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Alpha's Reviews: Episode 8 - The Last Jedi

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Yep, I'm back. Like last year, you can request two films, only one of which you wrote. However, unlike last year, I won't be giving away my review scores until my Top 25 is revealed.

 

I'll start posting my reviews on Wednesday, May 12th after I feel that I've gotten enough requests from everybody. I'll be using a random list generator to determine the order in which things get reviewed.

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Alright, looks like I've got my work cut out for me. There's 16 films on the docket, and after I review them all I'll go radio silent until I finish my Top 25 list. I should be able to crank out one review a day, although I may have to pause for a bit this weekend as I'm moving out of my apartment.

 

So I've put all 16 films in the randomizer, and it looks like the first film on the list is...

 

 

Heartman

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Heartman

 

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This film had some pretty big "spooky campfire story told by an 11-year-old on a Boy Scouts trip" and I don't mean that as either a positive or a negative. It doesn't really make a lot of sense and some of it is a little too silly, but some moments are bound to give audience members the chills. Ethan was right to make the Teddy Perkins comparison in his review, as Donald Glover gets several opportunities to shine as the film's creepy titular antagonist.

Unfortunately, my take on Heartman kinda boils down to "they had us the first half, not gonna lie." The atmosphere begins to dissipate right around the time we get the animated-sequence exposition dump that lays out on the table everything you need to know about the Heartman character. Along with that, the film's sense of Spielbergian adventure grows more and more cartoonish with the addition of imp-demon minions and giant stone monsters. By the time this film ends with a pretty-cliché final battle sequence, it feels like Heartman has devolved into a kookier episode of Gravity Falls then the genuinely-exciting horror-thriller it began as.

I also should comment on the depiction of Bajan culture here since that aspect has received praise from other reviewers already. For me, this aspect of the film felt a little overhyped. Aside from elements of the Heartman's backstory and Crop Over, Barbados mostly takes on the characteristics of a generalized Caribbean setting. This includes elements such as the use of reggae music (which originated in Jamaica) and setpieces set in cornfields and "tropical forests." Again, not really a negative, just something I don't think the film exactly earns praise for.

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Posted (edited)

Everything We Miss

 

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Some spoilers ahead.

 

 


This is probably going to be incredibly frustrating for you all because this is the first review I've done in a week and a half, and after all that buildup I don't have much to say about this movie. While I think the fantastical visual sequences were the highlight here, I found them far more interesting the more absurd and indecipherable they were (such as the old man's wife splitting into different body parts to do common household chores) compared to the more obvious metaphors such as the people dressed in white sheets resembling Halloween-costume ghosts, which felt a little bit on-the-nose in a movie that occasionally goes for something far weirder.

 

Other than that, I feel like this warrants a second viewing (part of the reason I'm not posting grades right now). While I don't think the themes about humans' capacity for emotional self-centeredness and how these inner demons drive apart our connections with other people and the universe around us are incredibly dense or hard to wrap my head around, I guess it didn't really hit hard enough this time? 
 

Edited by Alpha
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The Un-title-able Squirrel Girl Sequel

 

 

Some spoilers ahead. 

 



It's really all there in the title. You can tell that Lauren MacMullan and co. couldn't settle on a succinct, clever-enough title for the sequel to Y5's The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, so in the end they chose not to give it a title at all and call it The Un-title-able Squirrel Girl Sequel because it sounded subversive enough without them really having to put much effort into it.

 

My feelings on Endless Animation are pretty complicated at this point in time. When they released Y4's Can You Imagine?, even though it fit pretty neatly into CAYOM 3.0's collection of animated films, I felt like it showed a studio with a lot of potential to grow creatively and come into their own. Four game years later, however, and in my opinion the studio has become a kind of content machine that's stuck replicating formulas, following trends, and pandering to tastes. No doubt there's some bright spots here and there, but at this point it feels a little too much like the classroom slacker peeking over the smart kid's shoulder and cribbing their test answers: they've yet to break away from their contemporaries and are mostly stuck delivering a slate of fine but flawed stories that remind you of other, better films by more seasoned studios.

 

The Un-title-able Squirrel Girl Sequel, however, is its own beast entirely. Some of the CAYOM animated films reminiscent of the Lord-Miller style managed to be fun, tasty desserts in their own right. This sequel is more like a plate of empty calories. It's unnecessarily bloated, with paper-thin central characters and overloaded with gags that miss more than they hit, and it barely makes it to the finish line in one piece. It's a 14,000-word filler movie.

 

Firstly, this movie didn't feel like it barely came under the 2-hour mark at all. It has enough plot to fill up an entire season of animated television. Structure has always been an issue with Endless movies and this is probably the worst it's ever been for one of their major animated productions. Honestly, I find it baffling this made it through three pre-reads and still felt like a first draft. Part of the difficulty here is that there's not really an economical scene in this movie that accomplishes multiple things at once: scenes either act as set-ups for one-off throwaway jokes or feel like they were designated as "important character development" scenes in the writer's room, like a scene with Michelle Yeoh (who only appears once) that exists to fuel Doreen's uncertainty about her role as a superhero. It doesn't communicate much that we didn't already know, and feels like a superfluous addition to the final stretch of the film where things should be ramping up.

 

Speaking of which, the character arcs in this film feel non-existent. While it's somewhat clear the central focus is whether or not Doreen will hang up the cape and move on from being Squirrel Girl, it's a plot thread that feels like an aside entirely. I don't know, it's weird to see several reviewers give this movie credit for its "subtle" central character arc because for me it's not even there. Doreen as a character feels entirely static in this movie, and only seems to really question her role as a superhero when it's a convenient buffer in-between relentless plotting and gags.

 

The relentless, non-stop gag humor certainly doesn’t help matters, and I’ll just link to Trey Parker and Matt Stone talking about Family Guy from 0:50 to 1:30 here for this part cause they do a better job explaining my position on this film’s gag-centric humor than I ever could. All I'll add is that the pop culture references here are so esoteric, geek culture-centric and kinda lame that considering this movie is probably going to make $400 million at the domestic box office, I'm imagining children turning to their parents in a packed theater and asking "dad, who is Rian Johnson?" I'm sure in Squirrel Girl 3 we'll get a really killer Martin Scorsese MCU discourse reference that's bound to make the four-quadrant audience guffaw.

 

Hardly do I get frustrated when I come out of a CAYOM film, but The Un-title-able Squirrel Girl Sequel gave me that feeling. This film is a doozy. It's an unstructured, overbloated mess without a sense of direction or forward momentum. But for me, what it really comes down is the sense that Endless Animation has spent more time perfecting the art of getting by and taking the easy way out instead of challenging themselves creatively and stepping outside their comfort zone. They look to other CAYOM (and real-life) animated films for blatant inspiration and can only write films that can only ever be described as "flawed, yet fun." And I sort of know that the response to a review like this would be a GIF of Peter Griffin crying and for the studio to announce 2-3 movies designed to appeal to me so that I will warm up to their creative output and give it an A. That's one of my biggest frustrations with CAYOM right now, and it's what produces these gigantic sloppy wordcount fests that can never fulfill the relentless hype machines that have been built up around them every fucking year with every pandering casting decision and pointless That Scenes designed purely for the live-commentary review reactions: it's the idea that all that stuff is more important than actually telling a fun, compelling story. At it's core, there's something deeply cynical about The Un-title-able Squirrel Girl Sequel's substantial lack of effort and creativity, right down to the obnoxious title: it's got its tongue wedged so deeply in its cheek, it thinks it's too clever to come up with a proper title.

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12 minutes ago, Alpha said:

The Un-title-able Squirrel Girl Sequel

 

 

Some spoilers ahead. 

 

 

  Reveal hidden contents

 

https://giphy.com/gifs/moodman-monkey-puppet-meme-reaction-cJMlR1SsCSkUjVY3iK

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Losers Weepers

 

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Y7's Finder Keepers felt a little too much like a dark comedy that forgot to add the comedy in, trudging slowly towards the expected nihilistic ending without being that entertaining or clever. This one goes to some over-the-top and ridiculous places in a way that actually made it a bit more enjoyable than the first, despite some of the gags were a little bit too repulsive and tryhard-edgy even for the genre. "Fun" seems like a weird word to describe Loser Weepers, but for a sequel that no one asked for except for one person in particular, you could do a lot worse than this. Loser Weepers: it's OK!

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Flightless Bird: The Downfall of the Boeing 737 MAX

 

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Like others have said, this was a pretty great and well-researched dive into a deeply-corrupt industry with some striking observations into the role of corporate lobbying in our political system. While at times the presentation of all this information could be a bit clinical, maybe because the writing style doesn't mesh totally seamlessly with the more narrative-driven format of CAYOM), I still thought this was an insightful and deeply-worrying documentary that hopefully gets more people outraged at Boeing and other companies that cut corners for the sake of profit and hurt ordinary people.

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Olive's Hallowed Eve

 

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In a sequel that easily could've crumbled under its own weight with the new slate of characters and the various subplots that come along with it, it's a remarkable achievement that Olive's Hallowed Eve manages to surpass the original Olive the Other Reindeer. This was an absolute blast to read, bursting with joy with a slew of really funny and creative comedic set-ups and some great performances from Zendaya, Ted Danson, Jemaine Clement and Shahadi Joseph Wright, but it also surprised me with how well director Clement handled both the central thematic throughline with Olive's post-saving Christmas blues and, in general, all the character work in this movie. It might sound like I'm uncritically gushing over this movie but it's mainly cause I had so much fun with it. From the musical numbers to the more emotionally-poignant moments, Olive's Hallowed Eve manages to become one of the best movies of the year.

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Posted (edited)

Walking with Dinosaurs: The Cinematic Experience

 

 

 


I’m sorta confused: didn’t we already get “the Cinematic Experience” for Walking with Dinosaurs back in 2013, and the response from audiences was a collective shrug? I don’t think any film should need to justify its existence but I found this mostly unremarkable: a very competently-produced nature “documentary” that never really grabbed my attention. I’m still looking forward to reading this new studio’s other films but this was just-OK edutainment.
 

Edited by Alpha
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