Monster (2018) Review

RATING: 2.5/5

A film student is walking on a thin line between being free or being sent to jail for many years.

A movie with a great cast, but had mediocre end results.

Performances throughout ranged from decent to good. The standouts to me were Steven Harmon (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Mr. Harmon (played by Jeffery Wright). The scene with the two talking to each other was an emotional one especially when Mr. Harmon looked as though he was about to burst into tears, but he kept a calm and collective composure.

For the rest of the characters, while the movie featured an assortment of actors/actresses (Jennifer Hudson, Tim Blake Nelson, John David Washington, A$AP Rocky, Nas, Jharrel Jerome), they didn’t offer much when it came to complexity. They all gave fine performances, but there wasn’t a whole a lot of time or development for me to gravitate toward. That feeling fell in line some with Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Jeffery Wright.

The best example of this were the prison scenes. I didn’t feel the journey or pain that Steve was going through because of how the film was edited together. The movie was 98 minutes long, to which I feel was a tad short. If the movie was 10 or 15 minutes longer, I might have gotten more invested. With the prison scenes, there needed to be more scenes involving Nas being Steve’s emotional anchor. He was sorely underused. That unfortunately transcended onto the other high-profile figures like John David Washington and Jharrel Jerome, who were pretty much there and gone after a couple scenes. No offense to them, they can do phenomenal stuff, but here I don’t believe it was warranted.

One aspect I liked was during one of the film school sessions when Tim Blake Nelson was talking about how people have different perspectives when viewing any feature. That goes very parallel to what was happening in the courtroom scenes. People were watching the same event unfold in front of their eyes, but they all have varying opinions of what they think. People have their own mindset on how the world works around them. Something that Steve knew full well and that made him very nervous for all the right reasons. I liked the back and forth struggle that he was dealing with. Should he continue fighting and prove he’s not guilty or should he accept the harsh reality and give in to the consequences?

How the film was edited, shot, and arranged left me mixed. There were some nice shots here and there. But, the movie would jump from scene to scene or from location to location, thus hindering any kind of character development or emotional connection. Pacing was all over the place. There was a weird moment where tones clashed with one another. For example in the first courtroom scene, there was upbeat drums playing and one was supposed to feel bad for Steve. But the gray/dull look of the courtroom, the up-tempo music, and when Paul Ben-Victor called Steve a monster, I don’t know why but I laughed. Again, I’m supposed to feel bad, but the last two elements really hurt that scene for me due to it being tonally off and the execution of the dialogue.

While not bad, it was pretty average to say the least. A shame because with a really good cast like the one presented, one would have expected something good. The potential was there, but if there was more room to breathe, maybe the movie could have been something worthwhile. In the end, it didn’t really leave much of an impact for me.

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King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962) Review

RATING: 4/5

Kong is transported to Japan to be a mascot for a pharmaceutical company; though things take a turn when Kong frees himself and does battle with the King of the Monsters himself, Godzilla.

A classic and epic kaiju movie back then. A classic and epic kaiju movie now.

The film started off well as one was introduced to the characters and the main drive that put the plot forward in motion. Firstly, the human character that stole the show was the company leader himself, Mr. Tako. In the many scenes he was present in, he was so eccentric in his plan of wanting Kong so badly that it was hilarious at times. It was funny seeing him fuming over Godzilla getting all the attention as opposed to Kong. As well as the bit of him screaming for Kong to win when he and Godzilla first meet. The rest of the human characters were fine. Comparing the Japanese actors and American actors, was like day and night. The latter felt like they weren’t even trying to put the effort. Not the worst, but very bland.

Revisiting the movie made me realize that there was pretty comedic bits here and there. As I said, Mr. Tako stole the show. But there were other moments that made me laugh quite a bit. There was the scene where the characters of Osamu and Kinsaboro were impressing the Faroe Island Natives with a radio and handing them all cigarettes. The two give an eager native child one until his mother from behind grabbed it out of his hand. There was Kinsaboro being paranoid while walking through the island jungle. It reached a peak when he was swinging around a giant lizard. After the first encounter, Kong scratched his head and walked away upon realizing Godzilla breathed atomic breath. It goes to show that the entertainment factor wasn’t just in the action.

As far as the monsters go, they were really good. Godzilla did appear derpy and this iteration did the famous hand-clapping moments, but the design overall I dug, one of the favorites. Kong was similar with his derpiness, but I liked it as well. Definitely better than the design used in “King Kong Escapes.”

On their own, the two had some nice action and destruction scenes. Though I think Kong outdid Godzilla with the 1933 homages being executed on-screen. Kong grabbing the train from the tracks, picking up Fumiko, and climbing the tallest building. One must keep in mind that Kong hadn’t been a movie since 1933, so it was rightly appropriate for Toho to familiarize audiences with the 8th Wonder. The shot of him standing on top of the capitol building was a cool one. As well as some good perspective shots whenever he and Godzilla were in the countryside wreaking everything in their path.

Now, the fights. The first encounter hadn’t nothing much to it. Though as I mentioned, Kong had a funny moment of him walking away. He thought he was going to be battling a regular dinosaur until Godzilla pulled out his signature weapon. The second encounter and final battle, was legendary. It’s one of the best and most memorable. So many classic moments from the fight to choose from. Kong shoving a tree down Godzilla’s throat, Godzilla battering a down Kong, Kong receiving an energy boost from lightning, Godzilla/Kong jumping off the cliff and into the ocean, etc. An excellent fight that wasn’t too short or too long. It gave one just what they want to be rightfully satisfied. Even if the outcome is sorely debated to this day, the fight itself can surely leave a massive impression.

Composer Akira Ifukube did great with one of the best themes in the Godzilla franchise. Though I wished he would composed the soundtrack with more originality. As the main theme was eerily similar to the theme that played while Kong was falling asleep.

While Faroe Island had some decent sets and practical effects, I wished the island itself was explored more. Especially when it came to the fauna. It felt lifeless and it evoked similar vibes to the 1976 remake of “King Kong.” I feel as though Kong should have had a grander entrance. I mean fighting an octopus I feel is not a good intro, the fight itself was one would expect, lackluster. However I do feel bad for the animal being eaten by the filmmakers behind the scenes. Godzilla’s entrance of him coming out of the ice in the beginning was cool, no pun intended. But similarly to Kong, I feel like his solo scenes needed to be better worked on. It had been 7 years since “Godzilla Raids Again” and I think Toho gave him the short end of the stick.

Some of the dialogue can be a little clunky. Kong getting electrical powers was hokey. It be fitting for the “Frankenstein Monster,” who was originally supposed to take Kong’s role. But hey, Kong went full beast mode when he received the power of Zeus. So I’m not complaining too much. There were moments of poor editing where the film would either cut or transition within the same scene. The plot itself was ridiculous and outlandish. But upon reading director Honda’s motives on the themes of television adverts, I can understand where he was coming from. As there is truth to this. Companies will sometimes go far and beyond to get as many viewers and good press as possible to keep their business afloat.

If you’re a kaiju/giant monster fan who hasn’t seen this movie, where have you been? It is a great movie with nice humor, really good music, and memorable monster action that defies the word, classic. Highly recommend it.

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Malcolm and Marie (2021) Review

RATING: 3/5

A boyfriend and girlfriend have relationship issues regarding the release of a movie.

Fireworks shoot out in a matter of a couple hours, but they don’t leave too much of an impact.

John David Washington played the character of Malcolm pretty well. He delivered the most fun, energetic, and lifeful performance in the movie. I mean that rant he went on due to a good review was, for the most part, a nice summation of the character.

Zendaya as Marie was good. But it seemed like Washington’s performance, at a couple points, was running circles over her. Not to say Washington was perfect. Both he and Zendaya were cheesy and over-the-top in some areas, but as I said, he delivered the most star power I feel like.

Learning about the characters and their relationship through the conversations about Malcolm’s movie was nicely done. It was exposition heavy sure, but I felt like it was needed for the situation displayed. Offering story bits of the film and detailing the behind-the-scenes side, showcased the innerworkings of the two leads feelings for each other and how it would evolve over the course of the film. Though it can be lengthy in a couple scenes, the emotions that were released hit well. A great scene involved Malcolm’s response to being called “mediocre” by Marie. Marie’s emotional side truly blossomed in one of the final scenes begging for a thank you. A “genuine” thank you.

Now how Malcolm’s movie interplayed with the relationship was good exposition, but the ones involving the political side of filmmaking and movie critics as a whole, slashed the movie. The feature seemed to not know what type of story to follow. On the positive side, I found Malcolm’s rant to be humorous and I got to hand it out to him for remembering all of his lines to pull it off. I liked the little detail of Zendaya laughing in the foreground as I felt that wasn’t in the script. But again, that rant on critics and how the political side of filmmaking is perceived, should have been handled in a way that ran parallel with the movie’s plot and Malcolm and Marie’s strained relationship. Those expositions went on for quite of bit of time and the focus was lost to some extent. Like is it a simple romance drama or a romance drama with socio-political themes thrown into the mix at the last second?

The cinematography was great all around. It was really showcased in the scenes where the emotions and atmosphere were slow yet tense. The camera would pull off nice close-ups whenever they occurred. Scenes where a character was alone contemplating or wondering where the partner was, looked good in the wide shot format. Times where scenes were done in one shot were executed so well.

Music was pretty good. Artist Labrinth did nice work at composing jazz-influenced tunes. My favorite was the piece that played after the bathroom scene. Though at times the music was a bit on the nose, particularly when an old-timey song came on to explain the emotional language occurring in the scene. It came off as childish.

The style was something to take interest. With its cinematography, music, atmosphere, and the film grain, I could maybe see the film being made in the 70s. In addition with the poster, the feature felt like a blast from the past.

“Malcolm and Marie” suffered from identity crisis. Two plotlines seemed to coexist with one trying to match the more empowering one. The movie didn’t know what to focus on properly. But nonetheless, with good performances, great cinematography, nice music, and some finely delivered hard emotions, this was a romance drama that one should see. Albeit there were cheesy and corny vibes brought out, but it was pleasantly made at how and if a relationship can survive.

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Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Review

RATING: 4/5

An FBI informant is tasked to learn and behave like a Black Panther Party member to get close to revolutionary Fred Hampton.

Director Shaka King’s showcases wonderous talent with his first mainstream smash hit.

Daniel Kaluuya did a fantastic job at portraying Fred Hampton. For starters, I didn’t know a single thing about Hampton until watching the film. After the picture was over, I have to say I was genuinely impressed. Whether it was his speeches or the actions he committed, the man was the center of the attention. When he spoke, the angry and passion was heard very clearly. The actions he committed, were justifiable and you didn’t want the cops (pigs), to stop him and his revolution. Hampton may seem like a dangerous man based on the falsified media by the white majority. But deep down, he cared not only about his race, but also for unifying the various groups from all over Chicago, to send a powerful message to the leaders on wanting a positive change.

Lakeith Stanfield was great as William O’Neal. Once a car thief turned informant for the FBI through the 70s. One understood why he had to do what he did and it was something that he himself, wasn’t too fond of. Whenever he was feeling anxious, stressed, or filled with another powerful emotion, one felt it. Heading into the dark side was not an easy task for O’Neal. He didn’t want to dive deep into his job, but with a little financial and get-out-of-jail persuasion, his hand was unfortunately forced. Like I mentioned, one felt the pain he portrayed, especially toward the end during the scene just before the raid.

The rest of the supporting characters gave really good performances. Jesse Plemons as agent Roy Mitchell was an interesting person as someone who was on the fence about the organization he worked in. When it came to the members of the Black Panthers, one wanted to root for them badly and not let injustice go unpunished. When it came to the other side of the spectrum, one felt the sliminess and hateful disgust they spat out especially by J. Edgar played by Martin Sheen.

The visuals and technical side of the feature was something to take major note of. Cinematography was nicely done. There were times where the camera would follow the subject with no little to no cuts and it all looked rather seamless. Perspective shots were implemented well whenever a speech was brought forth. Two shots for me that stood out were when Hampton was in the classroom sitting in front of an overblown white window. That with the fact that he was wearing a white long-sleeve, added nice symbolism. He was a man who was righteous in his deeds. Or in the case of the movie, a poet. The other shot involved O’Neal returning to his apartment. He sits on his bed with a red light piercing through the window on his right. While the window on the left side of the shot, was a whitish-green. Again, nice symbolism in that it foreshadowed a dark future and the wrongdoings he acted during that time.

Sound was quite impressive at times. One of my favorites scenes was when one of the party members was running through the plant, having a shoot-out with the cops. It felt like I was watching “Predator” with the drums kicking it. The tension and atmosphere worked great for it. Music was orchestrated well with its jazz, hip-hop, and R&B influences thrown in. It for sure can make one stand up and fight for the right thing. Or it can offer a nice moody, gritty, or foreboding feel whenever the harsh reality of the streets were taken center stage.

Watching the entire movie, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the film “Malcolm X” or Spike Lee in general. When it came down to the style or direction, this was a project I felt like Lee would have definitely made. But I wouldn’t say King ripped off Lee. Similarities sure, but different in a number of reasons.

Now the negatives.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice was O’Neal’s job as an informant. Too many times where I felt like he wasn’t trying to blend in. Moments where he was trying too hard at being a member or moments where it was clearly obvious something was off about him. But apparently the other members didn’t notice or care. Like I would know something seemed wrong in one of the last scenes where O’Neal was getting teary-eyed and no one questioned him. Also no member questioned him after the police shoot-out. Also, him being known by the party for disguising himself as an FBI agent, should have raised more red flags.

One contradictory moment that really made me scratch my head was when O’Neal was showing Hampton tons of C4. A nonsensical/hypocritical moment for that he was in the same theater when Hampton delivered his speech prior when he returned from prison. At that point in time, he made it clear that he was a valuable member of the party. Agent Mitchell himself was impressed with his academy award level of acting. To throw something like that was jarring and again, it was something that should have been more addressed afterwards rather than not mentioning it ever again.

There should have been more backstory shown of O’Neal or the things he and agent Mitchell did outside of work. Especially the latter because there was a point of dialogue where O’Neal described Mitchell as a role model. But I just don’t feel like the movie did a good job at establishing that kind of relationship.

Again, Stanfield performed the role great. He always gives a strong performance. But his character acted too out of the ordinary and needed to be toned down.

Shaka King has a future for sure. He delivered at bringing forth a strong cast of characters with great acting, well done direction, good cinematography, nice music, and showcasing very relevant themes. The injustice of the police system. The movie couldn’t have come out at a better time. HIGHLY recommend this great and inspirational picture.

RIP to all those impacted.

Malcolm X (1992) Review

One Night in Miami (2020) Review

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