Aquaman Review

Director: James Wan

Cast: Jason Mamoa, Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Dolph Lundgren, Patrick Wilson, Temuera Morrison

Runtime: 2hrs 23min Rated PG-13

Release date 12/21/18

Watch the trailer

As a card carrying DC fanboy, I’ve been anxiously awaiting Aquaman, hopeful that it would be a home run for my favorite comic publishing house. The DC cinematic universe has been on shaky ground basically since it first began with Man of Steel in 2013. I have honestly enjoyed most of the films released, but Warner Bros just hasn’t been able to capture the hearts of the masses in a way that comes close to competing with Marvel.


Now, multiple rumors and reports that the studio may have officially killed the cinematic universe in its present form have left the future in question. Unfortunately, it seems like Warner Bros wants to continue making solo films, but is reluctant to make any promises towards continuing a shared universe of any kind for the time being.

However a big reason I was hopeful for Aquaman was the movie has had a lot of positive buzz from early screenings. If nothing else mobs of drooling women looking to stare at a shirtless Jason Mamoa for 2 hrs will hopefully help drive the box office numbers up. I don’t blame them at all…I get it. He’s dreamy…whatever.

Hopefully though, if the studio can get a couple wins under their belt like Wonder Woman, maybe they’ll put another Justice League movie back on the table down the road. They just desperately need a solid plan, take their time, and stick with it.

I got a chance to see the film about a week early, thanks to my incredible pregnant wife who saw the tickets go on sale through an Amazon Prime deal in the middle of the night while she couldn’t sleep. Yes, she is one of those drooling women I just mentioned, but I like to tell myself she bought the tickets thinking of me as well .

What you should know before watching Aquaman.

How the overall public will react to the movie remains to be seen, but I really had a fun time and enjoyed the heck out of Aquaman. It’s not a perfect film, but it is an entertaining over the top, fantasy adventure epic that is a worthy counterpart to 2017’s Wonder Woman.

I’ve seen people online trying to rank or compare these two solo films and now having seen both I don’t think that’s necessarily fair. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are polar opposite films that will resonate with people differently, depending on what they are looking for in a movie. I put them on equal footing; each for their own charm they bring. I will say though that I definitely had more fun watching Aquaman than I did Justice League.


To make sure you go into Aquaman with the proper mindset, make sure to check reality at the theater door. This movie is pure escapism with ancient under water civilizations and creatures who do fantastic things. I know that may be obvious from the trailer, but movie goers are used to Marvel heavily grounding most of their heroes in reality to make them relatable to the average Joe. DC usually takes the opposite approach and Aquaman is prime example.

This feels more like a comic book story with all the stereotypical comic book troupes you can imagine. That isn’t a bad thing; because frankly I don’t want all of my superhero movies to be exactly the same. Sometimes I want to watch a superhero figure out how he’s going to juggle paying his bills and fighting crime, but other times I’m just in the mood to watch Khal Drogo ride a giant seahorse into battle and kick some underwater ass.

While there are still some noticeable differences, Warner Bros has definitively changed the tone of their superhero films since Batman v. Superman, inching as close as possible to the lighthearted Marvel brand. Aquaman feels even lighter in tone than Justice League but still maintains a good balance of dramatic and comedic moments that I think more people will respond positively to.

Mamoa’s Arthur is quite different from the comics; with a personality closer to a surfer, bar hopping, biker bro than a royal king of the seven seas. He also has several one liners that are somewhat reminiscent of a Schwarzenegger movie; most are corny or only funny because of how lame they are such as the “permission to come aboard?” line from the trailer. That line has to win the award for most shameless double entendre in a comic book film.


Many of the film’s dramatic moments work but some are pushed so far over the top that I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness. For example, you can tell that director James Wan really likes to use slow motion; it is used entirely too much throughout the movie. Often times you can tell the movie is trying to use slow motion to make a particular shot more dramatic, but it only succeeds in making it so ridiculously campy that you can’t help but laugh.

Another minor issue is the pacing of the movie and how it incorporates some of the flashback scenes near the beginning is a bit jarring. It’s a bit confusing how Arthur is trained by  Willem Dafoe’s character when he’s clearly not allowed to have contact with Atlantis. Eventually enough scenes go by where you finally piece together that he’s been sneaking to the surface to train Arthur, but it’s just poorly communicated.

The sights and sounds of Aquaman.

Visually, the movie looks incredible and reminds me of an underwater version of Avatar in many ways. Colors are bright and varied and your eyes constantly roam the screen trying to take in all the details. Yes, the movie is about 90% CGI, which may be a turnoff to some, but it’s done well and there’s honestly just no way to do this type of movie with practical effects.

The most interesting visual elements are seeing how underwater animals have been adapted into mounts for the different armies to ride. It was an interesting mix of traditional animals such as seahorses and sharks along with more fictional creatures.

One effect that is slightly annoying is whenever someone talks underwater; the voice has a sort of muffled, distorted sound. I get why they did it, and hearing it sounds cool in theory, but it also made it hard to catch what people are saying at times. This is especially true for Patrick Wilson’s Ocean Master who has the most Shakespearean lines out of anyone by far. I can appreciate the “realism” of what talking underwater sounds like but in a movie that takes so many liberties with reality I don’t think it was necessary or maybe could have had a little less of a distortion.

The movie does a decent job “de-aging” a few of the characters for flashback scenes. I think Marvel has done a slightly better job using the technology, but it’s still very believable here.

The fight scenes look great and are convincing, especially the minimal CGI fights that take place on land. The movie does a great job of mixing CGI with practical that makes for some great visuals you might see in a video game or comic book. I also enjoyed how many of the scenes zoom out and pan around to let you see all the action in a single shot. There’s some particular scenes in Italy that come to mind that were really fun to watch.

I was pleasantly surprised at how comic book accurate the costumes were in the movie, especially Black Manta. That guy has a gigantic helmet in the comics and it’s spot on here. The movie hilariously tries to hint at a plausible reason as to why the helmet is so big, however the more you think about it, the less sense it makes. It doesn’t matter the reason though; I’m glad they kept the designs as faithful to the comics as they did. Hinted in the trailer, we also get to see Aquaman’s traditional orange and green armor towards the end and it looks fantastic. I’m sure they will change it, but I’d be happy if he kept this look for future films.

Check out pics of the costumes on screen vs how they look in the comics:











The music score throughout the movie was excellent and paired well with the scenes. However, there’s a couple times where artist recorded songs are mixed in, such as a weird version of Toto’s Africa by Pitbull and it just comes across as silly and forced. You can tell these songs are only in the movie because they were required to be fit in somewhere.

Casting

The casting choices were all excellent. I can’t think of anyone that felt out of place or stands out as a poor choice. The only performance that was borderline for me was Yahya Abdul-Mateen as Black Manta. It wasn’t a horrible performance, he was just playing a very 1 dimensional comic book villian who did comic book villain things. His killer Black Manta suit though more than makes up for it though.

Jason Mamoa is without a doubt the best choice to play Arthur and exactly what the character needed to go from the most “useless” Justice League member to a bad ass warrior king.

I liked Amber Heard’s performance as Mera. She looks spot on with the comics as already mentioned; the only slight negative is her red hair is very obviously a wig; it could have been done better. I can get past that though (wink wink). Dolph Lundgren also did a great job as Mera’s dad, King Nereus.

Patrick Wilson carried himself well as the dick step brother villian Ocean Master and Nicole Kidman was a nice surprise as Arthur’s mom Queen Atlanna.

On a side note, it’s funny to me how many times in Marvel movies the villains don’t go by their comic book names or don’t really talk about it. However 9 times out of 10 in a DC movie you can bet the villain is going to tell you their name: “Now I’m (dramatic pause) BLACK MANTA” or “call me (more dramatic pause) OCEAN MASTER.” The only thing missing in these moments is the dramatic music afterwards “dun dun DUUUN.” I think it’s ridiculous and corny and I love it.

The after credits scene is “meh.”

There is one mid credits scene, and while it does hint at the possibility of a sequel, there is absolutely no mention of anyone outside of Aquaman’s story. Actually, the only mention to anything in the entire movie is a quick mention of Steppenwolf at the beginning of the film.

The credits scene is fine and I won’t spoil it but it’s difficult not to be disappointed that they wasted such a great opportunity to further tease the “Legion of Doom” angle we saw at the end of Justice League. I really wanted to see something along the lines of Lex Luthor and Deathstroke meeting Black Manta and welcoming him into the fold.

Having the individual villains of each Justice League member slowly band together to form their own league over the course of multiple solo movies is not only a fantastic idea, it’s also one of the few plot ideas Marvel hasn’t brought to their cinematic universe yet and would give them the edge they’ve been looking for. It’s honestly further proof the Warner Bros execs have no idea what they are doing with the DC brand and are sadly still trying to piece together a game plan.

Final Verdict

Aquaman is a flawed but entertaining superhero fantasy adventure. This is a visually stunning popcorn movie where you can enjoy the ride as long as you take it for what it is and not over analyze its flaws. Most notably are the times the movie takes itself so seriously it crosses over into unitentional comedy. At the end of the day, this is a fun comic book movie that Warner Bros will hopefully be able to count as a successful step to getting the DC cinematic Universe back on its feet.


Cinematic Quality: 3.5 out of 5

Fun Factor: 4.5 out of 5

Worth the price of admission: 3.5 out of 5

Re-watch Value: 4 out of 5

Overall Score: 3.8 Aqua-bro’s out of 5



Avengers Endgame Trailer Breakdown

First and last spoiler warning. I have written this post assuming that everyone is caught up on all  previous Marvel movies so I decided not to worry about mentioning spoilers.

The wait has been excruciating, but the Avengers 4 trailer is finally here…and it doesn’t disappoint. I’ve watched this thing more times than I care to admit today and thought I would break down everything I saw in the trailer.

Watch the trailer here!

You know it’s a big deal when a trailer for a superhero movie doesn’t show an ounce of action and still breaks the internet. That’s the hold that Marvel has over socirty right now, and I love it. Literally every single shot is someone standing, sitting, and/or talking. 

We all know that there will at least be one more main trailer to get everyone hyped up before release, but I hope it’s a small one. I like the amount of story that’s revealed in this trailer – enough to make you excited but not enough to spoil the details of the overall plot.

It’s also worth noting that the clips we’ve seen in the trailer could be different from what we’ll see in the final film. Remember how the Infinity War trailers showed Hulk running with the rest of the Avengers in Wakanda? Yeah that never happened.  

Let me know if there’s anything else you spotted that I missed or if you have any theories on what will take place. Ok let’s get to it.

Tony is in trouble.

The trailer opens with Tony drifting in space on his last leg. He appears to be in the Guardian’s ship, presumably with Nebula as well since they were the only heroes on Titan to survive Thanos’ finger snap. Tony records a final message for Pepper, but she could very well not be alive to listen to it…we don’t know yet.

The duo are undoubtedly trying to get back to a familiar corner of the galaxy, but have run out of fuel, food, and water and are only hours away from certain death. There’s no way though that this is how Tony’s story is going to end, especially if you’ve been paying attention to all the set photos that have leaked. I’m confident they’ll be rescued at some point, the only question is by who?

Scarecrow Thanos is a nice comic reference.

Next is a shot of Thanos’ armor hung up as a scarecrow in a field. This is a great homage to a well known moment from the comics. While it plays out a bit different in the cinematic universe the same idea applies. Thanos turns his armor into a scarecrow now that he has finished his “humanitarian” work of balancing the universe and is living life as a simple farmer. We also get a quick shot of him walking through some vegetation and his gauntlet arm still looks banged up good.

Cap is back to a familiar look – but why?

The first thing that is noticeable about Cap in this trailer is he’s once again clean shaven and has gone back to wearing his uniform from Winter Soldier. Cap is of course free to wear whichever star spangled costume he wants. However, there’s really no reason that makes sense as to why he would go back to this specific look, especially since this is what he wore while he was working with SHIELD. 

This along with leaked set photos adds fuel to a popular theory that there will be some amount of time travel involved in Endgame to bring down Thanos and correct everything he wrecked. I absolutely love this idea and hope it’s true. There’s another reason it could be true a little further down. Keep reading.

Clint lives! But looks very different now.

Hawkeye was one of 2 Avengers noticeably absent from Infinity War. Ant-man and the Wasp revealed that Scott Lang had been on house arrest learning magic tricks and playing the drums, but we still hadn’t seen anything regarding Clint except for a brief mention that he had “retired” since the events of Civil War.

This trailer finally gives us our first official clue into what’s happened to him. Clint has a brand new look and appears to have gone down a darker road since the last time we saw him. He also seems to be half way across the globe hunting criminals and not taking prisoners. 

All of this confirms that Clint has taken on the identity of Ronin, an alias multiple people including Clint have used in the comics. Why he’s taken on this persona is up for debate still, however the most likely theory is that Clint’s wife and kids were all incinerated in the snap which would have been enough to send anyone over the edge. Seriously, his family seemed really nice! Now with nothing left to lose, Clint has quite literally taken on the meaning of his alias, Ronin and become a warrior with no master.

Avengers mourn those lost at the end of Infinity War. 

We see a couple seconds of the remaining Avengers going through a list of the presumed dead. Shuri, Scott, and Peter Parker are each shown. We know Peter is gone and Scott is alive but the jury is still out on Black Panther’s genius kid sister. I’m rooting for her to still be alive and would honestly love to see her taking on the mantle of Black Panther in T’Challa’s absence. 

The end of the trailer is a funny bit where Scott arrives at Avengers HQ in his van; revealing to the Avengers he is in fact alive. 2 things are very important to keep in mind about Scott’s van that we learned at the end of Ant-man and the Wasp.

First there’s a miniaturized quantum tunnel that has been retro fitted into the back. This essentially is a mobile gateway into the Quantum Realm.

2nd, Hope’s mom warns Scott about the dangers of getting sucked into a “time vortex.” Remember that theory earlier on time travel? The Avengers could easily find a fake science way to harness the power of a time vortex to travel back in time to stop Thanos. Take that time stone. 

That snazzy new title: Endgame. 

“Endgame” was rumored to be the title of the movie for a while now, and it’s fitting for a couple reasons. 

First, it’s a direct reference to the comment Dr Strange made at the end of Infinity War. Strange looked into the future and saw that out of the 14,000,605 possible scenarios facing Thanos, there was only 1 where the Avengers ultimately won. While things seem bleak right now, it will undoubtedly be revealed at some point that the heroes are still in that lone scenario and this is why Strange said:

The word end or endgame has been said before in previous Avengers films also, both times in Age of Ultron:

It’s interesting as a character how quickly Tony is ready to accept “the end,” and more so that he is the one chiefly responsible for causing it. He’s been doing this throughout the franchise and will most likely come to a head here.

Well that’s it for now! Let me know how excited you are for the movie and what you thought of the trailer!

Avengers: Endgame will release April 26th!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review

Director: David Yates 

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Jude Law, Alison Sudol, Zoe Kravitz, 

Runtime: 2 hrs 13 mins Rated: PG-13

Watch the trailer here

Crimes of Grendelwald is the next installment in the Fantastic Beasts corner of the Potterverse, and continues the adventures of “magizoologist” Newt Scamander during the 1920s as the sinister Gellert Grendelwald rises to the height of his power. 

The Story – Not the film for newbies to jump on. 

First and foremost if you’re new to J. K. Rowling’s wizarding world, this is frankly not a good movie to start watching. The story picks up after the events of the last movie and absolutely no time is wasted on recapping what has transpired so far. I am glad that my wife and I decided to re-watch the previous movie a couple nights earlier and recommend it as it definitely helped us stay on track with the sequel.

In addition to no summary, this movie makes enough references from previous Harry Potter movies to fill the Room of Requirement – see what I did there? So while it’s not required to enjoy the movie, I would say that it’s at least a good idea to have seen the Harry Potter films in order to get the most out of the Fantastic Beasts sequels – especially this one. 

The story itself is entertaining, however you should be aware going in that it does move a bit slow through several sections. That’s not to say there isn’t a fair share of action, because there definitely is. The movie kicks off with a great action scene. However, there is a lot of exposition and dialogue through out the movie as well. I felt it was interesting and worked well, but not everyone wants that in a movie so just be aware. You will need to pay attention.

The reason for the slower burn is due most likely to the fact that Rowling is writing the screenplay for each film since there aren’t already published books to draw from. I think it’s awesome she’s able to do this, but when you have a writer who’s accustomed to telling a story over the course of an entire novel having to shrink that to a screen play for a 2 and 1/2 hour movie, it’s inevitable that it will feel more like watching a visual novel at times. 

The movie isn’t perfect – but don’t let that spoil the fun. 

One of the big criticisms for this film I’ve seen is that it creates multiple plot holes and timeline blunders as it seeks to expand and give depth to the universe. Most are fair issues, while others do seem more like the disappointed grumblings of super fans. It reminds me, on a much smaller scale, of the controversy that recently rocked the Star Wars fandom with the release of The Last Jedi.

When any universe is as beloved as giants like Harry Potter, Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, it’s going to get held to a higher standard by its fans. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact it serves to keep pressure on the studios to continue making quality films.

However, the downside is that a fan’s expectations can also make it far more difficult to enjoy a perfectly good movie. It happens all the time. Fans envision what they want to happen in a movie before even seeing it. When those expectations aren’t met people start feeling let down or even cheated out of an experience they feel they deserve. The problem is, there are millions of fans associated with each of these properties; each with oftentimes drastically different expectations for how the franchise should continue. There is simply no way to please everyone.

My best advice for getting the most out of this film (or any film honestly) is two-fold:

First: go in with as little specific expectations on what you want the movie to accomplish as possible. Let the movie hit you, and then see how it makes you feel.

Second: Keep in mind that no matter how long you have been a fan of the movie or book series, it is not yours or my story. Let Rowling tell her story and realize that this is only movie 2 out of 5; anything can still happen. If something doesn’t sit well with you at first, ask yourself if it’s because it legitimately doesn’t work in the movie or is it more that you personally wanted something else to happen?

It is awesome that the creator of this universe is still getting to tell the story the way she wants to. So few authors get this much control over how their characters portrayed in film and I hope it continues.

My wife and I have read all the Harry Potter books and seen all the movies more times than I can count, and we both thouroughly enjoyed Crimes of Grendelwald. I went in blind and then afterwards reading other fan’s articles about plot holes, timeline changes, and other grievances after the movie was interesting but didn’t alter the fact that I enjoyed the movie. 

I will say that the Fantastic Beast movies will most likely suffer the same fate as other franchises that have tried to continue the magic of their predecesors. They will be enjoyable and have their own place in the universe, but will never be quite as good as the originals. 

Visually, this is the best looking film yet, and the opening scene does a great job of hooking you into the film with all its spectacle. There’s also something special and appealing about combining wizards with the style and flair of 1920’s. It worked well in the first film and it does so again here. 

Characters

Newt Scamander – Eddie Redmayne

Eddie Redmayne continues to play the charmingly awkward Newt Scamander. It felt like he had just a bit more of an arc in this movie which was nice. By the end of the film, it felt like Newt had grown as a character. 

Gellert Grendelwald – Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp has moved from that actor who plays wacky characters to something more of a controversial figure with accusations of domestic abuse against his ex, Amber Heard. And while those accusations seem most likely true, I have no interest in getting into that in this post. I’ll only talk about how Depp’s performance as an actor was in this film. As a general rule, I try to stay away from diving too deep into what’s going on in actors’ personal lives. If we knew every detail of what goes on behind closed doors there would probably be very few of them we could stomach.

That being said, just know that he will play a large role in the films from here going forward, so if you find him morally repulsive and have his picture up on a dartboard somewhere it may be difficult enjoying the rest of the Fantastic Beast movies.

Strictly from a performance standpoint, Depp is of course excellent as the sinister dark wizard Grindelwald. Somehow even in 2018 the look and style of the character feels original and unlike any movie bad guy I’ve seen.

The best villains are the ones that believe they are in fact the hero of the story and have motivations you can at least somewhat sympathize with. That fits Grendelwald perfectly. He believes he is fighting the injustice of the magical government and begins to win followers to his cause. He’s an interesting villain, but also manages to be evil while not just following the same steps we’ve already seen with Voldemort. 

Jacob Kowalski – Dan Fogler

Jacob is still the goofy yet endearing muggle who’s just a couple steps behind everyone else. His relationship with Queenie (Alison Sudol) gets a fair amount of screen time as they struggle to make their “mixed” relationship as a muggle and wizard work. Dan Fogler adds a lot of personality to the character and makes you root for him. 

Albus Dumbledore – Jude Law

I thought it was a puzzling pick at first, but Jude Law won me over and is actually an excellent choice for a young Albus Dumbledore. Maybe not so much the voice, but watching his expressions during his scenes looked like you were watching a a younger Michael Gambon – the actor who has portrayed the character the longest. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in the upcoming sequels. 

Credence Barebone – Ezra Miller

The only one I can’t seem to get past; Ezra Miller just doesn’t quite work in his role to me. Maybe I’m just still bitter over him being cast as the Flash in Justice League? He’s really hot right now in Hollywood, but I just don’t get it. The character has a big reveal in this movie and after I found myself wishing they had chosen someone, anyone else to be that person. 

Leta Lastrange – Zoe Kravitz

I was also surprised and a little disappointed at the direction Leta went in this film. It is hard not to think she could have had more use in a different direction, but I guess I’ll go back and re-read my advice from earlier. Especially with 3 films remaining; anything can still happen. 

Final Verdict

Crimes of Grendelwald is an enjoyable sequel to Fantastic Beasts, but in the end serves mainly as a setup for the films to come. There are tons of references to catch, and the movie looks spectacular visually. Ultimately, following and investing in the movie’s cast of characters, once again created by Rowling is the movie’s strongest selling point. 


Cinematic Quality: 4 out of 5

Fun Factor: 3.5 out of 5

Worth the price of admission: 3.5 out of 5

Re-watch Value: 3 out of 5

Overall Score – 3.5 dark wizards rising out of 5

The Origin of Movie Genres: Science Fiction

What are your favorite movie genres? Action, horror, sci-fi, drama, superhero? Have you ever wondered where those genres got their start? With every genre there is an obvious beginning, a pioneer to blaze the trail and inspire future filmmakers.

I’ve had a book for a while that was recommended by a friend; 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Seems like a pushy title but sure. It’s actually a terrific book if you’re interested in film history or just discovering new movies. You can pick up the latest edition here. Flipping through the different era’s of influential film history, I realized I had no idea what these early trend setters were and it would be fun to learn and post about them.

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I have the 2015 edition. If you love film history or just discovering fantastic movies, this is a great book you should consider picking up.

This post we’re going to take a broad overview look at the first entry in the book which showcases the beginning of the science fiction genre; one of my personal favorites. Try thinking back to the oldest sci-fi movie you can remember. For some memory may only go as far back as 1978’s Star Wars, others have seen 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still. However, to see the first, we have to go further back still. Much further.

The first known science fiction film was created in 1902 by the French cinema pioneer, Georges Méliès titled Le voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon). This was a time when cinema was in it’s infancy and dominated by short films showcasing people in the daily routines of life.

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George Méliès and his impressive ‘stache.

Méliès made hundreds of movies over his career and revolutionized cinema in ways that we still enjoy today. He was the first to make a movie based on a fictional story, to incorporate special effects into his films including camera tricks such as splicing, multiple exposures and time lapse photography among others. He was also the first to create elaborate, often times hand painted, multi-scene sets. All of these characteristics define A Trip to the Moon and made it one of the most famous films of the era.

Unfortunately, he was not able to keep up with the much larger competing film companies and retired broke in 1912. Many of these rival companies (including Edison’s in the United States) pirated and sold Méliès films without paying royalties back to Méliès company, Star Films. I guess it’s true what they say after all; “piracy is not a victimless crime.”

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A theatrical poster for A Trip to the Moon.

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A rough sketch of a movie poster design Méliès created himself.

A Trip to the Moon is only 14 mins long which was actually far longer than the standard 1-2 min films that were common in his day. Many were even shorter than that. This “extended” run time allowed Méliès to create a surprisingly complex story totaling 30 different scenes in all. His budget for such an elaborate endeavor was unheard of; 10,000 francs which would be roughly the equivalent of $50,000 US today. This film was the summer blockbuster of the time period.

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A Trip to the Moon had un-paralleled set design for it’s time.

A brief summary of the plot: a group of scientists headed by Professor Barbenfouillis (played by Méliès himself) travel to the moon in a bullet shaped rocket, shot from an enormous cannon. While exploring the surface, they encounter and are captured by a race of moon aliens known as Selenites. The group manages to escape and fight their way back to the rocket, successfully traveling back to Earth with a captured Selenite. The group is celebrated as heroes and receive a parade in their honor.

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The cannon that blasts the rocket ship towards the moon.

Méliès drew from multiple sources for his film including the literature of his time such as Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and H. G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon (1901).

“The idea of ‘A Trip to the Moon‘ came to me when I was reading a book by Jules Verne called ‘From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon’. So I imagined, using the same means as Jules Verne(shooting a projectile from an enormous canon), landing on the moon, in such a way that I could put together some arresting and amusing fairy tale images, show the outside and the inside of the moon, and some monsters that might live on the moon, add one or two artistic effects.”

Méliès also incorporated his knowledge from past careers as a magician and theater owner with elaborately designed sets and sensational special effects. I watched the film before knowing his professional background and various scenes in particular actually made me think of a magician such as when the Selenites disappear into puffs of smoke after being struck, Professor Barbenfouillis’ umbrella changing into a mushroom, or even the acrobatic showmanship of the Selenites (who were actual acrobats Méliès hired for the part).

Watch the first sci-fi movie:

Being that this movie is in the public domain, it’s easy to find on YouTube. Here is the original black and white version. When it was originally released, the film was silent, and a live orchestra would play various pieces while the scenes were narrated.

There is also a color version that was thought to be lost but has since been found and restored over several years by a group called Lobster Films and showcased at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011. The French electronica duo known as Air also created an “official” score to accompany the film. If I’m being honest the score is creative and fun to listen to, but I can’t help thinking that it doesn’t fit with the music of the time period. At the very least it’s interesting how much impact music has on the tone of a film.

After watching A Trip to the Moon, much of it will seem completely absurd. In fact, you could probably turn the number of scientific laws broken during the film into a fun drinking game. One of my favorite moments happened when to travel back to earth, all that was required was pulling the rocket over a cliff and then gravity took over. The movie is littered with moments like this.

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The statue erected to commemorate Professor Barbenfouillis’ return. Most historians believe this scene is part of the political satire Méliès weaved into the film.

Film historians believe though that much of the ridiculousness is because the film was intended to be satirical in nature. Méliès was mocking the scientific community of his day as well as injecting the film with strong anti-imperialist themes. So not only is Méliès the first movie maker to bring a fictional story to life, he’s also the first to use that story to convey a larger message to his audience.

It’s also fascinating how the basic themes of sci-fi movies haven’t changed much in last 116 years. Sure things are more elaborate now, but A Trip to the Moon has all the major story beats still seen in movies today: Flying through space in a rocket ship, landing and exploring the moon, encountering an evil alien race, bringing an alien back to Earth. Méliès technically even setup the possibility for a sequel with the aliens coming to earth for revenge! Think of the franchise possibilities! Just kidding.

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The most famous scene of the film; the scientists’ rocket lands on the moon…or more like shoots the moon in the eye, sending blood or some kind of weird moon juice squirting from the point of impact. Gross.

Next time you go to watch your favorite sci-fi movie, think about this first example; how far the genre has come and how much the themes honestly haven’t changed too drastically over the years. Also don’t forget the name George Méliès. He was extremely influential to cinema and will be popping up again in a future genre posts.

Sources:


Schneider, Steven Jay (2015), 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Hauppage, New York. Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. p. 20.

Wikipedia – A Trip to the Moon

AMC Filmsite

TCM Biography of George Méliès

Final Avengers Infinity War Trailer Breakdown.

We’re almost there, everyone! The movie event that has been brewing for the past 10 years and 18 movies is now just over a month away.

Tickets went on sale yesterday, and to help entice people to buy, a new trailer and movie poster were released. I’m not ashamed to admit it worked on me…but I would have bought tickets regardless.

Holy smokes, what a trailer! There’s several new clips with a ton of new insight to be gleaned from the trailer, so if you don’t want to know anything going into the theater, turn away now.

Who the heck is this Thanos guy? The trailer starts with Gamora talking about who Thanos is and what he wants. Then we see that she’s talking to at least Tony, but most likely other Avengers as well. This makes sense as the Guardians are the ones who have had the most history with Thanos up until this point.

Wakanda takes center stage. We already knew that Wakanda would play a large role in this movie, including a large-scale battle. Now the reason for that battle seems more clear: Wakanda will be the location the Avengers try to hide the remaining infinity stones from Thanos and his minions.

Star Lord doesn’t agree, but this seems logical considering Wakanda is the most technologically advanced city on the planet and would provide the best defense against Thanos.

The Avengers are in trouble. We see several heroes taking on either the Mad Titan himself or his henchmen in the trailer, and all of them seem to be completely outmatched. Fans are already anticipating heavy casualities and this trailer doesn’t do anything to change that idea.

A close up of the “Hulkbuster” armor. Last seen in Age of Ultron, the team will need everything they have to take on Thanos. There’s reason to believe there could be someone other than Tony in there…

Tony’s “Bleeding Edge” armor at work. This new armor pulled from the comics is based on tiny nanomachines that not only expand across his body to construct Tony’s basic armor, but they can also form new shapes such as wings, or the huge rocket booster we see form around his feet in the trailer.

Star Lord and Iron Man probably won’t be besties. This is the first interaction we’ve seen of the two so far. Knowing the size of both of their egos, things seem to be going about as expected.

A closer look at Peter’s “Iron Spider” suit. This is the same suit Peter decided not to take from Tony at the end of Spiderman: Homecoming. It’s inspired heavily from the “Iron Spider” suit he gets from Stark in the comics.

Flashback to when Thanos kidnaps/adopts Gamora. Both the child and another woman to the left of one of the clips have Gamora’s green skin and red hair. It seems safe to assume this is from a flashback to the day Thanos conquered Gamora’ s home world.

A blink and you’ll miss it look at “The Black Order.” These are the elite, alien henchmen who work for Thanos and do his bidding. It looks like they have been sent out into the universe to help Thanos track down the infinity stones.

Doctor Strange and Star Lord know that teamwork makes the dream work. This one is easy to miss but we get a super quick look at Doctor Strange helping Star Lord cross an area with a little use of magic. Peter Quill usually has rocket boots that allow him to fly; they must have been taken out of commission somehow.

Humorous introductions. Peter Parker introduces himself and we learn that joking about Doctor Strange’s name is still funny.

What do you think? Anything else cool that I missed? What are your predictions?

Avengers: Infinity War explodes into theaters April 27.

Red Sparrow Review

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeremy Irons

Rated R / Runtime: 2hrs and 20mins

Watch the trailer


Many people have been calling Red Sparrow essentially the more adult version of the Marvel comic character Black Widow. However, while there are some similarities, this movie is most definitely its own thing.

Jennifer Lawrence plays a talented Russian ballerina named Dominika Egorova who takes care of her sick mother. However, Dominika’s career is quickly cut short by an injury, and is desperate to find an alternative means to continue to afford her mother’s care.

Dominika’s uncle Ivan, a high-ranking official in Russian Intelligence (Matthias Schoenaerts) approaches her with what has to be the most bizarre offer of assistance from a family member ever. If she will agree to seduce an enemy of the state and switch his phone out for a government provided duplicate, Ivan promises to ensure the medical care for her mom will continue.

She reluctantly agrees, however the State’s real plans are revealed when during the encounter the man is brutally murdered while forcing himself onto Dominika. To eliminate any witnesses, she is soon given a choice by her uncle: death or agree to become a Sparrow. Great family.

Sparrows are government spies that agree, or more often forced, to commit their entire bodies to the State. Their main assignments are usually not to assassinate targets, but rather seduce and sleep with them in order to extract information.

They are trained in multiple areas of espionage including psychological manipulation, infiltration, and weapons training. Her first assignment is an America CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) who knows the identity of a mole in the Russian government.

First and foremost, this movie has a very hard R rating. Not only are there numerous scenes of graphic nudity, but there are some brutally violent scenes; both physically and emotionally. Many critics are even condemning this movie for the light in which Lawrence’s character and others are portrayed.

That being said, while many parts of the movie are graphic and even shocking, it feels like an accurate depiction of what the life of a “Sparrow” would be like. Movies give us the incredible ability to see and examine life from different points of view, even if those viewpoints are sometimes disturbing. The film definitely fails to have any message or deeper meaning, but it doesn’t glorify the lifestyle either. It merely puts it on display and viewers are able to think what they want.

In a bizarre way it was humourous that despite all the brutality of the film, the characters seem able to survive the most extreme of beatings. More than once Lawrence beat the shit out of someone and I was convinced, based on what I have seen in any other movie ever, ” yup, they’re dead.” Only in the next scene to discover; nope, they’re fine, only injured.

The story itself is a very slow burn and only has a few mins of action. Most of the 144 mins are focused on Lawrence interacting with other characters and us trying to figure out which side she’s really on. Honestly, the movie is about 30 mins too long and needs to be cut down. After the first hour and a half, you really start to feel how long many scenes seem to drag on.

There is a satisfying ending that gives a nice “ah-ha” moment. However, especially with the longer runtime, once you know the ending, there’s not enough depth to the story to warrant more than one viewing.

Whether or not you enjoy this movie, Jennifer Lawrence is hands down the best thing about it. Her Russian accent is on point, and she gives an incredibly complex performance which draws you into the character’s story.

This was a bold choice for her, and though it may not be the greatest movie, it is one of her best performances so far. As a side note, she’s worked with director Francis Lawrence (no relation) before; last time on the Hunger Games trilogy.

Everyone else gives the performances they need to for the movie, however nothing you’ll remember a day or two after watching the film.

Red Sparrow is a visceral adult spy thriller that is worth watching for J.Law’s stellar performance. However the shallow story combined with its long runtime and slow pacing make for a “one and done” viewing scenario.

See it in the theater if you’re a Jennifer Lawerence fan, otherwise I would wait for Redbox or Netflix.


Final score for Red Sparrow:

6 Soviet sex spies out of 10


9 March Movies You’ll Want to Check Out.

While you don’t typically think of March as a big movie month, there are surprisingly quite a few coming out that I’m interested in and think you should consider checking out. (MoviePass powers activate!) Some are admittedly a little riskier than others, but take a look at the trailers below and let me know your thoughts!

Which upcoming March movies are you excited for??

March 2nd

Red Sparrow

I love me some J-Law. This looks like the type of thriller that will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Death Wish

A remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson movie. Whenever you have Bruce Willis out for revenge, it’s a good time.

March 9th

Gringo

I have no idea if this will actually be any good, but David Oyelowo’ s reactions to the situation his character finds himself in has me laughing every time I watch.

A Wrinkle in Time

I’m not familiar with the book, however this has a great cast. Disney has been on fire the last several years, so this looks promising, especially if you have kids.

The Hurricane Heist

This will undoubtedly be a horrible movie. However, a heist movie AND a disaster movie rolled into one? I’m there. This has the makings of a great guilty pleasure movie (Plus they get bonus points for trailer song selection).

March 16th

Tomb Raider

The 2011 video game this version of Lara Croft is based on was a phenomenal reboot for the franchise. This is a kickass trailer that looks promising. I’m hoping it can deliver the same level of story and drama as the game.

March 23rd

Pacific Rim Uprising

I’m admitting freely that I’ll be a little biased on this sequel: I absolutely love the original. Giant monsters fighting giant robots…suddenly I’m a kid again watching Godzilla. I’m disappointed Del Torro isn’t directing, but hopefully he can still help the movie as producer deliver the same level of fun.

Isle of Dogs

This looks….weird, and I want to see it for Jeff Goldblum alone. Then add Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber and others? I’m too curious to say no.

March 29th

Ready Player One

Based on the popular book and essentially a futuristic Willy Wonka story, this looks like an epic line up of 80’s nostalgia goodness.

My Blog Stats So Far: Thanks For Stopping By!

I just wanted to take a minute and not only share some of the stats for my blog so far, but also thank everyone for visiting over the last 4 months of consistent blogging. While I’m still new at this and learning more with every post, I’m astonished by the traffic growth I’ve seen in such a short time.

I’ve also had visitors from 22 different countries in the last two months! It’s incredible to think about people all over the world reading my blog. Thank you for stopping by and I can’t wait to see where this crazy hobby goes throughout the rest of 2018!

Everything You Need to Know About Black Panther Before Going To See the Movie.

There is no question that Black Panther, releasing this week will be a big deal for several reasons; not only as a stand alone film, but also leading up to Avengers: Infinity War in just a couple of months. I’m all but certain we will see the final Infinity Stone pop up somewhere. This will definitely be one you won’t want to miss.

Who is Black Panther, anyway? Many movie goers will not be overly familiar with this character going in, however he is a heavy hitter in the Marvel universe that shouldn’t be overlooked. While there is a far richer background for the character in the comics, I’ll stick to covering primarily the cinematic counterpart to keep things simple.

First, I highly recommend at least making sure you’ve seen Captain America: Civil War before catching the movie, as this is where Black Panther makes his first appearance in the MCU.

A quick history lesson.

Black Panther, or the character’s real name T’Challa (“Ta-Cha-lah”), was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966, during a time when comic book heroes were not ethnically diverse at all. In fact, he is the first African superhero to hit mainstream comics, paving the way for others to follow such as Falcon and Luke Cage…in other words, he’s a big deal.

Contrary to what some think: Black Panther does not have a connection with the Black Panther Party, and actually predates it by 6 months. For a brief time, Marvel even changed the character’s name to “Black Leopard” in an effort to sidestep any controversy, however it didn’t last long as the name didn’t sound quite as badass.

“Black Panther” is actually the ceremonial title passed down to each successive king of the fictional African nation, Wakanda. The title signifies that the king is both the ruler and protector of the people of Wakanda. During the events of Civil War, T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father, is the current king until he is murdered during the UN meeting to ratify the Sokovia Accords. This means that the kingdom, as well as the mantle of Black Panther now passes on to T’Challa.

As king, T’Challa also has an all female royal guard, known as the Dora Milaje (“The Adored Ones”) and are highly skilled with various weapons and fighting styles.

Wakanda is one of the most technologically advanced civilizations on the planet, and sits on one of the largest vibranium deposits anywhere. If that word sounds familiar, it’s because vibranium is the metal Captain America’s shield is made out of, so it’s an extremely valuable commodity. For comparison, much of the tech in Wakanda rivals that of what Tony Stark can cook up, in some ways even surpassing.

Vibranium plays a significant role for the hero, as the Black Panther suit is highly advanced and made out of the material, including retractable claws on both hands, effectively making him bulletproof.

Furthermore, T’Challa also has enhanced abilities including speed, agility, strength, and durability; gained from eating something called the Heart Shaped Herb. In the comics, (and most likely the movie) this herb is believed to grant a mystical connection to the Wakandan Panther God, however in reality, the plant is mutated from a vibranium meteorite that crashed to Earth long ago.

T’Challa/Black Panther is essentially the Marvel equivalent of Bruce Wayne/Batman; except T’Challa is not only richer than Bruce (by far), but also has super powers, unlike The Dark Knight.

A couple other characters you should know

Ulysses Klaue, the smuggler and arms dealer who lost his arm in Avengers: Age of Ultron will return in Black Panther. He’s actually been to Wakanda before, where he enslaved Wakandans to illegally mine vibranium for him.

Everett Ross is the CIA operative from Captain America: Civil War that worked with the government to attempt to control the actions of the Avengers. He will be returning with unknown motivations so far.

Stay tuned for my full review at the end of the week!

Black Panther is releases in theaters tomorrow.

Black Panther follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.