“Jojo Rabbit” stars Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell, and Scarlett Johansson. Released on October 18, 2019, the film is about a German boy who discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic.
The film is directed by Taika Waititi, who also directed films such as “Eagle vs Shark”, “What We Do in the Shadows”, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”, and “Thor: Ragnarok”. It is based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens. There are plenty of people in this world that are selfish and cruel, but none of them are comparable to the lowest of the low, the meanest of the mean, the kings of dread themselves: the Nazis. Lead by the notorious Adolf Hitler during World War II, the Nazis would stop at nothing to dominate our entire planet. Luckily for us, their plan failed and Hitler killed himself to avoid capture. It’s always fun for us to hate on the Nazis for their disgusting deeds, but do you know what’s more fun than hating on them? Making fun of them, of course. After successfully adding some comedic flavor to the “Thor” franchise with “Thor: Ragnarok”, Taika Waititi is returning to his usual low-budget oddball comedy routine with a new film that offers a unique and light-hearted perspective on the Nazis. With a concept like this, there’s no telling how it will turn out. It could turn out to be either oddly entertaining or painfully offensive. Based on the reviews it’s been getting since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, it fell somewhere down the middle, with some critics enjoying how it handled the satirical portrayal of the Nazis, while others think otherwise. This was another film that I was looking forward to since it was released last month, mostly because of Waititi’s involvement and its unusual concept. Now that I finally saw it for myself, does it live up to its hype?
Described as an “anti-hate satire”, the film takes place in Nazi Germany during World War II, where a young boy named Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (Davis) is attending a Hitler Youth training camp. He is supported by his idiotic imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (Waititi), his single mother Rosie (Johansson), and his best friend Yorki (Archie Yates). However, he begins to question his belief in the Nazi way when he finds out that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa (McKenzie) in the attic. A plot like this could’ve gone in either direction based on how it was handled. I mean, who wants to see a light-hearted film about the Nazis? Fortunately for me, Waititi was able to make this concept work. By combining the film’s use of dark comedy with its familiar, yet inspiring, themes, it offered a distinctive and heartwarming satire that showcases the power of love over hate. The best way to describe Waititi’s style is that it provided a series of moments that were odd, upbeat, and charming. When he’s not in front of the camera dressing up as the childish Nazi leader, he displayed his own talent behind the scenes by envisioning an unusual fantasy that’s more engaging and delightful than the realistic, cold-hearted nature of the time period. Sure, it’s not as accurate as the history books, but for the sake of maintaining its tone, it hardly needs to. The entire cast was undeniably stunning in their roles, especially Roman Griffin Davis in his feature film debut as Jojo and Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa. Taika Waititi put on a really good show as Adolf Hitler, making him my personal highlight of the film. His satirical portrayal of the infamous Nazi leader was exactly what I wanted it to be: hilarious and somehow relatable. It’s almost as if Waititi read our minds as to what we really thought of Hitler. The humor in the film was well-balanced with a story that’s thoughtful and endearing, although I can clearly understand why it’s not for everyone. It’s full of jokes that poke fun of the Nazis’ personalities and their beliefs, which can be both cleverly funny for those who enjoy well-written black comedies and a bit offensive for those who are sensitive to this type of topic. There were some humorous parts that I thought were hysterical, but there were also some parts that didn’t hit their marks as well as others.
Overall, “Jojo Rabbit” has the right amount of oddities and charm to make fun of the Nazis in the most amusing way possible. It often falls into familiar territory and its portrayal of the Nazis can be a bit insulting for the sensitive ones when it comes to the jokes. Nonetheless, it’s a well-written and humorous satire that once again displays Waititi’s unique filmmaking talent. The cast was wonderful in their roles and the film’s mixture of comedy and heart was nicely executed in terms of Waititi’s direction and script. It’s far from perfect, but it has enough entertaining moments to make its strange concept fun for me. If you’re a fan of Waititi’s other works, you won’t be disappointed with his latest film.
“Midway” stars Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Woody Harrelson. Released on November 8, 2019, the film follows the US Navy sailors and aviators during the Battle of Midway.
The film is directed by Roland Emmerich, who also directed films such as “Universal Soldier”, “Stargate”, “Independence Day”, and “White House Down”. Back in the day, war was best described as an absolute hellhole. It’s filled with misery and savagery as people from different countries fought and attempted to kill each other instead of working things out like mature adults. However, the history of war had its share of some good moments to go along with the bad moments. There were plenty of people who accomplished many daring tasks during the events of World War II and are proclaimed as heroes because of that. The best example for this case is the Battle of Midway, a naval battle between the United States and the Japanese that took place six months after the latter attacked Pearl Harbor. This decisive battle, which involved the United States Navy and the aviators defeating the Imperial Japanese fleet, was considered to be the turning point of the war. Now that’s the power of America. With a battle this epic, it’s no surprise that Hollywood wanted to portray it on the big screen, and what better director that is capable enough to bring this vision to life other than Mr. “Independence Day” himself, Roland Emmerich? They could’ve gone with Michael Bay for this one since he directed a film based on the attack of Pearl Harbor, but clearly no one wants another three-hour war film that’s filled with bland romance and cheesy dialogue. With this weekend being Veteran’s Day weekend, I decided to review this film in honor of the brave veterans who saved countless lives while serving in the line of duty. Does it do the historical event justice? Let’s travel back to World War II and find out.
The story depicts the events that pit the Americans against the Japanese during World War II, including the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. These events were told from the perspectives of the characters who were involved in the epic fight that turned the tide of the war. Audiences who read about those events or lived through them will immediately know how the film's going to turn out at the end, which is pretty common for war films that are based on real-life events. However, people who haven't will be interested in seeing how it all went down. The film had what it takes to be an entertaining war film that honors the brave people who fought their way to victory, but it failed to take advantage of this strategy and wound up crashing into the ocean during takeoff. The film's story felt more like a simplistic collection of events that happened during this time period than a thoughtful narrative about the power of hope and determination. While it works as some sort of tribute to the people who made these daring accomplishments, it fell way short of obtaining the same quality as the other war films like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Hacksaw Ridge”. This is mostly due to how the story and the characters were handled. Aside from the accomplishments that the characters made and a decent all-star cast that portrayed them, there’s honestly little to no reason as to why I should care about them. Everything about them felt completely empty and dull to me, and the plot didn’t help much either as it struggled to shoot past its by-the-numbers narrative and its anticlimactic sequences in order to provide some much-needed depth in its quality. Even when these characters are fighting in the war, I didn’t care that much about them. There’s absolutely no sense of urgency and emotion to these characters when they’re about to meet their demise. They did make an effort in making the scenarios inspirational during a few scenes, but those efforts often came out as forced or cheesy in terms of the dialogue. The plot and the characters are the most important ingredients that are needed to make a war film thought-provoking and intense, and sadly, “Midway” fails to remember those ingredients. It’s like as if it only cares about showcasing the war itself instead of balancing it with an engaging storyline. These flaws alone made the film’s runtime (which is close of two hours and 20 minutes) completely unbearable and unnecessarily stretched out. If I had to point out one thing from the film that I actually enjoyed, it would have to be the battle sequences. Whether it’s the Pearl Harbor invasion or the planes dive-bombing towards their targets, every action scene that is portrayed onscreen was intense and nicely directed from start to finish. The visuals that were used for these sequences were nothing too special, but they work well in bringing these battles to life, even though some of them looked a tad ugly.
Overall, “Midway” is a bland and uninspired experience that only relied on the battles themselves to carry itself out of the war zone. The action and the visuals made it worth watching on the biggest screen possible. Unfortunately, you have to get past its unrewarding by-the-numbers plot and empty characters in order to watch them. Roland Emmerich did wonders in providing some entertaining action sequences, but based on what I saw from him, his storytelling still needs some adjustments. I honestly didn’t think I would be that disappointed in a war film like this, but you know what they say, life is full of surprises. I still honor the heroes for their bravery during their fight for victory, but honestly, they deserve better than this.
“Doctor Sleep” stars Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, and Cliff Curtis. Released on November 8, 2019, the film is about a man who discovers that he’s not the only one with psychic powers.
The film is directed by Mike Flanagan, who also directed films such as “Oculus”, “Hush”, “Before I Wake”, and “Gerald’s Game”. It is based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Stephen King, which is a sequel to King’s 1977 novel The Shining. Looks like the spirit of Halloween is still lurking because we got ourselves another spine-tingling film to check out. Less than 40 years ago, acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick released the film adapation of Stephen King’s terrifying novel known as “The Shining”, which tells the tale of a husband who goes mad due to the influences of the ghosts and tries to kill his family. Despite receiving some mixed reviews during its first few days of release and the fact that King was not pleased with how it turned out, “The Shining” went on to become one of the most influential and scariest horror films of all time. Many studies were made for the film by plenty of movie buffs that analyze its symbolisms, themes, and theories, and I do mean “many”. That’s how popular this movie is. In 2013, Stephen King wrote a sequel novel to “The Shining” titled “Doctor Sleep”, which chronicles Danny Torrance, the boy who has psychic abilities, as an adult. Six years later, it was adapted into a movie by the creator of “The Haunting of Hill House”, Mike Flanagan. Not only does it serve as a film adaptation of the novel, but also as a sequel to the 1980 film adaptation of “The Shining”. This type of combination sounds like a win-win for both fans of the novel and fans of the horror classic on paper, but does it work well on the screen?
Taking place decades after the events of “The Shining”, the film follows a grown-up Danny Torrance (McGregor), a man who possesses psychic abilities known as…well, “The Shining”. He is constantly haunted by his experiences at the Overlook Hotel, and he has suppressed his abilities by becoming an alcoholic. Like father, like son. He then encounters a young girl named Abra Stone (Curran), who also has the Shining. When she becomes a target for the True Knot, a group of mysterious people that feeds on the Shining, Danny will have to overcome his trauma in order to protect her. The film is more along the lines of a dark modern fantasy compared to the psychological horror nature from “The Shining”, but it still contains the elements that fans of its predecessor are familiar with. If there’s one thing I learned from watching the recent “It” films from Andy Muschietti, it’s that with the right people behind the camera and the script, the film adaptations of certain novels from Stephen King will succeed in honoring the author’s visions. I’m pleased to say that “Doctor Sleep” is another Stephen King adaptation done right. Similar to the “It” movies, the film has a steady balance that focuses on representing both its poignant themes and its disturbing imagery that will make everyone’s spines tingle with fright. Most modern horror films have done the opposite by putting their themes in the back seat and let the cheap horror cliches do the driving. I’m talking about you, “Countdown”. Under the command of writer/director Mike Flanagan, “Doctor Sleep” allows the horror elements to cooperate with his storytelling and its themes of childhood trauma to provide an easy-going road trip for its audience. The film’s representations can come off as either underwhelming or slow at times, especially for those who prefer horror films that are fast-paced and exciting, but it had enough juice in its horror tank to keep me intrigued in this world and the characters. The film is over two and a half hours long and due to its pacing, you might feel its length by the second act. However, because of its interesting story, it didn’t come off as a chore for me, so bonus points for that. Ewan McGregor was great in his role as Danny Torrance and Rebecca Ferguson was a thrill to watch as Rose the Hat, the leader of the True Knot. Kyliegh Curran also did really well in her feature film debut as Abra Stone. Stop me if you heard this before, but I can’t wait to see what she will do next in the future. If you’re wondering whether the film is downright scary or not, well, wonder no more. From my personal perspective, I wouldn’t consider it to be a “scary” movie. It’s a film that relies on its atmosphere and supernatural elements rather than jump scares and horror cliches to provide an unsettling sense of dread. Mike Flanagan had a pretty interesting way of presenting that type of film when it comes to his directorial style and the cinematography, with the third act being a superb example. Without spoilers, the third act is like revisiting an old friend, and the way this reunion was handled was unsurprisingly effective. The musical score by The Newton Brothers was not only haunting, but it was also nostalgic for those who grew up watching “The Shining”.
Overall, “Doctor Sleep” is a creepy and well-acted continuation of the “Shining” story arc, even though it doesn’t shine as bright as its predecessor. Its overlong running time and the underwhelming representations of its themes and scares might make this one a tough sell for modern horror fans. However, it still has the right tools to provide an effective and atmospheric horror experience, such as the cast, Flanagan’s direction, and a solid story. It’s not as impactful or thoughtful as “It”, but I appreciate the effort that was put into this film. If you’re familiar with “The Shining” or if you’re in a mood for a watchable horror film, this one’s worth checking out.
“The Lighthouse” stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. Released on October 18, 2019, the film is about two lighthouse keepers who become stranded on a remote island.
The film is directed by Robert Eggers, who also directed “The Witch”. Halloween is already over, but that doesn’t mean the scares are gone as well. That’s right, after a couple of weeks of waiting, I was finally able to see why everyone is so terrified by a film that involves two men hanging out in a lighthouse. I was hoping to see it earlier so that I can count it as this year's Halloween movie review, but because of my work schedule and the other movies I wanted to check out, I had to wait until it appears at my favorite cinema. While I didn’t love Eggers’ last film, "The Witch", as much as the critics, I appreciated his filmmaking skills as well as his ability to get underneath my skin. This was my personal reason as to why I wanted to check his latest film out, to see if he can impress me again with his style of horror storytelling. Was he able to accomplish that task?
The story follows Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson), a young man who is sent to an isolated island to work for an elderly lighthouse keeper named Thomas Wake (Dafoe) for a few weeks. As the weeks progress and the storm rages through the island, Winslow began to experience some strange visions that made him question what is reality and what is fake. And by visions, I mean stuff that will make him go “coo-coo”. This is one of the few films that have a really small cast in a small amount of settings. So it’s pretty much like you’re stuck in the lighthouse with the Green Goblin and Edward Cullen. It is also a slow-burning horror film that relies on psychological elements and cabin fever as the main scare tactics rather than cheap jump scares and horror cliches, something that will make a lot of modern horror fans disregard the film in a matter of seconds. For people who do appreciate this type of horror film, however, it is a gripping decent into pure lunacy that gets more and more unnerving as it progresses. In other words, this movie is messed up for all of the right reasons. If you’ve seen the other films that deal with elements like this, you would already figure out how “The Lighthouse” is going to end, but the journey of getting to that point is so enticing and eye-opening that you won’t even care about its familiarity. Everything about this film had me hooked since scene one, especially the technical aspects. The film was shot in black-and-white and in 35mm film to capture the same cinematic look as the other black-and-white films from the early 1900s. To me, it’s an interesting choice that paid off extremely well. Rather than using it as a gimmick, Eggers used the cinematography to capture each and every scene with stunning detail and an irresistible sense of dread and beauty. Plus, I thought it felt more fitting since the film takes place in the late 19th century. In terms of the screenplay, the production design, and the direction, I can definitely see that Eggers has done his homework. You got the ethics of working in the lighthouse, the dialogue, and the sailors’ superstitions. These three principles helped make the situation both real and creepy as heck. The two main actors are also the main elements that made the film work for me. If there was a contest to see which actor can act better than the other, it would end in a draw. I’m not joking, Dafoe and Pattinson were both fantastic in their roles, especially Pattinson. This guy has come a long way since his “Twilight” days, and based on his performance alone, it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon. The film also has a musical score by Mark Korven that greatly enhanced its haunting atmosphere, similar to how the score from “Joker” affected that film’s authentic atmosphere. If you’re wondering why I’m comparing it to a film that’s based on Batman’s arch enemy, it’s because they both portray people going mad in the most unpleasant way possible.
Overall, “The Lighthouse” is psychological horror at its finest, further proving that the best kinds of scary movies are the ones that mess with the characters’ heads as well as the audience’s. Ranging from the superb performances from Dafoe and Pattinson to its engaging and disturbing storytelling, the film offered an uneasy, yet satisfying, experience that will leave horror art fans shaken after the credits roll. Out of all of the horror films I’ve seen that affected me with this type of structure, this one definitely affected me the most. It really made my nerves shiver as the film reached its end, showcasing the fact that Robert Eggers has once again accomplished his task. I can understand the fact that it’s not going to impress people who are into the cheap horror films of today, but I think it’ll do wonders for people who wanted a more realistic horror experience. If you’re someone who respects the artistic style of horror filmmaking, “The Lighthouse” is right up your alley.
“Terminator: Dark Fate” stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Gabriel Luna, Natalia Reyes, and Diego Boneta. Released on November 1, 2019, the film has Sarah Connor protecting a young woman and a hybrid cyborg human from an advanced Terminator.
The film is directed by Tim Miller, who also directed “Deadpool”, and it is the sixth installment in the “Terminator” film series. The “Terminator” franchise has been through a lot of problems since James Cameron left, most notably its failed attempts at reintroducing the sci-fi classic in a unique way. While “Terminator 3” became a moderate success without Cameron’s involvement, the other two installments that came after it weren’t so fortunate. “Terminator: Salvation” and “Terminator: Genisys” were both originally planned to start off a new trilogy, but they were later scrapped due to poor reception from critics and audiences as well as being sold off left and right to different companies. “Salvation” was supposed to be the first chapter in a trilogy that focuses on the war between Skynet and humanity, while “Genisys” was made to kick off a rebooted trilogy that takes place in an alternate timeline. Not a lot of fans were pretty impressed with what these films brought to the table, especially the elements that were introduced in “Genisys”. That film was the real kick in the fanbase’s balls. To be honest, I did enjoy “Genisys”, but I can understand the fact that it’s not as great as the first two films. To make things a bit more unbearable, these films were attempting to reach a wider audience with a PG-13 rating unlike the first three “Terminator” films, which are R-rated, which goes to show that an adult-rated franchise should just stay adult-rated. This year, Hollywood is attempting to revive the film series for the third time (because third time’s the charm). This time, James Cameron is returning to make sure that they do it justice. Not as a director, but as a producer. Instead of giving it the reboot treatment like “Genisys”, they’re making it as a direct continuation of “Terminator 2”, which means the other films that were released after “Terminator 2” don’t mean a gosh darn thing to us. I was both skeptical and interested on how this film will turn out compared to the last two installments, mostly because of the involvement of Schwarzenegger, Cameron, and Hamilton. It could wind up being an enjoyable sci-fi action film that honors the franchise’s legacy or it could wind up being another misfire. Where did it land in my eyes? Let’s find out.
The film’s story is what you would expect from a “Terminator” movie, in which an evil cybernetic robot is sent from the future to kill the person who holds the key to the human race’s survival. It’s not rocket science. This time, the machines sent an advanced Terminator known as Rev-9 (Luna) to kill Daniella Ramos (Reyes), who is destined to become the leader of the Human Resistance in the future. Meanwhile, the Resistance sent an enhanced soldier, Grace (Davis), to protect her from Rev-9. Knowing that they can’t run from it forever, Daniella and Grace must join forces with Sarah Conner (Hamilton) and the T-800 Terminator model (Schwarzenegger) to defeat the new and improved Terminator and turn it into scrap metal. It’s easy for me to admit that “Dark Fate” has a similar plot from the first two films, but with new characters and an aging Terminator, but I can also understand that they don’t want to repeat the same mistakes as last time. So to the filmmakers, it’s a better idea to just return to the original roots that made both “The Terminator” and “Terminator 2” instant sci-fi classics. Based on what I saw, I think they made the right call. Sure, it didn’t offer anything too special with the franchise’s formula screenplay-wise, but for those who need a healthy dose of some Terminator action, it’s a popcorn-inducing thrill ride that surprisingly never lost focus on its prime objective: making the characters as likable and entertaining as the action. While the characters and their relationships with one another weren’t as impactful as the ones from “Terminator 2”, I can clearly see that the effort of making the audience care for them was there. It’s right in front of my face and I can see it. The old characters were just as endearing as they were in the past, but it was the new characters that have enough good moments to convince me that they’re tough enough to carry the franchise forward (if the studio actually moves forward with the sequel), especially Grace. Oh man, what can I really say about this character? She kicked so much butt in the film, and Mackenzie Davis did a really impressive job at embodying this type of character in terms of her performance. Natalia Reyes was also good in her role as Daniella (or Dani), who’s basically the new John Connor. As for Hamilton and Schwarzenegger, they’re honestly the best parts of the film. Hamilton delivered a riveting and well-deserved performance as an older and stern Sarah Conner, who is still holding a grudge against the Terminators. I like the fact that they made Sarah a strong female character who has an understandable reason why she’s like this in the first place. She’s tough enough to take care of herself, but she’s also internally haunted because of what happened to her in the past. Schwarzenegger did what he normally did best when it comes to playing the original Terminator, which is kicking butt and making me laugh. But what about the good stuff? The thrilling action scenes that made the “Terminator” films entertaining and intense? Well, let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed on how they handled the action. “Dark Fate” marks the first film in the franchise to receive an R rating since “Terminator 3”, which would come as a sign of relief to those who weren’t fond of a teen-rated Terminator film. It’s not as over-the-top and bloody as some R-rated action films that rely on gore and blood, but it definitely had some brutal moments that deserve the adult rating. I was really impressed with how Tim Miller directed the action scenes from “Deadpool” with its stylish shots and the choreography, and in my eyes, the same can be said for his direction in this. While some of the action scenes in “Dark Fate” were a bit unfocused at times compared to “Deadpool”, they all have the right amount of tension and excitement to keep me invested in the characters’ survival, mostly due to the action choreography. The visual effects in the film were also pretty solid when it comes to the designs of the Terminators and the action scenes. A bit noticeable in some occasions, but solid nonetheless. As for its flaws, the film did have a habit at providing some familiar elements from the first two “Terminator” films for the sake of nostalgia, and it kind of overstayed its welcome by a couple of minutes. However, the story was tolerable enough to drive me away from those flaws so that I can easily have fun with it.
Overall, “Terminator: Dark Fate” is a step in the right direction for the sci-fi action franchise. Despite its lack of originality and its overlong running time, the film made a healthy return to its adult-rated roots and provided an entertaining thrill ride that relies on action and substance. Ranging from its well-acted cast to its brutal action sequences, “Dark Fate” is a suitable installment that managed to save itself from termination. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing what direction they’re going to go from here if it does well at the box office and they decided to make this into a new “Terminator” trilogy. Only time will tell, I guess. In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that they finally made a “Terminator” sequel that’s surprisingly good. A worthy recommendation for people who enjoys the “Terminator” films, especially the first two installments.