Wiping Away Tears: ‘Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero’

By Anthony Peyton, Edited by Julia Wilson

Movies that involve dogs are quickly becoming everyone’s weakness, and animated dogs seem to be making just the same impact.

In the true story Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero, we follow Bull Terrier (or Boston Terrier, it’s been of debate) Stubby and Private J. Robert Conroy (Logan Lerman) as they build a strange but very beautiful friendship in the light of World War I.

To be entirely honest, I’ve been seeing this trailer for months now and I had absolutely no interest in watching it. I thought it was going to just feel like every other animated family movie with very little depth like The Nut-Job. I was mistaken.

I was taken on a journey with joy, fear, and quite a few sad – and happy – tears.

The animation itself was fairly good. It wasn’t the craziest, but it wasn’t the worst. Not every movie can be The Incredibles or Finding Nemo. However, the animation team did everything they could have done by paying attention to detail and creating a war setting that felt all too real. For example, at the beginning of the movie when Stubby was a stray searching the city for food, they show his hunger by very carefully revealing the ribs protruding from his sides.

Throughout the whole movie, Stubby proves himself to be the cutest – and bravest – puppy that has ever joined the U.S. military ranks. In fact, Stubby was even promoted to sergeant during WWI and quickly became the most decorated dog in history before his death after the war in 1926. Luckily for me and my fragile heart, the movie ended just after the war and doesn’t take you all the way to his death.

This film really brought to light a smaller story in the much bigger history of WWI that not many people are aware of. Through its cinematography and story, we see the intensity of the bombs, the mustard gas, and the treachery of the trenches that WWI became known for. We see how one little dog named Stubby saved hundreds of lives.

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My Rating: 92%

Animation: 3.5/4

Cinematography: 3.6/4

Story: 3.8/4

Enjoyability: 3.8/4

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Let’s Talk About ‘Lolita’

By Olivia Norwood, Edited by Julia Wilson

Age-gap relationships. It’s easily the most intriguing storyline for film which is why many directors pursue making them. But why do people and movie reviewers treat this as a taboo subject? Well, for this Time Warp Tuesday, we’re getting controversial with the provocative Adrian Lyne film, Lolita.

Based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov, a middle aged professor/narrator named Humbert Humbert (Jeremy Irons) develops an unhealthy obsession with his prepubescent step-daughter, Dolores Haze (Dominique Swain) or according to Humbert “Lolita”. This quickly falls down an expected path as the relationship becomes sexual and abusive. Although many have argued that Swain looks more like a matured 17 year old, her character is still 13-14 years old and it’s still sickening to most audiences…which is a good thing.

Most movies portraying significant age-gaps between an adult and a seemingly older looking teen have usually made the relationship appear so normal that audiences become comfortable with it. Films such as Call Me By Your Name, An Education, and Manhattan do this quite successfully. However, that is not the case with Lolita. Other films make the maturity of the younger character a huge part in determining whether or not the relationship shown is appropriate. When a teen character looks and acts like an adult, they are no longer perceived as a child. In Swain and Lyne’s version of Dolores they have her behave like a kid, dress like a kid, and talk like a kid.

Others could also argue that Lyne purposefully makes her look that way to sexualize her by having her wear red messy lipstick and frilly babydoll dresses so she can “seduce” Humbert. And all I have to say to that argument is if you think that a 13-14 year old has any potential to be made “sexy” then you’re the pervert, not Lyne.

The director specifically portrayed her as youthful, innocent, and naive (all of the usual traits) so that the “relationship” between the two is seen as inappropriate as it is. What Nabokov and Lyne achieve is striking a nerve in people and making them remain uncomfortable with the idea of an adult and a minor engaging in any type of romantic involvement, unlike the widely adored Call Me By Your Name.

This is evident in the fact that both the novel and film were rejected by American distributors, which is also evident of how the U.S. and other western cultures silence artists from creating what they want – but I digress.

Lolita is a cautionary tale on what is and isn’t love. The novel affected an entire generation in the 1950’s and had the same effect on generations in the 1990’s with the film. It’s a story that holds power and will continue to for as long as art and artists live.

The Mindf**k That is ‘Annihilation’

By Anthony Peyton, Edited by Olivia Norwood.

It’s difficult to decide where to begin with a movie that’s as much of mindbender as Annihilation. It’s incredibly complex and goes in so many completely different directions that it feels impossible to keep up. Usually a movie that has so many things going on at once is an absolute no for me, but Annihilation is an exception to that rule.

Natalie Portman (Black Swan, Jackie) plays the emotionally scarred Lena, who is suffering from the loss of her military husband who was killed in action. When she finds out that he never actually died in the first ten minutes of the movie, she is determined to discover exactly where he went and what happened to him

She comes to discover the thing that will haunt her nightmares for the rest of her life: The Shimmer.

The Shimmer is basically a giant forcefield of crazy, beautiful, constantly mutating, morbid objects and organisms that guide the plot of the film. Both Lena and husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) discover just how long it takes to lose who you are.

These two, along with several other cast members including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Tuva Novotny, do a brilliant job at conveying the story with minor mess-ups and awkward moments.

Annihilation 3
Courtesy of Skydance Media

The story itself has great meaning to it. When digging past the mutated alligators, the color-changing flowers, and the first hour and a half of trying to figure out what the hell is going on, you might be able to detect the true darkness that is buried underneath the greenery of The Shimmer.

Chances are, however, you probably won’t be able to see the meaning. This isn’t to say the movie is bad, because it is quite the opposite. Sometimes it is just simply harder to find meaning in such an incredibly complicated plot where every few minutes you question your knowledge about practically everything. All I have to say is major props to Jeff Vandermeer who managed to explain it so well in the 2014 novel.

This film, without a doubt, is so much more than the surface beauty it initially feels like you’re watching. It’s a complete annihilation of the human brain.
With a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (and a whopping 87%), Annihilation is not just a major blockbuster to gaze your eyes upon. It is a movie that you will have to rewatch twice, making an attempt each time to understand the jaw dropping ending that you definitely won’t understand on the first time around.


My Rating: 88.13%

Acting: 3.3/4

Cinematography: 3.8/4

Story: 3.5/4

Enjoyability: 3.5/4

‘Flower’: A Great Dark Comedy…Until the End

By Julia Wilson, Edited by Anthony Peyton

Flower follows rebellious 17-year-old Erica Vandross (Zoey Deutch) as her and her friends Kala (Dylan Gelula) and Claudine (Maya Eshet) attempt to be vigilantes who catch men who have sex with underage girls, and blackmail them into giving them money.

Erica is living with her mom Laurie (Kathryn Hahn) and her mom’s boyfriend Bob (Tim Heidecker) when Bob’s son Luke (Joey Morgan), who has just got out of rehab, moves in with them. As Erica and Luke grow closer, he joins Erica and her friends as they try to take down Will (Adam Scott), a former teacher who allegedly sexually assaulted Luke. Things quickly spiral out of control.

One of the best parts about this film was its comedy. It has the perfect amount of dry humor that makes you laugh while considering the film’s central theme of inappropriate sexual relationships. The comedy in this film was so successful because it served a purpose by connecting to the central theme of the film.

Flower featured a phenomenal cast, and it showed. The performances in this film were amazing. Zoey Deutch’s delivery of her lines was perfect. Her character said so many absurd things and she gave them this dry, sarcastic delivery that fit the character perfectly. Additionally, all the actors had amazing chemistry. They all fit together just as they needed to for the story, and it made the characters and the story so much more engaging.

Honestly, I was absolutely loving this film…until the end. Up until about the last 10 minutes of the film, it had been amazing. It was funny, had some stellar acting performances, and an insane story that kept you on the edge of your seat. The plot was working so well and then all of a sudden I was like, “wait, what is happening right now?”

I won’t spoil what the ending is, but let me just say it is very abrupt and will likely have you wondering why they went the route they did with it. I’ve thought about this a lot since I’ve seen the film and I think they really were just continuing their commentary on inappropriate sexual relationships, but it just didn’t work for me. I think there were a lot more plausible endings that would have worked much better and still kept the central message of the film.

Flower is mostly a great film. It wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries. It was funny, showcased amazing acting performances, and was captivating. Although the ending was quite disappointing, the movie as a whole was pretty dang good.


My Rating: 86%

Acting: 4/4

Cinematography: 3.3/4

Story: 2.9/4

Enjoyability: 3.5/4

 

‘Truth or Dare’ Me To Never Watch This Movie Again

By Anthony Peyton, Edited by Julia Wilson

Maybe you remember sitting with your group of friends in seventh grade in your parent’s basement and getting dared to ding-dong-ditch your neighbor. That’s how most people see the classic game of truth or dare. Director and writer Jessica Cameron sees it differently. In her unique (is that the right word for it?) take, she sees truth or dare as a game involving murder, suicide, and exaggerated smiles.

If you take the most overdramatized version of truth or dare, somehow manage to incorporate YouTube, cheating, and justifiable murder, then you probably still haven’t described this movie in its entirety.

It follows Olivia (Pretty Little Liars’ Lucy Hale), Markie (Violett Beane), Lucas (Teen Wolf’s Tyler Posey), and three other friends who take a spring break trip to Mexico (original, right?) and go to a party. At that party they meet Carter (Landon Liboiron), who takes them to a church miles away just to play a game of truth or dare. I wish I was joking but I’m not.

Anyways, this innocent game of truth or dare ‘follows’ them home and starts to play them. This results in lots of death, lots of realizations, and lots of destroyed friendships.

To be honest, the story that didn’t even have an initial appeal never got better.

I wish it could be saved by its acting and cinematography, but it can’t even do that. In a montage towards the end of the movie, there is a shot of two kids in front of the Eiffel Tower – because there is obviously no other way to show that somebody is in France – where you can legitimately see the outline of the two kids in front of a green screen.

Sometimes I wonder if editors even rewatch the movie all the way through and just think, “screw it, I’m done” and give up.

The acting was, by definition, horrendous. You may think that experienced television actors like Lucy Hale and Tyler Posey might hold up some standard, but they don’t. I found myself telling myself for days after seeing Truth or Dare, “at least they tried!”

Ultimately, this movie was completely unenjoyable. I really don’t think that anybody in the cast and crew really cared about this movie being good. They just wanted to vomit out what they had onto the big screen, no matter how gross it was. Maybe the crew didn’t even notice the cop-out ending, lack of interesting acting, cropped people standing in front of green screens, and a crap story that lost itself at the beginning and never found itself again. Regardless, it happened. It was a tragedy, but it happened.


My Rating: 36%

Acting: 1.4/4

Cinematography: 1.2/4

Story: 1.7/4

Enjoyability: 1.4/4

‘Rampage’: Average Dwayne Johnson Action Flick

By Olivia Norwood, Edited by Anthony Peyton

Blockbusters. We see them every year. Some are good and some are bad. What we also see every year is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson grace the screen with his charm, humor, and muscle. No matter the movie or quality of actors, people will still make the trip to the movies to see this guy in action. Which is the case with video-game-turned-smash-hit Rampage.

Bare with me as I try to explain the plot. The story begins with a company called Energyne whose been conducting experiments, based on animal DNA, to build an indestructible weapon of mass destruction. The samples that they had were being held and researched at a space station but those samples fall from space and land on Earth for three animals – a gorilla, a wolf, and an alligator – to get a hold of it, mutate, and become undefeatable monsters that wreak havoc across multiple U.S. states. It also follows a primatologist (Dwayne Johnson) and a geneticist (Naomie Harris) who look to find a cure to defeat these animals.

Though the plot was a little extra, the acting wasn’t. In fact, there was nothing special about the acting at all. It makes me question why exactly an Academy Award Nominee like Naomie Harris would do a film like this, but I guess if it has “The Rock” himself then you gotta say yes. I mean, wouldn’t you?

But the acting wasn’t the focus of the film and I don’t think director Brad Peyton cared at all about it. Instead the film was made the way any blockbuster is made – to be enjoyable. Which it definitely was. Movies like these don’t need great or even average acting and writing to wow an audience. That’s what the special effects and action is for.

While we’re on the subject of special effects, holy crap that animal CGI was mind blowing. It seems that every Dwayne Johnson film that involves animals, like Jumanji, includes the most realistic computer generated animals that I’ve ever seen besides Planet of the Apes.

Aside from that, Rampage was an action film. Everyone knows what to expect, so will you. It’s a fun viewing experience to use as an excuse to escape from real life. Because, at the end of the day, that’s the point of movies.


My Rating: 59%

Acting: 1.5/4

Cinematography: 3/4

Story: 2/4

Enjoyability: 3/4

Film Forecast Friday: April 13th

On Friday, April 13th, we have…

Rampage

Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

Zama

Wildling

Sweet Country

Anthony’s Prediction:

Honestly, there is no movie that’s going to absolutely kill it at the box office this week. The one that will make the most, however, is obviously going to be Rampage. It’s a highly anticipated action movie and those usually do well. It doesn’t look very good, if you ask me. Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare also looks like a failure waiting to happen. I love Lucy Hale, just not the movie. Regardless, it will do the second best at the box office this week.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is going to be very cute, but nothing prominent. I’ve got to say I’m pretty excited to see how Liv Tyler does in Wildling.

As for Zama and Sweet Country, I’d be lying if I said I had an opinion.

We’ll see what happens this week, but as for Box Office, I would be completely surprised if Rampage doesn’t make the most out of all of the April 13th movies.

Other than

Liv’s Prediction:

I don’t necessarily think anything of these are going to be as successful as Rampage but Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare could come close. Considering it’s target audience are teenagers and stars former Pretty Little Liars actress Lucy Hale, I’m sure people will still come to see it even if it looks mediocre.

As for Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero, it doesn’t seemed to be as well known by many audiences (or rather the audience’s parents). It’s also a kids movie so the pendulum could swing either way. This is kind of how I feel about the new thriller, Wildling. The average moviegoer isn’t really familiar with it but it seems to have a good plot so it’s another in between situation.

Lastly, we move onto the indies of this week Zama and Sweet Country. They seem like very interesting films, especially Zama, but I don’t see them playing in any major theatre (i.e. AMC) and they will most likely end up at your local and small theatre where the hipsters come out of the woodworks to attend.

Honestly, when you have Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson headlining a film then all other releases will just be forgotten. Rampage will dominate. Period.

Julia’s Prediction:

The two biggest films being released this week will definitely be Rampage and Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare. However, out of these two films I honestly think that Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare will make a bigger impression at the box office. Mostly because of its aggressive marketing campaign.

They have ads all over social media, TV, and YouTube, and its trailer is playing all over the place. I feel like I have been bombarded about this movie for months. Rampage however I only recently started hearing about and seeing trailers for. Although with a name like Dwayne Johnson in the film, it could easily give Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare a run for its money.

Now onto Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero. This film is about a dog and features Logan Lerman and Helena Bonham Carter so I think it will do pretty well, but definitely not one of the biggest films of the week.

Wilding I think will also do pretty well. It stars Liv Tyler and premiered at SXSW so I think it will get a decent amount of buzz among indie film goers. As for Zama and Sweet Country, which are both foreign films, I think they will do well among among their audiences, but won’t gain too much buzz outside of that.

Overall, I think most of the films being released this week will be overshadowed by the big releases from last week, such as A Quiet Place and Blockers, who have already made big waves at the box office.