Tag Archives: cinema

film review. brightburn

MOVIE: Brightburn

YEAR: 2019

DIRECTOR: David Yarovesky

WRITER: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn

MAIN CAST: Jackson A. Dunn, David Denman, Elizabeth BAnks

RUNNING TIME: 1hr 30min

I try and avoid movie trailers out of fear that they will spoil a film or take something away from it. Most of the time I feel like they show way too much information and as though they somehow force me to develop an opinion about a film before I have even seen it.

Brandon Breyer

Brightburn was one of those times I ended up seeing the trailer and although I wouldn’t necessarily say I developed an opinion about the film I did start thinking up questions about it and I was coming back to Superman every-time.

ooooo, I thought, interesting – my initial reaction to the first few seconds of the trailer. Then as it went on I began to cringe a little, ah I don’t know. I mean, a bad Superman? Is that where they’re going with this? We’ve seen Superman turn bad. Then again, we’ve never seen him start out bad. Ok – they’re either gona do this good or it’s gona be real bad.

I kept seeing odd buzz words around the film though: Horror, Gory, Bad seed, Evil Superhero. I was wondering, how dark is this gona be?

When I thought about a bad Superman, I couldn’t help going back to the 1983 Superman III starring Christopher Reeve. It’s the one where Superman splits into an evil version of himself after being exposed to synthetic kryptonite. He becomes a bit of horny, juvenile alcoholic. Sure some of the stuff he does is a bit bad, but considering the power he wields he doesn’t go that mental. This got me hoping Brightburn wasn’t just about a moody Mama’s boy going through puberty.

Superman and Clark Kent

To be fair, the trailer made it quite clear the little dude in this film was one step ahead of getting wasted, blowing out the Olympic Torch and straightening out the Leaning Tower of Pisa (Superman III). He is definitely a bit of a psycho, but how far was he really going to go? Was he just going to maim people? Or was this angelic looking kid going to just go to full on Killing sprees? I think there’s a few occasions in the DC comics where Superman goes a bit nuts and even starts killing members of the Justice League, so maybe he will go that far?

The Gunn brothers, Mark and Brian, that wrote the screenplay are adamant the film is not based on a ‘bad Superman’, but an already evil alien raised on earth. I don’t read about films until I’ve seen them so most of this I didn’t really pick up until afterward.

However, perhaps I should have observed that statement a little harder while I watched it. I got caught up on this whole Evil Superman parallel, that it was easy to only see the Superman element.

Yes! There’s bunch of references paying homage to Superman from the red cape to the laser beam eyes. Yes! Like the Superman back-story, a baby crash lands on a farm and Mr & Farmer decide to raise the baby as their own, but you can read more about all those on another site.

Forget for a minute that Brightburn had anything to do with Superman at all.

What got my skin crawling is what’s implied about Brandon’s backstory and what he’s going through. After much consideration, I think Brandon is less like Superman – and more like some killer Wasp-Bee alien, and here’s why.

To give that a little more context, I’m going to start from the scene in the school where Brandon talks about bees and wasps.

By the complex answer he gives his teacher when they’re learning about the Bees and the Wasps Brandon appears to be smarter than the average kid. The other children tease Brandon; he is clearly different to them and maybe they all sense that.

I don’t think this scene just makes a point about how smart Brandon is, or how the other kids in the class are bullying him. I think this scene is a big clue about why he landed on Earth and what makes this film stand away from Superman.

I’ll expand on what Brandon talks about to show where I’m coming from. Brandon says about the aggressive nature of wasps and how they don’t have the ability to create hives so they take them over by brute force. True Brood Wasps are insects that infiltrate host nests as larvae (like Brandon as a baby) and are raised by the adult hosts (like Tori and Kyle). Cuckoo Bumblebees do the same, but also release pheromones in order to slip past bee security and kill or subdue the queen of entire colonies and take them over, forcing the host worker-hive to feed their offspring.

I think showing him being bullied is by the other kids at school could also be seen as they are poking the wasp nest – so to speak but I won’t get carried away.

When Brandon wakes up in the middle of the night after a seizure, the hidden space-vessel he came in seems to have sent out psychic messages awakening his powers of strength, flight and speed (not to mention the laser eyes). Later in the film Brandon cracks the psychic code and realises its telling him to TAKE THE WORLD – which he seems to take to like a Cuckcoo Bee takes a colony.

Yeah, from here on in, Brandon starts displaying a whole load of manipulative and twisted behaviour that involves bloodshed and threats – but there’s a fair few indicators that what he’s been going through doesn’t just start after the seizure in bed.

Knowing that despite his innocent appearance, Brandon is not a real human child, Kyle points out the things he’s noticed as they have raised him.

Kyle and Tori discover some magazine clippings which aren’t just teenage boy spank-bank material. Beneath a few pictures of bikini models, there’s pictures and drawings of the anatomy of people. The notebook that he is always writing in is quite tatted and used up and when we see it later in the film, there’s a lot of disturbing content (even the logo he stamps everywhere is like a rudimentary bee or wasp stamp). It all suggests these are things that have been playing on his mind for a while. It’s not quite as simple as a Space-ship talking to him awakening some sudden urge to kill, it seems Brandon has been wondering what people look like from the inside-out, for a lot longer.

Does he want to know our anatomy so he can kill us easily? Does he want to lay eggs in our abdomen? Is he going to eat us when he is done? I mean, when he stuck his finger in the blood on his dying uncles face, I half expected him to lick it off!!

Ok I aren’t clutching at straws here – I can give this Bee-Wasp Alien theory a bit more traction.

Another part of the film that seems to back up the idea of Brandon infiltrating Earth to potentially colonise it like the Cuckoo Bee, is his interest in Caitlyn. Despite the fact that he crushes her hand, in some sort of controlling and manipulative effort he still wants to pursue her sexually. The reason I specifically say sexually, is because the first thing he does after Kyle ‘gives him the talk (about the birds and the bees‘) is stalk her in her bedroom. It’s also more carnal than it is romantic especially because he actually stalks her. Even after he breaks her hand he is still imposing. Has he intended her as his mate?

Ok so enough about that – one of thee main and most definitive reasons I think Brandon is a Wasp Monster… The insect-like hooded-mask he wears. I mean, come on, could you get more symbolic than that? He hovers like a wasp, he moves at speed like a wasp, he’s aggressive and parasitic and imposing – he even wears a wasp mask!!

So if I forget for a minute that the word Superman is even remotely related to this little monster, I become extremely creeped out. I reckon Brandon is more likely from a liege of Super Wasp Aliens that can morph into their hosts, permeate an entire planet and destroy it with no conscience.

If you think I’m totally off the mark then message me or comment. I’d love to hear it.

…anything but Superman related comparisons!

- Spoliers Alert -

film review. child’s play

MOVIE: Child’s Play

YEAR: 2019

DIRECTOR: Lars Klevberg

WRITER: Tyler Burton Smith

MAIN CAST: Gabriel Bateman, Mark Hamill, Aubry Plaza

RUNNING TIME: 1hr 30min

The year before I was born, Charles Lee Ray possessed a doll and began a murder rampage that lasted over 30 years-

Chucky and Andy

well he didn’t, ’cause Charles Lee Ray was a fictional character in a film called Child’s Play – but the Doll, Chucky was recognised by any kid born in the 90’s as the franchise kept pumping out horror films. We even saw Chucky get married and have a kid!

Ok, so by the time he had that kid, anyone who saw the original few movies was beginning to get a little bored (to put it nicely) and by the time Cult of Chucky came out, Chucky was nose-diving into box-office bomb-oblivion.

The other night I went to see a contemporary take on my favourite killer toy and I don’t know what I expected (I’d purposely not even read a synopsis on the new film), but I did not expect what I got.

I was sold. Reboots are risky business. You may have the die-hard fans of the originals who want scrutinise every frame for fault; pre-dispostioned to hate whatever comes onscreen, then they go off and spread their narrow opinions.

Well, other than being really really picky, I think for a reboot – Child’s Play 2019 is bang on the money.

Ok, so instead of a possessed doll, Child’s Play 2019 is something more like a killer toy version of Alexa. Buddi is an artificially intelligent Doll. Designed for the modern family, he syncs with all your Kaslan Products. He keeps an eye on your kids, remembers their favourite shows and he is the best friend every kid deserves to have (that’s the sale angle anyways).

Chucky Rebooted

Manufactured in a Vietnamese factory a disgruntled worker decides he’s going to switch off the safety protocols of a Buddi doll, before he throws himself out of a window.

After seeing the Buddi doll may be faulty, a shopper returns it to the store – where a single mum, to a kid called Andy, works. She takes Buddi home and the rest is history.

The best thing about a reboot is that it’s a new start to an already existing fictional universe. It gives other creative minds the opportunity to put their new stamp on an old idea.

One of my favourite things about this reboot is that it’s taken something implausible (voodoo and possession) and made it plausible (computers, internet, the cloud, artificial intelligence). The “fear of technology” isn’t a new concept when it comes to horror films, but it does help to draw you in when you can conceive the idea as a true possibility.

Lars brings the Chucky Franchise out of the Voodoo age and into the Digital Age. The kids have phones, the old lady across the hall can finally work Uber and drones are on sale at Zed Mart; If there’s a time to be scared of AI, the time is now.

Chucky and Andy

My second favourite thing about this movie is Andy and his mates. This kinda ties in with the 80’s theme of adventure nostalgia seen in the new IT film and Stranger Things the Netflix Series. People are mad for a bit of kids against the world. I thought the acting was brilliant and the dialogue and interaction with the kids, the adults and even Chucky was believable, engaging and funny. Quite a few times through the film I couldn’t help but think Chucky was the cutest! I even felt sad for Andy and Chucky when Falyn pulled the power source out of Chucky’s chest.

Pugg Falyn Andy Omar

I thought Lars did a smashing job of sharing out the credit while also making the new Child’s Play New. Not only were there a bunch of nods to the original Child’s Play but also to a whole other movie catalogue from around the same time.

From the very start, the original Orion logo in the opening credits was probably what had me bought and sold. I remember it vividly from all my favourite films when I was a little kid. I remember it at the start of Robocop and of course Lars even slotted a reference to that in too.

There’s a few little eggs for Child’s Play, the most obvious being the Doll, Andy, his (almost single) Mum and of course the whole thing gets started with a violent death on a stormy night.

Other acknowledgements are when Andy begins the Buddi set-up he tries to call the Doll Han-Solo. Mark Hamill is the voice of Chucky and played Luke Skywaker in the Star Wars films. Han Solo was the other main guy in Star Wars and Chucky just ends up naming himself completely ignoring the Han Solo suggestion.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a slasher movie from 1986. About this time, a whole host of slasher-gore films were beginning to pop up where comedy was a staple element. Seeing how everyone finds it hilarious to see Leatherface wearing a victims skin during a scene where Andy and his new mates are having a movie night, Chucky becomes kind of inspired by the violent scenes on-screen and decides to give it a go himself.

Leatherface

From 1988 – the year the original Child’s Play was released, Andy’s Bedroom has posters of Poltergeist III and Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Andy’s posters

Killer Klowns is another Horror-Comedy. Like in E.T the Extra Terrestrial, another 80’s movie, Chucky’s finger lights up when he is controlling various Kaslan products.

In the 90’s another movie franchise began called Leprechaun, about…. you guessed it, a Leprechaun. Only this Leprechaun is pure psycho killer. Like Child’s Play and Texas Horror, this too is riddled with funny scenes of death and violence. You can see the reference in the Zed-Mart toward the end of the film where there’s the Leprechaun version of the Buddi2 doll and the Pot of Gold accessories.

There’s a couple other eggs hidden in there but you should just have a crack at trying to see them yourself by watching it again.

I know I will be.

It’s the best reboot I’ve ever seen and I am already hoping there’s a sequel.

zero-nine-eight.0

Zero-nine-eight yanked down on the stiff metal handle of the giant metal door; it didn’t budge.

She pulled down on it with all her weight, then she jumped up and pushed down on it. Nothing.

Almost out of energy, she tugged hard and pulled down again, her skinny arms stretched upward as she hung from it and her bum grazed the floor. It wasn’t giving even slightly.

She looked about with a mix of fear and anger on her face. She had been running around in a labyrinth of corridors for what felt like hours and her bare feet were so cold they hurt.

There was a keypad too high up to reach next to the door but she didn’t know what she could do about that anyway, they always used a different number on the one in her room.

Brick walls lined the long corridors of concrete floors. There were three different kinds of lights; Long fluorescent strips in the middle of the ceiling which were off at the moment, small tinted red round ones on the wall about two meters apart, which were also off – finally, small white rectangle ones evenly spaced between the red ones, which were on. Most of them didn’t work and there wasn’t a great deal of light, but Zero-nine-eight could see there were no vents, no holes, no spaces to hide in or crawl through.

As she was about to head back the way she came, the hall lit up with the red lights which seemed to be swirling, followed by a shrill siren which sounded three times and stopped.

They were back.

Zero-nine-eight fell down, startled. She scrambled herself backwards into the corner next to the metal door. There was a light beeping noise followed by heavy metal grinding noise from behind the it and she saw the handle move downward. Frozen in the corner, the door swung open, trapping her in the space behind it as it opened slowly until wall stopped it. For the moment she was shielded from the those coming through the it.

“Lieutenants, round up Zero-nine-zero through to Zero-nine-nine”, boomed a voice.

“Yessir, Commander”, came two more voices in unison.

“Take them to the ship, but be discreet. There are a lot of people about this time of day. Use the Trojan.”

“On it Sir”, and that was it; the bright white fluorescent strip lights came on in the ceiling and the red swirling lights stopped. She heard footsteps heading away before hearing the beeping noises again and the door began to move closed.

It swung slowly and she crept around following it. She peered around but it was completely black. As the gap became smaller she gulped and taking a big breath back, she went through.

- Spoliers Alert -

film review. aladdin

MOVIE: Aladdin

YEAR: 2019

DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie

WRITER: John August & Guy Ritchie

MAIN CAST: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Merwan Kenzari

RUNNING TIME: 2hr 8min

So as far as I’m concerned, if Guy Ritchie wants to make more Musicals then I will back that situation 100%.

Aladdin follows the almost identical story-line of its 1992 cartoon original. Aladdin, a poor thief on the streets of Agrabah, meets Princess Jasmine and falls in love with her. It’s not until Aladdin finds a magical Lamp and a Genie within, that he can become a Prince and be worthy of her. Of course, an evil sorcerer threatens all of these wonderful romantic plans so it is up to Aladdin, his monkey-friend Abu, a loyal magic Carpet and Aladdin’s Genie to save them all.

Jafar Genie Aladdin Jasmine Daliah

As for all things technical; when it comes to the way this film is shot, in all it’s bright and beautiful glory, I was wide-eyed and taken in. I have always enjoyed Ritchie’s style of camerawork and editing, and this film is different from his usual grit. It’s vivid and colourful from start to finish, mimicking the rich vibrancy of the cartoon. Compared to Live-Action, there can be a lot of unnatural manoeuvrability with camerawork and lighting in a cartoon, so Ritchie’s style is a perfect match since Disney clearly wanted a ‘live-animation’ equivalent of the Original.

The setting of the City and the Palace is almost stage-like, which is a common design for Musical Movies because they’re built for ease of dancing and movement (not only from the actors but the set and props too). It’s a layout which adds to the feel of animation because of how it moves in the background to make way for the action of the characters.

Although I can understand the stage-like layout of the film, despite the controversy attached to the place, props and detail (more on that soon), I was really disappointed in the costume designs. They were very Disneyland-esque and I won’t be surprised if they are on mass production for the staff in theme parks, or when identical outfits are flying out of Disney stores the world over.

From late last year, I heard a lot of dubious comments and opinions from people when it was announced that there would be a Live-Action Aladdin, and of course there were going to be; an unknown fact about Disney’s original Aladdin cartoon, was that it had a bit of bad press back in the day when it sparked racial controversy. It may have claimed more than a whopping $500 million at the Box Office, but between racist lyrics in the songs to the prejudice depiction of the antagonist characters, it really hit a nerve with Middle Eastern and North African audiences, and rightly so.

A real problem with blockbuster movies and the size of the audience they command (especially in a young audience, like Aladdin), is that prejudice representations of any creed or cultures leave a real-world impression ( to be fair, any negative stereotypes perpetuate adverse impressions on races, sexes, sexual orientations, religions… the list goes on). In some ways I see it as borderline irresponsible of film-makers, when its possible their audience could be naive enough to take these depictions seriously.

Characters and Lyrics aside (because Ritchie has changed them somewhat), Orientalism is the main perpetrator casting a shadow over both Aladdin movies.

“Orientalism” is a way of seeing that imagines, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts differences of Arab peoples and cultures as compared to that of Europe and the U.S. It often involves seeing Arab culture as exotic, backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous.

Orientalism is something which has grown into a monster in terms of how the western world seem to imagine the Eastern world. It has been growing since the late 1800’s in things like art and stories which have almost always come from an outsiders perspective opposed to someone with knowledge and experience of actual communities and their cultures, traditions or beliefs.

Aladdin is a film that cemented Orientalism into the western perception far before Ritchie got his hands onto it. Despite how well I think Guy Ritchie has done creating a film with colour, more in-depth character development (compared to the cartoon) and humour (personally, I don’t think Will Smith had some bad lines); I think he still managed to ignore most of the free lessons critics and advocacy groups have expressed about the problems in the original.

Although there’s a lot of improvement in the characters (thankfully the Sultan isn’t a babbling man-baby and the Genie, for all his power, wants to go on a date), the costumes make the actors look like life-sized dolls and the whole city design from the Palace to the River to the Market is make-belief of all the pretty things from Asia and North Africa. There is no real depth, and for all the talk about ‘the people’ by Princess Jasmine, the film has almost nothing to do with them.

This film could be set anywhere, and its that transparency that acts as an affront to Middle Eastern and African culture insulted by the original cartoon. Or, perhaps the point was since Aladdin comes from a mishmash of cultures it is set in a place-less place; I aren’t sure that is good enough, maybe it should have been set in the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, Washington DC or on Route 66 if that was the case, and Disney should not make a culturally contraversial film if they aren’t going to do their utmost to respect and teach about the culture they’re portraying.

As it stands, on the surface, Ritchie simply made the 1992 Aladdin into a Live-Action Movie and not a lot more.

That’s not to say I didn’t like it though.

- Spoliers Alert -

film review. rim of the world

MOVIE: Rim of the World

YEAR: 2019

DIRECTOR: McG

WRITER: Zack Stentz

MAIN CHARACTERS: Jack Gore, Miya Cech, Benjamin Flores Jr., Alessio Scalzotto

RUNNING TIME: 1hr 38min

What a treat of a film this turned out to be.

Rim of the World: Dariush, Zhenzhen, Alex, Gabriel

Rim of the World is about four totally different kids that meet at a summer camp. Abandoned by the adults, it’s up to Alex, Dariush, Zhenzhen and Gabriel to save the world when Aliens invade.

If you watch it close enough you will see that is only one part of what this movie has to offer; there are layers, upon layers, upon layers to this film.

It is stuffed to the ‘rim’ of movie references from the last thirty-odd years making it a relatable, fun flick for adults and kids alike. It’s a mix of Sci-Fi, Horror, Adventure and Comedy genres, and it has absolutely no qualms with throwing every stereotype in the book into the mix.

Most recently audiences have been going mad for the likes of Stranger Things and IT for their nostalgic throwback to the Western World’s most favoured Adventure blockbusters of the last few decades. Movies like ET, Goonies and Breakfast Club were the backbone of Generation X. Unlike Stranger things and IT, Rim of the World is set in the present, but with the same sort of adventure format. Generation Z benefits from references of movies like Gladiator and Rush Hour and then more recently the Millennials will be more familiar with Wolverine and John Wick.

Using the countless politically incorrect inferences we have all grown up on to pack a funny punch; filmmakers have cleverly highlighted contentious issues, instead of hiding them beneath the surface as a cheap gag trick. The main clue that this film is openly commenting on politically charged stereotypes or agendas is when Carl & Logan, the Camp Leaders (who are also “the black men on Campus”) are sitting about the campfire talking about Toy Story 3. It’s not to say that Carl & Logan’s interpretation of Toy Story 3 is true (“the ruling class justification for the inferior conditions of the working class”), but it is how the filmmakers say to the audience, “yes, films are meant to talked about; yes, they have hidden meanings and agendas – including this film; and yes, we know what we are doing – that’s the point”.

I won’t list all of the film references in the movie, I am sure there are a tonne of websites that’ve already made it their mission to; besides, spotting them yourself is part of the fun because for many of them it’s just one line of dialogue or a prop or special effect that’s the reference instead of the actual name of the film.

What I think is so important to take away from the film is its coming of age theme and messages.

The guy that wrote the film, Zack, has mentioned in a few interviews about the emotional importance of the films he grew up on in the 80’s and the lessons they taught him and millions of others. They relied a lot on how kids in the audience identified with what the characters are going through. Childhood traumas like bullying, poverty, grief, peer-pressure or some sort of in-house/domestic abuse are usually used as part of the background info in most of the main character arcs. In Rim of the World, it’s all about abandonment. Alex’s Father died traumatically in front of him, Dariush’s Father is going to Jail, Gabriel’s Father leaves when he’s Ten and Zhenzhen is an orphan – Not to mention they’re all left alone by the ‘adult camp leaders’ when the whole movie kicks off.

Generally the plot of the all these Generation X movies features a Headmaster or Evil Grown-up, a Monster, or in this case Alien, which acts as the metaphor for the main characters’ trauma and how they overcome it is always based on how they pull together and ‘Stand By’ each other; it’s the lessons they learn through their friendship that gives them strength, not just in the immediate battle, but also the one they are fighting at home or school.

Rim of the World packs a LOT into an hour and half. I could mention that I thought the special effects were kind of wooden and I could say the introduction of the characters and even some of the interaction and dialogue sometimes felt awkward and unnatural and I don’t think many would disagree. However, the fact that it’s full of hints and clichés from the last forty years makes me thinks all of this part of its purposeful charm.

Overall it does well to be its own unique take on western pop-culture. It brings together the last three generations of audiences in a hilarious, albeit crude and obvious, complement of one-liners, shoddy CGI explosions and an evil looking monster while also facing the crushing trauma of family torment with your best mates at your side.

Nice one Zack.