‘Alien: Covenant’ Review: Ridley Scott Produces A Predictable Yet Effective Prequel Sequel

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Ridley Scott continues to dazzle fans of the Alien franchise with a return to classic

The charm of the Alien franchise is that it can be anything. It follows suit with its beloved multifaceted creature – the Xenomorph. Alien was a suspenseful horror-sci-fi hybrid that was unlike anything before. Aliens was a full on action adventure movie that was loads of fun. Alien 3 was a shaky thriller that could have been better. Alien: Resurrection was a silly 80s-like action movie with too much on its sleeve. And Prometheus was a clear cerebral sci-fi with interesting questions. While shades of Prometheus are present, Alien: Covenant successfully merges Alien and Aliens to create an ambitious film that will please all sides of the equation.

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‘Get Out’ Review: Jordan Peele’s Clever Commentary On Race Results In A Horror Masterpiece

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Daniel Kaluuya’s strong performance shines in this racial horror-comedy

Everyone knows that racism is scary. But only people of color experience it first hand. When thinking about racism, slavery, and Hitler probably come to mind. Sadly, in this seemingly ‘post-racist’ world, there still subtle racism and Get Out forces it viewers to come face to face with it. This isn’t the kind of racism that existed during the time of slavery nor is it the kind of racism that black people face in the 1960s. This is the kind of awkward cringeworthy everyday racism. They are the “we voted for Obama, just to let you know” kind of racism.

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‘The Bye Bye Man’ Review: A Lazy And Pointless Boogeyman Tale

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Don’t think it, don’t say it and most importantly, don’t see it

Look, does anyone think that The Bye Bye Man was actually going to be good? We’re in January and this month has never been kind to horror movies in the past. Looking back at last year, we got The Forest, and in other years we got Texas Chainsaw 3D and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, in which each one was terrible. The Bye Bye Man is no different and fits right in with those January horror movies.

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‘La La Land’ Review: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone Dance Their Way To Brilliance

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Whiplash director, Damien Chazelle, creates a gripping story about two passionate people trying to succeed

Everyone has those dreams and that passion that drives us to achieve them. Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) inspires those dreamers to do what you love even if at first it seems impossible. It’s no surprise that La La Land is both funny and serious, happy and sad because the journey of achieving such dreams is undoubtedly going to be a long emotional ride.

Failed audition after failed audition, aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone) is left with a life she wishes she could escape. When she meets jazz lover and pianist, Sebastien (Ryan Gosling), they both fall in love. Life seems to be going great. However, as they settle for gigs and jobs that do not reflect their dreams, the relationship between them start to crumble. Their passion that once brought them together is now tearing them apart.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are perfect as the passionate couple. Both have the look of classic Hollywood while still being able to portray a very modern couple. Stone is the better shining star in this story. Her charisma and friendly nature make her a character that the audience can quickly fall in love with.

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Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have that great classic Hollywood aesthetic

Along with Stone and Gosling, John Legend, Rosemary DeWitt, and Callie Hernandez sing in La La Land‘s various musical numbers. The songs are not the problem, they are fantastic and placed at just the right moments. When compared to the other singers, Stone and Gosling reveals their lack of vocal skills. When John Legend sings his song, it’s not hard to hear the huge difference it makes. Not that Stone and Gosling don’t pull it off, but in a movie filled with great singers, their mediocre vocals are more apparent. Nevertheless, the songs are vibrant, and I even found myself tapping foot at the beginning.

Set in a beautiful Los Angeles, Chazelle continually takes jabs at the bittersweet California city. Gosling playing in a restaurant while nobody is listening is just one of the many hits. Contrasting these punches, cinematographer, Linus Sandgren (Joy, American Hustle) captures some gorgeous shots. Playing with different color lighting, La La Land becomes the dream that the characters are aspiring for. Everything from the dancing to the colors feels like a daydream and it is perfect for a movie about passion and goals.

To achieve a dreamy nature, one must be a terrific craftsman. The trouble with musicals is that musical numbers should be placed at just the right moment. Missing one beat can result in a musical feeling forced. Fortunately, Chazelle never struggles with timing. The transitions to musical numbers are genuine and fun, an immense strength to have in this very genre.

Classic musical legends would be proud of what Damien Chazelle has created. Musical lovers are going to love this, and even non-musical fans can find something to love. There’s a sense of nostalgia both in the film’s aesthetic and the story without driving too much in the déja-vù territory. Playing more like a love letter to dreamers than to Los Angeles, La La Land finds the perfect note.

GRADE: A

‘Nocturnal Animals’ Review: Tom Ford’s Sophomore Film Is Both Bizarre And Beautiful

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Amy Adams is spectacular in this high-class dramatic thriller

Rich people can be obnoxious. This is just but one of Tom Ford’s commentary on high-class living. His argument seems pretty relevant as he has seen these behaviors first class working in the fashion world. A lot of pretty faces and luxurious settings bombard Nocturnal Animals and yet Ford meticulously shows the sadness and superficiality, something rich people try to hide.

A sad Susan (Amy Adams) is seen unimpressed by the art surrounding her, standing alone with dead obese women shown on platforms. This is just one of Susan’s art exhibits. But why is she so sad? Her husband (Armie Hammer) didn’t come to her art show. Wanting to confront him at home, something catches her mind as she comes home – a package is waiting for her. This mysterious package is revealed to be a draft of her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). The draft of a novel dedicated to her.

The novel’s story is of dark, sad and violent nature, not the content one would want to be associated with. Though, the story reveals something closer to home, Susan’s relationship with Edward. As she reads through the pages, Susan can only think about her memories with Edward and how it eventually went all wrong.

On the surface, it seems like a boring story, but it’s elevated with a great script. Going back from a novel to reality is in fact, Nocturnal Animals‘ greatest strength. Not one story is superior to the other. Instead, both stories offer a fascinating look into each character without being overly intolerable. The novel story helps the audience get an interesting look into Jake Gyllenhaal’s character which is only seen in a couple real life shots. A bold choice that is rewarded more than once.

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Ford beautifully captures the essences of egotism and superficiality

Tom Ford plays each right cards, and the biggest most audacious card is played at the very end where he leaves it to the audience to decide just how much both stories mirror themselves. On the one hand, Ford shows an incredibly violent and gritty Texas story perfectly contrasting the wealthy and fancy lifestyle Susan inhabits. Proving that this isn’t just another “sad rich people” story. Her life, filled with beautiful dresses and decadent parties, paints a portrait of why her character seems so sad. But in the end, it’s the actions and the depth of the relationship that pulls the story to its own.

Playing with similar themes to the ones in The Neon Demon, an apparent similarity between both Nicolas Winding Refn and Tom Ford emerges. Not only is Karl Glusman and Jena Melone in both film but the aesthetic of Nocturnal Animals fair strikingly similar to Refn’s. Although, enough effort is made to differentiate both films, this is sure to come up in the minds of people who have seen both films.

Helping out with the movie’s excellent story are the incredible performances across the board. Adams’s sad eyes leave just enough room to see her broken soul. Same goes to Gyllenhaal as he shines as a sensitive author. However, easily the favourite is Michael Shannon’s depiction of a Texas sheriff.

Proving once again that his eye for fashion translates well to film, Ford’s scrupulous nature and vibrant visuals take centerpiece. Made with high precision and attention to detail, Nocturnal Animals is the biggest gamble of the year. In a movie where nothing should cinematically work, almost everything does.

GRADE: A

‘Mulholland Drive Criterion Collection’ Blu-Ray Review: A Collection Just As Dreamy As The Movie Itself

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Mulholland Drive continues to have a certain appeal

The Criterion Collection has outdone itself with a beautifully hazy collection of Mulholland Drive

Sweet dreams are definitely made of this. Mulholland Drive is considered to be David Lynch’s best work and just like his previous movies, this one is a mind boggling LSD trip. Lynch is known for his dreamy, surrealistic style finding success with Eraserhead and more recently, Twin Peaks. His TV show about a girl getting murdered has all the talk in 1990. Everyone wanted

His TV show about a girl getting murdered has all the talk in 1990. Everyone wanted an answer to the famous question “Who killed Laura Palmer.” However, after the grand reveal, the show got canceled and is only being brought back in 2017. Before that, Lynch worked on a Twin Peaks spin-off which would later be called Mulholland Dr. After being refused, Lynch decided that his pilot episode could become a movie. He cast Noami Watts as the lead and from there on only magic was created.

Luckily, The Criterion Collection was able to bring that magic back. The collection doesn’t dive into why the movie was made and what it represents. None of the extras have experts try to decode the bizarre mind of Lynch. He is very well known to keep his films ambiguous and let his audience decides what it all means.

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Criterion’s beautiful dreamy Blu-Ray cover

Criterion finds other things to discuss like how the actors felt while filming. Interviews with Lynch, Watts, Theroux, Harring, Director of Photography Peter Deming, composer Angelo Badalamenti, production designer Jack Fisk, and casting director Johanna Ray are fascinating in their own sense. They don’t try to explain what the meaning of the film, but how each of them contributed to and how they felt during filming.

The stand out of these interviews has to be Watts, who talks about her infamous masturbation scene. While admitting she didn’t want to partake in such action, Lynch helped her get through the scene and told her it was good for the movie. It was definitely worth it as Mulholland Drive continues to have a certain appeal. Heck, just a couple of months ago, it was named the Best Film of the 21st Century by BBC Culture.

It was definitely worth it as Mulholland Drive continues to shine both story-wise and aesthetically. Criterion keeps the essence of Lynch’s hazy, foggy visuals while totally revamping the picture to a crisp Blu-Ray quality.

Criterion understands Lynch’s movies as they never try to explain the weirdness and mystery surrounding his filmmaking. Instead, they augment the Lynchian experience and take you deeper into Lynch’s world. It’s like going on a spaceship when you have no idea where you’re going. The only difference is that for Criterion’s Mulholland Drive it totally works.

‘Doctor Strange’ is the trippiest Marvel movie yet – REVIEW

The Marvel Cinematic Universe just got a very strange change

Move over Scarlet Witch; there’s a new wizard in town, and his name is Doctor Steven Strange. He brings with him new destinations, never before seen universes and some visually stunning CGI work. While Doctor Strange continues with old grounds, there is an enrichment of the MCU. The final product is, however, still a Marvel movie filled with costly Marvel mistakes, but the changes prove to be a nice step forward.

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A neurosurgeon both charming and arrogant, named Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), lives life to the fullest. His arrogance leads him to a car crash which severely damages the nerves in his hands causing him to develop shaky hands. After the numerous attempts to recover, Strange decides to embark on a journey to Nepal.

There he meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a powerful and magical being, who shows him the way of magic. As Strange uncovers the power of the magic, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson) tries to destroy his plans using the forbidden dark magic. As worlds clash, Strange will soon find out about his true potential.

There isn’t any question that Doctor Strange’s dazzling visual effects are this movie’s strength. The buildings of New York bending and twisting is phenomenal work that aids the film with its flaws. The magic is also a great addition to the MCU. This mystical element added to the amazing fight sequences as well to the overall Marvel universe.

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Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton continue to be great actors. Their performances were both powerful and emotional. Cumberbatch is the star of this movie, and he drives it home. His character arc changes as he learns different information about chakras and energy. Swinton’s performance is excellent as well. While questions may have arisen about the whitewashing of Asian talent, Swinton delivers yet again an incredible performance to here diverse roles. She was fantastic, but that role could have gone to an Asian actor without any fuss.

Though, Doctor Strange isn’t without its Marvel tropes. The villain is completely forgettable, and the movie greatly underutilizes him. His fight sequences are nothing special, and he is only there to provide the film with a villain. Though not the first time Marvel has made this mistake, and it is time to call them out on it. Kaecillius falls yet again into the forgettable Marvel villains that you probably won’t remember in a week.

The strangest flaw is something that Marvel has had problems with sometimes. The comic relief in Doctor Strange comes in such awkward places. Sometimes, it hit, but other times it completely affected the tone of the movie. The poorly timed humor robbed some of the most powerful scenes in the film and what could have been pivotal scenes were sometimes crushed by a single misplaced joke.

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Doctor Strange does take a jab at the MCU formula that people grew tired of yet prove that there is still much more to do. However, it is a change of pace and a glimpse of what’s to come. The future Marvel films will surely adopt this mythology. Of all the gates they opened, who knows what’s next?

REVIEW: B+