Tag Archives: Seen

Swiss Army Man Review

swissarmy

By Patrick Schmaltz

These days, it’s pretty hard to find a film that really comes out of nowhere. So many films are predictable and boring, follow just the basic things we expect. I think the past few years we have seen some really good and original films come out. The Ots (2000-2010) were some of the worst years for film. Everyone had CGI and didn’t know how to use it, not we are getting the revolt and rebalance. Filmgoers are seeing films that are unusual and sometimes crazy. Films like Swiss Army Man gets the “WHAT THE FUCK?!” award for sure.

Story (Plot) 5-5 Swiss Army Man is just insane. Let me lay it out for you – I will be careful not to reveal anything too important – part of this movie’s charm is its ambiguity. You have been warned – small spoilers ahead. Paul Dano, who plays Hank, goes into the woods to escape society for…reasons. He is about to kill himself, because he’s starving on a small island, when Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Manny, washes up on shore as a dead body. Hank comes to find Manny is not dead, but has super powers and helps him to survive in the woods until he finds his way back to civilization. That’s the plot, but the real question is who is Manny? Why is he dead and why does he have these powers? Why did Hank go to the woods? Is this all in Hank’s Mind? It’s so silly and entertaining. Also! NOT a sequel or a remake.

Production (Directing, Editing, Music)4-5 It’s pretty amazing how fun and interesting this movie is. It’s fast and crazy, and the reality just as absurd and they know it. The film is shot beautifully, and edited really well with many fun montages of pretending together and surviving in the woods. The music is interesting also. Playing into the let’s do something different theme, all have instruments and score, but with Dano and Radcliffe singing and humming together, it makes for an eerie choir-like sound. An Example of this is, one of the best scenes is when they hum the theme to Jurassic Park while re-enacting it together. They are just in the woods so part of the music is in Dano’s head but, It works so well. You guys know how much I love movie music!

Characters (Likability, Acting) 4-5 Paul Dano is stellar again. He’s so interesting to watch in all his films. I do not think I have enjoyed Daniel Radcliffe so much since his Harry Potter days, he’s really fantastic in this. Hank is obviously insane. He’s got some things he needs to work through, but he’s so likeable and interesting you are okay with being on the crazy train with him. Manny is like a newborn baby, he doesn’t know anything so he’s having things explained to him by Hank with hilarious results. From farts, to love, to masterbation, all seem to be centered around what society deems to be normal. There are so many interesting things about our society in this movie including: technology isolation, father son dynamics, and sexual expression.

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Writing (Dialogue, Cleverness)5-5 How does anyone come up with something so crazy, and how does anyone read this script and agree to do it. I would have loved to be in the room for the pitch meeting. “Guy stuck in the woods, finds dead body, which comes back to life and has super powers, which he uses to survive”. YEAH, who thinks of this crap? Well it fucking works. The movie is entertaining and fun as hell. The powers they come up with are crazy, all powered by “love”.  The Interaction between Manny and Hank is where it’s at. As Hank explains the world to Manny, we find out about Hank and his perspective and what inevitably led him to running away.  

Emotions (Was it; Fun, Scary, Sad, Do I care)4-5 Once you just accept what’s happening, and you need to accept it pretty quickly, you can just sit back and enjoy the fun! It’s strange and it knows it. It’s so silly and deadpan, with very little explanation. It’s filled with ambiguity, and emotional confusion. You just can’t stop watching it even though it doesn’t make sense. The world is crazy, this is for sure through a crazy person’s perspective, but you just learn to roll with it.

Overall score 22-25 I am just fascinated with this film. It’s crazy, interesting, and out of control. I might just be sick of seeing all the same shit over and over. This is not the same shit. There is some darkness to this movie for sure. The real world questions and emotions that Hank feels are rough. When you walk out of the movie you can’t help but think about it. Ask questions and try and make sense of what you just saw. This film is art and like any good art, it’s in the eye of the viewer.

 

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Finding Dory Review

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By Patrick Schmaltz

It’s understood these days that when Pixar makes a movie, it’s good for all ages. They seem to know how to tell a great story – one that encompasses heart, well crafted animation, and comedy. Finding Nemo was one of their hallmark all-time successes. I was an adult without children watching this film, and I enjoyed it as much as everyone else did. It makes sense that they would would want to make a sequel to this blockbuster hit; it just took them thirteen years to do it.  

Story (Plot) 3-5 Finding Dory takes place one year after the events of Nemo. Dory is presently living in the reef with Marlin and the eponymous Nemo. Slowly she is starting to remember that she has a family out there, which she has forgotten. She has suffered from short term memory loss her whole life, as seen through adorable Baby Dory flashbacks. She has a series of memories and needs to go find her parents and piece it all together. Marlin and Nemo owe her one, so they go with her to help. This film has a much more a bleak overtone than Finding Nemo. What this story lacks in laughs, it makes up for in emotion-screwing heavy shit.

Production (Directing, Editing, Music)4-5 Pixar does it again. But there hasn’t been much improvement in the level of quality animation in thirteen years – there doesn’t really need to be – it just looks like the same movie. Maybe if you put them shot for shot next to each other you might see a difference, but hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I just wish, maybe, that it looked crazy good. In 2003, Nemo looked crazy good. Now, Dory just looks normal. The music is exactly the same, again: ain’t broke.  The film’s pacing, however, is a little off – things could have moved things along a little faster. You know, gotten to the point a little sooner. Much of the film is told in flashbacks for emotional impact, which problematically creates a herky-jerky movement.

Characters (Likeability, Acting) 2-5 I love the characters. Albert Brooks as Marlin is good, but he’s a side character in this film. Nemo is the child voice of reason, and the glue that holds it together. Here is my major gripe with this movie:  Ellen Degeneres as Dory takes the reins as the main character and that’s where this movie fails. I don’t know that Dory is a strong enough main character. Sure, she is great as a foil in Nemo. But when the main character keeps forgetting what she’s doing, all I felt was frustration. Additionally, the memory loss bit gets old, seems inconsistent, and has no rhyme or reason. She is coherent one second, then forgets the next, and vice versa.

Writing (Dialogue, Cleverness)3-5 They really hit you in the face with some heavy family tragedy here. It’s a good story, and you care about these characters, but man is it sad if you think about what these “people” have gone through. This is all well and good, but where are the jokes? The side characters just are not as funny as the first film. Nemo was funny because of the “Mine” idiocy of the seagulls, and the vegetarian sharks. Dory’s side characters come across as just not as funny or memorable. The best character in my mind is the Octopus Hank played by Ed O’Neill, who is mostly a grump. This movie just lacks the forethought and clever characters. Also, Sigourney Weaver, is all I will say.

Emotions (Was it; Fun, Scary, Sad, Do I care)3-5 They succeeded in making us sad and give a crap about finding Dory’s parents. But where is the whimsy of the first one? Dory just feels way too self-serious. I want fun! I want Adventure! Instead we are given a sad story about losing family. It’s a good story and all, but I think it misses the tone set by the first film. The message of the film mostly centers around how Dory has a handicap, and she inspires the characters around her with how affable and genuine she is. The problem is, you suddenly feel bad about laughing at someone with a disability. They are teaching children some valuable lessons about life, I understand that. But don’t sully my previous enjoyment of a film, now that it has some darker overtones. Dory also never goes it alone – she always has someone there to help her. Someone to guide her, or physically carry her to her destination. I wanted that moment for her character to figure it out alone, yet instead she is guided and falls into things seemingly out of blind luck. Where is the lesson about you can do it yourself?

Overall score 15-25 This movie is very well made, and is already making lots of money, but it just feels soft and flat to me. No big moments of hilarious scenes. No hilarious quotes that stay with you. You don’t walk about of the theater singing this movie’s version of “Just Keep Swimming”. Dory will not be remembered. To my mind, the best word to describe the film is “meh” – it’s good but not great. It’s funny, but not as much as the original. It’s clever but lacks genius. I am sure the kids will love it.

 

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Thoughts on Ex Machina

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Thoughts on Ex Machina

By Christopher Schmaltz

The robot is hot…until she puts on her short-haired wig. This was one of my thoughts after seeing Ex Machina. See, I’m generally not a short hair fan on women. And exactly therein lies the triumph of Ex Machina.

Ex Machina adds significantly to the genre in movies and literature of the human pursuit of artificial intelligence (A.I.).  It is at the same time cerebral and visceral. Cerebral in that it is a close scientific examination of the attempt to create A.I. – one that is indistinguishable from human intelligence and consciousness. The movie explores one man’s creation, and another man’s testing of that creation. Why it works so well is that it hits the tester (and movie viewer) in both the mind, and even more importantly, in the viscera. The tested program is in a futuristic, elegantly designed female robot form. A form that is very clearly a robot, and yet, has all the visual cues intended to target the id of the tester (and movie viewer).

The film is a surface examination of the attempt at A.I., and a far more incisive exploration of humanity and the combination of intellect and emotion in humans. It’s a fascinating look at how emotion affects judgment, and how it is so difficult to distinguish actual emotion from the appearance of emotion. What I find exhilarating is its central storytelling that explores how emotion can override logic in a conscious being. (That sentence is carefully constructed so as to avoid any and all spoilers.☺)

To me, the movie asks a key question – if humans are fallible in this way, often subservient to emotional reactions from a primordial place in our brain, how can our creations not be influenced by this conception of what we think it means to be a conscious being? And as so influenced, will the A.I. we attempt to create be “flawed” in the same way, or be missing a key ingredient that is impossible to quantify or “create?”

As successful as the A.I. may or may not have appeared to the tester of the A.I., a similar suspension of disbelief happens to the viewer. My reaction, the robot is hotuntil…, is a testament to the art of the film and its insightful exploration of the human experience. Ex Machina is worth your time and thought.

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