Film Review: Sicario (2015)

Release Date: May 19th, 2015 (Cannes)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Music by: Johann Johannsson
Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan

Black Label Media, Thunder Road, Lionsgate, 121 Minutes

Review:

“Nothing will make sense to your American ears, and you will doubt everything that we do, but in the end you will understand.” – Alejandro

This is a film that I put off watching because there was a lot of hype about it when it came out. Had I watched it in 2015 or even 2016, I probably would’ve lost my shit.

Reason being, this is nowhere near as good as the critics and my friends led me to believe.

In fact, other than less than a handful of scenes, this is a boring fucking movie that doesn’t seem to have much of a point.

I mean, I get it, the drug cartels in Mexico are fucked up. But I’ve known this and seen this in lots of film and television shows that are far better than this.

With the cast and a very capable director I was expected an intense, badass neo-western in the vein of No Country For Old Men and Hell or High Water. Sadly, this doesn’t hold a candle to those films and it is just a few cool action sequences and one intense dinner scene, strung together with moral babble and Emily Blunt not doing much other than looking offended and confused.

I can see why she didn’t come back for a sequel but her character was completely vacant anyway and it didn’t really matter that she was in this film. And that’s not to knock Blunt, she’s an incredibly capable actress. However, they could’ve just taken all her close ups in this movie, spliced them into the sequel and no one would’ve been the wiser, as she is just sort of in the film as an observer and moral compass.

Now I can’t completely shit on the film. The high points were actually good and intense. The dinner scene has incredible tension but at the same time, the end result of that scene is not shocking and has little effect. It’s more fucked up than shocking.

Also, the cinematography and shot framing were incredible. This is a good looking film from start to finish and that’s probably its biggest positive. But I can get these things in a music video from a talented director of photography. Alluring visuals are great and they are important but they can’t be the sole driving force of a film.

For instance, The Revenant was visually breathtaking but none of that would’ve mattered if the rest of the film was a crap factory.

I absolutely love the modernized western film but they are really hard to do well. Sicario doesn’t deliver on much but I’ll still probably check out the sequel just to review it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the sequel and other neo-westerns, most of which are better than this.

Film Review: Star Trek (2009)

Also known as: Star Trek XI, Star Trek Zero, Corporate Headquarters, The Ernest Castelhun Chronicles, Untitled Walter Lace Project, Star Trek: The Future Begins (working titles), Star Trek: The Beginning (South Korea),
Release Date: April 6th, 2009 (Austin premiere)
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Written by: Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy, Bruce Greenwood, Eric Bana, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Clifton Collins Jr., Rachel Nichols, Deep Roy, Tyler Perry, Victor Garber (scene cut), Brad William Henke (scenes cut)

Spyglass Entertainment, Bad Robot Productions, Paramount Pictures, 127 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds. Solar flare might crop up, cook us in our seats. And wait’ll you’re sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles, see if you’re still so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.” – Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy

I’ve loved the Star Trek franchise as long as I can remember. However, nothing has really resonated with me since the end of Enterprise in 2005. This film was an attempt at rebooting the franchise and altering the timeline so that it wasn’t forced into having to work within the framework of already established canon. I wouldn’t call that the best idea, as Star Trek has such a rich mythos that it doesn’t need to be rebooted, there are unlimited ways to tell stories within a franchise this large. But a reboot is what we got because Hollywood is gonna Hollywood.

That being said, for what this is, Star Trek isn’t a bad motion picture. It’s an unnecessary one but I did want to give it a shot because if this was all the Trek I was going to get, I wanted to try to make the best of it.

This could have been better though. They hired the wrong guy to direct, as he just wanted to make Star Wars movies, which he would later do, and wasn’t a fan of Star Trek and didn’t really understand what it needed to be in contrast to what Star Wars is.

The director, J. J. Abrams, also made some strange stylistic choices in how he made the Enterprise look and how he went absolutely ape shit with the use of lens flares and lighting. The film is almost headache inducing at times.

As far as the story goes, the altering of the timeline really seems moot, as there are things that are different before the moment of that alteration. I’m specifically talking about the time Enterprise was already in space before Kirk showed up, as well as Spock’s previous service on the ship and Captain Pike’s role in everything.

Additionally, the story really seems to be a rehash of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, which Abrams would also heavily borrow from for his first Star Wars movie, Episode VII – The Force Awakens. But this is the same guy who also borrowed heavily from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for his picture Super 8. It all kind of makes me wonder what his next Star Wars film will heavily borrow from.

In the realm of Star Trek movies, this is better than the worst films that came before it but it doesn’t come close to the greatness of Wrath of KhanThe Voyage HomeThe Undiscovered Country or First Contact. As its own film, separate from the series, it is a fun, space action movie. I will give it that. It is a good adventure and a better than average popcorn movie but we’ve seen this all before and done much better.

In retrospect, I’m pretty happy with most of the casting. I never liked the idea of anyone else ever playing the original crew but that bad idea is salvaged fairly well with most of the cast choices. I like Pine as Kirk, Quinto as Spock and Urban as Bones. However, I just don’t see how they will ever have the chemistry that Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley had. But since this series was cancelled after the third film, I guess we’ll never see what develops between the three men over the long haul.

But this film also diminishes McCoy’s importance, as the relationship they focus on is just between Kirk and Spock and not the trinity we all came to love on the original television show and the movies of the ’80s. And that’s a shame, really, as I love Karl Urban’s commitment to the McCoy character. He just nails it so well. I think he actually understands the role much more than Abrams, the man behind the camera.

I’m probably coming off as harsh but I’m just calling it like I see it. I did enjoy revisiting this, as it was a quick paced, exciting film. It did have some heart in the moments where Leonard Nimoy, as the older Spock, came into the story. But it did lack the right sort of emotion to make me feel for these characters.

do like this for the most part but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t just a framework for something that could have been richer and more intimate. A lot of the pieces to this puzzle were good and while some connected, it’s as if the filmmakers gave up about halfway through and just threw all the pieces back into the box.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Kelvin timeline Star Trek films: Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond.

TV Review: The Orville (2017- )

Original Run: September 10th, 2017 – current
Created by: Seth MacFarlane
Directed by: Seth MacFarlane, various
Written by: Seth MacFarlane, various
Music by: Bruce Broughton, Joel McNeely, John Debney, Andrew Cottee
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, Jessica Szohr, Victor Garber, Chad Coleman, Norm Macdonald, Jason Alexander, Patrick Warburton, Rob Lowe, Robert Picardo, Larry Joe Campbell, Kelly Hu, Rachael MacFarlane (voice)

Fuzzy Door Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, Fox, 12 Episodes (so far), 44 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Orville. I intended to watch it last year, after the first season wrapped up, but life throws curveballs and I didn’t get to it until the current, second season, started.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a show that looked to be a parody of Star Trek from the man behind Family Guy. I’m not a big fan of that show but I also don’t really dig animated comedies, at least since the earliest days of South Park.

This doesn’t reflect the same sort of humor style or tone of Family Guy, however. It’s just really f’n clever and beyond the comedy, this show is written in a way that makes it very clear that Seth MacFarlane truly is a fan of Star Trek and most notably, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It feels as if it most directly parodies TNG and some of Voyager. But I can’t really call it a parody, even if it seemed to start out that way.

Yes, there is a lot of humor but it is almost secondary and as the show progresses, it learns to balance itself better between comedy and real drama. In fact, the comedy is used perfectly in how it eases tension and emotions in the right moments.

As of now, having seen about 15 episodes of this show, I can say that it is the best version of Star Trek since Deep Space Nine left the air in 1999, twenty years ago. The Orville is more Star Trek than modern Star Trek. It understands the source material it borrows from better than any of the film or television writers that have tried to resurrect it over the last two decades.

Everything about The Orville just feels right. If it maintains its momentum, I’ll have to adjust the rating and make it higher. I’m skeptical that it can maintain this trajectory over the long haul but I also don’t think that it’ll ever devolve into something terrible.

Thus far, I love this show and I can’t thank Seth MacFarlane enough for plugging a large hole in my fanboy heart.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager.

TV Review: Legends of Tomorrow (2016- )

Original Run: January 21st, 2016 – present
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Phil Klemmer
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Blake Neely
Cast: Victor Garber, Brandon Routh, Arthur Darvill, Caity Lotz, Franz Drameh, Ciara Renée, Falk Hentschel, Amy Pemberton, Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Matt Letscher, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Nick Zano

Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 33 Episodes (so far), 42-45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2016.

With the success of Arrow and The Flash, the CW had to put out another superhero show in that universe. Plus, those worlds were getting too big and they needed a place to ship off some of those characters. So why not make them into a team.

Add in time travel and we’ve essentially got a superhero version of Doctor Who. It also doesn’t hurt that they added a fan favorite actor from Doctor Who lore to lead this team through time and space.

The premise of the show is interesting but ultimately, we are left with the weakest of CW’s DC Comics television series. The show is enjoyable and it has some good moments but it all just feels like filler and the threat, as great as it is, just doesn’t seem that threatening overall.

Vandal Savage, who was introduced in a crossover event on The Flash and Arrow, is the main villain of the series. The problem with the show is that they either kill him or nearly kill him almost every episode but for some reason he keeps coming back or isn’t killed because the writers have to stretch him out over the whole twenty episode campaign. He just feels like a total pushover instead of the immortal evil bad ass he should be. And the characters’ motivation when they don’t finally just pull the trigger is laughable and some of the worst writing ever.

None of these people seem stable or even rational enough to pull off this very important mission. I also find it hard to believe that in all of space and time, this motley crew is the best that Rip Hunter could assemble for a mission that is sold as the most important mission in the entirety of this universe.

I enjoy Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter and I have always been a fan of Brandon Routh’s Atom and Caity Lotz’s version of the Canary. Even the Prison Break reunion of Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell as Captain Cold and Heatwave is pretty enjoyable. Firestorm is okay and Hawkgirl is somewhat interesting but all in all, this crew just doesn’t hold it together as an ensemble.

It feels like a forced union, which it is in reality and in fiction, but there should still be more chemistry. It’s chemistry that has worked so well for The Flash and Arrow. That magic just isn’t recreated here. And maybe the writers, between three shows, are stretched too thin.

This isn’t a show that I plan to give up on. Depending upon what they do for the second season, this show could turn it around. I’d like to see more characters rotated in and out of this group as the show goes on. I think that would work at keeping it fresh. It may also solve the chemistry problem.

Some of these characters are great but after seeing them full-time, they may play better on a part-time basis.

TV Review: The Flash (2014- )

Original Run: October 7th, 2014 – present
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Blake Neely
Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Rick Cosnett, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Keiynan Lonsdale, Victor Garber, Franz Drameh, Robbie Amell, Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Peyton List, John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays

Bonanza Productions, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 69 Episodes (so far), 40 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2015.

In sixth grade, my favorite television show was The Flash. It was cancelled after one year but it was still the best comic book series put to television at the time. Well, 24 years later, the Flash returned to television again in another self-titled series.

The modern version of The Flash is a spin-off of CW’s Arrow. It goes on to further expand the DC Comics television universe and mythos and has thus, spun-off its own show debuting in the fall called Legends of Tomorrow.

Having now completed the first season of The Flash, I figured it was time to review it.

In short, this is the greatest comic book television show of all-time. Yes, Daredevil, which just debuted a month ago on Netflix is amazing. This however, this is lightning in a bottle – pun intended.

Something about The Flash is just magical. I can admit, maybe I am affected by nostalgia for my love of the original Flash series from years ago. And maybe that is magnified by the fact that the new Flash show features the stars of the original show. The thing is, everyone else I have talked to that has watched this show, regardless of their knowledge of the series from 1990, is pretty much in agreement that this is simply great.

Sure, the acting isn’t always fantastic, there is that typical CW romance thing going on and often times, the villains can be cheesy. But this is a television show based on comic books and if it took itself too seriously, it would be a train wreck like Gotham. (updated 2017 note: Luckily Gotham fixed that.)

The thing this show has going for it is heart. You can’t not care about these characters, their motivations and their world. When I watch Gotham, I really don’t care about anyone on that show. The Flash is the most human and heartfelt superhero show currently on television, if not of all-time.

The story arc of the first season was well orchestrated and ended perfectly. Everything throughout the year was well paced and while it fell victim to the “monster of the week” formula at times, it built a much larger universe and everything had a point to it. There wasn’t a lot of filler unlike a lot of episodes of Arrow this past season.

Where The Flash goes from here is anyone’s guess. I hope the momentum maintains going forward and that the show doesn’t go off the rails, as its predecessor Arrow has recently. I also hope that the quality isn’t effected by the new spin-off series. We shall see but the future looks bright.

Update:

Having now gotten through three seasons, the show unfortunately becomes redundant and derivative of its previous seasons. It sucks that it sort of nosedives, even if you still care about the people on the show. Season four I hope gets back to form. And we really don’t need another speedster as the season’s major villain.