December 23, 2016
Written by Ben
To be honest, I was scared at first when I saw the mostly negative reviews for Assassin’s Creed, a highly anticipated film that was being hailed as the first videogame movie to break the chain of half-done slogs (however I enjoyed Warcraft). With a star-studded cast featuring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons, star power was definitely something this film had in spades. Ubisoft marketed this film a bunch, even featuring posters of it in their latest game, Watch Dogs 2. They were really putting a lot behind this film, and does it live up to its hype and commotion? I’m going to be in the minority, but I would say it does to a degree. Assassin’s Creed was a fun ride with solid acting, costume design, and impressive detail. While the initial pacing felt a bit rushed, and left me disconnected from its main character, Callum Lynch, I ultimately thought he was a solid protagonist for this film, along with Cotillard’s character. Both of these characters go on personal journeys that change them and give them a lot more depth that will be interesting to look further into in the future if this film gets a sequel (which I hope it does).
The basic plot is that Callum Lynch’s ancestry is being used by Abstergo Industries in a machine called the Animus to recover an ancient powerful artifact that can control the free will of humanity. The other Assassins within the Abstergo facility just don’t have much depth of character at all. They’re just there with him. I didn’t care about them at all. They were just part of the background. If they’re going to feature in future films, these characters have to obtain better personalities to be fleshed out. Another gripe I had (however it wasn’t really that major to me) was the ratio of past to present in the film. Assassin’s Creed is mainly set in modern day, following the story of Callum and Abstergo.
The past is set on his ancestor, Aguilar, in his quest to find and secure the Apple of Eden. While the sections of the film that are set in the past are very fun to watch (they’re mostly action sequences), I wish we could have gotten a chance to understand or connect with the characters in the past. Unlike Ezio, Edward, Altair, or even Arno, Aguilar just doesn’t have much to him at all. I can’t even describe his personality. He’s just an Assassin. Nothing more. The Spanish Inquisition is a really interesting moment to explore, especially in the aspect of AC, but its potential feels squandered here because of the modern day story’s prevalence.
A complaint that a lot of people have with some videogame movies is that they’re too caught up in the lore and terminology of the games that newcomers who don’t know anything outside of the movie they’re seeing may be confused. This was true in Warcraft, and it’s somewhat true here. It is possible to go in blind and be able to follow the story (my friend was able to, albeit somewhat), but with the frequency that terms such as ‘Animus’, ‘Abstergo’ and ‘Apple of Eden’ are thrown around, it’s understandable as to why some people might be confused. As a longtime fan of the series, those terms were common to me; I understood them perfectly. Ultimately I would catch up on the basic AC terminology and lore to gain a better understanding of the world.
In the end, Assassin’s Creed is the best videogame film yet, but it’s not without its flaws, such as some weak characterization, and its tendency to get caught up in its lore. While the film is nowhere near as some are saying it is, it’s not necessarily a masterpiece. Assassin’s Creed is the movie it needs to be. A straightforward action/adventure flick that jumps between past and present day. Overall I give Assassin’s Creed a 7/10 . A
November 22, 2016
Written by Ben
I went to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on opening night. As a huge Harry Potter fan, this film was near Rogue One in terms of excitement. However, I tried not to let my expectations get the best of me, and to judge this movie on its own merits, not comparing it to the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
In short, I had an absolute blast with it. The film was both familiar and original, ultimately managing to stand on its own while feeling like an important part of the Wizarding World universe. If you haven't seen the other Potter films or read the books, don't be afraid to see this movie. While there are some references to the Harry Potter storyline here and there, they don't get in the way at all. The acting here was superb in my opinion, and (bold statement incoming) Eddie Redmayne's performance as Newt Scamander may be Oscar-worthy, and that's saying something considering his role as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.
The characters presented here were likable and exciting; my favorite was Dan Fogler's character. He added excellent comic relief and was done well. I thought of. First, he would become annoying or weaker by the latter parts of the film, but he ended up being one of the best.
Some negatives I had with the movie were slight pacing issues at the beginning of the film, and some scenes of exposition that can feel lengthy (but as in the same case as Doctor Strange, these scenes are necessary in order to understand this new world we’re entering into), and some small editing errors that don’t really get in the way. And this is a personal negative, but I wanted to see more of Johnny Depp’s character, Gellert Grindelwald. He was one of the most intriguing elements of this film pre-release for me, and he ended up rarely being in the movie. But I do realize that his time is coming in future sequels, and I’m very excited to see more of him.
I know that those four more films are being planned, with the same director that has done every HP film since Order of the Phoenix, but the way this movie ended did not feel like sequel-baiting at all. It had a good conclusion that felt resolved. This is a film I would see again and something that I recommend you see.
Ultimately Fantastic Beasts have reinvigorated my interest in the Wizarding World. It's familiar and original style along with the mystery and whimsical style that made the other films great made this movie soar high. Fantastic Beasts ranks at an 8/10 . A great sequel, but not without some flaws.
November 19, 2016
Written by Ben
Arrival is one of the best films I've seen this year. It is directed by Denis Villenueve, the same director of Enemy, Prisoners, and Sicario, all of which I really enjoyed; Prisoners is in my top 10 for that year. The cinematography that rivals Stanley Kubrick's, with beautiful and immersive wide shots and art design that makes you feel the awe, wonder, and fear of the people on Earth who are witnessing the arrival of these strange alien ships in the sky. There are amazing performances from Amy Adams and Forrest Whittaker, and even Jeremy Renner, however, Renner’s character is definitely the weakest of the bunch compared to the strong personality of Adams.
The marketing for this film largely lingered on the question ‘Why Are They Here?’ And while that question is intriguing, the ultimate answer to that question is lightly touched on, then moved away from to advance the plot further. It’s definitely an essential part of the narrative by the end, but the ‘big reveal’ was largely underwhelming in my opinion. Ultimately it is a well-written story that moves along in a slow-burn style; which may work for some viewers and may not.
It stands at a 100% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes, and while I feel that the film isn't AS good as it's hyped up to be, that's not to say Arrival isn't awesome. If you're a fan of sci-fi or want a character-driven drama, Arrival is the film for you.
Good- Stellar performances and cinematography
Bad/Weak- Big Reveal, Renner’s character
November 12, 2016
Written by Ben
Doctor Strange is, for lack of a better word, strange. It introduces magic to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and adds in the concept of multiple dimensions and universes. It may sound confusing, but the movie handles it effectively through solid explanation and good writing. Now while the film does suffer somewhat from the amounts of exposition, it is necessary because of all the new concepts. The story here feels familiar but unique. It shares the same basic story beats as most Marvel films, but has a style to it that distinguishes it from the rest in all the right ways. The acting here is very great as well, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor delivering strong performances that don’t disappoint. The visuals of this film are easily the movie’s best element, with mind-boggling, trippy sequences that are uniquely designed and truly amazing in 3D. If there’s any film you see in IMAX this year, make it this one. It’s definitely worth the extra few dollars. Ultimately, with good world-building, great acting, and visuals, along with the good writing and homages to the source material, Doctor Strange is a movie that does the relatively unknown character justice.
November 3, 2016
Written by Ben
This movie was a bit of an oddity to me. Similarly to 2001, I realized the original Halloween directed by John Carpenter was an icon of the horror/slasher franchise, one that would leave its mark on the genre. So much so that the elements it introduced there in the 70s are now seen as average horror tropes today. The dumb people who just walk into their own demises, the classic “I’m going to get you” slasher. Those were present in the film, and some people write off Halloween as an average horror film that’s just like the rest when they need to realize that the reason it includes so many of those things is because it was the original. Regardless, I went into the film with an open mind. I disregarded its praise and timelessness and watched the film to develop my own opinion. And I have to say, it lived up to my expectations, and somewhat even surpassed them.
John Carpenter’s cinematography and camera angles are masterfully done. They made me feel like I was in the room hiding from the killer with the characters. They made me feel a sense of dread when I saw the white mask in the background. The tension this style brings is easily one of the best parts of the film, not to mention the iconic and really good soundtrack. Now sure, the acting overall isn’t great. Namely the character of Annie, and Jamie Lee Curits herself was terrified of her performance until Carpenter told her she did a good job. Ultimately the best actor here is Donald Plesence, the man who plays Michael Myers’ psychologist. He put on a wonderful performance and really emulates the theme of this film; examining evil, and what it can do to people. How it can affect them.
So Halloween is a classic slasher, and ideal for the titular holiday, but it is also a good film on its own. Just as I did with Friday the 13th, I’m definitely going to be watching this one with friends, no matter what day it is. There’s nothing like watching a scary movie with friends at night. It’s tons of fun. But Halloween’s cinematography, soundtrack, and amazing tension building make this film a real treat.
9/10 (Docked one point for the acting overall)