Review : The Cutlass

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“Inspired by true events, THE CUTLASS is a dramatic thriller set in the tropical wilderness of Trinidad and tells the story of a young woman who falls into the grasp of a dangerous sociopath. She finds herself isolated and musters the courage to emotionally battle the unsettled mind of her abductor.”

As the summary implies, this movie both takes place and was made by and in Trinidad and Tobago (so if you’re not from or in the Caribbean you might not be able to see this one). Its written by Teneille Newallo, and directed by Darisha Beresford, and it boasts a genuinely diverse cast across all levels. The movie itself is definitely more good than bad, but first, the good. Arnold Goindhan who plays the antagonist here, has the meatiest role, and the most heavy lifting, acting wise to do here, and he does a pretty good job. He does come across as sincere in his more vulnerable moments, and when he keeps his portrayal subtle, he really shines. He does this across from Lisa-Bel Hirschmann, who definitely keeps her acting as subtle as possible, but for the most part doesn’t have as much to play against. Her most emotional scene however, is done really well, and she does tug on the heart strings with her performance there. I do think some of the cinematography does lack a bit of imagination, as I think it would have allowed for some more powerful scenes with some better framing. I also did have some problems with the sound, not in that it was bad, or not done properly, there just were a few times when I felt in either the ADR, or straight audio mixing of the audio, that some dialogue didn’t feel like it was happening in the situation, but sounded more like a voice over. The score I also wasn’t too impressed with, for the most part it was very subdued and subtle, and thats fine, but I felt like when it really needed to swell and help impart some emotion or suspense, it came off a bit lack luster. And lack luster is how I would define the ending of this movie, for most of it, everything in the movie is building towards to a head, towards some kind of resolution, and you just never get it. There is an ending here, and there are definite resolutions in the script, but things don’t feel resolved, they feel like what we invested in before, was fully paid off. I know I probably sound like I really don’t like this film, but I did like it, the things that it did well, it genuinely did. There are some problems here yes, like any movie really, but this movie definitely shows the raising levels of Caribbean film making. Production wise this is one of the best local (local meaning Trinidadian) films I’ve seen. All in all, I do encourage anyone who has the opportunity to check this movie out to do so, supporting local industries is important for growth, and there is definitely enjoyment to be had in this movie.

Review Score : 7 out of 10

Review : Okja

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“Meet Mija, a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a fascinating animal named Okja.”

If you needed any more evidence that Netflix wants to take over the world, just look at what they are trying to do with not just series, but feature films. One of their latest production is that of Okja. This movie is also an interesting one in that its a two country production here. Written and directed by Joon-ho Bong, with a both international and Korean cast, and also set in both south Korea and america, Okja is a truly global film. This movie is many things, but its definitely two things. Firstly, its a movie about a girl and her family, and what she is willing to risk to save that. Secondly, its a movie with a message and an agenda (but not so severe that it can’t poke fun at itself), that it weaves throughout the plot line. The movie also jumps back and forth between english and Korean, further highlighting the duality at play here. This movie is also told on two levels. The top level is the plot, which is very solid and keeps itself nice and lean. The second level are the characters, and this movie is FULL of characters. These characters are also juxtaposed against each other in their performance and their grounding. Those who are on the right side of the story are definitely played more down to earth and much less of a caricature than those on the wrong side of it, and while that can come off like they are trying to tell a one sided story, but their absurdity is contrasted by the rest of the cast. That is the one place where the movie can fall apart for some viewers, as some of the characters are genuinely over the top, and it can be too much at times. All in all, Okja is a movie with heart, and with a message. Its equal parts heart felt and PSA, and definitely worth a watch…and its on Netflix, for like..free (ish).

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10

Review : War for the Planet of the Apes

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“After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.”

I don’t think back in 2011, with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, that I would have ever though that movie would be the start of one of better trilogies to be had in a long time. Rise, and then Dawn, and now War, have all set up and advanced the same plot for the last 6 years. War brings us to the conclusion of a body that was set into motion in 2011, and is finally built up a full head of steam and looks to come crashing down on humanity. The story follows the titular Caesar, played masterfully by the ever amazing Andy Serkis (who really should just have an oscar by now for this) who fully becomes the messianic figure that his legend will tell years from now in the apes history and lore. This movie also portrays an extremely conflicted Caesar, mirrored by a conflicted world around him. He is entrenched on each side by both sides of humanity. The larger and more obvious side lead by Woody Harrelson, and the smaller but equally as important opposite side showcased almost entirely by Amiah Miller’s Nova. The movie also leads the story of the apes forward closer to the point where the classic movie takes us to. This movie is also something to behold with its special effects. There is honestly never really a point in this movie where you would or could ever question if what you were seeing was real or not and thats really impressive seeing as how many apes there are in this movie. That matched with some wonderful and intriguing cinematography, and some real haunting imagery, help this movie do a lot of its story telling without characters ever saying a word. All in all, War for the Planet of the Apes is a great movie and fitting end for this Apes trilogy, and definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10

Review : Baby Driver

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“After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.”

I know this review is late…sorry. That aside, what a wonderful movie. The long awaited return of Edgar Wright is here, and he really knocks this one out of the park. Baby Driver takes us the audience on a full throttle, action packed, tension filled, high energy, but full of fun ride, that starts of hot and sweaty and stays that way till the bitter sweet ending. This movie really does check all the boxes. It has a great sound track, wonderfully done and shot action, amazing driving, and best of all, some really well brought to life characters that were all equal parts crazy, as funny, and dangerous. These characters are more than just caricatures also, as much as they are over the top and intense in their personalities, they also a reigned in just tight enough to fit perfectly into the narrative and only add to the furthering plot. The plot itself is also really tight, and it keeps itself moving at a nice pace, that ramps up and down as the film needs. The entire caste here also from Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Lily James and Kevin Spacey, all do so well to make their characters really feel well rounded and lived in, that as i mentioned before, their sometimes over the top personalities don’t seem so over the top that they feel out of place, they just work. You truly get a feeling for their ideals and beliefs and motivations, and these are the things that keep characters compelling. To be honest, Baby Driver is a damn near flawless vehicle (see what I did there) that allows for fun, action, suspense and whole lot more out of a trip to the cinema.

Review Score : 9.5 out of 10

Review : Spider-Man Homecoming

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“Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges.”

While I do think that Spider-Man 2 is still the best Spider-Man movie ever made (just barely really), this movie is the next one up. Spider-Man Homecoming takes us through our first look at a Spider-Man movie that has the influence of Marvel Studios, and not just Sony, and it really shows. This movie gives us 100% the most comically accurate Spider-Man/Peter Parker that we’ve ever seen on screen. For the first time, we genuinely get a well done and fully believable high school aged and set Spider-Man story. Between the physical stature, the rest of the cast, and the genuine young age of Tom Holland, everything works out perfectly to make the perfect Spider-Man. That gives the movie a real sense of fun, but also with purpose, it feels like when the movie ramps things up, that there are genuinely stakes. This movie is also full of surprises, and I mean really full of them, some that I figured, but some I didn’t seeing coming at all. There is a large cast here also, but unless you were really dead set on some particular actor’s role, all the characters here do get either enough time to shine, or you see the roots they have set down for further movies. The movie maybe some could say is missing or lacking just one more action set piece, but I think thats neither here nor there really. This movie does connect to the wider MCU, but it also does a great job of both being its own film, and also setting down great roots for its later movies. All in all, Spider-Man Homecoming is almost the best Spider-Man movie ever made, but definitely the best Spider-Man/Peter Parker ever, and if nothing else, thats worth the price of admission.

Review Score: 9 out of 10

Review : Transformers – The Last Knight

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“Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.”

Transformer 5 or which ever one this is, is one of the most convoluted, frenetic, chaotic, and all over the place movies I’ve seen in a long time. The story takes so many twist and turns, and jumps and leaps around its story and the globe, and is a mind numbing task trying to keep them all together. The story itself I kind of understood, but it literally goes a mile a minute, and gives you no reason to fall in line with it. It also doesn’t give you any real reason to feel for the characters and care when they were in dangerous situations. I mean there is a plot in here somewhere, but I also genuinely couldn’t care less by like 30 mins into it. There are also a lot of moments when the movie most certainly pauses for either dramatic or comedic effect, and they pretty much all fell flat, with a silent cinema audience. There were also so many different characters crammed into every nook and cranny of this movie that you never had any time to breathe. The cgi and visual effects are most definitely up to par and then some, everything on screen really does look good, especially the cars when they were zipping around the place, but I must say, I really don’t think I’m a fan of the current character designs of the transformers themselves. Each movie they have gotten more and more anthropomorphic, and I think it really takes away from making the characters stand out more. All in all, Transformers 5 is really a bit of a cluster fuck, and for something so full of things always happening, its actually kind of boring.

Review Score : 3 out of 10

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. ┬áThe 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.