Film Review: Annie Hall (1977)

Also known as: It Had to be Jew, Anhedonia (working titles)
Release Date: March 27th, 1977 (Filmex)
Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Music by: various
Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Janet Margolin, Shelley Duvall, Christopher Walken, Colleen Dewhurst, Dick Cavett, John Glover, Mark Lenard, Jeff Goldblum, Beverly D’Angelo, Tracey Walter, Sigourney Weaver, Truman Capote, Laurie Bird

Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions, Rollins-Joffe Productions, United Artists, 93 Minutes

Review:

“[referring to California] It’s so clean out here.” – Annie Hall, “That’s because they don’t throw their garbage away, they turn it into television shows.” – Alvy Singer

I’m not what you would call a big Woody Allen fan but I do find a lot of his films to be amusing. This is one of them and this is also probably my favorite out of the Allen pictures that I’ve seen.

While I’ve seen all of the famous scenes from Annie Hall time and time again in documentaries and shows about movies, I’ve never seen this film in its entirety and in the proper sequence with all of the narrative context. In some ways, this film is actually kind of genius in how refreshing, original and authentic it feels. But I also didn’t know, until now, that this was sort of autobiographical in regards to Allen and Diane Keaton’s real romantic relationship a few years before this movie.

What makes this work so well is the natural chemistry between Allen and Keaton. But even then, Allen had solid chemistry in his scenes with Shelley Duvall and Carol Kane. It’s hard to say that he’s a great actor when he’s essentially just playing himself but his natural charm works wonders in this picture and it gives a certain life to scenes that may have felt dry if played by someone else.

Diane Keaton was lovable and fun in the picture and I think she is the real glue of the film, even more so than Allen. The reason being is that she just radiates a glow that encapsulates anyone on the screen with her. You clearly see the woman that Woody Allen is legitimately infatuated with.

From a narrative standpoint, this is Allen writing what he knows most intimately. But even then, I don’t think that this authentic tale would have had the magic without the performances in the film. This is lightyears better than a standard romantic comedy but I feel like that’s because the main players felt very at home with the material and they took this very seriously, where most romantic comedies tend to by cheesy and lacking depth in the performances of their actors.

Allen certainly knows how to direct and it is very apparent here. He gets the most out of everyone on screen, including himself. It’s easy to write about your life but it’s difficult to make something so genuine.

In the end, this is a fun, cute, lighthearted picture that presents romance and comedy in a unique way that is very much Woody Allen. He’s had similar films but nothing that hits the right notes in quite the same way.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other early Woody Allen films.

Film Review: Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016)

Also known as: Ghostbusters (original title), Ghostbusters 3 (working title), Flapjack (fake working title)
Release Date: July 9th, 2016 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Based on: Ghostbusters by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
Music by: Theodore Shapiro
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Andy Garcia, Charles Dance, Ed Begley Jr., Michael McDonald, Zach Woods, Toby Huss, Bill Murray (cameo), Dan Aykroyd (cameo), Ernie Hudson (cameo), Sigourney Weaver (cameo), Annie Potts (cameo), Ivan Reitman (cameo), Ozzy Osbourne (cameo), Al Roker (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, The Montecito Picture Company, Feigco Entertainment, Pascal Pictures, Ghost Corps, Sony Pictures Releasing, 116 Minutes

Review:

“I will not let the 12-year reputation of this fine institution be besmirched by you!” – The Dean

I was a massive fan of the original Ghostbusters movies. However, even with rumors of a Ghostbusters 3 for years, I never really wanted a follow up. It had been such a long time since the second film and franchise movies that go on multiple decade hiatuses never seem to recapture the magic. The sequel idea was eventually abandoned in favor of this reboot, however. But still, I didn’t want it.

The only way that I thought a modern Ghostbusters could work is if it was to introduce a new generation and for it to exist in the same universe with the original guys passing the torch so that they could finally retire. Instead, this was just a flat out reboot with no continuity shared with the original two films.

But then there was also the gender twist element to this film. It seemed to be the latest Hollywood franchise to do a full gender swap for the sake of just swapping gender. Do I care that these four characters are women? No. But Hollywood (and all of entertainment, really) is sort of forcing diversity on the masses just because they can and apparently we’re all sexist, racist, homophobes if we don’t just accept what they are making the new normal.

In any event, this film came out with a lot of backlash because people are sick of the forced diversity shtick. Was that fair to the actresses in the film? Probably not. I felt that it should stand on its own merits but I also wanted to separate myself from all the social and political commentary for a long while before giving it a fair shot.

Let me first say that this sequel was unnecessary. Had it been made to build off of the already existing mythos and served to enrich it, then that would have made this more worthwhile and given it a point beyond just appearing like Hollywood attempting to gender swap fan favorite characters.

The thing is, I like most of the people in this film and that’s the main reason why I wanted to finally check it out. That being said, I enjoyed these women, their characters and I also thought that most of the supporting cast were better than decent. I also enjoyed the cameos from the original Ghostbusters cast members.

In the end, this film worked for me. There are several reasons for this but the biggest positive was that the writers didn’t try to just rehash what the first film was. This movie had it’s own original story with some cool ideas that served the narrative well. I liked the story, I thought it was pretty creative and even if the villain was weak when compared to Gozer and Vigo, his plan was still interesting and worthy of a first outing for this team of Ghostbusters.

Additionally, this film had a lot of fan service moments. They weren’t necessary or even really expected but the studio did a good job of not using these elements to sell the film in trailers. These surprises weren’t spoiled ahead of time for me and I was glad to see them worked into the movie, especially that major homage to The REAL Ghostbusters cartoon series.

I also loved the special effects and the whole visual style of the movie. The ghosts looked cool and there was a great variety of ghost styles. While the “ghosts unleashed on Manhattan” segment from the original film is one of the best moments in film history, I felt that this film’s take on that beloved moment was executed spectacularly.

The only ghost I really wasn’t a fan of was the demon dragon thing and the whole segment trying to capture it at the rock concert was one of the film’s lower points. But surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of other low points.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t hate this like many people seem to. But I also didn’t expect to like it all that much either. I was lukewarm to this film and didn’t have the biggest urge to see it. I’m glad that I did though. It was entertaining enough, made me laugh a few times and I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel even though they probably won’t make one and will most likely just reboot the film series again, sometime down the road. That one will probably star four overweight paraplegic lesbian Fijians, one of which will be Muslim too.

But seriously, social political agenda aside, this made me laugh and had some good positives.

Also, Andy Garcia’s mayor character was damn good.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Just about any other Melissa McCarthy movie, as well as GhostbustersGhostbusters II and Bridesmaids.

Film Review: Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Also known as: Alien 4 (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1997 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Written by: Joss Whedon
Based on: Charcaters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Music by: John Frizzell
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif, Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Kim Flowers, Raymond Cruz, Dominique Pinon

Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 109 Minutes, 116 Minutes (Special Edition)

Review:

“[voiceover] My mommy always said there were no monsters. No real ones. But there are.” – Ripley

Alien: Resurrection is a film that shouldn’t have been made. At least not in its existing form. Ripley died but they bring Weaver back as some sort of clone made from her DNA that conveniently has her memories and is basically Ripley. It’s a terrible f’n attempt at keeping the franchise’s star at the forefront instead of just moving in a new direction, which was needed but didn’t happen until 2012’s Prometheus.

For the most part, this is a terrible film that at least has some good actors and a few cool bits in it. The stuff featuring Brad Dourif and his xenomorph captives is pretty well done. I also liked the look of the standard xenomorphs in this chapter.

People everywhere love Joss Whedon like he’s some sort of golden boy. Well, he wrote this script and the story and this is one of the prime examples I give when battling it out with Whedon fanboys. Did he have a few good ideas, sure. However, even the good ideas were pretty unrefined and made this feel more like a fan fiction fantasy than anything that fits cohesively within the already established Alien mythos.

The Ripley stuff was just dumb, the human/xenomorph hybrid was strange and bizarre and not in a good way and the whole tale just seemed like a pointless side story in some pocket of the Alien universe where I just didn’t care about a single character or their mission, even if Earth itself was in imminent danger.

It’s hard to believe that I didn’t care about anyone. I like Weaver, Ryder, Perlman, Dourif and Wincott a lot. They have all done things that have spoke to me and had me invested in their characters. I don’t in any way blame them, I blame Whedon’s weak script and the director, who was the first in the franchise that I am not even remotely familiar with. Okay, upon checking he did Amélie but that was after this and I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I can’t judge it. I kind of liked it back in 2001 or so, though.

Alien: Resurrection is an example of a major studio turning a property into their whore that has to keep turning tricks to keep making the pimp money.

The underwater sequence was kind of cool, so I do give this film some props for that. Usually underwater stuff comes off as terrible. But then, maybe this film should’ve focused on its strength and taken place entirely underwater. I’m being facetious, that would’ve been shitty.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Other films in the Alien franchise but this one is one of the weakest.

Film Review: Alien³ (1992)

Release Date: May 19th, 1992 (Century City premiere)
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Vincent Ward, David Giller, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson
Based on: Charcaters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Danny Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany, Lance Henriksen

Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 114 Minutes (Theatrical), 145 Minutes (Assembly Cut), 138 Minutes (Special Edition)

Review:

“[to the Alien] You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else.” – Ripley

Alien was such an incredible movie that it was damn near impossible to follow up while hitting that same level of grandeur and artistry. Aliens happened to achieve this, however. Many people even debate which of the two films is better. So when a third Alien film came along, it couldn’t capture lightning in a bottle for a third time could it?

It didn’t. But that doesn’t mean that the film isn’t good. It is still one hell of a ride and it certainly isn’t short on terror and dread.

Also, this was the directorial debut of David Fincher, a young man who got his start as an assistant cameraman and a matte photography assistant on films like Return of the JediIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The NeverEnding Story.

On paper, this probably looked like it was setup to fail. However, the young Fincher made it work and helped establish his own style enough to whittle out a pretty prolific Hollywood career for himself. He followed this movie up with Se7enThe GameFight Club and since the turn of the millennium he’s done Panic RoomZodiacThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social NetworkThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. Without Alien³, those other films either wouldn’t have existed or they would have been adapted by people with a very different visual style.

And that’s the thing, Fincher has a unique style. Some love it, some don’t. Regardless of how you feel about it, the Fincher visual style is on full display in Alien³. In a way, it’s kind of impressive because Fincher had his own stylistic stamp out the gate. One could argue that he is an auteur. I wouldn’t quite call him that but you could argue for it and maybe in another decade he will be able to achieve that status.

In this chapter in the franchise, we see Ripley’s escape ship crash land on a prison planet. It picks up from the ending of Aliens, as Ripley, Newt, Hicks and Bishop are still floating in space, asleep. When Ripley comes to, she realizes that everyone else died and soon after that, she comes to discover that an alien xenomorph stowed away on the ship. The rest of the film is about Ripley and the male prisoners trying to kill the alien that wants everyone for lunch. There is one catch, however… Ripley’s body is playing host to an alien queen. It’s almost Shakespearean in how the aliens get the last laugh in regards to Ripley’s fate.

One really cool thing about this film that actually blew my 13 year-old mind was that I saw the xenomorph emerge from a dog as it’s incubator/host. The alien took on characteristics of that animal, making it different and unique. My mind started exploding with ideas as to what would happen if the alien egg was incubating in other creatures. I guess toy makers got a similar idea because in the ’90s, there were a slew of Alien toys featuring all sorts of weird hybrid xenomorphs. My cousin had a really cool xenomorph rhino action figure.

The special effects in this film looked really good for 1992. However, now that this thing has been remastered in modern HD, it’s a mixed bag. Some of the shots that once worked don’t look so hot now but they’re not terrible, they’re just really noticeable. But one of the things I really loved about this picture was the first-person POV used for the xenomorph when hunting prisoners. These sequences are still really cool and it almost feels like a nod to first-person shooter games, which were just becoming the rage in this era. It’s also very similar to playing as an alien in the Alien Vs. Predator games.

Alien³ is not the grand spectacle that Alien and Aliens were. It is still a solid followup and helps enrich the mythos instead of bastardizing it like the fourth Alien film did.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The first two Alien movies.

Film Review: Alien (1979)

Release Date: May 25th, 1979
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto

Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 117 Minutes, 116 Minutes (2004 Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Ripley, for God’s sake, this is the first time that we’ve encountered a species like this. It has to go back. All sorts of tests have to be made.” – Ash, “Ash, are you kidding? This thing bled acid. Who knows what it’s gonna do when it’s dead.” – Ripley, “I think it’s safe to assume it isn’t a zombie.” – Ash

I saw Alien on the big screen once before. I think it was in 1999 when it was re-released for its twentieth anniversary. Granted, I can’t miss the opportunity to see this or its first sequel when they come back to theaters. Both are perfection and both are very different. While people have debated for decades, which film is better, I still can’t decide. Why can’t they both be the best? I mean, they are perfect compliments to one another because of the different things that each brings to the table, setting them apart narrative wise and tonally.

Where Aliens is a badass action thriller, the original Alien is really a pure horror movie set in space. The Alien formula was actually so effective, that people are still ripping this film off today. Almost every year, there is at least one film dealing with an isolated crew battling a dangerous creature in tight confines, whether it be a spaceship, an underwater facility or some science research base in the middle of nowhere. Alien is still the best of these kind of films, although John Carpenter’s The Thing is a very, very close second.

What makes this film work is how dark and how cold it is. Everything just comes off as bleak and hopeless. The film has incredible cinematography and its really unlike anything that was made before it. A lot of the visual allure, as well as the film’s looming sense of doom, is due to the design work of Swiss artist H.R. Giger. His style is like German Expressionism from the future in that it is dark, disorienting but also very tech-like and beautiful. Giger’s art is very unique and very much his own. Without Giger, I feel like Alien would have been a very different film.

With as iconic as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley has become and as synonymous with the franchise as she is, it is weird seeing her not being the top billed star. That honor goes to Tom Skerritt but Ripley does become the focal point and Weaver gives a great performance, even if she isn’t as incredibly badass as she would become in the next film.

This film benefits from having a pretty amazing cast, though. In addition to Skerritt and Weaver, you’ve got Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Veronica Cartwright. All seven of these people have had pretty impressive careers with multiple notable roles.

The film is also directed by Ridley Scott, who has gone on to resurrect the franchise with new energy since he returned to the series with Prometheus in 2012 and then followed it up with the lackluster but still interesting Alien: Covenant in 2017.

Alien is still a very effective film and even if I have seen it dozens of times, there are certain parts in the movie where I still get chills. The effects hold up really well and still look damn good. And even if the sets and computers look really outdated for a movie set in the future, it still has a certain aesthetic that just works for me.

All things considered, there really isn’t a negative thing I can say about the film. It moves at a nice pace, builds suspense effectively, still feels chilling and has aged magnificently.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Other Alien films and Blade Runner.

 

Film Review: The Cabin In the Woods (2012)

Release Date: March 9th, 2012 (SXSW)
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard
Music by: David Julyan
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Sigourney Weaver

Mutant Enemy Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, Lionsgate, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Look, you guys just stay in the Rambler. I’ll get help. If I wipe out, I’ll fucking limp for help. But I’m coming back here. I’m coming back with cops and choppers and large fucking guns, and those things are going to pay… For Jules.” – Curt

I went into this picture blindly, which is definitely the best way to experience it. This is a movie that throws a hell of a lot of curveballs in the most awesome way possible. The less you know about it, the better. And to be completely honest, I am not a Joss Whedon fan but this was damn good and probably the best thing he’s ever done. Suck it, Firefly.

So what can I say about this film? I’d rather not spoil it for people, as I’m not that guy. Just know that it is never quite what you expect it to be and that it hits you with surprises, again and again.

The most notable actors in it are Chris Hemsworth a.k.a. Thor, Sigourney Weaver for a bit and Bradley Whitford, a favorite of mine since the 80s, alongside Richard Jenkins. I shouldn’t even get into what their roles are.

The film is not just Joss Whedon’s creation, it was co-written and directed by Drew Goddard. He’s been a busy guy with Marvel’s Daredevil series, as of late. He was also the director of the original Cloverfield and a major contributor to the TV series LostAliasBuffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. He even had a hand in The Martian and World War Z.

The Cabin In the Woods is a horror film that literally has everything in it. And I don’t say that using the words “literally” and “everything” lightly.

The only downside to this film is rewatching it. Now it is still good but you can only be caught off guard once and you already know what tricks are up Whedon’s and Goddard’s sleeves after the first viewing. Still, it is entertaining and a really cool and fresh take on a really tired formula.

In a lot of ways, The Cabin In the Woods kind of rewrote the book on “cabin in the woods” movies the same way Scream rewrote the book on slasher pictures.

This isn’t a great film by any means but it is a hell of a lot of fun and if you go into it knowing as little as possible, you’ll probably leave the experience very satisfied.

The trailer is below, as I always post a trailer. However, watching it may spoil too much. You have been warned.

TV Review: The Defenders (2017)

Original Run: August 18th, 2017 – current
Created by: Douglas Petrie, Marco Ramirez
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Defenders by Roy Thomas, Daredevil by Stan Lee, Bill Everett, Jessica Jones by Brian Michael Bendis, Luke Cage by Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, Roy Thomas, John Romita Sr., Iron Fist by Roy Thomas, Gil Kane
Music by: John Paesano
Cast: Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Finn Jones, Eka Darville, Elden Henson, Jessica Henwick, Simone Missick, Ramón Rodríguez, Rachael Taylor, Deborah Ann Woll, Élodie Yung, Rosario Dawson, Scott Glenn, Sigourney Weaver

ABC Studios, Marvel, Goddard Textiles, Nine and a Half Fingers, Inc., Netflix, 8 Episodes (so far), 44-55 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

The Defenders is finally here. After years of development and four shows with a total of five full seasons before it, we now have the big team up miniseries for all of Netflix’s flagship Marvel heroes. But no Punisher. Boo on that!

While all the other shows have seasons of thirteen episodes, this miniseries only has eight, which kind of sucks. Reason being, everything in the second half of the series feels incredibly rushed. You see, these people don’t all meet until the third episode and then they spend the fourth episode talking about what they should do and aren’t really a team until the fifth and then its just a race to the finish. The pacing is just off and only being eight episodes hurts the overall narrative and quality of the show. I’m also not sure if this is just a one off or if they will team up again and again like the Avengers. Really, I’d rather they just have their own shows and occasionally crossover. Or better yet, a Heroes For Hire show would be absolute tits.

All the important players are here and it is actually quite cool seeing them come together but it also felt anticlimactic. It kind of suffers the same fate as the Avengers movies, in that there are so many people vying for a presence that it just becomes a bit of a mess. However, the giant ensemble is handled much better here than the Avengers team up films.

Also, the four styles of each hero’s shows blends really well together here. Especially in the early episodes where they are still working solo and the show edits between all their stories as they eventually converge. I actually liked these episodes the best, even though it had everyone still in their own smaller universes.

This show has some “shocking” twists and turns in it but none of them are all that shocking and the major one I really had to roll my eyes at. The plot was often times nonsensical and a mess. And ultimately, I really only cared about Jessica Jones’ role in this, as she showed just how much cooler she is than these other heroes.

Sure, I like the other heroes but on the flip side, I’m sick of The Hand, at this point, and they are the big bad evil once again. They are just a poor rehash of the League of Assassins (or Shadows) that has been a mainstay in Batman and Green Arrow stories forever. I know that The Hand has major ties to Daredevil and Iron Fist comics but I was never a big fan of their stories in the comics either. They’re just boring generic ninjas that aren’t associated with someone as cool as Ra’s al Ghul.

Additionally, the ending was awful. It was derivative comic book shit. It was a cheap attempt at trying to add weight to a situation when everyone knows that they won’t have the balls to actually follow through on it. It was an awful superhero cliche regurgitated for the umpteenth time.

Still, I did like The Defenders, overall. It could have been much better, should have been longer and maybe should have actually shown the Kingpin at his most villainous. But the Kingpin wasn’t in this, which was a massive missed opportunity to finally bring Vincent D’Onofrio’s criminal mastermind to the heights he deserves.

Also, on a side note: in just about every episode of every Netflix Marvel show, someone explains what’s happening and then someone else then says something like, “That’s crazy, you sound like an insane person!” Really? Because at this point, these characters live in a world where the Avengers exist, aliens have invaded New York City through a giant wormhole in the sky, evil robots have lifted a small European country into the atmosphere and then dropped it, Asgardian gods and dark elves randomly show up to do worldwide mystical shit, Doctor Strange and all that bizarreness should be fresh in everyone’s minds and the whole world knows about Inhumans and lives in fear of them. But yeah, a simple gang of ninjas and a living dead ex-girlfriend is insane.