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Us (2019)
Us (2019)
2019 | Horror, Thriller
When it is a director’s second, or sophomore movie, if you like, there is a lot of unfair pressure that finds people comparing the new work to the first one. Especially if that first work has set you up as the saviour of a particular genre, as was the case with Jordan Peele. Get Out was an excellent film for its type – a breath of fresh air, so they say, that subverted what a modern horror movie is and can be.

I actually don’t think Get Out deserves all the praise it gets, to be honest. Because Peele is not on his own in resurrecting dead ideas of what disturbs us, and I prefer both his main sophomore competitors: Ari Aster and Robert Eggers, of Hereditary/Midsommar and The Witch/The Lighthouse fame respectively. The Wasteland has already well documented this triumvirate of chillers, and perhaps only the man who produces the best third film will win the argument…

Not that Get Out isn’t great, in its way. It is. It has a lot to say in terms of social commentary, and plays very satisfyingly for tone, pace and momentum. It also has some wonderful performances at its heart. Which is the main thing that it shares with the less impressive, but equally ambitious Us.

Elisabeth Moss, who is racking up some very nice credits in recent years, is very watchable and sympathetic as the heroine of the tale forced into a survival situation. But it is the consistently superlative Lupito Nyong’o who shines most. Her ability to hold a moment is extraordinary! She has a chameleon quality as an actress, which when you see and understand the theme of this film is indispensable.

In the pivotal and most memorable early scene, her sheer presence and incredible voice fill the screen with dread and eerieness to an almost unbearable degree. It is a wow moment that lasts about 5 minutes. In that part of the film I was prepared to see something very special indeed. Sadly, the tension built so superbly is not maintained for long. In fact it is somewhat thrown away, and diluted by predictable tropes and simple chase scenes, rather than more moments of unique suspense, as it needed.

Note that I am not saying anything about the plot or the premise in any way here – on this occasion, even to explain the basic idea would be to spoil the experience from the start. Peele wants you to discover his themes as The “white” family are discovering them, to increase the creepiness and anxiety of it all. This works to a degree, but all too soon, I found, it becomes a mere slasher chase film, with little extra to say. Anything great about it happens in the first half hour. After that it is still watchable, just not amazing. Even the conclusion is a little flat, which is a rookie mistake if ever there was one.

I think Peele will have learned a lot from this film. Mostly that he can’t just create magic by willing it to exist. He has to hold the reigns a little tighter to create something of equal meaning to Get Out again. Perhaps it is a scripting issue as much as a directing issue, but he wrote it too, so there is no escaping the blame! Saying this, he still retains a lot of potential to go on and fix the things that didn’t work next time. And if he manages to string a good run together then this film will be very interesting to look back on as a cult movie that just misses the mark.

One thing I do like is how he uses images and names and colours etc. to create a larger puzzle within the film. The idea being that every detail is part of a bigger meaning. When reading about the film afterwards, I was surprised and thrilled to learn there were so many intentional nods to a theme and mythology beyond what I had already grasped. Something that is also true of Aster and Eggers, as if this approach is what the new Horror movement is based on – enough background detail to be able to revisit many times and geek out over later on fan forums.

The first thing to debate, and perhaps the last, is the title. Now that does deserve a round of applause. Let’s talk about that privately later… See this movie for Moss and especially Nyong’o, and that one astonishing scene early on. Otherwise it’s a take it or leave it kind of thing.

Gareth von Kallenbach (766 KP) rated the PC version of BioShock Infinite in Video Games

Jun 19, 2019  
BioShock Infinite
BioShock Infinite
2013 | Shooter
After a few delays the third game in the Bioshock series has arrived from 2K Games and he continues the amazing legacy of the series in grand style. Playing as Booker DeWitt players embark on an epic rescue adventure to the floating city of Columbia in the early 1900s.

Booker is anxious to erase his massive gambling debts and has been told that recovering a girl named Elizabeth from the floating city will clear his accounts. Upon arrival, Booker notes the grand spectacle of the city as well as the Steampunk themes that combine technology, science, and fiction.
Playing from a first person perspective, Booker is able to interact with his environment from looting ammunition, food, health, power ups, money, and other items necessary for survival in a hostile city. Booker can also obtain needed supplies from various mechanical vending machines located throughout the city.
This is a very good thing as despite the beauty of Columbia, it is rife with all manner of dangers as the self-proclaimed savior Comstock has an endless supply of enemies to throw at you to keep you from recovering Elizabeth.

The narration of the story kicks into high gear once you encounter Elizabeth as many of the missions become escort and protect in nature but the back story of the central characters as well as the social strife in Columbia become more and more evident.

An underlying tone of racial tension and labor unrest is threatening the status quo and Booker finds himself squarely in the middle of both factions.

Elizabeth has some amazing abilities of her own such as being able to open tears in time and space which would explain Comstock’s obsession with her. Aside from an arsenal of weapons which includes pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers, and various rifles, Booker can gain special powers through the use of vigors that are located throughout the game. While only able to wield to it time, the ability to telekinetic please send enemies flying, blast them with water, fry them to a crisp, and other spectacular feats are absolutely essential to the game as well is highly satisfying. In order to power the special powers, Booker must constantly replenish assault supply which adds a new element to the game strategy.
One of the greatest features of the game was the magnetic melee weapon which also doubles as a magnetic hook. This allows Booker to travel via rail Skyway by taking spectacular leaps and sliding along the rails. The sheer rush of whipping through the city especially during combat situations is a remarkable achievement from both a visual and gameplay perspective.

Graphically the game is fantastic as the amount of detail is simply breathtaking. If one was to nitpick they could state that the character facial animations seem a bit dated but they are definitely in keeping with the previous two games and in my opinion do not detract from the game in any way shape or form.
When death happens in the game, players are able to be resurrected at a nearby point for little bit of their money which allows for a smoother gameplay experience. Some moments the game on normal setting were quite difficult and for gamers who need a break, players can choose to lower or raise the difficulty setting in game.

Unlike the previous games the storyline is more linear and your decisions do not drastically change the outcome of the game unless you are playing the game in the optional 1999 mode where decisions can in deed change the outcome of the game including placing the character in no-win situations.

The voice acting and sound of the game are first rate and I especially enjoyed the nostalgic music and primitive recording and playback devices the time which added a very unique perspective to the game. There is no multiplayer aspect of the game so players who complete the game will have to look forward to the planned DLC content which will be offered in the future.

The immersive factor of the game really captured me and in my opinion sets a new standard for storytelling and player interaction. While enemies tended to be for the most part mindless foes who charged headlong to their doom, this did change as the game went along as some enemies presented some real challenges and displayed some very interesting and clever strategies.

Upon completion of the game, I found myself pausing to reflect on the twist and turns of the storyline as well as look ahead with great anticipation for the next installment of this epic series. Bioshock Infinite is a must own for fans of the series as well as action games and is definitely an early candidate for game of the year awards.

Christopher Kirk (1748 KP) rated Parasite (2019) in Movies

Jan 22, 2021 (Updated Jan 22, 2021)  
Parasite (2019)
Parasite (2019)
2019 | Drama
Hello there! It’s been six weeks since my last post – Covid 19 related restriction issues sent me to a very odd place mentally and it has taken me a while to snap out of it enough to have the energy and will to keep writing these reviews. But what better way to recomense than with the history making Best Picture film from earlier in this strange year of 2020, before all the things that changed our way of thinking began?

The hype surrounding this movie in January was immense, for a film coming from Korea out of the blue, with an image and plot that didn’t fit into any of the normal marketing boxes. Every review ranged from this is incredible to… just see it for yourself. Nothing could have been more intriguing. I was certainly hooked on the idea, although by the time the Oscars came around I still hadn’t managed to see it at the cinema.

I found it fascinating that the academy had chosen 2020 as the year to change the dodgy sounding “Best Foreign Language film” to “Best International film”. It was about time, really, to acknowledge the us and them philosophy of world cinema didn’t really wash. And as the sublime Roma had paved the way for non English films to be considered again in all the main categories as serious contenders, I just had a feeling this was the year Oscar would make a statement with this film.

And so it turned out to be. It was a strong year. At the time I was a huge Joker advocate, having not yet seen 1917 either. Looking back now, I think, although not as perfect as Roma the year before, Parasite certainly deserves the praise and accolades it garnered from all around the world. Although any of those 3 films (Parasite, 1917 and Joker) would have been obvious winners in any other less competitive year.

So what is it about Parasite that raises it above the masses? Well, for a start it looks both beautiful and awe inspiring in every shot. Each image is designed and framed expertly to create a montage of mood and form that holds the multi-layered storytelling in place. Rarely have I seen such a well balanced and crisp visual design for a film, of any kind. Even with the subtitles off there is plenty to engage the eye and mind here. But it’s real secret is how it draws you in to believing you are watching one kind of satirical drama for about 40 minutes and then punches you in the solar plexus with the revelation that it has mutated into something darker, weirder and more entertaining on every level.

The “twist” when it comes along is so well placed and unexpected, even if you are told to expect one, that it entirely transforms your experience. You have been engaging with social issues and a basic satire on the rich vs the poor, where true power is a good wifi signal, and then, blam, you are watching a modern horror story with truly disturbing ramifications. I found this gear shift riveting and striking in a way that I can’t remember from a film in a long time.

But, looking back on it after several months, is that tonal shift really a strength? Some criticism, however minor in the scheme of things, did point this out, that what we get with Parasite is an unfocused and confused mix of genres that doesn’t entirely cohere. I mean, I see that, but have to disagree, simply because the writing at every point is too intelligent and sharp to give a damn about staying still and balanced on just one idea. Parasite is an exercise in energetic chaos that juggles many balls, all as interesting as one another, without dropping any of them.

Poverty, class, elitism, generational gaps, vanity, work ethics and morality, roles within a family unit, loyalty, weakness, revenge and bitterness are all themes here, and many more. Start going down the alley of one conversation that Parasite starts and end up somewhere entirely different in just a few sentences. And that is why it is worth seeing, several times. And that is why it works and was rewarded.

Is it a film I will be keen to see over again as the years pass? Yes and no. I’d probably be most interested to see it with someone who hasn’t seen it, to see their reaction. But I’m much less likely to give it multiple watches than the previous mentioned Joker and 1917, or indeed Roma, which I just can’t help comparing it to, even though they have virtually nothing in common, as I wish it had been Roma that made history at the awards rather than this. Of course, it is personal taste at that level of quality, but I believe Roma to be the better film.

If nothing else, however, Parasite marks the graduation of Bong Joon Ho, from a quirky filmmaker, whose interesting but not quite great near misses include The Host, Snowpiercer and Okja – all entertaining but flawed – to an auteur of considerable skill. Will the elements of his mind and vision ever align this well again. I hope so. I’ll be looking out for it, as will the rest of the world now.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman (2017)
2017 | Action, Fantasy, War
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman Chris Pine as Steve Trevor No Man's land sequence The score Girl Power F YEAH Steve and Diana's relationship (0 more)
Third act is a little generic Villians aren't as memorable as other DCEU villians (0 more)
"I can save today, you can save the world"
Remember when some trickster claiming to be a former worker from Warner Bros. wrote an open letter saying that Wonder Woman was just another mess of a DC movie, et cetera? I remember how Patty Jenkins responded to that. She tweeted: "Just wait and you'll see".

Honestly, I don't know how anyone could even consider that there was the slightest chance of this movie not being good, and I'm gonna tell you why: this is the very first big female-led superhero movie, in which the title character also happens to be the greatest female superhero in history. If you really think that Patty Jenkins, also the first woman to ever direct a superhero movie of this caliber in a industry where women barely stand any chances to get to direct major blockbusters, would let this movie be anything less than great... You've got another thing coming, mate.

Wonder Woman is a traditional, oldschool superhero movie, but the first essentially feminist one at it, and they couldn't have chosen a better setting to tell this story, or a better character to star in it. The movie's social comments are strong and constantly present, but never forced, because it is only natural: by placing Diana, a princess raised in an island of warrior women, in the middle of the reality of World War I, the absurdities of the feminine role in the world - and so many other human corruptions - automatically come to light. The way Diana reacts to this world raises a great sense of awareness, with a touch of poignant humor to it. There is a very funny subtle arc of her wanting to take out her cloak, but not being able to because her armor is "barely any clothes", hinting not only at society's sexist feminine dressing code - which is still a thing today -, but also gradually adding power to the iconography of Wonder Woman in full costume; this is Wonder Woman's much awaited debut on the big screen in a solo movie, and like Superman and Batman before her, her first appearance needed to be something incredibly striking. Patty knew that, Gal knew that, and they made it happen. Even if we already saw her in BVS, the very first time Wonder Woman walks up in full costume here is undoubtedly one of the most iconic moments in superhero cinema.

Jenkins is extremely devoted to giving Wonder Woman the iconic debut film she deserves, and she nails it - there's quite a bit of remarkable shots and set pieces that let out the same imagetic power as in Donner's Superman, Burton's Batman or even Raimi's Spider-Man, and I must highlight the No Man's Land sequence. It's my favorite part of the movie; Jenkins and Heinberg carefully work on Diana's mindset as she first witness the horrors of human war, not being able to help everyone, horses being hurt so they can move faster, a mother and a child begging for help, and it all leads up to the powerful moment of a woman crossing the land no man could cross - and Heinberg's dialogue doesn't rely on obvious statements such as "fortunately I'm a woman" (I'm looking at you, Batwoman trailer), it simply lets the image strike us, because it is powerful enough by itself, and boy did that cause some serious goosebumps.

Speaking of dialogue... It's so terrific, so well written. The exchanges between Diana and Steve Trevor are very clever and funny, but most of all natural. All the characters are also extremely likable; Allan Heinberg's writing knows that not all of them can be given deep development, but nonetheless he gives them stories, personalities and purposes, and that - plus the charismatic performances - makes them very empathetic. The villains are not as remarkable as in some of the other DCEU films, but they didn't need to be; the movie doesn't require in-depth arcs from its villains. They have a strong presence when they're in scene and a well elaborated lore, and that's everything they need.

Contrary to the Nordic mythology depicted in the MCU, here we are talking about real gods, true deities, not superpowerful aliens that only strike a similar image - and that also brings a few narrative dangers along with it, after all, it was in greek mythological stories that the concept of Deus Ex Machina first appeared. Heinberg's screenplay, though, makes a few clever twists in that mythology to avoid easy solutions, which adds to the storytelling, the world building and the developing of the themes as well. The lore surrounding the God of War Ares, for example, is not a simple Diabolus Ex Machina as "he influences men to war and if you kill him every man goes back to being good and everything's alright", no, it's more narratively complicated and socially engaging than that.

And Gal Gadot... I'm at a loss for words. I'll confess right here that when she was first announced as Wonder Woman, I was one of the few who were very opposed to that casting. I've never been so wrong in my life, and I've never been so happy about it. She really is Wonder Woman. She's so graceful and adorable, but a major badass when she needs to be. The way she moves, the way she curiously looks at things, the way she speaks, and the way she incarnates Diana's evolving from her naive beginnings to the wise warrior... She's not only an icon, she's a true hero. Comparisons to Christopher Reeve's Superman were made for good reasons.

Chris Pine is also great, he walks perfectly in the line between funny and serious, Steve Trevor is a darling character and his chemistry with Gal is on point. Their relationship is very well constructed and becomes highly emotional by the end - there are scenes that filled my heart with joy, and others that made it ache.

The action is exciting and full of originality, and I like how Jenkins uses slow-motion differently than Zack Snyder. I know that Snyder helped her direct some of the action sequences, which is understandable since Jenkins had no experience with this type of movie, but you can tell it's not the same. In the fights themselves, there's this feel of sensibility to how these people react to Diana, and it's slightly different from the typical "regular people react to superhumans among them" trope. The cinematography is very keen on portraying the difference between Themyscira - an island of colors and natural beauty - and "jolly ol' London" - desaturated and smoggy, a scenario in which Diana's colorful armor shines in a most beautiful contrast.

And the soundtrack. Rupert Gregson-Williams made a beautiful score that brings out the best in every scene. It's heroic, very heartfelt, and loyal to the foundations of what makes superhero music so memorable. Gregson-Williams adds new themes to compose Wonder Woman's musical identity, but Hans Zimmer's main theme from BVS still lives, and it plays in some heart-pounding scenes. I love that they're dedicating that much attention to the musical continuity, because amongst Marvel's many qualities, they're doing a lousy job in that area. Wonder Woman's theme is the most catchy superhero theme in a long time, it quickly gained a lot of appreciation and by continuing on using it, Gregson-Williams collaborates to making Wonder Woman the strong cinematic icon she's setting out to be.

The irregular reception of previous DCEU movies also extols the impact of Wonder Woman, as do the distinct styles between the films. One of the DCEU's biggest virtues is that singularity of each film; be it a near disaster movie epic such as Man Of Steel, a complex deconstruction of heroic values such as Batman v Superman, an stylish chaos such as Suicide Squad or a traditional, graceful superhero film such as Wonder Woman, these movies are all in the same universe, and that very fact is an example of its richness. A lot of people will think Wonder Woman is the best DCEU movie of the lot, some will stick to BVS, others to MOS, maybe for some it's Shazam, but that's the fun of it: we can discuss this forever. Each of these movies mean different things to different people, we're way past simply labelling one as "better" and the other as "worse".

Wonder Woman, however, is not simply a movie about a very strong woman. It's an achievement for every woman. There were tons of girls dressed up as Wonder Woman in the theater, and just seeing how ecstatic they were after the movie brought me joy. There were tons of applause. It's a mark. Be that as it may, Wonder Woman will be remembered as the most impactful superhero film of its time. In 1978, Superman showed to the world how a man could fly; in 2017, Wonder Woman showed to the world how a woman can fight.