Rapid Reviews- Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman serves as the latest installment in the infamous DC Cinematic Universe, a franchise that, up until this point, was yet to produce a good movie. With contemporaries such as Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad in its wake, I was very pessimistic going in. The explosive critical and audience reception, combined with my pre-existing fanship for lead actress Gal Gadot, got me into the theater opening weekend. Two viewings in under 24 hours later, I am so happy I gave this movie a chance.

Wonder Woman is not only the first good DC Cinematic Universe film, but a game changer in DC’s formerly failing battle against its Marvel Studios rival. It manages to address a vast majority of issues that plague the average Marvel flick, namely avoiding being bogged down by its presence in a cinematic universe. The filmmakers traded pointless easter eggs and contrived connections in favor of a focused, stand-alone story. This gives the movie room to breathe, which pays off with its fantastic character development and gripping narrative.

Let me address the pressing question right away, Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman. Almost no superhero actor or actress has managed to seamlessly blend with their character as well as she has. The only possible contenders that come to mind are Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Whenever I think of Wonder Woman from now on, I will think of Gadot. The exceptional writing of the character, combined with her strong performance and natural beauty create the core of this movie’s success.

Gadot doesn’t stand on her own in this fiery core. Wonder Woman directly combats the typical comic book movie flaw of weak side characters by creating one of the most developed and memorable film ensembles in recent years. Chris Pine’s Steve, Saïd Taghmaoui’s Sameer, Ewen Bremner’s Charlie, and Eugene Brave Rock’s Chief receive as much development as possible for secondary characters. This allows the viewer to genuinely care and fear for them in the danger they face while accompanying Diana on her quest. Terrific performances from all four only compliment this stellar character writing.

The one area in which this movie failed to outshine its Marvel competitors was in its villains. Without entering spoiler territory, the primary and secondary antagonists all suffered from poor writing, acting, and surprisingly little development. Their cheesy and over-the-top nature clashed with an otherwise tonally consistent film.

The privilege to see this movie for a second time only amplified my prior positive convictions. Wonder Woman is not only my favorite film of the year thus far, but the best comic book movie since 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. I now have a speck of hope for November’s Justice League, a project I previously thought to be doomed.

Final Verdict: Must See

Rapid Reviews- Alien: Covenant

Introduction:

Rapid Reviews is a new series I’m launching. Here, I will be covering films that I want to talk about, but don’t plan on writing in-depth analytical essays on. I will also include a final verdict section at the end of each review, so those who don’t feel like reading the whole post can gain an even quicker summary of my opinion (skip, worth seeing, and must see are the three verdicts I can assign). Anyway, enjoy the first of many rapid reviews to come. Who knows, one day I may expand to other mediums, but for now, I’m just sticking with movies.

Review:

Alien: Covenant serves as both the sequel to Prometheus and the second prequel to Alien. I consider myself to be somewhat of a fan of the Alien franchise, having really enjoyed the original, but not yet got around to watching Aliens. My opinions on Prometheus, however, can be best described with one point: I can’t seem to recall almost anything that happened in the entire movie.

Thankfully, Alien: Covenant doesn’t fall into the same forgettable trap. Combining the strongest elements from both Prometheus and the original Alien, Covenant serves as the bridging point between the two. Despite some major issues, I really enjoyed this entry into the legendary science fiction franchise.

Michael Fassbender reprises his role as David, while also portraying a new character named Walter. Regardless of who he is in any given scene, Fassbender is the standout performance of this film; he’s worth the entire price of admission alone. However, when it boils down to the rest of the new cast, we are left with an undeveloped and generically bland horror ensemble.

What makes this movie stand out over its prequel predecessor is the villain, the identity of whom I will not spoil due to its implications in the Alien lore. Despite being an amoral and nefarious character, you find yourself rooting for him due to the sheer blandness of the protagonists. I found myself wanting his sinister plans to succeed, despite their horrible nature.

Aside from one standout performance and a tremendous villain, there isn’t really much to Alien: Covenant. At its core, the movie is a fun popcorn flick, and a solid entry into the classic sci-fi/horror saga. If you were disappointed by the lack of Xenomorphs in Prometheus, you will be immensely satisfied this time around.

Speaking of Prometheus, I would recommend giving it a re-watch before seeing Covenant, just as a refresher. It’s not absolutely necessary, but based on the amount of recap questions I had to ask my friend during and after the movie, It’s probably a good idea.

Final Verdict: Worth Seeing

Film Review- Denial

Note: This review was initially published on the Moment Magazine official site on 10/11/16. 

Link: http://www.momentmag.com/film-review-denial/

denial

Denial is an astonishingly accurate adaptation of the famous 2001 court case Irving vs. Penguin Books Ltd. In this case, renowned historian Deborah Lipstadt stood trial against David Irving, an infamous Holocaust denier. After Lipstadt called Irving a Holocaust denier, falsifier and bigot in her book Denying the Holocaust, Irving accused Lipstadt of libel. This case came to fruition due to the British legal system, which requires those accused of libel to prove their innocence—the opposite of the legal system in the United States. The movie portrays the struggles, and eventual triumphs, of Lipstadt and her legal team in their battle against pure hate.

As a Jew with multiple grandparents who are Holocaust survivors, I have an inherent emotional connection to this case—and in turn, this film, which I saw at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s premiere screening. Following the film there was a discussion with Deborah Lipstadt and the producers Russ Krassnoff and Gary Foster. The sheer amount of historical detail incorporated by the filmmakers was astounding. The producers pointed out a perfect example of this meticulousness during the question-and-answer session; the head of Lipstadt’s legal team, Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), never made eye contact while addressing Irving (Timothy Spall). A factual detail so easy to abandon would never make it into the screenplay of a generic blockbuster hit.

“Deborah said, ‘I’m about to sign this paper giving you these rights. You need to promise me one thing: the truth,’” Russ Krasnoff, one of the producers, explains. “It was our mantra.” In other words, a painstaking dedication to portraying the truth was one of the Denial team’s core values. The producers explained that this pursuit even extended to having Lipstadt on the set, in order to make sure everything was accurate from her point of view.

Lipstadt’s story is about the dedication to truth—and the filmmakers took her lesson to heart. “Every single word that David Irving says in the film… it was all taken from transcripts or interviews,” says Krasnoff. “Every word was documented.” This was astonishing to me. Some of Spall’s lines were so shockingly ignorant and hate-filled that I assumed they had to be exaggerations—like Irving’s “No holes, no Holocaust” diatribe. However, I came to realize that the over-the-top nature of these deliveries only proves Spall’s skill in accurately portraying such a sinister person.

The film’s realism was only bolstered by outstanding performances from Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall, who flawlessly portrayed opposing forces in what might be their best roles to date. The support and fondness I felt for Lipstadt also extended to Weisz, who was able to transform expertly into the historian over the course of the film’s nearly two-hour runtime. Timothy Spall has always been excellent at playing fictional villains; his transition from fictional evil to real-world evil was seamless.

Where the illusion of realism that drives this film was somewhat shattered was with actors Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott, whose performances sometimes felt unnatural. There were also occasional shots that either lingered too long, or placed emphasis on subjects that should not have been emphasized, which was a bit jarring for me.

But what I enjoyed most about Denial, aside from its potent accuracy, was its timelessness. “It’s not just about Holocaust denial,” says Lipstadt. “It’s vaccines. It’s the environment. It’s Sandy Hook in Connecticut, where kids were murdered.”

A large portion of the Q&A centered around the idea that whenever there is a tragic event in history, there will always be people who find a way to deny it. Whether they are anti-Semitic, racist, or simply in need of a selfish way to cope with said tragedy, they exist. With so many horrific events occurring on a near-daily basis throughout the world, there will always be those who seek to undermine the truth. They cling to tiny details, minuscule inconsistencies, and blow these details up to horrendously large proportions in an attempt to prove their opinions. However, Lipstadt, her legal team and the filmmakers prove that, whether it be the Holocaust or any tragedy, the truth will always prevail.

Denial’s purpose surpasses entertainment. This movie should be used as a tool, a weapon in the fight against hate. Producer Gary Foster explains this best: “If we can spark and inspire conversation—and get people to say, ‘Hey, there’s a difference between opinion and fact’—then we have done good.”

Wolf Children- Movie Review

There is a certain feeling that watching Wolf Children gives you. I have only had this feeling twice in recent memory. The first was when I read the novel Looking for Alaska in the summer of 2013. The second was when I watched the anime Gurren Lagann in January of this year. This feeling is one that is unexplainable, but clearly obtainable. It appears only when you consume a piece of fiction that connects with you more strongly than anything in reality can. I won’t declare it as my favorite film of all time just yet, but Wolf Children is, without a doubt, one of the greatest movies ever made.

Mamoru Hosoda has been slowly rising up in the anime industry over the past decade. Some of his most iconic works include Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. However, Wolf Children is the first film in his repertoire that truly places him right next to the legendary anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki.

Wolf Children, on the surface, is about a young woman trying to raise two children all on her own. However, these children are half human, half wolf; they can transform into either at any given time. What makes this seemingly basic plot so remarkable is its hidden depth. Upon analysis of the film, you begin to realize that the lycanism of the children is just a mere metaphor. This metaphor portrays the struggles of anyone raising children with disabilities, mental illnesses, or other various characteristics that society deems abnormal.

The characters, though seemingly basic on the surface level, are much more than that. The purpose of the simplicity of the characters in both design and writing is to allow the audience to seamlessly fall into their shoes. You feel every emotion they feel with intensity, and begin to form extreme empathy for these people who do not actually exist. Therefore, the happiness and sadness that these characters feel becomes all the more potent. It took all my strength to hold back tears in front of the anime club that I watched this movie with. However, I guarantee that if I watched this alone, I would have been bawling.

Without a doubt, the best part of this movie is the animation. While the character designs are purposely simplistic (see point above), the backgrounds and environments are anything but that. This movie has the hands down best animation in an anime ever. Every single setting is extremely colorful, detailed, and enticing. This becomes extremely prevalent when the characters move from the city to the countryside.

The final factor that makes this movie outstanding to me is the minimal use of dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, there are a multitude of heavy conversations throughout the movie, as well as a narrator. However, if you compare this to other movies, particularly anime films, you would find that there is probably half the amount of conversation. The soundtrack, character expressions, and environment animation tell the story much better than any dialogue would have done.

To conclude, you can tell I loved Wolf Children. I would recommend it not only to anime fans, but to literally anyone. Some of it may be a little too dark for younger children, but it would be a great film to show them when they are a bit older. However, this movie was clearly not made with a certain demographic in mind. Anyone from any walk of life can watch it and identify with it. Wolf Children is a timeless masterpiece that breaks the boundaries of what film can do, and is the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time.