Baby Driver

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Five minutes into Baby Driver, and tears were welling up in my eyes. The great craft and detail they put into the car chases, the score, the reaction shots, was evident, but what got me was something else.
It was not the sense of fun, either, present from first to last frame.
I think that what made me emotional was recognizing a dying breed of cinema. Being face to face with a movie that proudly waves the flag of “there’s more to film than superheroes and sequels, look I promise!”.

You made me look Baby Driver, you sure did make me look. I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

B+

Doctor Strange

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I have never abandoned a movie theater as sad as I did on the night I watched Doctor Strange.

The evening began with a promise, with my friend graciously buying me a ticket to attend the opening night showing of Marvel’s latest. As soon as I took a seat in the packed room however, illusion turned to disenchantment. 
The barrage of trailers assaulting my senses consisted of pure noise; a series of sequels, prequels and incredibly expensive looking blockbusters was the only thing adorning the screen before the Marvel Studios logos hushed the crowd into submission.

And then, the origin story. The bad guy. The love interest. The training montage.

Doctor Strange is a very entertaining and fun movie. Visually, it is splendid, aided by the finest CGI money can buy and performers who bring class to even the silliest of one liners. The action sequences are competent and the score is unique enough to at times make the movie seem like it is not part of a massive superhero universe, but something that can stand on its own.

In the decade or so Marvel Studios’ been around, the only movie of theirs I have not liked has been Iron Man 3, and not because the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) turned out to be a fraud. I remember being annoyed by a little kid that pops up halfway to help Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and by how Pepper Potts (Gywneth Paltrow) ends up defeating the bad guy, when everybody was tricked into thinking she had died. 
I bring this up not to rail against Marvel for toying with my emotions for cheap drama, but to commend them for consistently keeping me entertained with the fun and entertaining movies they produce.

This factory line of movies that Marvel has perfected is what ties into my sadness from Friday night. They will keep producing decent and enjoyable pictures for as long as the audience demands it, which judging by the response from the crowd that night, will seemingly last forever.

If cinema is truly an art form, then surely it must provide more catharsis than the sense of satisfaction brought about every time planet earth is saved from annihilation.

My sadness began when I realized, halfway through Doctor Strange, that I could not summon the necessary enthusiasm to care for what was happening on the screen. This not out of bad will, but out of the weariness that having already seen this play out many times before takes on me. The world can only be threatened so many times before peril becomes obsolete; thousands of faceless individuals have perished in the name of spectacle that human loss is neither tragedy nor figure, but the catalyst for kicking the climax into motion.

In attempting to bring the universe to earth, what these movies have done is get rid of the personal. And what motivation to engage with them do I have if the only thing movies have to offer is fun by way of witticisms and entertainment by way of explosions? Marvel is so adept at delivering consistent good entertainment, that pretty soon that is all I will have. Perhaps bad movies will cease to exist, but when that happens, great film will cease to exist as well. Marvel is not interested in making great cinema; if that were the case, their pictures would not feel so depressingly interchangeable. And that would be fine, except everybody seems to be taking a page out of their playbook. And when that happens, cinema ceases to be cinema and becomes something mundane, predictable, and worse of all, average.
Average will become the new norm and nobody will object as long as it keeps making them chuckle.

How long until viewers stop engaging with fare that is challenging, or even just plain different, on account of it not fitting the parameters dictated by their blockbusters? And when that occurs, how long until different movies stop being made altogether?

On the way home, my friend kept talking about the inevitable sequel and the teased team up between Doctor Strange and another Marvel hero. When he finally stopped, he shifted his focus to another established property that will have a sequel soon.

“How about Life?”, I asked, the only trailer for an original idea we watched all night.

“It will most likely bomb”, he said, unaware that he, just like Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) can peer into the future.

B

Digimon Adventure Tri: Reunion

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In this PRRS Age (Prequel, Reboot, Remake, Sequel), there is a tendency for repetition. Creators simply serve audiences more of what they already had in the first installment, with a few technological tweaks here and CGI wonder there.
It makes for passable, albeit not very interesting entertainment.

Thankfully, Digimon Adventure Tri does not fall under such parameters. The first in a planned six film series, Reunion, as this particular movie is subtitled, reintroduces the characters that graced television screens almost sixteen years ago. And it does so with aplomb, as the place the characters inhabit is exactly how I’d imagine them to be, after the adventures they had together that one summer in camp. There seems to be no egregious additions or subtractions; rather, the story develops in a perfectly organic way.
I specially liked the fact that world governments are now aware that there is a digital dimension out there, but are unable to do anything about it.

The second film will be released in March, and I will be looking forward to it.

B+

Blade Runner

blade runnerEvery now and again I would stumble upon a piece of writing on the internet that proclaimed how cool Blade Runner was. After confirming that it was indeed discussing a movie I had not yet seen, nor had the intention to, I freely went about my day. Other times I would find myself in a group of individuals who would sing the movie praises, but their enthusiasm was not contagious enough. Not even the recent news of Denis Villeneuve directing a sequel in 2016 gave me the needed boost to track a copy down and watch it.

It is now 2 in the morning on a Friday, and I sit in front of my computer and attempt to draw out the proper words to describe what I felt six hours ago when the lights came back on and Blade Runner was no more.
“Somebody start the movie again” would be a good description.

I am really surprised that the film is as popular as it is, mainly because it does not follow the traits of the usual blockbusters. The action scenes, no matter how handsomely mounted, are sporadic; the main character is not an all around kick ass hero, but a lonely middle aged man who barely has his head in the game; its pace and plot progression can be sleep inducing. And while there are certainly weighty issues at play here, like what it means to be human and slavery (this is an inverse slave narrative, where the audience cheers for the masters to recapture its servants), I think part of what made this picture so timeless is the absolute perfect tone and atmosphere that permeate the proceedings from start to finish.

From the falling rain to the look of the dilapidated buildings that ruled the city, this is a film whose production design is as much part of it as the characters are. But a sleek look is not enough to carry a two hour film, so why is it that I admired this so much? I keep going back to the plot, which is fairly routine stuff. But there is something about the way director Ridley Scott chose to portray every development and action that I can’t quite recognize but which makes it work for me. Maybe I yet lack the academic knowledge to describe what it is that Blade Runner does so well. Maybe it’s the fact that I am so accustomed to science fiction movies being loud, explicit and on the surface that, now that I encounter a product so radical, my thoughts cannot be turned into something coherent. Maybe it’s the fact that I want to wrap myself in the neo-noir aura that hangs over every scene and dream of it tonight, just like Deckard (Harrison Ford) dreamt of that unicorn. Maybe its the fact that I am bored of clear cut endings, and this film provided me one that was beautiful, exciting and thought provoking.
Just like my dreams tonight, hopefully.

A+