Over/Under #3

Over/Under: The Breakfast Club (1985) and SLC Punk! (1998)

The_Breakfast_Club2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the cult classic “The Breakfast Club.” (1985) A variety of other successful coming of age films were released in the 80s such as “Stand By Me,” (1986) “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” (1986) and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” (1982) but “The Breakfast Club” left a much more profound and long-lasting impact on the American social consciousness than all of these combined. Today it’s one of those films that elicits no surprise whatsoever when someone refers to it as their favorite movie of all time, right up there with other classics like “Pulp Fiction,” (1994) “The Shawshank Redemption,” (1994) and “Forrest Gump.” (1994) (Damn, what a year that must’ve been to be alive!)

Quite frankly, I despise this movie. I’m well aware that this is an extremely unpopular opinion. I’m also aware that, having grown up overseas, I can’t relate with a lot of coming of age films because they’re usually framed around a quintessentially American high-school environment. However, I believe this gives me a more objective perspective on the “The Breakfast Club” as a film then as a nostalgia-filled feels-fest (which isn’t an inherently bad thing).

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Review: “The Intern”

The Intern or: Sometimes Boring is Good

The_Intern_PosterNancy Meyers’ “The Intern” is not exciting, revolutionary, subversive, or even particularly memorable. It is, however, a perfectly serviceable movie. Purposefully broad and nauseatingly predictable, it sets itself off as a film entirely predicated on the skills and experience of its talent. Most of its jokes and premises are ones we’ve heard before, but the cast and crew manage to make them feel fresh and entertaining once again. By far the most surprising aspect of “The Intern” is its restraint, its reluctance to phone anything in. Hathaway and De Niro, stalwart and on point as ever, deliver charming and engaging performances, therefore elevating most of the material. That is not to denigrate the quality of the script though, as everything is set up and paid off solidly. Meyers brings to life a plot that, while at times meandering and cloying, demands the audience’s attention. Her framing of said plot is nothing to write home about but within the frame itself another story is told. Just about everything in “The Intern” works towards reinforcing its central aesthetic. All of these elements mix together creating a work that is hardly excellent and yet never lackluster. “The Intern” is not a great movie, but it is tenacious in its better aspects, which is more than can be said of lesser films. Sometimes, that is enough.

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Over/Under #2

Over/Under: “Spirited Away” (2001) and “Time Bandits” (1981)

Spirited_Away_posterJapanese animation has a terrible reputation in American pop-culture. Horror stories of neckbeards with limited and fetishized knowledge of Japanese language and culture haunt the social consciousness, whispered only as urban legends until one is encountered in the wild. With few others to defend their artistic value, anime is unfortunately and frequently relegated as an extremely violent, melodramatic, or sexual form of media. A rare exception to this stigma is Studio Ghibli, whose films have always been considered a cut above the supposedly foreign trash that litters the minds of weebs. Although the studio was founded in 1985 and found widespread success in Asia after the release of “My Neighbor Totoro” in 1988, it didn’t capture the attention of Western audiences until “Spirited Away” was released in 2001.

And what could be a better film for a global debut? Even among Stuido Ghibli’s other incredible releases, it stands out as a truly special work of cinema. I could go on for a while and use just about every synonym for “magical” and “wondrous” there exists in the English language, but that would be unnecessary for two reasons: 1) it would get repetitive, and you would get the idea because 2) you’ve probably seen it already anyway. Aside from its atmosphere, “Spirited Away” is also notable for its unusually mature female protagonist and its metaphor for prostitution. You heard me correctly: around 2012, a popular fantheory emerged that it’s an allegory for child prostitution. It cited historical facts such as bathhouses being brothels in medieval Japan and their madams being called “Yubaba,” which is the name of the primary antagonist. Miyazaki himself has confirmed this, which adds even more layers to an already towering cake.

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Review: “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”

The Scorch Trials of my Patience or: How I learned to Love the Preservation of the Status Quo

Maze-Runner-The-Scorch-Trials-PosterPosing as the populist alternative to Johnny Depp’s gangster thriller “Black Mass,” “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” crawls to theaters this weekend in an attempt to rekindle the box office success its chronological predecessor basked in a year ago. The film follows Thomas and his fellow Gladers in their attempts to escape the evil clutches of the powerful corporation W.C.K.D as they- oh my god, why do I even bother?

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Review: “Black Mass”

Black_Mass_(film)_posterIt’s no secret that Johnny Depp’s career has taken a turn for the mediocre, strange, and unprofitable in recent years. “The Lone Ranger” (2013), “Transcendence” (2014), and “Mortdecai” (2015) have all been disappointing in every way imaginable, and many were concerned that he may be pulling a Nick Cage: a handful of hits in the 90s followed by some huge flops in the 00s (oughts? 2000s?) and soon to be leaving Hollywood for good. Having grown up with Edward Scissorhands and Jack Sparrow, I refused to believe it. “It’s the scripts that were crappy, not him!” I complained, as a friend I left “Mortdecai” halfway through. “He’s done for, man,” he claimed with great certainty.

“Black Mass” is proof that my faith in ol’ Johnny wasn’t misplaced: he is back, and he is here to stay. Depp plays the subject of the movie, Whitey Bulger, an infamous gangster that ruled the streets of our very own Boston as king of Southie and leader of the Winter Hill Gang. Whitey was well known for being violently ruthless and Depp captures it perfectly. He maintains an icy-cold composure most of the time, which is highlighted by a low and croaky voice that makes him terrifying even during regular conversation. However, he will jump into a psychotic and ruthless rage in a heartbeat, and this transformation is awe-inducing even when it becomes easily predictable later on. Combined with sunken, beady eyes, crooked teeth, sweet aviators and a jet-black leather jacket, his on-screen aura is distinctly badass. It’s a performance so magnetic and alluring that one cannot help but watch.

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Review: “Everest”

Everest_poster“Everest” allows its stars to be beaten, bruised, scraped, and cut in a way few big Hollywood movies do. As a great amount of the film’s suspense comes from the question of survival—who will make it out alive?—I won’t comment specifically on the fates of those involved. But what I expected to be a spectacle, an event whose draw lies in the special effects and scale of high-stakes mountain climbing, turned out to be a picture of somberness and seriousness, of human will fighting one of the most inhospitable and unforgiving climates in the world. There is no typical studio cheese throughout, no element of comedy or light-heartedness. The sense of adventure that sends fifteen or so men to the mountain’s peak is quickly lost. It’s not an adventure—it’s a nightmare.

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Retrospective Reviews: “The Last Airbender”

The_Last_Airbender_PosterThis is an interesting review for this site, my friends. This is the first review on Reel Reactions of a movie that does not actually exist. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Alas, the hopes of an entire fan base cannot change the facts: in 2010, M. Night Shyamalan wrote and directed The Last Airbender, a live-action adaptation of the popular Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. And as all fans of the show will tell you, this movie is awful, not only as an adaptation, but also as a stand-alone film. With Shyamalan’s The Visit hitting theaters this month, it seems only fitting to look back on some of his triumphs and failures, but in this review, I’ll tackle one of his biggest failures, since it’s more cathartic. So, without further ado, this is my review of the aptly named The Last Airbender.

The film follows the same storyline as the first season of the TV show, but for those of you who aren’t familiar, here it is: in a mystical world divided into four nations, people known as benders can control one of the four classical elements, either water, earth, fire, or air, depending on which nation they’re born in. Every generation has one person, the Avatar, who can bend all four elements. During his or her lifetime, it is the Avatar’s duty to maintain balance between the four nations. However, the Fire Nation, wanting to expand its empire, declares war on the rest of the world. One hundred years after the war begins, two siblings from the South Pole, Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), discover Aang (Noah Ringer), the long-lost Avatar and eponymous Last Airbender. While evading the scarred Fire Prince Zuko (Dev Patel), this trio must work together to bring balance to the world.

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