Tag Archives: Review

Annihilation – The End of the Original Sci-Fi Movie Plot – SPOILERS WITHIN

*** SPOILER ALERT  ***

Last night I saw a movie for the first time in years.  That movie was Annihilation.  I had little prior knowledge of the film before seeing it.  I didn’t see a trailer.  I didn’t read a review.  I just went and saw it with my wife.  Here is the gist.

As a disclaimer I will admit I enjoyed this film.  I enjoyed going to a movie for the first time in a long time.  It was great, minus the idiot on his phone in the row in front of us.  It was a pleasure.  Thank you for reading my review of Annihilation.

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Best Shot: The best shot in this film, aside from all of the visually stunning flora and fauna, is at about the midpoint when the team of experts stumbles upon a mess hall.  They find a video of some sick death by a cadet before them.  The crew finds the scene of his death has turned an  abandoned swimming pool into an explosion of colors and what appears to be mold.  This grotesquely morbid end creates creates and aesthetic I have rarely seen in films.  Like zombie ants with fungus shooting from their heads.  Like mummies on display.  This was the best shot in my opinion.  Although everything seems to sparkle and shimmer in alien phosphorescence.

Worst Shot:  Spoiler alert the worsts shot is at the end when the alien in the lighthouse pirouettes the main character.  It’s far too long.  Far too played out.  I have seen in before.  It adds very little.  We know that the alien is trying to mirror the humans before this point in the film.  Also, the shots of the extra-marital affair involving the main character.  This affair does nothing to move the plot.

Plot:  Perhaps we have reached a point in the sci-fi cannon when all ideas have been exhausted to the point at which we just basically are trying to understand us, while realizing there is nothing out there beyond us.  Perhaps.  The pedestrian alien in Annihilation are basically the same alien in Signs, or any other cartoon alien–except for with a smaller head and limited facial features.  Aliens are still somewhat green and still somewhat humanoid and thinking.  However, these aliens may not understand the ideological concept of “want”, “wanting”, or “preference”.  The just do.  They just change.  For whatever reason, it’s never really explained.

Takeaway:  Annihilation is visually appealing, it’s visually appealing like Prometheus.  The film offers moments of tender human relations, marriage, and longing.  It also bring a bit of horror with a monster bear and the idea of going nuts in a world where, or in a bubble–ironically for our times, a bubble, where those around you are going clearly mad.  Changing from one thing to another irregardless of the individuals intentions.  These things happen.  Like biology, I guess.  Near the end of the movie the main point shows through: things change for the simple reason that they can.  Outside alien entities change us for their reasons and their reasons are unknown.  That’s basically it.  Annihilation poses more questions than it answers while still making me thing a little bit but not offering much novel idea.  It was an entertaining flick, but it has some explaining to do, and of course a work cited may be necessary in the credits.

 

Thoughts On – The Revenant

Thoughts on – Eyes Wide Shut

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Eyes Wide Shut – Film Poster

What line of dialogue epitomizes the film?

“She may not even be coming back… (of Domino – the prostitute)” Dr. Harford’s sarcastic response to Domino’s flat-mate before she divulges him with the information that Domino is HIV positive, epitomizes Eyes Wide Shut because it shows the danger of the situation.  Plus, fuck, he really dodged a bullet.

Also, the end line, “Fuck…” as stated by Alice to Bill, about what they need to do as soon as possible.

What shot epitomizes the film?

The shots with the weird Christmas tree epitomize Eyes Wide Shut—because it seems as though the director is trying to evoke the emotionality of the season.

Also the shots where people are masked at the secret party, because Jesus, the low-light shots are done so well.

What did you like about the film?

I like the jealousy of which the dialogue evokes; Alice is uber crazy.  Moreover, I really enjoy the interesting factoid tidbits on this film’s Wiki-page, it’s like Today I Learned about Eyes Wide Shut (and I love(d) it).

The film has been growing on me.   That soundtrack tho…  dun dun dun dun dun.

What did you dislike about the film?

I dislike the way the film focuses on the bourgeoisie of society, it’s as though the lower class are only there for the pleasure of the rich, and this makes the film somewhat one-dimensional.  It may be just and attitude or a critique, but, the direction seems stiff and narrow at times.

Question about the film?

There is much ado about what Kubrick thought of the film, so I ask, what did he think of the film actually?  I know this can never be answered, but I figured I would ask…

Four Lions: Something to See

I can’t say much other than I enjoyed this film immensely. Our professor just screened Four Lions in Cinema and Ideology, and I thought it was one of the funniest UK films I had never heard of. If you like parodies on terrorism, on fallacies of ideology, and an interesting, fresh take on a hard topic, check out Four Lions. It will probably be most likely your jam.

You will laugh at least twice…

Book Review: The Revenant – Death of Revenge

‘There is no right to be offended’; The Similarities in Groups

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“Of course, that’s true. Moral and cultural relativism is a very dangerous phenomenon. What you routinely hear from some extremist Muslim pundits, whether religious or political, is a discourse that is anti-Semitic, homophobic, misogynistic. The same Leftists would not tolerate that coming from any other group. But somehow people turn a blind eye to it because it is coming from this group.” -Salman Rushdie

This passage in particular, although the entire article is well written, sticks out to me as extremely powerful and poignantly relevant to American society today.  I feel that in America this hasty generalization also exists between race, political, and gender groups, and there is no end to the propagation of oppressive institutions by their moral movements.  These acts, prejudices, assumptions, create and ignite a new brand of hatred and separation between a group of individuals that should be united as one, come together to resolve–that is not so different.  I feel that any progress to resolve such conflicts is squelched by the use of stereotypical labels, afforded by those, individuals or groups, who feel slighted, wrong, or subjected to injustice.  The characteristics, actions, and makeup of one person within a group does not absolutely define the group as a whole entirely, no matter which other group suggests this as fact.  In order to work for a positive and peaceful future as one, we must stop using hateful tools of the past in order to create anew, all of us.

Some people are too focused on the differences to see the similarities.

See Article: “There is no right to be offended”

Book Review: The Right-Hook of The Big Smoke

The Big Smoke, Cover.

The Big Smoke, Cover.

Right-Hook of The Big Smoke

In the collection of poetry, The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka sets up an all-American underdog in that of historical boxing legend Jack Johnson. With skillful form and rich language, Matejka highlights a determination to keep his protagonist fighting for his life, to keep the heavy weight champion going, and to show the effects his character has on those near him. Matejka uses mechanical allegories and aggressive metaphors to describe a man as being similar to a well-oiled machine or animal. Whether for violence in the ring, or violence in domestic life, his gears are always spinning. The power within The Big Smoke stems from questions that it asks the reader. These questions of race, of segregation, of violence, and of gender, bring to mind an oppressive time in our not-so-distance past. The inquiries come in the densely compact prose and terse lines. This fictional history of collected poems graphically details the trials and tribulations of Jack Johnson, while it asks the reader provocative questions of racism, violence, and gender in American culture. The poems also ponder the worth of a man, in relation to his identity and appearance, while showcasing the consequence of action upon a person’s character. Adrian draws from the historical fiction based on the real-life boxer Jack Johnson. Johnson’s persona and attitude come out with Matejka’s voice. Pulling no punches, The Big Smoke reads as a how-to in boxing wins, and gives fresh perspective on the vantage point of another human, a person rooted in American history, from a completely different culture, and an antiquated time.

The Big Smoke focuses on topics of racism, the All-American rise to the top, physicality of a man, sexuality, and a violence driven sport. Themes put forward throughout his collection carry over from the distant past to shed light on topics still relevant today. Racism appears to be a key emphasis with Matejka’s African American protagonist, Jack Johnson. The Big Smoke starts out by detailing a man who is not afraid to fight to prove his worth, whether he is black or white. Jack appears as an everyman’s man. He is a deeply forthcoming and challenged individual who sets out in the world with odds against him—because of the color of his skin. He knows he must use his physical strength to get what he wants. Not only is Jack aware of his predicament, he faces it head on in physical bouts. Constant reference to fighters drawing the “colored line” shows the intense oppression that existed in American history, and in Jack’s professional life. Not only was Jack subject to being denied the opportunity to fight for his living, he was antagonized by those in the crowd while he fought. Matejka makes art of describing fight scenes of high pomp and lavish fashion. A man’s dream of success and fortune is seen through the eyes of Johnson, though the inverse is also shown. With violence, racism, and sexuality comes the idea of a dangerous living. Matejka maps out a precarious world. Jack Johnson is at times his best friend and his own worst enemy. Ego from being a champion overtakes his senses and draws him closer to his demise. When Jack has everything, the cars, the money, the champagne, the women, the sex, and the victories—even with the negative aspects of the racial strife, he still wants more. His insatiable drive within American culture is a play on the society’s lust for possession and power, and what a person will go through to get it.

The detailed setting of The Big Smoke adds unique framing the feel of the poems. Though the setting of The Big Smoke appears to exist in the south, or on the west coast, it may better reflect America as a whole. Valuable aspects throughout this collection of poetry are the greatness in details given. At times these details come off-handedly, in relation to motor vehicles, hotel rooms, intimate settings, and hot midday boxing matches where men are beaten to pulps—as detailed props of the locale. Matejka uses sharp imagery to show intense struggle and pain. In many of his poems he describes a man being torn apart physically with language so elegant and so commonplace that the reader will hardly bat an eye, only to realize the power of the line thereafter. A good author can create amazing works with the simplest words. Matejka does this masterfully, yet not without throwing hints of French, Latin, and early Modern English language into the mix. When foreign lines come up in The Big Smoke, the reader may be somewhat confused at the placement or idea of such phrases. However, these spirts and fragments show the intelligence of the main character. It sheds light on his mentality. Jack Johnson can relate to these classics—Shakespeare and the unfamiliar, he is well read black man in a southern American setting. This detail is telling. It allows for the reader to have empathy, to see eye to eye with the struggle. Jack Johnson this successful individual is only being oppressed by the color of his skin. He has been placed in the unfortunate setting of racial tension. Though it seems an odd pairing, Jack Johnson and Southern United States, it alludes to America’s melting pot makeup. We are all characters in the fight of life trying to get ahead, trying to prevail on those around us, to make it. The American South is a hotbed of controversy, steeped in oppression. The setting and language keeps the reader engaged while on edge, and this defines Matejkas talent for creating fiction of a real-life hero.

Voice, aggression, cocky confidence, self-assured prize fighter, forget the race, swagger, these are the authors tools for creating a violent machine of a man, a man on the verge of becoming a veritable monster, and a master of his sport. Matejka challenges the reader with such pointed topics by using straightforward words and dialogue. Jack Johnson as the subject is not a timid creature, but iron-fisted boxer with his assertions. He is explosive. His dead-pan humor is either that to be laughed at, or completely serious and not at all. He is not an individual to tango with. If he wants something, a woman, a hit, a win in a fight, he takes it without asking. The way he eggs his opponents on is textbook bully. His nature is captured by referencing animals and machines. Matejka has created a working Goliath of a man in his beginnings, in his prime, and in his relative demise. Jack Johnson may tell the other fighter how to take a punch, or how to go down, tell his love interest that he will choke her, or buy her jewelry, but he is foretelling of his action, and this creates the intrigue. He has thoughtful meaning about him. While some aspects of his personality may be hidden in brief breaks for correspondence between Jack and his companions, the lack of information given provides a natural tension to ensure the reader’s locked into the story. Matejka’s words work as tools to produce a dangerous man partial to violence. Jack is an interesting example of a product of his own environment. He gets violence and he gives it back. He is the champion of boxing, yet he is the champion of a violent and barbaric sport. And those bold attributes carry over into both aspects of his life, sport and personal. Jack Johnson’s larger than life persona is Matejka’s Goliath in print.

Matejka gives you the visual, the historical background. In the opening of The Big Smoke while he discusses Shakespeare and Bear fights. The world his poems create is one of old—yet still relevant. He sets up Jack as an animal, a monster, yet with an empathetic quality of which the reader can relate to. His barbaric nature is countered always with luxury, or education, or elegance in style of the day. To quote Shakespeare is to know of Shakespeare. To ride in fancy car, buy expensive jewelry, and pop fine champagne in bathtubs, is to understand luxury. Jack’s life is setup up so that the reader can be carried into the success and failure. This gives feeling of closeness of relation to the reader. Jack’s voice is seen through with Matejka’s language. Matejka cleverly uses colloquialisms and low-demotic dialogue to push the reader into a caste system and to show where the fighter came from. This place in society is painted perfectly. Human nature is reflected within the subject’s needs. Jack needs money, he needs women, and later in the book he needs a high society lifestyle. Matejka’s voice, given to Jack, is one of many facets, a history of the man. The way that Matejka creates the quality of each character draws the reader into the collection emotionally.

Historical America, and its oppression, is shown within Matejka’s collection of poems. The question of historical oppression comes to the fore especially in the boxing ring. When Johnson is to fight someone outside of his race the intensity within the poem is turned up, this intensity creates excitement of the material. Aspects of life become more vivid. Reflecting on Jack’s fight, Matejka will focus on minute aspects such as sweat, or the sun, or the insides of a person being pulverized. Even the colors within the poems appear brighter. The glint of Johnson’s gold teeth and the biting language come out, at times tragically so. Adrian’s tone and tenor create a landscape in his poetry that is easy for a reader to agree with, even if the topic itself is difficult, melancholy, or traumatizing. The historical presence throughout brings the collection closer to home, and offers insight to our country in earlier historical times. Matejka’s ability to imagine and relate appear on each page.

The readability of The Big Smoke comes from the theme and the text itself. This by no means suggests that the topics and themes of this collection of poetry are not without significance. The topics within are American made. The All-American rise is at hand. Jack Johnson starts out by declaring his mother is a slave. He comes from this environment. His inspiration is getting ahead, essentially following the American Dream. He rises by fighting for necessity and eventually gaining a reputation as a fighter. The fame and fortune which comes is desirable to the reader. Having a constant underdog lends to the framework of a story immensely. Even while Jack is at the top his internal struggle, with women, with race, with caste systems, create problems for him, by his problems he is easily relatable. This theme would also be less readable had it not come with clever language. Matejka avoids being lumped into a category of poets who use big words to please the pretentious, though he does at times throw in flashy demotic. He also avoids objective history, because what is that? The way he manipulates tenor reflects in the language of Jack Johnson. Jack is clearly beyond the ordinary man, he is powerful, almost super-human, and intelligent. Matejka proves this by alluding to his literary repertoire. He also makes this visible through powerful dialogue, dialogue between Jack and the women in his life, and italicized words which are either assumed direct quotes or mere quick thinking. The Big Smoke allows the reader a mix of close imagery and insightful thought through the use of risqué topics and lean prose.

The Big Smoke presents diverse language on a diverse and difficult topic, racism in America, violence between humans, and the ever pressing framework of a hierarchy. These elements are presented with Matejka’s artful prose. The storytelling and smart verse keeps the reader entrenched and imagining. Realism in imagery and description make a fictional story seem as the real thing. The idea of Jack Johnson as an American underdog, starting with nothing and rising to the top, is one rooted in the American Dream, no matter race. Jack Johnson as a character embodies the trials and tribulations set forth by an oppressive and judgmental society. He goes on to prove that he is the man in charge, though he is the person who ruins himself in the end. This espouses that Jack Johnson was in control, no one controlled him—but he himself. Throughout Matejka’s collection of poetry Jack Johnson is a force to be reckoned with. The Big Smoke is an inspiring and gritty book of poems rooted in the clashes of American history and culture, which speak to the essence of the American Dream.

Work Cited
Matejka, Adrian. The Big Smoke. New York: Penguin Group, 2013. Print.

Control Room, a different view of American military and the media which champions it

Control Room is an intensely powerful documentary featuring a different side of the Iraq War—a side not written to promote American propaganda, the media or the military, and how those entities, media, military, and journalism create and maintain wars around the globe. Control Room gives real-life, graphic accounts of the beginning of the Iraq War, as seen by the people of Iraq, from the United States’ introduction of nuclear weapons found to be held by Saddam Hussein, to the infamous Bush speech touting “mission accomplished”. This documentary shows the Iraqi confrontation in a different light, in a human light. One thing I think the American public needs to see is an event from a different angel, from the eyes of living individuals. These individuals are not just targets, they have lives and loved ones. This film offers a different take on occurrences which may appear objective and clear, concerning the United States military actions and their media counterparts.

Children of Men; Is it Worth it?

Children of Men is an intense tale of the inability of humans to reproduce. It is set in a dystopian future. Children of Men is a harrowing cinematic wonder, which enacts long takes with few cuts, and an immensely beautiful, yet terrifying setting, contrasting modern battle grounds, and industry, with deep green landscapes. It seems the most poignant shots offer the least amount of cuts, and vast range. This movie offers opposite pars and poignant meaning in social critique of violence and birth.

Children of Men highlights the human condition: we strive to reproduce and pass along our heritage. Being unable to do this, we become depressed and despondent. The human race is setup against a fascist government and a terrorizing guerilla activist group, F.I.S.H. With the setting we are drawn into a world of binary design; one aspect of the world is city-centric, very much modern dystopian, the other is one closer to nature, deep, rich, and holistic. This dichotomy offers a reprieve from what seems an endless barrage of violent attacks which plague the city centers. With this the audience is offered two ideologies: 1) a world based off of free love, attempts at birth, and peace (Shanti Shanti Shanti), and 2) a world based off of violence, oppression, and control. What is offered in drastic contrast is played out tenfold in this move; we see comparisons between life and death, humans and animals, and peace and war. Doubling extremes keeps this film at a fast pace.

In each shot there is much movement and sharp narrative change. Some of the most intense scenes go from a whimsical playful stance to a tragic situation, or vice-versa, in mere moments; the car chase, the baby exiting the building in the middle of an artillery battle. What we see is two very different concepts placed next to one another. We have the love of humanity, wanting to reproduce, create, expand, share, love, and then juxtaposed that, we have death, violence and deception. The question one must ask during Children of Men is not whether we have the ability to reproduce, but whether we should reproduce.

The director of Children of Men is extremely clever. He pits light-hearted empathy with the most atrocious violence. One moment the audience is laughing, the next moment they are gasping in shock. Children of Men is not your run of the mill movie, but something exceptional, and riveting, with a greater meaning. By comparing life and death, peace and war, the director shows two sides of human nature. The film draws you in with humanity, and begs the question: with all of this destruction of life, is creating new life worth it?

Equal parts Equal; Gilda and everyone else

Gilda_trailer_hayworth1            Gilda is a striking and beautifully shot movie, Rita Hayworth’s talent highlights this quintessential noir.  Silhouetted characters, shadows, and hazy deception are used heavily throughout the film.  Straight on glam shots pose as useful with a starlet such as Rita Hayworth, especially when showing character interaction.  We see long profile shots with facial manipulation, a sexual allure; smoke drifting out of the frame, darting doe eyes, the introduction of the character of Gilda being a prime example.  The camera shows the men walking up a flight of stairs, a woman’s voice in the background, and then we see her.  They have essentially found their queen herself in her castle, falling all over her newly found luxury and fine garments.  Front and center, there is nothing else in the shot but Gilda.  From this point on the movie is changed.  These men, unsuspecting as they were, have their worlds turned upside down by what seems to be love, or possession of something labeled as “love”, or this amazing woman, Gilda.

Subtle hints in direction fill up every moment of the film.  Gilda starts out with the roll of dice- literally, face first into the camera, from the ground up.  I suppose this captures the entire concept of the plot; Johnny moves from the ground up, then someone dies on the floor.  We see the roll, the gamble, and the pan up.  The viewer is given insightful narrative of the sorted people around the protagonist, and the need to leave, and then Johnny is caught in a dark alleyway, gun to his back.  He has come to the end of the line.  This is when we meet Ballin Mundson, a casino owner.  Ironically, Johnny is saved by the very knife that will in the end kill his would be killer; the person who once saved him from his would be killer, Mr. Mundson.  Why is this well-dressed casino owner in this dark and mysterious alleyway saving an inconsequential bum’s life?  Is Johnny his patsy?  We won’t find out until later, but the opening scene has it all.

I feel Johnny’s life being spared is an ode to living by the sword dying by the sword for Ballin, considerably when we see how quick he is to make sharp and drastic decisions, such as, nixing the Number 2 Black Roulette man.  We see Ballin walking around with an innocuous looking cane, and then boom, the next moment it’s a blade ready to slice at whatever, or whoever is in the way.  Also this plays into Johnny and Gilda, when they are ready to do whatever, whenever to get whatever they want whenever.  They are sharp and ready to monopolize on any advantage.  They attempt to cut each other down with jealousy, words, possessive antics, and cold stares, at times without being detected.

Gilda gives these men power.  She becomes the third-wheel in what is a seemingly well-oiled machine for a business/relationship.  It is later revealed that both Johnny and Gilda come from the same knit.  They are very similar, if not spouses (which I assume they were).  Mr. Mundson essentially loses his mind because he cannot control the movements of his bride.  In a sense the director has created Gilda as a possession, an object, whoever has this possession is in charge, yet Gilda has plans of her own, clearly.  She does whatever she wants, she doesn’t ask for permission, and she is outspoken- rather risqué for the time (1946).  The men appear pensive and timid, especially in times of dealing with lover’s betrayal.  The culmination of this pent up aggression results in violence towards Gilda, and further deception by Ballin, the one we believe is being deceived (when he fakes his own death, excessively: plane crash/explosion into the ocean).  The director may be giving a nod to the idea of equality, equating Johnny and Gilda, and Ballin to Johnny and Gilda.  Everyone is pretty much equal in their betrayal and deception.

Johnny starts from the bottom and quickly rises to the top, as Gilda eventually does, as Ballin once did himself.  Johnny even expresses to Mr. Mundson, something to the effect of, “I taught her everything she knows.”  I feel as though both Johnny and Gilda have fallen in love with the same man, and again with each other, for similar reasons: security.  Johnny’s almost effeminate appearance and boyish charm seem lover-boyish, also his jealousy towards Gilda and Ballin’s relationship with Gilda shows the love he has for the man, and for Gilda.

Another interesting theme in the movie is the barbershop attendant, who looks like the Wizard of Oz, who always acknowledges Johnny as peasant, as if even if he has all of these lavish material possessions, power, he is still the same at heart, a lowly peasant.  One can compare this to the love/hate relationship he has with Gilda, even if he appears different now, he is still very much in love with Gilda all the same, and powerless to her charm.