Review: Annihilation

Have you ever seen a bug zapper work? Insects are drawn to the alluring light, pulls them in closer and closer to the source of the device and when they get close enough, BOOM! The life is shocked right out of them.

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Image by Paramount Pictures

Alex Garland’s newest feature Annihilation works exactly like a bug zapper! Natalie Portman stars as Lena, a soldier-scientist who signs up to discover what is happening inside an ongoing, expanding, inexplicable phenomena called The Shimmer. Lena is part of a five-person team of scientists to determine what The Shimmer is, why it formed, why nothing ever comes back from it. Once inside, everything that Lena and her team, know about the laws of nature and human sanity is turned on its head, for danger lurks around every inch of The Shimmer.

How does Annihilation work like a bug zapper? The audience are like insects, drawn to the beauty and mystery of the light of this film. As the film progresses with each passing moment, the audience is drawn in further by the mesmerizing and tantalizing visual splendor, only to be jolted by the shocking imagery and detail that strikes when least expected. This movie is designed to prey upon the audiences senses and thrill!

Just when you have a clue as to how good a filmmaker Alex Garland can be, he ups the ante by delivering a game-changing science fiction thrill ride. He has beautifully adapted Jeff VanderMeer’s gripping novel and transformed it into a feature that audiences won’t dare to forget.

The attention-to-detail, the heightened level of suspense, the pacing, the execution of the movie is utterly nailed in every detail. Garland is a filmmaker that movie buffs NEED to keep an eye because the idea of his potential is scary after watching not only Annihilation but his previous film Ex Machina as well; both are films that damn near impeccable!

Natalie Portman is superb as the soldier-scientist Lena, compelled to uncover the mystery of why her husband disappeared into the Shimmer and what happened to him. The rest of the cast including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac, Benedict Wong, David Gyasi and Sonoya Mizuno are all terrific.

Garland’s suspenseful storytelling prowess is balanced equally with the overall aesthetic of Annihilation. Rob Hardy’s cinematography is so simplistic and effective in seizing the beautiful peril of the film; frame by frame is non-stop beauty and shock-and-awe. Barney Pilling’s editing is methodical, designed to disorientate the audience as the team in the film. Mark Digby’s production design is utterly outstanding, Michelle Day’s set design is superb and the art direction is jaw-dropping.

Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s music is tense but I feel that this movie may have been better served without a score, to truly turn the tension of the film to a higher level, but the film feeds of tension regardless. Sammy Sheldon’s costumes are solid enough for a mention as well.

Annihilation is one of those movies that not only lives up to the reputation of its creator and its acclaim, but its name as well, for this movie is designed to enchant and destroy its audience. This is another groundbreaking achievement in the sci-fi genre if you ask me!

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My Predictions for the 90th Academy Awards, Part III!

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Image by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The technical categories are complete! Now the moment you’ve been waiting for: The Big Six; the acting categories, best direction and the big award of Oscar night: Best Picture!

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
  • Allison Janney, I, Tonya
  • Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
  • Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  • Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

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Image by NEON

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  • Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
  • Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
  • Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Image by Fox Searchlight

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

  • Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
  • Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  • Meryl Streep, The Post

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Image by Fox Searchlight

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

  • Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
  • Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
  • Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
  • Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel Esq.

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

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Image by Focus Features

Best Director:

  • Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
  • Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

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Image by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

Best Picture:

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I predict that the Oscar will go to:

That concludes my three part Oscar Predictions!

Here’s Part I.

Here’s Part II.

Here’s the full list of nominees.

Check back here on March 4, 2018 for coverage on the 90th Annual Academy Awards.

Movie of the Week: Annihilation

The mind behind the groundbreaking sci-fi indie success Ex Machina is back to change the game again. A biologist’s husband returns from a secret expedition but he doesn’t come back the way he left. He and a team ventured into a phenomena called The Shimmer, an area where the laws of nature are no longer absolute and everything within the shimmer is either evolving or going extinct at a radical pace. Now it’s her turn to venture into the unknown to find answers, where questions are as omnipresent as air and danger is the only law and constant that matters. This is the new film from Alex Garland, Annihilation.

Director: Alex Garland

Written by: Alex Garland

Starring: Natalie Portman, Benedict Wong, Oscar Isaac, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, David Gyasi, John Schwab, Tuva Novotny and Josh Danford

What am I expecting to see?: I saw Ex Machina sometime around the Oscars last year, but never had the opportunity to review it; it was beautiful and terrifying and I’m getting the same vibe from Garland’s new feature. This movie happens to be in the midst of a controversy, but I’m going into the film anyway with an open-mind and I believe Annihilation is a film that is primed to blow everything and everyone away!

Review: Black Panther

I don’t even know where to start! Often, I believe that is either the sign of a good review or a bad one but I frankly don’t know where to start but I suppose it’s best to start out with the simplest fact: Black Panther is damn good! Not perfect, but damn good.

The film starts out a week after the events of Civil War, with T’Challa picking up his on-again, off-again girlfriend Nakia on his way home to the technologically advanced and isolated nation of Wakanda, to ascend the throne. T’Challa will inherit the mantle of the chieftain and protector of his homeland, but in this film, he will also inherit the sins of his father.

One in the form of a fugitive that has eluded Wakandan capture for decades in Ulysses Klaue and the other in the form of an American black-ops soldier named Erik Stevens, whose career has dubbed him the moniker of Killmonger. Both foes present a challenge for T’Challa as he must navigate between upholding his father’s legacy and creating his own.

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Image by Marvel Studios

I’ve waited a long time to see this movie but it was worth it for I truly enjoyed what I saw. Ryan Coogler has crafted a film that not only carries on the already incredible momentum that Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is riding but also a film that feels so organically original and independent from Marvel’s grand design. What’s more is that the film itself is a rock-solid foundation for what’s to come of Chadwick Boseman’s character; this is probably the first true MCU origin story I enjoyed since Iron Man!

Having said all of that, I did find that Black Panther left too many aspect of its story unresolved. Perhaps that was intentionally designed by Coogler and screenwriter Joe Robert Cole so that those unanswered questions can be answered in a future Marvel picture or in a Black Panther sequel but the fact that so many open-ended details in this story were left behind just hampered my enjoyment of the film that and that held Black Panther back just a little.

Despite a story that left its share of loose ends, this movie had everything it needed to succeed. Great direction that really gave this character and this movie a strong sense of identity and independence in this grand universe, an amazing cast spearheaded by Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya, Andy Serkis, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, John Kani and Florence Kasumba, great visual effects, the pacing was steady, the action and humor was balanced; Black Panther is another product of the Marvel machine but it has its own unforgettable flavor.

Rachel Morrison’s cinematography is superb, Debbie Berman and Michael P. Shawver’s editing couldn’t be more on point, Ludwig Göransson’s music melded the right blend of superheroic theme with African influence and the soundtrack compiled by Grammy winner Kendrick Lamar was superb, Hannah Beachler’s production design was outstanding, the art direction was beautifully conceived, Ruth Carter’s costumes were stupendous and beautiful, I could tell that a lot of love went into the production of this picture to get this iconic character and his world exactly right and they did it! They truly did it.

Can I say this is the best film to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? No, but what I can take away is that Ryan Coogler built Black Panther a rock solid foundation to build on for future films. Hail to the king!

My Predictions for the 90th Academy Awards, Part II

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Image by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Enough time has passed since I posted Part I of my Oscar predictions and now it is time to carry on with Part II, which covers more of the technical categories. Let’s begin.

Best Original Song:

  • “Mighty River,” Mudbound
  • “Mystery of Love,” Call Me by Your Name
  • “Remember Me,” Coco
  • “Stand for Something,” Marshall
  • “This is Me,” The Greatest Showman

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

“This is Me,” The Greatest Showman

Best Score:

  • Hans Zimmer, Dunkirk
  • Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread
  • Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water
  • John Williams, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  • Carter Burwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water

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Image by AP, via THR

Best Editing:

  • Paul Machliss & Jonathan Amos, Baby Driver
  • Lee Smith, Dunkirk
  • Tatiana S. Riegel, I, Tonya
  • Sidney Wolinsky, The Shape of Water
  • Jon Gregory, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Lee Smith, Dunkirk

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Image by Matt Grobar (via Deadline)

Best Cinematography:

  • Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
  • Bruno Delbonnel, Darkest Hour
  • Hoyte van Hoytema, Dunkirk
  • Rachel Morrison, Mudbound
  • Dan Lausten, The Shape of Water

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049

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Image by PremiumBeat

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • James Ivory, Call Me by Your Name
  • Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, The Disaster Artist
  • Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green, Logan
  • Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game
  • Virgil Williams, Mudbound

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

James Ivory, Call Me by Your Name

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Image by Calgary Herald

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  • Guillermo Del Toro & Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water
  • Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Jordan Peele, Get Out

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Image By Peabody Awards (Keegan-Michael Key / Jordan Peele), via Wikimedia Commons

I’m done with the technical! The Big Six are on deck, and will be unveiled next week!

Movie of the Week: Black Panther

My first feature film of 2017 is a movie about a man, who happens to be a genius, who happens to be a warrior, who happens to be an animal, who happens to be a protector, who happens to be a king, who happens to be a hero, who happens to be an Avenger! In the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa returns home to Wakanda to carry on his father’s legacy as leader of his people but forces inside and out of Wakanda threaten the peace and the future that T’Challa and his late father believed in. Black Panther is ready to rock the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I am giddy with anticipation!

Director: Ryan Coogler

Written by: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Florence Kasumba and John Kani

What am I expecting to see?: As someone who has been following the production and anticipation of this movie, I can just feel that I am going to love everything this movie has to offer! I expect to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe continue to fire on all cylinders with another rousing, action-packed superhero adventure but with an origin story about a character who will play a major role in what’s to come for Marvel films going forward. Black Panther will be the first film I will review in 2018 and I for one hope that 2018 starts with a booming bang!

My Predictions for the 90th Academy Awards, Part I!

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Image by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

We are weeks away from the 90th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, which means that the time has come to reveal who I believe is going to go home with gold on the evening of March 4, 2018. If you have been following me and this blog for the past few years, you know how I navigate my predictions. If you are new to the blog, it’s pretty simple to explain: I start with the technical categories, break them down into two parts and then I reveal what I like to call the Big Six-the acting categories, best director and the highest honor of Best Picture. Strap in and here we go!

Best Documentary Feature:

  • Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
  • Faces Places
  • Icarus
  • Last Men in Aleppo
  • Strong Island

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Last Men in Aleppo

Best Foreign Language Film:

  • A Fantastic Woman
  • The Insult
  • Loveless
  • On Body and Soul
  • The Square

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

The Square

Best Costume Design:

  • Jacqueline Durran, Beauty and the Beast
  • Jacqueline Durran, Darkest Hour
  • Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread
  • Luis Sequiera, The Shape of Water
  • Consolata Boyle, Victoria & Abdul

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread

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Image by Jeff Vespa

Best Visual Effects:

  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  • War for the Planet of the Apes

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Blade Runner 2049

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Image by Warner Bros., Scott Free Productions and Columbia Pictures

Best Animated Feature:

  • The Boss Baby
  • The Breadwinner
  • Coco
  • Ferdinand
  • Loving Vincent

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Coco

Best Production Design:

  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • The Shape of Water

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

The Shape of Water

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Image by Fox Searchlight

And that’s it for Part I! Sometime next week, I will put up Part II of my predictions, which cover six more of the technical categories. Don’t miss it!