The Lighthouse

Directed By Robert Eggers

Starring – Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, Valeriia Karaman

The Plot – The hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers (Dafoe, Pattinson) on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.

Rated R for sexual content, nudity, violence, disturbing images, and some adult language


– Unique visual presentation. Since the film is based in 1890, Eggers treats us to a 35mm black and white presentation for the film that visually articulates the kind of cinematography associated with the silent picture era. He caps this off with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio, which gives the film a boxed gimmick to its framing, used not only to feed into what I previously mentioned, but also to further signify the isolation associated with these characters feeling very alone in their personal stances. To cap off style with an immense level of substance, the transition edits realized from some exceptionally vertical long take pans better help capture the passage of time, allowing the next continuation to paste together seamlessly. This better explains the notion of time rubbing together, which in turn plays wonderfully into the psychosis of two strangers who are asked to co-exist with each other for an inordinate amount of time.

– Committed duo of performances. Right down to consistently maintaining their Irish (Dafoe) and Maine (Pattinson) accents respectively, these two critically acclaimed actors establish why they are masters of their craft while establishing conscience to their characters. Not only did the two actually study journals from past lighthouse keepers in order to fully embrace the structure of their vocabulary, but also to fully immerse themselves in the very psychological pulse associated with such a thankless career. For Pattinson, that comes at the hands of an emotional evolution that slowly comes off of the hinges with each passing moment, implanting weight of pressure to the character’s inexperience that has him often on the consequential side of such traditions and procedures that he questions frequently. Pattinson’s vulnerability with the character allow him to give in to believing that everything he sees is real, and keeps him mentally running from the point of stability that the character originated from. However, this is definitely Dafoe’s show, and everyone else gravitates to his aura like moths to a flam. Willem’s Thomas wears the physical and psychological scars of a tortured past associated with isolation, which has presented the raging alcoholic traditionalist we see before us. Dafoe’s strongest qualities are his burning eyes of adrenaline that burn persistently, as well as his long-winded diatribes of Irish rhetoric that constantly astounded my perception of who I knew as an already top notch actor. Both of these men transform before us, giving their minds, bodies, and souls in an almost hypnotic trance that the film’s environmental elements weigh heavily from.

– Immersive experience. Sounds are perhaps one of the most important aspects of the film, with them influencing the film’s musical score so prominently, as well as placing weight within the location’s influence to what is transpiring. There are musical instruments used throughout the picture, but the unnerving buzz of ship horns and storm warning sirens are virtually inescapable, and build the tension in a way that reaches suffocating levels of pressure by about the midway point of the film. In addition to this, the constant influence of waves splashing, or rain and thunder rumbling on the frail lightkeeper station is one the conjures up immense vulnerability for our protagonists, serving as a constant reminder to the environment evolving persistently outside of their vantage points. The sound mixing for the film is done so superbly that you could close your eyes and still visually picture with your imagination what is transpiring in visual capacity. It’s audible storytelling at its finest, and follows us and our characters faithfully throughout so that we, like them, are never to escape the weight of its painful clutches.

– Theme enhancement. This is a film that centers around the consequences persisting from long-term isolation and loneliness, and because of such, the film has a difficult task that it competently masters in relaying this undesirable situation to those of us beyond the screen, who are dealing with anything but. Eggers captures this disposition with a combination of aspects like minimal dialogue and characters, repetition in character sounds used to drive each other mad, the constant influence of environmental elements, which I previously mentioned, and an uncomfortable exchange of interaction that transfers naturally between two men who have never met. It places us the audience at the heat of the environment, making everything from the fantastical imagery to the illogical character movements that much more understanding once you’ve seen what they seen. As I mentioned before, this is especially a difficult thing, purely for the fact that audiences constantly understand that cinema isn’t reality, but Eggers and staff’s amplification of environment, which constantly stirs the pot, does so with all of the elements playing together as cohesive ingredients, giving us one slow boil of taste that we constantly associate with this toxic environment.

– Realism in context. For a film that features so much fantastical illusions, the grounded approach to the film’s production is one that pays off immensely for the integrity of the gimmick. Pattinson and Dafoe barely spoke off-screen, choosing instead to save their moments of ground-breaking awkwardness and embrace for the times when it would solidify the authenticity of the scene that is depicting the very same thing. In addition to this, the undesirable weather conditions themselves are done naturally, as three different category four storms plagued the film’s production, but rather than shut down the show, Eggers instead chose to use its elements for sequences in the film that put the two male leads through hell. One of my favorite films of the decade, “The Revenant” was similar in its production choices, and I think the satisfaction gained between both films preserves a level of realism that is often decreased by meandering interaction post-production. It leaves the best moments on-screen, and better emits the intensity of the performances because of such.

– Methods of manhood. I commend this film immensely for including the moments between male interaction that otherwise wouldn’t be present in a mainstream Hollywood release. Aspects like frequent flatulence, masturbation, in-depth detailing of sexual conquests, and especially physical conflict are things that are easily expected when two men are asked to spend so much time together, free from the escapism of society or other people. These quirks also contribute to the nagging annoyance that each of these men play on one another, taking something as miniscule as breathing heavily, and blowing it out to the point that a World War of its own constructs underneath this roof. Toxic masculinity plays such a dominating direction in the film, but not the kind you would expect. The themes and deconstruction is very much the kind that was prominent in the late 19th century, choosing once again to immerse us in the very kind of personal conflicts present with the primary breadwinner of such a generation.

– Characterization. This is probably my favorite aspect of the film, and not just because Pattinson and Dafoe give such gravitating performances. These feel like living, breathing people who have come to life, thanks in part to the brothers Eggers, who have fleshed these people out with a collection of backstories, secrets, fears, and of course a straining amount of time deposited to them interacting and doing the exercises of the job. This takes what we view as an actor, and forces them to do the necessary heavy lifting with valuing them as characters above that pre-conceived notion. It feels like I understand what makes these characters tick more than any other film that has come out this year, and even with this film being a brief 105 minutes, it fleshes out a world and characters with so much depth that it signals how close the connection to it was to its exceptional director, and it serves as one of those rare cases where you wish it was three hours long, just so you could learn even more about them.

– The real leading man. Speaking of flawless direction, Eggers has really established his presence in a world of horror still trying to find itself in 2019. For “The Lighthouse”, he maintains what feels like a paranormal presence to everything transpiring, and grounds it to human levels of execution while bringing out the personal demons that haunt us everywhere we go. He does this while making his films essentially tone-less, blending the sides of horrific imagery and awkward humor, and creating something truly innovative and fresh, that never soils the integrity of either side. In addition to this, he marries the worlds of style and substance seamlessly, conjuring up a side of horror not often attacked in mainstream releases, due to its lack of mental strength. As was the case in his first film “The Witch”, this film is also a thinking-but-rewarding piece of horror cinema that doesn’t settle for cheap jump scares or artificial sound design to add influence to the picture. Instead, he preserves everything front-and-center on the camera, and generates some of the most unnerving and chilling performances from his duo of prestigious actors, which I believe is each of their best work to date.

– Arduous pacing. I know what you’re thinking; shouldn’t that be a positive? Not in this specific example. Because so much of the film relies on time and the lack of presence that it commands over the dynamic of the isolation, the slow progression of storyboards is actually a benefit to the film, in once more feeling what the characters are enduring. By itself, it’s not that this is even what I would describe as a slow-burn film, but the second half is definitely far greater than the first, where those initial first few meetings with the characters and the environment that Eggers has manufactured will tell you everything you need to know if this is in fact the film for you. For my money, it’s one of the more rewarding experiences that I have had in quite some time, and even if I wasn’t a figure inside of the film’s universe, I feel like I lived and endured every chilling experience that the film takes its time in getting through.

– Unpredictable. This is especially the case during the final act of the film, where even if you’ve guessed what the conflict will come down to, you will never be able to predict the kind of terrifying heights it takes us through. There was imagery in this film that I compared to an episode of “Twin Peaks”, for the way light and shadows play in preserving human characters with an almost paranormal rendering, giving me several jaw-dropping moments that stuck with me even hours after I watched it. The final shot is one that is every bit satisfyingly justified as it is echoing to the rules of the Lightkeeper coming back into play once more. It left me energized from its inescapable horror, it left me terrified for the aftershock of taking everything in, and it left me satisfied with a level of closure that doesn’t allow even the tiniest bit of air to seep in.

My Grade: 10/10 or A+

The Shawshank Redemption

Directed By Frank Darabont

Starring – Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton

The Plot – The story of a hot-shot American banker Andrew Dufresne (Robbins) who finds himself to be an inmate at the Shawshank prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit, the murder of his wife and her lover. The movie revolves around Andy’s take on this drastic transformation, his journey as an inmate in the prison during which he befriends Red (Freeman), a fellow inmate as well as gains the respect of his friends.

Rated R for adult language and prison violence


– On-set location. Prison movies are all about atmosphere, so in casting the closed down Mansfield Reformatory to double as Shawshank, the film spared no expense in scale as the stomping ground for the story’s most dangerous criminals. What’s so perfect about this setting, aside from the gothic architecture that easily made the transition to 1947 that much easier, is the immense size that constantly reminds us of the hopelessness of the troubled souls inside, and it’s made much more impressive when you consider that absolutely nothing was a pre-constructed set. The prison itself feels very much like its own character inside of the movie, and one that took years for Andy Dufresne to overcome its concrete walls and corruption. In addition to this film borrowing the Mansfield Reformatory, other films like “Air Force One” and “Tango and Cash” also shot there, as well as music videos like Godsmack’s “Awake” and Lil Wayne’s “Go DJ”.

– Perfect casting. The requirements between Robbins and Freeman is perfectly defined, and works extremely well because their respective performances is a clashing of ideals that cater to audience balance. For Robbins, he’s the beacon of hope. Long after his incarceration, he still maintains the fire burning inside as an innocent man, and it’s his combination of blank canvas personality and endless wit that keep him sharp as a tack for being an ideal protagonist. In contrast, Freeman is the aging veteran inside of the prison. His decades spent locked up have molded him into a man who declares that hope is a dangerous thing, and it’s only in his introduction to Andy where this frame of mind is complicated, once Andy begins molding the prison as his own list of prided accomplishments. Bob Gunton as the evil warden also deserves a lot of credit, molding a character who borrows the parts from the bible that are appropriate to his questionable teachings. Gunton’s unflinching stare and total lack of personality give an intimidation factor that make this the perfect antagonist to deconstruct Andy’s hopeful circumstance, and it takes the work of an exceptional actor as an antagonist to counteract two intriguingly gifted protagonists, and with the trio of Robbins, Freeman, and Gunton, this film has no shortage of meaty performances, nor uniquely fascinating characters.

– Truth in advertising. When you consider the movie’s title: “The Shawshank Redemption” you might assume upon first viewing that the redemption is Andy’s or Red’s, but the title actually alludes to all of the dynamics inside of the prison. It’s a story about light overcoming darkness, as well as a good old-fashioned good defeating evil story. Before Andy entered Shawshank, it was a story of cycle’s and routine, mainly in the few who were freed, as they realized that surviving on the outside would be tougher than living behind the concrete walls, and because of such established a condemning mentality, where each of the inmates remained put because of this fear. It’s only after Andy’s guidance does the truth eventually begin to seep out and the light begin to seep in, with the truth and ulterior motives of the warden becoming evident to us the audience. So the redemption is really everyone’s associated with the film, as for better or worse Andy’s sentence to the prison changes everyone and everything, giving us the ultimate story about second chances motivating us to seek out the positives in undesirable situations.

– Passage of time. One extremely underrated accomplishment that is often overlooked in reviews I’ve seen is in the passing of time that authentically replicates the prison experience for us the audience. With no visual text or any kind of alluding to, other than the subtle aging make-up used on the cast, great strands of time literally float by in the film’s linear narrative, making it difficult to convey just how much time has passed between the film’s beginning and end that burns through two-and-a-half hours at a consecutive pace. What’s even more deceitful is the endless loop of consistent weather patterns outside of the prison that also offers no reprieve in difference to keep track of. This seems especially strange for a Maine setting, but feeds into the mentality that Darabont was going for, in that confinement really does cut out every other aspect of your life, feeling like one continuous loop that is indistinguishable from day to day.

– Positive life message. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the movie is its obvious intention, that with hard work and determination, there’s an escape from any adversity in our life. This comes in many different forms, some positive and some negative, but all with the same kind of reprieve from the daily darkness that secludes them. Consider Brooks’ freedom or Tommy’s studying for his high school diploma. Both aspects that end tragically, but both with a motivation to rid themselves of the despair that has defined them for a lifetime. In contrast to that, Andy and Red’s wishes are obvious ones: to be free. For one, it takes endless years of planning the proper escape, and for the other it’s decades of interpretation from prison officials that gains him the knowledge of understanding that he can’t be afraid to lose anything further. These are examples of men who grew tired with being patient, and took matters into their own hands, living by my favorite movie quote of all time, which is “Get busy living or get busy dying”, and it’s one of those rare messages that transcends the screen and stands as words of inspiration for an audience who inevitably have their own Shawshank’s to face every day.

– Darabont’s masterful direction. Despite this man creating modern day masterpieces like “The Green Mile” or “The Mist”, “The Shawshank Redemption” is easily his best film to date for how he absorbs the pages of this brief Stephen King story and fleshes out nearly two-and-a-half hours of endlessly compelling cinema. The decisions from Frank are articulate and influential all around. From his collaboration with arguably the best cinematographer working today in Roger Deakins, which brings forth an intoxicating atmosphere of decaying color effects that brought him the first of twelve Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, to the indulgence of the world Frank creates within the prison, is something that completely sucks you in, and stands as that rare exception where even when all stories and subplots have been resolved and satisfied completely, you still don’t want to say goodbye to these characters. King trusts Darabont with his projects more than any other director, and despite this film winning no Oscars and being deemed a box office failure for its 18 million dollar intake, it has left a lasting impact to legions of fans, especially the website IMDB, which ranks it as the single greatest film of all time.

– Thomas Newman’s haunting musical score. Newman’s film drives this film almost as much as its characters, as his themes and articulate motif’s that he echoes throughout the entirety of this film are very powerful and very fitting to the complexion of each inspiring scene. It stands as the persistent note of conscience that lingers through the toxicity within this environment, made especially louder during the impactful final escape scene. I have seen this film thousands of times, but the triumphant scene where Andy stands in the swamp with his arms outstretched to the sky, complete with deafening orchestral accompanying, still sends goosebumps up my arms, and is the most satisfying of payoff’s that is emphasized even further because of Newman’s rhythmic pulse that alludes to Andy’s satisfaction. As far as movie scores go, this is one of the most underrated in cinema history, and speaks volumes to the scene where Andy describes that “Music is the one thing they can’t get to. It’s in here (points to heart)”.

– The big payoff. Prison escape movies are a dime a dozen anymore, but back in 1994 when this movie came on to the scene, it presented one of the more finely illustrated reveals in the history of cinema. So good in fact, that many films since have borrowed from its combination of shot compositions and constructive blueprint. When you consider that the whole movie shows us hints in the form of the objects that Andy asks for, then coyly deters the idea of escape by establishing how weak they would be when used for this capacity. On top of it, each object is given reason for it to be in Andy’s possession. Consider the rock hammer, and how he explains that he needs it to build the ultimate soapstone chess board. So when we cut to the third act when Andy vanishes in the middle of the night, we, like the warden, are left all the more clueless for how he evaded officials when he was spotted by them every step of the way. It comes as a result of years of planning, and made even more impressive when reviewed with the claustrophobic photography and patience associated in carrying out every step of the plan, making for an anxiety-ridden climax of the film whose extreme measures are grounded in satisfying realism.

– Respect for the source material. This is one of the rare exceptions where I feel that a film transcends the quality of the book, but even with that said, Darabont has enough influence from the literary material to remind audiences of its importance to the screenplay. One such instance happens when the prisoners are watching 1946’s “Gilda”, a film starring Rita Hayworth, and why that’s significant is because Stephen King’s original short story for “The Shawshank Redemption” is actually called “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption”. Likewise, the very poster that Andy has in his cell that hides his route of escape goes from Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch in the book, to Rita Hayworth herself in the movie. The obvious reason to not include Welch is obvious, in that this film takes place in 1947, but the decision to rest on Rita falls solely as an homage to the source material, and it’s one of many that are woven conveniently throughout the film.

– One sign of a timeless film is the ability to watch it and gain some new form of knowledge that you didn’t pick up on in previous watches, and even my latest screening for this review brought forth some clever Easter eggs that I am witnessing for the first time. The first is Red’s cell number being 237, and for anyone who knows Stephen King material specifically, they know that this is the very same number that the Torrence family are asked to stay out of in Stephen King’s “The Shining”. The second is the judge’s name that sentences Andy early on in the film being Horton. What’s interesting about that is that there is a Judge Horton in the 1996 Stephen King film “Thinner”, and it’s aspects like these that make the Stephen King universe in his films feel like a living, breathing frame of continuity that continuously holds up, and really makes me want to go back and watch King’s films closer to draw even more parallels.

My Grade: 10/10 or A+ – My all time favorite movie


Directed by Kevin Macdonald

Starring – Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina Brown

The Plot – Whitney Houston broke more music industry records than any other female singer in history. With over 200 million album sales worldwide, she was the only artist to chart seven consecutive U.S. No. 1 singles. She also starred in several blockbuster movies before her brilliant career gave way to erratic behavior, scandals and death at age 48. The documentary feature Whitney is an intimate, unflinching portrait of Houston and her family that probes beyond familiar tabloid headlines and sheds new light on the spellbinding trajectory of Houston’s life.

Rated R for adult language and drug content


– Academy Award Winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald makes documentaries the way they should be made. I have seen some criticize Macdonald’s movements in this film as being too invasive, but he’s someone who I value as a filmmaker because he isn’t swayed by the celebrity of the topic, no matter how big the person or thing he is covering. ‘Whitney’ is most certainly his crowning jewel, unveiling truth after sobering truth about inherited mental distress that played a heavy hand in her eventual undoing.

– There’s an overwhelming sense of blame that runs rampant throughout the film. The idea that so many friends and family knew so much, yet did so little. This elevates the tragedy of Houston to unspeakable levels, and forced more than the occasional tear down this critic’s cheeks.

– The film does a terrific job in capturing the big stakes that Whitney rose to in her performances every single night. In a profession of constantly changing faces and personas, Houston and her timeless music carved out a slice of perfection that has rarely been seen over such a lengthy period. I always knew she had unbelievable range, but thanks to Macdonald’s unflinching focus with some of her greatest performances, I became incredibly aware to the once-in-a-lifetime talent that Whitney really was.

– With the music sampling in the film, it never felt repetitive or forced to represent a topical discussion. Instead, there’s a very eclectic offering of her catalog that represents the vast evolution in the ever-changing pop music world, collectively binding a greatest hits collection that feel like individual chapters for the many life and career arcs in Houston’s life.

– A fine mix of produced concert footage on-stage, as well as handheld VHS documentation to cover the entire spectrum of Whitney’s whirlwind life off-stage. This film has curtain pulling value that is second to none in terms of the very candid instances of the pop star’s personality, pre-cell phone age. In terms of trailing value, ‘Whitney’ feels like it is a story decades in the making, and should be commended for how much video has been preserved.

– Unabashed angles that never run or sugar coat the means of the facts. I appreciate this because Whitney’s is certainly a dark story to tell, but the picture has great brass bravery to inform fans both hardcore and casual of Whitney’s tortured kindred spirit. If you’re not surprised by at least one of the bombshell discoveries told in ‘Whitney’, then you must’ve been best friends with the singer. There has never been a more personal uncovering in the world of documentary.

– Strong establishment of the time and setting in each particular section. In between the musical listening of Houston’s greatest hits, we are treated to the rapid progression of a world that looks like it’s crumbling with consumerism, and Houston’s squeaky clean music is at the center of it. The birth of these two elements are made even more convincing and effective because of precision in editing that treats the bond as a video scrapbook.

– Much of the accompanying narration from Houston, pulled in bits from various interviews over the years, transcends us into believing that the singer lives and breathes for two more hours. It accomplishes this because Whitney is with us every step of the way to introduce us to the next topic of discussion, never appearing visually as she talks, so as to give off that feeling that Houston is speaking of them for the first time.

– Intimate interviews with those closest to her, that offer tons of insight into the events that shaped her. The focus is in speaking and looking directly into the camera, giving the audience the immersion of personal storytelling to make them feel like a valued member of this reflection. What this also does is capture the pain and anguish in so many who knew the high stakes that they and Houston were playing with, but never folded. That air of regret is so thick that it can’t be cut with a knife, and their recollections offer so much more than the casual ‘What Could Have Been’ perspective that other documentaries feel saddled with.

– A documentary that takes its allotted time (Nearly two hours) and makes the most with it. In understanding the two halves of Whitney’s life and career, you understand the pressures associated with fame and family reputation that demanded Whitney to find an identity of her own, and nothing is ever short-cut or subdued in thinking that one aspect of the story is more important than the other. When I saw the run time before the film, I expected lots of excess dead weight that could be cut in favor of fluent pacing, but there is nothing involved in the film that should be cut or trimmed in any way. It’s all vital to the bigger picture.



Blade Runner 2049

Back in 2019 Los Angeles, things were much easier for the jobs of Blade Runners commanding the actions of replicant androids, but three decades later, one man will take the reigns against the advancement of technology that will paralyze society. Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new determined blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to seek out and find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing from the public eye for 30 years. Along the way, Officer K will investigate the seedy business practices of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), better known as ‘The Creator’, and the surprising revelation of K’s involvement in it all. ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is directed by Denis Villeneuve, and is rated R for scenes of violence, some sexuality involving nudity, and adult language.

Denis Villenueve is a master magician behind the lens, crafting modern day masterpieces like ‘Sicario’, ‘Prisoners’, and of course my very favorite from him, last year’s ‘Arrival’, which I gave the coveted 10/10 to. But in accepting the job to helm the sequel to one of the most beloved science fiction movies of all time, ‘Blade Runner’, he tests strength in his biggest uphill battle to date. When you consider the adversity of this being thirty-five years after the original, the extremely difficult task of equaling the award-worthy visual presentation of its predecessor, as well as establishing a chapter to the Blade Runner realm without doing damage to that original movie, it certainly seems impossible that this would be anywhere on the same field. But once again Denis proves that he was the first, last, and only choice for the role, as ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is a more than worthy competitor to the kind of lightning in a bottle that originally struck for this series. This is every bit the kind of film that fans of a franchise dream about when they hear a sequel is being made, but rarely often get. I went into this film with the highest of expectations that any normal director would crumble under the pressure of, but Villenueve continues to raise the bar for cinematic experiences that bring back the emphasis in taking in his films on the silver screen, assembling a team of over-achievers that each bring their best to offering not just another replicant.

There’s so much to breakdown with this film, but lets begin first with the story. It’s difficult to dissect without giving anything away, but screenwriters Michael Green and Hampton Francher offer an equally encompassing dive into the themes of what defines a human being. Certainly the trait of one’s soul would be more than enough to establish this narrative, but this film proves that there’s so much more than just what is beating on the inside. The themes of love, loss, personal identity, and even freedom more than add their two cents to the very parallels of what divide us from the replicants here. On top of this, there’s much advancement over the last thirty years in story time that has transpired. In this future, it feels like the replicants have advanced, mirroring human emotional response without any qualms, and the sparse humans that roam the Earth are losing what articulately defines them as the envied race. It’s smart to market so much backstory (Including three online shorts that fill in the gaps of the transpired events prior to the film) surrounding these ideals, and there’s so much concrete social commentary within its grasp that offers a glance at the similarities within our own world that are still evident even in this Los Angeles. Most future movies center around themes and ideals that feel like decades away, but Green and Francher provide stern warnings that these environmental issues are closer than we may think.

What I love is that no matter how much material and pinpoints that this screenplay has to hit, it does so in a way that feels entirely satisfying to those seeking answers to the questions that come up. Villenueve is known for his cryptic approach in his movies, challenging the audience to feed into their own theories, but in ‘Blade Runner 2049’, it feels like the answers are always presented in a way that offers little debate. This is certainly a different take from the original film, as many have speculated Rick Deckard’s authenticity since it aired in 1982. But much of the answers are presented early on during the first act. It’s important to pay attention during this time because many of the establishing minutes focus on foreshadowing that will play an important role later on. It certainly feels different to have a detective story with all of the answers almost immediately, but even in knowing the ends to the means, I still found myself perplexed at how this film surprised me over and over again, presenting a contrasting angle to the kind of truths that I already knew without falsifying the scene narration. Speaking of narration, if I did have one tiny problem with the film, it is once again in the overstepping in boundaries that the rare audio narration sometimes provides. This was a big problem in the original movie, and during the third act of this film I feel that yet again it tries to hard to force-feed the audience into knowing the emotional response in the head of K without giving us much time to soak it in. I think the performances are so strong that none of this feels necessary, and I’m thankful it only occurs in a few scenes later on.

As for some of those performances, this ensemble cast prove that there’s no such thing as big or small parts, just impactful ones. Ryan Gosling feels catered for this role. In commanding K, Gosling feels like a product of his weathered environment in personality, as there’s no sign of satisfaction or defining trait that establishes him being happy with his life, emoting a great underlying sadness in his situation that blurs the definition of slavery that I really connected to. Jared Leto was also valuable in fronting the antagonist of sorts in Niander Wallace. Truth be told, Leto is only in three scenes during the movie, but his lasting impression is one of great money and power that center around the legitimacy of what he is doing with the Nexus program. The visual darkness that surrounds his character is more than just a clever metaphor for what Niander has done with this business, and Leto’s almost robotic delivery will have you hanging on his every word. The favorite for me however, was definitely Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, Niander’s trusty right hand replicant. Luv partakes in all of the dirty work for the antagonists of the film, especially with Leto’s noticeable absence during the second act, but she is more than up to the task. Luv is the kind of female antagonist that ushers in a refreshing combination of exuberant confidence, as well as deadly muscle to make her a more than a worthy representation of feminist progression during modern times. Hoeks steals every scene that she is in, giving forth to the inevitable threat that is hot on the tail of K and company. A taste in direction that is better suited with a woman’s touch.

But what Blade Runner sequel would be a success without an entrancing visual stage that pops the eyes without the use of 3D technology? Enter the best cinematographer working today, Roger Deakins, as well as one of the very best musical composers of all time in film, Hans Zimmer. Together, these two set the mood in stage and sound that transfixed me in ways that made me want to pause the film to soak in every epic shot for just a bit longer. This has always been my favorite fantasy landscape in film, and Deakins presence behind the screen captures a barrage of visual enticements during every shot that casts great replay value during its brief fly-by’s. The duo of Zimmer and Deakins are so in-sync here that they often feel like the same person, crafting a presence of beauty and despair equally in sight and sound at the beginning of every establishing shot that rivets your immersion into these foreign backdrops. Deakins scope has never been bigger, but it’s in his lighting for each scene that offers a diversity of color that never limits him to just one shade. Despite being computer generated for the most part, his manipulation of natural light feels authentic in a kind of stained glass kind of feel to the sequences, providing the important emphasis that color constructs in appropriately setting the mood. The sound as well is Oscar worthy, vibrating the tones of Zimmer to pulse-setting levels of diversity in instrumentals that constantly always give that sense of dread in the air. It was a dream team combination to see and hear these two together, and because of their importance to a film so wrapped in presentation, you couldn’t have chosen two better men for the job.

THE VERDICT – The best kind of sequels are the ones that establish the importance of its own chapter while adding depth to the original, and ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is the rare example of a perfectly crafted science fiction film that will equally stand the test of time to its predecessor for its own wondrous reasons. Through nearly three concentrated hours of epic cyberpunk presentations and imaginative thought-provoking material, Villenueve spins a spellbinding immersion of biblical proportions that doesn’t require nostalgia in getting its feet wet. One of few films that must be seen in theaters, and one of the only that this critic will see again.


A Ghost Story

Ghosts have always gotten a bit of an unfair rep, but in ‘A Ghost Story’ writer and director David Lowery looks to change all of that. The movie is a singular exploration of legacy, loss, and the essential human longing for meaning and connection. Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost named M (Casey Affleck) returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife named C (Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. An unforgettable meditation on love and grief, A GHOST STORY emerges ecstatic and surreal, a wholly unique experience that lingers long after the credits roll. ‘A Ghost Story’ is rated R for brief adult language and a disturbing image.

How entertaining can a movie about the observation of human grief after a death really be? David Lowery answers that question in the most poignantly splendid of directions for his newest project. Ghosts in film have always been portrayed in the scary sense, most notably with jump scare horror flicks that have run into the territory of repetition on more than a few occasions. ‘A Ghost Story’ is a breath of fresh air in that depiction because it fills in the gaps with the urban legends and hypothesis that we have passed down from each and every generation, showing us the vast array of emotional release that comes from such a life altering event and the toll that it takes mentally and physically to move on. From Lowery’s point of view as a writer, death is anger, death is strange, death is lonely, and most importantly, death is eternal. It’s a never-ending cycle that halts the lives of those involved, and all of that is captured so chillingly disturbing in this melodrama that doesn’t need to be constricted by a particular genre in challenging the audience’s perception of ghosts up to this point. If you’re seeing this film to be scared, you’re in for a major disappointment. I myself came for a good movie and got something so much better. ‘A Ghost Story’ isn’t just must-see, it’s must-appreciate for the many things that establishes Lowery as a showman in so many aspects for crafting the most technically sound film that I have seen in 2017.

The film is shot from an original style, running on 4:3, which is incredibly rare in motion pictures these days, but feels welcoming in this particular film. This, as well as many other softly subtle touches really generated an impactful cinematography and presence from Lowery that goes a long way in producing something that is every bit as original creatively as it is ambitiously mundane in design. That may sound like an insult, but David hits on a certain aura and atmosphere with this film that very few other movies about the afterlife capitalize upon. The camera angles add a certain degree of an experimental side, refusing to settle for a consistent style that eventually grows conventional. Some of my favorites were the soft side-to-side shots that would capture everything along the way to meeting its intended destination for that shot. I also love that there is so little of camera panning in and out of our characters in each sequence. In this decision, it feels like we too are a spirit living on in this world and watching these people play out before our very eyes without a one of them knowing of our presence. It all adds up to this home movie style of memories that play before our very eyes under a gloomy cloud of mourning that eats up the air in every scene.

One aspect that might alienate some people watching this film are the long takes that sometimes feel like they run on a bit too long to contribute to the entertainment factor of each scene. To this I greatly disagree. The scenes do intentionally drag on sometimes, but if you missed the intention in them to soak up as much about the sights and sounds that come with emotional grieving, then you will fail when it comes to intepreting the important perspectives that Lowery so vividly channels in this film. I am from the David Lynch school of fandom, so long takes do little to drive me out of a movie. But I understand that this single aspect most notably during the first act of the film might be the thing that takes people out of it, and to that I would emphatically ask that you stick through it because this film will catch up to you and steal your heart by teaching you what a nerve shattering tool that the inevitability of progression will take you upon. Those long takes force us to pay attention when it matters the most, and I honestly don’t know of any other way to embrace that feeling to the lingering degree that Lowery beautifully depicts with these investments.

On the subject of story, this one isn’t just about the hooded character that is alluded to in the film’s title, but also about the living that are on their own grain (like the ghost) of being left behind. There’s a scene later on in the film where a bunch of drunk partygoers discuss some of life’s greatest philosophical questions, and it’s at that moment where the film’s narrative really sneaks up on you. This is a movie that hints on how little we really matter in the grand scheme of things, and how a hundred years from now your greatest accomplishments will fly like dust in the wind for the next person parking in your spot. Without spoiling anything, the film explores three different arcs within this house, but my personal favorite was between Mara and Affleck’s ghost that hinges on the dramatic pull of finally letting go. Honestly, I could’ve done with just this perspective angle in the story, but the additional characters as the film goes on does kind of freshen up the poignancy of perspective, as well as the ever-changing backdrop that hit hard in the nostalgia buff like me who still visits the abandoned places from his childhood. The ending was left a little ambiguous, and is probably the only slight negative that I have for the movie, but I am down for future watches that help me connect to what Lowery was teaching in the closing moments of this film. There’s too much lightning in the bottle before it for me to fault it too much, but I would’ve preferred more emphasis on the closure of the film.

The thing that is cool about the performances is that it’s mostly expression, instead of the long-winded diatribes of speech that contribute to noteworthy turns. There are long times in between scenes without any dialogue in the film, instead choosing to add more to the overbearing layer of grief that has filled the air in the house. However, Rooney Mara gives one of her best performances to date by channeling the fragility that this devastating turn has left her in. So much of that long take decision that I mentioned earlier deals with her character, where we see the tears slowly start to fall without it actually look like she is crumbling underneath it all. Something as simple as eating a pie becomes a chore when your mind is turned off under the suffocating circumstances of losing the single greatest entity in your life. Casey Affleck is also remarkable, despite being under a sheet for a majority of the movie. Listen, I don’t know if Affleck is actually the actor underneath the sheet, but I am going to credit him as it’s his character in the plot. It’s not a typically easy thing to emote underneath a bedsheet, but Affleck startles us, raising the hair on our arms by a slow-moving turn that really brings to the surface the tragedy of it all. Death is only the beginning with this ghost. His misery begins after it all, and those reactions for a faceless presence are given just enough emphasis to make us feel what he is feeling.

THE VERDICT – David Lowery moves the chess pieces articulately on one of the most astoundingly forlorn films that I have seen in quite some time. ‘A Ghost Story’ appropriately manages such heavy-handed themes through an inventive, artful and unnerving stroke of the canvas, exploring the volume of intensity with love and loss. Mara and Affleck are hypnotic, channeling a spiritual connection that really makes you connect with their dire situation. This is one movie that must be seen, and like any ghost, will haunt you for the rest of your life spiritually.


The Lost City of Z

The search for a rumored nation of people brings a cryptic explorer to the forefront of the raging jungle. Based on author David Grann’s nonfiction bestseller, ‘The Lost City of Z’ tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment who regard indigenous populations as “savages,” the determined Fawcett, supported by his devoted wife (Sienna Miller), son (Tom Holland) and aide-de-camp (Robert Pattinson), returns time and again to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case, culminating in his mysterious disappearance in 1925. An epically scaled tale of courage and passion, told in writer/director James Gray’s classic filmmaking style. The Lost City of Z is written and directed by James Gray, and is rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some nudity.

The Lost City of Z found a way into my heart that very few two hour plus films do anymore. This structure in storytelling and various depth in plots is the kind of justifiable leap that you take when it comes to an investment as big as this one (135 Minutes), and it paid off in presenting to me a film that touches so unapologetically on so many life themes about becoming the person we were destined to become. Sound cliche and a bit tacky, I’m sure, but James Gray’s masterful touch at bringing to life a story with such a massive following like this one, speaks volumes considering our current day release takes place more than one hundred years after the initial setting of this picture. At its core, The Lost City of Z is structured like a horror movie. Don’t believe me? A crew of men take a dangerous cross-world journey of uncertainty to clash with the boundaries of stepping on a land that is run by cannibals. But even so, Gray’s story dabbles in these bloody waters while still capturing an essence that very few nail on such a collective grasp of the details as this one does.

My mind raced at the very brutal consequences of time, and just how important of a hand that it played in Percy’s explorations. One thing that I loved so dearly about this movie was its jumbled sense of time misdirection, which is obviously that of intentional directing by Gray. My lone problem coming out of this film was that the jungle sequences sometimes blend together because there’s no sense of time translation in text, nor in physical features like different clothes or longer beards. Then it hit me; James uses this to establish the pay-as-you-play kind of rules to following your dreams and immersing yourself in imaginative waters. This theory of mine was made even more apparent when he includes text in every time jump in story while Percy and his crew are out of the amazon. To play further into my ideal of this, I believe Gray is showing us how easy it was for Percy to get lost in his own expedition, forgetting the humbling evidence until he gets home. We are treated to gut-wrenching visuals that depict his children and wife getting older, while our central protagonist (At least immediately) still looks the same. It’s touches like this that kept me glued to the on-going events that always seem to stand in the way of this passionate man that was once an order to explore, but has now become his life’s mission.

After you get past the first twenty minutes, the film constantly keeps moving, crediting that of storytelling that paces itself out accordingly in epic style fashion. The film’s responsible direction to show the audience how dangerous and taxing that a trip like this was in 1915 is one that I commend dearly, and this decision radiates effortlessly throughout the film. Physically in brutality, some characters are killed in the waters by creatures that they cannot see. Mentally, the exceeding limits of sanity and bodily torture are pushed through an endurance test of iron man proportions. It all sets up to a finale that has as much sentimentality in heart as it does fear in our confidence with Percy and how much age has finally caught up to him. I fear that some people will feel underwhelmed by the final shots of the movie, but I drank it in for the rewards it instilled into our lead protagonist. It is definitely the peaceful catch-22 that Percy needed, but from an audience standpoint, I can see some complaining about the juice not being worth the squeeze. I disagree because it’s never about what we see, it’s about what HE does, and in that regards, this feels like the peak of the mountain.

The technical tapestry provided some truly elegant aspects to the overall cinematography for Gray’s right hand man, Darius Khondji. As the director of photography here, Darius pops his colorful touch at just the right moments. From the grainy sun-eclipsing shading that vibrantly commute Percy’s enjoyable home life, to the blending of greens that overtake the screen with each trip for this mystical land, this film radiates the conflicting backdrops in land that constantly serve as a reminder just how far these men are away from home. I also greatly enjoyed the makeup work of the 12-person crew that brought the aging process to life in a faithful way for once in Hollywood cinema. It’s rare that I will commend a movie for this aspect because most of the time the aging process is presented in laughably bad context, showcasing an all grey wig, or skin so wrinkled that it looks like our characters have sat in the sun for too long. If you can’t do it right, just cast older actors to play the roles. Thankfully, this film’s production team accomplish so much by doing so little, and it’s in those light touches that we pick up on without being bashed over the head with its gimmick. For Charlie Hunnam, we are treated to a lighter shade of blonde than the one he adorns for the earlier acts of the movie, as well as some light aging around the eyes that tell of the stress that this character has endured. What’s even more impressive is that this crew does it without turning the movie into a laugh riot, something that goes a long way in my final grade.

Not to be outdone by the technical of the story however, the main trio of actors bring so much humanity and personality to their respective roles, each of them giving arguably their best performances to date. I had my doubts about how deep of an actor that Hunnam could be, but as Percy we get the dreamers protagonist who does so without feeling cocky or crass. Hunnam reminds me a lot of a young Brad Pitt for how he is able to emote empathy from the audience who see this man who practically has everything. This is a tough guy with loads of heart to boot, and Hunnam’s urgency brought goosebumps to me on more than one occasion in his fight against time. Sienna Miller also dazzles as Percy’s wife Nina. Miller herself always feels like a chameleon because she transforms her identity over and over again. I was awestruck at how I didn’t recognize her until an hour into the film, when she had been acting in front of me up until that time. Her identity became evident on a random expression that I otherwise might’ve went the whole movie uncertain at this new actress who is holding up her own against the boys. Robert Pattinson though, is the true surprise for me. As Henry, Pattinson commands a redemption tale through the eyes of a struggling alcoholic who now sees purpose for his life. He does it all in his best John Lennon appearance, and it is intriguing how easily this man loses himself in this role, despite a third act that is less than kind to the creativity of his character. Robert has earned a fan out of me because of his subtle delivery that constantly feels like the cloud of clarity for these characters. A cloud that rightfully earns him the status as Percy’s right hand man, a man who is always quick to cast a hilarious truth.

The Lost City of Z is easily the grandest surprise that I have had the pleasure of taking in this year. James Gray adds to an already astonishing list of visual accomplishments by succeeding at his most ambitious project to date; a nearly two-and-a-half-hour epic that pays homage to Herzog and Lean. Hunnam and Pattinson were made for the big stage, committing to a journey of ambiguity that like the water that surrounds them, always keeps rushing. When you walk out of a movie this long begging for more, it’s a sign of a modern classic, and Gray is happy to construct the kind of movies that make you think as well as gasp.


La La Land

Critically acclaimed musical director Damien Chazelle brings his newest musical masterpiece to the big screen in “La La Land”. In this modern take on the Hollywood musical set in the city of angels, we meet Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, struggling to make ends meet while pursuing their dreams in a city known for destroying hopes and breaking hearts. With modern day Los Angeles as the backdrop, this musical about everyday life explores what is more important: a once-in-a-lifetime love or the spotlight. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are drawn together by their common desire to do what they love. But as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart. “La La Land” is rated PG-13 for minor adult language.

Damien Chazelle has always had a finer appreciation for music within his films, and his latest is certainly no exception. After modern masterpieces like Whiplash, my favorite film of 2014, as well as Grand Piano, Chazelle crafts stories that revolve around music and never vice versa. So naturally when the chance to orchestrate a modern musical comes to fruition, he is the perfect choice. Musicals haven’t faired so well on the silver screen over the last twenty years, so to release one during Oscar season is certainly a risk that Damien fully believed in. That confidence and vision is clearly evident from the opening scene because La La Land is a visual spectacle of infectious energy that never slows the pulse or excitement from within its audience. Chazelle articulates not only his most ambitious, but also his signature on the very tinsel of the Hollywood spectrum. Make no mistakes about it by the gorgeous backgrounds depicted in the trailers, this is NOT a calling card to the city of angels. Chazelle depicts this place as a city of tortured and broken dreams that step on whoever to preserve that mystique. An aspect that the movie pokes fun at on more than one occasion.

Shot in gorgeous Panovision and technicolor, the very colorful themes popped so vibrantly throughout the concerto of vibrant set pieces and immense landscapes that played as much of a character as our two lovebirds did in the movie. What garners so much re-watching out of something so articulately crafted is that there’s an obvious color symbolism being used here, with blue for Emma Stone’s character, as well as green to represent Ryan Gosling’s. If I were to add my opinion to the already full pot on this debate, I would say the blue represents the emptiness that plagues Stone and her journey to Los Angeles. There’s clearly something missing within her, and that disappointment rings true in fairytale endings not being what they seem. More on that later. With Gosling, the green can mean many things, but I think it’s his jealousy particularly in that of the hipster music scene that has virtually erased the Jazz history from LA. Throughout the movie, Gosling wishes to open his own Jazz club, but finds that the desire for that genre is slim pickens in the city, a theme that radiates throughout his character arc for the entirety of the movie. In addition to this, the technicolor is a callback to past musicals of the 50’s and 60’s that nearly adds a three-dimensional aspect to the beauty. To say this is one of the most beautifully shot movies of the year, would be an understatement. Chazelle’s best work comes in walking the camera where the characters go, and even through some pretty difficult transitional dance sequences, the camera always seems to catch the pulse of that particular musical number.

Speaking of music, my review would be a waste if I didn’t mention the grandeur of Broadway meeting the dream-like atmosphere of Hollywood for a toe-tapping marriage. Every musical number here is totally original, and even Stone and Gosling lend their vocal work to such an offering. What is surprising is how on-key both of them deliver in their emotional release through every song. Holding a note and acting in-sync is a very difficult thing to manage, but both of them omit it effortlessly through the more than twenty musical sequences throughout the movie. Some of my personal favorites were “Someone in the Crowd”, a dress-up whimsical between Stone and friends as she gets ready to meet Mr Right. The personal surefire Oscar pick for me however, is Stone’s “Here’s to the Ones Who Dream”, a majestically haunting storytelling of the fools who fall for the charm of a city famous for crushing dreams. Both of these you can listen to below. The music is welcome to overstay its presence, but Chazelle instead knows how important his characters are to the storytelling, so both methods of exposition are given ample time to never make you yearn the absence of the other.

For two solid hours of a musical/comedy, I was very impressed by how much dramatic depth lied underneath the atmosphere. These are two equal protagonists whose stories are diversely as important to the overall themes of the movie, and Chazelle never falters as a storyteller. This is very much the anatomy of a real relationship in all of its highs and lows. This of course offers a very realistic approach to something so silly and musically accompanied in delivery, and that’s something that most musicals commonly struggle with. The only minor critique I had about the story is that there’s a plot element introduced about thirty minutes into the movie involving Emma Stone’s disposition to not go all the way with Gosling, and it’s kind of introduced and then disposed of within a ten minute arc. Not something that the movie necessarily needed as a dilemma, and I think taking it out wouldn’t have hurt anything creatively. What I do commend the film for is in the ending that feels right at home with the very themes of this desired location. I can see this being a conversation piece among couples who see the movie, but I thought it played life very real and pure from an engaging point of view.

Stone and Gosling also radiate pure chemistry off of their timeless delivery and modern approaches to a forgotten era of cinema. This is a coming out party in particularly to that of Stone, offering a fresh take on her every-girl persona that is so easy to fall in love with. There’s a great pain to Stone’s Mia, and that empathy registering in all of our stomachs for her character feels prominent through everything she goes through. As I’m sure, everyone who knows me knows I’m a pure Emma-enthusiast, so it should come as no surprise how delightful she was in this movie. What might shock you however, is that I don’t consider Stone a very versatile actress in terms of delivery. That was however until La La Land. This is very much her shining moment to join Hollywood’s elite, an echoing effect that transcribes art imitating life. Gosling is a noble gentlemen straight out of the 60’s, and leading men like Bogart and Gable would clap aloud for Ryan’s gentle touch. His character goes through a transformation of sorts midway through, but it never changes what we indulged about his performance in the first place; endless heart and charisma that prove he’s more than a handsome face. The success of this couple is easy to get behind because we understand through life’s muddy waters how important this brief moment of happiness can be for the other person involved. They very much serve as the inspiration to the other one, and while this isn’t an original take for film, it is one that works every time with two actors as engulfed in chemistry as they are. This is Stone and Gosling’s third movie together, and it’s clear that they are both at their peak when they stand across from the other. Chazelle paints them a beautiful canvas, then lets the actors remind the audience why we’re here in the first place; for a look into two crazy kids who bleed emotion for each other.

If everything I have mentioned above hasn’t encouraged you to see Damien Chazelle’s modern masterpiece, then take with you one final critical praise. La La Land sways to the serenade of an Oscar worthy musical score, while treading along to the beat of life’s many switching lanes. It’s an ambitiously infectious shooting star that transforms Hollywood to a much simpler time of filmmaking. Chazelle’s wizardry doesn’t require a wand, he does just fine with a camera.




Earth prepares for new visitors in the much anticipated follow up for critically acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve, called “Arrival”. When multiple mysterious extraterrestrial spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team is put together to investigate, including linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). Mankind teeters on the verge of global war as everyone scrambles for answers to the mysterious presence of these outer world creatures. Banks, Donnelly, and Weber will take a chance that could threaten their lives, and, quite possibly, humanity, as they brace for the ultimate confrontation with Earth’s newest guests. “Arrival” is rated PG-13 for brief adult language.

Denis Villenueve is perhaps my favorite director working today, and with movies like “Arrival”, it’s no wonder why the bar keeps getting set higher and higher for this remarkable filmmaker. Going into this movie, I expected so many things in one direction, but was taken in a total opposite with the presentation. To anyone expecting a big-budget alien encounter movie, you might be disappointed, but the disappointment will only lead you to much bigger heights. This movie impressed me on every end of the creative spectrum, and perhaps the biggest shame is the fact that the best parts about it I can’t discuss for fear that spoilers will give away too much. “Arrival” deals with so many complex themes and ideas that blend especially with the surface plot of these foreign creatures from another world coming to ours and bringing with them a series of questions that has us on the edge of our seats for the entire time. As far as alien invasion movies go, this is not only the greatest that I have ever seen, but a different kind of monster all together that totally redefines the genre and serves as another testimony to Denis’s magnificence that has already racked up quite the filmography of instant classics.

The story is very layered, often times shuffling between this invasion, as well as flashbacks with Louise’s character that gives us some insight into her backstory. It’s orchestrated with an enriching quality to storytelling that takes us in many directions long before the twist, and what a beautiful one it is. The story is the most important aspect here because it is what creates the tensions, not the visuals which is par for the course to this particular genre. What really amazes me about this story is that there were so many problems that I had initially with the movie in the first two acts that had me shrugging my head as to why so many critics were giving above favorable reviews to it. Then it happened; the twist heard around the world. I stood astonished as all of my problems evaporated into thin air once I understood the logic behind their reasoning. The slow pacing and illustration of every situation with our protagonist’s test subjects was there so the audience could always remain eye-to-eye with the very turns the that the story entails. Some matters within the flashbacks that didn’t quite add up to the continuity in which they are told, was literally wiped away in one swoop that left me internally applauding the true brilliance of modern day storytelling. It’s something special in 2016 when something can throw you completely for a loop not only in shock value, but in revealing the bigger picture. In that regards, Villenueve’s latest triumph is a good painting up close, but greater when you step back and see what is rendered beneath the beautiful colors.

And what gorgeous and appealing tones they are that captivates our senses for another visual dessert that is always filling and goes down smooth. Cinematographer Roger Deakins unfortunately didn’t join Villenueve for the first time in years, but no step was missed with the vibrantly imposing design in Bradford Young’s rendering. To anyone who has followed Denis, you know that he loves presenting these worlds that are very much ominous and decayed in illustration. This goes well here because we get the sense of a very bleak outlook on life from Louise’s backstory, often struggling to be motivated from her daily routines. The establishing shots not only of the first images of the ship, but with the following shots for our characters from one room to another, reminds us that this is something new and insightful that plays against your typical alien movie. Some of my favorite stylings were those of the mysterious fog that surrounds the alien ship before our initial deposition. This shot alone communicates to us the uncertainty and enigmatic nature that the movie dives right into within the opening fifteen minutes of the film. I can’t say enough for Young’s patient touch on framing and taking in everything around the main focus in every image. This is a cinematography visionary with extreme precision that has me excited for his ideas in the upcoming untitled Han Solo Star Wars film due out in 2018.

One thing that I forgot to mention earlier was that of the social commentary on our own society, which proves that this is the perfect movie for the world at this place and time with everything going on in the idea of dividing others who don’t meet our ideal plans. The movie also focuses heavily on the idea of language barriers and jumbled translations that come with them, projecting a sense of fear or urgency when it comes to our impatience with understanding the whole sentence in structure. With the presence of so many different languages and cultures in the world, we are born into a place that has already labeled us as something different to somebody out there, and that imposition is detailed at such a disadvantage in this film, especially considering the race against the clock of uncertainty as to why our newest guests have harbored here and now.

The great Johann Johannsson steals the show by offering a subtle mastering of pulse-setting tension, as well as articulate volume that never overtakes the scene. The musical tones here are played very accordingly, and sometimes faintly enough that you can barely hear them, but this is masterfully done by Johann because he wants it so claustrophobic and quiet in the theater that you’re afraid to even breathe, something that 1979’s “Alien” masterfully crafted over thirty-five years ago. The encounter scenes with the aliens are nearly on mute, but if you listen close enough, the musical narration guides us through the terrifying waters of uncertainty that bubbles tension deep beneath this sea bed.

Amy Adams performance in this film was fantastic. She has certainly proven herself to be manageable of an extreme degree of varying diversity in the roles she takes on, but her fragile encompassing of the foggy Louise proves that this is a woman destined for something greater. She seems to be in the right place at the right time for this situation, and there is a satisfying reality to this very theory that will have you stunned during the anxiety-ridden finale. Adams grasps our heartstrings without ever shedding so much as a single tear, and that takes remarkable depth from one of the very best situational actresses working today. If I did have one slight critique for this movie it was that it really is a one woman show, as Jeremy Renner and Forrest Wittaker really didn’t have a lot to do to justify their characters existences. Renner is a little different because the finale shakes things up for him slightly, but Wittaker is wasted as the typical FBI guy who is there only to shake things up when the plot deems it necessary. I could’ve used a little more emphasis on both of their backstories, but it wasn’t a make-or-break deal in the grand scheme of this otherwise emotionally engaging picture.

Overall, “Arrival’s” meat is in its story and breathtaking finale that brings it all to life when accompanied with social commentary eerily similar to the adversities we face in our own world. It’s riveting, engaging and very deserving of future re-watches with its reliability on thought-provoking material. Villenueve’s “Arrival” comes in peace, but leaves you in pieces for the spine-tingling cloud of tension that you see coming, but never feels less suffocating once it has engulfed our characters. One of the very best this year.


Hell or High Water

Two brothers down on their luck in the game of life, set out to rob banks across the Texas landscape, to get rich come “Hell or High Water”. Texas brothers Toby (Chris Pine), and Tanner (Ben Foster), come together after years divided to rob branches of the bank threatening to foreclose on their family land for missed payments. For them, the hold-ups are just part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that seemed to have been stolen from under them. Justice seems to be theirs, until they find themselves on the radar of Texas Ranger, Marcus (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last grand pursuit on the eve of his retirement, and his half-Comanche partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham). As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their scheme, and with the Rangers on their heels, a showdown looms at the crossroads where the values of the Old and New West murderously collide, leaving behind a trail of blood and money that will leave the four men changed forever. “Hell or High Water” is directed by David Mackenzie, and is rated R for some strong violence, adult language throughout and brief sexuality.

David Mackenzie has certainly seen his fair share of Westerns, and after taking in a showing of his most recent effort, I can say that he maximizes the most of that experience with a presentation that left me rattled in my seat. For those who don’t know, “Hell or High Water” is garnering quite the positive reactions on all of the movie critic websites, so I was quite intrigued to see how well this movie lived up to the entirely positive reception that it has for itself. I can easily say that this is one of my very favorite films of 2016, and I feel confident that it will still be up there four months down the line when I make my annual countdown list. This movie has everything; sound precision that really packs an audio charge for people who take this movie on in a theater, superior acting to anything that I have seen during this movie season, and a narrative that builds such a powder-keg of spine-tingling tension that never disappoints. What’s amazing to me is how predictable Westerns have become over the last twenty years or so, but “Hell or High Water” breathes new life into a genre that is easily choreographed. This film always kept me guessing, and really builds to a third act climax that will send everyone home with a blurred vision on character morals and what motivates the risky decisions that we take on.

Some of that blur comes in the form of screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s emphasis on meaningful characters building to a bigger payoff when that inevitable confrontation finally comes. This movie centers that importance of its characters with an equal time share between two duos that the movie depicts. The first is the law abiding Marshalls in the form of Bridges and Birmingham, and the second is in the on-screen brothers of Pine and Foster. On the former, the law figures could easily come off as the antagonists of this movie, but instead this well devised script tests its audience on the decision of who’s right and who’s wrong by letting them understand both sides of the coin. This makes for an even more difficult decision to that moral question, and as I said before; the answer feels very blurred. With the brothers, you soak in a lot of personality from their robbing of banks day after day. Despite some terrible things they do and poor decisions they make, these two are dedicated to the mission at hand of saving their family farm, and this becomes more evident with the introduction to the sneaky corporate banking system that has become a staple in this West Texas setting. This was one of those movies for me where I wanted everyone to win and come out unscathed, but I knew that simply wasn’t possible. When the consequences come, they mean that much more because of the details I mentioned here. Great characters make for meaningful story arcs, and “Hell or High Water” would be a passing grade if it rested simply on those laurels alone.

Fortunately, the movie has so much more to give to its audience, in the form of sound mixing/editing that rumbled the foundation of my safe zone in the theater. This movie was quite easy to immerse myself into because on more than one occasion I shook from surprise, as several times in the movie the bullets and ammunition hit your ears in an almost fourth-dimensional layering. Everything here feels authentically timed and telegraphed in terms of the firepower that it abuses positively on more than one occasion. The impacts of which left me flinching in my seat, with the reading of every devastating blow.

The cinematography and use of natural lighting also plays a big part in setting the correct tone for this deserted Texas landscape. It’s true, most Westerns take place in a dusty Texas town, but what pushes this movie one step further is that you can almost see the pain from so many citizens who lost what they had because they weren’t bold enough to fight for it. The brothers in this film are the only ones we see near or around their home soil, and that goes a long way in the creative feeling of just how alone these two central characters really are. The banks act as a kind of diamond in the rough or free cheese in a mouse trap, depending on how you see this story playing out. In addition to the visuals, the pacing is impressive considering how dry a story this can get. I never felt bored or uninterested in where the story was going, mostly because the exposition between these brothers kept growing more and more important as the film went on. I mentioned earlier this week in my review for “Indignation” how the greatest parts of the movie aren’t seen, and how important seeing those things are in a film that is played so dry. “Hell or High Water” proved me completely wrong, as this is brilliant storytelling without even one visual to play off of as proof. We learn so much about these characters because their chemistry intrigues us into hanging onto their every word.

For some of that chemistry, the work of Pine and Foster are simply magnetizing here. Ben Foster has always been a very underrated actor to me, charming his excellence and undeterred passion for each role he takes on. But here is something completely different for him. Almost a feeling like the creative leash is taken off of his neck, and we are seeing Foster shine through honestly for the first time ever. That’s not to say that Ben is a gun-toting man-child, but Foster definitely gave me that inside feeling of improv in his character, and it added more and more laughs to a story that needed some light-hearted humor. Pine continues to dazzle. This time encompassing raw human emotion that is so expressive without ever having to raise his voice or shout. I honestly had my doubts about Pine in this gritty role, but Chris has proven me wrong, with a range that delivers patiently for his time to shine within the confines of a loaded cast. Bridges is perhaps my favorite as this rundown Marshall just days from retirement. We have heard this character arc a thousand times before, so what makes the performance here any different? Bridges feels like something out of a Coen Brothers film, channeling menace without ever needing to prove it. I believed that this officer was someone you didn’t want to be on the other side of, and a lot of that is in Bridges grizzled veteran exterior that communicates his best days are behind him. This final case is like getting Bridges ‘Marcus’ in his prime for just a couple days. His intent to strike down becomes more and more clear as the film goes on, and Bridges becomes a metaphorical hawk who is always one step ahead.

Overall, “Hell or High Water” is a lethal dose of Texas gun-slinging that builds sharp tension with carefully constructed precision. It’s a callback to a forgotten era of film making that rough its rugged, timeless feel, offers an air of thought-provoking idealism taking place in a post-recession world. This one is a MUST SEE, and deserves all of the money that your big blockbusters didn’t during this disappointing Summer season.


Captain Fantastic

“Captain Fantastic” might not be the hero we need, but he is the one we deserve. Matt Ross writes and directs this inspiring drama set in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, with Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) raising his six children off-the-grid by himself because his wife is in an institution for treatment of bipolar disorder. When Ben receives a startling and shocking notice that his wife has killed herself, he takes his children on a road trip to New Mexico to attend their mother’s funeral, despite warnings that his disapproving father-in-law (Frank Langella) will have him arrested if he disrupts the ceremony. Events surrounding the funeral, including one of his children being severely injured, one of them wishing to go to college, and one of them siding with his father-in-law, force Ben to reevaluate his choices regarding his children’s upbringing and education after living in isolation for over a decade. “Captain Fantastic” is rated R for adult language and brief graphic nudity.

“Captain Fantastic” is an outstanding film, and one of my personal favorites of the year. The movie fires on every single cylinder that you can imagine. After watching the trailer, I sensed some comedy, but it mostly played as a drama. That trailer is nowhere near the kind of experience that you are getting yourself into with this one. I laughed, teared up a little, and felt great concern for the many different kinds of people within Ross’s world. This is a tightly paced, beautifully crafted film that doesn’t have to rely heavily on art to get its point across about life and its many themes and lessons. I’ve always thought that the best films should always have you leaving the theater seeking to be a better person, and “Captain Fantastic” is one of those feel good stories too charming not to fall in love with. It’s a movie that showcases the magnitude of importance for family, and the one in this story always kept me interested with their many trials and tribulations with the outside world, that feels foreign to them.

What really opened my eyes during this movie was the experience of getting to watch people from two different worlds and cultures, and watch them interact with each other through some hilarious, but truthful results in their comparisons. On one side, you have the main protagonists who live in the woods and use as little resources as necessary to live the life that they desire. They are very well educated and strong enough to survive on their own if it ever came to it. On the other side, you have the people in our everyday world. The big houses, multitude of food choices, and pop culture invested. They are truly spoiled, but never a loss in this comparison. That’s what I truly love about Ross’s film; no one side is ever better suited for life. Both worlds have things that they do better than the other. It surely would be easy for the filmmakers to weigh heavily towards the side of Mortensen and our protagonists, but they are smart enough to know that there are some genuine concerns within this world that seems so easy. Some of the most enjoyable aspects to me were seeing this family reacting with concern for our video games, fashion sense, and even obese people when compared to the nearly unhealthy skinny bodies of our characters. It never feels forced for comedy, and instead you can sit back and learn because everything is very thought-provoking. There are aspects of your own life that Ross forces you to think about, and he does it without it ever feeling overdone or preachy.

The acting is very well layered and full of enjoyable performances from a mostly young cast. There are six different children in this immediate family that dominates the camera time, but all of them get their time to shine, delivering a vast array of emotional responses when they find out the untimely passing of their Mother. I found myself fully invested in them because their innocence never feels like weakness. These are children who despite their age, are very capable of handling themselves, and all of that comes from Mortensen’s Father/Teacher combo. Viggo has always been a very methodical actor, but as Cash we see a man coming undone at the very eye-opening experiences that his children are having. He’s doing everything for them on his own, so we feel mutually exhausted when the mental walls start coming down midway through. Mortensen is perfect for this role, and his love for these children really became quite evident early on in the film, when the concept of protector was taken to new levels. It was also great to see Frank Langella, even if his role is very brief. When you first meet Langella’s character, you get the sense that he is angry with Mortensen because of the passing of his daughter, but the movie is brilliant enough to really make you see things from his side of the table. Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn are also in the movie, and offer a startling contrast reflective of the naive methods that we use on our children everyday.

The film’s visuals felt very much like a Jean-Marc Vallet film, complete with mental representation on-screen for what our main character is going through emotionally, as well as flashbacks and hallucination scenes that really paint the picture for what kind of things were going on with this family before we ever saw them. Vallet is always someone who paints a psychological picture first, and Ross certainly has done his homework in communicating raw emotions without ever beating the audience over the head deliberately with obvious themes and moods.

Overall, “Captain Fantastic” is a hero and a film that we can all believe in. The ending is beautifully deranged, but it never lost me at any point during its jaw-dropping visuals. The film offers a humble look at the thoughts and ideals that we instill in our children, and how you’re never too old to ever be wrong. Ross crafts an above average drama with some unexpected twists and turns along the way that results in a humorous and enlightening showcase that tugs at the heartstrings of any parent who seeks the best for their children. Very much so one of my favorite films of the year.




Project X’s favorite Masked Merk returns to the silver screen in search of more positive results than his first effort, in “Deadpool”. Directed by Tim Miller, and Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, “Deadpool” tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) being on the edge of his deathbed with cancer in every vital organ in his body. Wade who after being subjected to a rogue experiment by a mysterious businessman (Jed Rees) and his two associates (Ed Skrien and Gina Carrano) that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, feels inspired him to adopt the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life while trying to rescue the love of his life (Morena Baccarin). “Deadpool” is rated R for strong violence, language, and graphic nudity.

“Deadpool” is much more than a superhero film. It breaks through a fourth wall in more ways than one with laugh-out-loud comedy, heart pounding action, and a heart that most superhero genre films carry on without. To say that this movie was great would be an understatement. In all reality, “Deadpool” is the single greatest superhero film I have ever seen. Something that is ironic because the title character is defined as an anti-hero.

At the front and center of the film is Ryan Reynolds. This movie serves as a dream project for the Canadian native, and he has been looking for a chance to film this project since the disappointment that was “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. How does “Deadpool” differ? Well for starters, the film lets Deadpool own the most of every scene with his R-rated humor and quick-wit comebacks. To see any other Hollywood actor in this role would be doing a disservice to the character. Reynolds IS Deadpool. He has invested so much into a character that most crowds knew so little about. What makes his role refreshing is that even despite how unforgiving and menacing he is to his enemies, there is a real person underneath this mask who hurts like everyone else. There were scenes in this movie that touched my heart for their brutal honesty on society and how they sometimes treat someone who looks different. We really feel for the kind of lost life that this guy has endeared, and it feels like this guy just can’t break free from some of the torturous past that has defined the better part of his life.

Behind every good man is a woman, and Morena Baccarin provides wonderful chemistry with her on-screen co-star. It’s convenient that this film drops on Valentine’s Day weekend because the romance between them is something for both sides of the relationship. The two of them are kind of outcasts in their respective worlds, so when they come together it kind of stabilizes all of the nastiness that their lives entail. Where their story really works is in the heartbreaking news for their relationship when Wade is diagnosed with this life-changing disease. The movie does well in its presentation to show the mountain top that these two were on before one event changed everything forever. It’s tough to relate this kind of relationship to both sexes in the audience in any film, let alone one that is a Marvel movie, but it works for every single second. Baccarin shines like a quiet storm whose importance to the film and it’s protagonist greatly increases as the film goes forward. She proves that she is much more than just a damsel in distress.

The action was every bit as hard hitting to offer a 1-2 punch to some of the gut-wrenching laughs the film served up. There’s a feel of Matthew Vaughn meets Zach Snyder kind of cinematography for the way the sequences are shot, complete with everything from quick edits that match the very tight choreography of our characters, to the slowed down shots that showcase so much going on in the background that you might miss if you blink. The most lasting impression in any film is its replay value, and “Deadpool” offers aplenty for the many quick wit hits and on-screen visual gags that you may have missed while closing your eyes to wipe tears of hilarity from pouring down. The movie has an outstanding sense of humor that I haven’t seen in easily ten years, and a lot of that revolves around the breaking of a fourth wall that pokes fun at everything from real life behind-the-scenes drama from past Reynolds films, to cliche-ridden superhero films that often come off as a bit repetitive. It really does serve as the rebel of the group, and nothing ever feels off limits for the masked merk.

If there was one weak spot in the film that served as even the slightest nitpick, it was in the vilain being a little too conventional for a film that pokes fun at that type. One could certainly view it as intentional, but I felt that Ed Skrien’s portrayal just didn’t provide the kind of sinister force that Wilson deserved to really make you doubt his well being in this fight. That’s not to say that the final battle isn’t entertaining, but it’s a little anti-climatic considering Deadpool is a persona who regenerates.

“Deadpool” is the must-see movie event of 2016. During a month known for its box office blunders, Tim Miller’s fresh take on an over-saturated genre goes above all expectations that the months and months of advertising supplied this film. At a 58 million dollar budget, the film looks and feels like a cheap production, and I feel that is the way it should stay going forward with sequels. Be sure to stay after the credits for an instant dose of nostalgia that you would never expect for this character. “Deadpool” is a heart-pounding, gut-wrenching powder keg that never lets its audience up for a breath of air. It’s a game changer that beats them into submission and offers a fun and adult look at just how great the genre could be for many years to come.



The Revenant

The Revenant

Leonardo Dicaprio pushes the envelope as much as humanly possible in pursuit of his first Oscar, as a man searching for revenge, in “The Revenant”. Inspired by true events, Alejandro Inarritu’s latest film captures one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. He is pronounced dead by these members upon returning home, but two of them know the real truth behind their devilish deed. After witnessing the murder of his own son while physically handicapped, Hugh’s motivations to keep breathing are enhanced by the spirit of revenge. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption for the spirit of his only love; his son.

At it’s face value, “The Revenant” is a story about revenge, plain and simple. But what Inarritu does artistically and emotionally is craft one of the very best films of the year, and one of the most impactful films of the decade. The sheer volume of breathtaking camera shots, as well as surrounding action and suspense that encompassed my viewing left me gasping for air at the sheer volume of everything hitting at once. The wide angle shots that deliver some of the most beautiful shots digitally showoff the snowy and unforgiving mountainside as faithfully as possible. The film’s location is one that goes on for miles and miles with nothing other than bone-shattering cold and snow for the viewers eyes to see. Inarritu is one of those experimental directors who only comes along once in a while, and his two and a half hour epic will serve as a calling card to the greatness that embarks this man. There are so many impressive and fast paced shots that left me stunned as to how Inarritu managed to pull them off with such clarity. Very little special effects (Other than a CGI bear) are used for the film. Perhaps the most impressive tidbit is that “The Revenant” used natural lighting for every single one of it’s scenes. When the movie is dark, you are seeing everything that the light allows you to see, so in a sense you are at as much of a blindfolded disadvantage as Glass is in the film. My favorite shots are the long shots where Alejandro leaves the camera on during long takes to capture as much as he can without cutting. We saw this breakthrough style of shooting in last year’s “Birdman”, and I am thrilled to goosebumps that the man brought it along for this movie. The gorgeous technique of panning from one side of the screen to the other captures everything without sacrificing the artistic value of the film’s integrity. Just within the opening twenty minutes or so, we are treated to up-close gunshots, as well as arrows flying at the screen, giving the film an almost three-dimensional feel without actually needing the cheesy gimmicks that go along with it.

The performances leave nothing to be desired from every part of the emotional spectrum. If Leonardo Dicaprio doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Actor this year, then I swear to all of my readers that I will no longer watch the prestigious ceremony for as long as I’m alive. This man sacrifices life and limb quite literally with his turn as the legendary explorer Hugh Glass, and it really defined the meer definition of human spirit. Dicaprio is beaten and bloodied during several scenes that really push the envelope for an actor’s job. I have been a huge fan of Leo for over two decades, but this role is by far his best performance to date. What is even more remarkable about his depth is that he does so much with a stare. Glass doesn’t have many talking lines in the film, and what lines hedoes have focuses on his thirst for blood at the hands of his coward adversary. Leo communicates his feelings to the audience by a simple stare or daze that encaptures the misery that this man is experiencing. My favorite actor Tom Hardy also lost himself as the film’s central antagonist, while playing opposite of Leo for the second time in his career. The most dangerous thing about Hardy’s Fitzgerald is that we don’t see a lot of what’s running behind the engine, and that makes for the scariest of vilains. Hardy is a master of voices and disguises, so much so that I nearly forgot a couple of times that he was the man portraying this deep south accent when the camera wasn’t focused on him. I also greatly enjoyed the chops of up-and-coming Domhnall Gleeson as the man in charge. When Gleeson learns the truth, the fire inside of him isn’t quite as vicious as that of Glass, but it burns for a completely different reason. He is a noble leader, and doesn’t give up on his men until the very end.

The story itself centers a lot around rebirth, so it’s no surprise that Inarritu focuses a lot of his time on spiritual visions through the eyes of Glass. There are attempts to always keep the audience guessing with surreal imagery and symbolism, and it doesn’t always come across as informative to the audience. It is a little pretentious and even repetitive during the second act, but it never left me bored or seeking more from the movie’s over-physical stance. The film clocks in at just over two and a half hours, but manages to keep the attention of it’s audience by the violently fast-paced storm of action going on around us.

One thing that is evident in Alejandro’s films is that the man knows how important a musical score can be to the pacing of each suspenseful scene. Musical composer Bryce Dessner and Ryuichi Sakamoto team up for one heart-pounding narration that really takes us inside the mind of Glass, often injecting drum beats playing in-sync with ominous orchestral notes that glorify the pain taking place on screen. These tones signaled to me when terror was lurking, while still leaving a lot of surprise on-screen with a script that never lacked surprises to say the least. If a musical score is done right, it will have the ability to get your heart racing despite the fact that you are watching this on a screen and safe from the film’s terror. Dessner and Sakamoto did accomplished this feat while leaving me humming some of the repeated rhythms.

“The Revenant” is only the third film that I have given a perfect score to this year, and it more than lived up to the hype. It’s a knock-down, spiritual slice of adrenaline that never stops pumping. Despite looking forward to it all year, the film had to earn it’s place with me, and it certainly gave me something that I haven’t seen in 203 films this year; artistic imagination and the translation of four-dimensional physicality. I am still reeling from the brutal nature of this film, but Alejandro Inarritu taught me that the human spirit can withstand anything if love is on the line.