J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth writings are my favorite works of fantasy literature of all time. Over the course of three years, I’ve managed to read almost every book he wrote on the subject, some more than once.
This review contains spoilers for The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II. Naughty Dog’s 2013 title The Last of Us is arguably one of the most revered and influential action games of the last decade. So it comes as no surprise to me that it’s sequel would be as divisive and controversial as it has now become. Does this make it a bad game? In my opinion, no. In fact, in many ways I view it as superior to the original title.
Depending on your point of view, A Woman Under the Influence could be one of the most prophetic and haunting depictions of mental illness, or a cautionary tale of the dangers of falsely committing someone who is thought to be mentally ill. One of the brilliant things about the film is that it appeals to both notions flawlessly.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not a perfect movie. That doesn’t stop it from being one of Marvel’s best. In fact, I believe it to be overall superior to the first film. This is largely due to the fact that almost nothing feels wasted here. Everyone is given something to do, everyone has an arc (even bit characters), and their payoff affects both them and the plot at large. I think at some point writing the script (or perhaps from the beginning), James Gunn realized that doing a sequel is about more than just throwing a bunch of shit on the screen that people recognize. Sure, Howard the Duck is in it, but I think fans have become accustomed to the level of fan service present in these more recent entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that they’re catching on to the fact that dangling a big shiny object in front of our faces and expecting us to jump just doesn’t cut it anymore. I think the fact that Vol. 2 doesn’t try to retread the things in the first movie that made it work, or duplicate the tone or structure of it, which may be disappointing to some people. When people first saw The Empire Strikes Back, a lot of them thought it was considerably darker and more tense than Star Wars was, and it’s depressing cliffhanger left a lot of them dissatisfied. Years later many regard it to be the best film in the saga.
(This tribute was originally written on what would have been Kurt Cobain's 50th birthday). I originally wasn't going to wish Kurt Cobain a happy 50th birthday today, because I've grown out of Nirvana a little bit after being a fan since I first heard Nevermind when I was around 14. But I still remember the first time I listened to "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and I remember what that all lead to.
When you’re a director, making a unique and original product is walking a tightrope because more often than not, true attempts at real originality, especially in the world of filmmaking, can often result in movies that are both drastically flawed and utterly pretentious. And then there’s Terrence Malick. I’ll be completely honest. I didn’t know anything about Malick or his body of work prior to seeing Knight of Cups. I just knew that it would be an experimental movie. That really didn’t prepare me for the kind of experiment I was watching. And up until the very end, I found it to be a slow jog of discontinuous images and pieces of dialog, filmed exclusively at canted angles with a fish-eye lens while characters matter-of-factly stated their existential crises exclusively through whispers. It was disorienting and broke all the rules of conventional storytelling. There was no three act structure and a protagonist whose motivations seem rather paper thin and transparent on the surface.