Four Letter Nerd

Category - Movies

4LN Movie Review: The Witch

witch_2015_0

I’ll be honest, this is a difficult film to discuss without divulging too much information. Before seeing it, the most I knew about The Witch was that it was about a family of New World settlers encountering supernatural happenings due to a witch in the woods. I was… half right? See, I’m holding back becasue I’m worried about spoiling it for you. You really do benefit from going into it blind, or at least with very little understanding, and for that reason I was even hesitant to write a review, but I also really loved it so therein lies my dilemma.

Here’s the deal, I’m going to keep this as spoiler-free as I possibly can, I’ll try my hardest, but if you don’t want to know too much about it, then turn back now. WAIT! Actually, there’s one more thing I want to say before you hit the back button, or the little x, or however you normally leave this site after accidentally clicking on the link. The Witch is not for casual horror movie fans. Just because you love Jason, or Freddy, or liked a couple of the SAW movies, or watch The Walking Dead regularly does not mean that this is for you. This isn’t some stuff-jumps-out-and-scares-the-shit-out-of-you-but-everything-wraps-up-neatly-in-the-end horror movie. There is no redemption here, and that can be soul-shaking for some people. This film is deep, and dark, and disturbing at times. Scratch that. It’s disturbing MOST of the time. Scratch THAT. It’s disturbing ALL THE WAY THROUGH. At the time I’m writing this sentence, I’ve been out of the theater for about 5 hours and I’m still having shivers every few minutes. I watch a lot of horror movies and things don’t normally effect me like that, so you should listen to me when I say, only see this if you’re a true, deep in your soul, committed to the genre, horror film devotee. I want this movie to make money so that we get more films like it, but I also feel a responsibility to anyone who may read this to let them know what they’re getting themselves into in  the event that they’re skeptical about it. To support my opinion, I submit to you a comment from Bram Stoker Award winning horror author Brian Keene:

I experienced the truth of this statement first hand. As I was going into the theater to buy my ticket, a couple came up next to me to buy tickets for the movie also. The guy looked like he would be more comfortable seeing 13 Hours, and the girl looked like she would be more comfortable seeing The Choice. But alas, this is what they decided to do with their date day. A little over half way through the movie I heard a sound that was either laughing or crying. It was crying. Specifically, the girl from the lobby was crying. Not weeping, or sobbing, necessarily, but she was definitely crying and she was trying to hide it. I felt bad for her because based on her enthusiasm at the box office window she was obviously the one who thought this would be a good idea and she was deeply, painfully regretting that decision. After the movie I saw the guy waiting outside the ladies restroom, presumably for her, and he had this look on his face that seemed to say, “Dude. What in the unholy hell was that s**t?”

There are a lot of factors that go into making The Witch so unsettling and creepy. For starters, the atmosphere of the whole film is very tense. Within the first 15 minutes or so, we see some pretty horrible stuff go down and that really sets the pace for the rest of the movie. It’s kind of like the cinematic equivalent to being buried alive in a box; Very early on the audience is forced to abandon hope and accept what is happening, and there’s literally nothing you can do about it. Every scene where something little happens has you wondering if something terrible is about to happen. For as many pregnant moments of terror, there are an equal amount of impotent moments that exist only to keep you scared. I think the the best way I could explain it is like when someone hits you, and then they do that thing where the they pull back and threaten to hit you again and so you flinch but then they don’t actually hit you. It’s like that. It has flinch moments carefully inserted between the sucker-punches and the bitch-slaps to keep your attention.

The acting in the film is absolutely amazing. It’s a small cast, with 95% of the movie only carried by the actors that portray the family, but they do a hell of job. I can’t imagine it was easy for them either. The things they have to be a part of to help encapsulate the tone of the film are hard enough to watch at times, actually performing them must have worn on their psyches. The patriarch of the family is played by Ralph Ineson, who is probably most familiar to you as Dagmer Cleftjaw from Game of Thrones, and/or as Amycus Carrow from the Harry Potter films. He has this incredibly distinctive voice that is deep and gravelly that, while it’s still very intimidating, manages to avoid being menacing. He never comes across threatening or cruel, you just see him as a weathered old farmer who’s trying to do the best he can for his family. His wife is played by Kate Dickie, who you will know as Lysa Arryn from Game of Thrones. While the entire family experiences a collective mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical destruction, Dickie’s role as the mother, Katherine, is the one that displays the most noticeable breakdown. She does a fantastic job of beginning that decent into madness that we all see coming, but have no idea exactly to what depth it will reach.

Arguably, the main character of the film is oldest daughter Thomasin, played flawlessly by Anya Taylor-Joy. Thomasin is a simple girl. She carries burden, but not too deeply. By the end of the film she seems like a completely different person but when you look back you wonder if maybe the core of who she is hasn’t actually changed all that much. She’s not weak, but she’s naive, or perhaps, “unsophisticated” is a more appropriate term. She loves her family, and at first glance that appears to be enough for her, but then after the credits roll you question whether or not this is true. I was very impressed with her performance and I genuinely hope she’s wise and selective about the rolls she takes in the future. Too often, incredibly talented young actresses make a big splash in the indie film scene and then move on to the Hollywood big leagues and end up just another face in the deluge of new young actresses. It’s a shame, but it happens. I think Taylor-Joy has is in a prime spot to move her career forward in a good direction and I’m eager to see what she takes on next.

The other children are all perfect in their roles as well. The youngest, the twins, are played by Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson. They look to be all of maybe 5 or 6 years old, but they bring an energy and presence that is far beyond their young years. The oldest son, Caleb, is played by l, who I estimate is about 11 or 12 years old. He’s… kind of brilliant actually. He’s the one who clearly has the most vocal skepticism (albeit, fear based) about the family’s faith and there are two scenes in the film that correlate well to kind of complete his feelings, and both are powerful moments that Scrimshaw performs amazingly. The first is a conversation he has with his father in the woods while they’re tracking animals for food, and the other happens a little later and I won’t spoil it, but when you see it you’ll be like, “Oh my god. That kid can ACT.” Now that I really think about it. Caleb might even be the most complex character in the film. There are a lot more layers to him than you notice at first but when you go back and think about all of it you start to see how they compound to make up his character.

One thing you’ll have noticed about the pictures I’ve used so far in this article is that they all have a dull, gray-ish tone about them. The whole movie is like this basically. Although this is his first feature film, director Robert Eggers seems to have an astute eye for what cinematography style will best capture what tone he’s trying to convey and in The Witch he goes towards the sinister with those gray’s I mentioned, and using a lot of ominous shots. There are small shots that make you feel claustrophobic, or like you’re backed into a corner with nowhere to go and you just have to witness the terror, but then there are a lot of wide scope, big picture moments that serve to show you more of the location and the characters smallness by comparison. Like, of course the people stand little chance when the very environment they’re a part of is so grand and menacing. Partnered with those shots is an absolutly fantastic score that adds so much to make the suspense more paralyzing.

Eggers uses a lot of powerful imagery as well. Like, A LOT. There’s the black goat known as Black Phillip. He’s creepy, and not just in the “goats are already creepy” way. He’s extra, that-goat-is-the-motherf**kin-devil creepy. He also uses religious themes to make it feel more foreboding. Specifically, he uses the concept of prayer. The family holding hands and praying together by candlelight, or the desperate prayers for peace and mercy during a gravely painful time. Prayers that you know won’t make a difference. You don’t know how you know but you just do. Then there’s the witch herself. Yes, the movie is called The Witch because there is an actual witch present. It’s not just an ironic title or something. The moments with her are very disturbing and unsettling. Very. Even now I feel weird just thinking about it. Again, I don’t want to go into too much detail so as not to spoil it for you, but when you see it you’ll understand what I mean.

Well, look at that. I ended up being able to say more about it that I thought I would. The funny thing is I was 100% prepared for The Witch to disappoint me. I even asked myself several times throughout the movie, “Does this live up to the hype, or am I just trying to force myself to like it?” I mean, even though I always try to remain positive, I have been fooled before. By the end of the movie it was clear to me that The Witch deserves every bit of praise heaped upon it. I genuinely enjoyed the movie. Maybe “enjoyed” is not the best term to use here. I love this film for the risk it is and the emotions it intends to compel in you. Would I watch it again? Absolutely. I plan to. There are ideas that I think you miss the first time around and I want to absorb more of them.

The Witch is not like any horror film that I’ve seen before. It’s certainly not like any modern horror movie. It doesn’t use gimmicks or shock-and-awe to scare you. Much of what’s so terrifying is in what you don’t actually see. It also doesn’t use use any comedy to lighten the mood whatsoever, which is something a lot of modern horror movies do. There’s no jokes, or any humor to alleviate the tension and suspense. You’re dropped right into the dark, unpredictable deep end of the pool and you either swim, or you drown. Whatever you do, don’t see the The Witch if you can’t swim, because there won’t be anyone there to save you.

Tails of Horror: An Interview with filmmaker Cameron McCasland

Last year, around Halloween, we hosted an indie horror movie screening at one of our local comic shops and the very first film on the docket was Tailypo, which was written, produced & directed by Cameron McCasland. I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Cameron about the film, how he got his start, and what projects he has on the horizon.

4LN – When did you first know that you wanted to make movies? Was there any specific “lightbulb” moment, or did you just always want to?

Cameron McCasland – Well, I was making videos even as a kid. Somewhere on the planet is a video of me dressed as Michael Jackson fighting two cockroaches. I moved from East Texas to Nashville with aspirations to get into the music business and play in a band. But after a while, that just wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I started lending hands on a few indie films, and did a bit of acting. I was living in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a brief period and was just flat broke when I picked up Robert Rodriguez book “Rebel Without A Crew” and was just inspired. I headed back over to Nashville, and in pretty quick succession I directed a music video for the Austin based rock band Quiet Company. Taylor Muse had been my room mate when he lived in Nashville, and I used to manage his old band. They needed a video, I needed a director credit. So we made Fashionabel and it went up on MTV’s website and we’ve both been chasing our dream since.

 

4LN – Do you set out to make a specific type of film, or do you just follow inspiration where it leads you?

CM – I kind of take it as it comes. With The Lashman it was more of a building a script around things i had available. But also really digging deep into the genre and trying to stay true to that. On the other hand, Matt Riddlehoover brought me Paternity Leave (which I produced) and it really spoke to me at that point in time because I was a single father raising two little girls. I always look for specific things that I’m trying to accomplish in each project.

 

4LN – Your most recent film, “Tailypo”, is about on old urban legend of sorts. Can you tell us little about what lead you to make this film?

CM – For Tailypo, that was nearly just exorcising some old childhood fears. I’ve been carrying that story since I was small child. I heard it from a school teacher and it just stuck with me. The idea of adapting it really kind of came through the process of making The Lashman. I met David Chattam who auditioned and played a small role in that movie. I loved working with him, but our time was brief as he was only on set one day. But what he brought to that role was a totally different take than what I had pictured, and it got me thinking about the Hermit in the Tailypo. We also shot Lashman at the Copper Canyon Ranch in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and it was such a wonderful experience it just made sense to go back there for Tailypo. So I wrote the script without Davids knowledge and told him I had 15 pages of him talking to a dog. Happily he didn’t laugh me off the telephone.

 

4LN – What was the actual filming process like? The entire thing takes place in the woods and partially at night. Was it difficult to shoot?

CM – It took a little doing honestly. We filmed the first part in the summer at Copper Canyon Ranch. We did the majority of the interiors, a few exteriors, and shot a bit of the monster. We shot 2 days and 2 nights over a weekend before sending David back to Nashville. That same week I produced a music video for Florida Georgia Line at the ranch, which was convenient, as I had all my gear in place. We then came back to Nashville and started on the edit. I wasn’t really happy with the exteriors. It was just too green and lush. So we waited a few months for winter to set in, and went back to do the opening of the film, and we picked up a few of the interior shots as well as having a better idea of how the monster was going to work. I made one last stop at Copper Canyon on my way back home from the MayDay Film Festival to shoot the shots of the cabin in the film, as I had in the mean time come across this killer old Mole Richardson fog machine, and just thought it would help build the atmosphere.

From there, the only thing I had to do was cast the voice of the Tailypo. Joseph Drake played the body of the creature, but I had always planned on doing something different with the voice. I called up Danielle Gelehrter who I had collaborated with a few years back on The Dreadful Hallowgreen Special and talked to her about the part. She had never heard the legend, but did some weekend reading before calling me back. I told her my ideas, and she did some reading for me on the phone. I asked her to record a few things on her phone just so we could temp them in, as she was about to leave on a vacation. We were going to have her record them up near Boston, but the recordings she did on the phone had this great surreal quality to them, and we ended up using them in the final version. So by the time she got home from her trip I had the movie finished, which I think surprised her. She brought this creepy, vicious monster to life with that voice. Can’t imagine anyone else doing it.

 

4LN – “Tailypo” has been very successful. You’ve won awards and screening it all over the country. Did you imagine that it would big such a big hit when you were filming it?

CM – I am thankful to be so fortunate. The movie has been very well received so far. At this point its played multiple dates in the U.S. as well as Canada, Russia, and the U.K. Its also the first movie I’ve ever had screen ed at a Drive-In where it played in between The Goonies and Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. That was just a trip for me. We’ve picked up a few festival awards, and I received a Emmy nomination for directing which was a first. And just this last week we received two nominations from the Indieville TV Awards and another for Best Short Film at the Horror Society Awards. So, yes Id say we have been very fortunate. Just soaking it all in. I know soon enough I’ll have to get back to work. As they say, You’re only as good as your next one.

 

4LN – Do you have anything planned yet for your next film, and if so, what can you tell us about it?

CM – Well, I am in post production now on another feature film I produced for Matt Riddlehoover called What’s The Matter With Gerald which will be out a bit later this year. I directed a short film adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft story The Beast in the Cave which is 95% complete at this point and will probably show up online in the same manner Tailypo did. I’m working on a few feature ideas at the moment. One is a car chase film, and the other a western. It really just kind of comes down to which one we can scrape the funds together for at this point. I’ve got a few other things Id like to do, just need some time at home to put it all together.

4LN – This next section is our “Lightening Round”. Just answer with the first thing that comes to mind. What was the last concert you went to?

CM – I don’t think I’ve seen anyone this year. I saw aave a lot last year. Band out of Nashville on the Villain Place label which I do a lot of music video work with. I saw them with The Dead Deads, and all girl rock band that is killer a few months back. Last year saw two stadium shows, Rolling Stones with Brad Paisley and Jack White with Raconteurs and Loretta Lynn. All good stuff.

 

4LN – What slasher movie villain would you most wanna have a beer with?

CM – That’s like begging for death right? Freddy Krueger has to be the best conversationalist. Or maybe Norman Bates. That seems like it would be pleasant at first.

 

4LN – In your opinion, what is the best show on television right now?

CM – I really like Togetherness on HBO. The Duplass brothers are doing something really cool with that. I think it speaks to me just because of the age I’m at. And Steve Zissis is just wonderful. I kind of wish I could have got him in a movie before now, because I’m certain he is about to blow up and I won’t be able to afford him. And, I’ve been eating up this new X-Files season. Id love to see that become a main stay on television again.

 

4LN – Batman vs. Superman, realistically, who wins?

CM – Batman, but it took me a long time to come to that conclusion. Batman always fights for the moral good. So if Superman is battling him then he has already lost his moral center and at that point has lost. So Superman could kill Batman, no question. But he would at the point lose. You can’t beat the Bat.

 

4LN – Finally, if you could choose any movie monster to direct a feature film of, who would choose and why?

CM – For a long time I thought I wanted to be the one to get the Ninja Turtle or Masters Of the Universe job, but the more I see Hollywood franchise films the less I want to be part of that world. I think I’d do a good job with either Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street, but I also know an equal amount of people would hate it. Just not sure if its worth it, as I doubt anyone is going to do a better job than the ones that already exist. The only movie I’d really want to remake right now is The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. I’d be all over that.

 

I want to send a big THANK YOU to Cameron for talking with me. If you want to keep up with all that he has going on then check out the website for his production company Red Headed Revolution, and there you can find links to all of his social media sites.

4LN Movie Review – Deadpool

Official Film Synopsis: “Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, DEADPOOL tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.”

A lot of reviews for this movie are going to start out with something to the effect of, “I’m not a Deadpool fan but…” and then they’ll proceed to tell you why the movie is still great anyway even if you don’t care about the character. Those people are self-absorbed assclowns who have no business writing “reviews”. Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “I thought 4LN was trying to be less negative than other websites? Didn’t you write a whole thing about how you were changing and being more positive?” Yes, we did do that, (in fact, I personally wrote that) and we are being more positive… about the artistic expressions we discuss. HOWEVER, it’s not artistic to tell people you liked something in spite of itself so anyone who does that has earned the honorable title of “assclown”. (I’ve gotten completely off track, and I apologize.)

I personally love Deadpool. Always have. I love that he’s flippant and self-aware. I love that he breaks the fourth wall. I love that he irritates the shit out of every single other character he interacts with. People will throw around words like “gimmicky” or “shtick” in an effort to degrade Deadpool, but what they seem to be too dim to understand is that these are natural traits of the character. He’s supposed to have a shtick, and a gimmick. HE DOES IT ON PURPOSE. You can’t insult him for being exactly what he wants to be. (Somehow this became an In Defense of Deadpool article and I honestly can’t tell you how that happened.)

“No, please go on. I need Mompool and Dadpool to hear this. They’re disappointed I didn’t turn out more like my brother Harvardpool.”

Ok, so Deadpool The Movie… Well, it’s f—ing hilarious. That thing the assclowns said is actually half right. You don’t need to like, or even be familiar with, Deadpool in order to laugh hysterically at the movie. The jokes even come so fast that you’ll want to see it a second time just so you can try to catch what you missed the first time around. Ryan Reynolds just IS Wade Wilson/Deadpool, much in the same was Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark. You just know that in some ways he’s not even acting, he’s just being himself and the essence of Deadpool is present because he’s naturally sarcastic and funny. The humor of the film doesn’t rest squarely on Reynolds’ strong, sexy shoulders though. There are plenty of other characters that share in the comedy. The most contributing support comes from TJ Miller, playing Wade’s BFF Weasel. Their chemistry is perfect and Miller brilliantly plays off of Reynolds’ sarcasm and serves it right back.

“I’m gonna be honest with you Wade. You look like a month old pepperoni pizza in a skull cap.”)

Characters like Colossus (played by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (played by Brianna Hildebrand), show up and also add to the comedy mix. But mostly because they play straight next to Deadpool’s lack of seriousness. Colossus is sort-of Drax like, in that he’s more of a noble-ish warrior and he doesn’t quite get everything Deadpool is throwing at him. Negasonic is just a typical, millennial, teenage girl and she doesn’t really have time for his crap, but she’s basically Colossus’ protege so she’s stuck. There’s also the blind, black lady that Deadpool is roommates with, Blind Al. She’s fantastic because the character makes no sense being blended in with the rest of them but she works so great, and her scenes are absolutely hilarious.

The villains Ajax and Angel Dust are played by Ed Skrein and Gina Carano. Ajax is responsible for turning Wade into Deadpool, and Angel Dust is his muscle. They are both very good and pose the “good guys” a genuine threat.

“#SquadGoals?”

One of the best things about the film is the chemistry between Reynolds and Morena Baccarin as his girlfriend, Vanessa. She’s not just eye-candy, or some damsel in distress. (I mean, she is nice to look at, but she’s not JUST that.) She holds her own in every scene she shares with Wade/Deadpool, and doesn’t just concede all rights to humor away to him. She participates. And she’s damn funny. I was very impressed with how they were able to pull of the romantic dynamic without making it dull and sappy, because it works so well.

“If I drink this will you show me your boobs?” “No.” “Do I have to drink it anyway?” “No.” “Really?!” “No, you have to drink it.” “Son of a… It tastes like garbage disposal water.” “Have you been drinking from the garbage disposal again?”

This is an “origin” story for Deadpool, in the sense that X-Men: Days of Future Past reset the timeline so the abomination formerly known as “Deadpool” in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie is irrelevant. It’s also not the same origin that is depicted in the comics but that really doesn’t matter. The plot is a little basic and somewhat predictable, but that’s on purpose. It scales back the complexity for the sake of putting more emphasis on the humor and action.

The film is directed by Tim Miller, and it’s his first time in the director’s chair for a major motion picture, but he previously worked on Scott Pilgrim vs. The World as the Creative Supervisor, and that film is an undisputed visual effects juggernaut, so yeah, the guy know what he’s doing.

I’ve gone on and on about how funny Deadpool is, but I should explain that it’s really equal parts a comedy and an action film, with a sneaky love story to hold it all together. Like I mentioned previously though, it’s not sappy or anything like that at all. The relationship between Wade and Vanessa actually feels much more realistic and natural than most movie couples. I also appreciated how sincere the film felt when Wade was diagnosed with cancer, which is the motivation for him to undergo Ajax’s experiments in order to save his life. He’s not trying to save himself for him, he’s saving himself for her. They managed to capture a very genuine sense of selfless survival, which can be rare for movies at this level. They don’t take much seriously, but the things they do, they handle very well.

“I’m gonna need more than a hoodie aren’t I?”

One thing that really stood out to me was the use of music in the film. At different times they play Wham!, Salt-n-Pepa, DMX, etc. The list of awkwardly perfect songs to accompany the film goes on and on. This is a trend that I feel Guardians of the Galaxy started way back when they released the first trailer featuring “Hooked on a Feeling”, and then used all those classic pop and rock songs throughout the film and on the soundtrack. Then last year, Kingsman: The Secret Service used Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” during that notoriously violent church shoot-out scene, and the opening of the movie featured “Money for Nothing”, by Dire Straights. I like this new trend. It’s a clever and useful tool for making intense moments feel a little lighter.

Also, as you’ve been hearing, no, this movie is not for kids. It’s very much a film for mature audiences, so just because little Jake or darling Madison (those were then most popular baby names of 2002, I googled it) loves all the other superhero movies you’ve taken them to doesn’t mean you should take them to this. If you wouldn’t let them watch The Hangover, or Game of Thrones, then Deadpool is a no-go also. Buy them a ticket to see Zoolander 2 while you go see Deadpool. I’m sure they did something terrible enough to deserve that… (Real talk: I didn’t wanna make that joke, but it just came so easily.)

“Derek who? I got your Magnum right here baby… wait where are you going?”

Deadpool is a great movie. It’s exciting, and funny, and intense, and funny some more, and then continuously funny all the way to the very end. Speaking of, make sure you stay through the credits if you want to see the scene at the very end, because there is one.

The film also serves to prove a point that I have been making for years, which is that Ryan Reynolds is never the reason movies he’s in are bad. See, Green Lantern was not a critical success, but I’ve always maintained that it wasn’t for Reynolds’ lack of trying. He, Mark Strong as Sinestro, and (Ryan’s now wife) Blake Lively as Carol Ferris are really the only things that work about that movie. Then there’s the aforementioned Wolverine movie, which is where he first played Wade Wilson, and was terrific at it. Again, as much of a mess as that movie was, and as bad as they f—ed up Deadpool, his performance as Wade was spot-on and perfect. I’m 100% willing to overlook that misstep because without it we may not have gotten this magnificent piece of bloody, irreverent cinema.

So, go see Deadpool. You’re gonna love it. (Betty White does, and do you think you’re better than Betty f—ing White?) It’s incredibly funny, and very self-aware. Hell, it’s already setting records and it hasn’t even been out for a full 24 hours. Rarely does a movie like this come along, and so it’s important that if you love it, you get out and support it because we want them to keep making fun, R-rated comic book movies for us grown-ups to enjoy. (Oh, also, Stan Lee does have a cameo in this and it’s HIS BEST ONE YET. Seriously.)

The 5th Wave – Is The Book Better? (SPOILERS)

(Editor’s Note – This article was written by Paige Clark)

I consider myself an “almost” avid reader. I don’t always have time to sit down and read books, but I can listen to an audiobook like nobodies business. I saw the trailer for The 5th Wave and knew it was right up my alley as far as something I would like to read. I mean, alien invasions, disasters, plagues, AND a love story?! Don’t mind if I do!

The book starts off with the heroine of the story, Cassie (played by Chloe Grace Moretz in the film), pointing the barrel of her M-16 rifle at a solider and begging him to show his hands. When he doesn’t she fires, turns out he was only holding onto a crucifix. That did a great job of setting up her story. She describes her life as totally normal until one day “the Others”, as they are called, showed up. Nothing will ever be the same for them after that. The 1st Wave was a giant EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that turned everything in the entire world off. The 2nd Wave was an earthquake that shook the whole world creating tsunamis that decimated coastal regions and other areas below sea level. The 3rd Wave was a virus spread by birds. The 4th Wave was a little more complicated. The 5th Wave was sad and terrifying.

 

The movie followed the book almost perfectly, which I was quite please with because I absolutely loved the book. I hated when I had to stop listening to it, and may or may not have taken longer than usual showers and potty breaks so I could listen to it (#sorrynotsorry). I don’t think there was ever a dull moment when I zoned out while listening to the audiobook. The book did such a great job developing each character. Both the book and the movie were fairly faced paced even though the story took place over a few months time. The movie made you feel like it was weeks at the most.

I will say that the book did a much better job at making you believe that they were actually in a apocalyptic type setting in the sense that she had to forage for food and was filthy. In the movie her hair was beautiful the whole time. I can’t make my hair do what hers did after an hour at the park, and she had been trying to survive in the woods by herself for days on end. I don’t know about you, but I would have been much more concerned about survival than a proper hair care regimen. I mean, I get that she couldn’t have been rough looking the whole time, but they could have done at least a little better.

“Journal Entry #145: This Pantene Pro-V leave-in conditioner I put in my hair 3 months ago is STILL WORKING.”

I was a little disappointed that they weren’t able to set up Cassie and Evan’s relationship as much as they did in the book, but that is to be expected since a book offers way more time to develop that sort of thing. On her way to get her brother Sammy back she was shot by a “Silencer,” the Others’s snipers. She woke up with a super hottie, Evan Walker (played by Alex Roe), taking care of her. How could she not fall in love with him when he takes care of her, washes her hair, shows her how to shoot, and tells her things like “You saved me, Cassie.” I mean, good golly! Well turns out he was the Silencer who shot her. He is technically an Other but Cassie made him want to be human again (because, duh). One scene that they just threw into the movie to show that she was becoming more fond of Evan, before she found out he was the one who shot her, was him chopping wood. Men chopping wood will always be one of the most attractive things, assuming that the man chopping is remotely good looking. Alex Roe is extremely good looking.

“Nice guns. Need help cleaning them? Oh god, I just realized how inappropriate that sounded. I actually literally meant that I could help clean your guns because I have some experience with them and I’m just gonna shut up now.”

Another main character that I really enjoyed was Zombie aka Ben Parish (played by Jurassic World’s Nick Robinson) He was Cassie’s love interested in High School because everything about him was perfect. Well turns out he was not so perfect. His back story was a little darker – he kind of ran away instead of trying to do more to save his little sister. The movie didn’t go into much of his back story at all, I think because it was so unlikable. I completely fell in love with Ben Parish (it helps that I love Nick Robinson too, I’m a big Melissa and Joey fan) He tries so hard to make up for his mistakes that he made and when he smiles I’d give him all the things. One thing he does is try to help take care of Sammy who ends up in his squad.

“Nice guns. Need help clea… wait, never mind.”

Liev Schreiber, as always, is phenomenal. He plays Colonel Vosch, who is the leader of the Others. He orchestrates the 5th Wave. The reason that Cassie is trying to get her brother Sammy back is because he was taken to a local air force base thinking that he was going to be taken somewhere safe. After they took all the children from the refugee camp that her family was staying at, Vosch had all the adults killed while Cassie was hiding in the woods. She realized then that the army was not who people thought they were. They were actually the Others. They recruited children, trained them as soldiers, and sent them out into the field to kill what they thought were the Others, but they were actually killing the remaining humans that had managed to survive. Ben Parish and his squad figure this out when they were sent into combat. He realizes that he has to go back for Sammy as well. Sammy was put in his squad, but was not old enough to be sent to fight. What is it with this kid that makes him so special? Well, he was pretty adorable in both the book and the movie.

“Who the %$#& is Sabertooth? You will refer to me as Colonel, maggot.”

Of course Cassie and Ben end up running into each other when they are trying to both save Sammy. They are shocked, especially her considering she use to have a big crush on him, to see each other but work out that they are actually on the same team. In the movie, Cassie refused Evan’s help once she learned that he was really an Other, but of course he helped anyways. In the book she had a little more time to kind of figure out who/what he was so she was a little more keen on him helping her since he knew exactly what was going on. When Evan jumped in just when he was needed to save Cassie he said something in the movie that pretty much melted my heart, “I was wrong when I said I was one of them and one of you. You can’t be both, you have to chose. I chose you.” Then he kisses her <3 I could be misquoting that but you get the point.

“I have to tell you a secret… this isn’t my real hair.”

Eventually, Evan blows up the base. Cassie, Sammy, and Ben barely get away from the explosions. And it ends with setting up to the next part of the story.

The book (and movie) start with a hopeless situation because the 4th Wave caused everyone to stop trusting one another because anyone, even your mom, could be an Other.  That’s the reason the movie starts off with her shooting that soldier, she had no choice and no hope.  In the end though,the movie left me with all the hope you can imagine a human can have.  I could go on and on, but now I am off to start the second book. Enjoy both the book and the movie!

 

(Editor’s Note: This article was written by our favorite YA Novel enthusiast, Paige Clark.)

Batman v Superman: First Look

If you missed it last night, like I did, the CW premiered some new Batman v Superman footage. In the new footage we have some new shots of Superman in a hallway, a better first look at Wonder Woman, and we see what happens when Doomsday’s heat vision hits Diana’s shield. One of the more important things about the trailer is we seem to finally get conformation that Lex Luther is, and will be, the main villain in this movie. On a scale of one to ten, how excited are you for Batman v Superman? I’m at about an eleven, so without further adieu, here is the new trailer, featuring the fatman on Batman, Kevin Smith.

(Ben Affleck, I apologize for hating you, as I now 100% support you as Batman. There’s no excuse for my neckbeardy behavior and I swear I will try harder to be a better nerd, and all around better person from now on. Also, I actually loved Gigli.)

 

AND! Because I like bringing you even more excitement, here is the new Suicide Squad trailer. Bohemian Rhapsody fits perfectly with this trailer, well done.

Remembering Alan Rickman

If you’re reading this then you already know that the brilliant and beloved Alan Rickman has passed away. Reports say that Rickman lost a battle to cancer and peacefully went to that big Nakatomi Plaza in the sky. For most people from my generation, Rickman will always be most fondly remembered as Severus Snape, the brooding and intimidating Hogwarts professor with a reluctant and unassuming heart of gold. For the people just above my generation he’ll always be Hans Gruber, the cunning and ruthless German terrorist who helped introduce us to the best blue-collar action hero the world has ever seen, John McClane. And since everywhere else you read about the wonderful life of Mr. Rickman will likely only focus on these two roles of his, I’d like to talk about a few of his other fantastic work.

The first time I remember seeing Alan Rickman was in the Kevin Costner Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves film. As a kid, I LOVED that movie. I used to watch it all the time. As an adult, I realize… Costner maybe isn’t the best Robin Hood. However, Rickman’s portrayal of the despicable but humorously exasperated Sheriff of Nottingham is still one of the standout performances in that film. The Sheriff is a jerk, but Rickman almost gets you on his side for brief moments, due to the way you almost relate to his frustrations.

“I’m gonna cut your heart out with a spoon!”

The next time I was captivated by Rickman wasn’t until about 8 years later. The film was Dogma. Written and directed by Kevin Smith, the film is about a woman who discovers that she is the final bloodline relative of Jesus Christ and is the only person who can save the universe from being obliterated. That movie made a very big impact on me in terms of my understanding and perception of religion and belief, and Rickman’s role as the Metatron, the Voice of God, played a big part in that. At one point in the film, the main character Bethany breaks down and says that she’s not capable of taking on the responsibility that’s fallen on her. At that point, Rickman delivers this monologue as only he could’ve…

That’s what Jesus said. Yes, I had to tell him. And you can imagine how that hurt the Father – not to be able to tell the Son Himself because one word from His lips would destroy the boy’s frail human form? So I was forced to deliver the news to a scared child who wanted nothing more than to play with other children. I had to tell this little boy that He was God’s only Son, and that it meant a life of persecution and eventual crucifixion at the hands of the very people He came to enlighten and redeem. He begged me to take it back, as if I could. He begged me to make it all not true. And I’ll let you in on something, Bethany, this is something I’ve never told anyone before… If I had the power, I would have.

That fell very heavy on me, and I’m convinced that no other actor could have inserted the intensity and emotion into it that Rickman did. The man was a master of his craft.

“Human beings have neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God’s true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode within your chest. We went through five Adams before we figured that one out.”

Immediately following Dogma, Rickman joined the ensemble comedy, Galaxy Quest, which has become something of a cult-classic in nerd culture. His portrayal of Alexander Dane, a true thespian who’s resentful that his most notable work is as “Dr. Lazarus” on the cancelled sci-fi show for which the film is named. He again, doing as Rickman did best, plays a very hilariously frustrated character, who doesn’t want much. Just the respect that he feels he deserves.

“I played Richard III… There were five curtain calls. I was an actor once, damn it. Now look at me. Look at me! I won’t go out there and say that stupid line one more time.”

The final film I’d like to mention, was a role for Rickman that was maybe his most down-to-earth performance ever. Love, Actually. I know, I know. It’s a “romantic comedy” and you very likely don’t even respect it’s existence. Well, you can go to hell becasue I actually love that movie. (See what I did there?)

Rickman plays Harry, the director of a design company who becomes gradually seduced by his secretary, as he drifts further and further away from his wife, played by Emma Thompson. Their interactions in the film become more and more difficult to watch as you see his whor… I mean… his “lady of the evening” secretary persuade him futher and further into an unseen, but clearly not imaginary, affair. He painfully captures the sincerity of someone who knows what they’re doing is wrong but keeps doing it anyway. The layers that exist in that character are, in my opinion, the most complex ones to be found in a film that, arguably, has more depth than you think it does. You can thank Alan Rickman for that.

“Right, the Christmas party. Not my favorite night of the year, and your unhappy job to organize… it’s basic, really. Find a venue, over-order on the drinks, bulk-buy the guacamole and advise the girls to avoid Kevin if they want their breasts unfondled.”

Alan Rickman was a truly brilliant actor. He could be menacing in ways that would make your skin crawl, but he could also make you laugh out loud with his dry and slightly bitter sense of humor. He could seamlessly flow from drama, to action, to fantasy, to comedy, and even do all four at once if need be. No role was too small that he couldn’t make it the most captivating performance you’d see in that entire film, and no role was too big that you’d tire of him. His artful presence will be sorely missed.

“Talent is an accident of genes – and a responsibility.” – Alan Rickman. 1946 – 2016

4LN Movie Review – The Hateful Eight

“Visionary” is a term that is too often touted about filmmakers these days. This director is a “visionary” because of his low-budget indie film about a guy who has intimacy issues due to his poor relationship with his parents. Boo-f**king-hoo. That director is a “visionary” because he found a way to genre-bend sci-fi with comedy and make an irreverent movie about two goofy friends who become reluctant, unassuming heroes in a magical fantasy world. Sounds truly, *truly* groundbreaking.

The men and women who write and create movies like those are not visionaries. They’re creative. I in no way intend that to be an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being just creative. Hell, I’m barely “just creative”. I couldn’t do what they do. Not even in the slightest. But, the term “visionary” is defined as “thinking about or planning the future with imagination or wisdom”, and that comes with a pretty big responsibility. Personally, I think that second OR should be changed to an AND; “imagination AND wisdom”. It’s likely you’ve already figured out what I’m getting at and wish I’d stop waxing eloquent and just say it, so here goes…

Quentin Tarantino is a visionary director, and The Hateful Eight is a damn fine cinematic achievement.

The Official film synopsis is as follows:

Six or eight or twelve years after the Civil War, a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff. Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Demian Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travelers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all…

There is very little else you can safely know about the plot and the story of The Hateful Eight before you start veering into Spoiler territory, so I’ll do my best to tread lightly.

First off, this isn’t a movie. It’s a film. That’s likely the most pretentious thing I’ve said in this entire review (so far!) but it’s the truth. Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a movie. The Expendables 3 is a movie (as well as 1 and 2). Pretty much everything Adam Sandler puts out nowadays are movies. Movies can be fun, and exciting, and just all-around entertaining. But movies don’t matter. Films matter. Films are labors of love and often take huge risks. Movies are cheap laughs and cheap thrills that don’t make you have to think or face some crucial facet of society or culture. Films aspire to do just that, as well as genuinely captivate you with their beauty and complexity.

The Hateful Eight is both beautiful and complex, and that’s only a fraction of what makes it a fantastic film. The first half of it progresses just like a stage play. It moves at a leisurely pace and is mostly driven by conversational dialogue and lingering tensions. Much of that is lead by Kirk Russell’s charcater John Ruth, as he spends a lot of time getting to know people. Not becasue he’s friendly, but becasue he really doesn’t trust any of them. The second half of the film picks up the pacing and brings the whole thing home in true Tarantino fashion. That is to say, brutally violent.

The story that Tarantino crafted is brilliant. It seems simple at first, but eventually reveals itself to be much more complex and complicated than the slow development would have you believe. It is also probably the most unpredictable film he’s ever made. Yes, it does have a western style like Django Unchained, but I’d say that it actually has more in common with Inglorious Bastards and Pulp Fiction as far as its tone and structure. Again, I don’t want to reveal too much, so I’ll not go into the specifics that lead me to this assessment, but suffice to say, it shares a similar approach to character development and chronology.

The brilliance that Quentin Tarantino poured into the story is only a third of what makes The Hateful Eight so enticing. The next third is the performances from every single actor on camera. There isn’t a weak link in the whole bunch. Kurt Russell is commanding and grizzled, and reminded me so much of John Wayne in the way he spoke and behaved. Sam Jackson shines the way he always does with strong presence and charisma. The two biggest stand-out’s, I felt, were ‎Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins. Leigh is funny and misleadingly conniving, especially since her character is extremely unsophisticated. She’s not as dim as she lets on. Then there’s Goggins as Chris Mannix, the son of a former Confederate war hero and the new sheriff of Red Rock (or so he claims). The cast is rounded out by Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, Demián Bichir, James Parks, and Tim Roth. Roth almost seems to channel a little Christoph Waltz at certain points, but it doesn’t feel forced. It’s just a role that I think Waltz could’ve possibly also performed.

The final third piece of what makes The Hateful Eight a great film, is all the talented people Tarantino surrounded himself with to help achieve the final product. There’s Ennio Morricone, The Composer, who scores the film, and has been working with Quentin since Kill Bill Vol. 1. Morricone is one the greatest film composers of all time, and he’s certainly well-known for his work on westerns, such as the most famous one of all time, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Then there’s Robert Richardson, The Cinematographer. He previously worked with Tarantino on both Kill Bill films, Inglorious Bastards, and Django Unchained, but he also has such films as Natural Born KillersJFK, and Platoon on his resume. The last contributor I’ll mention is Mr. Fred Raskin, The Editor. Raskin worked on both Kill Bill films and Django Unchained, as well as films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Boogie Nights. These men are, to overuse a lame adage, “the cream of the crop” in their respective film-work jobs, and bringing them together is like creating a behind-the-scenes Justice League. Together, they’ve accomplish something truly magnificent.

To end this review I would like to tell you what I went through to see it in the Panavision Super 70 Roadshow presentation. The only theater playing it in the 70mm format close to me is 30 miles away. My father also wanted to go and see it. He just so happened to have a gift card to that theater chain that someone had given him as a gift so he offered to pay for the tickets with that, cause he’s just a nice guy. Well, we checked Fandango before we headed to the theater and there were still tickets left so we figured we’d be fine. After all, we were going to the afternoon showing and presumed it wouldn’t be crowded. We were wrong. They weren’t just crowded. They were sold out. FOR THE WHOLE F***ING DAY. Just in the time it took us to drive 30 miles they sold out the showtime we we’re going to, as well as all the other showtimes for the day. Being that we had a theater specific gift card we couldn’t have used it to buy the tickets ahead that was a risk we assumed. That risk did not pay off. So, we decided to go ahead and buy tickets for the first showing the next day and just make the trek again. The next day we made the drive, arrived early, and got good seats. Thankfully we did all that becasue that showing also ended up selling out.

I tell you that story to say, I would go through it all again. I also strongly encourage you to see it in this format if you can, becasue it’s how the film was shot and it makes the visuals all the more enthralling. After the 3+ hours, when the lights came up, I sat there staring at the screen with a smile, relishing in all that I’d just be privileged to take in. Tarantino went through a lot to get The Hateful Eight to the big screen, and the film is a lot to absorb. But, if you’re willing to make the journey, then the reward is absolutely worth it.

4LN’s Favorite Movies of 2015


 

Jeff Merrick

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2015 will forever be defined as the year of “The Force Awakens.” The record breaking “Episode 7” was great comfort for all of us jilted Star Wars fans who, still bitter from the disappointment of the prequels, breathed a giant sigh of relief as JJ Abrams revived the proud franchise. “Force Awakens” was the perfect blend of strongly paced action with well-timed humor as the old guard passed the torch to a new generation of Star Wars heroes.

“The Force Awakens” passed the $1 billion mark after just two weekends at the box office.

Inside Out
I don’t think a motion picture studio today exists that pulls at the emotions the way Pixar does. So it was only a matter of time before the innovators of digital animation released a movie that dealt only with emotions. And the well-cast emotions of Riley (the film’s featured human who must endure the rigors of her preteen years in the middle of her family moving) made “Inside Out” one of Pixar’s best movies to date (and with Pixar’s track record, that’s saying something).

Jurassic World
If you want to pluck holes into every motion picture for it’s plot, acting, and screenwriting, then Jurassic World does not belong on your list. But I had more fun watching this movie than any other film I saw in 2015 (well, until I saw “The Force Awakens”). It definitely helped that my expectations were fairly low for the film, which I only expected three things from: 1. dinosaurs (check) 2. dinosaurs chasing and eating stupid people (check) 3. dinosaurs fighting dinosaurs (check). And we also got the bonus of Jimmy Buffett running away from pterodactyls, but not without his Margaritas.

The true moral of the story here is that we all need a movie every couple of years where people run from dinosaurs and “Jurassic World” quenched our thirst for now.

 

Bill

Mad Max: Fury Road
Tom Hardy is my favorite actor in the whole world. I’ve seen the movie This Means War about 1,000 times just because he’s in it. The Mad Max franchise just also happens to be my favorite film series in the whole world, and when I heard that my boy Tom Tom was gonna be playing Max Rockatansky I literally s**t my pants. I’m not kidding. I was standing in the middle of Subway waiting on my veggie sub, just scrolling through The Mary Sue and there it was. “Tom Hardy to star as the title character in new Mad Max film”. I just couldn’t physically contain myself. Anyway, it was worth it. This movie is FABULOUS! Go rent or buy it right now!

Straight Outta Compton
I love rap music. I started getting into it with Tyler, The Creator and the Odd Future crew, but lately I’ve been more into guys like Pitbull and Flo Rida. Obviously I’d heard of Doctor Dre and Shoop Dog and Iced Cube, but I really didn’t know much about the original rap super-group, The NWA. This movie was absolutely fantastic! It’s all about the fellas and how they came up to be one of the more popular groups in rap music. It also has Paul Giamatti in it, playing that group’s manager, and I didn’t intentionally know that he was in it. I was pleasantly surprised because he’s one of my favorite actors of all time.

The Martian
I read this book and so I had to see the movie. I was really glad I did because it’s become one of my favorite movies now. It’s got Matt Damon staring as an astronaut who gets stranded on the planet Mars and has to grow potatoes to survive until NASA can save him. It was fantastic! Boy, I’ll tell ya what, had that been me, I’d need more than potatoes to survive if I was stranded on Mars. I’d need like cheeseburgers, and tacos, and onion rings, and root beer, and Chex mix, and beef jerky, and Snickers, and more tacos, and maybe some apples too I guess. Anyway, good on Matt Damon for making it with potatoes.

 

Cam Clark

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I’m not going to lie to you.  I put this movie on here before I’d even seen it.  Lucky for me, I saw it this afternoon and I was completely blown away by it.  Very few films have been surrounded by the amount of hype this movie has, and even fewer have lived up to it, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens is far and away they best movie of the year.  The story is highly entertaining, and the characters – both new and old – are incredible.  This movie is for sure one I will be catching a few more times while it is in theaters, and I never go to the theaters twice for the same movie.  Drop whatever you are doing no matter how important it may be and go see this film.  You won’t regret it.

The Martian
The Martian follows astronaut Mark Watney, played fantastically by Matt Damon, as he has to figure out how to survive alone on Mars until NASA can figure out a way to save him.  The novel was far and away one of my favorite books I’ve read over the past year or two so naturally, the movie adaptation was high on the list for movies I wanted to see.  Lucky for me, Ridley Scott adds another great sci-fi movie to his belt.  Everything about this movie – from the cinematography to the acting – works and works well.

Mr. Holmes
The addition of this film surprised even me.  When it first came out I planned on seeing it, but just sort of forgot about it.  My wife and I decided to rent it on one of the few nights we had away from the kids (because we are obviously a lot of fun), and man was it great.  Ian McKellan plays an aging Sherlock Holmes who is beginning to lose his mental faculties.  After seeing a film of his last case, he realizes that the idealized version of that case is not what happened because whatever happened caused him to hang up his deerstalker cap (that he never actually wore).  The problem is he just can’t remember exactly how that case ended.  While Holmes works to fill in the blanks, he befriends the son of his housekeeper who encourages Holmes by reading his case notes.

 

Stephen Andrew
First off, we’re all kidding ourselves if anyone acts like The Force Awakens wasn’t the absolute most exciting movie-going experience of the year. With that in mind, I’ve decided to do my list a little differently than the others (plus it’s *technically* my article so I get to be Cartman and do what I want). See, I typically choose my favorite films list by looking at which films I saw multiple times in the theater and/or bought on Blu-ray. It just so happens that all 3 of the films at the top of my favorite movies of 2015 list I’ve already done reviews on, so there’s really nothing else I can say about them that I didn’t already say. I hope that, if you haven’t already, you’ll check out my reviews for these 3 fantastic films of 2015:

  1. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  2. Marvel’s Ant-Man
  3. Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron

Rather than regurgitate everything I’ve already said about these three films, I’ve decided to go Fiona-Apple-at-the-1997-MTV-Video-Music-Awards an “use this opportunity the way I want to use it.” I’d like to acknowledge a film that had a lot of hype and then for some reason seemed to fizzle with audiences…
Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak.

This movie was marketed as a horror film but when I saw it I realized how it’s much more complex than that simplistic genre association can convey. It has many horror elements but at its heart it is a suspenseful drama with horror themes used to carry the story along. Think, more Exorcism of Emily Rose than The Exorcist. It’s also a period-style film with brilliant performances from Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, & Charlie Hunnam. I watched this movie in an empty theater all by myself and, to put it in sophisticated terminology, I was genuinely creeped the f*** out. There were scenes that made my skin crawl, as well as film shots that took my breath away. I feel like this movie has become criminally underrated and I hope that you guys will check it out when it drops on Blu-ray and DVD.

4LN Movie Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (NON-SPOILER)

Listen, I could sit here and try to dribble out some well-thought-out assessment of The Force Awakens, with pretty and sophisticated words that make me look smarter than I actually am. But I can’t do that. I can’t do that because I literally just finished watching it and my brain is a mess and all I want to do is race back to the theater and watch it again. IT’S SO GOOD.

This is a non-spoiler review, so I’ll not be revealing any major plot details. However, suffice to say, most of the rumors you’ve heard are completely false, and a few of them are true. While there are a few twists and turns that will surprise you, most of the “big reveal” stuff isn’t really handled like it’s that big of a reveal anyway. They’ve done a fantastic job of crafting a film that doesn’t rely on the twists or reveals. The story is solid and the plot moves along at a perfect pace. It’s got great action, beautiful cinematography, and it’s really funny. Like, REALLY funny. That was something I wasn’t quite expecting. I knew there would be some laughs, but I had no idea I’d be laughing as much as I was.

One of the reasons the movie is so funny, is the new, adorable little droid that’s taken the globe by storm, BB-8. Much like R2-D2 before him, BB has a personality all his own, and its… spunky. Is “spunky” the right word? Hang on… … … … I just looked it up on Dictionary.com and yes, it is the right word. I kind of hoped BB-8 would be the new Groot or Baymax, and, as is the case with both of those other characters, BB is more than just cute, comic relief. Yes, The little guy practically steals the show, but he’s also actually crucial to the plot, and serves a very import purpose. The Star Wars movies have always been good about making sure that non-sentient (or less-sentient) characters get to play a bigger roles, and this time around is no exception.

The cast of the film is phenomenal. I mean, you already know that Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are gonna deliver as Leia and Han, but the new cast is absolutely flawless as well, and completely hold their own next to the veterans. Specifically, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, who play Rey and Finn, respectively. Boyega, you’ll remember, was at the very center of the unnecessarily heated “A Black Stormtrooper?!?!?!?!” controversy. Thankfully, he’s so much more than that and it’s great to finally see a little background on the Stormtroopers.

Ridley’s portrayal of Rey made me very happy. I thought to myself, “Now this a character I would actually WANT my daughter to look up too.” She’s tough, independent, smart, and resourceful. She’s full of curiosity and she doesn’t take anybody’s shit. I just loved her so much. She’s almost a better role model than even Princess Leia was, and that’s saying something.

The main name on everyone’s lips though… is the new villain Kylo Ren. I’ve personally been obsessed with the character ever since pictures of him began to pop up online, and even my 8 year old son has been fascinated by him. Kylo is played by Adam Driver and I will give you one spoiler about him… HE’S NOT LUKE F*@#ING SKYWALKER. (Seriously, whoever started that rumor is a complete moron.) One thing I really appreciated is that the character shows a lot more complexity and depth than Darth Vader did in any of the original trilogy films. Frankly, he’s better than any of the villainous characters from the second trilogy as well. I can safely say I was not disappointed in how the character turned out.

Just to clarify, there is no mid-credits or post-credits scene. Trust me. I stayed until the very end just so I could tell you that in total confidence.

Also, for those of you wondering if it’s safe to take your kids to see, I took my 8 year old son and he loved it. It obviously has some violence, but I didn’t notice any thing serious that concerned me. I will say… not to spoil… but there was a moment in the movie that made him very upset and he got damn-near inconsolable. So, you know, be prepared for that potentially with your own kids if you take them.

.

Look, I don’t have to tell you to go see The Force Awakens. You’re going to go see it. You’re going to go see it right this minute, if you haven’t already, and you’re going to see it many, many times. It absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, lives up to the hype, and then some. It’s perfect in every way and it will not let you down. See it you must! Now you should go!

Mockingjay Part 2: Spoiler Free Review

A recent development in the movie industry the last ten years of “splitting the finale up in two” sometimes turn out to be very well done.  Other times, the series gets so drawn out that they would’ve been better sticking to one.

The splitting of the final Hunger Games movie into part 1 and 2 was on the side of the former, a solid choice that allowed the last part of the series to play out as it should. In fact, it proved to be a necessary tactic for the final installment of the Hunger Games saga.

Mockingjay is a reset for the entire series. Every thing leading up to Mockingjay is focused on the Hunger Games. This includes Catching Fire, which centered its plot around an all-star Hunger Games featuring previous champions only to shift that focus at its conclusion.

Mockingjay turns the complete focus of the series to the rebellion that’s been brewing under the surface of Panem. It’s hinted at throughout the series, but a lot of background was needed to establish the new primary focus.

And I believe only one movie would’ve rushed that process. Our main characters have mainly been in their home districts or in an arena fighting to the death. To be in the camp of a separatist living a regimented lifestyle while stirring up rebellious sentiments in all the districts required time for the audience to adjust to.

Jennifer Lawrence and Julianne Moore during a critical scene of Mockingjay part 1.

And parts one and two worked perfectly in sync to do that. Some of the complaints about the first Mockingjay were its lack of any real climatic moments. But part 2 brings them in spades, making good use of all the solid character development part 1 provided.

And while I entered the theater concerned the Hunger Games finale would come up short in developing the key plot twists that lead up to its conclusion, I was overall pleased with the subtlety in which these key developments were introduced while not slowing down the forward momentum the story gains once the rebels begin their march attempting to overthrow President Snow.

Gale and Katniss in the foreground during Mockingjay Part 2

I don’t feel any  need to discuss the performances of the actors here since each one owned their roles with the same effectiveness they have throughout each of the previous movies.

The appropriate conclusion in tone and style, Mockingjay, Part 2 brings an end to the Hunger Games saga that does not overstate the way so many movies do today while still effectively bringing all the overarching themes of the entire series together in a satisfying way.