Review: Wonder Woman

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Still buzzing from viewing Wonder Woman last night, I find myself in the rare position of being seduced by a film even after sleeping on it. The magic that I had hoped for in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and (slightly) Suicide Squad was finally realized in the passion project that is Wonder Woman.

Yes, of course, as a female as I went into this experience with a far different perspective than what studios may consider to be the “audience” for these films. Yes, of course I entered with my girl power flag flying. However, I went in as a woman scorned by a couple of disappointing entries in this ever growing universe of DC films. My feelings were very conflicted.

The great news here is that Wonder Woman was everything that I wanted, and more. It is a story of a woman sculpted from (genetic lottery winning) clay and brought to life by Zeus who leaves her utopian homeland of amazon warrior women with a strange man to help end Earths great war by killing Ares-the god of war. This mix of Greek mythology, historical drama and fantasy proves to be a winning combination in the hands of Patty Jenkins-known widely for her Oscar winning film ‘Monster’.

The film spends a generous amount of time in the hidden paradise of Themyscira showcasing the rigorous training, impressive agility and compassionate society that the amazon women embrace. Their culture is one of love, support, dedication, loyalty and respect-but it is also one that teaches every member of its community to be strong enough to fight for themselves. Literally. In this environment Diana is drawn to be a warrior like her mother and auntie Antiope (say that 10 times fast). Though she faces conflicting support from her family, her strong will and fighting spirit proves to be her most defining trait.

When Steve Trevor-a British spy escaping from a pack of German soldiers with incredibly important intel in tow-crash lands in Themyscira, Diana learns for the first time that there is a world outside of her own, and one that needs her help. Her motivation to rid the world of Ares evil influence is her driving force throughout this film-while love gives her the strength to carry it through to the end.

Though her relationship with Steve Trevor is certainly central to the story, it is not the type of love story which causes the lovers to sidestep their initial motivations. It gets tiresome to hear every man who she comes into contact with telling her how beautiful she is- but it reflects on the time period. Nobody wants to hear her, only to look at her. Despite all of the obvious jabs at her beauty, Dianas most beautiful and emotional scenes come when she faces evil directly in its face. Every combat scene is expertly shot, expertly choreographed and rivals anything else that I’ve seen on screen in a fantasy setting. Her physical capabilities are displayed with absolutely nothing held back-and it makes for some of the most intense and heart pumping fights in any superhero film to date.

Wonder Woman certainly has its flaws, but I was very impressed by the attention given to every aspect of it. From the accurately devastating portrayals of ground and biological warfare, to the care that went into its characters. Everyone in this diverse cast has an identity and everyone has their contribution to the big picture. Only the villains of this tale are one sided in their beleifs. The story is well paced and never dull, and it gives little screen time to the “fish out of water” tropes that it could so easily have fallen back on. Diana doesn’t learn how phones work, or learn how to walk in heels. When it comes to quality acting- Chris Pine was the star for me here. His portrayal of both a fearless and passionate soldier, as well as a man lovestruck by a woman with unflinching independence-is convincing on all accounts.

Of course, my most beloved takeaway from Wonder Woman was the woman herself. Her compassion is not weakness, and her heart is not her Achilles heel. She persists in the face of opposition and she will be silent for no one. She stands in the way of any danger-gunfire, gas or genocide. She is driven by the idea of peace and inspired by the women who made her, but she is never blinded by the past. She looks to the future.

She is a woman, and a hero, that every woman would love to be. I walk away from this film wanting to be a better woman for this world.
Sidenote: Wonder Womans theme music is LIQUID GOLD

A Rogue One Review – Spoilers ahead!

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To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with Rogue One. It definitely didn’t have that same buildup, that same magic, that same air of mystery that The Force Awakens did. That is no fault to the marketing of the film-it is simply inevitable. We already know how this movie ends. Period. Like any “based on a true story” film, Rogue One bears the burden of transparency. We know that the Rebels succeed in stealing the plans to the death star-so this film is all about the journey that the rebels and the Empire take leading into ‘A New Hope’.

Herein lies both the strongest and weakest points of ‘Rogue One’-the treatment of its characters. This film is also burdened with the unique task of incorporating well established characters with a batch of fresh ones who we never knew by name until now. I strongly feel that the films use of its classic character roster was very well done-from the epic Darth Vader scenes, to the appearance of Jimmy Smits, to the pitch perfect recasting of Mon Mothma and yes…even Tarkin.

I understand the general beef with the treatment of deceased actor Peter Cushing as an entirely motion captured CGI character. I totally get it. However, we cannot discredit the bold decision to incorporate such a prominent character whose absence would be sorely missed. We also shouldn’t discount how good it really looks. I definitely noticed it-because I knew that it was happening- but there were times where I simply forgot that it wasn’t the man himself. With the level of quality animation in modern video games, why wouldn’t we take the opportunity to utilize that in modern cinema?

When it comes to the new cast of characters-the Rebels-I felt a little detached. Even with its 2.5 hour run time this film had no chance in Hoth of establishing a connection to this large group of characters while setting up its plot. Jyn Erso’s background was covered with moderate detail, but once we learn how Forest Whitakers eccentric character Saw Gerrera saved her, thats where it stops. They throw us back to him as an old, fragile man and try to pull at our heartstrings by prodding at the lost connection between Jyn and the man who saved her life. Unfortunately, since we didn’t see any of that time on screen, it was very hard to feel its impact.

Mads Mikkelsen expertly pulls off his character in no surprise to anyone-but his screen time is short lived. Jyn and company spend most of the movie talking about him, about his notoriety and his importance, but once again we see little of it. Of the group of rebels I felt the most connection to the dynamic duo of Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus-the blind Jedi and his juggernaut soldier buddy. Their dynamic brought some focus back to the themes that surrounded the original films-about the spiritual influence that engulfs everything and those who question its very existence. K2-SO is likely the standout character for the majority of viewers, seeing as they ran with what worked for C-3P0 and dialed up his sass factor by about 100%. Every instance of comedy (Stormtroopers having casual conversation, droids being droids, etc) was well used and lightened up what would otherwise be a very dark film, making it more appealing to a broader audience.

I’m sad to say that I found Jyn to be a disappointment-not because of the strength and fortitude of her character but simply because I was not impressed with her delivery. It felt wooden and lacked the genuine appeal that a lead character needs. Captain Cassian (Prince Caspian, as I call him) felt much the same. Since we spent the entire movie questioning his loyalties in a “seriously what is up with this guy” way, I did not feel a thing for him. They took little to no time to build back our trust in him, yet Jyn seemed to gravitate towards him in a pinch. I just didn’t feel her passion.

All said and done ‘Rogue One’ is a visually stunning homage to everyones favorite Star Wars films and it takes great care in respecting them. They plant little moments to make passionate fans squeal in their seats while offering a whole new atmosphere to the franchise. Rogue One is not about the Jedi vs the Sith, but it is about the ugly face of war. People sacrifice themselves, people lose their friends, people lose themselves-all to mark the way for the next big step towards ‘balance’. It can be truly painful to watch how politics and people make their mark on war-and this is where ‘Rogue One’ really excels.

P.S. Why did Jyn tell Krennic that her father installed a vulnerability? Why would you do that? Let that be a surprise, damn!

 

Geekend Movie Release: CHAPPiE

I want to give you a bit of a “review” of’ CHAPPiE, but I don’t want to give much away’. Why? Because I have been fortunate enough to walk into the last three Neil Blomkamp movies with very little preparation, aside from a trailer or two-and it made the experience exponentially more satisfying. I was blown away the first time that I saw District 9, slightly underwhelmed by Elysium, but blown away again by CHAPPiE. So, I am about to give you a very narrow summary of the movie. If you want to preserve your movie knowledge virginity as well, skip the next two paragraphs.

Basically, Chappie takes place in a crime infested, slightly futuristic Johannesburg. Tetra Vaal is a robotics company who has released a line of police robots invented by young scientist and engineer Deon (played by Dev Patel, of Slumdog Millionaire fame). The robots are keeping crime at bay very successfully, but fellow engineer Vincent Moore (played by Hugh Jackman, of Hugh Jackman fame) and his massive military grade robot “Moose” are left living in their shadow. Vincent becomes aware that Deon has been playing with artificial intelligence technology in one of the company’s robots, and tries to strategize a way to jeopardize the police robotics program, and Deon’s A.I efforts.

Meanwhile, Deon finds himself in trouble with a group of local gangsters, played by Yo-Landi and Ninja of ‘Die Antwoord’ (yeah, you heard right) and Jose Pablo Cantillo (Walking Dead) who want him to program a robot to help them pull off a high stakes heist. Utilizing his recent breakthrough in artificial technology while trying to save his life, he creates ‘CHAPPiE’ (voiced by Blomkamp staple actor, Sharlto Copley), who grows from the mind of a child, to a street thug, to an alarmingly intelligent being. Oh, and there was only a LITTLE bit of Sony’s signature product placement. However, there was a lot of Die Antwoord playing in the background. Despite not being a fan myself, it didn’t bother me to hear it throughout the movie. 

If you decided to skip those last couple of paragraphs, all that you need to know is: go see this movie. It was surprisingly emotional, gritty in its realism, original and-in my humble opinion-very memorable.Sure, there are flaws. The acting was surprisingly good, whatever CGI went into creating CHAPPiE was very well done and the story was really gripping. Believable or not, this is definitely a movie that I will remember.

I found myself drawing an immediate comparison to the Johnny Depp flick ‘Transcendence’ that came out last year, but there is really no comparison. Though both movies show how startling artificial intelligence and sentient consciousness has the potential to be, CHAPPiE manages to keep its effects and progression at a believable level. It may be a more playful and immature look at the subject, but that is what I enjoyed about it. It did not take itself too seriously, and much like ‘District 9’ it was not afraid to mix in strange and imperfect characters with non-human elements that you could emotionally attach yourself to-alongside a bit of guerilla style action violence.

Like I said, originality is certainly not lacking in this film. I had moments of emotional confusion and was genuinely taken aback by how the story and the development of CHAPPiE’s personality was handled. Blomkamp has definitely made a fan out of me all over again. Don’t listen to the critics on this one. Go see it and make up your own mind.

If you see CHAPPiE this weekend, head over to the Buddy Critic Facebook page and tell us what you thought!

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