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Blair Witch [2016]

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:// INTRO

A friend came up to me during my senior year in High School. We had made 1 successful horror short at my parent’s house with a couple of friends, we were on a heavy Horror kick back then.

We had tried to imitate those horror movies we had seen, this day he came and told me about the scariest movie he had just seen. The kicker was that he said our movie actually looked better than this movie.

This was the time around the Scream craze which brought Urban Legend and I know what you did last summer among others with it.

Mexico is a weird place, media comes into the country at a somewhat irregular and unexpected pace. For example, those horror buddies had never seen or heard of the original Halloween [criminal, I know].

They did know Chucky and Freddy Kruger of course, not to mention Jaws and Alien [well, Aliens actually].

I asked him “what movie is this?” I just had to see it. He said “Blair Witch”.

:// IMPACT OF THE FIRST BLAIR WITCH

The movie was genuinely creepy, the creepiest factor for me, however, was that I felt “dirty” after having finished watching it. I love horror movies, they are fun roller coaster rides which I enjoy. That day I had stumbled upon a filmmaking style which I had never seen before: Found Footage.

I had felt like a Peeping Tom, I felt I had invaded these people’s privacy. Not to mention their grisly demise. Although I knew this was a movie, for a short second I felt that ongoing dread thinking “what if, this is actually real?”

:// RESURGENCE OF FOUND FOOTAGE

CLOVERFIELD. Hands down.

Cloverfield brought found footage back [for better or worse] into the spotlight, it was like a freight train coming at you at 182,000 miles per hour.

Now some young Thundercats might not remember a time before Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. During this unconceivable era, the Internet was just gaining a presence. Sure, some brands might have their website, but there was not much in terms of entertainment.

People would log into MySpace, maybe send a private message and that was it. Cloverfield and Blair Witch took advantage of that period and had the foresight to promote their movie with Viral Marketing.

The most powerful method to gain interest in any medium is word of mouth.

And God Damn it did they pull it off.

After ‘Clover found footage has been strongly associated with Horror. Now don’t get me wrong, I greatly appreciate a good found footage experience. But not all Horror movies fit within that specific style of filmmaking. Hell, they even tried making a found footage Friday the 13th [after the 2009 remake].

:// PRODUCTION QUALITY

Although set in the woods, there are many interesting shots throughout the picture. Depending on which camera the characters are using the aesthetic of each shot feels just different enough from the previous camera, yet unique enough to keep you intrigued.

There are a lot of scares which are framed beautifully within these shots. Probably the biggest victory was that Blair Witch allowed the viewer to imagine what is out there in the woods.

Theatre of the mind.

It worked in Jaws.

It worked in Halloween.

It still works.

I have become a fan of Adam Wingard’s work for some time now, especially his work on You’re Next and his segments in V/H/S and V/H/S 2.

:// BLAIR WITCH LEGACY

It was a wonderful surprise to see ‘Blair come out, it’s nice to be genuinely surprised by a release that is not teased or reported on every 30 seconds online.

I look forward to seeing where this series goes next, hopefully, it is somewhere exciting and fun as this one.

 

 

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Star Wars Rogue One

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I remember watching the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS back in the early 90s.

It was an interesting and fun universe, filled with imaginative and likable characters both good and evil. Star Wars has always been extremely accessible to new and old fans alike. About 3 years ago I spotted a 30 inch Darth Vader at my local Target. I freaked out because it was on sale for $19.99.

The first thing that my wife said was “Will Darth Vader ever cease to be popular?”.

My response was simple: “Hell no.”

The same question could be asked about the Star Wars franchise and I would suspect the answer to that question would be the same as my Darth Vader response.

Star Wars is one of those magical properties which make children feel special as well as all warm and fuzzy. It also makes adults remember how they felt when they first experienced that galaxy far far away.

:// ORIGINAL TRILOGY vs NEW TRILOGY

The original Star Wars trilogy is almost sacred to all Star Wars fans, especially The Empire Strikes Back, which is considered one of the greatest sequels of all time. The stories flowed at an incredible pace and the movies were put together with remarkable craftsmanship.

The new trilogy is often considered a bit of an ugly stain on an otherwise perfect gem. The high point would have to be the fight between Obi Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn vs Darth Maul. Universally, the lowest point would be Jar Jar Binks [with Anakin and Padme’s love story a close hard second]. We were all expecting to see Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader, which itself was a bit disturbing, but all of that faded away once we saw the mask and helmet come on, followed by Vader taking his first breath.

After George sold his baby it was exciting to see what Disney would come up with for the Star Wars universe. It was nostalgic seeing Han Solo and Princess Leia on screen again, but Disney did play it extremely safe by basically remaking Episode 4 for a new generation.

:// THE EFFECTS OF EPISODE 7

One of my favorite aspects of the Star Wars universe is the large canvas which brings forth the possibilities for new stories which do not affect the episode count but does expand on the universe.

Some highlights include Knights of the Old Republic and Shadows of the Empire. A movie like Rogue One adds to that canvas by portraying events which we have heard of but had not yet seen.

:// PRODUCTION QUALITY

It would be a sin for a Star Wars entry not to have a high level of production, but perhaps the 2 aspects which greatly stand out are the diverse cast of actors featured in the film and the new locations which we are treated to, such as Jedha and Scarif. Not to mention a brief glimpse of the daily torture which Darth Vader has to go through.

The absence of Jedi also made ‘Rogue feel fresh and much tenser during battle scenes. Seeing the characters engage the Empire as a guerilla unit elevated the risk of the mission to enjoyable levels.

It was nice to see the guy who is not Gael Garcia Bernal jump into Star Wars lore, not to mention the Death Troopers which were some of my favorite characters throughout the movie.

G-Unit.

 

:// FAVORITE CHARACTER

K-2SO baby. Hands down. I would say he has now officially become my favorite character from the series.

I need to get one of his action figures so I can stand him next to the Death Trooper I got last Christmas.

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Daredevil

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Daredevil is one of those strange characters for me, although he has a history among readers, I honestly have never cared for him.

Although, his alter ego does appeal to me if I had to judge a book by its cover I would choose Matt Murdock over Daredevil in a heartbeat. A blind lawyer working in Hell’s Kitchen seems to have more depth than red tights.

[I might seem biased since I myself use corrective lenses.]

When the first trailer broke for the first season I was definitely in. I missed Season 2 when it first premiered online, having finally caught up I would have to say that the Netflix Marvel Universe is better than the Marvel Cinematic Universe [in my opinion].

:// MCU vs NMU

Marvel has done an excellent job at working their properties, considering that they were on the verge of bankruptcy in the early 90s it’s amazing to witness what they have achieved since 2008. Before ‘08 Ted Raimi’s Spiderman was the best Marvel movie out there. I actually preferred Blade, it’s funny that many fans don’t remember that first gem from Stephen Norrington. Hell, everyone knows “the Blade song”.

The theatrical efforts have been fantastic no doubt, but as a fan that grew up with the comics, it’s great to see adult stories for us older fans.

The MCU has always felt fun and safe, the NMU [so far] has been much more dark and gritty. The idea of being a superhero sounds fantastic, but the Netflix series shows us that people are the biggest story. The heroes and villains are shown in a new light, they all have issues, series, dark issues. For example, in Iron Man 3 we saw Tony Stark suffering from PTSD, which is extremely serious, however in the movie we see him overcome his condition rather quickly.

In Daredevil we see how Matt struggles with his normal life and being the Devil from Hell’s Kitchen. Every fight is bone crushing real, usually having Matt return to his apartment covered in blood and with many broken bones.

Not to mention, we get much more character development throughout the series, in the movie’s it’s much harder to have more time with each character due to the allotted running time of a feature.

People might not be as forgiving sitting through 3+ hours of cinema [again].

:// PRODUCTION QUALITY

New York has been featured in countless media, comics, movies, etc. It’s always great to see new faces from familiar places. For example, Daredevil and Mr. Robot, although being set in New York they both look and feel extremely different. Which is always a great feeling especially as an outsider looking in.

I live in Chicago, every day I walk its streets and Lakefront I am amazed just as the first time I saw it. I had the same feeling when I saw Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, every location was very similar, streets and places I had visited many, many times before.

But God damn it, this was Gotham baby. My city had suddenly become Gotham City.

One of my biggest attractions to any show is hands down the intro. This is a fine art which everyone enjoys, and the intro to Daredevil is no exception.

Masterfully put together by the amazing Patrick Clair, the intro is downright gorgeous.

Simple, elegant, effective.

Noir.

 

:// FAVORITE MOMENTS

There are 3 main stories throughout Daredevil, my personal favorite being The Punisher. The casting of Jon Bernthal was excellent, he was built up throughout the show as a ghost. Once he comes into the picture, he’s like a freight train. Unstoppable.

Hopefully, Luke Cage and Iron Fist are just as good, I need to catch up so I can finally watch The Defenders.

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Kick Ass 2

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I’m not going to lie, this post is probably going to be pretty hard to get through. Sometimes [usually few] I can feel “The Voice”, this time, it’s a bit difficult.

Fuck it, I’ll just keep it real.

I didn’t like Kick Ass 2, which is a shame because I was really enjoyed the first movie. There are a few reasons though, I caught KA2 in a dubbed version, Spanish to be exact. Don’t get me wrong, I love Spanish, hell I’m Mexican. I just hate watching a movie for the first time in an “altered” state.

For example, the movie was created with the English language in mind, regardless of how good a dub is, there is always something lost in translation. I don’t mind reading subtitles, I love J-Horror, but I refuse to watch a dubbed Ringu.

In this case, many of the jokes fell flat, extremely flat. If I have seen a movie before, in its original state, then I don’t mind watching it dubbed or edited for content.

:// PRODUCTION QUALITY

The movie does have a bigger production quality compared to the first movie. You can immediately feel the absence of Matthew Vaughn though.

[I’m guessing this might have been while he was making Kingsman.]

It was great to see Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes, not to mention Donald Faison, it was good to see him in something, again.

:// STORY

The story is pretty straightforward, Dave and Mindy continue with their lives after the events of the first movie. They quickly realize the consequences of their actions, both good and bad. Crime is on the rise and ordinary people are inspired to don masks in order to help fight crime.

Here is where the movie starts to suffer, Kick Ass’ friends and girlfriend have very small roles in the sequel. They played major parts in the first movie, in this one, they feel like throw away characters. The movie does also fail to make you fear The Motherfucker, the main villain. There are two scenes where the villains do feel like a legitimate threat, but I’ll save that for when you watch the movie.

:// CHARACTERS

As I mentioned before, the movie suffers from having too many characters in the story, each character could have really shined throughout the story. I might have to check out the Blu, perhaps there are deleted scenes which could make the character interactions flow better.

I was excited to see Jim Carrey and John Leguizamo have bigger parts in the movie but, if you watch the trailer, those are basically all of their scenes.

Kicking ass and taking names.

 

:// FAVORITE MOMENTS

It was fun to see Mindy trying to get through High School life, again this could have been explored further. There were some really mean characters which would have been great to explore further.

The movie was left wide open for another sequel, perhaps one day we would get to see the conclusion of the Kick Ass story.

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American Ultra

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I’ll say it, I love Jesse Eisenberg.

It’s always a treat to see him on screen. I did a bit of research on him and it turns out that his onscreen mannerisms could be influenced by his struggle with OCD.

Just the way he speaks and moves is amazing, I’m curious to see how much of his on screen work is improvised. I caught American Ultra lurking on the bottom of my Amazon playlist, I had to quickly load up the trailer to remember why I had put the movie on my queue in the first place.

:// STYLE

The movie drips with style, although the locations and setting are extremely “normal” what makes the movie shine is the presentation. Each shot is framed extremely well, it reminded me of a graphic novel. Almost as if influenced by my main man Jock.

Each color tone throughout the shot compliments the actors in a great way. I never knew shooting in a parking lot could deliver such amazing frames.

:// STORY

The story follows a slacker/stoner who one random day becomes “activated” as a CIA hitman, sort of like Jason Bourne, except younger.

I have seen many different genres of film, I have always cringed at love stories and on screen couples. Most of the time they are presented in a way which is extremely corny. It was a pleasant surprise to see the chemistry between Jesse and Kristen Stewart. They seemed so natural, plus you actually did end up caring for them and their relationship as the movie progressed.

:// CHARACTERS

It was nice seeing Topher Grace back on screen, the last time I saw him was in Predators and Interstellar. Seeing him as a complete jerk/kiss-ass was amazing.

American Ultra also featured none other than Venus Van Damme herself: Walton Goggins. I also last saw him in Predators, for some reason I keep swearing that I saw him in Sicario, I must be mistaken. Seeing Walton in any role is always a treat, even if he is just a background character.

Hands down John Leguizamo took the cake as my favorite character in this movie. He seemed to be channeling his character from the Pest, his talents were fully used in ‘Ultra, unlike his character in Kick Ass 2 (more of that in another post).

Stone cold killers.

 

:// FAVORITE MOMENTS

For the most part, the movie was pretty predictable, just like a Denzel Washington flick. You could almost time each beat with your watch, which is what made my favorite scene appear as if it came out of nowhere.

The scene takes place in Rose’s (John Leguizamo’s character’s) house. It’s a short scene where half of the characters are freaking out and the other half have no idea of what is going on. Not to mention it also features a cameo from Huell of Breaking Bad fame.

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Batman The Killing Joke

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As I mentioned before, back in the day, I used to be somewhat of an avid comic book reader and collector. I would say I have been [somewhat] back in the game since 2015. I started researching the best Batman stories which I had previously missed.

The Killing Joke was always either number one or two on any given top 10 online, I had read the graphic novel before jumping into the animated feature.

At first, I was really surprised when I discovered the feature would be rated R, plus, having Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill providing voices again was really exciting.

I would strongly suggest reading the novel first since this is the story in its original form.

:// PRODUCTION QUALITY

There is one thing that is usually disappointing about DC and Marvel animated films: the animation quality.

I’m assuming the key frames are done in the ‘States while the in-betweens are probably produced overseas. Comparing them to something like Anime, Anime [in my opinion] is always above and beyond in terms of craftsmanship.

Check out Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher for example, which was produced by the talented folks over at Madhouse.

The voice acting is beyond incredible, it’s always good to hear actors from Batman The Animated Series continuing to provide personalities for these characters.

:// STORY

The story is very faithful to the source material, they did, however, insert a 20-minute intro which featured Batgirl trying to prove herself to Batman. Hell, they even included some sexy time between them which was a bit weird.

I do understand why they did that though, this way you are invested more in Barbara Gordon, especially once the Joker shows up at her door step.

This story is very dark, and I would say probably the darkest story in the Batverse.

:// CHARACTERS

The characters in The Killing Joke are somewhat standard for a Batman story, however, the main focus this time is the Gordon family, especially Jim.

Reading the novel you do get the sense of dread as you see how people can break no matter how many times they’ve been through the ringer, especially when you hit the right buttons. This is also one of those stories where you see just how disturbed the Joker really is, in causing all this harm just to prove a point.

Remember, the subject matter is dark. Very dark.

 

:// DC UNIVERSE CONTINUATION

It’s always great seeing comic book studios releasing films and animated features showcasing their “greatest hits”, thus bringing their classics to newer audiences who probably don’t follow the comics as much. It’s also great as a fan of the books to see new interpretations of stories we are already familiar with.

DC Comics has a great wealth of characters and stories, it is a shame that at this point in time they are playing catch up with Marvel when it comes to features. DC has played it somewhat safe by having their properties appear [mostly] on TV and as direct to video animated features.

It would be great to see them expand the DC Universe with their flagship characters and also bring more Vertigo stories to many unsuspecting fans.

 

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