film reviews from a slightly pop-culture obsessed teen
Star Trek: Into Darkness
The first film in the Star Trek reboot series (simply titled Star Trek) was one I unexpectedly found myself struggling with. On one hand, the plot was surprisingly interesting at points, and I loved the tense dynamic between Kirk and Spock (the leaders of the USS Enterprise, in case you don’t know), but on the other, the villain storyline was incredibly weak, with the villain himself having less screen time than the ship’s limp “comic relief” passengers. So I gave it a 7/10, and hoped that the two sequels—Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond—would be improvements. I’ve only seen Into Darkness so far, but it’s made me dread what lies Beyond it.
Kirk and Spock, who aren’t nearly as entertaining together as they were in the previous film, now have to hunt down an intergalactic terrorist named—you guessed it—Khan, but the equally evil head of USS Vengeance (subtle, I know) wants him too…[continue reading]
Movie Review: “Ex Machina”
Robots have been a topic long explored in science fiction, but there are only two films I’ve seen so far that look upon it in a deep, compassionate way, one that has stayed with me long after the credits rolled. The first of them is, of course, 1982’s Blade Runner, which, despite being a lot slower and moodier than I was expecting, is quintessential viewing for any film lover. The second is the much more recent Ex Machina, which is now one of A24’s most popular films ever (even spawning an entire book) since Universal refused to distribute it in the United States. Looking at the kind of stuff they’re pumping out now, I can see why a film like that wouldn’t fit in, so that makes sense. Still a big loss for them, though.
If there’s one basic statement that could be used to summarize this film, it’s that almost nothing in it is as it may seem (except if you watch any of the trailers, which I don’t recommend since they spoil way, way too much)…[continued here]
Movie Review: “Groundhog Day”
He may have come close with Ghostbusters and What About Bob?, but no other Bill Murray film is quite as deservedly beloved as the excellent Groundhog Day. Even if you’ve never seen it, you’ve definitely heard of it, and you know that that phrase doesn’t just refer to the holiday anymore, but also a day or situation that is all but impossible to get out of. (Being stuck at home amidst the COVID-19 disaster has had me feeling the exact same way, so don’t think I don’t know what I’m talking about here.)
In the film’s case, that day would be—you guessed it—Groundhog Day, which grumpy weatherman Phil Connors (Murray) has to spend at Punxsutaweny, Pennslyvania to document the day’s festivities along with a pair of other reporters…[continued here]
Movie Review: “Event Horizon”
In the Alien and Predator-dominated sci-fi horror genre, Event Horizon is a real oddity. Critics dismissed it as a loud, grisly waste of time upon its original release, but it has gained such a massive cult following over time (even being featured in the “Ahead of Their Time” section of Rotten Tomatoes’ “Rotten Movies We Love” book) that I had to check it out on Netflix. And make no mistake: the film is still a deeply flawed one. However, it is still far more interesting and, yes, unique than all those negative reviews may have you think. Just trust me on this one.
In the year 2040, the titular spaceship was sent out on a maiden voyage to Proxima Centauri, but mysteriously vanished around Neptune. Seven years later, a rescue vessel by the name of Lewis & Clark—helmed by the intuitive Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill)—is dispatched to find it and rescue those onboard…[continued here]
Movie Review: “Contagion”
It is literally impossible to talk about the Steven Soderbergh thriller Contagion without mentioning how culturally relevant it has now become. Immediately after news of an actual pandemic (COVID-19) spreading around the world hit the public, the film soared from #270 on Warner Bros’ “Most Popular” list to #2 (bested only by the Harry Potter films), where it will probably stay for months on end. The fact that the very similar Outbreak, despite being just about as bland as bland gets, hasn’t become nearly as popular admittedly is confusing, but it’s just as well, for Contagion takes almost everything that that film does wrong and does it better.
Whereas Outbreak was far too hammy and tonally confused to leave any real impact, Contagion practically seethes with anxiety and fear throughout…[continued here]
Movie Review: “Waves”
Waves is a pretty great film, but it’s probably not the one you may have been expecting from the marketing for it. The first trailer (not the second one, which, in my opinion, is more accurate) basically presented it as a standard “emotional” drama, which steered me away from catching it in theaters. Now seeing it at home with my parents (they both wound up strongly disliking it—I can see why, but that doesn’t make that any less unfortunate), I realize that that was kind of a big mistake. Though not perfect throughout, the film is still an incredibly bold, powerful, and utterly unique cinematic experience nevertheless.
This is especially evident in the first half, which pulls us headfirst into the life of Tyler Williams, a popular high school senior who excels at all the wrestling matches he frequently participates in…[continued here]
Movie Review: “The Village”
The Village. It may not be as terrible as some may have made it out to be, but it’s definitely not the masterpiece others, who blamed the film’s negative reviews on its slightly inaccurate marketing, have retrospectively claimed it is.
I have this to say to them: if you were in charge of advertising this movie, how would you have done it?…[continued here]
Movie Review: “Outbreak”
As news of COVID-19, a deadly strain of the otherwise fairly harmless coronavirus, sweeping across the world seems to get more and more bleak every single day, I figured that now would be as good of a time as any to finally watch Outbreak. Or rather, my mom, who loved that film when she first saw it, did, and I decided to see once and for all what was apparently so great about it. Spoiler alert: pretty much nothing.
“But Ben, you still gave it a 4/10. There must have been something in it that you liked”, you’re probably saying right now…[continued here]
Movie Review: “The End of the Tour”
The brief friendship between David Foster Wallace, a best-selling author struggling with personal issues, and David Lipsky, a Rolling Stone journalist floored by his latest novel, that took place when the latter interviewed the former on a promotional book tour isn’t one that seemed very likely to be told.
In fact, had the real-life Lipsky not written a book about it (Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, published in 2010), it might not have even wound up on the big screen in the first place…[continued here]
Movie Review: “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable”
The story of Bethany Hamilton, a surfer back on the waves only one month after losing her right arm to a shark attack, is an incredibly inspiring and powerful one. It inspired a fiction film named Soul Surfer, which was certainly clichéd and predictable at points (“I don’t need easy. I just need possible” being one particularly eye-rolling line), but, as far as I can remember (the last time I saw it being several years ago), treated this material with enough depth and feeling to stand tall as a worthy retelling.
However, Hollywood proved yet again that they never know when to leave well enough alone by giving this material the documentary treatment with Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable (God, does that title make me groan)…[continued here]
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