Cayle’s Movie Review: Annabelle: Creation

The Conjuring was a great throwback to old-school horror films such as The Exorcist. While its sequel isn’t as fresh as its predecessor, it was still a solid film. Its spin-off, Annabelle, was a movie that nobody asked for. However, Creation manages to be better than its predecessor.

The best thing about Annabelle: Creation is its direction. I must admit that I haven’t watched David F. Sandberg’s previous film Lights Out. However, Sandberg managed to create an unnerving atmosphere throughout the duration of the movie. Thanks to this movie, Sandberg has the potential to be a great horror director. In addition to the visual direction of this movie, Creation has a solid cast that includes the likes of Ouija: Origin of Evil’s Lulu Wilson.

While the film does have a creepy atmosphere, some of the scenes are ruined by jump scares. I don’t know if was Sandberg’s choice or this was due to the interference from the studio. Whatever it is, it managed to downgrade the movie. My other problem with Creation is its idiot plot. Some of the characters in this movie appear to exist solely to push the plot along. They might as well paint a target onto themselves.

While Creation is an improvement over its predecessor, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Conjuring movies. It is an entertaining movie that had the potential to be a much better movie if it weren’t for the plot conveniences.

SCORE:6/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: Detroit

The film follows the events surrounding the infamous Algiers Motel incident that occurred during the 1967 Detroit Riots.  Detroit might be Kathryn Bigelow’s best film as a director to date. She manages to capture the intensity of the Algiers Motel incident. Throughout the duration of the movie, the audience doesn’t know if the main characters would survive the night. Stylistically, I would compare this movie to last year’s Don’t Breathe (a film that, coincidentally, also takes place in inner-city Detroit). I will explain more of this later in my review.

Another great aspect about this movie is its cast. Aside from John Boyega and Anthony Mackie, the cast consists of actors who aren’t big name celebrities. This manages to work in the movie’s favor as it focuses on the characters and not on the actors. Will Poulter is the standout performance of this movie. It must have been difficult to play a person who abuses his authority.

My main criticism of the movie is its focus. I felt that the film’s epilogue was too long. The film’s third act dragged on for quite a bit and could have been trimmed by at least ten minutes. I may be nitpicking here, but I felt that the movie should have been called Algiers instead of Detroit. Yes, the real-life Algiers Motel incident took place within the Detroit riots of 1967, but this movie focused mainly on the incident itself.

I don’t know if the following opinion is considered “controversial” or not, but here it goes: Detroit might be the best horror movie of the year. Instead of some masked serial killer or some demonic entity being the focus of the film, the film deals with a real-life horror story. When Oscar season comes around, however, this movie would most likely garner nominations thanks to the involvement of Kathryn Bigelow. As mentioned by James Rolfe in his Monster Madness review of Exorcist II: The Heretic: “With horror movies, [Oscar nominations] doesn’t happen often. Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, The Hurt Locker. Put some zombies or vampires in those movies and see how many awards they get.”

Overall, this is an intense movie about a real-life incident that went down during the 1967 Detroit riots. While the movie has its flaws, it manages to capture the life-and-death situation of the Algiers Motel incident. It is a film that will cause a dialogue with its audience.

SCORE: 9/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: Atomic Blonde

This movie has been getting a lot of buzz in the past few weeks due to its marketing campaign billing it as the next John Wick. Will Atomic Blonde live up to the hype?

Atomic Blonde follows MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) as she retrieves a list of active agents before the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The best thing about Atomic Blonde is its art direction. The movie manages to capture the neon feel of the eighties thanks to its visual direction and soundtrack. There are some great action scenes that are scattered throughout the movie’s runtime, including one that takes place during the film’s third act. This is no surprise since David Leitch also directed the first John Wick movie.

What keeps “Atomic Blonde” from being a good movie is the fact that it’s a generic Cold War spy thriller. The story felt rather routine and predictable. There were a few twists in the movie, but they felt unearned thanks to their gratuitousness. While Charlize Theron does a fine job portraying Lorraine Broughton, it was hard to be emotionally invested in her character due to a lack of development. I felt that the best performance in this movie belongs to James McAvoy.

Overall, Atomic Blonde is another case of style over substance.

SCORE: 5/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s newest film follows the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in northern France during the early years of World War II. The film’s narrative structure is a throwback to earlier Christopher Nolan films such as Memento. The film takes place during the Dunkirk evacuation from three different perspectives:

  1. The evacuation of various land soldiers from Dunkirk over a week.
  2. The relief effort over the sea involving one Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son, and his son’s friend over the span of a day.
  3. An hour-long dogfight between two Royal Air Force pilots and a Luftwaffe plane over the English Channel.

Nolan manages to weave these three perspectives into a cohesive story. It is my firm belief that a master visual storyteller can tell a narrative with little to no dialogue. I feel that Nolan has accomplished this feat with Dunkirk. There has been some criticism of this movie over the lack of character development. However, I must point out that the film is about the Dunkirk evacuation itself and the characters represent the larger collective of the relief effort, a point I will I explain later in this review.

Dunkirk is a film that needs to be experienced in theaters. The only time the experience could be replicated inside your home is if you have a good sound system. Dunkirk manages to capture the intensity of war despite its PG-13 rating. This is a surprise considering that most war films such as Saving Private Ryan and last year’s Hacksaw Ridge are very upfront about the brutality of war. However, Nolan takes a subtler approach to the intensity of war with this film.

A constant criticism of Christopher Nolan as a director is that he is rather cold and distant. However, Dunkirk may be his most humanistic film thanks to its message of hope in a dark place. It is a fitting tribute to the people who were involved in the relief effort. Overall, Dunkirk fits right in with the best war films.

SCORE: 10/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

In 1968, the film adaptation of Planet of the Apes was released to theaters. Despite the title sounding like the name of a cheap B-movie, Planet of the Apes was praised by critics for being a thoughtful social commentary. Not only that, the movie was so much of a commercial success, it managed to spawn four sequels. There was an attempt by Tim Burton to resurrect the franchise with 2001’s Planet of the Apes. Although it was a financial success, it was savaged by critics. There wouldn’t be another Planet of the Apes movie until 2011’s Rise. The film was so successful, it spawned two more sequels: Dawn and War.

Obviously, the best part about this movie are the motion capture performances. In addition to his previous motion capture performances as Gollum and King Kong, I felt that Andy Serkis deserved a Best Actor nomination for his role as Caesar in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”. This film is no exception as he manages once again to convey human emotion into a non-human character. Not only that, I felt that the main ape characters are some of the best-rendered CGI characters in recent memory.

In a lesser movie, the main antagonist of this movie would be the generic ape-hating villain. However, the Colonel manages to be a complex character thanks to Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of said character. On one hand, he is a Colonel Kurtz-esque character who brings out both fear and admiration from his troops. On the other hand, he is a tortured man that is haunted by a tough decision he had to make.

Another aspect of this movie that is worth mentioning is the visual direction by Matt Reeves. He manages to direct some well-choreographed action scenes in the movie, some of which I consider to be among the best in the entire series.  To say that this movie is visually stunning would be the understatement of the year. This film contains some of the best cinematography in the entire series.

While I do think that this movie is a fine finale to the rebooted series, I disagree with the consensus that it’s one of the best conclusions to a trilogy in cinematic history. I was a little underwhelmed that this film was not an epic war film but rather a prison escape movie like The Great Escape. While this isn’t bad per se, it felt a little disappointing.

While I preferred Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for its depth, War is a must-see for fans of the franchise.

SCORE: 8/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Spider-Man: Homecoming is arguably one of the most comedic films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. Aside from a botched Ferris Bueller joke and much of the “Aunt May is Hot” running gag, most of the humor in this movie works well. As with the previous MCU movies, the action scenes are well shot and choreographed. While I am not a fan of shaky cam, I felt it worked here because of the Spider-Man character.

While we got a taste of Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, we finally get to see him in action in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Out of the two previous incarnations of the character, Tobey Maguire managed to capture the lovable dorkiness of Peter Parker while Andrew Garfield captured the comedic smartass aspect of Spider-Man. Out of the three actors who have portrayed Peter Parker/Spider-Man, however, Holland is the best as he managed to capture both aspects of his personality.

It’s official: The Marvel Cinematic Universe finally has an interesting villain. Michael Keaton does a fantastic job as Adrian Toomes/Vulture. Instead of the underdeveloped villain that has been the norm in the MCU, he plays a family man who only turned to a life of crime because his company was forced out of business. Keaton manages to bring a certain complexity to the character.

Another thing about this movie that is worth mentioning is the relationship between Tony Stark/Iron Man and Peter Parker/Spider-man. This film takes place right after the events depicted in Captain America: Civil War, so of course Stark pops in from time to time to check in on his apprentice. While he does have his comedic moments, Stark manages to become a sort of father figure to Peter Parker. At one point in the movie, Stark enforces a “tough love” policy when he thinks that Peter is out of line. It’s great to see another angle of this character.

As for the supporting cast of this movie, they can be rather hit and miss. I can see people being annoyed with Peter Parker’s sidekick Ned. However, I thought he was fine as the comic relief. The main problem of the cast is the character of Flash Thompson. In the comic, Flash was a jock who bullied Peter Parker while he ironically idolized Spider-Man. In this movie, Flash is more of an annoying rival than anything.

Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2. This was a great introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the character.

SCORE: 8/10

 

Cayle’s Movie Review: Baby Driver

Edgar Wright is one of the most original filmmakers working today. He is a film geek making movies for other film geeks. Ever since his directorial breakthrough on the television show Spaced, Wright has been garnering critical acclaim as a genre-bender. Baby Driver is no exception.

To say that this film is well-directed would be the understatement of the year. Wright is a masterful visual director, putting in “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” visual gags like it’s nobody’s business. Wright makes use of practical effects, using CGI only when it’s needed. Along with Mad Max: Fury Road, Baby Driver will signal the return of the car chase movie.

While Baby Driver takes its inspiration from heist movies such as Reservoir Dogs, the film also takes its inspiration from an unlikely source: musicals. The movie’s soundtrack is another character of the movie. Wright uses this inspiration to choreograph many scenes of the movie to the music, including the car chases. I would be surprised if this movie doesn’t inspire online debates on whether the film could be considered a musical.

It is worth mentioning that Wright is just as great a screenwriter as he is a film director. As demonstrated by his earlier films such as Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz, Wright has a knack for writing clever dialogue. Although this film isn’t as “comedic” as his previous films, the film still has a dry sense of wit.

Another great aspect about this film is its cast. Although Ansel Elgort did a fine job in The Fault in Our Stars, I felt his performance as the titular Baby is his breakthrough performance. Like Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive, he gives an effective performance without giving out a lot of dialogue. I felt he had a great chemistry with co-star Lily James. Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm are the standouts within the film’s supporting cast. Kevin Spacey uses his deadpan humor to bring his kingpin character Doc to life. Jon Hamm, on the hand, gives his character Buddy some humanity. Jamie Foxx is hilarious as the comic relief, Bats.

Overall, Baby Driver is another great addition to Edgar Wright’s already impressive filmography. The film manages to take elements from different genres and mashes them up together to make an original movie. Baby Driver is the best movie I have seen this year so far, and I am going to give it my highest recommendation.

SCORE: 10/10