Archive for May, 2017

My Brother’s Keeper

by on May.28, 2017, under Movie Reviews

my brothers keeperInspired by the series Mercy Street and produced by PBS digital studios, the VR film My Brother’s Keeper tells the story of two brothers on opposite sides of the Civil War.

Narrated by the brother on the union side, he conveys the feeling of how family doesn’t always line up from an idealogical standpoint and how that division can lead to separation and tragedy (poignant for our time, yes?). There’s a palpable emotional tone of regret and desperation in not knowing if the man you’re shooting at is the little brother you would die for.

Told from the standpoints of being a soldier on both sides of the war, the VR experience puts you in the field standing next to the soldiers as they work their way to the battle of Antietam, considered the costliest battle in terms of lives lost in the entirety of the civil war. The tension that gets built through witnessing the film in virtual reality raises the hair on the back of your neck while you march with the soldiers as they occasionally pause to drop a musket with the barrel aimed squarely past your shoulder towards an unknown enemy in the fog.

The end of the story takes a dark turn as you get a brief taste of a firefight and the aftermath that follows. Your heart pounds just before it breaks during this captivating virtual reality film experience.

Written and directed by Connor Hair and Alex Meader. Available from PBS and the Littlestar VR network distributed by PSVR, Vive and Oculus.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

by on May.14, 2017, under Movie Reviews

guardians of the galaxy volume 2Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a blast, go see it. Let me just start with that…

So, ok, it picks up soon after the first film leaves off ultimately landing on Peter Quill being united with his long lost father, Ego. Now, there’s a lot more that happens leading up to that as our favorite band of misfits in space has managed to piss off an entire civilization while Nebula pursues Gamora in hopes of killing her, oh and then there’s some big stuff going on with Yondu to boot. Suffice it to say there’s a lot happening in the film.

The story is multi-layered and flows well to an emotional, exciting and very satisfying conclusion. James Gunn is back as one of the writers in addition to doing an excellent job directing the film. They’ve already started working on Vol. 3 by the way and for good reason, you just want them to keep going after seeing this one.

The action and effects are at the top of their game. This particular series in the Marvel universe feels a lot like this might be their Star Wars. Well, they’re owned by Disney who owns Star Wars, but you get where I’m going. The craftmanship and design of the foreign planets the Guardians travel to all feel unique and interesting. The worlds themselves feel like they have historical value when you see them, I’d be interested in hearing the backstories they came up with when developing them, that must’ve been fun to write.

The performances from the cast are all at the top of their game. It looks like they had fun making this one given the material and the passion each actor brings to the table. The stellar lineup here includes Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel (yes, he’s Baby Groot too), Bradley Cooper (who plays the voice of Rocket), Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell and Elizabeth Debicki.

Try to catch it in the theater if you can, it’s great on the big screen. On a side note, I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed that much during a Marvel film, the humor is great and don’t forget to hang out through the credits! Marvel nerds like myself will be pleasantly surprised by the easter eggs.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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The Protectors, Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes

by on May.07, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the protectors walk in the rangers shoesThe Protectors, Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes is a virtual reality documentary presented by Oscar-winning director Katherine Bigelow, VR creator Imraan Ismail and the National Geographic Channel. I have to also mention the production company that shot this called Here Be Dragons because they did an excellent job handling the shooting, editing and stiching tasks required to put the film together.

The Protectors… follows the day in the life of a ranger at the Garamba National Park located in the Congo. The rangers are there to protect elephants from poachers who hunt them for their ivory tusks. The elephants are quickly diminishing in needless slaughters motivated by greed and the rangers are the only force defending them.

Through the VR experience, the film has an even more visceral impact than it would have on a flat screen. I say even more because the doc is impactful no matter what format you’ll see it in. Ultimately though the filmmakers really thought out the VR environment and took full advantage to heighten various points of intensity throughout the film.

In terms of prouduction, some of the shots are extremely emotional such as when the rangers come across the corpse of a dead elephant whose face had been hacked off to get the tusks. The thing is, you’re standing right next to it when you have the visor on, you’re not just seeing it from across the room. I applaud the filmmakers for not holding back on such a bold, powerful, as well as a bit jarring shot. There are also times when they add a bit of thrill including placing the camera right in the center of a landing pad for a helicopter. That was a hell of a shot too where I’m sure some math and exact measurements were well researched. Good stuff.

Overall, the documentary is compelling, educational and very well executed, especially through VR technology. It’s available on PSVR, Vive, and Oculus through the VR network Within.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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