The Mandalorian Review

The Mandalorian is a 2019 Star Wars show directed by Jon Favreau and starring Pedro Pascal. It follows a bounty hunter trying to protect a child against the remnants of an evil empire. This show takes place within the Star Wars universe, and as such is heavily reliant upon the audience at least viewing the original trilogy. Because of that, this review may contain some terms not all readers may know if they haven’t seen the Star Wars movies.

The Mandalorian follows a bounty hunter, simply named Mando. He is originally hired to kill a bounty, however, after finding out the bounty is actually a child, he decides against it and takes in the child as his own, while fending off other bounty hunters along the way. This show is very fun to watch, and it’s been a while since we’ve gotten good Star Wars media like this. However, it can feel extremely awkward at times with it’s dialogue.

The Mandalorian is a typical space western, similar to my favorite tv show, Firefly. There’s some cliche western episode arcs, such as an episode that essentially is the Magnificent Seven set in space. However, the main reason this show feels new and unique, is the Star Wars elements involved. There’s no Jedi, or lightsabers, however the child Mando saves can use the force, and there are stormtroopers and references to the movies. These elements really make the show, and without them it probably wouldn’t be as good as it is.

The Main character in this show, and it’s namesake, is an unnamed Mandalorian mercenary, often just referred to as “Mando.” He falls into the typical “man with no name” stereotype, and his past and face are a mystery for most of the show. The Mandalorian religion however, is explored in this show through Mando, and this was actually very interesting. They’re forbidden from removing their helmets, and weapons are seen as being part of their religion. Scenes like this are fascinating, and really well done. Quotes like, “this is the way,” also make for very memorable lines.

The biggest problem with this show is that at times, it can feel extremely awkward. I can’t put my finger on why. But the dialogue and interaction between characters, particularly in the earlier episodes, can come off as extremely artificial and plain weird. It isn’t too much of a detraction from the show as a whole, but still, it’s worth mentioning as the show early on can feel incredibly awkward.

Overall, the Mandalorian, despite it’s awkward and off-putting dialogue in the earlier episodes, is a good show. The action is entertaining, and it features a cool main character. Sadly, this is a show that can really only be enjoyed by Star Wars fans, or at least those who have seen the movies. It’s s good show, even if it has a bit of a niche audience. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, definitely check out this show.

The King Of Staten Island Review

The King of Staten Island is a 2020 film directed by Judd Apatow starring Pete Davidson and Bill Burr. It follows a high school dropout who eventually learns to believe in himself and work hard.

This film centers around Scott, a 24 year old loser who still lives with his widowed mother. After he accidentally tattoos a nine year old, his mother meets a firefighter named Ray, who eventually acts like a surrogate father to Scott, and mentors him into becoming a better person. This movie doesn’t have a very conventional plot, and feels instead more like real life, and this both helps and hinders the movie greatly.

This movie is extremely uncompromising. What I mean is that, most movie’s compress their story. They don’t show the main character doing everything, because that would lead to too many needless scenes. This movie tends to feel extremely grounded and focused around real life. Character’s talk very realistically, and the events that happen in the movie, although unlikely and strange, still feel real, as often, our reality is stranger than our fiction. However, the trade off to this grounded realism feeling, is that the movie is way too long. It compresses virtually nothing, and too many scenes are pointless. They’re admittedly funny scenes, but ultimately they don’t help with anything. There’s unnecessary sub-plots like Scott’s restaurant having a fight club to see who gets tips, or Scott and his friends robbing a pharmacy and getting shot at. These scenes are absolutely entertaining, but they’re completely unnecessary and serve no purpose.

The absolute biggest problem with this movie however, is that there’s no pivot. In similar films to this, where it’s about a character’s redemption, there’s one moment the audience can point to and relate as being the main character’s pivot, or the moment where he changes to become a better human being. An example is in the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray’s character finally manages to get his fellow newscaster to love him. The King of Staten Island completely lacks a moment like this. It shows Scott working in the firehouse, and becoming somewhat of a better tattoo artist, but there’s no one moment the audience can point to as being the climax. The intended moment might’ve been when he saves a man who was shot from dying, but that doesn’t fit with his character arc. His flaw is being lazy and lacking self esteem, not being a nihilist or a horrible person. At the start of the film he still would’ve saved that person, so having that as the climax makes no sense and feels wrong.

However, this movie is still fun to watch. At first I didn’t like Pete Davidson’s character, but he grew on me, and by the end of the film I was rooting for him. Bill Burr is hilarious as Ray, and he has some incredibly funny lines. There are some good moments in this film, and some heartfelt ones, like when the firemen are discussing Scott’s father, and telling crazy stories about him. Moments like these are what this movie should’ve focused on, instead of dumb scenes about stoners robbing people.

All in all, despite it’s flaws, ultimately this is a good movie. It’s one that people should make their own judgements about, as this is a very polarizing film. Still, I enjoyed it, and it’s a fun film.

Baby Driver Review

Baby Driver is a 2017 movi directed by Edgar Wright and starring Ansel Elgort and Lily James. Baby Driver looks like a typical crime movie on the surface, however, upon closer inspection and viewing, it really is quite special and unique. It follows a getaway driver, named Baby, who must escape from both cops and members of his former crew after a heist gone radically wrong.

The main thing that makes this movie so special is the incredibly interesting protagonist. Baby suffers from a condition called tinnitus after a childhood car accident. Tinnitus is real, and my father actually has it. It causes one to hear a high pitched ringing all the time, and can drive people insane. To cope with this, Baby constantly listens to music, and tries to avoid talking with people as much as he can. This makes a unique and entertaining protagonist, and despite the fact that he doesn’t talk much, his dialogue is funny and very well written.

The other excellent aspect about this movie is the soundtrack. I personally didn’t really know any of the songs they featured, however, they all worked and really enhance this film. Standout ones were Bellbottoms, Hocus Pocus, and Radar Love. The movie matches all the incredible action happening onscreen to the beat of the song as well, be it driving, gunshots, or parkour. It makes all the action scenes, which are already exhilarating, even better. Additionally, there are little touches with the music as Easter eggs for the audience. For example one is that when there’s no music playing, a very faint ring can be heard in the background, representing Baby’s tinnitus. Another, is that in certain scenes where one of Baby’s earbuds come out, the music can only be heard on the side with the earbud still in. Little details like these really enhance the film and sell it.

Baby Driver is a great movie. It has all the necessary parts to a good crime film, but it elevates itself to another level due to the protagonist and soundtrack. It’s an incredibly fun film, and one well worth seeing.

The Shawshank Redemption Review

The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 film directed by Frank Darabont and starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. It follows two men who spend their lives in the Shawshank prison, and the way that it affects them. This movie is great, and the chemistry between Red and Andy holds it together. The one thing I didn’t like is that at times, it can feel a little sappy due to the way it bluntly tries to get the audience to feel certain emotions.

The Shawshank Redemption takes place originally in the year 1947, and it follows Andy Dufresne, an innocent, but convicted murderer who is sent to Shawshank prison over the death of his cheating wife and her lover. There, he meets Red, a fellow prisoner who is known for smuggling items for fellow prisoners. There are a lot of twists and turns within this film, so naturally I’m not going to spoil the rest of the plot here.

Th relationship between Andy and Red is excellent. They have good chemistry and genuinely feel like they are friends. Certain scenes like Red giving Andy poster boards after he’s released from solitary really sell their relationship. The other characters are ok, mostly just cliche characters for every prison movie. There’s a brutal and unfair guard, a warden that is literally just a rip off from the one in escape from Alcatraz, and various prisoner stereotypes. They all serve their purpose, however, with the exception of perhaps the older prisoner Brooks who has a particularly stand out scene, none of them feel as fleshed our or well written as the main two characters.

The big thing I didn’t enjoy about this film, or found annoying, is that the movie is extremely blunt in the way it steers the audience. The score is very noticeable, and feels almost manipulative at times with the way it so clearly wants the audience to feel for the characters. The narration by Red can feel needless at times, and seems to have been done in purpose in order to make emotional scenes even more powerful. If anything, all these things lower how powerful some of the scenes are, because it makes it seem like the movie can’t show the audience a scene without trying to artificially enhance it through big annoying musical swells and narration in order to make the audience think the scene is greater than it actually is. I may be in the minority about this but these things got on my nerves.

Overall, although The Shawshank Redemption comes off at times a bit manipulative with the way it handles certain scenes, it ultimately is a good movie, and certainly a classic. It’s worth seeing, and I would definitely recommend it.

Knives Out review

This movie was recommended by a lot of my friends, and I finally got around to watching it. Knives Out is a mystery movie directed by Rian Johnson starring Ana De Armas and Daniel Craig. It follows the death of a wealthy mystery novel writer, and the mystery of who killed him. However, the biggest mystery I found with this movie, is how Rian Johnson can direct a piece of garbage like The Last Jedi one year, and then a great movie like Knives Out another year.

Knives Out stars Ana De Armes as Marta, the nurse and friend of a wealthy mystery writer. Marta as a character seems a little boring at the beginning, with her only real character trait being that she throws up when she lies. However, later on, she becomes much more interesting as she tries to cover her tracks and possible connection to murder. However, she always remains a good person, even throughout her Walter White-esque activities. And this was very intriguing, as although she’s tampering with evidence, she never succumbs to becoming a “true criminal” or bad person. At the end of the movie this is ultimately what saves her. The other major character is detective Blanc, played by Daniel Craig. He’s a very cool character, and he has some interesting speeches, however, his intense southern accent can be a bit annoying at times. I’m summing this was done in an effort to distance the actor from his 007 persona, but still, it feels out of place and annoying.

As far as the mystery within this mystery movie goes, it’s incredibly compelling and well done. Marta throughout the movie actually thinks she’s the murderer, due to an accidental morphine overdose, the audience in turn believes this too. Sadly however, although the murder reveal is cinematic, the true murderer itself is a little predictable, not in the sense that the audience suspects he tried to commit murder, but the audience does get a sense of an ulterior, sinister motive behind the character, therefore causing the audience to suspect him.

Another thing that must be mentioned about Knives Out is the music, and in particular, the fact that they used the song Animal Zoo from one of my favorite albums, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. This is a very strange psychedelic album from the 70s that is incredibly unknown. Kudos to them that they even knew the song, and further credit that they decided to use it in the movie.

All in all, behind Looper, Knives Out might be Rian Johnson’s best film. It makes up for the abysmal train wreck that was The Last Jedi, and succeeds as a whodunnit movie, as well as a film overall. Knives Out is definitely a fun movie worth watching, and I really enjoyed it.

Joker Review

Joker is a very interesting movie. It has some incredible acting from the Joaquin Phoenix, yet at times it can feel a bit juvenile in it’s portrayal of violence, and it can also be a bit full of itself.

Joker takes place in the dark setting of Gotham City during the 80s. There’s class tension between the rich and the poor. In this dark time, a failed comedian named Arthur Fleck eventually leads class revolt against the rich. This movie heavily draws inspiration from film like Taxi Driver, and the King Of Comedy. This movie is very dark, both in its setting as well as the events that happen to the main character. Fleck is teased, beaten, and abused incessantly. The fact that he suffers from a disorder that makes him laugh when he’s sad doesn’t help his situation at all.

That disorder however, really lends itself to some of the acting in this movie. There are some scenes where Joaquin Phoenix has to simultaneously laugh and cry at the same time. It really is incredible, and he absolutely deserved an academy award for it. His performance is one of the best parts about this movie, and he holds the whole experience together, without him, this movie simply wouldn’t work.

The plot of Joker is very similar to taxi driver. In it, a man is pushed to the edge by an uncaring society, and decides to do something radically violent about it. However, unlike Travis Bickle in taxi driver, who actually does something morally good, Arthur Fleck simply decides to shoot a talk show host (ironically played by Robert De Niro who also played Travis Bickle.) This brings me to what I don’t really like about this movie. The whole story about Fleck becoming a hero for the 99% feels gratuitous, because he really didn’t do anything. All he did was shoot a talk show host because he was being politically correct about his jokes. It seems weird that he’d become a leader of a violent revolution simply over that.

Despite my mixed feelings about it’s plot, Joker has some amazing scenes and acting. It’s a good movie, and it feels very unique as far as superhero movies go. Kudos to Todd Phillips for making this movie, as releasing a movie as slow and unique as this in a market over saturated by a ridiculous amount of superhero movies is a risk, and one more film should take. Joker is worth watching, especially for the amazing acting on display here.

Cowboy Bebop Review

Normally, I don’t watch or review anime, however, this show heavily inspired my all time favorite show, Firefly, and apparently Netflix is making a Cowboy Bebop adaptation with John Cho, so, writing a review seems fitting. Cowboy Bebop takes place in the late 21st century, when humans have terraformed and colonized most planets and moons in the solar system. Bounty hunters, nicknamed “cowboys” are hired to hunt down and capture criminals throughout the system. The show follows a crew of these “cowboys” as they go on various bounties and adventures.

This show however, is very unique, in that it blends quite a bit of different genres. It’s got traditional sci-fi elements (and even does a spoof of alien in one episode,) it’s got parts of a spade western, it has sections taken from crime or even thriller movies, and it also has a major noir aspect, both in the noir inspired main character, and in the award winning incredible jazz soundtrack.

Cowboy Bebop’s characters for the most part, are one of its greatest strength. Three of the main characters, Spike, Jet, and Faye, are all very well written, with interesting backstories and personalities. However, the fourth, Ed is just plain annoying, speaks like she’s on drugs the whole time, and gets old very quickly. There are also guest characters, who get introduced to the show each episode, and usually killed at the end of it. However, this show actually kills off characters properly, by giving them backstory and motivation, and making the audience care about them.

Some of Cowboy Bebop’s story arcs per episode, are also incredibly interesting and creative. One includes a spoof of the movie alien, where a mutated creature is loose on the ship hunting down the crew. Another, has the crew fighting what essentially is space PETA. One of my favorites, is when they investigate graffiti appearing on the surface of a ruined and destroyed Earth, only to discover that it was a satellite recreating the nazca lines because it became lonely.

Overall, there really isn’t much else to say about Cowboy Bebop, for the most part it excels in basically every area, and upon rewatching it, I’d have to say it’s one of my favorite shows. This show even appeals to non-anime watchers, and if you like sci-fi or westerns, this is a must watch.

Moonrise Kingdom Review

Recently, my friend Augustus and I covered this movie on our podcast, Cinemix, but it only feels right to have a review on it, as it really is an incredible work. Moonrise Kingdom is a 2012 film directed by Wes Anderson starring Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. This movie feels like Bridge to Terabithia on drugs, and I loved it. This is probably my favorite Wes Anderson movie, and probably his best work.

Moonrise Kingdom takes place in 1965 on the island of New Penzance, and it follows two troubled twelve year olds who run away. However, they both know that their endeavor is essentially futile, as there’s a massive storm shortly arriving at the island. Moonrise Kingdom really is quite an amazing movie. It’s incredibly funny at times, very sweet and heartfelt at others, and it tackles personal themes such as belonging to a family, childlike love, and ultimately, the sad temporary nature of our childhood as human beings.

Unlike a lot of other Wes Anderson films, this one doesn’t come off as pretentious or ponderous, mainly because any notion of that is dispersed by the beautiful nature of the two main leads. They work, both as actors with their chemistry, but also as a way to express the themes of the movie. They have some great scenes together, such as their first kiss, a confrontation on top of a church steeple during s thunderstorm, or the ending of the movie, which reveals that they continue to see each other despite the girls parents’ wishes against it.

This movie also features a very impressive cast, including Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Francis McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and even Harvey Keitel. All of them are actually great, but standouts were Bruce Willis as a good hearted loser “island cop,” Edward Norton as a Boy Scout troop leader, and Bruce Willis as this depressed yet comedic father. They’re all incredibly funny and really interesting.

Overall, Moonrise Kingdom feels like a step above Anderson’s other works because of a sweet and heartfelt story, as well some deep themes. I really liked this movie, and despite it’s Wes Anderson “weirdness,” it’s a movie everyone should try and see.

Midsommar Review

Midsommar is a 2019 horror movie directed by Ari Aster starring Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor. It’s about a college student named Dani who travels to a Swedish midsummer festival with her boyfriend Christian and their friends. However, as the movie progresses it’s revealed that the festival is cultish and possibly dangerous. Overall, this movie isn’t all that scary, at least not to me. Midsommar is incredibly disturbing, however, it lacks a lot of the pure horror elements that Aster’s previous film, Hereditary, showed so excellently.

Midsommar is very unique as far as horror movies go, mainly because of it’s setting. It takes place in a remote Swedish village, and it used this setting to great effect, by having the villagers adopt barbaric and ancient traditions that date back to the Vikings. The history and cult aspect of this movie is interesting and well done, and it really makes this movie feel incredibly unique. Another very interesting aspect about this movie, is that it takes place almost entirely in the daytime. This is very strange as far as horror movies, as usually, they’re set at night.

Midsommar doesn’t go for traditional jump-scares or monsters like most horror movies. Instead, it opts for disturbing sequences or scenes. Hereditary also went for similar disturbing scenes, but unlike in Hereditary, which is a terrifying movie, Midsommar simply isn’t all that scary. It’s more uncomfortable than Hereditary to watch, as some scenes are arguably more disturbing than those in Hereditary, but there’s no real horror in Midsommar, at least not to me. I can’t quite figure out why. I think it’s becasue this movie never really speeds up in any sense. Hereditary was a slow movie too, but in certain scenes, when it wanted to scare the audience, it knew to speed up the pace. Midsommar really never does that. Because of that, it really doesn’t feel like a horror movie. That may be this movie’s biggest downfall. It succeeds more as a thriller than a traditional horror movie. And since it markets itself as the latter rather than the former, I found Midsommar a little disappointing.

However, this is still a good movie. It’s a little long, it’s a little silly, but it does have some truly disturbing imagery. For people looking for a pure horror movie, don’t watch this. Go watch Hereditary or Insidious. However, for the few viewers who actually like watching disturbing movies, you’ll love this. It’s just a pity this movie isn’t scarier, as the setting and historical elements really had a lot of potential for a great horror movie.

American Psycho Review

American Psycho is a 2000 movie directed by Mary Harron starring Christian Bale. It follows a young wealthy Wall Street executive who begins to commit a string of murders. This movie’s greatest asset is Christian Bales performance as Patrick Bateman. Other than that, everything else is basically average with this film.

Christian Bale is surprisingly great as the lead. He plays a Patrick Bateman very well, and makes the character extremely likable, despite his psychopathic tendencies. Nuances like discussing his taste in music with his victims really sell the character and make him interesting. He holds this entire film together and is easily the best part.

The rest of the film is kinda average in literally every other sense. Some of the acting is good, such as William Dafoe’s unnerving performance as a detective looking into Patrick’s murders. But some of it is really pretty bad, like the actress who plays Patrick’s secretary, she’s extremely boring and does basically nothing but read her lines. Also, other than Patrick, the audience really isn’t introduced to anyone. This movie moves along so fast that I can’t even remember anyone’s name other than Patrick’s. Granted, this isn’t a huge problem within this movie, as it really isn’t trying to make you invest in any character other than the main one. Still, it feels very jarring when the audience only knows one character in basically every scene.

The biggest problem with this movie, at least for me, is that the ending falls apart. After going on a murder spree with a gun that he seemingly pulls out of thin air, since the audience never saw it before, Patrick makes a confession to his lawyer on a phone. The next day he tries to talk to his lawyer about it, but his lawyer either covers for him, or he’s hallucinating. It really isn’t clear, and it makes you leave what otherwise was a fun movie, feeling pointless.

Overall, American Psycho is a violent yet entertaining movie with a very charismatic lead holding it all together. Sadly, everything outside of that lead feels painfully average. Still, if you’re into slasher flics or you like Christian Bale, you would probably like this movie. Unfortunately, I’m not particularly into either of those, so although I enjoyed Patrick Bateman as a character, I wasn’t a huge fan of this movie