Flying and Filming

Chronicle is a hidden gem in a subgenre dominated by horror. In that it’s a found footage superhero movie. As superhero movies go, this is about as unique a premise as you can get. Chronicle is a found footage story about three teens who gain superpowers. Specifically flight, telekinesis, and endurance. Chronicle chronicles the tragic tale of troubled youth Andrew Detmer. He films himself as a personal outlet, but interestingly enough the movie isn’t entirely from his camera’s perspective. One other character is shown filming and sometimes surveillance cameras are shown. Andrew’s cousin and a popular student are the other two who gain powers. The conflict comes when Andrew starts to become angrier and a bit more hostile. Chronicle was another movie that I saw by myself in theaters. I wasn’t really expecting much, but I wasn’t disappointed. It’s one of the best non-traditional superhero movies of the decade. The characters are painfully real and relatable. It feels like it could have actually happened (minus the powers of course). Plus telekinesis is my favorite superpower. So this was definitely made for me. So if you’re tired of all the found footage horror movies, Chronicle is the movie to watch.

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Andrew crushes a car with the power of his mind

McDonald’s McDonald’s Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut

I’ll admit I don’t usually watch documentaries. Frankly, I find them boring. Super Size Me is a major exception. Mostly because I (as much as anyone else) love food. Especially fast food, particularly McDonald’s. Like most people my age, I saw Super Size Me in health class. It’s mainly about humorist Morgan Spurlock deciding to eat nothing but McDonald’s everyday for a month, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, trying everything on the menu at least once. As well as taking a look at fast food industries and unhealthy foods in America. We’re all probably aware of how cheap fast food is compared to healthier foods. That’s no accident. It’s part of the reason why I eat McDonald’s (or Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut) just about every week. What sets this documentary apart from others is the humorous take on the subject matter. Super Size Me will make you hungry, but it will also make you think. Although unlike some people, I don’t stop eating meat just because I find out how it gets made. Not even working in a meat factory is enough to change my mind. Give Super Size Me a taste and see if you like it.

Morgan Spurlock eats his first of many McDonald’s french fries

Going Commando

Commando is for those who like action and Arnie. Growing up, Arnold Schwarzenegger was my favorite actor to watch. Even if his movies were all R rated, I still watched them as a kid. Commando was the film that proved that Arnold could play a modern day guy in 1985. Albeit still an unstoppable killing machine. Commando is about an ex-soldier named John Matrix whose daughter (played a young Alyssa Milano) is kidnaped by terrorists. They force him to carry out an assassination or else his daughter dies. He plays along at first, then he escapes, and kills everyone in his path. Recruiting a whiny flight attendant in the process. The over-the-top action and violence is easily the best thing about the movie. Leading to a crazy shoot ’em up where Matrix mows through several men with a variety of deadly weapons. With Arnie’s signature one-liners like “don’t disturb my friend, he’s dead tired”, “remember Sully when I promised I’d kill you last… I lied”, and “I eat green berets for breakfast and right now I’m very hungry” being my personal favorites. Not to mention the final fight scene where he says “let off some steam Bennett.” So give Commando a watch, that’s an order soldier.

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John Matrix pulls out the big gun

Grab a Box of Tissues for this one

SPOILER ALERT! My Girl is the kind of movie that starts out nice and innocent. Then rips out your heart and shows it to you. It might have been a forgettable childhood movie if not for its powerful twist. Last warning about the spoiler. Kevin from Home Alone dies! Anyway the movie is a coming of age story about a girl trying to cope with living in a funeral parlor. Her father enters a new relationship, her only friend in the world dies, and she falls into depression. Anna Chlumsky plays the unfortunately named Vada Sultenfuss. She plays her with so much spunk and wit, that you’d swear you were watching an experienced actress. Macaulay Culkin plays her best friend Thomas J. They have terrific chemistry, especially in the famous kissing scene. It made the shocking death and funeral scene all the more heartbreaking. As soon as that scene happened I could not stop crying until the movie was over!ย My Girl feels much more real than any other childhood movie. It’s a subject that all kids will have to learn one day. I would definitely recommend it, but caution: you will cry!

Vada (right) and Thomas J. (left) share their first kiss

Followed by: My Girl 2

Are You a Watcher or a Player?

Nerve is the kind of movie that hooked me from the start. I was curious when I first saw the trailer on YouTube. Even though the trailer sort of gives a lot of dares and plot details away. Still I was intrigued by the premise of an online truth or dare style game (minus the truth). Nerve is actually the first movie I went to see by myself in over 3 years. Even though my last viewing experience was bad, I was just too curious not to see the movie. One of my secret obsessions is prank videos. So this was the movie for me. Nerve centers on a teenage girl named Vee. Her friends try to convince her to come out of her shell by participating in an online game called Nerve. In the “game” people have a choice between Watcher or Player. Watchers give people dares. While Players have to do the dares no matter how stupid, embarrassing, or dangerous they are. In exchange for large amounts of money. One of the best things about Nerve is its color palette. It’s filled with stellar neon pinks, greens, and blues. Another positive is the chemistry between Emma Roberts and Dave Franco. As well as the teen humor and building tension near the end. I loved the movie so much that I read the very different book afterwards. All I ask now is for you to watch Nerve and judge it for yourself. Do you accept the challenge?

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Vee (right) decides whether or not to continue playing Nerve with Ian (left)

One Day…

Selmaย has one powerful message. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day I’d like to review one of the few Dr. King movies that were made. David Oyelowo was a perfect choice to play him. He looks the part and emulates Dr. King without seeming like an imitation. Like any other movie about race relations, Selma is tough to sit through at times. Especially for someone who is mixed such as myself. The interesting thing about Selma is that it centers on an event that is not touched on nearly as much as others. Of course everyone knows about his famous “I have a dream” speech, but not the walk from Selma to Montgomery. I saw Selma as part of the other movies nominated that year. It’s a true stand out, and not just because it was the only black movie nominated. It was also directed by female director Ava DuVernay. Not to mention its award winning gospel inspired rap song “Glory.” I’m just not sure I fully agree with the modern parallels mentioned in the song. Regardless, Selma is sure to give you a fighting sense of hope.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. begins the march from Selma to Montgomery

A Boy and his Giant

The Iron Giant is definitely a movie that deserved more attention when it first came out. I would even go so far as to call it the best non-Disney animated movie I’ve ever seen. For those who don’t know, The Iron Giant is the story of a boy named Hogarth from the 50’s who finds a mysterious giant robot in the woods. The titular Iron Giant is about 50 ft tall, eats metal, and can repair itself. Hogarth teaches the metal man about heroes, how to talk, and about guns. One of the strongest themes in The Iron Giant is its anti-war message. I guarantee the ending will make you cry (“Superman”). Of course a movie with material this heavy, needs moments of levity. Like when Hogarth tries to conceal the Giant. Or with characters like the beatnik artist Dean or the hilarious villainous government agent Kent Mansley. Funny thing about the movie is that it didn’t really have to be animated. I think the main reason it was, is because it would have been too difficult to pull off in live action. Then again director Brad Bird did get his start in animation. While I was alive in 1999, I can’t recall whether I saw it in the theater. Regardless, it’s another one of my most sought after childhood movies. Plus I bet you didn’t know Vin Diesel was the voice of the giant. Thankfully The Iron Giant has received a surge of renewed popularity, and it’s very deserving of that.

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The Iron Giant protects Hogarth

Western Wackiness

Wild Wild West is a bad movie, but I still love it. Like many movies I saw as a kid, Wild Wild West is one of my favorite childhood movies. However, I do understand why it won the Razzie award for Worst Picture, but I guess you can say I find it impossible to hate. Even though the humor is awkward, the actors look like they don’t want to be there (Will Smith even disowned the movie), and the whole western steampunk thing is bizarre to say the least. Wild Wild West was Will Smith’s second time working with Men and Black director Barry Sonnenfeld. It’s based on an old TV series that I’m certain most people have forgotten about. So the fact that they put so much effort into a movie is definitely odd. Will plays Jim West, a black cowboy working for the U.S. Army. In my opinion he’s just as fun to watch as his other performances. Kevin Kline plays Artemis Gordon (and President Grant), a U.S. Marshall inventor who wears different disguises. There’s also Salma Hayek as the love interest Rita and Kenneth Branagh as the wacky wheelchair bound villain Arliss Loveless. Who notably builds an 80 ft tarantula for some reason. I was so obsessed with Wild Wild West that I dressed up like Jim West for my first Halloween. Along with Woody, Cowboys were just “the thing” for me growing up. I also sang along to, and danced to, the movies theme song. Good thing YouTube wasn’t around back then. When you’re a child any movie you see feels like the greatest thing ever. All I’ll say is watch Wild Wild West at your own risk.

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Jim West (left) and Artemis Gordon (right) talk to the President

Ctrl+Alt+Delete

Ex_Machinaย is a true modern sci-fi masterpiece. I knew I had to check it out since robots are one of my favorite aspects of science fiction. Surprisingly it was the first movie I saw from independent giants A24. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Ex_Machina, it’s about a programmer who wins a chance to study a robot invented by the CEO of the company he works for. However, the robot named Ava appears to be more human than he anticipated. Ex_Machina is a far more intimate sci-fi movie than what I’m used to. There are really only four characters in the entire movie. Domhnall Gleeson who plays the contest winner Caleb. Oscar Isaac who plays the CEO Nathan. Both of them ironically ended up playing enemies in The Force Awakens. There’s also a lovely personal assistant that Nathan keeps around the house. And of course Alicia Vikander as robot Ava. She delivers a multilayered android whose motives will leave you questioning until the end. The ending (I won’t give away) is truly thought-provoking. The best thing about Ex_Machina is the atmosphere. The dim lighting and claustrophobic setting is very unnerving. The effects used for the robot are positively flawless. I was so happy to see it win Best Visual Effects. Not to mention the unique design that Ava has. She has a translucent body with a rubber chest and hips and skin that’s meant to lay over the body. Ex_Machina is a one of a kind experience that first time director Alex Garland more than achieved.

Ava gives a seductive stare

Ziggy and the Maze

Labyrinth is an interesting fantasy film to say the least. Honestly, if it wasn’t for David Bowie I probably wouldn’t have ever seen it. Although I actually saw Labyrinth one year before David Bowie passed away. I’m glad I managed to watch it before, otherwise it would have been all I was thinking about. Labyrinth starts in the real world where a teenage girl named Sarah asks the Goblin King to take her baby brother away. Which he does, forcing Sarah to journey through his labyrinth in order to rescue him. Where she encounters many strange and fantastic creatures. As far as the movie goes, I think it’s just passable. Certainly not my favorite movie released in the 80’s. One of the best things about it would be Jim Henson’s masterful puppetry, or should I say Muppetry. David Bowie’s musical talent brings a rockstar quality to the villainous Goblin King. A notable standout would be his song “Magic Dance.” As well as the breakout performance by a young Jennifer Connelly. The main problem I have with Labyrinth is the humor. I didn’t really find the dialogue funny or clever. It was just weird, especially a scene that’s basically one big fart joke. Still the campy cult value of Labyrinth is probably the best reason I can think of to watch, but most importantly, do it for David Bowie.

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The Goblin King (right) makes Sarah (left) an offer she can’t refuse