Saturday, 29 July 2017

Free Fire Quick Review

Hey everyone, thought I’d do a quick little blurb here. We watched Free Fire tonight, and while I wasn’t planning to do a review for it, after it was done I thought maybe I’d hammer out a few thoughts for it. I didn’t even take any notes, so this is all off-the-cuff here. No spoilers, as usual. 

I wanted to talk about this movie because it’s a really interesting concept. Essentially, it’s an hour and a half stand-off in real time. If this sequence was in any other movie, it would’ve been 5-10 minutes, in amongst an overarching story. So for that reason alone, it’s worth seeing. In a way, it’s kind of like Dunkirk, in that you’re dropped right into it and the thing itself is more important than any one character. Also like Dunkirk, Cillian Murphy’s in this one. Oddly enough, this is also the second film this year I’ve seen Brie Larson in that also had Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Run Through the Jungle on the soundtrack. I can’t really talk about the music too much since I couldn’t hear a lot of the score (the downside of watching movies in a small house when the kids are in bed) but I did fine without it. 

There were some things I really liked about this movie. All of the acting is solid and every character feels individual. Even though you don’t get tons of backstory or anything, each character is definitely their own person and you get enough of a sense of their personality that they are unique. The look of the movie is really cool, too. You really feel the 1970’s vibe from the vehicles to the outfits, etc., and the warehouse itself that this all goes down in is a really neat location. There’s so much potential in the location that they make use of that would’ve probably been skipped over if this was just a sequence instead of an entire film. And dirt, dust, and blood aren’t skimped on, giving it a real, gritty feel. There’s also a surprising amount of humor in there that really keeps things interesting.  

Complaints? I feel like I wanted to see Brie Larson’s character do more. It feels like you don’t get much of her or at least much of her doing as much as I expected. Other than that, nothing really from me. I could see how some people might not like the more realistic aspects of the shootout. I’ll put it this way, if you’ve seen a big shootout in a movie with someone like Schwarzenegger, Stallone, etc. and are expecting the kind of acrobatic, fancy stuff from those, you might be disappointed.
Overall, Free Fire was pretty cool. Not top of my list, but a neat little film. 


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Dunkirk Spoiler Free Review

Hey again, everyone! Well, July’s been pretty busy for movies and it isn’t slowing down yet. Today we are looking at the latest effort from director Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk, based on the evacuation of soldiers from Dunkirk, France during the Second World War. As always, no spoilers ahead.
Where to start? First off, this film looks gorgeous. I loved the variety and the unique places that the camera was in so many of the shots that made it fascinating to watch for that alone. The dogfights between the Spitfires and the Luftwaffe planes are breathtaking, and the struggle on the ground is sufficiently dark and desperate in comparison. This is a fairly short movie, clocking in 106 minutes but in a way it seems longer than that. And I don’t mean that in the ‘this movie felt so looooong’ way. It just felt like there was too much going on to have such a short runtime, but at the same time, it never feels rushed. You’re so engaged through the entire thing that you feel like you’ve just watched a much longer film.  

I don’t think it will surprise anyone to hear that the story in non-linear, and jumps around a bit through the process of the evacuation between more than one set of characters. There are almost no titles at the beginning of the film either, you just pretty much go directly into it. And while it never shies away from the horrors of war, there isn’t anything gratuitously gory seen on screen. It’s definitely more of the psychological impacts, the effects of the war on the minds of the men there. Speaking of which, the one thing I really appreciated in this film was how the soldiers on the beach were appropriately (and heartbreakingly) young. A lot of big war movies like this don’t seem to do that, or have too many big names in it. Having young, relatively unknown actors in these roles really made it more realistic for me. Also adding to the realism is the fact that they shot in Dunkirk on the very same beach that all this took place. Speaking of the cast, everyone does an amazing job here. Yes, even Harry Styles, for any naysayers out there (I literally know nothing about One Direction). This film does something interesting in the way that it’s setup in regards to story and characters but I don’t really want to say anything else because it feels too much like a spoiler and it’s really something best seen for oneself.    

Your first role is in a Chris Nolan historical war film? Mad respect from me. Could've been a crappy, dime-a-dozen rom-com.

There one last thing I’d like to talk about, and it’s something I’ll definitely gush about in great detail: Hans Zimmer’s score. Wow. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and engaged in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever really felt from a score alone. It’s not big and bombastic, but rather threaded deftly in between everything that’s happening in the film. There’s also one particular and interesting thing I noticed when one character especially on screen as far as sound/music goes, and it really amps up the feeling you get while you’re with him. I didn’t notice it at first, but as soon as I did, I couldn’t un-hear it and I thought it was very clever. Incredible, and heightens every emotion and really adds to the immersion.

In conclusion, this movie is well worth seeing. I really don’t have a lot to say because I really think you should just see Dunkirk for yourself. That, and I don’t want to say anything that might spoil it in any way so I’m not going to say too much, just that you should go see it.


PS- Here’s the thoughts of an actual Dunkirk veteran. I might be able to talk about it as a film, but this is from someone who was actually there and how he felt about the portrayal of what happened. Just… keep a Kleenex handy, because if you’re like me you’ll be sniffling pretty quick when you hear him talk about what it was like. 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes Spoiler Free Review

Hey everyone! As promised here is my review for the third installment of the Planet of the Apes prequels, War for the Planet of the Apes. As always, this review is spoiler-free so read on without fear! Let’s get to it, shall we? 

This is the first of the Apes films that we’ve actually gone to see in the theaters. When Rise of the Planet of the Apes was announced, we were skeptical. Why do we need this movie? Considering how the last Apes movie had gone (the Tim Burton reboot), it seemed strange to try and do something with this franchise. We didn’t see it until much later, closer to the release of the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And boy were we eating our words when we finally sat down to watch Rise and later Dawn. These films are incredible, there’s no other word for them. So we were decidedly excited to head out to see the newest installment. So how does it live up the standards of its predecessors?
So many times third films in a trilogy or series drop the ball in some way, or highlight or exacerbate problems in stretching out the story to three (or more) films. War for the Planet of the Apes does none of those things. It stands among the previous two with ease. If they leave this as a trilogy (and really, that would almost be best), it will stand as hands down one of the best film trilogies ever. I’m not hyperbolizing here, I can only think of one trilogy (Lord of the Rings) in which all three films were this consistently excellent. 

Let’s start with the characters. We are once again following the chimpanzee Caesar, played by Andy Serkis via motion capture. Can we just give him a big armful of awards, please? Because his performance in all three of these films is nothing short of stellar. The incredible depth of emotion and the degree to which you are pulled into Caesar’s story is due in no small part to that performance. And not only that, but over the course of the three films we have seen, no pun intended, Caesar’s evolution as a person and a leader to his people as he tries to keep them safe from humanity. This really is Caesar’s story, although the rest of the cast is really excellent as well. Woody Harrelson’s Colonel could have easily become an over-the-top, cheap, tropey villain but he manages to bring a calmer menace to him that makes him more grounded. Similar to that, Steve Zahn’s character, Bad Ape, could have been horribly annoying, but never goes Jar-Jar Binks and in fact is a rather sympathetic character when you really think about it. Amiah Miller gives a beautiful performance as Nova, the little girl from the trailers, and her character gives one of the nods that foreshadow the original film. The rest of the cast, as I said, it really well done. I also really liked the Chimpanzee Lake, played by Sara Canning.

The story builds from the first two movies. Caesar and his people are trying to live their lives, but humans won’t leave them alone. Without getting into spoilers, we see both Caesar and his people tested and go on a journey to finally find peace for themselves. It’s both intense and highly emotional. I’ve never found a film or films where I’ve so actively rooted against my own species as here. That’s not to say it’s all depressing, there are some downright humorous moments as well. You get so much, well, humanity from these apes, and the themes are very human and very familiar. I can’t say anything else, you just have to see it. 

 We have to talk about the special effects in this movie. As I said above, the apes are done in motion capture, and the motion capture is excellent. There was no part in this film in which I thought ‘well that’s a CG ape’. All of the special effects looked fantastic, and there were even some top notch sound effects, especially right at the beginning of the film. There were even a few times where you look at Caesar and he almost looks a bit like Andy Serkis, and I thought it was a really neat addition. What else can I say? 

The final thing I want to talk about quickly is the music. Michael Giacchino did the music for this film, and this is one of his best (and he just seems to be everywhere lately!). I wrote in my notes a few times about how I loved the score. It wasn’t too overblown and dramatic, and in places even got downright whimsical. It really reminded me of an updated version of the kind of score you’d get in a film like the first Apes film. It was almost old-fashioned in a way. I loved it.
In conclusion, War for the Planet of the Apes is an incredible film and you should go see it. But see it in 2D. We saw it in 3D and it added basically nothing and it was more about the show time than the format for us. So that would be my only recommendation other than go and see this now


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming Spoiler Free Review!

The time has finally come! Sony and Marvel have come together to bring us Spider-Man in the MCU in his first solo movie. We are talking of course about Spider-Man: Homecoming, one of the two most highly anticipated movies to come out of Captain America: Civil War (the other being Black Panther, of course). So let’s see how the third cinematic Spider-Man did leading a film instead of being part of a team. As always, things will be spoiler free.

So right off the bat I want to talk about Spider-Man himself. As I said above, this is the third live-action, cinematic incarnation of the character in the last fifteen years. That’s crazy, especially considering this is only the sixth solo movie. I’ve always loved the Sam Raimi films (the third obviously has its issues) and I would have loved to have seen his fourth movie. I’ve also liked the first Amazing Spider-Man for what it was, even if it had its issues and the sequel was awful. But one thing, as a lifelong Spider-Man fan, I’ve always wanted is a really true portrayal of the character. In Sam Raimi’s films, Tobey Maguire looked far too old for the age he was playing, and while he was a really good fit for Peter Parker, he just couldn’t bring out the Spider-Man persona convincingly. In contrast, Andrew Garfield worked better as a high school student, and he really brought the perfect attitude for Spider-Man. But he was not good as Peter Parker, let’s face it, he was just too cool to be that unpopular nerdy character that gets picked on every day. Enter Tom Holland. Guys, we have finally found that balance. He is great as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. He looks age appropriate and he nails both personas. This is the Spider-Man I’ve wanted to see on the big screen, and we’ve finally got it.

The rest of the cast is really solid as well. One thing I would like to say is that Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark does not overstay his welcome or take over the film. He’s really not in it a whole lot and that’s not a bad thing. I’m glad we spent more time learning about Peter’s world; the people he goes to school with, his friend Ned, Aunt May, etc. You get to know the people around him as people. It's a really localized film in that way, it feels smaller and and more personal. On the other side of that you also get the villains. Michael Keaton is amazing and also terrifying as The Vulture. He has a slightly different backstory than he usually does, but it makes him a more relatable villain for it. You really understand why he’s doing what he’s doing, if not kind of sympathize with him. It was a small change but I like the impact it had on the overall story of his character. His design also looks great, incorporating some classic elements into an overall really scary and modernized costume that is still instantly identifiable as The Vulture. They didn’t drag out his origin either, and you didn’t really need to, what setup we got was all we really needed. Again, I really appreciated that we skipped the drawn out origins.


Another thing I really liked about this movie is that, much like in Civil War, there’s no flashbacks or backstory, just enough little hints peppered through the dialogue to infer the origin we all know so well. I liked that a lot. It’s like Batman, we don’t need to see that over and over again. We all know how it goes at this point and it was so much nicer just to get to the story. Spider-Man is still pretty new to the game at this point, and watching him trying to navigate these two aspects of his life and try to keep them balanced is way more interesting than seeing Uncle Ben shot for a third time. It also didn’t lay the MCU too heavily on us either, but instead showed us day-to-day life in a world where these things have happened. At this point, The Avengers are part of everyday life, and just part of the fabric of the culture. Not an overwhelming part, but about where you would imagine it would lie in the public consciousness. I thought that was really well done.

Overall I thought the action was really good and you get to see a good showcase of Spider-Man’s abilities. The big set pieces, like the ferry from the trailers, is very impressive. My only complaint is that near the end there is a sequence that, due to it being at night and what is going on in that sequence, that I had a hard time following what was happening. A few of those shots seemed like they should have been pulled back a bit to be easier to see. That’s about my only complaint with the film, however. The rest is excellent overall.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is not only a great addition to the MCU but also a great Spider-Man film and a great film overall. You really get to see the struggle of someone trying to do the right thing with the powers he has while also trying to maintain an actual life outside of that and how he grows as a character through that journey. Highly recommended.


Sunday, 2 July 2017

Canadian Music Countdown!

As a Canadian, I’ve been celebrating my country’s 150th birthday. To that end, I thought I’d do something different and talk about music again. Specifically, Canadian music. So we’re going to do a quick round-up of Canadian bands/singers you should listen to (if you aren’t already). As many of you already know, I come from a heavily classic rock/metal background and that does tend to inform my choices. I suppose that’s what happens when the first albums you own (on tape!) were Bryan Adams’ Reckless and Def Leppard’s Pyromania. So no Celine Dion, or Justin Bieber (we all apologize for that one), or Nickelback, or anyone like that. Everyone already knows Canadian acts like Leonard Cohen, The Guess Who, and Shania Twain, so I think I’m safe concentrating on others. So let’s see what we’ve got!  

Honorable Mentions
Men Without Hats- So I just found out today while researching for this list that Men Without Hats are Canadian and I thought I’d share that information for anyone who still likes rocking The Safety Dance. 

Steppenwolf- Another band I didn’t realize was Canadian. And given the number of jokes that have been made in our house lately regarding the Justice League movie and how they could reference Magic Carpet Ride or Born to be Wild  when the villain shows up, I thought it was worth the mention. 

Exciter- Here’s a band I’d heard of, but never really listened to before. I looked them up and started listening to their first album, and got hooked by the thrashy, Motorhead feel the first couple of songs had. Definitely one I’ll add to the repertoire. 

A Tribe Called Red- Electronic/dubstep/dance, etc. might not be my bag when it comes to music, but I have to talk about A Tribe Called Red. I first saw one of their videos posted online by a friend, and I thought it was fabulous. They combine those musical styles I mentioned above with traditional Native American drums and singing. It makes for an amazing blend of past and present all in one. 

The List

Rush- How could I start with anyone else? Rush is not only a great Canadian band, but just a great band period. Whether you’re talking Geddy Lee’s unique voice given to the complex lyrics, or Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart’s mastery of their respective instruments, Rush is always worth talking about. 

The Tragically Hip- There are few bands as so very Canadian as ‘The Hip’, and none that I’ve found that sound similar. I was lucky enough to be able to see the broadcast of their final concert last summer at a drive-in movie theater, and it was packed. If you don’t know them, give them a listen, because there isn’t anyone else out there like them.  

Unleash the Archers- I’ve talked about UtA before, and in fact just reviewed their newest album. So I guess it’s no surprise I mention them here. In a genre where female-fronted bands have an unfortunate tendency to sound very similar it was such a breath of fresh air to find one that takes a page from Iron Maiden or Judas Priest than Nightwish. I’ve been hooked from day one, and as I said, their newest effort, Apex, more than lives up to it’s name.  

Art of Dying- We saw these guys open for Disturbed a number of years ago and it made us fans. They were fun and energetic on stage and after the show and I just want to put them out there if you want a good hard rock band to listen to. 

Jeff Healey Band- A more ‘classic’ entry this time. I never saw him live, only in video, but watching Jeff Healey play guitar is fascinating. For anyone unfamiliar, he was blind and played with his guitar in his lap. His music takes me back to listening to it on the radio as a kid, and he did a killer cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Tom Cochrane- I wasn’t crazy when Rascal Flatt’s covered Life Is a Highway, mostly because I grew up with the original version. Music was just as important growing up as it is now that I’m grown up in my own home, and one album that had heavy rotation at my folks’ place was Tom Cochrane’s Mad Mad World. Solo, or a part of the band Red Rider, you should definitely check it out.  

One Bad Son- I was lucky enough to see these guys twice in one year, opening for two very different bands (Def Leppard and Judas Priest). They were great both times, including teasing a different Metallica song each time. Another band I think needs more attention. 

April Wine- The next two entries are definitely nostalgic for me. I got a lot of my classic rock love from my folks and what we listened to as kids. These were two of them. I remember my mum having Nature of the Beast on vinyl and as an adult I bought it on CD. But just listen to Roller or I Like to Rock, you can’t help but at least tap your foot along. 

Loverboy- We all know Working for the Weekend, possibly from that Saturday Night Live sketch (or maybe I’m dating myself there), but that’s only one song. There’s so much more to be had, and so much glorious 80’s-ness. Seriously, I’m listening right now to a song of their most recent album, and it is awesome and could fit in with anything in their back catalogue.   

Triumph- Rounding out my list is a band I found as a teenager. I heard Fight the Good Fight and I was hooked. The lyrics have almost a power-metal feel to them, with something like Magic Power veering into almost Dio-esque territory. But it’s very much a rock band, and a damn good one at that.

Well, everyone, that’s my list. Researching this list was a lot of fun and it reminded me of a lot of music that I hadn’t listened to in years. There’s so many other bands that could have gone here, my starting list was at least twice as long and it was hard the whittle it down. So I hope you enjoyed this very small sampling of Canadian music and we’ll see you next time!