Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ – ‘Stormborn’

The second episode of the second to last season of Game of Thrones signals to me the shift in pacing that we were predicting with the new shortened season format. A lot happened in this episode that is worth discussing, but capping the second episode with a major naval battle scene isn’t something this show is known for. It almost felt like a Hardhome­ style move to have this battle come out of nowhere in a pretty politics heavy episode. But what it really is a signal of is the condensed season giving each individual episode an expanded budget.

In this episode we got a major, instant payoff for a promise that was given in the previous episode. That’s a far cry from the usual drawn out nature of previous seasons. So when Cersei and Jamie and discussing the wars to come, that could conceivably translate to major sequences mere episodes away. Mirroring my sentiment from last weeks review, now that we have this increased pace, every declaration or idea has so much more weight.

This extends beyond that naval combat seen in this episode. Jon learns of Dany’s existence, gets word of her call to court, and makes the decision to go within a 20 minute period. There is no mincing of words and no dilly dallying. Davos plainly states that Dragons can be a major asset in the war against the frozen dead and Jon agrees. Now some might say that this increased pace loses any poetic artistry or political intrigue you may have gotten in past seasons. Which I can see. I don’t think George R.R. Martin would have written a scene where the Hound makes fun of someone for having a man-bun. To me this is a necessary evil in order to deliver us the show in a somewhat manageable timeframe in an enjoyable way.

Here’s hoping the wars to come aren’t too rushed getting to us and things work out for our heroes. If last night was any indication, it may not be as easy as they thought.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • Jon and Littlefinger’s scene in the tombs below Winterfell felt like a dark mirror to Rob and Ned’s scene in the same location from Season 1. Both Stark patriarchs discussing what their little sister means to them.
  • How gnarly was that Jorah/Samwell operation scene?!

The post Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ – ‘Stormborn’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/24/review-game-of-thrones-stormborn/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

It’s a remarkable thing, this trilogy. Set many years prior to the events depicted in the classic original Planet of the Apes (and produced 40+ years after its release), not many (myself included) had this rebooted franchise pegged as the next great sci-fi saga in recent cinematic history; however, following the release of its third and final chapter, War for the Planet of the Apes, it’s safe to say that’s exactly what we have here. A series of films this rich and deliberative, this impeccably characterized, this technologically innovative and beautifully photographed does not come around often, let alone when they’re about an army of super apes inching their way towards a takeover of the human race and the planet they inhabit. This series had no right being any of that, and yet that’s just what it defiantly wound up being. War is perhaps the most layered, mature, and striking of the three; in a summer full of immersive genre fare and jaw-dropping spectacle, it stands alone.

Picking up a short period of time following the chaotic events of Dawn, War is set in a time in which Caesar and his tribe have regrouped and reassembled – although the emotional and physical scarring of what previously occurred involving the betrayal of rogue ape Koba still weighs heavily – before a human squadron lead by “The Colonel” (Woody Harrelson, as intense and savage as ever) strikes a devastating, irreversible blow to the community. It drives Caesar, aided by the steady hands of series stalwarts Maurice, Rocket, and Luca, to embark on a mystery-solving journey of blood-thirsty revenge, and what follows is quite extraordinary. It’s in this portion of the film where War elevates itself beyond anything in the series to date, eliciting a vibe and cinematic scale both wholly original and wonderfully familiar. The series had more or less played coy with its connective ties to the original Apes prior to this point, but War doesn’t mess around; evoking the classic iconography – from the gorgeous shot of the apes riding horseback on the beach to the all-too-familiar cages they’re eventually round up in like cattle – the film gives us what we know and love while providing just enough of an awesome spin on each throwback to make adoring fans of both eras beam with pride.

It’s what the series does with the character of Caesar, and by extension the ape friends who’ve been by his side since the beginning, that stands as its greatest triumph, however. He is a motion-capture-achieved chimpanzee played by Andy Serkis who possesses all the depth, tragedy and humanity of any single human being from any series of blockbusters that I can recall, and in War it’s the internal suffering and conflict at the center of every action he takes that imbues the film’s strongest emotional impact and propels the story forward above anything else. We care so much about him at this point, a testament to the remarkable character work and development carefully threaded through all three chapters of this epic story. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Maurice the orangutan, Caesar’s closest confidant and War’s secret MVP. He’s a big, bright orange physical presence, yes, but it’s his calm, steady demeanor and invaluable wisdom that he imparts on everyone around him that makes him especially endearing. I love that guy.

And I love this movie, no doubt the peak of a summer movie season as strong as any in recent years. It’s conclusion feels very finite and bleeds fairly seamlessly into what the eventual world of Planet of the Apes will one day look like, but it doesn’t feel like there still isn’t plenty more story to mine in this current timeline or with this current core of characters. Director Matt Reeves has proven himself so capable, I won’t lie that I’d love to see what he could do with a remake of sorts of the original film. But if this is indeed all that we get, consider me beyond satisfied; this series was that special.

Rating: ***** out of five

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary

Runtime: 140 minutes

The post Review: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/17/review-war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ 7.01 – ‘Dragonstone’

Dragonstone is a pretty typical “getting back into the groove of things” premier episode for Game of Thrones that is abnormally heightened because of the inherent stakes involved. With only two shortened seasons left, ever scene of the show felt so much more grandiose simply because setups simply don’t have the time for multiple seasons waiting for the payoff anymore. Things are coming to a head whether we are ready for them or not.

A great example of this is Samwell’s Harry Potter-esqu treck into the forbidden part of the great library. I’m betting he will pay for his misdeeds within the next two episodes, ultimately proving that importance of the information he gained outweighs his breaking of the rules. With such little time left, each storyline has so much weight to it. Nothing can be taken for granted and no scene has time to waste. Having this breakneck speed could screw with the successful slow burn quality of previous seasons but if Dragonstone is to be any indicator, they know how to pace themselves.

The actual story of the episode is about what we had expected, the notable exception of the amazing Arya/Frey massacre. Dany has her emotional return to Westeros (amazingly shot by the way) and Cersei recommits to keeping herself in the throne. Jon lays down the law while Bran is making his way south via The Night’s Watch. All pretty much according to the most popular fan theories. Right now, thats fine but I have faith that Thrones still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • Some beautiful shots in this episode. I was almost in awe of Dany’s walk up to Dragonstone. That could have been a real castle for all I know.
  • I found it a little weird that all those years ago when The Hound killed that family we are expected to believe that he just happens to stumble upon the same house. Maybe it’s destiny?
  • Impressive performance by David Bradley in a surprise cameo from Walder Frey. It must be so hard to play a character pretending to be another character.

The post Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ 7.01 – ‘Dragonstone’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/17/review-game-of-thrones-7-01-dragonstone/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Season Review: ‘Flaked’ Season 2

I would best define Flaked as a passion project for Will Arnett. It is a small budget Netflix show with an extremely small focus, a group of people struggling with alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous in Venice, California. To me it feels like a bone Netflix gave to Arnett to keep him happy and willing to come back for more seasons of Bojack Horseman and Arrested Development. Although, in this new age of Netflix cancellations it makes sense that the second season was only 6 half-hour episodes.

The eight-episode first season was a dark comedy that allowed you to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Then, abruptly sealed that light away by having Chip cash in all the good will he’s gained with the good people of Venice in a scummy land deal. Season 2 leads us deeper into that darkness as we find out Chip got screwed out of his end of the deal as well. Meaning he double-crossed the people who have trusted him and taken him in for nothing.

Instead of sending chip down a deeper emotional hole, he comes out alright and is just trying to do his best for the majority of the season. But we see that even when he tries his best, sometimes people still get hurt. Case in point, Dennis. Dennis is the tragedy of season 2, taking Chip in again, becoming his sponsor, then ultimately caving under the pressure and drinking himself into almost getting arrested. This is really the emotional arc of the season but Arnett’s laissez faire take on his character makes a lot of it ring hollow.

When the show is able to honestly portray the struggle of on again off again alcoholics trying to piece their life back together, it really shines. But too often is it mired in its own malaise to move the story forward and the writing as a whole isn’t witty enough to keep your attention.

The post Season Review: ‘Flaked’ Season 2 appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/10/season-review-flaked-season-2/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Review: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

It’s been 13 long years since a worthwhile “Spider-Man” movie was made, a shockingly long time considering there’s been three released (not including Homecoming) between then and now. Spider-Man 3 was a disastrous follow-up to Spider-Man 2 (which I’d argue, short of The Incredibles, is the greatest superhero movie ever made), and the Amazing Spider-Man reboots offered very little of value to anyone besides the Sony executives hell-bent on exploiting the “Spider-Man” brand for fear of losing it to the evil Marvel empire. And lost it, they did – sort of – rendering the ASM movies even more worthless than previously thought. It’s with the gentle stroke of Marvel Magic that I’m happy to report the streak has ended at three: Spider-Man: Homecoming returns the character back to his rightful place within the world of The Avengers and along with him, the franchise’s turn at some long-overdue relevancy.

Shortly following his grand introduction in Captain America: Civil War, we pick back up with Peter Parker and his very average everyday life as a high school student in Queens. In the previous film iterations of the character, we see Peter predominantly as the web-slinging superhero first and the awkward, dorky high schooler second, whereas in Homecoming the dynamic has been more closely evened out. We are very much in this kid’s life as we see him struggle to navigate his social/familial obligations to his friends, math team, and awesome Aunt May with that of his desire to become a full-blown Avenger under the stewardship of Tony Stark. It all mostly works on the shoulders of the young Tom Holland – an excellent casting choice – who here embodies Peter Parker/Spider-Man at his most anxious, manic, eager, occasionally annoying and altogether relatable.

Speaking of casting choices, Michael Keaton as Vulture is an interesting one considering his history as both Batman and the fictitious version of himself in Birdman, a washed-up former franchise star beaten down by the very system his real-life self was once/is now presently a part of. And he’s fine in the role, even if his character is a bit of a mess. Such is the standard for Marvel movie villains since… ever? Other typical Marvel problems are still present, such as the movie very consciously feeling like a stop-gap between the next Avengers movie and the inevitable string of sequels we’ll likely be treated to over the next ten years. The actual story it tells isn’t particularly memorable or inventive, and many of the plot mechanics feel as though they were generated in a factory (look no further than the army of writers credited to its screenplay) as opposed to any one singular vision. The same can be said for how the film looks: it’s exceptionally, competently well made, but lacking in any sort of artistic point-of-view or creative sensibility akin to Sam Raimi’s work on his Spider-Man trilogy or Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films. But again, more of a Marvel problem, less of a Spider-Man: Homecoming problem.

As with the case with most mid-to-upper tier Marvel movies, the issues are often easy to gloss over because the lead character, hilarious, pithy dialogue, and fun action set pieces are inherently likable enough to overcome them, and I’d say Spider-Man: Homecoming fits that bill. “Spider-Man” as a profitable entity has been one at odds with the rest of the superhero world for some time mainly thanks to some messy behind-the-scenes dealings that have robbed the property and the character of respectability. But now that he’s been unshackled by the clutches of corporate greed and returned to the place he’s belonged to for some time, he’s as free as any other superhero film to suck, or be good or even really good. What matters most is that it’ll now be on his own terms. Welcome home. 

Rating: *** 1/2 out of five

Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Downey, Jr, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, and Marisa Tomei,

Runtime: 133 minutes

 

The post Review: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/08/review-spider-man-homecoming/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: ‘Baby Driver’

Baby Driver is a fun heist flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously, until it takes it self very seriously. The story is about as bare bones as you can get with a few Edgar Wright twists to keep things interesting. A guy who happens to be the best getaway driver in town is one job away from getting straight with the local crime boss. But he’s not really a criminal, not where it counts anyway. So does he skip town with his girl before the last job or ride one more time into glory?

The funny, fast and intelligent dialogue that you come to expect from Wright is here in flashed but gets lost amongst a lot of jokes that don’t land or parts that are overly. The cast as a whole is spot on, but I could have done with a little more charisma from Ansel Elgort as the titular “Baby”. Kevin Spacey is really chewing the scenery as the mob boss.

Along with the incredibly shot chase sequences, the story leaves a lot to the imagination. In a good way. We really don’t know much about Spacey’s criminal enterprise or how he got so good at planning out heists. For Baby’s story it really doesn’t matter and leaving the viewers in the dark a bit lets you fill in the blanks in a satisfying way.

The universal praise for this movie is on a whole, unearned. It’s a great entry is the heists genre but it doesn’t elevate beyond that. Go in with your expectations tempered and you’ll have a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Rating: ***1/2 Runtime: 1h 53m Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm

The post Review: ‘Baby Driver’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/03/review-baby-driver/ on ScreeningClub.com.