginning starts cautiously, establishing the mood with a strong and foreboding score at the forefront. You are given details and character hints without any dialogue. Then, once you’ve been established in the world and you settle in for what you expect to be a slow build to the first tension of a slow psychological thriller, everything explodes on screen in full audio and visual. I think this opening epitomizes the shock that I felt throughout the entire film. This movie is an odd but pleasant surprise throughout, and definitely nothing I was expecting.

The thing that stands out first is the score and the sound mixing. The mechanical noise of the door opening and shutting, the clatter of objects, the jostling of a car shaking and rolling; all the sound in the film feels like it’s turned up to 11 and it presents a visceral world that keeps you braced for something terrible yet to come. At some points I thought the sound and the score might’ve tried a little too hard to push the drama of a scene, but they played a big part in shaping it as well. Ultimately, as the film rises to its peaks the sound really stands out in delivering the drama of each scene. Continue reading

Why “Which Movie Director Would Direct My Life?” Is a Very Important Question

Community AndreWhen countless individuals sat down to read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life with some chardonnay and oversized Snuggies, they likely did so with a sense of cautious enthusiasm and understandable desperation. Who, honestly, would not want to discover how to make his or her life as meaningful as possible? Secular or not, human beings search for meaning. Laurence Fishburne’s vague philosophizing in The Matrix taught me that, on some level, everyone searches for truth. And, from what I’ve learned from Community‘s Jeff Winger about the search for truth, personal introspection seems like a good place to start. If I can’t know the truth about life, I can at least know the truth about myself, right?

Equipped with that half-baked logic, I propose that the following question can effectively serve as a lens through which to peer deep into your soul:

Which film director would direct your life?

Quentin TarantinoObservant readers will note that I used “would” instead of other possible auxiliary verbs. This diction suggests, among other things, that your life harmonizes with the style of a particular director so well that that director would have no choice but to direct your life. That director is your soul mate, your spirit animal, your emotional doppelganger. To pick your director, you must know yourself. This is where the introspection begins.

Some matches may be obvious. If you appreciate calculated violence, targeted monologues (mostly about violence), and looking in car trunks (or out of them), then Quentin Tarantino would direct your life. Wes Anderson would direct the lives of those who prefer quirky symmetry (meaning lives that feature chaotic naïveté over backdrops of security and comfort). And Ang Lee would direct your life if it is filled with frustrating beauty—an aesthetically pleasing pain, as if the beauty highlights the acuteness of your angst.

Kathryn BigelowSome directors are difficult to categorize. The following paragraphs explain several brilliant directors and their ideal matches.

Kathryn Bigelow often showcases the struggles and consequences associated with fierce individuality. Her protagonists are alone against the world, whether that world is symbolized as a bomb, a looming nuclear war, or Osama bin Laden. Her emotional doppelgängers are strong-willed, almost hard-headed individuals who believe that, ultimately, one truly significant accomplishment can overshadow an entire life filled with loneliness and skepticism.

If Sam Mendes directs your life, you fall into one of two categories: you are either a somewhat weathered renegade who fights for the greater good, or you live in the suburbs. And, as odd as it sounds, those two categories are closely linked. Like extended narrative versions of “Rockin’ the Suburbs” by Ben Folds, movies like American BeautyRevolutionary Road, and Away We Go highlight the hopelessness of suburbia. Oscar-winner American Beauty combines the bleak social commentary of Paul Thomas Anderson and the unfiltered angst of Blink-182. Reframed as an inner-city spy version of Lester Burnham, James Bond becomes a stark symbol of the middle-class’s struggle against oppressive systems. To pick Sam Mendes as your life’s director, you must bounce between extremes of against-the-odds hopefulness and utter despair. You get to decide which wins: your hope (James) or your despair (Lester). Continue reading