Hyper Sci-Fi Action Flick “Upgrade” Will Make You Laugh, Cheer, and Think (kinda)

Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade is a wonderful and devilish little concoction of a film. At its center is Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green), an old-fashioned “works with his hands” kind of guy who restores old cars in a near-future where all of the cars drive themselves. After an accident leaves him a quadriplegic, one of his more wealthy and influential clients offers to help him by implanting an experimental chip in his brain called STEM that will allow him to walk again.

It works.  And then the chip starts talking to him.

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“Ready Player One” – the Definitive Guide Review

In Ready Player One, in order to fit all the pop culture references, you’re gonna need a bigger boat. Steven Spielberg hovers over a mountain of movies, television shows, video games, and other ephemera of pop culture like so many mashed potatoes, obsessively sculpting them into something that only he can see (a good movie). Like Indiana Jones with snakes, in Ready Player One, it always has to be pop culture references. The film simply isn’t much to phone home about. Schindler’s List.

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Fable, Allegory, and the Aesthetics of Del Toro Fuel “The Shape of Water”

Guillermo Del Toro is a master of the modern fairy tale. In The Shape of Water, he tells the story of a budding love between a mute woman named Elisa and a captive fish creature. Like the very best of Del Toro, the film blurs the line between reality and fantasy and succeeds as an allegorical tale about the transformative power of love. Set in the Cold War Era, most of the story takes place in a secret government facility replete with scientists, gung-ho military jerk-offs, and spies. This setting provides the canvass for Del Toro’s peculiar aesthetic, as well as the majority of the tension. The performances are outstanding, from the supporting characters to the leads to the man in the Fish Monster suit. Simply put, The Shape of Water is a gorgeous little tale and the reason why movies can be so magical.

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“The Last Jedi” – Rian Johnson’s Rebellious Spark

There’s an underlying kernel of irony at the center of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The film is the freshest film in the Star Wars franchise since George Lucas decided to add to the original trilogy. For all its flaws, it pushes the boundaries of the universe in many different directions, intent on being something new. At the same time, it is the tenth film in the franchise (three originals, three prequels plus the Clone Wars animated film, and the two Disney films). The routine solution for the tension between old and new has always been to side with the established lore of the franchise, occasionally to ridiculous levels. To the chagrin of many fans of the franchise, writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) bucks this trend violently.

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Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Ragnarok” Again Shows Marvel is Best with an Artist at the Helm

The Thor franchise may be the most unbalanced in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), home to what is perhaps the worst film in the whole MCU (Thor: The Dark World) as well as one of the stronger and more distinctive origin stories. Counting those two films and the Avengers movies, Thor: Ragnarok would be the fifth appearance of the God of Lightning, at it was entirely possible that the character and the particular comedic tone surrounding him would start to feel a little stale. Fortunately, we have Taika Waititi – a visionary comedic filmmaker perfectly at home playing in the MCU’s ever-expanding sandbox.

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“Blade Runner 2049” is a Spellbinding Sci-Fi Sequel

The moments of Blade Runner 2049 pass by too quickly, lost in the next gorgeous shot, meticulous special effect, or confounding mystery. Fluorescent advertisements reflect off of murky puddles at the street level, while the higher classes enjoy the seemingly infinite refraction of a glorious light off of crystalline indoor pools. It’s evident immediately: the world of Blade Runner 2049 is complex, dark, and fascinating – a finely-crafted melding of science fiction and noir filmmaking.

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“War for the Planet of the Apes” Earns Another Victory for the Rebooted Franchise

Remember how Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a James Franco-laden disaster with John Lithgow wandering around forgetting everything and apes rampaged over the Golden Gate bridge being attacked by police helicopters? How far we’ve come. This Planet of the Apes reboot may be one of the most artistically successful reboots of a beloved franchise in the history of Hollywood, and it is almost entirely on the strength of the final two films – first with 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and now with War for the Planet of the Apes.

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Cinematic Components Fuel Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”

Introduction

It is a sin to write this.  Mr. Stanley Kubrick told me so:

2001 is a nonverbal experience; out of two hours and 19 minutes of film, there are only a little less than 40 minutes of dialog. I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content.1

-Stanley Kubrick

Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly bypasses verbalized pigeonholing, but that doesn’t mean the film defies explanation and discussion.  The present piece will analyze how Kubrick succeeds at the rather lofty goal of creating this  “visual experience” by looking at three key cinematic components that Kubrick uses to tell this story.  First, we’ll look at aural components like dialogue, music, and soundtrack.  Then, we’ll delve into the visual components like special effects and cinematography.  Finally, we’ll deal with thematic components, focusing on Kubrick’s use of archetypes.  Together, these components produce a rare beauty: a pure expression of cinema and the power that it has to inspire the imagination.

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“Alien: Covenant” – a Muted Echo of a Once-Great Franchise

The Alien franchise has been limping along since the early ‘90s, and a covenant with God herself can’t save it from the paucity of original thought on display in Ridley Scott’s latest shade of a film.  Alien: Covenant builds a great starting point, but squanders everything near the end of the first act, and it simply isn’t cohesive or confident enough to recover.  Faint echoes suggest that the terrifying magic of the xenomorph may still be alive, but they never stand out above the background noise.

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