The Fast and the Furious

Everybody seems to love The Fast and the Furious.
No kidding, there are seven sequels and a spin-off. It’s also the seventh highest-grossing film franchise ever.

So what kept me from jumping into this highly profitable franchise?
Well, just about everything. The Fast and the Furious just sounded like another action film among the dozens that seemed to crop up around that time. It looked like a lot of racing and over the top masculinity. When the series had a renewed interest by the fourth or fifth film I was going to give it a go until a friend of mine told me the timeline is out of order. From what I gathered, the third film is a bit of an anomaly and takes place after further sequels, and it was enough to turn me off. Then the popularity of the franchise was so big it was generating over a billion dollars a movie and the marketing was all in your face. From the trailers, it reminded me of the Transformers franchise which was following the same upward trajectory, except I saw the first two and they were terrible. It wasn’t until I saw the trailer for the horribly titled Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw that I saw potential interest in it. Fast forward to last night and without further ado, I watched it.

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You would be wrong, if like me you thought this movie was going to be about racing. That’s all just the background. The Fast and the Furious is about respect, and family wrapped up in a crime story. The story starts with some juiced up street racing cars hijacking a truck full of electronic merchandise. They do it flawlessly. They are trained and professionals at this type of literal highway robbery. The next scene we are introduced to Brian (Paul Walker), a pretty boy getting himself into an arena he doesn’t belong. That arena is street racing and he wants to take on Dominic (Vin Diesel) the head of a Los Angeles illegal street racing crew. Brian goes in headstrong in the race but just loses out. It was enough to gain the respect of Dominic and the two become buddies. Before long Dominic brings Brian into his family, and then we find out that Brian is an undercover cop trying to find out who is behind the hijackings. Brian starts falling for Dominic’s sister and finds it hard to be objective as he is pulled further into Dominic’s crew. Along the way, Brian is being pressured by his bosses to pinpoint who the criminals are, and Dominic is mixed up in a turf war between another crew. Everything that brews together comes to a climatic and action-packed end.

It turns out The Fast and the Furious is quite a good film. There is a lot to like. The characters all feel like family by the end, and that’s where the heart of the film is. Through the eyes of Brian, we see these people we don’t relate to at first until we see their bond and respect for each other over time. It all becomes heartfelt. I can only assume that this is the theme that runs through the franchise, even as the trailers show some ridiculous stunts, and I mean ridiculous. I enjoyed Paul Walker in Pleasantville, and Varsity Blues before this, but his acting is still very similar overall. Considering how beloved he was at the time of his death, he must completely grow as an actor and into his character in the later films.

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The editing is effective at making all the racing scenes seem adrenaline-fueled. I recall it being talked about on the documentary The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing. I bought the movie Bullitt on Blu-ray years ago just because this feature-length documentary was on there. I still haven’t watched Bullitt to date. The documentary is on Youtube and worth a watch. Check it out below:

I know how outrageous this franchise gets in the later films, so my curiosity is peaked and I question how they can keep it together for so long. For now, I’ll leave those curiosities up in the air and return to the franchise sooner than I have in the past.

Robert Ring

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Sony has had a terrible time in the past few years. Not with Sony PlayStation, but with its movie studio, and television sales. There was also that big Sony hack that exposed a ton of private information. It is, therefore, necessary for it to succeed on every investment they are currently producing. It would be assumed that they would have played safer with their Spider-Man franchise with the threat of bankruptcy in site. Instead, the franchise has been fragmented. Sony loaned the Spider-Man character to Disney for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They even chose to gamble on a Venom spinoff without Spider-Man. I thought Venom was a mess of a film, and it reminded me of the Green Lantern film. Luckily for them, audiences flocked to see it, making it a massive hit, especially in China. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a spectacular gamble that paid off.

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The story centers on Miles Morales, and not Peter Parker. Miles is an intelligent kid, and he is placed in a prestigious school because of his intelligence. It’s not what he wants though. Miles is more of a creative kid who happens to be intelligent. He is being pushed in a direction by his parents and teachers that think they are doing the best for him. Miles’ father is a policeman, very prim and proper. However, Miles looks up to and bonds more with his uncle, who is a bit of a delinquent and free spirit. It’s the freedom that Miles is entertained by. Miles is wrestling between being someone like his father or someone like his uncle. Eventually, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider and finds powers similar to Spider-Man. Miles stumbles across Spider-Man fighting with the Green Goblin and Kingpin. Kingpin is trying to open a dimensional door, and Spider-Man is trying to stop him from tearing a hole in time. Alas, the dimensional rift pulls through an array of Spider-Heroes. There are a ton of them from Noir Spider-Man to a Spider-Pig, and a Gwen Stacy (Spider-Woman) too. The plight throughout the rest of the movie is to get these heroes back to their

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse does an excellent job of feeling like it has thrown everything from the Spider-Man lore at us yet at the same time feeling as if there are so many more stories to tell. You don’t feel alienated by any of it either because we are experiencing all the absurd through the eyes of Miles. This movie will mean more to people with an excellent knowledge of Spider-Man, but it won’t take away from the general public. I’m sure I missed a slew of jokes and nods to other material, yet like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it wasn’t so in your face. There are many neat surprises that I did not see coming, and they made me love it more.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the Scott Pilgrim of the Marvel comic book films. It’s hilarious, utterly absurd, and irresistibly heartfelt. I think it is subsequently the best Marvel film yet. It’s the best animated film of the year, and this is the same year The Incredibles 2 came out. The animation is a feast for the eyes. It’s super stylistic, and I hope to see more animated films come out looking like this.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse should not be missed!

Robert Ring

American Teen

American Teen is a documentary that takes place throughout the lives of four teens in their senior year. Basically, you have the real-life breakfast club. There is the rebel, Hannah. The jock, Colin. The prom queen, Megan, and the geek, Jake. It’s a film that deals with the pressures of the future while nearing the end of school. Are the grades good enough to get into a dream college? Is it possible to get a scholarship? Will life be worse after school?

Megan is the smart girl with the looks. She spends every afternoon working on the student council to give her an edge towards her college ambitions. Her father is always implying for her to work hard to get into the college he wants her to go to, like he and her siblings before her went. It’s a prestigious college, so she needs to be at the top of her game. She is also your typical queen bee who attacks the characters of others. As you later find out she has a reason for being the way she is. Hannah is the quirky outsider. She loves music, film, photography. She wants to leave Warsaw and move to California to become a director. She starts to become absent from school when her boyfriend breaks up with her. You learn that she is on antidepressants and this worries her because she believes she will have manic depression like her mother. Colin is the basketball star of the school. He comes from a family that can’t afford to send him away to college, so he must get a scholarship, or his dad says he will be joining the army. His dad himself was once there and now works as an Elvis impersonator. Colin starts to slip up when he needs to show his best for the games that scouters show up for. Jake is the typical geek in the band. His only real goal is to get a girlfriend. He does succeed in getting a few dates but still lacks the common interests and understanding of the other.

This documentary may be called American Teen, but the troubles are universal to everyone that went through school, no matter what clique you belonged to. Each person is seen to have their own massive pressure weigh down on them toward their ambitions. It is especially interesting to see how the parents handle their kids. From the start they are almost telling them how to succeed through school and by the end they are the people that can help their kids through their troubled times, letting them no whatever happens they will be ok. There are quite a few interesting animated segments that show the personality of each person and how they see the world. As a documentary, a lot does feel contrived. Many questions arise as to say how can these filmmakers possibly let these kids do some of the nasty things they do. One example is a naked picture is spread throughout the school. Apart from that, it is a very emotional journey for these teens to go through.

Being a teen is hard. We have the director to thank for showing us the lives of four very different individuals with very similar fears. There is a lot to relate to here. It is far from a fantastic documentary, but maybe it will give you an understanding of the different people we were back in high school.

Robert Ring

Bad Times at the El Royale

First of all, this film has one of the best trailers of the year. It has an ensemble cast, and it is the best film of the year after The Quiet Place.

The El Royale is this hotel sitting smack on the middle of the state lines between Nevada and California. The line dividing the states can even be seen going right through the lobby. Guests can choose which state they want to have a room in, with California rooms costing one dollar more.

The film begins with an array of characters coming to stay at the El Royale. We see a salesman (Jon Hamm), a drifter (Dakota Johnson), a priest (Jeff Bridges), and a girl far from home (Cynthia Erivo). The story unfolds with vignettes of each character and how they were motivated to come to the hotel. Each role in this movie is worthy of a film of their own. Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo outshine everyone else, which is hard to do with so much talent surrounding the production. Their story arc is the most endearing of them all. Cynthia Erivo was so good in fact that she’s now on my radar, and I’m sure she’s going to be offered a lot more work hereon. Her acting was second to her singing, and she can make a man cry with that voice. Cynthia was also the most level-headed character throughout the film. Like things go nuts, and she reacts the way we all would. Chris Hemsworth gives his best acting to date. And Bill Pullman’s son Lewis Pullman is the next Paul Dano regarding acting ability.

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The director of Bad Times at the El Royale is Drew Goddard, who co-wrote and directed Cabin in the Woods. Cabin in the Woods flipped the stereotypes of horror movies and the self-aware nature of Wes Craven’s Scream to poke fun at the genre. Bad Times at the El Royale shares some similar sensibilities, but more to do with breaking expectations over humor. This second outing for Goddard shows that Cabin in the Woods was not a fluke. He has proven himself to be stylistic and a brilliant auteur twice now, so here’s to me looking forward to everything else he directs.

This film is excellent. It’s long at two hours and twenty minutes, yet the way we see the night play out through everyone’s point of view the film goes by like a breeze. If the bonkers nature in the third act of Cabin in the Woods turned you off it, I would still be inclined to recommend this to you because it’s not demons and monsters here. It is however crazy in the best way possible at times. Worst case you will have listened to a killer 60s soundtrack. Check it out!

Robert Ring

BlacKKKlansman

The movie opens with one of the greatest film scenes of all time. I was thinking about what possible way this scene from Gone With The Wind have to do with the plot of the movie, and then I see it. Yeah, I forgot about the last thing you see in one of the most jaw-dropping scenes of all time, where Scarlett is walking across the battlefield of hundreds of wounded soldiers, it’s the Confederate flag. If that’s how they start off, well just wait and see what note the movie ends on, and oh boy it’s a doozy.

BlacKKKlansman first builds on the political climate of the seventies, and instead of seeing this portion of history from the impoverished black man, we see it from a black man who has just started as a policeman. The first in his district, so he is acquainted with the slandering in the form of name calling every day. After reaching a breaking point at other cops calling black men “Toads,” our protagonist Ron Stallworth jumps at the chance of working as an undercover cop. First, he successfully gathers intel on a Black Panther meet up before being promoted. Here in Ron prank calls the KKK in an effort to humor himself, but instead sees an opportunity to scope out the cult. The problem at hand is that Ron is a black man trying to infiltrate the KKK, so he looks to his co-worker Flip Zimmerman, played by Adam Driver to fulfill the meetings in person as him. The problem for Flip as well is the fact that he is Jewish, which is an excellent way of having Ron and Flip understand each other as Ron makes this case his crusade. Did I mention this was based on a true story?

The people in the KKK themselves are a varied bunch, from the extreme to the remarkably normal, however, incorrigible in their political view. As Ron and Flip become more involved in the clan, it becomes more dangerous for them. There is a scene involving a celebratory viewing of the first feature-length film by D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. It made me feel sick watching the clan in uniform reeling in joy from the picture. The Birth of a Nation (1915), is a remarkable film for its outreach, and storytelling. It is also one of the most racist films ever made, which is hard to praise because it was so instrumental to the history of cinema. I’ve seen parts of it before, yet never made a connection to how damaging that film was to a nation overcoming slavery. It’s moments like this that I suspect will leave casual filmgoing audiences confused. For me, I’m enlightened.

I have not really spoiled anything that hasn’t been seen in the trailers. However, I need to talk about the ending. It’s not a spoiler to the movie because this film is separated by the political messaging that bookends the film, though combined it resonates and leaves you with your political notions to discuss. The ending surprised me by how jarring it felt being thrown into the footage. It’s all shocking, and there is no peace to be found. We are shown footage of the Charlottesville riots from last year. We see the graphic nature of a car driving through a street full of people before taking off and are left hearing the screams of the victims. The final image Spike Lee leaves us with is the United States of America flag upside down and in black and white. The significance of this hits hard as we see a nation of white men represented by all fifty white stars. It’s an image that manipulates us to register the fact that the United States, along with the Charlottesville footage is far from equality.

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While this movie was quite exceptional, Spike Lee wanted to hit audiences over the head by mirroring the politics of today with yesterday. I think what he did in Do The Right Thing was much more powerful in its subtlety. BlacKKKlansman is a statement. Two people walked out of the screening that I was at, and I suspect many more will throughout its release.

Robert Ring

The Wife

I see one movie a week in theaters without fail since the first week of 2014. So I get to see most of the things I want to and feel apart of the conversation. Then there are weeks where I’m seeing something I have no real interest in. I’ll usually go to these alone and on a whim. More often then not I’m taken be these experiences. Earlier this year I saw Tully and it kinda floored me, I mean I was thinking about it for weeks, and of course, nobody saw it making it hard for me to unpack my thoughts on it.

The Wife is not officially released in the United States until August 18th so there haven’t been many reviews. While the reviews I glanced were generally positive most of them disregarded the core cast apart from Glen Close. This film is about Glen Close’s character, but it doesn’t mean she has any more screen time then her co-star, Jonathan Pryce. The Wife is the story of an award-winning writer, Joe Castleman finding out he is being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. While the focus is on Joe, it is his wife, Joan Castleman with whom we see constantly in the background watching Joe only paces ahead, yet always ahead of her. The relationship becomes understood throughout the film as to why she has taken the back seat to his acclaim. It’s the portrait of Joan that makes this simple film engaging. However, it is Joe who is the more interesting character to me, as I found the more we learn about their relationship the more my initial feelings for Joe changed over the course of the film.

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The Wife is a movie you would really enjoy if you are a fan of biopics like me. By the end of the film, I was convinced this was based on a true story. I quickly googled it as I exited the theater, only to find it was taken from a novel. It did specific things that made it remarkable by how much I believed it to be a true story. The secrets that are unearthed by the end are not unexpected, though they are executed very well. The ending was a mute one for me, that seemed too convenient for me. I hope there is some awards chatter for The Wife at the end of the year so more people will check it out. Currently, I would place it in my top three of 2018.

Robert Ring

Predator (1987)

When I was a child I watched a ton of 80s action films with my dad. I saw all the heavy hitters of the time, from Arnold to Sly. I thought I was meant to like them as a way of holding onto my masculinity card. Same thing with sports. I’ve watched hundreds of hours of sports to uphold my manhood among friends, peers, and family. Not anymore. Now I’m more considerate of me. Hell, I’ll watch Pretty in Pink over the next Transformers film and let it be known. Action films today don’t get much better. They have the same amount of cheese, but more CGI. So why is Predator different?

Most people have seen the original Predator by now. Simply put an alien comes to Earth and hunts a group of special ops soldiers after they blow up a guerrilla outpost. Predator is seventy percent of every action film, full of bad one-liners, excessive muscles, and lots of guns. The other thirty percent sprinkled in there are horror and science fiction. Watching it today, I think it’s a bit of a satire of the action film. If you take out the predator you still have the typical action film. A special ops team come against any number of men and wipe them out while smoking a cigar. Good prevails. With the addition of the predator, he takes out every one of the experienced team until it’s one man left. Even though Arnold will ultimately win, the predator still has the last laugh as he self-destructs and I think that is satire icing on the cake. For all things I hate in action films, I’m happy to say they don’t bother me in this one.

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My girlfriend is one of those in the minority who hadn’t seen it. So I took her to see it on the big screen and she liked it. It still holds up well, 80s cheese included. The infrared predator vision also holds up because the voices we hear are digitalized making it turn up the frightening factor.

I’m excited to see what Shane Black has planned for us in his Predator film coming out in a few months. I would recommend checking out the original prior to it.

Robert Ring

The Evolution of the Zombie Film

Zombie films have been produced for almost one hundred years, but it wasn’t until 1968 that the low budgeted film Night of the Living Dead changed the scope of zombie films for modern audiences. The representation of the zombie in current cinema has transitioned from the aforementioned Night of the Living Dead to a more recent film like World War Z forty-five years later. The characteristics of zombies in these two films reveal a shift in the animation of the zombie and how it has culturally been changed to adjust for the more blockbuster inclined cinema goers of today. The human element of the zombie films show the necessity for human survival requires equality, however, a democracy between survivors usually produces an antagonist. By comparing the political situations of the time with each movie, it becomes apparent why Night of the Living Dead is set solely in a house, while World War Z is a zombie film that evolved with the times to take audiences across the globe. Night of the Living Dead created the modern zombie film with a minuscule budget whereas today it has become a profitable blockbuster genre where millions are spent to profit on the latest wave of zombie films. Zombie films are known for their disturbing and shock value endings since Night of the Living Dead, but in the prospects of hope for the future, the zombie outbreak is seen to be overcome with the protagonist surviving and having a happy ending.

Zombies were more characteristic to the human form and still functioned with some human capabilities, such as opening door handles in Night of the Living Dead. Their movements were also slurred and slow to allow for dramatic tension. The zombies can be outrun so the drama can unfold unexpectedly as the idle waiting places the audience at ease before a jump scare reintroduces the horror elements. This effect is utilised well in the scene where the woman is running from the cemetery until she comes across the house where she begins to feel slightly at ease before the zombies appear again. The zombies eat the flesh of the living, however, they are fearful of fire. The origin story depicts that the zombies are reanimated from radiation retrieved from space, although this plot element appears to vanish from any other source material containing zombies as a new age of technology can present this finding as complete science fiction. The zombies only seem to be localised to parts of the United States. Comparatively, World War Z presents zombies as creatures. They are seen to turn from human to zombie in a matter of seconds and the longer they are among the undead, the more their skin shows signs of deterioration and the less human they become. This frightening zombie creature in World War Z is made more so by the supernatural speed and strength they are given to make them work in sync for the common goal of flesh. These zombies work in unison with each other like ants, using each other as a ladder, to climb obstacles from walls to the comic height of a helicopter. The zombies in this recent film are frightening, especially frightening because of their speed and there is nowhere safe; not on land, air or sea, these zombies can tackle anything. The zombies in Night of the Living Dead were never really vocal, while in World War Z they are seen clicking and experiencing quick twitching in their head as they pace. The end of World War Z offers a cure by the discovery that zombies will not pursue those infected with a terminal virus or disease. Overall, zombies have been culturally slow and ineffective in their means to target man, now the tired formulas are being referenced as something from the past as the zombie rulebook is being rewritten for the next wave of zombie films. Zombies are without any real tension in a narrative without having the human element to work with.

The human element of every zombie movie is essential for grounding the story in a world close to this one. The main antagonists in these films are the people who clash with others over leadership qualities in a time of despair while the outside world is in ruins. The leading man in Night of the Living Dead is a simple man, an average man who was experiencing the zombie invasion just like everybody else. This gives the audience someone to be drawn to, and by being a black man in 1968 he was an unlikely hero, but that is as far as it goes. Racial qualities were an issue of considerable debate during the sixties with figures like Martin Luther King taking a stand, however by having a black hero who is not discriminated by other characters and treated not only as an equal and instead a leader, we see a common good around everyone working together to fight this supernatural force. His humbleness is seen as he reveals his initial encounter with the zombies through exposition when he drove through a mass of them, and they were unlike human beings. World War Z, on the other hand, has a protagonist who is a seasoned veteran and is efficient in dealing with the tactics associated with warfare combat. Brad Pitt’s character aside from his talents is an everyman, he is a father and a husband whose life is lived for them, and this is why he chooses to go into the danger. Pitt’s character is propositioned by the army to investigate the cause of the zombie outbreak for his family’s safety in return, and it is made clear that he is the only one who can do it. His character is clearly motivated to survive for his family, while the main character from Night of the Living Dead is motivated for surviving the night. The main antagonist in Night of the Living Dead was a father like Pitt’s character trying to protect his family and his actions worked against their survival as his love for his daughter became an end to him when she turned. As the antagonist diligently works to protect his family, his actions from our point of view show him to be clearly blinded by reason, and his actions are not so far from the protagonist in World War Z, but we are given more insight through his perspective to see why he wants to become a globetrotter against impossible odds. There is another layer to the protagonist in these zombie films, and it is by having the right political allegory to stand against.

Zombie films are a political allegory for the world at large. The zombie element is indeed a fictional element, although it is tactically feeding on a subconscious fear of the world heading for decay by the social constructs that are built around us. Night of the Living Dead seems to be playing on the safety of the American Dream and turning it into the American Nightmare by showing the audience how the security of a house can be an illusion. The zombies being undead also alludes to how a feeling of unrest can be stirred back up from ones past and cannot stay buried. They are a reflection of us at an animalistic level programmed to survive by eating. These zombies are a visual reminder of our mortality and show that we are just flesh and bone while the bodies in death become empty vessels. World War Z looks past the consumerism side of the American dream and creates a nightmarish vision of this world in chaos and how close to chaos the world actually is. Basically, World War Z is the allegory for the epidemic, yearly news stories flash over the screen informing the viewer of a new airborne virus that has been discovered and could potentially sweep across the globe taking the lives of many. By using the zombie film as an allegory for a virus, the viewer is given a physical embodiment of something that cannot be seen and something that will ultimately reach out for you and change your own disposition to that of the virus carrier.  Night of the Living Dead in 1968 proved to be a viable allegory of the failing American Dream, while in 2013 the zombie is an allegory for fear of a global epidemic. These allegories go from simple to complex as the budget changes dramatically between the two films.

Night of the Living Dead was one of the first low budget hits that revitalised horror films as a profitable venture after the studio films like the Universal Monster movies were run into the ground and became campy. Night of the Living Dead worked against the studio system and took a cast of unknowns to the spotlight and produced what is now a classic if not the quintessential zombie film. The film was shot on the cheap and managed to make its flaws manageable by presenting the film stylistically in black and white, this gave a feeling of realism to the makeup effects of the zombies, and a throwback to the black and white news broadcasts of the time.  Due to the majority of the film taking place in one house, most shots are close up on the characters faces to bring an intimacy to the few characters the film provides. These close up shots allow for the house to still feel fresh after an hour because the set is bland and borderline empty. While Night of the Living Dead is a low budget film, World War Z is the most expensive zombie film ever made, and one of the most expensive films ever produced with an estimated budget of one hundred and ninety million dollars. World War Z was subjected to a number of reshoots that had the film reshoot their whole third act, so the film was blown way over budget. Night of the Living Dead was made with a budget of one hundred thousand and grossed thirty million, so it made three hundred times its production budget and was a less risky move over studio influence, as World War Z only made back double its production costs. The increasing budgets show how much the zombie genre has been inflated to make a return on. There is also the case of The Night of the Living Dead being an R rated film by the classification board, which decreases the chances of being seen by most of the public and to further its appeal, it is a pure horror film. Since 1968 the horror genre has changed in the blockbuster film so they can have as many people as possible see the film. To do this they blend the genre with another genre to grab two different audiences, so World War Z can be sold as a horror film or as an action film, and it is successfully equal parts both. This means that common horror traits like nudity and gore are typically disregarded to meet rating boards in World War Z. World War Z used computer-generated imagery (CGI) to create spectacularly different zombies that can move faster than any living organism. Is it more effective than the live action people playing zombies in Night of the Living Dead? No, but this generation of cinema-goers is spoilt with the evolution of the zombie on the screen so they must be more convinced of reasons to be scared. The zombies feel more real inside the film as crucial locations around the world show the same thing happening throughout and as an audience member we must regard this apocalypse as the end all of civilisation, and that reaches everyone, leaving all audiences terrified by the scenario. Style over substance shows the ending to be memorable in both films irrelevant to the budget.

Night of the Living Dead had an ending that was memorable for being so unexpected and the audience at the time was initially unsure of how to handle it as Roger Ebert recounts of an audience, “There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying.” (1969). There is something to be said about an ending of a film that can affect a viewer long after the film stops rolling. The ending of World War Z changes the typical ending of the zombie horror film. It gives the world a sense of hope whereas Night of the Living Dead and subsequent films like Dawn of the Dead show that the salvation they think they find is only irony. This irony will lead to their death, either by themselves or another unforeseen circumstance, which became a staple of the zombie film after the success of Night of the Living Dead. Not only are the people usually the antagonist in the zombie films, but there is always a tendency to explain the fault of the government or the army in bringing about the zombie invasion. World War Z doesn’t give up why the outbreak happened, and this gives the zombie film more longevity by not giving a science fiction theory that will become a low or campy point of the film when later years will render the plot weak. However, aside from the space radiation theory in Night of the Living Dead, you have the timeless zombie film that feels as if it could be set at any point in time, and because of this, it will outstay World War Z. World War Z has shaken up the zombie film formula for at least the next generation of zombie films.

The modern zombie film has developed over the last half a century to entertain and frighten new audiences as the technology, and social commentary has changed with it. After having deconstructed the Night of the Living Dead and World War Z, it can be observed that the zombie film has persevered to continue the mythology surrounding zombies and make new ones in the process. What started off as a simple spin on the dead being reanimated has influenced generations of new filmmakers to redefine the capabilities and the cosmetic look of the zombie to capture terror in the 21st century. The human element has always been the key to shaping these events by positioning the protagonist and the human antagonist counterpart in a battle for leadership as their ranks are stripped, and they are left with their own personal motivations. The political allegory for Night of the Living Dead simply and effectively reshaped the American Dream and later World War Z pushed the boundaries to include a crisis fitting of the world’s fears. Budgets influenced Night of the living dead to do more with the space and setting of 1968, while studio influence effectively split the horror genre to become an action film as well so more audiences would see the star-powered film World War Z. The shock value of the zombie film ending may have run its course from the beginnings of Night of the Living Dead as a more positive approach was the climax of World War Z. Zombie films have not changed much in regards to formula, but culturally the genre has been forced to see changes to keep it fresh, and the genre will continue to work if it can find a common thread with the world today rather than the world of yesterday.

Robert Ring

Best Movies of 2018: Jan-June

I have seen most of the major blockbusters of 2018, and not many of them did it for me. The amount of comic book films we are getting is absurd, and I now find them inane. That’s not the most absurd part. What is ridiculous is the expectation of most of these Marvel films reliance on the knowledge of previous films. Avengers: Infinity War is one of the messiest blockbusters I’ve seen in a long time. Infinity War was one giant third act that ended with a cliffhanger that seemingly belittles the audience. Also, shout out to Red Sparrow for being one of the most repulsive films I’ve ever seen.

Here are my top five so far, ranging from best to slightly less than best.

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A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place is easily the front-runner for my favourite film of 2018 so far. Directed by and starring John Krasinski, the story is a very Cloverfield/Twilight Zone like tale. Lee Abbott (Krasinski), and his family are living in a world post-alien invasion. The aliens are agile predators that will decimate any living thing that makes a sound. The Abbott’s have learned to survive by making no noise and communicating with sign language. The story takes twists and turns as the tension rises making even the audience hold their breath so they would not alert the creatures.

Tully

Tully
Tully is something I went into on a whim. The trailers produced what appeared to be a slice of motherhood. Tully is a slice of motherhood, but not in the way one usually finds. The children in the movie are there, yet it is never about them. Tully does not lead up to a finale that has her become the mother of the year watching her children perform in a school play. No, Tully goes into the psychological disposition of motherhood, and it is entirely unflinching. There is a moment near the end that threads the needle through the entire film that makes it an excellent movie over a good one.

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Hereditary
People are very mixed on Hereditary. Those who outright dislike the film are either very disturbed by a particular scene at the end of the first act or find it too slow. The scene is disturbing and an act of aggression on the emotions. Apart from that scene, the movie feels like a family drama that amps up in the last twenty minutes with modern horror spooks. Toni Collette has delivered an Oscar-nominated performance for one dinner scene in particular. Hereditary is an excellent film that does not necessarily break any new ground but adds to the benchmark.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
This movie is hard to recommend due to the title of the film. If you attempt to voice this movie, you begin to blabber. You start to play scrabble with all the words in the title trying to say them in the correct order, “Was it The Guernsey Potato Peel and Literary Society?” Even when the title has been stated correctly, it still sounds wrong. I digress. Lilly James plays a best selling author who comes to see a small community that banded together during the war. It becomes apparent to the author that there is more to the society and she chooses to try and uncover it. The movie is a decent little mystery film that works too hard to try to get you to care about the pure mystery surrounding the society. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a cute little mystery film with a love triangle for good measure.

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Peter Rabbit
I have never seen a christening where someone has not received a plate/bowl/cup with the adorable Peter Rabbit decorating the wares. The Peter Rabbit found as christening gifts is not the same one in this movie. This Peter Rabbit is like a college sophomore. He is optimistic and looking to party, perhaps due to the voice of James Corden. The movie strikes an odd balance of looney tune action to dire turns. This unevenness turned me off the movie in the beginning, but as the characters began to get fleshed out, I was all in. Peter Rabbit is a turf war between Peter and the neighbor that is fun for the kids and endearing enough for the adults too.

As an honorable mention, I enjoyed Solo: A Star Wars Story as well. Solo is a fun space western that is being overlooked by most filmgoers.

I am quite sure that my list of favorites for the first half of 2018 is unique to me. I’m even more excited for what else is coming for the second half now that the majority of the superhero films are behind us.

Robert Ring