Nerve is an online game where “watchers” create dares for the “players.” Vee (Emma Roberts) joins the game and meets Ian (Dave Franco). As the game goes on, Vee realizes there is a sinister secret to Nerve.
Review Nerve is a movie that is an interesting place. It portrays anonymity on the internet, online fame, and the power of social media, something that is very present in society today. The commentary is relative to the explosion of the internet and increase in popularity of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. It knows the message it wants to get across and for most of the film, it is woven into the story well. However, once the movie begins to ramp up to the conclusion, it gets heavy handed, really driving home what it’s trying to convey. Up until then, it was enjoyable. As someone who is constantly on the internet, knowing the basic premise of the film and its look at online culture was enough to get me interested in the film. Yet it took a little while for me to get into the characters. It’s not until the middle act of the movie that things get engaging.
Emma Roberts as Vee was a different role than I’m used to seeing her in. Normally, she plays the snotty or mean girl. But here, she plays a more shy and reserved type of character and she has no problem pulling it off. Dave Franco is a fun complement to Roberts. The two of them together mesh well and their relationship feels believable. The other characters serve little more than to act like different perspectives into the movie’s social commentary. As a result, they get little screen time as the movie focuses mainly on Roberts’ and Franco’s characters.
I thought Nerve was OK 😐 While Emma Roberts and Dave Franco are an entertaining pairing, it took a little too long for me to really get into the film. Then just as it was hitting its stride, it slaps you over the head with its social commentary. Despite that, I really enjoyed the message of this cautionary tale.
Cast & Crew
Henry Joost – Director
Ariel Schulman – Director
Jessica Sharzer – Screenplay
Rob Simonsen – Composer
Emma Roberts – Vee
Dave Franco – Ian
Emily Meade – Sydney
Miles Heizer – Tommy
Juliette Lewis – Nancy
Kimiko Glenn – Liv
Colson Baker – Ty
Brian Marc – JP
Ed Squires – Chuck
Tommy (Brian Cox) and his son, Austin (Emile Hirsch), are coroners in a small town in Virginia. One night, a Jane Doe (Olwen Kelly) is brought in for examination. Shortly after they begin the autopsy, weird things begin happening around them and they try to solve the mystery of who this woman is.
When I went to Toronto ComiCon this year, one of the booths I visited was for Raven Banner Entertainment. While perusing their movie selection, I came across The Autopsy of Jane Doe and remembering being intrigued by the trailer, and after talking with the guy in the booth for a bit, I picked it up. In the time since, I have heard a lot of praise for the film so I was eager to finally watch it. Maybe I missed something but I wasn’t drawn in like everyone seems to be.
I’ll give this movie its credit. It did a fantastic job of creating an eerie atmosphere. The entire film takes place in one location and is claustrophobic. It reminded me a lot of the video game Dead Space where it took place in a tight location and used that confined space to build the tension. Things like light and sound become very important and elevate the movie. Every small thing you see in the corner of your eye draws your attention because you know something is around the corner waiting to jump out and you can’t help but think that might be the thing. Then surprise! It’s not. This is a classic horror trope but in such a confining environment, the effect is amplified.
Since this movie takes place in a single confined space, the film rested on Brian Cox’s and Emile Hirsch’s shoulders. Thankfully, they were up to the task. This could have been one of those films where they simply phoned it in and make it seem like they were there just for the check. But no, they put an effort into their parts and it shows. Besides the great atmosphere, Cox and Hirsch make the watch worthwhile.
About the first half of the film is spent on performing the autopsy. As Tommy (Cox) and Austin (Hirsch) make their way through their examination, we slowly learn more and more about the body, which in turn builds and builds the mystery about Jane Doe. This is probably what I like most about this film. There is this “character” who never moves or says anything for the entire movie and yet she is still interesting and just as captivating as the characters who walk around and speak. That is a very hard thing to accomplish but director André Øvredal pulled it off without a sweat. It might move fairly slowly for the first portion of the film but it works out to great effect.
Now here is the problem I had with this movie: I didn’t feel any fear or tension. As a horror, I wasn’t scared. As a psychological thriller, I didn’t feel tense. I know I just said the film did a great job to build the tension, and it did, but I didn’t feel tense, if that makes sense. I could tell there was tension but I didn’t feel it. I thought it was predicable which took me out of the horror element of it. The build up was great and the film was interesting once it started ramping up but I unfortunately wasn’t drawn in to it like I feel I should have been.
I thought The Autopsy of Jane Doe was OK 😐 Horrors are not unlike comedies where the success of the film depends completely on the audience’s reaction to it. In comedies, it comes down to if the director can make them laugh. For horrors, it depends on if they can make the audience be scared or feel tense. Regrettably, I did not have that feeling from this movie. It did everything right, from the characters to the mystery to the atmosphere, I just wasn’t engaged by it. I’m sorry André Øvredal, it’s not you, it’s me.
My Toronto ComiCon buddy, Kim, also picked this film up from the Raven Banner booth. You can read her review of this film here. Spoiler alert: she enjoyed it more than I did.
Cast & Crew
André Øvredal – Director
Ian Goldberg – Writer
Richard Naing – Writer
Danny Bensi – Composer
Saunder Jurriaans – Composer
Brian Cox – Tommy
Emile Hirsch – Austin
Olwen Kelly – Jane Doe
Ophelia Lovibond – Emma
Michael McElhatton – Sheriff Burke
Jane Perry – Lieutenant Wade
Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki (voice)) and Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi (voice)) find themselves mysteriously switching bodies at random. Eventually, they create a system to communicate with each other and be a part of each other’s lives. When they go in search of each other, they discover that they are separated by more than distance.
I wasn’t expecting to go see Your Name during its limited US theatrical release but one of my best friends, and frequent movie buddy, had an extra ticket and asked if I wanted to go. To be honest, I didn’t even know it was going to be in theaters until he invited me along, nor was I familiar with Makoto Shinkai and his work. I’m really glad I had the chance to go watch Your Name in the theater because this has quickly become one of my favorite animes.
The first thing you’re sure to notice is the beautiful animation. And I mean absolutely stunning and breathtakingly beautiful. Traditional 2D animation seems to be becoming less and less popular these days. However, films like Your Name show that there is still life in the medium. Every frame is drop-dead gorgeous and you can feel the commitment and love that went into making this movie look the way it does.
For some films, it can be difficult to balance drama with a sense of humor. Director and writer Makoto Shinkai makes it look easy. One pitfall of films that try to incorporate both drama and humor is that it becomes overly serious and the shift between the two can be jarring. It will be light and funny one moment then dark and sobering the next. Your Name, first and foremost, is a love story about Taki and Mitsuha but it never becomes melodramatic. Humor fits into the story without taking away from the core lover’s tale, nor does it feel forced or out of place.
What I really liked about Your Name‘s story was that as the audience, we don’t learn the full scope of the story until about halfway through the film. Bits and pieces are learned about Taki and Mitsuha and their interwoven fates but why it is difficult for them to meet up is not learned for some time into the movie. I think this works so well because it leaves some mystery about the two main characters despite learning so much about them through watching them interact with each other’s friends and family. I won’t give the why away but I will say that once you learn it, you will root that much more that they will find some way to connect with each other.
More than the animation, Your Name‘s biggest strength is its characters. As I said, for the first half of the film, a lot is learned about Taki and Mitsuha just by watching them inhabit each other’s bodies. The further in the movie went, the more I cared about them and wanted to see them get their happy ending. Like any love story, there are wrinkles but those difficulties just added to my fondness for the two. I can’t recall the last romantic movie, either animated or live action, that made me feel so strongly towards its lead couple.
I thought Your Name was GREAT 😀 From the get-go, it will grab your attention with its beautiful animation and lightheartedness. But as the story progresses, it will tug at year heartstrings with its intricate and alluring narrative. Makoto Shinkai has truely outdone himself and I will be sure to look out for his films in the future.
Taki’s school teacher is the same character from Makoto Shinkai’s film The Garden of Words named Yukari Yukino.
In 2016, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is on death row. When he wakes up after lethal injection, he finds himself at an Abstergo Foundation facility, a modern day front for the Templar Order. Sofia (Marion Cotillard), an Abstergo scientist, informs Cal his death was faked because they need his help to find a mysterious artifact known as the Apple of Eden. In order to locate the artifact, Cal must enter the animus, a device used to explore genetic memories, to relive the memories of his ancestor, Aguilar, during the Spanish Inquisition in 1492.
I am a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed series. I have all of the games (although I have yet to play them all) and have read several of the comic books. At the Toronto Comic-con last year, I picked up an art piece depicting several of the series’ the main characters. Since it is one of my favorite game series, I was really excited to hear that a movie for the series would be made. Better yet, it wasn’t going to be a film adaptation of one game but instead tell a new story that takes place within the already established universe. I think my excitement got the better of me.
I’ll start with some good. In the game, navigating the environment by running through the streets and up and on top of buildings is a signature aspect of the game play. Things like parkouring up walls and running across rooftops was brought over exactly like you see in the games. Even things as simple as stances and body posture when assassins jump onto unsuspecting targets is spot on from the game. And the type of action sequences in general is what you would expect to see in the games. That is exciting to see when a video game film has the look and feel of the source material.
In the group of people I saw this with, I was the only one who had played the games. Actually, I was the only one who knew anything more beyond the fact the film was adapted from a video game. Talking with them after leaving the theater, they seemed to have a good grasp about the Assassin’s Creed universe. Assassin’s Creed did a good job of explaining the larger universe in which the film is set, from the conflict between Assassins and Templars, to the purpose of the animus, even the bleeding effect of prolonged animus use. I’d say the only thing not well explained is exactly what the Apple of Eden is and what it can actually do.
Now this leads into my first gripe with the film. Although it did a great job establishing the movie’s universe, it had to take the time to set it up. There was so much exposition in the first half of the movie, it didn’t feel like it went anywhere. Several action scenes were sprinkled throughout to add a bit of flare but it didn’t help too much. By the time the film got to the meat of the story, it had to play catch-up. As a result, the second half felt rushed. I never got the opportunity to get sucked into the story because it was all over the place.
A problem I often have with movies is sometimes they try to set up future sequels without properly closing its own story first. I understand laying threads to be picked up in the next film but that shouldn’t come at the cost of the current story. When this film ended, I found myself thinking, “Oh, that’s the end?” Saying the story was left open-ended feels like the wrong term but it does feel incomplete. I think the rushed pacing during the second half that I mentioned before forced the script into a quick ending, resulting in an anticlimactic finish to the film.
I thought Assassin’s Creed was OK :-|. Hollywood hasn’t had a great track record with video game adaptations. This had the chance to break that trend since it wasn’t trying to adapt any one game but instead tell its own story within the game’s universe. Even with a star-studded cast, poor pacing and an unengaging story keeps this film reaching the heights I was hoping for from a film based on one of my favorite gaming franchises.
Cast & Crew
Justin Kurzel – Director
Michael Lesslie – Screenplay
Adam Cooper – Screenplay
Bill Collage – Screenplay
Jed Kurzel – Composer
Michael Fassbender – Callum Lynch / Aguilar
Marion Cotillard – Sofia Rikkin
Jeremy Irons – Alan Rikkin
Denis Menochet – McGowen
Ariane Labed – Maria
Brendan Gleeson – Joseph Lynch
Essie Davis – Mary Lynch
Charlotte Rampling – Ellen Kaye
Michael Kenneth Williams – Moussa
Matias Varela – Emir
Callum Turner – Nathan
Crystal Clarke – Samia
Michelle H. Lin – Lin
Brian Gleeson – Young Joseph Lynch
Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is recruited by the Rebel Alliance to steal the plans for the Empire’s super weapon, the Death Star.
As much as I enjoy the Star Wars films, I love delving into the Expanded Universe, exploring characters and stories that take place outside of the films. These stories help enrich the Star Wars universe, making an already great story even greater. Rogue One is unique as it is the first Star Wars live-action movie that is not an “episode,” a spin-off meant to expand on events of the main Star Wars story line. With the pre-Disney Expanded Universe out the window, Kyle Katarn is gone and in his place is Jyn Erso and her band of Rebel misfits to steal the Death Star plans for the Alliance.
One thing that the original trilogy never showed was what it meant for the galaxy to be under Imperial rule. We see their villainy through Darth Vader, Tarkin, and the Emperor but don’t actually feel their grip besides what is told to us by the characters. Rogue One shows what life for ordinary citizens in the Empire was like, having a Star Destroyer loom ahead and stormtroopers walking around city streets. The original trilogy also shows the Rebellion after its success and as the Empire begins to fall apart. This movie takes place during the height of the Empire, when the Rebellion is at their most desperate. It’s a tonal shift from the other films but works so well because it makes their accomplishments during the original trilogy mean so much more.
As I said, during Rogue One, the Rebels’ backs are against the wall, leading to a feeling of desperation. This creates a darker, grittier tone for the film. One of my favorite Star Wars video games is Republic Commando. In that game, the player is taken to the darker side of the Clone Wars, fighting battles away from the flash of Jedi lightsabers. This reminded me a lot of that. It looked at the Star Wars universe where blasters are the norm and laser swords are nowhere to be found. Although the tone was darker than your standard Star Wars fare, it never became dispiriting. Whenever things began to go bleak, there was a quip or a funny action to lighten the mood, mainly from everyone’s sure-to-be-new-favorite droid, K-2SO.
K-2SO is only one of the several new characters introduced into the Star Wars universe. Besides K-2SO, there is Jyn Erso, an Imperial prisoner and daughter of the engineer overseeing the Death Star’s construction, Cassian Andor, a Rebel intelligence officer, Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior, Baze Malbus, a mercenary and friend of Chirrut’s, Bodhi Rook, an Imperial defector, Orson Krennic, the director of Imperial weapons research, and many others. Already, you can see that it has become cumbersome. This doesn’t change in the film either. Jyn gets the most development, with most of the other characters just kind of being there. This makes them feel underdeveloped, especially since this is the first time we are meeting these characters. However, I like to think that this movie isn’t really about these characters but about the Rebellion itself and, like I mentioned before, showing where the Rebellion was before the original trilogy. Yes, it would have been nice to learn more about these new characters but I don’t think the purpose of this film is to care about the characters, it’s purpose was to care about the Rebellion. By following this line of thinking, the minimal backstories given for the characters is enough for me.
Throughout the original trilogy, every action is seen as black and white; The Empire is bad, the Rebellion is good. This film mixes that up a little bit and trots into the moral gray area of war. There is still the feeling of Empire equals bad, Rebellion equals good, but throughout the movie, there is a subtle blanket over the film that removes that cheery atmosphere from the original trilogy. This helps create the grittiness to Rogue One. Although these are Rebels, it wouldn’t be difficult to picture a few of them fighting for the Empire based on their actions and our views on Imperials developed in the original trilogy.
It is clear from A New Hope that Grand Moff Tarkin was integral in the Death Star’s history. It is also clear that the villain of this film is supposed to be Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), so the film had the difficult task of needing to have Tarkin in the story but not too much that he overshadowed Krennic. I think they used just the right amount of Tarkin to make it clear his importance to the Death Star but still allow Krennic to remain front and center as the main baddie.
Peter Cushing, the original actor to play Tarkin, passed away in 1994 so he obviously wasn’t available to reprise the role. Rather than recasting the role or using Wayne Pygram, they used a body double and CGI’d Cushing’s face onto the actor. The effect looks amazing and if you just look at him, it would be hard to tell it wasn’t actually Cushing… until he talked. I don’t know what happened, but when Tarkin talks, his mouth doesn’t move quite right and is very distracting. Not many things have pulled me out of a film but that was one of them.
Star Wars wouldn’t be Star Wars without Darth Vader having some sort of presence. Like Tarkin, the film had to balance how much Vader was in the film to not take way from Krennic or the other characters introduced in the film. Again, he has the perfect amount of screen time. His first scene with Krennic showed us this was a return to the Vader of old, not the Vader seen at the end of Revenge of the Sith. That he was a force to be feared, even by his own men. Then his final appearance in the hallway of a rebel ship, mowing down Rebel troops was something out of a Star Wars horror movie. This is a return to form for the character, showing how badass and powerful he is.
The announcement that Rogue One would not contain an opening crawl created contention among fans. How can a Star Wars film not have an opening crawl? Everyone knows that’s how they begin. Although it is a controversial decision, I do think it worked well. The plot is pretty straightforward and first few scenes did a fairly decent job setting up the film that I don’t think not having the crawl negatively impacted the film.
Now, I will admit the film did start off rather slow. Since the movie was dealing with all new characters and they bypassed the opening crawl, it had to take the time to establish them. The second act was not much better. It still moved slowly but not as slowly as the first act. However, it did a great job of building off of what was established in the first several scenes. I think one of this film’s strong points was that it got exponentially better as the film went on, each scene improving on the last. As I said earlier, there wasn’t a whole lot of development for the new characters but this movie slowly established a connection with them and the Rebellion. So by the time the movie hits the explosive final act, I cared enough about the characters to feel some emotion towards them.
Speaking of the final act, what an action scene! Say what you will about Gareth Edwards, but he has a knack for setting up action sequences. The fight scene at the end of Godzilla was pretty epic and that pales in comparison to this one. One of my favorite thing about The Force Awakens was its use of practical effects as much as possible and that praise applies to Rogue One as well. Return of the Jedi is my favorite film of the original trilogy mostly because of the final battle on and above the forest moon of Endor and the duel on the Death Star II. There was something very similar in this movie, with Jyn and her squad battling stormtroopers on Scarif’s surface while the Rebel fleet battled Star Destroyers in space above the planet. The scale is amazing, the action is well shot, and it is easy to follow despite jumping between several places. Not only is this my new favorite action sequence from the Star Wars saga, but it is one of my favorite action sequences of any movie.
I thought Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was GREAT :-D. I’m a bit of an oddity when is comes to being a Star Wars fan. I like the prequels more than most and The Force Awakes less than most. It may then come as no surprise that I really enjoyed Rogue One. The disappointing amount of character development can be overlooked if you focus on what the movie was trying to focus on, which is the Rebellion as a whole, not the individual people within the Rebellion. When Lucasfilm announced they were doing one Star Wars film a year until 2020, I was a little skeptical. After seeing how the first two films have turned out, I’m getting more optimistic towards the future of the franchise.
Cast & Crew
Gareth Edwards – Director
Chris Weitz – Screenplay
Tony Gilroy – Screenplay
John Knoll – Story
Gary Whitta – Story
Michael Giacchino – Composer
Felicity Jones – Jyn Erso
Diego Luna – Cassian Andor
Alan Tudyk – K-2SO
Donnie Yen – Chirrut Imwe
Wen Jiang – Baze Malbus
Ben Mendelsohn – Orson Krennic
Forest Whitaker – Saw Gerrera
Riz Ahmed – Bodhi Rook
Mads Mikkelsen – Galen Erso
Jimmy Smits – Bail Organa
Alistair Petrie – General Draven
Genevieve O’Reilly – Mon Mothma
Ben Daniels – General Merrick
Ian McElhinney – General Dodonna
Paul Kasey – Admiral Raddus
Stephen Stanton – Admiral Raddus (voice)
James Earl Jones – Darth Vader (voice)
Guy Henry – Grand Moff Tarkin
On the island of Motunui, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho (voice)) is chosen by the ocean to receive the heart of Te Fiti, an island goddess. When a curse caused by the missing heart reaches Motunui, Moana sets out to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson (voice)) and return the heart to its rightful place to lift the curse.
With Zootopia having been released earlier this year, Moana marks the first time since 2002 that Disney has released two animated feature films the same year (Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet were that year for those who are curious). And man, what a year it has been for Disney animation. Zootopia is an extraordinarily hard act to follow, being what could be considered the best film of what has become known as the Disney Revival Era. At least until now.
First off, the voice casting is amazingly spot-on. First-timer Auli’i Cravalho does an astonishing job. The range of emotion that she is able to portray with simply her voice makes it hard to believe this is her first acting credit. You would think she was a seasoned veteran, just like Dwayne Johnson. Speakin of, I know that often animators will try to bring some part of the voice actor’s likeness to a character but Maui is the spitting image of Johnson. Pretty much a caricature of him. Not only does Maui look like Johnson but he moves like him too. He even does the eyebrow thing! And the “pec muscle thing” as my sister so elegantly put it. But besides his looks, Johnson has the perfect voice for Maui.
I am beginning to feel like a broken record when it comes to reviewing animated films. With every film released, the animation gets better and better and the gets more and more beautiful. The film takes place on the open water and on sandy beaches and in lush forests. The water glistens and sparkles and flows extremely life-like. This is probably the best water animation since Finding Nemo. One animation aspect that really surprised me was the characters’ hair. Given the characters are sailing on the water for most of the movie, they were bound to get wet eventually. The way it looks heavier and bunches together and shimmers is, again, very life-like. I give the animators big kudos for getting something that can be easily overlooked to look so accurate.
Like any Disney princess, Moana has her animal sidekicks. The one that steals the cake, however, is her dimwitted chicken Heihei, voiced by the versatile Alan Tadyk. When I say “voiced” I mean he makes sounds, he doesn’t actually talk. Heihei is much like Maximus and Pascal from Tangled, well like most animal sidekicks really, where his humor comes from his actions. In a movie that is already filled with a decent amount of humor, Heihei added a unique touch that garnered laughs from every scene he was in.
Like every Disney movie ever, there is a message to be found in Moana. What I like best about the message in this film is that both Moana and Maui deal with the same problem of doubt but they deal with it from different sources. Maui has self doubt, struggling internally with events from his past. Moana, on the other hand, deals with doubt from others, mainly her father, about whether she is truly ready to be chief of her tribe. They find strength in each other and both overcome those doubts. It was a crafty way for Disney to bring their message across.
In recent years, Disney has become more focused on releasing films containing messages of self-empowerment, as seen in movies like Maleficent and Frozen. But where Moana differs from something like Frozen is that there is no prince or male love interest at all. Moana focuses on exactly that: Moana. It is all about her and finding finding power and confidence within herself to complete her journey to save her people.
It wouldn’t be a Disney princess movie without some musical numbers. Two songs that stood out to me the most were “You’re Welcome,” sung by the surprising musical Johnson, and “How Far I’ll Go,” sung by Cravalho. As much as I enjoyed the soundtrack, I will admit it is one of the weaker soundtracks of late from Disney animation. I don’t think it will become as popular as some of their more recent films have become, such as Frozen, or have the longevity as several of Disney’s other classic animated features, like The Lion King, but I wouldn’t mind to be proven wrong on that.
I thought Moana was GREAT :-D. Although the score might not be as catchy as other Disney favorites, it fits the setting beautifully, the same way Dwayne Johnson and Auli’i Cravalho completely embody Maui and Moana. I have really enjoyed the last several years of Disney animation, very reminiscent of the quality of films from when I was a kid. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the directors who brought me my favorite Disney animated film.
Cast & Crew
Ron Clements – Director / Story
Jon Musker – Director / Story
Don Hall – Co-Director / Story
Chris Williams – Co-Director / Story
Jared Bush – Screenplay
Pamela Ribon – Story
Aaron Kandell – Story
Jordan Kandell – Story
Mark Mancina – Composer (Score)
Opetaia Foa’i – Composer (Original Songs)
Lin-Manuel Miranda – Composer (Original Songs)
Auli’i Cravalho – Moana (voice)
Dwayne Johnson – Maui (voice)
Rachel House – Gramma Tala (voice)
Temuera Morrison – Chief Tui (voice)
Jemaine Clement – Tamatoa (voice)
Nicole Scherzinger – Sina (voice)
Alan Tadyk – Heihei (voice)