Thursday, August 25, 2016

How To Be Creative and Flavor of Love - CP102

Image result for FLAVOR OF LOVE

Flavor of Love (2006-)
Starring: Flavor Flav, Dion Graham, etc.
Airing On: VH1
Created By: Chris Abrego, Mark Cronin
Rating: B-

Summary: Flavor Flav needs to find his dream girl and on this reality tv show, he's going to do exactly that.

My Thoughts: Behind the sexist dialogue, it's messy editing and unlikable cast, we have a show that is unapologetically...itself. Both a guilty pleasure that is quite entertaining while also cringe worthy, what we're presented is a show that is wholly a mixture of something along the lines of Jerry Springer and The Bachelor. There are heart jerking moments, there are moments where you need to pick up a dictionary to prove if something one of the ladies has said is actually a word and there are moments where you'll be on the floor laughing and that's what this show is supposed to do. It's so bad, it's good and it doesn't try to be anything else except that. But what makes this show so good?

Is it the wonderfully edited fight scenes that get us every angle of the on-screen action? Is it the quippy dialogue between the women involving obscene swears and drink throwing? Or is the the wonderfully chosen sound effects that sound like they've been ripped from Windows Movie Maker? In my opinion, it's the cast, but how do they choose this wonderful cast to be on this show? This, in itself, is an artistic decision. This is a creative decision. Reminiscent to the kinds of cast mates we'd see on other reality shows like America's Next Top Model, we essentially get bunches of trouble makers; women who will stir up trouble in any given situation and this is for ratings. Obviously. But place yourself in the producer's head as he pulls out head-shots upon head-shots of women who want to be with this man, Flavor Flav. We get a list of personality quirks, likes/dislikes and etc and a photo and that's it. These women have to be perfect, not just for Flav, but for people to keep watching with the thought in their head being: "What next?" And in my opinion, they keep me wondering about what is going to happen next? And so I tune in to find out, but as for a producer, he's thinking about these things in a long-term scenario because he's got to keep people watching in order to keep the show on the air. And this is where the article diverges from the kind of thoughts that not only roam through this producer's head, but many others in the world of television. #10 on the list of hints on creativity states: "Success is fickle: "Don't aim at success." While movies either rank or tank in a theater,  on television, success determines cancellation of not. Success determines whether or not your final product of a 12-episode sitcom, or reality show will unfold or not while as in film, it's out regardless.

However, where this show stands with the article involves is the fact that there is call for change every once in a while say things change. "Make room for the process of excitement and despair, What happens if so-and-so decide to play nice? Will they still be voted off in the same manner as they would? What if this places the order out of whack? What happens if so-and-so do this? In a world like this, things get crazy in a matter of seconds and it is up to the producer to think about said things and react accordingly even if they weren't originally apart of their plan. In this, this is a creative decision. This is what adds the "flavor" in Flavor of Love, not the rapper who is also the star of this show in his crazy getup.

However this is all my own speculation and interpretation if the show isn't scripted like Flavor Flav says is isn't, but with the way things go, who knows? What I do know is that Flavor of Love is a national treasure. It's going to make you laugh, cry, scream and do everything The Bachelor or The Bachelorette can't do on their own networks in a way that was both fresh and fun in 2006. It's obscenely offensive and sort of puts women in the light as sexual objects more than people, but again, it doesn't take itself so seriously, so neither should you.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Video Game Review: Until Dawn (2015), Choices and Fear of the Unknown

Until Dawn (2015)

Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Rami Malek, Meaghan Martin, Brett Dalton, Noah Fleiss
Platform: PS4
Developed By: Supermassive Games
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Rating: A

Summary: A bunch of teens in the woods are stalked by a madman of some sorts.

My Thoughts: As an avid horror fan, I was ready for Until Dawn since its aannouncement years back and the day it came out, I picked it up and I actually wasn't disappointed like a lot of people were. What we're presented is not only a homage to old 80's to 90's horror, but a story that really keeps you on edge and packs the scares with its big names and even bigger and greater game mechanics. What's introduced to us in its game mechanics is one called "The Butterfly Effect" where we can control the outcomes of the game's finale. Reminiscent to 2010's Heavy Rain, any ill-character interactions, taking the wrong path, or a failure to complete one of the game's many quick time events can all result in the demise of one of our 8 playable characters and that's what everyone liked about Heavy Rain, well at least that's what I liked, because we can kill off any of the characters based on our choices and what happens is they're gone and we can no longer play as them. For the most part, when a character dies, their death doesn't really concern any of the other characters unless they come across the body and we're reminded of our failure. And neither does it effect any of the plot besides the fact they can't be played as anymore, however, they are mentioned again at in the game's finale as a final reminder that we messed up and it got someone killed.

Therefore your choices do matter because as with horror movies, you bond with these characters, you're screaming at the screen hoping they'll make the right choices and egging them to do what you think is best and here you're choosing the choices for these people in order to keep them alive whether or not you even actually like them or not because as the story progresses these people change. Their character traits begin to diverge from how they originally were. We begin to root for the "Asshole Jock" or the "Bitchy Cheerleader" and instead want the "Shy Sweet One" to get her comeuppance. The fear lies in the unknown behind these choices. When we're watching a movie, there's really no weight behind these character's actions as they chose to do whatever they did to lead them to their early demise, here we're leading them and their lives are in our hands. It's the fear of making the wrong choice that drives Until Dawn and makes it the great game that it is. The most dreadful moments in the game are moments like right when you miss a quick time event and you know that something awful may happen or before you click the button to make a major decision like choosing to go follow a noise or stay on the correct path. It's moments like these where we're fearful the most not because of the outcome itself but because we do not know where they outcome will lead and while this sort of mechanic is not one that Until Dawn invented, but it's upholds this mechanic well in order to create suspense and leave us on edge and even when the decisions are low pressure, the fear is still there that something we may do may get someone killed.

As I stated before, there are big names in this game and everyone puts on a great performance even though there are some cringe-worthy lines (and I mean a lot!), however as the game draws from typical horror movie cliches and tropes, it's forgivable. Creepy environments, quippy banter between characters and animal instinct decisions that have to be made are all what Until Dawn is made up and if you're a horror fan, these are factors that you'll love like I did. The visuals are stunning, the character arcs, while not completely developed, are enough to get you through the game and want to keep them alive. If you love horror and have a PS4, go get this game. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Suicide Squad (2016) Movie Review and An Analogy on Filmmaking

Suicide Squad (2016)

Starring: Will Smith, Margo Robbie, Viola Davis
Written By: David Ayer
Directed By: David Ayer
Release Date: August 1, 2016
Rating: C-

Summary: A bunch of bad guys are sent out on a mission to do stuff. That's really all I know and can say without giving away things.                                                       

My Thoughts: A movie is like a stew for me. You have your broth, or the basic plot of a film and that makes up the most of the film. Heavy or light, it holds everything together in it's soupy glory. Then there are veggies, or the characters. They float around in the soup and while they don't make up the stew, they move around the stew and create life in their movement, their color, size and shape, or their differences. Then there's your meat, your chunky, thick meet that sort of disrupts the balance between the veggies and the broth and that's the literal action, your climax, rising action, etc of a film that soaks up the plot. And while no film is perfect, these are elements when put together correctly in a way that is both visually and aesthetically pleasing, we have a good movie and in my opinion Suicide Squad is pleasing visually and aesthetically to some extent, but what it tries to pull off it in at the course of 2 hours is instead a mess, a fun mess, but a mess nonetheless.

Going back to my stew analogy, Suicide Squad has all the elements of a stew, but in some aspects there is are too much of one thing and not enough another and let's start with the broth, or the plot.
The plot line of Suicide Squad is not so simple to follow if you aren't familiar with the comic book franchise like myself, but more importantly, there's so much to going on in the film it that as a viewer, you're a bit confused at what's happening here and there with this character or with that character and there just wasn't enough time for them to spell out in a coherent way, but that was the fault of the editing job that was done. There were so many scenes cut here and there, scenes that probably contained a good chunk of what the plot needed to build the world and explain what exactly was going on, but for the lack of time or whatever, they decided to cut those parts out and add what they did. There are scenes with all to many jump-cuts adding an awkward fast-pacedness to scenes where they weren't needed. There are action scenes that cut away too quickly to move onto something else when it could've been extending or elongated to better them. Too much broth, or not enough, or basically an imbalance of it in this case leaves an awkward amount of room concerning characters and actual plot points in the film and that's what happened here. 

The plot of the film was too much, which left little room for the characters to fully be fleshed out. The veggies of the broth are extremely important as they vary in sizes and shapes, so there has to be enough room for all these colorful characters within the plot of a character and they have to interact well in order for not only the movie to be entertaining, but the stew to be tasty because you don't want to add a pomegranate along with a bunch of carrots to a beef stew as that just wouldn't be appetizing. (Unless that's your thing) But in this case it isn't the interactions between the characters that the issues lie. If anything, that's the great part about the movie and there are some great performances in this film, like Will Smith, who I can never see as anyone else but Will Smith, Viola Davis,  who ultimately scared the hell out of me, and Margo Robbie, who stole the show as Harley Quinn and ultimately nailed her character. The characters all have this lively, fun energy around each other and while there are some cringe-worthy lines, (more so than actual good ones), where the issues lie are characters singularly and how they develop over the course of the film. Short story is: They don't. Here we have characters that are artificial and plastic to begin with. You have too many unfleshed-out characters, it creates this excess of a watery, paper thin taste and in the case of this film, we have a lot of this and thus we have watery, paper thin veggies and no one likes those in their stew. 

I have no prior knowledge about most of the people in the squad, so  a little exposition should've been included in order to fully get them as people that we're supposed to sit and watch for 2 hours. I wanted to know what makes them so evil because time and time again, that's all we hear from anyone about them. Its even how the film has being marketed, but we're just pretty much told so without being given much of a reason why. We know Harley Quinn is insane, but what about Captain Boomerang or Katana? What makes them so evil that they're put in a squad with someone like the likes of Harley Quinn? You get some sort of justification in just about everyone accept Harley Quinn and Deadshot's one sentence introduction, but it wasn't enough to really push the "evil" factor that the film was trying to create. What we got a bunch of anti-heros, rather than straight-up villains, which is where the movie succeeds. It made us like these supposedly bad guys and even root for them in the end, but I would've liked to see them do more "bad guy" things or at least have been shown that these people are bad. It felt more like a missed opportunity to make a great film because characters like El Diablo or Harley Quinn or Katana, who have such tragic backstories deserve a little bit more than a couple of sentences for explanation and it felt more like justification for their actions as villains, but because we didn't see much of their villainy, it didn't hold much weight.

Lastly, there's the meat of the stew: the different acts of a film, the climax, the rising action. These aspects are basically nonexistent as there was too much going on in the film to even pick out plot points. We have an obvious beginning and end, but there really is no point of rising action, neither any climax. The entire movie felt as if it was this long on-going sequence with added music sequences that weren't really needed to liven the mood during down times and fast paced jump cuts to move the film along even further when you were just getting into where it was at the moment. The film is 2 hours long and it felt like 20 minutes. There was no point where I felt any urgency or need for the characters to get somewhere and do something and there was no point where I was anxious for that final battle as one typically is during a comic book film because everything was so condensed together that it felt more like this never-ending quest. There was so much to soak up that it leaves you will a watery, plastic-like taste in your mouth that makes you wish it could've been better because it could've been so much better, but there's only so much you can expect from a movie like this. It's a fun, summer Blockbuster. It is nothing like Deadpool which could be attributed to it's PG-13 rating and sub par character development, however, it is also nothing like Batman v Superman because it is fun, it makes you laugh (not often, but the jokes are there regardless of how forced and awkward some of them are) and while you're watching it, you really are having a good time. However, once you leave the theater, that's a different story.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Movie Review: American Beauty (1999)

American Beauty (1999)

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, 
Written By: Alan Ball
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Release Date: October 11, 1999
Rating: A+

Summary: An unhappily married, suburban man decides to change his life after falling in love with his teenage daughter's best friend.  

My Thoughts: I've put off this review multiple times because it's my favorite film and I don't even know how I could give it the justice it deserves, but here I am...doing this review. 

American Beauty is a film that I only show to people I care about, people who would understand it's messages that I'm also going to talk about here. We meet Lester (Kevin Spacey), a man who's introduced to us as a simple, average guy who hasn't had sex in forever thanks to hi overbearing, workaholic wife and a guy who is kind of stuck. He's stuck in this unhappy marriage, he's stuck in this dead-end job and most importantly, he's stuck in a life that he hates, but, then again, he seems so normal you may not notice that. But as, the DVD tagline states, we've got to: Look closer. Look closer at Lester, look closer at his life, but most importantly, look closer at your own. It's a psychological drama, one that explains the dark side of the mundane life of being a human because while it seems normal to have a good job that pays your bills and a seemingly wife and daughter, what's not normal is revealed upon closer inspection and that is whether or not these things make you happy and to Lester, they do not. Upon closer inspection of his seemingly average life does he realize that he is averagely forgettable, not respected by his family and not really doing anything of merit to himself. It is after he meets Angela (Mena Suvari), his daughter's best friend that something in him reawakens and he goes on this journey in changing his life. But why Angela? Why is she the one who puts him on his path? 

Why, that's because Angela is a symbol for youth. She reminds him of what it was like to be young and happier and he fantasied what it would be like to be with her in order to regain that. She was his catalyst and speaking of catalysts, she isn't the only one. Another catalyst is Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley). He's the only one in the movie that has truly found themselves. He's what Lester wants to be, but Lester doesn't mold himself after Ricky. Ricky is a guy who appreciates life for what it is and goes on recording life in order to capture it, to keep it for his own. Ricky knows who he is, he appreciates the beauty in life and he sees it as a whole. Lester just wants to see the beauty in the smaller things, thigns normal people take for granted that he once and this ideology is one we can't say the rest of the characters in the film follow. Lester's wife is obsessed with appearances and it rules her life as she spirals downward into her work because she wants to be on top, she wants to appear picture perfect which can be seen in the way she keeps her home, her work mantras and her obsession with material things. Lester's daughter is also obsessed with appearances, but more so her outward appearance because she hasn't accepted the beauty within herself. The same goes for Angela, who unlike Lester's daughter, puts on a front that she accepts herself, when she really has not. These characters, with the exception of Ricky, are all paper thin. They have a lot of backstory, exposition behind their choices and etc, but they're merely exaggerated, stereotypical tropes of characters that we see time and time again in the media or know in our real lives who's only job is to prove a point. They're so paper thin in order for us to recognize the tropes and relate our lives to them and how we've seen them before, but when we look closer at their quick-witted dialogue, dark jokes and other misadventures, it is only then that we see the irony, hurt and humanness in their words, which touch the viewer. And it's not until they step out of this box and become more than a trope that they really begin to become people and when they begin to feel joy about the small things in life and realize that happiness and joy isn't just a feeling from material things or being successful, but an experience that comes from being yourself and being comfortable with that and thus, happy, when it is a thing most people take for granted and that motif is expressed in the brilliant acting and writing.

Everything in this movie was created for a reason. Every sentence intriguing and though provoking, each song provokes a feeling and every joke or humorous aspect is used to break up the sad reality of what's going on in the film and I could go on-and-on about this for days, but that would take too long. The purpose of this film is about joy. Does true joy really exist? Can we truly be happy? And what sparks the need for change in an unhappy life? In Lester's case, it was Angela. In his daughter's, it is Ricky and but the fact that the director took his time to ask these questions and provoke such a response proves that this is one worth seeing and not only that, but like me, this movie may change your life. Whether it be with it's tragic ending and how it relates to the themes, the themes themselves, it's visual beauty or it's internal beauty, this movie will move you. It will make you do as the DVD says: Look closer.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Image result for 10 cloverfield lane
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.
Directed By: Dan Trachtenburg
Written By: Josh Campbell
Release Date: March 11, 2016
Rating: B+

Summary: A young woman awakens to find herself held captive by a man who tells her the end of the world has happened and that she cannot leave because there's no world to leave to.

My Thoughts: Before we begin, I've never seen the original Cloverfield. I just heard it wasn't really a sequel to the film and I decided to rent it and see what was going on and I feel like that's a correct assumption to make. From my basic knowledge of Cloverfield, I know it's this sci-fi, horror flick and this is not that. There are sci-fi elements and things that hint at a scientific, fanatical presence, but this film isn't a sci-fi, horror flick like it's so-called predecessor. This film is a intense thriller that has you questioning things, people and their motives and that's what the movie revolves around, not so much aliens, monsters or whatever the hell Cloverfield revolves around.

We start the film with his beautiful introduction sequence that not only is my favorite part of the film because of it's beautiful, quick and fast-paced direction which I could say for the whole film, but this introduction really sets up the protagonist's (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) character arc. She's gotten into a fight with her boyfriend or fiance (I can't remember), who is played by a lovely, Bradley Cooper, and decides to just run away. She packs her bags and leaves and after gassing up her car for the long ride, she gets into a car accident and awakens to herself being chained in Howard's (John Goodman) basement. He begins to tell her that he saved her life and that she is there because the air is unbreathable and some sort of apocalypse has begun and that's the mystery behind 10 Cloverfield Lane. Is Howard telling the truth? Or is he some kind of maniac chaining people to walls? 

It's an interesting premise for sure even though at times it felt like things were happening way to fast and that it was trying to be bigger than what it really was, but what is the most interesting about it is how human it feels. This could actually happen and it feels like it is actually happening. Like the Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character, we don't know what is going on and that uneasy feeling we get that maybe something isn't right is reinforced by the powerhouse performance that John Goodman puts on. He goes from being a man who is genuinely concerned for our protagonist to a complete psychopath in literally an instant, so that upper the creep factor immensely. There was no reading that you could get from this guy from his voice, facial reaction or anything else, so you just have to wait until it's finale to figure out whether or not he was telling the truth, but while he was great and we can't forget the other characters in the film who were also well, he blew me away in this movie. And speaking of other characters, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is terrific as our helpless protagonist who turns out to be quite smart and resourceful and also turns out to be a character we can root for. As for the other guy, John Gallhager Jr, his character was nonexistent and by that I mean that he didn't really have any essence to him. There was barely any backstory to him and he felt...just...there, which was quite sad as we was good in his dialogue and etc, so he felt a little underused in the movie. 

Furthermore, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a movie I enjoyed and would gladly watch again. There are theories, hint and clues scattered both across the Internet and in the film that piece things together that I haven't gotten yet, but I hope to on my second watch in, so it's great that you can go in and watch this movie again and again and see and notice different things that you didn't catch the last time.This movie is a beautiful, intense thriller that keep is fast-paced and well as chilling. While you don't need to see the original film to watch this one, don't go in thinking you're getting the monster flick that it is because you'll be never disappointed, but don't miss out on this film because of that. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Movie Review: Boyhood (2014), and a bit on Richard Linklater

Boyhood (2014)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Elijah Smith
Written By: Richard Linklater
Directed By: Richard Linklater
Release Date: August 15, 2014
Rating: A-

Summary: The life of Pablo, I mean, Mason. 
My Thoughts: Richard Linklater, the director of the film and love of my life, is a man of merit and one worth talking about in this review. While this is supposed to be a review of the film itself, Richard Linklater is who makes the film what it is. His directorial and writing style, while simple, are impeccable in the ways in which he reaches the audience and gets his point across. Richard Linklater is not merely an director or writer, he is a philosopher and if you've seen any of his films, you'll know what I'm talking about, but here are some examples featuring Boyhood.

With filming stretched over the course of 12 years, this film is about the life of a young man named Mason as he grows up. It touches on some of the events in his life like moving to a new house or his mother getting a new boyfriend, but nothing to large like other types of coming-of-age movies usually do and that's where Linklater stands apart from other directors. While most movies have rising action, falling action and some sort of climax, there is none here and a lot of people call this a boring film as we're just watching Mason go through everyday life doing the simplest of things that don't seem to hold any weight or consequence. People also say that the characters are flat with no personalities or etc, except for a fantastic Ethan Hawke. But, in my opinion, it is not boring and the characters are a tad flat, only but because they're real. The characters are us as people and it's effectiveness in doing that comes from the characters not being so distinctive and out of the box. And yes, the filim is slow, very, very show and also very long, but there's drama in his life as there is in all of our lives, but even as he ages and the issues and problems seem to either fix themselves or dissolve away, the focus still remains on Mason, who is a bit of a representation of ourselves through his actions and the childhood drama that is going on with him and his family and even though there is that focus on him, there's still this bigger picture and that's the thing that makes so great. 

Linklater focuses a majority of this film on life itself. Scratch that, Linklater focuses a majority of his films on life. Not the big things, the small things and this filim is a celebration of life in itself. It's a celebration of the simplicities in life because we can go through life and we have our own rising actions, climaxes and etc, but we tend to look directly at that and forget the little things, like the enjoyment of waking up in our childhood home, going to school and being with your family. It's breathtakingly intimate and makes you take a look at your own life to think about the things that Mason has gone through that maybe you'd overlooked or forgotten about and that's exactly what Linklater wants you to do. Another important theme going along with the one of childhood nostalgia is also, the passing of time is linear and we literally see him age, but there is no distinct message telling you he's aged. You just see it and we jump from age to age as he hits these simple milestones like going out to a party or going to college and it's not until the end where we really get the message of film and what Linklater is trying to say even though it stops short for me as if it was rushed. I wish there was more, but it would sort of detract from the message if it had been or maybe Linklater got tired of filming because, I mean, it took 12 years.

Linklater, as I've stated before is one of the greatest filmmakers of our film. He's innovative in his techniques like this one where he films the movie with the same actors over the course of 12 years, he's profound in his words and you see that a lot in the dialogue between the characters and the big themes that you see in the film. While this film is probably a bit too long and the ending feels rushed, it's a movie that hits home. It's a movie that, while you probably will only watch once, will stick with you for a long time.