Category Archives: Film

Top Overrated Movies of 2017 

1.  Star Wars: The Last Jedi

After reading a Five Star review from The Telegraph I let my guard down and allowed myself to be hopeful  for the next installment of the new Star Wars movie; only to be utterly let down by Rian Johnson incongruent story arcs and borderline obsessive/misguided impulse to leave his footprint on the Star Wars mythology.  Needless to say: fans have spoken and critics can keep their Disney privileges where the…

2. The Shape of Water

The main problem I have with The Shape of Water was its plot. It was generic and shallow. It was reminiscing of the plot from “Free Willy”. Its antagonist was a one dimensional 1950’s bigoted stereotype that represented all that is wrong with toxic masculinity. I simply didn’t find him to be believable. Although the movie was dexterously directed by Guillermo del Torro and does have artful dialogue, it was bogged down in its hyper sexualized characterization and one dimensional characters. I simply thought it was an average movie…that just won the Golden Globe for best dramatic picture.

3. Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman was an entertaining and refreshing movie. A movie whose main character’s hope, innocence and desire to stand for what is good strongly resonated with me and across wide audiences. However, as a superhero movie, it was unremarkable. The final act crumbles at the feet of its underdeveloped villain and forced super hero tropes.

The critical appraise feels shallow at best and at worst, it feels like a participation trophy that says: job well done, your movie is not an embarrassment to the DC universe.

4. The Square

Where to start? I guess the proper place is by asking: is a movie a work of art if it plays at Palme D’Or? Or is a movie a work of art if it stands by its own merits?

The Square is not necessarily a bad film.  It has great acting and an interesting concept, but it suffers from its own self-aware vanity.  It meanders on and on in its own existential crisis. It’s no wonder why critics related/like so much to this movie, given the self-reflection state of post modernism.

5. Thor: Ragnarok

If there was ever a time where I felt that I was the only one NOT taking crazy pills, it was the day after I saw Thor: Ragnarok. Everyone in the world seems to have fallen in love with the greatest, funniest, best Marvel movie to date. The only problem was that I didn’t. I didn’t think much of it.  Only two things came to mind, actually three:

  1. What a wasted Marvel villain!
  2. Thor is turning out to be quite a comic relief character…not a compliment.
  3. Jeff Goblum cannot do wrong.

Yes, I’ll stake my reputation on that last bit.  Having said that, I hope Marvel humor is playing out, apart from a few chuckles here and there I didn’t think it was that funny. Just thinking about  it, it brings me painful reminders of The Last Jedi…alas, Does Marvel’s humor knows no bounds??????!!!!!

Worst Movies of 2017

  1. Life -Another sci-fi movie with dumb scientist.
  1. Kong: Skull Island- It made Journey to the Center of the Earth (with the Rock) look like a master piece.
  1. Alien Covenant- Why remake Prometheus without editing out its bad parts? It seems that Hollywood haven’t killed off all the dumb scientists because they keep coming up in movies.
  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi- Although visually stunning…(I love its colors) what Rian Johnson did to the Star War mythology is almost as grievous as the Medichlorian affair, which I will not talk about because it’s too painful!
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Top 5 Movies of 2017

1. Dunkirk

Dunkirk is a visual masterpiece and probably one of the greatest World War II movie to date.  Its brilliance relies on its ability to portray the war efforts not only as a desperate act of survival, but also as a force that galvanizes and mobilizes a nation in defiance of overwhelming odds. Far beyond any other movie Dunkirk captured my imagination and transported me to a desperate when the fate of Europe was decided by the ingenuity, determination and moral conviction of men that refused to be accidents of history, much less their victim.

2. A Ghost Story

I can’t think of any other movie that takes its time to develop  and yet work so well.   Its slow pace offers an intimacy that rarely pays off in movies, but one that makes a world of difference in capturing the mood and feel of its characters. The cinematography is beautiful and inviting and true accomplishment in movie making.

3. Baby Driver

Summer is for blockbuster movies and  Baby Driver delivered.  It was a fun movie that not only deliver in its action, but also in its style. It was entertaining, creative, memorable and not a sequel. I may be overemphasizing it, but in an age of Marvel and sequels, it is refreshing to see something different and exciting. Cue the music and press the pedal!

4. Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour is a riveting (yet charming) take on Winston Churchill’s Herculean  efforts to save England from the Nazis and from the self-defeating English political elites.  As a film I was impressed  by its witty and fluent dialogue, which was not a surprise given that Churchill practically wrote half of the screenplay. I will be surprised if Gary Oldman does not get an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Churchill.

5. Logan

Not a perfect movie, but what a thrilling and refreshing take on the X-men.  Perhaps one last hurrah, before Disney takes over the X-men franchise (for better or for worse,  hopefully for the better).

Honorable Mentions (not in order):

Blade Runner 2049
The Disaster Artist
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
The War of the Planet of the Apes

About the list:  These are just my favorite movies of 2017.  My list is based on how much I enjoyed them and how much I appreciated the craftsmanship of the filmmakers.

2017 Movies that I haven’t seen but want to see:

Lady Bird
Get Out
The Florida Project
Menashe
Coco

The Last Jedi…Falters (updated)

I am sad to say but The Last Jedi is an action packed sugar rush that crashes and burns after careful consideration.

Whereas I gave a pass at Force Awakens retelling of A New Hope given the respect that JJ gave to the source material I am afraid that I can’t do the same to The Last Jedi. In story telling there is an internal consistency rule that states that authors should always obey the self imposed rules that they established for their world. In many instances  The Last Jedi  is willfully  ignores those rules in order to serve the plot.  This is perhaps one of the main problems with Rian Johnson’s script.  It aims at creating dramatic tension at the cost of internal consistency.  Even some of the advancement in the Jedi mythology puts into question some of the main plot points of its own movie.  Furthermore,  some of the characters decisions are well out of character. This was something that JJ did very well in Force Awakens, Han Solo felt like Han Solo, but in Johnson script, Luke was unrecognizable. He idealism and optimism are long gone, left in the dust of post modernism. Old age, failure and cynicism transformed this character in something unappealing, something that is not Luke Skywalker. I can understand the change in character if the rational is well articulated, but Johnson script does not take the time to do so. The words of Robert McKee sounds very true on this point: in his book Dialogue he stresses the importance of writers writing from the point of view of their characters. The question is not what would I do if I were this character, but rather what would my character do…absent any explanation the character feels alien and the magic of disbelief is broken.

On the bright side, some of the scene are just beautiful to look at.  The concept design are in good Star Wars form and Mr. Willian score is adequate. However, the constant plot holes, fan service scene, check box for character diversity,  and over active editing damper your mood; not to mention  artistic decisions that impacted the course of Star Wars mythology.

What a missed opportunity and to think that Mr. Johnson is in charge of bringing a new trilogy…Star Wars is not in dextrous hands.

Best,

Caleb

Top 3 Must Watch TV Shows

In short we are living in amazing age for television. This is in part thanks to production outlets like Netflix and Amazon Prime, who are taking a chance on shows that otherwise would not have made it on network television.

1. The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime)

Three words: Absolutely Brilliant Show!

The first season was a slow grind but one that paid off with its season finale.  As any great show, it has an interesting concept: What if the Axis had won World War II?  However, what makes “The Man in the High Castle” a great show, is it’s characters.

As any great show its concept is only a venue from which the writers, actors and producers can explore profound questions about the human condition through its protagonists. In short, a great show is about its characters and how well are they grounded in reality.

The ending of Season 2 makes this show one of my favorite shows ever…hopefully they will continue to provide though provoking entertainment from years to come.

2. Stranger Things (Netflix)

If there was anything that stand out in the world of entertainment during the Summer of 2016 it was Netflix’s original series: Stranger Things. What a show! Stranger thins is about the desperate search for a young boy who disappear in the woods.

Stranger Things is basically everything that was great about 80’s assembled together in a TV show…that is a heavy dose of Spielberg coming of age themes set to the backdrop of a Steven King story. Do I need to say anything else?

Again what made this show great was, at least for me, how real the characters felt to me. I was throughly invested with every single one of them basically from the first episode of the show.

3. Vikings (History Channel)

So far one of the most interesting shows that brings forth issues of religion, faith and culture. It follows the story of Ragnar Lothbrok rise from a young farmer to become one of the most famous Norseman of his time.

It is a barbaric show in terms of its violence and mature content but it does play with interesting themes about faith and religion in a sober and respectful way. The first three seasons are truly amazing…half way through season four something happen that I am not quite sure what to make of…but I will be patient and see whether the show runner abandon the elements of mystery and religion that made this show so fascinating and reduce it to a show about, well about dull battles and sex.

My Top 5 movies of 2015

Here are my top 5 movies for 2015:

5. Star Wars: Force Awakens – JJ thank you for re-kindling the excitement for a galaxy far away…

4. Bridges of Spies – This movie marks the return of Steven Spielberg to high form.

3. Inside Out – A brilliant and emotional screen representation of what goes up in our brains.

2. Mad Max: Furry Road – Probably the best action film ever. I was mesmerized not only by its nimble and sharp script but also by the fact that it is a story about redemption that plays against the backdrop of stunning visuals and exhilarating action sequences. Absolutely Brilliant!

1. The Revenant – This movie is an achievement in film making.


 

There are plenty of movies that were release in 2015 that I haven’t seen like Slow West, Creed, Sicario, The Walk, and in the Heart of the Sea among others…I just noticed that The Martian didn’t make my list but it was a fun movie to watch.

5 things I didn’t like about Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star-wars-the-force-awakens

1. Lack of originality

The script is more interested in successfully re-launching a film franchise than it is in offering an enduring original story. Instead it is unabashed in how it borrows from the original trilogy, careless in its dramatic build up and uneven in its character development.

2. Character development

My biggest worry going in The Force Awakens was whether or not JJ Abraham would be able to create a real threat for the next trilogy…although this worry is slightly premature given that the first installment centers in establishing the core characters of the franchise against what basically can be call a stage set (insert your generic threat), it was disappointing the character exposition of Kilo Ren, the main villain. The idea of conflicted and complex Kylo Ren, like many other characters in the Force Awakens is absolutely brilliant but its execution was poor. We only get a poorly constructed scene exposing his conflicted state of mind and nothing that would engender a catharsis towards the character. The same can be said for Finn, one of the new heroes. There was nothing in the script that made me empathized for his hero’s journey. One cannot help but to think of the many ways this could have been easily address but the reality is that it wasn’t, leaving an emotional gap between the audience and the characters.

3. Predictability

The lack of originality sadly translated into a highly predictable plot. This robs its audience of those unexpected moments that thrills you and makes you wonder.

4. No singular moment that made you love the film.

Instead we get a bunch of minor moments that entice you but don’t quite make you think: WOW I LOVE THIS MOVIE. For all their faults all the prequels have such moments. Phantom Menace had the Duel of the Fate, Attack of the Clones had Yoda’s duel against Count Dooku and the Revenge of the Sith had Anakin’s dual against Obi-wan…of course these movies are deeply flaw but at least they have that one moment that made you stand at the edge of your seat.

5. Lack of internal consistency

A few plot devices used in this film are lacking in explanation.  This is a huge distraction since it not only detracted from the characters but the action of the film.  The hope is that they will be explain in future installments otherwise they will  continue to detract from what was a thrilling and fun Star Wars movie.

Cheers,

Caleb

My top 10 Movies for Lent Part II (5 to 1)

As we approach Holy Week here are my top 5 movies for Lent. I really appreciate Debbie recommendations and the reminder that 1) there are great Christian films out there (like Diary of Country Priest, Courageous, For Greater Glory, Unbroken, The Ten Commandments, The Son of God, Fire Proof and Spielberg monumental classic Schindler’s list among many other) and 2) that this is just a humble and insular list of some of my favorites movie with Christian themes.

For my Top 10 (10 to 5) list clear here.

5. Ben Hur

The sheer epic scale of this movie is worth watching considering that it was made in the pre-digital effect era. I really like how this film intertwines the story of Ben Hur (play by Charlton Heston) and the life of Christ. Although not perfect it’s a movie worth watching….

4. A Man for all Seasons

This movie from the 60’s tells the story of the martyrdom St. Thomas More. It has one of the most beautifully crafted screenplays of all time. One of my favorite dialogues is between The Duke of Norfolk and St. Thomas More:

The Duke of Norfolk:

Oh confound all this. I’m not a scholar, I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!

St. Thomas More:

And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?

This is brilliant writing! It not only shows the integrity of St. Thomas More’s moral character but also shows the great reverence that this man of faith had for reason and the importance of following once conscience.

Coincidently Robert Bold, an agnostic, wrote the screenplay for this great Christian movie.

3. Into a Great Silence

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

-Mother Teresa of Calcutta (St. Teresa of Calcutta)

This German documentary is a meditation of God’s love reflected in the life of monks and priest of the Carthusian Order. For more than 900 years men and woman have joined this order to dedicate their life to a life of austerity, silence, contemplation and prayer. The introduction to their order website says it all:

(http://www.chartreux.org/en/)

“Whoever you are, whatever led you to this site, welcome. You will not find anything fashionable, not even a concern for being different”.

“The Carthusians consecrate their lives entirely to prayer and seeking God in the secret of their hearts. They intercede for the Church and for the salvation of the whole world”.

21 years in the making this documentary welcome people from all walks of life to have a look inside this faith filled monastery and walk right into a great silence.

2. Of Gods and Men

What does it means to give your life for others? What does it means to risk martyrdom in order to give witness of Christ love? Most of us will never have to confront these questions but sadly many Christian around the world know very well the answer to these questions. This powerful movie tells the story of French Trappist monks who were martyred in Algeria by Islamic terrorist for not abandoning their community that they served.

1. The Passion of the Christ

Words are not needed to describe Mel Gibson masterpiece. It is simple the greatest movie ever made.

Look at how salvation was nailed to the Cross… How can you keep from crying?