Title: Sin City: A Dame to KillFor Genre: Crime, Thriller Director(s): Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez Release Year: 2014
*I would like to state here that there will be spoilers for the first and second movies throughout this review.*
The mid 2000’s were a time of reinvention in film. Christopher Nolan, director of Insomnia, Following and the cult hit Memento, was hired to reboot the Batman franchise. Horror movies turned into endurance tests for your tolerance of gore. And remakes were becoming a thing of terror. Robert Rodriguez turned his head towards the noir graphic novel series, “Sin City” and made something fresh and (arguably) original. Made through the techniques of CGI and various animation effects (e.g. rotoscoping), Sin City commanded the screen with incredible visuals and the whip-fast editing. While the original movie may not have cared too much about genuine character arcs or women (something we’ll address again later), it wrapped itself around being a fun movie for a new generation.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the sequel. While the original surprised its audience with women in various states of undress, and an unparalleled hatred for male genitalia, and various other atrocities that almost made the viewer feel disgusted with themselves at how much fun it was, the sequel doesn’t care to do anything but cross some t’s and dot some I’s. CG rain? Check. Blood splatter in pure white? Check. Almost naked woman in nearly every frame? Double Check. Continue reading →
Title: Video Games: The Movie Genre(s): Documentary Director(s): Jeremy Snead Release Year: 2014
I have played plenty of video games. I might even go so far as to say that I love video games. A bold claim, for sure, but not an uncommon one by any stretch of the imagination. Video games are huge, and constantly getting bigger and bigger, so the idea of a documentary that looks back on the history of the medium and examines the struggles that the medium has had since the days of Pong and the arcade cabinet, is both tantalizing and informative. There is a lot of information to be unearthed when it comes to what went wrong at certain times in the industry and how some companies fell to the sidelines simply because the industry was in a constant state of flux. Unfortunately, Video Games: The Movie is a celebration of gaming, with very little recognition of the struggles the industry has had to overcome and is still overcoming.
There was a moment when the most beloved of video game companies, Nintendo, was being discussed as the saviour of the gaming industry and developers and publishers talked about the influence Nintendo had on the industry as a whole, as well as their lives. That segment is exactly what is wrong with Video Games: The Movie. It never acknowledges the missteps of Nintendo, and even goes so far as to feature employees of Nintendo esteeming the company in both what it’s done in the past as well as the present. It is a moment that plays out as a very unappealing advertisement, where you can tell the filmmakers were not concerned with telling two sides of a story, but merely wanted to get more people into video games.
Title: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Genre(s): Action, Drama, Science Fiction Director(s): Matt Reeves Release Year: 2014
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a magnificent film. Not because it does anything original; not because it breaks new ground; and not because it reinvents the wheel. It is a magnificent film because it uses revisionist film-making to make a point. It understands that good science fiction has something to say, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has something very poignant to tell the audience. It takes a human story and uses apes to tell it. By doing so, Matt Reeves manages to highlight the simplicity in the story, but also reinvigorate what it means to be a science fiction film.
The movie picks up years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes escalated into a world where Caesar (Andy Serkis) is essentially the ruler of the world, or at least in the scope of the film. Humans aren’t even considered to still be alive, and there are rules which the apes live by. They are rules which are reminiscent of Moses and the Ten Commandments, but more limited and devoid of religious association. However, they are the beginning of a civilization. That is where Dawn of the Planet of the Apes excels: it demonstrates the evolution from tribalism to civilization by simply restarting the world.
Title: Noah Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama Director(s): Darren Aronofsky Release Year: 2014
I dismissed Darren Aronofsky’s Noah for several reasons. One of which was that it seemed to be doing what every movie that has interpreted the Bible has done: treat the tale as either true or false. Noah does not do that, though. It fills in the blanks of a text that has never had the blanks filled in. What does a world in its death throes do when it is not going to survive? What lengths will one man go to in order to complete a task? That Noah deals with these questions is not surprising. What is surprising is how earnestly it portrays the answers, never shying away from one moment of darkness. It utilizes rationality to tell the tale of a man tasked with rebuilding the world; a world which mankind itself has ruined.
Aronofsky’s hand can be felt in the distinct visual style of Noah, with a little help from influence by the late Ray Harryhausen. Stone giants assist Noah (Russell Crowe) in the creation of his Ark, complete with stop-motion animation seamlessly mixed in with CG models. Noah is at all times beautiful beyond its animation. The constant bleak imagery that persists contributes to the sense of a destructive mankind, and a world that is doomed to be wiped clean of human life. Images of greenery and sunny vistas simply drive home the notion of both good and evil residing in everyone, regardless of how sinful they are. It is no surprise that Aronofsky uses visual cues to convey the themes of Noah, seeing as how he has always been a very visual director. Continue reading →
Title: Deliver Us From Evil Genre(s): Crime, Horror, Thriller Director(s): Scott Derrickson Release Year: 2014
The interesting thing with a lot of good horror films, are that they recognize what a generic horror film is. In fact, many still bathe in a bad horror film’s tropes. Buried underneath the goat’s blood, holy water, exorcisms, crucifixes, and constant stupidity, is a kernel of something clever, though. Sometimes the film lets that unique twist flourish into something whole, or they just have it there as a means of providing one moment to fawn over. Deliver Us from Evil is interesting because inside its classic possession/ritualistic tale are a slew of kernels of a different movie. They wind up as tonal inconsistencies more than moments you enjoy, but there’s something admirable about Scott Derrickson’s attempt to subvert the horror genre in so many unique ways.
The beginning of a horror film is predictable, yet always acts as a form of comfort. That initial killing or freaky circumstance sets the tone for the film and reminds the viewer that they will get their screams. When a horror film opens with a bunch of soldiers running through the deserts of Iraq as explosions detonate all over the screen, something unique is attempting to unfurl. Deliver Us from Evil tries so hard to unfurl from a standard horror film into this weird crime noir/action/horror hybrid that it can’t figure out how to meld each genre together. As the atmosphere tries to be set, action scenes ruin the creepiness, and those action scenes are ruined by weird comedic moments that do not jive with the noir elements of the film’s main character.