Saturday, December 15, 2018

Some Reasons Why 2018 Wasn't A Complete Waste

In and out of Hollywood, 2018 had a lot going on, sometimes a little too many unbelievable and deplorable headlines to fully comprehend. But that's what some saving graces are for: to keep your head above water when you think you could lose your sanity. There's a few moments that stand out at the top of my list for making this hectic year worth it and made me feel #BLESSED.

This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead. 


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Avengers: Endgame (2019) Trailer Reaction

The Avengers taught us love. The Avengers: Age of Ultron taught us patience. Avengers: Infinity War taught us pain. What are we going to learn from Avengers: Endgame? Probably, how to file a class-action lawsuit against Kevin Feige for our collective therapy bills.

Marvel dropped us the gift that everybody and nobody wanted: the new trailer for the next Avengers film. So let's check it out! This post definitely contains spoilers.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Annihilation (2018) Is One Of The Years Underrated Sci-Fi Flicks

We need more sci-fi movies with women. I’ll point you to director Alex Garland’s Annihilation as one of the most recent reasons why. Despite having a familiar plot of an isolated team searching an almost alien-like treacherous land, the film hypnotizes you with its bizarre world and the mystery of unanswered questions. The movie's cast, cinematography, and world-building is satisfying enough on its own with what it gives to the story but also leaves you wanting more.

Based on the trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, a mysterious translucent orb looms over Area X. No one knows how or why it came to fruition, just that its electromagnetic power slowly absorbs everything in its wake. Anything or anyone that crosses the Shimmer’s threshold is never to be seen or heard from again. That is until cellular-biology professor Lena (Natalie Portman) is inexplicably reunited with her husband (Oscar Isaac), a soldier who entered the Shimmer as part of a military operation and was the only survivor to come out alive but suffering ill effects from being inside. Curious to venture into the heart of the orb and find out what happens inside, Lena and four other women - psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), paramedic Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), anthropologist Cass Shepphard (Tuva Novotny) and physicist Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson) - make one last dangerous trek searching for answers.

On the surface level, there isn’t a lot about Annihilation that’s unique from many other sci-fi counterparts. The story is something that we’ve seen before: a uniquely qualified group of individuals enter an unknown world and nothing can prepare for them for what they’re about to encounter. We’re left with various questions about what happened, and the suspense is left up to both the cast of characters and the environment (which becomes a character on its own) to tease us with what happened: Were the  previous military groups driven crazy and murdered each other? Did something else kill them - how? What? The longer Lena’s squadron spends in the orb, their doubts and terror about the environment start tipping the scale of how they struggle to trust each other and the deathly situation that they’re in.

What lies underneath the surface of the film is how the story and direction is gorgeously haunting. The Shimmer's overgrown forests and peaceful isolation feels like something out of a fairytale. But lurking behind the illusion of its dream-like atmosphere are changes that the team could never imagine: People become one with the landscape, animals transform into terrifying beasts, and the fact that nobody can really live within its translucent walls increases any sense of seeing civilization again. As Lena and her comrades follow its trail of breadcrumbs about the military units that came before them, their resolve starts to crumble – there really is no such thing as going back. The Shimmer is filled with tension and wonder about the unknown, a lingering suspicion about what will happen next; it has a foreboding peacefulness to it that’s matched by violence; life equals death; destruction breeds creation. The longer you spend with Lena and the group, the more you want to know answers too, and to see who might survive, die, or how the Shimmer changes them.

The film is very much an ensemble piece. Portman’s career over the past decade has truly flourished, churning out all kinds of complex performances from Black Swan to Jackie. As Lena, she offers a formidable leader to the group and someone to anchor the story to as she tries to navigate what’s going on around her – she’s vulnerable, smart, and resilient. The rest of the characters could come across as a little trope-ish compared to similar action / sci-fi movies, but they create a tight camaraderie between them that makes their tentative unity and division almost palpable. It’s not hard to fall in love with the film’s overall aesthetic, to be honest: Five women walking into the Shimmer ready to get answers and kick ass.

Written and directed by Alex Garland, Annihilation is only the first step in a trilogy, and unfortunately, he only had the intention of making the first one. When he started the project, the author's manuscript was just coming together, and Garland scraped the series' ideas together to form his own vision - ironically, just like The Shimmer. His film's world-building asks big questions, and the road to answering them is chilling and unexpected. Annihilation works well enough as a stand-alone, but knowing what happens next would’ve been interesting for the rest of the trilogy to be made and explore. There’s honestly nothing wrong with Garland's film, except the shame of wanting more and being forced to wait for another director to take the series on again. One can only hope that this breeds similar yet different sci-films in the future.

Rating: ★★
Have you seen Annihilation? What did you think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

(Spoiler-Free) Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Review
Warner Bros Studios Pictures
The importance of family, power of love, good vs evil – the Harry Potter series was a master at being a universal phenomenon. No matter where you came from or how you found the story, author J.K. Rowling offered a doorway into storytelling as easy as flicking your wand and make-believing you were a witch or wizard on your way to exploring her wizarding world. Ten years after her first series ended, and the start of a new chapter has begun, it's a little clearer with the Fantastic Beasts series that the story we loved is not as accessible as it used to be - whether you’re a die-hard fan of the series already or just curious about the franchise's future.

Following Newt on his adventures, the second Fantastic Beasts film travels to the Paris wizarding world where Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) promises freedom for his growing, loyal band of followers who want to be liberated from the shadows of the No-Maj/Muggle world. In trying to stop his rise to power, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) requests the help of his former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). Meeting in the middle are both foes and friends alike - Tina Goldstein (Katharine Waterston), Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), Leta Lestrange (Ezra Miller), Nagini (Claudia Kim), and Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner) – who called to decide which side they are on.

To say the least, there’s a lot going on in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Where the previous film Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was a mere appetizer, its follow-up is the meaty hook of what’s ahead. With three more installments on the way, Rowling as screenwriter employs all the world-building and story-development she has at her disposal– introducing new characters, uniting or pitting familiar faces against each other, and trying to connect her novels to this other set of adventures. Her revered imagination and ability to weave her ideas together are the film’s best and worst assets. 

To the sequel’s long-awaited credit, there’s no way that you can’t not feel like this film gives you your fill of exploring the wizarding world. From returning to Hogwarts to seeing new avenues of the French wizarding world, every stone feels unturned as the intricacies of the impending wizarding war connects to all of the characters’ journeys and motivations. Unlike any of the Harry Potter films he’s directed before, David Yates sheds the constricted nature of his previous installments from Order of the Phoenix and beyond to make this film as gorgeously grim as it can be. Yates and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot create fresh angles of the world we love that we haven’t seen before. With every fresh installment of the phenomenon, the escapism gets better and better from James Newton Howard’s ominous score to the glorious production design by Stuart Craig. Every time you think you’ve seen what this series has to offer, there’s more around the corner - that reason alone is what keeps fans coming back for more.

Story-wise, the film also has a lot of intricate moving parts with the characters and doesn't shy away from making this the darkest entry in the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchise. Primarily, because of Grindelwald. Similar to Voldemort, he is a grave threat against the wizarding world, a master behind the curtain pulling all of the strings. The entire ensemble is in one way or another an outsider- they don’t fit in with their peers or society. Some are searching for their long-lost identity and validation (Credence, Leta, Nagini); others have weaknesses that can be exploited by Grindelwald or help them take a stronger stance against him (Newt, Tina, Queenie, Jacob, Theseus, Yusaf). And because of that, we truly get a  sense of how powerful he is by how he uses other characters as a pawn for his vision. As moviegoers, we're left to watch what Grindelwald is capable of, and root that our favorites don't fall into his cat-and-mouse schemes. As much as the film is darker in its tone and explores human nature more, there's also a lot of lightness to be adventurous, romantic, and charming. Unlike Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, this installment has a better balance of flipping between both styles. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

5 Movies To Watch Out For This Holiday Season

The holiday season is one of the biggest times of the year to spend time with family and go to the movies. From traditional feel-good fare to superheroes and surviving the end of the world, this year, perhaps more than any other, is bringing a big variety of films to enjoy. There are some awesome movies coming out this holiday season that are definitely on my radar, and might be on yours too. Here are five movies to watch out for in December. Which ones are you most excited to see? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Doctor Who Season 11: "Arachnids in the UK" and "The Tsuranga Conundrum"

What happens when the crew finally go home after traveling time and space? Will the adventures be a good escape for the trio - Graham, Ryan, and Yaz - or prove to be a little too much? Catching up with the new season, here are my thoughts on the Doctor's travels so far in the fourth episode Arachnids in the UK and the fifth episode The Tsuranga Conundrum. This week's recap is a bit back-to-back, so hope you enjoy! Spoilers are behind this cut - you've been warned! What did you think of these episodes? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, November 9, 2018

5 Ways to Recover When Your Favorite Show Ruins Everything

Sometimes we love a television show or fandom too much to let it go. Maybe the writing or direction declines but we hold on to see if it gets better...or out of respect for the actors we love, we want to see how their characters' arcs turn out. And, suddenly, or tortuously, the end of a series comes along and we're feel confused about where it all went wrong; tricked because the writers took stories in a completely different direction than what they had set up; robbed of having a satisfactory ending to what was a truly brilliant beginning. I've been there before over and over again, where I try to give a show every benefit of the doubt - Hello, Once Upon A TimeThe Walking DeadMad Men, Castle, The X-Files - until I just inevitably accept that my favorite show ruined everything.

When a fandom takes a turn for the worst from character arcs to possible plots, it's quite the grieving process when it all goes downhill. Yes, I said grieving process because there's a big loss when a show fails to show up for you the way you supported it for over five, or even ten years. Fortunately, there's a small bit of light at the end of the tunnel, a little survival guide you can use to recover when your favorite fandom is truly a life ruiner. Well, here some things that I like to do and hope they help you out and enjoy! Has a show ever ruined everything for you and you still feel the effects years later? Let me know in the comments!