Thursday, May 21, 2015

It's Not Such A Small World After All

We're already barreling towards June and it feels like The Oscars are just a few weeks past. Thankfully, there are some remnants in theatres of the spectacle that keeps my blood pressure high because these months ahead usually signify a downward trend of high budget, shallow depth, and shoddy screenwriting flicks. Maybe I'm just bitter that summers now consist of endless hours in the library and cramming TV shows while I cook. Yet every chance I get, I'm looking up movie times and running out the door to catch a screening. All I want is quality cinema, not just an air-conditioned theatre to let my mind rest.

While I am #living off tweets of news from Cannes (and the graceful Xavier Dolan already having sold a star-studded film he hasn't even made yet), I'm enjoying 2015's range of films thus far. The year's (or more correctly post-Oscars period) first hit goes to It Follows, a terrifying modern take on the 70's horror genre. The "STD" has now evolved to include your own personal killer, a being that slowly walks toward you at every moment. If "It" reaches you, you die. The music does a perfect job of eliciting thoughts of Michael Myers' impending arrival while the cinematography always keeps the audience's eyes aware of every slight movement. Even though I love scary movies, the genre struggles with creating consistently notable works. Thankfully, It Follows is the exception. I screamed (a rarity limited to 3 films ever), laughed, sweated, and cringed. Not only should this be screened in 8th grade Health classes everywhere, you will surely be looking over your shoulder for weeks to come.

Next on the list of The Year's Best So Far is Ex Machina. Again, this seemed like another film that could flop or soar. My following praise (and arguments with my grandma on what actually happened) should easily indicate the latter. While the terms of Caleb's (Domnhall Gleeson) lottery win to visit his boss Nathan's (Oscar Issac) secluded, Alaskan home are later revealed, the moviegoer is immediately flown through the majestic, yet eerily quiet landscape to the modern underground lair. Meeting the A.I., Ava, played by the breathtaking and freakishly machine-like Alicia Vikander, is only the beginning to this nightmarish tale. It's obvious that genius is written all through the characters (and the screenplay), but you'll be waiting until the final moments to see who is really holding all the cards.

Thirty years later and George Miller still knows how to innovate and create. Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action films to come along in years (besides The Raid) and will for certain be the best action film of 2015. Period. Miller seamlessly integrates the supersaturated colors, the intricate, creative, acrobatic, and rapidly-cut action sequences, the superb acting of Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy especially, and the beautiful cinematography to juxtapose the desolate landscape with the gangsters and scavengers that post-apocalyptic life only allows to survive. What ensues is a two-hour emotional and adrenaline-pumping chase that puts you in the crossfire, all "shiny and chrome."  I was so impressed by this film, definitely worth its hype, that I was speechless and wouldn't dare watch anything else for the rest of the night.
My favorite shot from Mad Max: Fury Road.

Prudence is a virtue in a land of mixed and mediocre film reviews. I may never be a great film critic since I refuse to sit through mindless explosions or romance that show no progress in the advancement of cinema. OK fine, smack an Oscar-nominated sticker on it and I'll cave. Persuade me to see Cinderella, Insurgent, Unfriended, Furious 7, The Longest Ride, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (or even the first one), Hot Pursuit (2015's The Heat), or The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Poltergeist, or San Andreas 3D and maybe I will. You could still get me on Pitch Perfect 2. Regardless, I decided to wish for the best with Disney's summer giant, Tomorrowland. Sadly, the trailers sop up all of the good jokes, action sequences, and stunning landscape shots. It would take Tomorrowland's necessary technology to program an A.I. to be emotionally attached to such corny and overly (or under, in the case of Tim McGraw) emotional characters. The story is awkwardly framed and uncomfortably begins with Frank (George Clooney) staring at the audience. The movie's trite vision is immediately revealed: humans are destroying the world at an alarming rate and our impending doom may come sooner than we think. The best part of Tomorrowland is definitely Athena, the young Tomorrowland-link played by Raffey Cassidy. Her versatility as a young actress is thoroughly represented through action sequences and heartfelt lines. Another delight was during the visit to Disneyland and the short ride on "It's A Small World" (TAKE ME BACK TO DISNEY WORLD NOW, PLEASE). The easily distinguishable Michael Giacchino brings to the Disney-action-adventure score added flair, so make sure you spot his cameo appearance as the ride operator, too. All in all, the adventure fails to appeal to more than its PG audience and I'm hoping that more imagination and fluidity comes with The Incredibles 2.

Other movies that I have yet to see but have heard decent reviews: Clouds of Sils Maria, Chappie, While We're Young, White God, and The Woman In Gold. I'll get there soon enough, I promise. Keep your eyes peeled this summer for the smarter, smaller budget films that light up the screen just as much as those revenue-seeking action films!

Which films are you most excited for?
The Bulking Hulk

1 big handful spinach (fine, use frozen strawberries and/or bananas if you want)
1 scoop protein powder (I used chocolate and I pre-mixed with 8 oz water in a shaker bottle so the drink wasn't grainy)
1 big spoonful peanut butter (or more, because you can never have too much PB)
Water or (almond)milk

Scrumptious for a post-workout shake!

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