Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dahmer Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A look inside the dark mind of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Review: I've mentioned before that "Dahmer" is probably the closest thing we have to a true, visceral glimpse inside the mind of a killer. Although this film takes certain liberties with its depiction of Dahmer, it never tries to justify his actions or make him sympathetic. Furthermore, the film does not glamorize his life either. Instead, the filmmakers opt to depict the unhinged nature of a man living an extremely mundane life and his homicidal tendencies. It's also important to note that Dahmer's cannibalism is completely left out of the film for whatever reason. It would have been nice if the narrative was structured more like a biography, but, instead, we get the events leading up to Dahmer's capture intermixed with various flashbacks demonstrating his complete descent into serial killer. Needless to say, the film is disturbing in numerous ways.

The main aspect that will engage the viewer is Jeremy Renner's unsettling performance. He appears at one with the "character," and this is the definitive role I imagine for him. Mr. Renner has that right level of charm and wickedness to properly bring Dahmer to life. However, the other aspect pulling this movie together is the dingy atmosphere and cinematography. The dimly lit rooms, various color filters, and odd closeups create a surreal perspective that we can extrapolate as Dahmer's view of the world. There is certainly a layer of pretentiousness to the production, but, for the most part, the film plays it straightforward with mere artistic decisions to enhance the scenes; that I can forgive and appreciate. Lastly, the score is quite simple in arrangement yet incredibly effective with establishing the mood. There are a few real songs, but the original soundtrack is that right level of dark ambiance I naturally envision for this kind of story.

What hurts the film is the general sense of aimlessness. I detect hesitation by the director in how to approach Dahmer's life. For example, setting the events toward Dahmer's capture works yet we do not actually see his capture. What is the point then? The flashbacks work perfectly fine and add a layer of depth to explore, however, why choose these moments specifically? Do they truly demonstrate Dahmer's nature? That remains to be seen. The scenes are strung together coherently enough, however, there is something amiss that is hard to explain. Better transition shots were needed perhaps? I still feel as though no film fully brings that evil of a serial killer to life. And maybe we shouldn't in an instance like this where filmmakers are using a real life person with real victims.

It's tough to recommend a movie like this since it's not fiction but it sort of is at the same time. I'd actually want to see a film in this style but with a fictional character to really take in a dark and disturbing direction. As it stands, "Dahmer" provides a tale that would be best described as intriguing. For a normal person to wrap their mind around the thinking of a serial killer is more difficult than you'd imagine. This film is probably the closest I've seen to bringing that darkness to life despite amending certain aspects to the real killer--for easier consumption on the viewer's behalf I'm assuming. If you're a fan of Jeremy Renner then this is a must-watch, however, be aware that this film is an acquired taste without a doubt. Now, bear in mind that I'm not insinuating that "Dahmer" is some kind of balls to walls splatterfest--far from it--I'm simply trying to explain that this is art house meets the mind of a killer with a super slow pace. If your interest is piqued then I think you'll be pleased, but if the subject matter rubs you wrong out the gate, then it's best to avoid outright.

Notable Moment: When Dahmer is roaming around the woods hitting everything in sight. It's simple yet effective in its manner of conveying the uncontrollable rage of a killer. Another tiny scene that strikes me is Dahmer just staring at a doorknob to a therapist's office while the camera zooms in. I like these kind of lingering shots since they typically say a lot more than dialogue can.

Final Rating: 6/10

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The Guardians of the Galaxy return as Star-Lord meets his father and discovers his cosmic origin.

Review: Following up the first GotG film was going to be difficult, but part 2 mostly succeeds at being a worthy sequel. It's kind of a toss-up, because some plot elements are done better this time around while others are inferior. To be precise, a significant amount of action is reduced in order to play up the humor even more. As such, the humor doesn't feel the same, stylistically, as part 1. To me, the jokes felt dumber, dragged on longer, and were often so over the top that it's as if they were trying to steal some of "Deadpool's" thunder. On the other hand, part two was more emotional with the characters and their relationships further developing. Then we also have the inclusion of a new team member in the form of the sexy Mantis and, potentially, Nebula joining at some point. I will freely admit, depending on what you prioritize in these movies, you could easily make the argument that this is the better entry.

In regard to the humor...this entry makes part 1 look subtle in comparison. Sure, I found a lot of the gags amusing and was laughing quite a bit throughout, however, I'd rather they blend this in with action. This entry only has a few action sequences, and the only one even worth acknowledging was the final fight which was heavily contrived to boot. The filmmakers have been playing fast and loose with Marvel lore for years which is...okay...I guess, yet, it's still hard to believe a Celestial would struggle to kill the GotG. This is, of course, ignoring that Ego, Star-Lord's dad in the movie, is not really his dad nor a Celestial in the comics. Oh well. This is all beside the main concern is that the filmmakers couldn't go two seconds without a joke--to the point that it felt forced. Yes, the movie as a whole is funny but ease up a little.

On the other hand, plenty of story changes work better than they did originally in the comic. For example, exploring Nebula's character was epic. Understanding how much she has suffered at the hands of Thanos and her resentment for Gamora is palpable. But, of course, they include a joke during this moment that cheapens her story (though, it was a funny joke at that!). I'd definitely like to see Nebula return and join the team for real next time. Speaking of which, the introduction of Mantis was interesting, and she definitely fits into the goofy nature of the team. It was also kind of sweet how Drax fell for her despite his constant reminding of how ugly he finds her. Then we have Star-Lord and Gamora finally hooking up a bit which was nice. Yondu being completely redeemed and having a heartfelt death was surprisingly moving. It was scenes like this that heavily compensated for the lack of action going on. Something extremely impressive was how quick the film went by despite being longer than part 1; that's some tight pacing for sure.

I think my main disappointment was that part 2 should have connected more to the buildup of Thanos, and this story should have been saved for part 3 once Thanos is beaten (presumably) in "The Avengers" movies. Don't get me wrong, this is still a fun and great movie all around that adds more of what you love about the first GotG. The character relationships are expanded, we learn more about everyone, and there is a strong, emotional conclusion. However, the comedy is heavily increased with a slight tonal shift to that humor. In exchange, much of the action is reduced and made equally comedic, taking away from the stakes to a degree. If your tastes align more with the filmmakers than my own, then you will probably enjoy part 2 significantly more than part 1. Overall, this was an admirable sequel that falls short of the original but is still a good film unto itself.

Notable Moment: Although I laughed hard when Yondu said he was Mary Poppins, the coolest and funniest scene is when Star-Lord turns into a giant Pac-Man.

Final Rating: 7/10

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A group of criminal misfits put their differences aside in order to save the universe and become the guardians of the galaxy!

Review: I wouldn't go as far as calling this the modern day "Star Wars," but it is pretty damn close to it! And, well, let's be honest, modern day "Star Wars" isn't worthy of calling itself "Star Wars." What makes GotG such a surprise success is the great balance of humor, interesting characters, and fun action. Furthermore, after the slew of Marvel movies that all take place on Earth, GotG offered fans a glimpse of the wider universe at hand. However, what's truly impressive is the storytelling ability to introduce these new characters, settings, and plot elements while never overwhelming the viewer AND tying in with the Earth-based story line.

Starting with what works I have to begin with the comedic aspects. The jokes are a bit on the cornball side, however, their timing is what makes the humor enjoyable. More precisely, the film knew when to be serious and when to have its jokes. This is something the sequel did not fully understand, but we'll get to that. While GotG is not on "Deadpool's" level of over the top gags, the filmmakers understood the audience well enough to include your casual humor for the kiddies as well as things for the adults. Of course, presenting said jokes are the likable characters themselves. Despite being set up as criminals, and potentially killers, they are a band of goofballs you can't help but to root for; besides, they do redeem themselves one way or another. I think this degree of goofiness is important to understand since there's a major contrast between the GotG team and, say, the Avengers lineup. Another thing I want to note is how hot Zoey Saldana looks as Gamora--the hottest green chick in the galaxy! Oh, and then there are all those babes in the background on Xandar. Who are all those little chickadees?! Plus the pink girls and Nebula--who would have thought a bald, blue android-girl could be so damn sexy.

See...this is what I'm talking about. Gamora looking hot as we are treated to a random, sexy extra on Xandar. I'm serious, in the background of like every scene on that planet there is some vixen lurking.

It's not just amusing characters and situations that make this film work--GotG has fantastic action scenes and commendable pacing. What caught my attention was the variety to the action that was, again, reminiscent of "Star Wars." You get the opening fight, the awesome street brawl on Xandar, a prison escape, a space battle, and the final battle against Ronan and his minions which includes a heist-esque sensation. Factoring in the character banter between set pieces, the audience loses track of time and becomes completely engrossed with the events; that two hour running time is never felt. Not to be completely overshadowed, the settings for these action scenes are each unique and introduce world-building ideas for fans to pick up on. It's always cool to see aliens and the worlds they come from; there is just something about the imagination involved.

As much as I loved this film, I will acknowledge its faults. The general consensus is that Ronan was not properly developed as a villain, and I fully agree. The annoying part is that I think he was deliberately diluted as a character so as not to compete with Thanos in the mind of the viewer. You have to understand from the studio's perspective they automatically assume the general audience is retarded and treat them as such. To be honest, they aren't entirely wrong in this regard, but that's neither here nor there. So stupid Disney is going to assume that viewers will confuse Thanos and Ronan if they don't do something drastic to separate killing one off before we learn anything about him...just like Darth Maul. Hmmmm. What they should have done was make Ronan this relentless villain after the GotG. Take the time to explain why he's such an asshole and wants an infinity stone. More importantly, he should have survived the fight and retreated for a later moment. Have the final scene reveal that Ronan is nothing more than a crony for Thanos which would actually hype Thanos up even more since you'd establish Ronan as a huge badass only to discover he's afraid of Thanos. You'd actually develop two characters at once through this method rather than the moronic way it's presented. Hell, Thanos just looks like a lazy bitch in each movie sitting in the same chair staring off into oblivion. The general audience doesn't know how powerful Thanos have to show them. Argh.

Overall, GotG is an amazing movie that properly balances a lighthearted tone with solid, sci-fi action. The characters are likable in a snarky kind of way, and you become engaged by their coming together as a team; they are certainly the underdogs. The inclusion of a late '70s/early '80s garnish to the production, due to Star-Lord's obsession with the music, also creates an interesting dynamic within the film's structure and stylistic choices; you know I love that shit! Sure, there are a few shortcomings along the way, but GotG manages to be one of Marvel's best movies yet. There is essentially something for every audience to enjoy here.

Notable Moment: When Star-Lord tries to have a dance-off against Ronan. This scene is randomly stupid, yet, it's Gamora's reaction that really makes it funny.

Final Rating: 8/10