what was the last movie you watched?

Somehow they were getting video back out. I don't remember now if it was streamed or physically removed. But if there is something potentially alien, why send in a couple small teams to get wiped out? And why go so far in off the bat? Send in tethered/wired drones. Send in large parties that don't try to set up military encampments to get some data and return quickly for analysis. Establish a perimeter around the entire land side of the shimmer and see when her "husband" walked out. It's the prototypical horror movie logic - lets split up and go in small groups so they can wipe us out.

They kept saying how nobody returned, well no ****, you send in small teams and push them to the center of a meteor strike with alien goings-on. What the heck do you think is going to happen? They are going to invite you over for a crab feed? What happened to a quick recon and return?

I was referring to she and her husband being alien and not human at the end. Of course they are alien and didn't make it out "intact". Super predictable.

The lighthouse scene was interesting but I am still trying to figure out what it was trying to get across/accomplish. And if the fact that the audience is just supposed to go "What the heck" and not understand the implications or meaning, I consider that lazy storytelling, or at least, you didn't to a good job telling the story.

I loved "Arrival" - I thought it was a MUCH better movie than Annihilation. Similar with Ex Machina. I thought Blade Runner did a great job living up to the expectation as a successor to the original and being able to capture that magic. Annihilation just didn't do it, at least, not for me.
In my view, the lighthouse scene delivers much thematic resonance with the rest of the film, particularly with respect to the “splitting of the cell” motif that appears again and again. If you’ll recall, each member of the expedition was broken in some fundamental way, and at the lighthouse, the biologist directly encounters the source of the shimmer, the source of that which changes the world around it. Before the psychologist is annihilated by that same source, she says that she knows not what it wants, or if it wants at all. It’s a uniquely human impulse to search for meaning where there often is none to be found. What the biologist finds instead is a mirror. The shimmer challenges her to break free of herself. She leaves transformed by it, with new insight and acceptance. She meets a “new” version of her husband, and accepts him, as well. I didn’t find it predictable, or rather, I didn’t find that predictability to be a flaw. I don’t know what it is about film as an artform that audience’s think should deliver surprise or a “twist.” Of course they were both changed. That’s what the shimmer does. But how they react to that change in their moment of meeting, with an embrace, struck me as a powerful message of acceptance of “the new.”

There’s a difference between offering the audience a question they can’t answer and offering the audience a question they don’t know how to answer. I’d argue that Annihilation accomplished the latter very well. It’s not lazy storytelling if you’ve given the audience much to chew on, but also the challenge of interpreting the taste. It should require some intellectual effort. There’s a reason 2001 is still considered a heavyweight of science fiction storytelling. It’s oblique. It’s opaque. But it’s not entirely inaccessible. It just requires more of the audience than audience members are often comfortable with. Annihilation is much the same, in my estimation.
 

Warhawk

The cake is a lie.
Staff member
Pacific Rim: Uprising - if you liked the first one this one is similar, but much slower in the first half. I think the story hangs together a bit better, but the movie is overall just as silly as the first. Check your brain at the door and go for the robot-vs.-monster action. My 15-year-old liked it, and that was the goal.
 

VF21

#KingsFansForever
Staff member
Pacific Rim: Uprising - if you liked the first one this one is similar, but much slower in the first half. I think the story hangs together a bit better, but the movie is overall just as silly as the first. Check your brain at the door and go for the robot-vs.-monster action. My 15-year-old liked it, and that was the goal.
I loved the first one, but admittedly at least in part because of Charlie Hannan. I know, I'm shallow that way.
 

Warhawk

The cake is a lie.
Staff member
I loved the first one, but admittedly at least in part because of Charlie Hannan. I know, I'm shallow that way.
The first one was on TV this evening so my son and I watched it as he hadn't seen it before. I forgot Idris Elba was in it - didn't know who he was back then. Always fun to go back and see actors in films that you didn't remember were in them.
 

Warhawk

The cake is a lie.
Staff member
Ready Player One. Fun movie with lots of pop culture references. I had a good time. I want to play The Oasis :p
Minor spoilers and my thoughts.

I was a bit disappointed. Compared to the book, the movie cut out several story lines and seemed to diminish the "threat" IOI posed. In the movie, it was almost like the only thing that would happen is the modern day equivalent of World of Warcraft (or something) would be taken over by an "evil" corporation, when in fact it was so much more. Oasis in the book was a center of learning and commerce as well as a virtual reality getaway. Also, part of the fun in the book was all the 80's references and themes - in the movie it is more like window dressing in the background (for the most part). The D&D references were totally removed as well, which were prominent in the book. I get it - you only have a couple of hours to condense a lot of stuff into, but in this case it doesn't carry over as well. If you haven't read the book, it is still a fun movie and you really aren't mentally comparing the two.
 

Capt. Factorial

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Staff member
Minor spoilers and my thoughts.
I liked it a lot. I will say that it's not really a movie that you need to have read the book first - nor if you've read the book several years ago should you feel you should go back and re-read it before the film. Just go see it.

I actually didn't think that the "stakes" were understated in the film relative to my recollection of the stakes in the book - yes, they didn't get into the educational aspect of the Oasis, but I think it was clear just how important the Oasis was to society and the fact that it was in danger of being taken over by the "evil corporation" (a trope that is a bit too easy these days, but here didn't grate on me) who for lack of a better word lured people into debt in order to force them into indentured servitude - that danger seemed large enough to me.

I'm really impressed how they managed to change so many details of the challenges but still stay true to main points and feel of the story. It seems like most times a movie really deviates from a book (as opposed to condensing it) that things typically go badly, but here the story probably got better. And to be honest, I had a lot of trouble visualizing the final battle scene in the book but of course the film pulled it off beautifully.

And one final note, I'm usually really really really not a guy for the big CGI film, but here it really worked for me because the Oasis IS virtual reality - it's supposed to be CGI, and physics is supposed to not properly apply. For example, I was internally groaning through the pre-film trailer for "Rampage" as the giant ape is tearing through the city, but in Ready Player One as King Kong rampages through the race that is the first challenge I was fine with it - and it's completely because in one case it purports to be the real world, and in the other case it is confined to the VR Oasis.
 

Warhawk

The cake is a lie.
Staff member
I liked it a lot. I will say that it's not really a movie that you need to have read the book first - nor if you've read the book several years ago should you feel you should go back and re-read it before the film. Just go see it.

I actually didn't think that the "stakes" were understated in the film relative to my recollection of the stakes in the book - yes, they didn't get into the educational aspect of the Oasis, but I think it was clear just how important the Oasis was to society and the fact that it was in danger of being taken over by the "evil corporation" (a trope that is a bit too easy these days, but here didn't grate on me) who for lack of a better word lured people into debt in order to force them into indentured servitude - that danger seemed large enough to me.

I'm really impressed how they managed to change so many details of the challenges but still stay true to main points and feel of the story. It seems like most times a movie really deviates from a book (as opposed to condensing it) that things typically go badly, but here the story probably got better. And to be honest, I had a lot of trouble visualizing the final battle scene in the book but of course the film pulled it off beautifully.

And one final note, I'm usually really really really not a guy for the big CGI film, but here it really worked for me because the Oasis IS virtual reality - it's supposed to be CGI, and physics is supposed to not properly apply. For example, I was internally groaning through the pre-film trailer for "Rampage" as the giant ape is tearing through the city, but in Ready Player One as King Kong rampages through the race that is the first challenge I was fine with it - and it's completely because in one case it purports to be the real world, and in the other case it is confined to the VR Oasis.
In general, agreed. I just read the book a few months ago (as the film was being advertised) so maybe that's why some of the differences were so stark to me. Good movie, but like many movies I wish they kept closer to the original material - especially since some of the stuff discussed in my original spoiler was so integral to making the book "fun" for me.
 
I read Ready Player One several years ago on the recommendation of a friend (whose recommendations I ceased giving consideration to thereafter). I was not particularly engrossed by it, and was rather put off by its ceaseless name-dropping and referentiality. It read quite like a "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things" for those obsessed with the pop culture of the 80's.

Now, I happen to like much of the pop culture of that period, but a character has to be more than the sum of his or her points of reference, and rarely did that novel ever leave me feeling like I was reading about plausible human beings, rather than walking movie posters. It seemed like wish fulfillment for the nerd set, which is a shame, because there is an interesting idea at its center about how consumed we can become with the pop cultural ephemera of our youth.

That said, Steven Spielberg is a wizard at transforming mediocre source material into movie magic. Jaws and Jurassic Park both come to mind, so I'd be willing to give his adaptation of Ready Player One a shot--especially if it does meaningfully deviate from the novel. ;)
 
I watched Ready Player One last week. 3D was amazing, and really complemented the whole VR aspect of the movie I thought. Thoroughly enjoyed the film, but I haven't read the book.
I really don’t see a lot of movies in 3D. For most movies I don’t feel it really adds anything, but I could see how Ready Player One viewing experience would be greatly enhanced by 3D.
 
I really don’t see a lot of movies in 3D. For most movies I don’t feel it really adds anything, but I could see how Ready Player One viewing experience would be greatly enhanced by 3D.
It was my first 3D movie ever actually, as I usually choose 2D on purpose. Seemed like the premise warranted 3D and it was at IMAX. I thought it was amazing, made it feel like the action was a few feet in front of me. Really enjoyed it!
 

Warhawk

The cake is a lie.
Staff member
I really don’t see a lot of movies in 3D. For most movies I don’t feel it really adds anything, but I could see how Ready Player One viewing experience would be greatly enhanced by 3D.
The only time I typically go to 3D is when the show time is the only one that works for me. I don't really mind it one way or the other, but it rarely adds much to my viewing enjoyment. Sometimes it is a distraction more than anything else. I saw RPO in 3D for this reason and like most films, I forget I'm watching in 3D and it doesn't really impact me either way. This one was better than most others, though, in that regard.

I have some friends who get headaches from the 3D shows, so when they are with me we REALLY avoid 3D. I also have one friend who loves 3D. Different strokes and all that. :)
 
Some movies I've seen over the last few weeks

Isle of Dogs - Very good animation, my son who is very much into animation really enjoyed this film.
Blockers - meh, some funny moments, a little too crude for my taste (maybe I'm a little sensitive as a Father of a teenage daughter :p)
A Quiet Place - really enjoyed this film. Very tense and emotional.
Rampage - well, it is what it is, I wouldn't recommend actually spending money to see this.
 

Mr. S£im Citrus

Doryphore of KingsFans.com
Staff member
Just came back from watching Black Panther again, in anticipation of Avengers: Infinity War; I still don't know how anybody can think that Marvel Studios has made three movies better than this.
 
Just came back from watching Black Panther again, in anticipation of Avengers: Infinity War; I still don't know how anybody can think that Marvel Studios has made three movies better than this.
I rather enjoyed Black Panther, dramatically. I thought it was very well-acted, and it had a completely plausible villain with complex motivations, rather than the usual cardboard megalomaniac-out-to-take-over-the-world/galaxy/universe. And it was so refreshing to see a movie headlined by a ridiculous number of talented black actors. I could have done without Martin Freeman’s character altogether, and would have been fine if Andy Serkis’ character had been cut, as well, especially if it made more time to flesh out the primary members of the cast (though Serkis continues to delight as a force of scenery-chewing nature, whether in the guise of motion capture or in his few appearances as a flesh-and-blood character on screen).

I have to say, though, that I was rather underwhelmed by the staging of the action, which was often clumsy and inelegant, which is a shame for a movie portraying a culture as elegant and advanced as the Wakandan people. And the visual effects left much to be desired. Too often, I felt taken out of the movie by digital fakery that was untethered from physics (as too many of these Marvel films lapse into), and featured all the realism of a[n admittedly well-crafted] video game. It bummed me out as a viewer, especially since the physicality of the trial-by-combat sequences were the most vibrant part of the action staging.

I prefer action that is as grounded in reality as possible. Sometimes a digital assist is necessary, but it seems like too many of these movies are made with a “because we can” attitude of excess, when “less is more” often makes for a better filmic experience. Logan was excellent in this regard. It felt physical. It felt a part of reality, rather than apart from it.
 

Mr. S£im Citrus

Doryphore of KingsFans.com
Staff member
First of All™, "clumsy and inelegant?" Black Panther had some of the best action scenes in the history of superhero movies.

Second of All, Logan is not a Marvel Studios movie.

Third of All, these movies are inspired by comic books: that ****'s not supposed to be realistic... Which, now that I think about it, brings me back to Logan: Logan was, objectively, a pretty good movie, but as a comic book movie, it was ****. Maybe the real issue is that you don't actually like comic book movies?
 
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First of All™, "clumsy and inelegant?" Black Panther had some of the best action scenes in the history of superhero movies.

Second of All, Logan is not a Marvel Studios movie.

Third of All, these movies are inspired by comic books: that ****'s not supposed to be realistic... Which, now that I think about it, brings me back to Logan: Logan was, objectively, a pretty good movie, but as a comic book movie, it was ****. Maybe the real issue is that you don't actually like comic book movies?
You misunderstand me slightly. I don’t expect superhero movies to be realistic in the sense that they avoid the need to suspend one’s disbelief. Of course disbelief will need to be suspended. Of course they’re not aiming for “realistic” in the same way that, say, an Oscar-baiting period drama is. That said, I still prefer the movies I watch, no matter how outlandish their subject matter, to remain in touch with the physical. I suppose I should have better distinguished between reality and physicality.

For example, I despise digitally-rendered action sequences that feel weightless, as if the people and objects that are hurtling through physical spaces have no connection to the actual physical world, where the laws of gravity would ordinarily exert a fair amount of influence. I get it; some of these superheroes can fly. Some of them can even manipulate time and space. But within that “superhero logic,” I’d like to see more attention paid to the stakes of the action by rendering them physical, if not entirely “realistic.” It’s not particularly invigorating to see these beings get flung through buildings and crushed into pavement, with no sense of weight or consequence. They’ll have a bruise here, a bloodied lip there, but they’ll walk away largely unscathed. We expect our superheroes to prevail in the end, but we also want to feel as if they're being truly tested along the way.

At least the Guardians of the Galaxy movies play up the ridiculous, physics-defying weightlessness of everything for comedic effect. It's their way of saying, "Yeah, we realize this is all very silly, so feel free to laugh at it." But too many Marvel movies engage in this sort of weightless tomfoolery with deadpan seriousness, where the stakes rarely feel tangible because the outcome is never in doubt. I myself am not an avid comic book reader, but I've spent some time in between their pages. One thing that they do well (and that Marvel comics does especially well) is establish the stakes and invest the reader in the pain and suffering of their heroes. There's a greater sense of physicality to those stories than often gets translated to the screen. Of course, comic books often undercut those stakes constantly by reviving dead superheroes or spinning them off into new universes--a storytelling sin of a different kind.

And I do beg to differ pretty dramatically about the action scenes in Black Panther. The only ones I found compelling, in terms of their visual storytelling, were the Wakandan kingmaker battles, where it was just two individuals in a ring. It allowed for tremendous physicality, and it also allowed the choreography to sing. Elsewhere, the entire climax was a huge disappointment to me. Small portions were practically shot, but most of the "people" on screen were digital creations. I especially hated that, during the fight between Okoye and W'Kabi--a fight that should have been so fraught with tension because they're wife and husband--only parts of the sequence were practical, and my eyes could easily spot where the characters were being digitally recreated to aid the scene. The digital effects gave the scene greater flexibility for the fantastical, but at the expense of using the visual storytelling to invest in the drama. It didn't sing. As a viewer, that thrust me straight out of the stakes of the sequence.

I also found the climactic fight between T'Challa and Killmonger to be very underwhelming, and a good example of how digital excess can make an action scene look more like something out of a big budget video game than a big budget feature film. It was poorly shot, poorly lit, weightless, and difficult to follow. In other words, I found it rather inelegant.
On the other hand, the final shot of Killmonger staring into the Wakandan sunset before his death was beautiful, moving, and well-composed.
--Ryan Coogler clearly has a talent for mining this material for dramatic effect. I just don't think he's yet a great stager of action.

For contrast, consider the climactic throne room battle from The Last Jedi. That sequence was almost entirely practical, and you can feel it in the cinematography. The actors were well-trained, and the choreography was pitch perfect. This meant that Rian Johnson could shoot it wide because he didn't have to cover the actor's mistakes with clever camera tricks or digital assistance. As a result, it's an extremely fluid and elegant action setpiece that, at the same time, feels deeply physical and tells a striking visual story. Think about how Kylo Ren wields his lightsaber--he holds it low to the ground, as if it were heavy like a claymore. But it's a lightsaber. It's a blade of pure energy. As a weapon, the lightsaber doesn't actually have much weight. But the visual storytelling is much more compelling if it's given weight. Again, the viewer feels the action. It's a strong example of how you take outlandish, "unrealistic" material and ground it in the physical.

As for Logan, I do realize that it was not a Marvel Studios production. I was simply using it as a point of reference, since it’s a comic book movie that operates very clearly in the physical world. I'll concede that it perhaps isn't a good "comic book movie" if you use a certain kind of metric, but in 2018, what does "comic book movie" even mean, exactly? These films have become an utterly mainstream medium for storytelling across the last twenty years, and they're evolving all the time. Surely there's space for something like Thor: Ragnarok and for something like Logan under the same genre umbrella?
 

Warhawk

The cake is a lie.
Staff member
Padrino, I agree with you 100% on this. I think that is one reason I really enjoyed Atomic Blonde - the fight scenes were generally well done and the long cut in the stairwell was fantastic.

The beginning of Black Panther (fight scene around the military vehicles in the dark) was so poorly done I couldn't even tell what was going on part of the time. I'm not bashing the movie at all - in fact I really enjoyed it - but the fight scenes were the weakest link. Some great, some not so good.
 

Mr. S£im Citrus

Doryphore of KingsFans.com
Staff member
@Padrino, I feel at this point that it's important to acknowledge that you and I are not consuming movies-as-entertainment in the same way; if you found that those visual effects were enough to take you out of the action scenes, then you're not watching movies to get the same thing out of the moviegoing experience as I am. To me, the best action scenes were the ones in Korea, especially when Okoye was kicking ass in the casino, and the battle between the Dora Milaje and Killmonger, and I don't know how anyone could look at the way that the Dora Milaje fought like a singular organism, and call that 'inelegant', but your mileage obviously varies.

Also, Okoye and W'Kabi weren't married.
 
Padrino, I agree with you 100% on this. I think that is one reason I really enjoyed Atomic Blonde - the fight scenes were generally well done and the long cut in the stairwell was fantastic.

The beginning of Black Panther (fight scene around the military vehicles in the dark) was so poorly done I couldn't even tell what was going on part of the time. I'm not bashing the movie at all - in fact I really enjoyed it - but the fight scenes were the weakest link. Some great, some not so good.
I have not yet seen Atomic Blonde, though I've heard very good things about it's choreography.

I should also mention that Ryan Coogler directed the underrated Rocky spin-off Creed a few years ago. His experience choreographing that film's close-quarters boxing scenes was clearly an influence on the Wakandan duels, and it shows. Those are well-staged fight scenes. They're intimate, physical, and beautifully-shot. They also reveal much to us about the characters involved, which deepens our relationship to both the characters and the story. The rest of the film's action sequences didn't really speak to me at all. They're mostly a grab-bag of the usual Marvel-movie acrobatics, untethered from physics, and low on impact. The flashy effects might make you say "Whoa!!", but for me, that's a shallow level of engagement with the story that doesn't deepen our relationship to it in any meaningful way.

For example, while I really liked the Shuri character's Q-from-James-Bond-inspired technobabble, it bothered me to see the movie actually remove some of its secondary characters from the action via Wakandan's remote technologies. The stakes become so flat and uninspired when characters like Shuri (or Martin Freeman's character later in the film) are literally leveraging technology to separate themselves from danger. Useful tactics? Sure. Interesting storytelling within the scope of the action scenes? Not really. Imagine if Goose got to be Maverick's RIO remotely.

Mostly, I'm just a big fan of strong visual storytelling. Film is a deeply visual medium, after all, and the greatest directors (and their cinematographers) know how to wield that camera and stage the action on screen in a way that tells the story or communicates its themes or deepens our understanding of its characters without the necessity of dialogue or the machinations of the plot.

Blade Runner 2049 was my favorite film of 2017 by far. It's not an action movie, but the opening sequence features an absolutely stellar example of how you stage a fight sequence for maximum physicality:


This scene's just a tour de force, from the staging to the lighting to the set design to the sound design to the camera's movement to the pacing to the editing. These characters are "replicants," or synthetically-created beings that may look like you or I, but bear much greater physical strength than even the strongest human. They're superheroes, in other words. Yet the viewer feels every moment of this encounter. It's nearly uncomfortable in its physicality, its insistence on underlining the damage that each character visits on the other. The visual (and aural) storytelling makes it clear that being a blade runner (in this case a replicant who must hunt down other replicants) is very punishing, undignifying work. It deepens our understanding of the story, and its a helluva way to begin a movie. Heavy on impact.
 

Mr. S£im Citrus

Doryphore of KingsFans.com
Staff member
This scene's just a tour de force, from the staging to the lighting to the set design to the sound design to the camera's movement to the pacing to the editing. These characters are "replicants," or synthetically-created beings that may look like you or I, but bear much greater physical strength than even the strongest human. They're superheroes, in other words. Yet the viewer feels every moment of this encounter. It's nearly uncomfortable in its physicality, its insistence on underlining the damage that each character visits on the other. The visual (and aural) storytelling makes it clear that being a blade runner (in this case a replicant who must hunt down other replicants) is very punishing, undignifying work. It deepens our understanding of the story, and its a helluva way to begin a movie. Heavy on impact.
And, see, I didn't feel any moment of that encounter. Maybe I need to see the whole movie and/or the original in order to grok the fullness, but there was no part of that that I don't feel like I've already seen a thousand times; it didn't resonate with me, on any level.
 
@Padrino, I feel at this point that it's important to acknowledge that you and I are not consuming movies-as-entertainment in the same way; if you found that those visual effects were enough to take you out of the action scenes, then you're not watching movies to get the same thing out of the moviegoing experience as I am. To me, the best action scenes were the ones in Korea, especially when Okoye was kicking ass in the casino, and the battle between the Dora Milaje and Killmonger, and I don't know how anyone could look at the way that the Dora Milaje fought like a singular organism, and call that 'inelegant', but your mileage obviously varies.

Also, Okoye and W'Kabi weren't married.
Fair enough. Viewers often simply have different motivations for entering the theater in the first place, and desire different experiences from the films they view. I just find that I can never resist an opportunity to get into a spirited discussion about filmmaking, in general. ;)

I mentioned in the End of an Era thread that I find it disheartening to see many publications laying off writers or dying off entirely. When my favorite film website The Dissolve had to... dissolve itself for financial reasons, I lost one of the few places where I could have thrilling discussions with reasonable people about films and filmmaking. It was a remarkably civil place, too, a rarity these days in online spaces.

Anyway, I did enjoy the casino scene in Black Panther, as well (though I thought it winked a bit too hard in the direction of Daniel Craig-era James Bond). Overall, that sequence was well-staged, and the lighting was magnificent. I actually could have stayed in that interior longer as a viewer. And we learned much about Okoye from her role in the action of that scene. Once the fight spilled onto the street, and vehicles got involved, it became less interesting for me from both a visual and storytelling standpoint. But your point is well-taken; it's a strong sequence.

And I thought for sure the film nodded to Okoye and W'Kabi being married. At the very least, they were lovers, correct?
 
And, see, I didn't feel any moment of that encounter. Maybe I need to see the whole movie and/or the original in order to grok the fullness, but there was no part of that that I don't feel like I've already seen a thousand times; it didn't resonate with me, on any level.
Indeed. Your mileage may vary, it turns out. From the standpoint of craft, however, it is an absolutely impeccable sequence. It does deserve to be seen in context, and I always maintain that a computer screen is rarely an ideal environment for viewing what was meant to be seen in a theater (especially if you're watching video content with tinny little laptop speakers like mine).