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Plot and Theme

Reviews and Essays on Film

This Things I Believe In “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” Trailer (Please Hold Me)

Today the benevolent overlords at Disney™ released the first trailer for Star Wars:  The Last Jedi and I feel it is critical that I describe the things that I saw in that trailer.  This is so other people that saw things in the trailer can read about the things that I saw and decide if they saw the same things that I saw.  Hopefully, discussing this hopelessly commercial product of corporate group-think delivered by a media empire can give me and my readers a fleeting sense of connection in this unfeeling world, and also sell some toys.

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Why “The Terminator” (1984) is the Greatest Terminator Film

The Terminator (1984) is a better film than Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).  The three other movies in the franchise are utter garbage and will not be discussed further.  And, if you’ll lower your pitchforks for long enough, this piece will provide several arguments asserting the superiority of The Terminator.  I’ll compare three aspects of the films and explain how The Terminator bests Terminator 2 in each:  1.) The overall plot-theme of the story, 2.) The structure, pacing, and the effectiveness of the storytelling, and 3.) The characters and their respective arcs.  I will show that the first film showcases a stronger and more original plot, streamlined structure, and more interesting characters.  After remarking on the sequel’s deserved accolades, the stark verdict will follow:  Terminator 2 is exemplary, but The Terminator is the greater film.

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“The Void”: a Loving Homage to Practical B-Movie Horror

The Void is an unabashed celebration of classic B-movies, a smorgasbord of horror tropes lovingly arranged for nostalgic consumption.  Co-written and directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, the film champions an old-fashioned approach to horror filmmaking, and will certainly delight fans of the genre.  Though some of the plot elements end up feeling rushed and overly complicated (especially the ending), The Void offers some astonishing visuals, a gripping and creepy story, and wonderful gore effects.  This is B-movie charm at its absolute finest, and should delight lovers of ‘80s horror, even if it is a little haphazard.

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“The Discovery” Under Delivers on a Fascinating Concept

The Discovery has all the markings of a potent science fiction parable, but none of the follow-through.  The central conceit, that a scientist has discovered irrefutable evidence that an afterlife exists, is simple yet wrought with fascinating consequences.  But, as the film attempts to explore its ideas, it is bogged down by poor characters, confusing and unnecessary plot devices, and a banal ending that treads familiar paths, lacks visual storytelling fundamentals, and still confuses.  As it stands, The Discovery feels less like a feature film, and more like an episode of Black Mirror – and a weak one at that.

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Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes” and the Torture of Dishonesty

There is a superficial idea championed by some movies that dishonesty sells.  Heist films like Hell or High Water or Ocean’s Eleven suggest that a caper can handsomely reward the protagonist, if it’s properly executed.  White lies can tell a person, “exactly what they need to hear” as a plot contrivance for furthering a character’s confidence, like Neo in The Matrix.  And even films that deride dishonesty often do so by showcasing the extreme fall that accompanies an ill-gotten rise, even though the character doesn’t necessarily need to consider their lies to be a transgression at all;  think The Wolf of Wall Street, Catch Me if You Can, or other examples of hubris-infused justice.  Rare is the film that showcases the psychological destruction that a lie can wreak on a person’s life.  Tim Burton’s Big Eyes is a fascinating exploration of precisely that idea.

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“Train to Busan”: Effective Zombies with Ethical Subtext

You’d generally forgive a zombie movie for being shallow and uninventive, as long as the story generates the proper tone and mood.  Writer-director Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan deserves commendation for not only nailing the bleakness of and terror of a zombie apocalypse, but for infusing such a story with genuine heart, emotion, and intriguing subtext.  It is rare that a zombie flick can elicit tears as readily as screams, but Train to Busan is the rare example of the complete package.

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State of the Blog – April 2017

It’s April, the lion of March has transfigured into a lamb (at least I think that’s how it works), and now the fools have come and gone (I’m sure).  All the while, the endless cycle of movie releases continues unabated and I’m here on Plot and Theme to contribute to the confusion with my entirely correct opinions.  This month, the blog turns two full years old, I creep close to 300 total posts, and I’ve got some great pieces in the pipeline.  We’ll talk about all of that plus some cool new movies to keep your eyes out for in the month of April.

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“Spartacus” – the Three-Headed Triumph of Douglas, Trumbo, and Kubrick

The third essay in a year-long analysis of the films of Stanley Kubrick.  Check out the schedule and explanation here, where you can also find links to all the completed pieces.

Introduction

Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas and written by Dalton Trumbo, may be the best Swords-and-Sandals story ever put to film.  The film is a powerhouse but is easily the least “Kubrickian” film in all of the great director’s filmography.  This is mostly due to Kubrick sharing control with Douglas, who produced the film and had final cut, and the writer Dalton Trumbo.  In this piece, I’ll detail the circumstances surrounding this intense collaboration, starting with the political climate and background of the film.  I’ll continue on with the story and characters developed by Trumbo and Douglas and finish with Kubrick’s stylistic contributions to the film.  Though all three creators approached the film with their own intentions and goals, they were still able to produce an irrefutable classic.

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In Daniel Espinosa’s “Life”, Characters Could Use Some

The sci-fi thriller Life opens on the International Space Station with a fascinating long take that establishes narrative context, provides characterization, and reveals the aesthetic of the film.  It’s practically a perfect introduction and a wonderful way to set up the slasher-in-space.  If only Life could live up to it.

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