Friday, April 9

Voyagers Review


Voyagers

Dir: Neil Burger

Starring: Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Fionn Whitehead, and Chanté Adams

1h 48m

PG-13

 

Writer/director Neil Burger takes William Golding's seminal novel, Lord of the Flies, and reframes it on a spaceship on an interplanetary mission to save humanity in Voyagers. Instead of an abandoned island, the drama shifts to deep space isolation inside a technologically advanced life vessel slowly hurtling towards new horizons. The idea is ripe for exploration, but Voyagers often relies on familiar archetypes and generic solutions to define its path. 

 

Earth is becoming uninhabitable, and a group of scientifically bred children is the only hope for humanity. On a spaceship capable of sustaining life for an 86-year voyage, the mission consists of a mix of young men and women who have roles and responsibilities to keep the mission alive. To maintain a docile harmony between the young people living in the secluded craft, they are chemically altered with a drink known as "blue." The beverage keeps the typically hormonal teens from becoming too preoccupied with complicated feelings or impulses that would jeopardize the mission. 


Christopher (Tye Sheridan) and Zac (Fionn Whitehead) are the first to discover that "blue" is a drug to control their urges and suppress their maturing hormones. The ship's captain, Richard (Colin Farrell), the father-figure on board the vessel who has been with the mission since the children were born, is the only crew member who understands the delicate nature of blossoming emotions for these young people. Christopher and Zac, wanting to "feel" everything, are the first to stop drinking "blue." They slowly begin to feel sensations they have never felt before, the surge of testosterone that finds them competitively racing down the ship's long corridors and wrestling aggressively in front of their bemused fellow crew members. These feelings grow more robust, rule-breaking, sexual frustrations, and violence begin to take hold. 

 

Voyagers' beginning introduces fascinating ideas about human nature's struggles, the urges, temptations, and needs that compose many of life's moral challenges. These questions and insights are slighted for much broader, more familiar strokes of narrative conflict. Burger's drama focuses on the power struggle between Christopher and Zac, and because these characters aren't complex individuals, the result only composes surface-level suspense and rudimentary thrills. 

 

Sheridan and Whitehead do the best they can with the characters they are provided. Lily-Rose Depp is a strong presence who deserves more character-building than simply fueling the conflict between the two male leads. Farrell isn't offered much time to shine aside from a few video diary entries that propose the interesting narrative elements not explored.  

 

Voyagers may not have the story to sustain engagement from start to finish. Still, the technical design is visually striking and keeps attention connected to the action happening within the frame. The production design makes a maze out of the spaceship's interior, with long corridors and hidden rooms assisting the tension when the chase eventually happens. Director of photography, Enrique Chediak, does a good job of using the spaceship to the highest benefit of the rising conflict. As attitudes grow more aggressive and ambitions turn dangerous between the crew, the spacecraft seems to grow more claustrophobic. Chediak compliments the story's themes, helping to keep the action engaging and attractive even when the narrative runs out of steam.

 

Voyagers has an engaging story hiding between the scenes that compose this film. While the movie maintains a decent pace from start to finish, this familiar tale's journey rarely explores the intriguing themes within this Lord of the Flies inspired space story. 

 

Monte's Rating

2.25 out of 5.00

 



Friday, April 2

Godzilla vs Kong Review


Godzilla vs. Kong

Dir: Adam Wingard

Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Kaylee Hottle, and Shun Oguri

 

As I turned the lights down in my living room, dumped the microwave popcorn into a large bowl, positioned myself on my comfy couch, and asked my two kids, "Who you got? Godzilla or Kong?" I was reminded of the monster movie Saturday nights with my family as a kid. These "creature feature" royal rumbles, seen mainly on Arizona's KPHO-TV5's The World Beyond, shaped and molded my love for movies at a young age. I could see the youthful excitement in my kids' attitudes as they clamored for words to explain why one chose Kong and the other chose Godzilla as their heavyweight selection.

 

Godzilla vs. Kong is the fourth film in the MonsterVerse, a world of giant monsters that concludes the trio of films, Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). These films established the mythology and adjoining story arcs that lead to the climactic battle of cinema's two iconic Titans. 

 

Director Adam Wingard, who started in the horror genre with films like Pop Skull (2009), You're Next(2011), and Blair Witch (2016), does everything you should do with a giant monster movie. It places the monsters on full display and lets them rip apart every inch of the silver screen battlefield. Godzilla vs. Kongdoesn't waste time with the human drama or character development; the other films in the series have already done that part. Instead, it delivers on the pure visceral spectacle of watching two giant monsters fight and destroy everything around them. 

 

The film opens with Kong waking up from slumber; Bobby Vinton's Over the Mountain, Across the Sea plays while Kong stretches, scratches, and washes his face in a waterfall. But this scenic locale isn't home for Kong. Instead, it's a giant technologically advanced cage developed to contain the giant ape. On the other side of the globe, an enraged Godzilla has awakened. No one knows why the Kaiju, a former ally to humanity, has destroyed a facility owned by a cybernetics corporation called Apex. But Godzilla is on a rampage, and Kong becomes the only hope for humanity. This takes Kong and his team, including a deaf girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle), with who Kong has a unique bond, on a mission to the center of the earth for answers. 

 

What makes Godzilla vs. Kong work so well is its simple emphasis on keeping the monsters in focus, front and center, as the accompanying story revolves around the two title characters' actions. In the past films that compose the MonsterVerse, the human elements seemed to take precedent over the monster carnage, leading to unnecessary character drama viewed in front of giant monster fights. Godzilla vs. Kong rightfully never allows the humans too much time to control the situation. Instead, they run underneath the Titans' footsteps while the framing keeps the creatures in a clear, controlled perspective. 

 

Adam Wingard does an exceptional job composing the action throughout the film, allowing for moments pulled from a heavyweight boxing match or the motions written for a WrestleMania main event. It's beautiful both in its frenzied digital demolition, big explosions and crumbling debris fill the frame, and the creation of the two beasts' textured and expressive look, the motion of Godzilla moving through the water or Kong’s easy sway across buildings and trees is delicate and destructive. Kong's eyes alone tell enough story to keep everything moving forward, without any words or descriptions from the humans. 

 

Wingard's best human character move in the film is the relationship between Kong and Jia. Their wordless communication is lovely. Jia's simplicity of words, communicated through sign language, is more than enough material to build an entire story that connects the dots of why these monsters are fighting. 

 

Great actors like Alexander Skarsgård, who plays a scientist with an personal understanding of Hollow Earth Theory, and Rebecca Hall, the closest expert to understanding Kong, join to offer silly science explanations of why everything is happening. However, the story has the most fun when the young people get to lead the adventure. Millie Bobby Brown returns to unravel more of Godzilla's mysteries with the help of a computer-savvy sidekick (Julian Dennison) and a paranoid podcasting conspiracy theorist (Brian Tyree Henry). The banter between this team of unlikely characters works well even when their adventure takes some pointless twists and turn.

 

Godzilla vs. Kong clearly understands the goal it is trying to accomplish, pack as much bone-crunching, city-destroying, tail-whipping, fist-thumping action into every scene as possible. Adam Wingard and the team achieve this goal, crafting the best creature feature in the MonsterVerse. 

 

Monte's Rating

3.75 out of 5.00

 

 

Thursday, March 18

Phoenix Critics Circle 2020 Film Winners



THE PHOENIX CRITICS CIRCLE PROUDLY ANNOUNCES ITS WINNERS FOR 2020
 
BEST PICTURE
 FIRST COW
MINARI – WINNER
 NOMADLAND
 ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
 PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
 SOUND OF METAL
 
BEST COMEDY FILM
 THE 40-YEAR-OLD VERSION
 ANOTHER ROUND
 BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
 ON THE ROCKS
PALM SPRINGS – WINNER
  
BEST SCIENCE FICTION FILM
 POSSESSOR
 SPUTNIK
 TENET
THE VAST OF NIGHT – WINNER

  BEST HORROR FILM
 ANTEBELLUM
THE INVISIBLE MAN – WINNER
 LA LLORONA 
 POSSESSOR 
 RELIC
 
BEST ANIMATED FILM
 THE CROODS: A NEW AGE
 ONWARD
 OVER THE MOON
SOUL – WINNER
 WOLFWALKERS
 
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
 ANOTHER ROUND 
 BACURAU
 COLLECTIVE
 LA LLORONA
MINARI – WINNER
 
  BEST DOCUMENTARY
BOYS STATE – WINNER
 CRIP CAMP
 DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD 
 GUNDA
 TIME
 
BEST ACTOR
 RIZ AHMED, SOUND OF METAL
CHADWICK BOSEMAN, MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM – WINNER
 DELROY LINDO, DA 5 BLOODS
 MADS MIKKELSEN, ANOTHER ROUND
 GARY OLDMAN, MANK
 STEVEN YEUN, MINARI
 
BEST ACTRESS
 VIOLA DAVIS, MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM
 ANDRA DAY, THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY
 SIDNEY FLANIGAN, NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
 FRANCES MCDORMAND, NOMADLAND
CAREY MULLIGAN, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN – WINNER
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
 CHADWICK BOSEMAN, DA 5 BLOODS
 SACHA BARON COHEN, TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
DANIEL KALUUYA, JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH – WINNER
 LESLIE ODOM JR, ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
 PAUL RACI, SOUND OF METAL
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
 MARIA BAKALOVA, BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
 OLIVIA COLMAN, THE FATHER
 DOMINIQUE FISHBACK, JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
 AMANDA SEYFRIED, MANK
YUH-JUNG YOUN, MINARI – WINNER
 HELENA ZENGEL, NEWS OF THE WORLD
 
BEST DIRECTOR
 LEE ISSAC CHUNG, MINARI
 EMERALD FENNELL, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
 DAVID FINCHER, MANK
 REGINA KING, ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
CHLOE ZHAO, NOMADLAND – WINNER
 
  BEST SCREENPLAY
 LEE ISAAC CHUNG, MINARI
 EMERALD FENNELL, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
KEMP POWERS, ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI – WINNER
 AARON SORKIN, TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
 CHLOE ZHAO, NOMADLAND
 
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
 ERIK MESSERSCHMIDT, MANK
 JOSHUA JAMES RICHARDS, NOMADLAND
 NEWTON THOMAS SIGEL, DA 5 BLOODS
 HOYTE VAN HOYTEMA, TENET
ŁUKASZ ŻAL, I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS – WINNER
 
BEST SCORE
 LUDWIG GÖRANSSON, TENET
 JAMES NEWTON HOWARD, NEWS OF THE WORLD
 EMILE MOSSERI, MINARI
 TRENT REZNOR, ATTICUS ROSS , MANK
TRENT REZNOR, ATTICUS ROSS, JON 
BATISTE, SOUL – WINNER