A Quiet Place

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This apocalyptic horror film focuses on a family who is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound. Starring in the main roles are John Krasinski (also the director of the film) as the father of the family, and Emily Blunt (his real-life wife) as the mother. With A Quiet Place, Krasinski not only crafts a great edge-of-your-seat thriller with plenty of scares for wide audiences and horror fans to enjoy, but also makes excellent use of suspense with the sound, directing, and acting. Every noise is made to feel loud enough to pose a threat and surprise us at certain moments, and the sound editors knew very well which sounds they needed to make louder than others and how loud each sound needed to be. The tension is built effectively in every scene, as we get character development with each member of the family while the danger around them quietly builds. Small moments like a lamp falling and breaking or a toy making a sound will frighten you, and whenever it gets too noisy you’ll even start getting stressed just by the thought of what what be about to happen to our characters. None of the intensity feels fake and you’ll definitely be as anxious as the characters in some of the most scary scenes in the film. Krasinski and Blunt are both splendid as the parents; Krasinski’s character clearly showing fright but also leadership of his family through the everyday hours and protecting them with everything he can. His love for his children is the strongest part of the film and his acting is always spot-on. Blunt also can’t be ignored; she’s a fearful and also protective mother who demonstrates pain and terror excellently.

A Quiet Place is not only a great showcase of acting and directing but doesn’t forget to be an entertaining horror flick; you don’t have to worry about this one being too boring or stretched out even though most of the film is in sign language rather than spoken dialogue as the device the family uses to survive against the creatures. The visual images are always conveying of the conflict and emotions the family faces, and we though we never see too much about how the creatures got there or what’s going on in the rest of the world, that’s what makes everything more mysterious. My one problem is the ending, which though I didn’t have something strong against, I feel the ending had a more light and even comedic feel to it, and I hoped it would’ve stopped at a place a little more powerful, like the rest of the film. Otherwise, horror and science fiction fans won’t bed disappointed by this short but noteworthy thriller that won’t fail to keep you thrilled and entertained.

The film poster shows a close-up of Emily Blunt in-character with her hand over her mouth.

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Ready Player One

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In the year 2045, reality is harsh so everyone is escaping to the virtual reality of the OASIS. When the creator of the OASIS dies, he plants an easter egg within the game which one must find in order to inherit his fortune, which sends Wade Watts on a journey to win the competition and ensure a bright future in both reality and the OASIS.

Whether it’s animatronic sharks or dinosaurs, or recreating D-Day and World War II’s most frightening battles, or creating some of the most iconic action scenes and heroes, Steven Spielberg has always found ways to break ground, and here he presents us with another cinematic achievement. Ready Player One is an experience unlike any thing I’ve seen before. Like the characters in the film, you are pulled from your reality and into the OASIS as you race past worlds and characters based on your favorite films. You’ll see the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the Iron Giant, the Xenomorph from the Alien films, and many more that I won’t spoil but will definitely give your entire audience nostalgia. But it’s not the tributes to pop culture that makes this film so memorable. The visuals are gorgeous and the virtual reality is created so meticulously, scenes of cyber races, fights, and dances are absolutely unforgettable. Watching this in IMAX 3D doesn’t feel any more like looking at this movie than it did being inside this universe which is so wonderfully built. Tye Sheridan has always been a great actor and here he shines in the lead role of Wade, as well as his virtual avatar named Parzival. He’s got great chemistry with Artemis, another avatar known in real life as Samantha, played by Olivia Cooke. Also part of the cast is Ben Mendelsohn as a menacing businessman, as well as Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance as the creators of the OASIS. The story is filled with heart, and we get more of the Spielberg dynamic we’ve seen before of smart kids against greedy adults, without it feeling recycled or predictable. The adventure our characters embark on is gripping and the action scenes are no less marvelous than they should be. Spielberg has always been so great at creating wondrous worlds to behold and journeys to join the protagonists on, and it’s no less than a visual masterpiece with a soulful story and a theme about how virtual reality may impact us in the future, both good and bad.

Ready Player One is the kind of film blockbuster cinema was made for — it’s original, heartfelt, and beautifully directed, and you don’t have to be a video game fan to appreciate and enjoy the story, everyone can love this film. It’s the most fun film experience I’ve had so far in 2018, and I recommend you watch it on the biggest screen possible, preferably in IMAX 3D. You can bet Spielberg will never stop breaking the boundaries of cinema and giving viewers an incredible time at the movies — and that’s a truth in reality.

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Love, Simon

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Simon is a teenager who has a loving family and a great group of friends, and he’s doing great in school, but he’s got one big secret: he’s gay. One day, Simon becomes pen pals with a boy at his school who comes out anonymously and tries to find out who he is, but soon another classmate finds out about Simon’s secret and threatens to reveal it to the whole school.

Love, Simon tackles what is obviously an important topic in our world, but would it be able to capture these themes realistically or would it try too hard to be a “message” film? Thankfully, it’s the former that we get here. This movie doesn’t get too unbelievable trying to convey the struggles of gay teens to come out to even the people closest to them, and instead presents it as a realistic story of a teen living life in the closet. It’s less about accepting others for being “different” but more about accepting yourself for who you are and being yourself. Simon feels like a person teenagers can relate to if they’ve ever struggled with their sexuality or identity, or if you’ve ever had a secret you’ve felt uncomfortable sharing with others. Nick Robinson is superb as Simon, delivering a humanly nuanced performance as a character you could believably buy as an everyday guy with a secret. His acting is very well-realized in every scene and he brings out a very heartfelt character to follow. Also great is Katherine Langford (who you may remember as Hannah Baker from the powerful Netflix series 13 Reasons Why) as one of Simon’s best friends, as well as Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel as Simon’s parents.

Love, Simon has a clever story and smart way of tackling its themes, with nearly every scene entertaining and many moments being touching, and though it’s a topic not everyone may love, it’s important to discuss in today’s world, and thankfully it doesn’t feel like propaganda for equality, and instead like a touching and authentic teen love story. We see the love Simon gets from his family and his friends, and one of the most powerful moments is when Simon reminds us that he’s still him, no matter how he chooses to live. Many scenes may get some viewers emotional, especially the heartwarming ending that everyone, regardless of sexuality, can be touched by. It’s a film that even as a critic I can agree is not just a movie with a good message to the world, but also a great film with a powerful story, as we feel for our protagonist as he goes through the film, and ultimately Love, Simon is worth checking out, even though it’s mostly centered towards teens, it’s funny, touching, and emotional for those who choose to see it.

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A Wrinkle in Time

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Meg Murry is a young girl whose astrophysicist father disappeared four years ago. One day she learns from three magical travelers that she can find her father if she embarks on a journey of self-discovery across the universe, accompanied by her brother and her classmate.

A Wrinkle in Time had some big names in its cast, a popular source material, and lots of ambition which was evident from the intriguing trailers — so why did Disney go ahead and make a safe children’s movie with the same plot they always use instead of something that families can love too? Ava Duvernay is not a bad filmmaker, she did a fantastic job directing Selma so I had faith that I could really enjoy this film. However, the overuse of visuals, waste of great cast members, and 100% familiarity and predictability of the plot offer nothing new that will resonate. Storm Reid is great as the young Meg who is curious, rebellious, and learns to embrace who she is. However, the rest of the actors, while great, aren’t used to the movie’s advantage. With names like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, we’d surely get some great leading faces, but not only are they not present for a good amount of the film, but the actors are just being the typical persona of how they usually portray their characters. Oprah is of course just there to inspire people, Witherspoon is funny but really just there to charm, and Kaling is extremely annoying as a character whose only dialogue is famous quotes from historical figures or celebrities. The cast’s (and the film’s) greatest strengths are Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who have been promising in nearly everything they’ve done. We’ve come to know Pine as Captain Kirk and more recently, Wonder Woman’s love interest, and Mbatha-Raw is a rising talent most notably in her role in Black Mirror. Here they play the most remarkable parts of the film; an ambitious scientist who loves nothing more than his family, and the wife and mother whose life is left with a void after her husband’s disappearance. They are both terrific to watch on-screen, yet so underused, and this part of the story could have been used more dominantly but in the middle of the film it’s ditched for the classic formula we see in nearly every film. Other familiar faces include Zach Galifiankis and Michael Pena, but they too are forgotten and we spend more time with the generic love interest played by Levi Miller and the irritating younger brother by the name of Charles Wallace.

A Wrinkle in Time had a lot going for it, and though lots of it feels like a missed opportunity, there are some things it gets right. We’re ultimately left with a theme about being your best and embracing your faults, because in the end, we can all do great things. Kids will love this message and be empowered by this theme, but to everyone who’s seen a movie before, it’s all the same. An ordinary kid who feels isolated from everyone else is pulled into a magical journey and learns to be a hero and a better version of themselves, and falls in love and the way. Sound familiar, right? It feels like this could’ve been something unique but instead used the same recycled formula for a new generation. Even Star Wars has a significantly similar plot to this one. The CGI and green-screen don’t feel real and intimate enough either, and at the end, it doesn’t seem like much of the story had a point either, just a bunch of names and concepts thrown at you that don’t have some sort of resonance and thrills to offer. Some may argue this movie celebrates female empowerment and diversity, but is that enough to make a good movie? That part should be the icing on the cake that can be added to something great.

Your kids may be enamored and entertained by the messages this film has to offer, but if you’re over 10 years old, A Wrinkle in Time will leave you thinking about nothing but the potential that was missed here. This should’ve been something families will talk to their kids about and recommend to friends, but in the end, we’re left with a familiar story accompanied with forgettable execution. Ava Duvernay and Disney should’ve learned, like their protagonist, to embrace their faults and improve upon what’s done before, and trust me, I’ve seen lots of great Disney movies, but this one just doesn’t add up to something I’d recommend to anyone going to the movies with friends or a date. On the bright side, there’s still Black Panther and Annihilation out there for whoever hasn’t seen those yet.

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The Oscars (90th Academy Awards)

The Oscars were this Sunday, and of course I made sure to tune in and watch it live! Jimmy Kimmel hosted for the second time in a row, and there were lots of surprises as memorable moments and winners. In case you missed it, here is the full list of winners:

Best Picture: The Shape of Water
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Best Actor: Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Best Actress: Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Best Original Screenplay: Get Out
Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
Best Animated Feature: Coco
Best Original Score: The Shape of Water
Best Original Song: “Remember Me” (from Coco)
Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
Best Film Editing: Dunkirk
Best Production Design: The Shape of Water
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Darkest Hour
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Best Animated Short: Dear Basketball
Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk
Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk
Best Documentary Feature: Icarus
Best Documentary Short: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Best Live Action Short: The Silent Child
Best Foreign Language Film: A Fantastic Woman (from Chile)

These are the winners of this year’s Oscars! Now I bet you’re all dying to find out my thoughts! Usually a write a paragraph or two beneath the winners list about my thoughts, but this time, I decided to try something different: a YouTube video! So, here is my latest video talking about my thoughts on the ceremony, I’d love if you all checked it out:

Annihilation

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A biologist joins an expedition into a mysterious zone called The Shimmer, full of mutating landscapes and creatures that threaten whatever enters it.

Natalie Portman leads the cast of this ambitious sci-fi feature from Ex Machina director Alex Garland. This corner of the sci-fi genre is one of my favorite types of films because they’re often the most shocking and thought-provoking. i like to watch science fiction movies not just for excitement or satisfaction, but to be surprised and to think about what happened. Ex Machina was a smart cautionary tale about how scary a future with artificial intelligence may become, and Annihilation is much more complicated than just having a single theme like that. However, it’s a good thing that a movie is trying to be more intellectual, although Garland’s refusal to alter the film to make it more pleasing for mainstream viewers cost it its theatrical release overseas, so if you don’t live in North America you’ll only be able to see this on Netflix, which is unfortunate because this movie is a gorgeous theater experience. Portman is exceptionally deep as Lena, who leads a great cast along with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Oscar Isaac. The way Portman expresses her feelings such as fear, uncertainty, and agony serve the character very well, and also noteworthy is Isaac as her husband. Annihilation is what people may call classic sci-fi, as it does have the buildup, clues, and mystery until there’s a final twist reveal, but I personally don’t think I’ll ever get tired of these films because of how many questions they can raise and how puzzling they can be but still intrigue (like the bizarre but fascinating Cloverfield franchise). People can draw comparisons to Arrival, and I think that one is a far superior film to this because it doesn’t just talk about the sci-fi concept it introduces but also presents more layered themes about humanity that don’t just belong in science fiction, not that this one doesn’t have any of that. Annihilation definitely has a lot under the surface that I still have yet to discover but I’ve been thinking a lot about it ever since I saw it and I remember sitting quite shocked in the theater as the credits rolled. Some of it doesn’t completely add up, including some subplots and details that weren’t fully realized but that doesn’t stop this from being a worthy experience. Don’t go in expecting anything because the story takes many unexpected turns and has some visually marvelous sequences, as well as a spectacular musical score, but though it has a horror scene here and there, don’t expect too many answers right away but a lot is left open-ended for the audiences that aren’t mistaking this for an Alien or Predator-style film.

Annihilation presents marvelous visuals and style, as well as questions that sci-fi fans will love to discuss, with Natalie Portman giving it her all, and though Alex Garland encountered some problems with the international release of this film, he has nothing to apologize for and should continue making smart and unique science fiction like this, because these are really the films we need to remind us how intriguing science fiction cinema can be.

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Black Panther

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T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who believes the throne belongs to himself.

Marvel breaks ground once again with their first African superhero as the center of a film set in their cinematic universe. When Chadwick Boseman first played the role in Captain America: Civil War, I knew we should be getting a solo film for him soon, and he nails it once again as the fantastic protagonist of king T’Challa. We feel that he is conflicted about how ready he is for his new position but like those around him, would die for his country of Wakanda. We are immersed in the visually striking setting of Wakanda which is realized very well as not only a gorgeous setting, but as a country that must choose its position in the world. The rest of the cast is also outstanding, with more African Americans cast in big roles than any superhero film before. Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger steps out of medicore Marvel villain territory and delivers a complexly portrayed and excellently motivated antagonist who’s a great counterpart to Boseman. His rage is brought on so well and we actually understand why he wants to fight our heroes, and his reasons aren’t too bad. I’d be damned if this isn’t one of the best villains modern superhero films has to offer. Lupita Nyong’o as T’Challa’s ex-lover is also a well-written character who will stand by his side and help him out at all costs, and Danai Gurira as the ass-kicking Okoye steals some of the fights. We’ve also got the awesome presence of Oscar-nominated Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, and I’m seriously convinced this guy should be in every upcoming movie, and there’s the hilarious and memorable tribe leader M’Baku played by Winston Duke, who we definitely need more from soon, and who doesn’t love some charm from Martin Freeman? However, my favorite member of the supporting cast was Letitia Wright as Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, as she’s inventive, sweet, funny, and brings lots of light to her scenes. Every member of the cast is well-realized and I couldn’t ask more from the nuanced performances and great chemistry they all have.

Black Panther may be set in the biggest universe in cinematic history, but even though the enormous Infinity War team-up is only two months away, Black Panther remembers to be its own story, free of set-ups, teases, and big characters thrown in from other films (save for an awesome post-credits scene). There are no Infinity Stones or scenes that need to hint at what’s next for the Black Panther saga, instead we get a story that stays within its 2-hour length, allowing us to really explore the themes and character motivations without being reminded too much we’re watching a comic-book film. Vivid costumes, sets, and action make this visually pleasing, but we also dig deep into why everyone does what they’re doing, and what leaders must do to help others, not just when it concerns them. We get a well-directed and written action film thanks to Creed‘s Ryan Coogler but also how Black Panther himself takes steps to make the world a better place. A couple of scenes do dive into familiar territory, but by the end, Black Panther is a new kind of Marvel movie and a spirited hero for us all to love.

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