Review : Mother!


“A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.”

So you might read that, and think you know what you’re getting yourself into, but boy would you be wrong. Mother is a metaphor, and I mean that in the most literal way possible, this movie is literally a metaphor, wrapped up in another metaphor, and a simile, and everything else literary and none literal. It stars Jennifer Lawrence as “Mother”, and Javier Bardem as her spouse, and in that, that’s as straight forward as this movie ever is or gets. Darren Aronofsky is known by now for his dream like storytelling and visuals, that he combines with very specific themes, that he almost always plays metaphorically, and leaves much to the audience to dissect and understand. This movie is no different, and is probably his most Aronofsky movie ever. To be fair, this movie isn’t for everyone, hell its probably not for most people, and it’s portrayal of certain ideas and concepts might really rub a lot of people the wrong way. This movie can come across as very voyeuristic, and almost pornographic in its presentation, and given the relationship between director and lead actress here, I think that makes sense. Mother requires a lot from Lawrence, and she gives it her all, and she is excellent in her role. A role however, that I think took a lot of trust and confidence in her director, and I think their personal relationship helped that. There is so much I can say about this movie, in breaking it down, dissecting and discussing it, but I’m never been one for spoilers, and I think a big part of this movie is seeing it, and being confronted by it, and then having to deal with that experience, and formulate an opinion from that. It also feels impossible to score this film, as for all of those that won’t appreciate what was attempted here, would probably laugh this movie off, so I feel like I have to score it based on those who are actually willing enough to try it. If all of this sounds a bit too out there for you, then maybe Mother isn’t for you, but if you like experimental, artistic, inventive, and out there stories and story telling, then give Mother a look.

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10

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Michael Bay: When he works and when he doesn’t

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Sweeping panoramas, low angle hero shots, slow motion rotations, fire work like explosions, product placement, women running in heels, these are just a few of Michael Bay’s favourite things. Every director (worth his or her salt) has their signatures. Their trademark styles and shots and motions that really stamp their name all over a motion picture. Michael Bay then, is really up there in these regards. Wether you love him or hate him, wether you think he’s only capable of making Transformer movies and put no stock in movies like The Rock or 13 hours, you can’t deny Michael Bay has style. And style is something we know, that people don’t always agree on, but no matter what, I think you’d be hard pressed to disagree with my argument for when Michael Bay works…and when he doesn’t.

What works:

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I know what you’re thinking, this list can’t be that long, but lets just see. Now Michael Bay got his start in directing music videos, and yes it shows, but, music videos are nothing if not entertaining, and one of the hallmark features of all the best Bay movies is that they are super entertaining. Theres one thing that makes or breaks all of Bay’s movies, and thats rules.

The Rules:

Every successful Michael Bay movie follows a few simple rules, and those rules keep those movies lean and mean, entertaining and upbeat. A perfect example of this, is his 1996 movie, The Rock. It follows one of his first rules, to have two lead, main, or co-main characters that are opposites of each other. The Rock pits a scientist in Nicolas Cage and and ex-con/government agent in Sean Connery. This allows him to ability to have believable action and expertise, but it also allows for the simultaneous use of humor that a fish out of water aspect, thats also believable. This “Dynamic Duo” rule as I’m going to call it, fits perfectly into the style of film making that Michael Bay excels the most at. We also see this continued in many of his other movies like Bad Boys, The Island and Armageddon.

The next rule I like to call the “10” rule. And by 10, I mean She a 10. It’s no mystery, that Michael Bay has a habit of hiring extremely attractive female co-stars to play along side his Dynamic Duo. Liv Tyler, Kate Beckinsale, Gabrielle Union, Scarlett Johansson, Megan Fox, and not to mention countless models turned actresses that he would call up to the big leagues. The real question here, is why does this work, and the reason is, with the exception of Megan Fox on my list, all of those ladies aren’t just stunning, they’re really good actors, and they allow for both great acting, as well as, allowing Bay to have his way with running in tight dresses (and in heels somehow), just being their looking really pretty, and giving one of his characters a super hot reason to want to win. And I know what you might be thinking, is this really something that should be in the pros section, labelled as one of his rules he should follow, doesn’t it exclude some other actresses that are amazing but might not fit his taste? Yes, it definitely does, but any excuse to have a great actress in a cast, is one I’m going to advocate for (and later in the cons I’ll talk about the other side of this coin).

The third rule I like to call, “Nothing like the real thing”. Nothing helps keep a Michael Bay movie on track and quality filled, like some kind of grounding in reality. Wether its being based on a true story, like 13 hours or Pain and Gain, or when he uses more practical effects than digital, like most of his movies not called Transformers. Having a tie or a hook to reality, almost forces Bay I think into making the better decisions, as opposed to when he has more freedom in his narratives. It also helps to eliminate smaller sub plots that are less essential to the over all plot, and help keep the movie moving at a better pace, with better story telling. Keeping his stunts and effects as real as possible also allows for him to create and keep a much greater sense of danger and suspense to his action scenes.

What doesn’t work:

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Now these are probably the sides of Michael Bay that a lot more people are familiar with, they are some of the go too reasons for hating on Bay and his movies. The real questions we should be asking here are why don’t they work, and why he keep returning to them? Here are Bay’s fail rules.

Rule number here is a big one, and one that he’s super famous for, and one that I like to call the “Explode all the things!” rule. We all know, if its Michael Bay, shits gonna explode, and that in itself isn’t the issue here. The issue is two fold, one are his use of seemingly only one type of explosion, what i like to call he fireworks bomb (where some real random firework like effects shoot out of anything that blows up), and the second is the frequency with which pretty much anything that a bullet hits goes up in a giant ball of fire. Those firework explosions always pull me out of the movie, because I’m always sitting there wondering what the hell would cause an explosion like that, and when EVERYTHING is exploding, the action itself gets so lost, confused and frantic that it loses its tension and desired affect.

Going off of the 10 rule from earlier, I had said it was a two sided coin, and it is. the real downside of the 10 rule can be seen in most of Bay’s more recent work, when the real change over to the genuine model turned stress instead of just great actress phase began. Transformers 1 is a great movie, and it stars Megan Fox, a woman not renowned for her acting, and that movie was very successful and so was the second installment she also stared in. Her being in those movies however, wasn’t the be all and end all proof that a movie could coast by on the looks if it cast, and this point was further proven by the revolving door of model actresses at would headline the future transformers movies, which have all made money, but received immense critical backlash, and all have been seemly getting worse and worse. This also goes against the reason I put this in the pros in the first place, and that was that it was allowing for roles for great actresses in blockbuster filming making. When the ONLY criteria of a female lead be “Hot according to Michael Bay”, then we have a problem.

Number three, is the “Bud Light” rule. We’ve all seen it, huge billboards in movies, only one car brand, some one literally stopping mid scene to open a beer that just spilled out of a truck full of those beers on a busy dangerous street to drink said beer on camera….Bay’s movies are filled with product placement. This rule like some of the others goes in the same camp of, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing until, and the until, is when someone does something ridiculous or out of character, just to have a freeze framable moment of them and said product on screen. Product placement isn’t a bad thing, and it can be done from the biggest to smallest of movies, its how you do it that matters, and over the last few years Bay has become more and more blatant and un-caring with his use of it. I know it helps keep budgets down, I know it might keep some producers and companies happy, but if the goal is the make a good movie, nothing should come in its way, especially not a paid for ad, that makes the audience feel like they’re still seeing the pre movie commercials.

Last but not least, this isn’t a rule, its just a piece of advice. For the love of God Michael Bay, branch out. In the last 10 years, Michael Bay has made 7 movies, 5 of which are Transformers movies, and his probably 2 best movies in that time, have been Pain and Gain, and 13 Hours. Both movies based on true stories, but movies with elements at least out of the typical action genre, both also following less of his don’ts, and more of his dos. I would love to see Michael Bay direct a horror movie, a thriller, sci-fi, fricking anything else at this point. Anything that would actually challenge him, and maybe he doesn’t want that challenge I don’t know. I just know right now the world loves to hate him, but some of favorite movies of all time are because of him, and hope he can get back to that Michael Bay, and maybe never step foot on a transformers set again in his life.

 

My Rating System

Ever since I started not just reviewing movies, but really just having strong opinions on them, one thing people would always bring up with me would be how could I give XY movie and so and so score, and this other movie a lesser score. Do you really think this movie is better than that movie? Cause thats what you’re telling me giving one an 8 and one a 7. And I always had to try and explain to people how my mental rating system really worked. Fast forward to now and my time reviewing movies “officially” and the same kind of question do emerge. So I thought it apropos to give a real and in-depth explanation of how my system works.

To start with I do use a traditional 1-10 rating scale, on which movies are rated 1 the lowest and 10 the highest. Outside of that however things get a little tricky. The standard 1-10 system I see as a bit stiff and restricting. What I do, is I use my 1-10 system and tie it specifically to that film, by that I mean my rating is basically me giving that movie a 1-10 where the 1 is the lowest based on that films potential and the 10 is the most. So what that does, is it tends to make movies that I think have less potential, have a higher chance of scoring a bit higher on the scale, because I thought that movie was maybe closer to its full potential, whereas a movie that has much more potential, might fall short. Let’s look at some examples:

Power Rangers (2017)

My review score 7 out of 10    Rotten Tomatoes combined critic score 5.1 out of 10

Now I don’t think Power Rangers was a game changer of a movie or anything like that, but other than the fact that I had a lot of fun watching the movie, I also felt like the movie did a lot to live up to it’s potential. If I were scoring it based solely on a universal 1-10 scale, I would have had to have given it a lower score when I would have compared that 7 out of 10 to other movies that I would have ranked a 7 also. That however, didn’t seem fair to me when I considered what the movie was and what it was indented to be, and as such, people might just have looked at that score and not see the movie, when I actually want them to see it.

Another factor is that I see the middle point of  my reviews as a 5, unlike many people who see the tipping, middle point as the 6. If i had to really break down my 1-10 I’d say scores of 1-3 are for the movies I like least, 3-5 are for movies I don’t think are good particularly but can have redeeming qualities. 5-7 are for movies that I like more than less, and how close to each side depends on the movies potential, and the things that they got right or wrong. 7-9 are for movies that I really like, and recommend, and while they can have flaws, they are totally more good than bad, have lots of good qualities, live up to a lot of their potential and are pretty entertaining. 10 is a score really reserved for movies that I think are the best of the best and deserve some rarified air to be able to stand on their own.

so hope this has been helpful and that you have a better idea of what my scoring system means from my reviews.

 

Cheers

Understanding Rotten Tomatoes

Launched in 1998, Rotten Tomatoes has become one of the largest websites in the world in the space of movies and movie reviews. But even with its 20 years in the business, many of us still don’t fully understand how the site and its metrics work, which isn’t a great thing. Over the last few years especially, the ability of Rotten Tomatoes to add to or take away from movie’s box office revenue has only increased, and seems to keep doing so. This increase in the “power” the website has on the average movie fan, is one I think is both good and bad. It’s great that audiences see it as a tool, that empowers them to avoid Hollywood’s less than best works, while in turn giving those films they deem deserving of, that extra boost. This power however, can be used unfairly, and it is especially used that way when its numbers are played against many peoples ignorance of the way the site really works. So how does it really work, and what do the numbers really mean?

To start with, the most fundamental thing to be understood about the site, is that it is an aggregator for reviews, and does not itself review anything. What that means, is that the site itself collects reviews from reviewers that it approves, and brings all those reviews to one place that is easy to find for anyone who’d like to see what these critics have to say. All of these reviews can be found along with some audience reviews on every movie that they score.

The second thing we have to discuss is the “Tomatometer”, which is where the site gets its famous percentage “scores” of films, only its not actually a score. As we stated earlier, this is an aggregator site, and the Tomatometer score is just that, its and aggregate of all the reviews the site recognizes, which it then converts to a simple and easy to see percentage out of 100. The way the site does this is two fold. First it must judge every review as either “Fresh” or “Rotten”. For a score to be granted a fresh, it must simply register as 60% or higher on its scale (3 or higher out of 5, 6 our higher out of 10 and so on). Conversely, any review that score 59% or less, is granted a Rotten. Now, once all the reviews are categorized as either fresh of rotten, they are all tallied together, and the ratio of fresh to rotten reviews is represented as a percentage, which represents the numbers we have grown accustomed to attaching to a films worth. Lets take two films to example.  The recent Wonder Woman movie currently has a Tomatometer score of 92% and is considered Certified Fresh (this just means it received over a certain of scored reviews). Many people may think, that this score means, the movie is 92 out of 100 in terms of reviews or in quality, but that isn’t the case. If we look at the break down from the critics, we see that the movie has had 298 official scored reviews, of which, 274 were considered fresh, or over 60%, and only 24 where considered rotten, or under 60%. So we can get a better understanding, that that 92% means that 92 out of every 100 critics, had a positive review of this movie, but if we look at their averaged review score, the movie is rated at 7.5 out of 10 based on all the reviews they tallied. 92% and 75% are not insanely off of each other, but you can imagine the headlines if this movie’s Tomatometer score was 75%. Our second example is The Mummy, which currently has a 16% rating. With 215 reviews, 34 of which were fresh and 181 rotten, we get our 16 out of ever 100 critics gave this movie a less than positive review, however, if again we look at the average review score we get a 4.2 out of 10. 42% is more than double 16%, and it certainly looks a hell of a lot better than 16%, no matter if each is still a failed grade.

So I hope we can see that while the Tomatometer and Rotten Tomatoes on a whole is a great and powerful tool, that we can have a better understanding of how it works, and why sometimes we should be less concerned with simply attaching a Tomatometer rating to a movies quality, and thats for better and for worse. Did you know how the Tomatometer and Rotten Tomatoes worked before, or is this all new information to you? Comment and let me know what you think about their system and how much power they should or shouldn’t have on audience opinion of movies.

 

Cheers.

Trailer of the Week!

This weeks trailer of the week is:

Okja (official trailer)

This week brings our first real surprise winning trailer, and it isnt just the kind of movie we’re talking about here, but also who made this movie. We have our first Netflix entry here with the first main trailer for Okja. Okja is the nest entry from writer, director Bong Joon Ho of Snowpiercer fame, and he manages to stack another impressive cast here. The movie stars Tilda Swindon, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal, and a many more. The movie centers around the idea of a near future cooperation, that through scientific advnaces, creates an entirely new breed of animal, called a super pig in the trailer as a new means to feed the world. Problems soon arise when a young girl who becomes best friends with one of the animals has it taken from here.

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The movie deals with many different concepts from factory farming to our thoughts on even eating meat. But more than that, the movie uses its narrative to tell what should be a heart warming story that has these higher more complex ideas weave around and through it to keep it grounded. So what do you think about Okja? Does the concept intrigue you, and what do you think about the visuals? That will no doubt be one of the biggest points on which this movie will likely live or die, but it is our trailer of the week, give it a look and tell me what you think.

Trailer of the Week!

Hey guys, just wanted to keep adding to the blog, so in that spirit I start a new ongoing series here called Trailer of the Week! Where every week, (usually on Friday) I will give out my choice for the best trailer of the week, why I think its such, and some info on the movie it supports. Hope you guys enjoy, lets get it started.

This weeks trailer of the week is:

Dunkirk (Main trailer)

This week has been a real good one for trailers, and it picking a top trailer wasn’t easy. The first trailer for Dark Tower, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and even the new Cars 3 trailer were all strong competitors. Then came Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk trailer… and wow. Dunkirk tells the true story (one of biggest true stories we’ve yet to get adapted in this form) of one of the largest evacuation of troops ever attempted when 400,000 allied soldiers were cut off and surrounded by the German army and had no where to turn. The rescue events enlist not just available troops, but also ropes in civilians that use their own personal boats to add to the rescue efforts.

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This is Christopher Nolan’s latest project and features some new and old faces to his typical line-ups. Staring Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, and even Harry Styles among many others that let to movie boast a stellar cast to match some stellar visuals, and what so far is an intense and gripping score. Set to drop the end of July this year and will probably look to really up its marketing game from this point going forward. What do you think about the Dunkirk (main trailer), what are your hopes for the movie and are you planning to see it cinemas?

Movies that should have a Sequel

Not all movies need or deserve a sequel. Then there are some movies that should have a sequel, but for one reason or another have yet to get one. Here are some of the big Hollywood underperforming movies that I think should get a sequel.

Warcraft:

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Released in 2016, Warcraft had a production budget of $160 million dollars and earned a total of $433 million in its theatrical run. Now this might seem like more than enough to turn a profit, but when you take into consideration the money split between the studios and cinemas, then when you also take into consideration the advertising budgets that are usually not disclosed, that 433 starts to look a little low. Between that and the Luke warm reviews the movie got pretty much across the board and the previous plans for the future movies in this franchise are firmly now in limbo. That all being said though, I do think that this movie deserves to have a sequel for a few different reasons. Firstly the majority of that 433 hall was from outside of the United States, and I think that interest would lead to a further gain in those foreign markets with a better movie. I also think that there is such a deep tapestry of source material to mine here and now that the introduction to the movie is out of the way we can really dive into the kinds of stories fans of the series want to see.

Power Rangers:

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Now I know this a real recent movie, so we really can’t say right now for sure the state of the franchise, but this is my preemptive push for it needing a sequel. Power Rangers had a production budget of $100 million and thus far has only managed to gross $133 million. And after what we just went over, we know that thats no where its haul needs to be right now, but hear me out. The biggest feather in the this movie’s cap right now is that it got a pretty good response from critics which in itself is worth a whole lot, and I think that now that this new cast and take on the franchise is out, audiences will be more receptive to it. I think the franchise’s very modern spin on things like race and sexuality will gain it a much larger audience a second time around.

Dredd :

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2012’s Dredd had a production budget of $50 million, much less than most of the movies we will go over, but, it also only made a worldwide haul of $35 million. Now thats pretty horrible, but the movie has a lot going for it. It has a rabid cult following, it has really good reviews, and it found a great second life on online streaming services. This I think is one of the best examples of a movie that was really good, that people didn’t know where good, and so they didn’t go to see it, but now that they know how good it was, there is a real clamoring for this version of the production to return to the big screen, but at the very least on a streaming service like Netflix.  Karl Urban is also on record as really for reprising his role as the title character…so fingers crossed.

Tron Legacy:

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Tron Legacy is in itself already a sequel, but it was planned as more than a single movie going forward, and it should be allowed to go again. With a production budget of $170 million dollars, and total haul of $400 million dollars, the movie definitely falls short of where it needed to be to have guaranteed itself a sequel. The reviews for the movie are a bit down the middle on its quality, but I don’t think deserves a bad wrap. Secondly the did indeed do a great job at recreating the world of Tron that we first got a glimpse of so many years ago. Coupled with an outstanding soundtrack, and a cast of both returning and new characters that created a storyline that showed a definite trend towards more movies. I think Tron Legacy came close enough to getting one more shot at it.

What do you think about these movies and my wanting sequels for them? Agree with some or any? Comment and let me know.