Archive for October, 2016

Within

by on Oct.30, 2016, under Movie Reviews

withinMy apologies to my faithful readers for not offering up a review last week. As for why, I was a bit distracted by something new that I wanted to pass along some thoughts about this week. And that, is the new frontier of VR (virtual reality) which I have the fortune to experience through PS4 VR. I’m not going to go into a review of the PS VR itself but rather some of the films I saw through this amazing medium, for you see, this is the next step, the next evolution of storytelling for us filmmakers and you, the movie enthusiast…

Within is a viewing app that delivers VR content to your device. Through Within you can watch everything from an incredible U2 music video to a documentary about scuba diving in an amazing reef, to sitting in the audience during an SNL taping. There’s some great short film and animations on here too. The experimental Take Flight starts you on the street level of a city and suddenly elevates you into the night sky to witness several people floating in the clouds in various poses of playfulness and slowmo action. By the way, a couple of the people you’ll be floating with include Michael Fassbender and Benecio Del Toro.

In terms of immersion, there’s nothing like VR and it’s hard to give it justice with just words. Suffice it to say, you’re in the center of whatever experience you choose to explore. The U2 video for instance puts you on stage with the band just before their concert. Only, you have U2 all to yourself and they’re all singing right to you as you’re sitting in the middle of them. From there, the video morphs into different rooms with different musicians from all around the world as they join in on the song itself. I’ve never been so emotionally moved by a music video in my life to the point where tears were just pouring out of my eyes almost beyond my ability to stop them from coming…

The animation based Invasion! (narrated by Ethan Hawke) places you into the film as a character which serves as witness to the 3D bunny who has an encounter with some alien visitors. While the film isn’t an interactive game, it still kind of feels that way even though the story plays out in an automatic way. It was like being digitally transferred into a Pixar movie, especially when the main character comes up and starts sniffing you. The Evolution of Verse is like a moving, breathing art piece that unfolds in front of you as you’re transported from one animated presentation after another that will leave you breathless and inspired. For any fans of Mr. Robot on the USA network, there’s something here for you too as they’ve developed a short story from the show specifically produced for VR.

I normally stick to film reviews from theaters and outlets such as HBO and Netflix on this blog but I’m feeling compelled to continue reviewing more coming from VR… Just so you know dear readers, my blog will evolve as the tools for storytelling do.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Sisters

by on Oct.16, 2016, under Movie Reviews

sistersStarring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, as well as a ton of SNL alum, Sisters pair up the dynamic duo as siblings sending off their childhood home in style after their parents sell it and move into a retirement community. The film has some great moments while at the same time feeling very generic so I had some mixed feelings about whether I liked it or not.

The story itself showcases the characters as being in their 40s and missing having the fun they had when they were young and didn’t carry the burdens that adults have to shoulder. As a way of compensating for their lost youth, the sisters throw a party to show they can still let loose. In terms of their roles, Fey really breaks the mold for herself as an actor and takes on a character that you don’t normally see her play. Poehler’s fun to watch too but in a familiar skin we’ve seen her wear before.

The film gets going as the party builds and the house gets trashed. Lessons are learned, party jokes are celebrated and the conclusion comes to a satisfying, but unsurprising ending. The writing does offer some surprises here and there but it’s mostly something not super challenging. It’s not a constant LOL comedy but it has some standout moments. Unfortunately, the pacing of the film drags a bit to the point where as the viewer I just wanted them to be over with the party already with some of the scenes starting to feel gratuitous after awhile. The film just about hits the 2 hour mark when it could’ve shaved off about 20 minutes or so.

Overall, it’s an ok film and has some great talent in it with an extensive lineup that includes Maya Rudolph, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, John Cena, John Leguizamo, Bobby Moynihan, Samantha Bee and more.

Ultimately, this one you should probably just judge for yourself if you’re a Fey and Poehler fan, they’re always worth checking out.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Steve Jobs

by on Oct.09, 2016, under Movie Reviews

steve jobsBased on the book by Walter Isaacson and adapted to the big screen by Aaron Sorkin, the film Steve Jobs brings a lot of street cred to this project along with the lead role played by Michael Fassbender. All these talented artist equate to a great film and an inside look at a complex, passionate man who changed 5 different industries with his innovations.

There was some controversy surrounding this film coming from Steve Jobs’ wife who supposedly asked Fassbender to not play the main role. I kept wondering why she was so against this project, especially since it’s based largely on the book by Isaacson that Jobs approved of. Once I saw it though, I understood her trepidation. The crux of the film focuses on 3 launch events during Jobs’ lifetime – the launch of the very first Mac, the launch of NeXT (Jobs’ company after he was kicked out of Apple), and finally the launch of the IMac which brought Jobs back to Apple and put the company squarely back on the map.

Each launch event is accented by Jobs’ life at that time and particularly his troubled relationship with his first child Lisa. Jobs at first tried to deny her as his daughter, even after a DNA test proved it. So, basically he was a real prick about it at first but eventually came around after quite some had passed. The drama of the film includes his strained relationships with his partner, Steve Wozniak (portrayed by Seth Logan) as well as his assistant Joanna Hoffman played by Kate Winslet.

While the film doesn’t really have a beginning, middle and end so much as it does chapters in a story that we know the eventual end of without having to relive onscreen. Overall, I felt the film was unique, emotionally compelling and interesting to watch thanks to a strong script, dedicated cast and directing contributed by the immensely talented Danny Boyle. Boyle is known in part for his visual flairs on screen but with this film they’re there but muted so as to not overpower the dramatic backdrop.

If you have any interest emotional dramas, the tech world or Jobs in general, you’ll probably want to check out this film. And if you saw the film Jobs with Ashton Kutcher, just forget that one exists and check this one out instead.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

by on Oct.02, 2016, under Movie Reviews

the man from uncleThis update movie version of the 60’s TV show comes to us from Guy Ritchie who brought us films such as Snatch and the most recent Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr. Which means, this film has the same slick style the others do only with a little less Guy Ritchie-ness of his other work. Some of his slick devices are there such as some of the start-stop slo-motion style he’s known for along with some music video elements, but the film isn’t as heavy with those devices as some of his other work. Regardless, he was a good choice to polish up this re-introduction of the series…

The plot is basically the origin story for how the team comes together. Although built with the idea of more films being produced in the franchise (at least I’m guessing that was the intent), I’m not so sure the box office take it had will warrant any other future installments. The story revolves around 2 agents from opposing sides (the US and Russia) and a woman at the center of a conflict that is pulling everyone together. It should be mentioned that the film is set in the 60s which was at a time when the US and Russia were on different sides of the fence and not getting along too well. As a result, there is some tension in the beginning with the agents that plays out nicely while their characters are being established. As for the script and how things play out, it’s not very surprising but it is overall satisfying.

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer play the 2 spies that bang heads (kind of like an Odd Couple version of spies). Cavill’s character being the more suave, lady-killer James Bond type while Hammer is the crazy loose cannon. Together, their chemistry seems to work most of the time although there were moments I felt like there was a bit of a stretch in terms of natural interactions. Cavill is the weaker link of both actors here, most of the time he’s pretty tight with his delivery but there are times I felt he was forcing it and not coming off as naturally as he could have. The surprise for me was Armie Hammer who manages to keep his Russian accent intact while still delivering a consistent, intense portrayal of his character. It’s nice to see he has more range than I gave him credit for initially. The rest of the cast includes: NAME, NAME, NAME

Effects and production-wise, the film is great to look at with exotic locales, a modern yet true to the 60s aesthetic, along with authentic clothing, vehicles and sets that line up with the era nicely. The pacing is a little sluggish at times but for the most part moves pretty well to the conclusion. I can’t say the film lines up with the brilliance of a film like Skyfall, but as far as spy films go, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is fairly enjoyable and entertaining.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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