Await Further Instruction (2018)

Director: Johnny Kerorkian

Starting: Sam Gittens, Grant Masters, Neerja Niak

Rating: NR

Genre: Horror

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

While I watched this movie on a Friday, I wasn’t quite confident enough to write a review for it until the following Monday. Not because I found this film so intellectual or amazing in some other way that I needed time to understand it; but because I needed time to figure out what exactly the film was trying to. It is evident from the beginning the intentions of the film, but it simply falls short of actually doing achieving what it wants to.

When the ominous message “stay indoors and await further instructions” appears in the television of an already torn family, tensions rise as no one can agree on what to do next. As the promised instructions start to appear, the (already horrible) family dynamic is thrown out the window as what little bit of familial trust that may have existed is quickly dissolved. As characters trust each other less and less it becomes evident to the protagonist that an there is something potentially otherworldly going on.

Now, first of all, it was so refreshing to see practical effects! Though at times this seems to be occasionally augmented with some minor bits of CGI, the fact that the film uses this now archaic technique is quite a breath of fresh air. For many horror film purists, practical effects might as well be the modern day holy grail with the power to save otherwise dull movies. Which, when it comes to horror films, this film did, in fact, feel quite dull. Aiming for more nuanced psychological horror the film definitely fell short, succumbing to its overdone themes and failing to present a truly unique story.

With themes of corruption and cult-like devotion, the feel doesn’t do a very good job at presenting these in what should have a character-driven plot. From the very beginning, the characters were unpleasant and in their own ways corrupt. Noone truly changed, for better or for worse, everyone was just insufferable (with the exclusion of maybe the protagonist’s girlfriend).

For this film to have worked it would have likely needed to present a family dynamic much more healthy than the one in the film. Allowing for otherwise good characters to surrender to their inner demons and not-so-perfect beliefs. Even though the antagonist in the film is an omnipotent alien, it may have been in the interest of the filmmakers to research the dynamics of real-life cults, where the corruption of vulnerable individuals is common.

Honestly, I can’t think of very many people I would recommend this film to. Though on paper the concept seems interesting it simply isn’t well executed. I had to take a break while watching the film simply because I was bored out of my mind. In the end, I have to give the film a final rating of 25%.

If, for whatever reason, you’d like to check out this film feel free to do so through Amazon, or, more conveniently, Netflix, where it is currently available.

Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

I try my best to be as objective as possible when reviewing books and films, but sometimes my subjective opinions make it hard for me to do so. This is one of those time where I found myself struggling. Technically this is a very good film, and I definitely see why it has performed so well, but personally, I’m not the biggest fan.

My grievances come from the fact that I can’t relate to the main character, Nadine (Steinfeld). I find her to be an annoying and self-centred teen with often times toxic behaviour. For most of the movie, she was her own worst enemy— which I realize is an aspect of the plot but still. Her mother definitely doesn’t help, and honestly, I think she’s just the worst. When it comes to the supporting characters, I don’t have much to complain about though. The highlight characters of the film (for me) being Mr. Burner (Harrelson) and Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto).

When it comes to plot this is your classic coming of age story and shows not only the main character but those closest to her, growing in some way. This was definitely a good part of the film. I admit, in the end, I found Nadine had really learned a lesson and therefore liked her much more. The only shortcoming would be the way the mother changes, which seems more abrupt than anything.

Would I recommend this movie to people I know? Sure. When it comes down to it I feel like I’d give the film 82%.

Would you like to see the movie? Well, you can rent and buy it through Amazon, or watch it on Netflix.

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez

Staring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly

Rotten Tomatoes: 60%

It’s not every day that a film introduces its titular character in what may very well be their lowest of lows. When we are introduced to the cyborg Alita she is, for all intents and purposes, long discarded trash. Regardless of this her brain, as well as her core power source, are still in prime condition. It takes the work of one Dr. Ido to restore her into working order. With a new body and new life, Alita, who remembers nothing, is forced to adjust to her new surroundings while trying to remember her obscure past. Dr. Ido, who becomes a father figure to Alita, and a young man named Hugo, her love interest, help her along the way.

I didn’t know what to expect from a movie based off of a manga, let alone a film based on such an extensive and well-written manga. When the trailer first came out, I must admit I was concerned; especially since it follows the disappointing 2017 Ghost in Shell adaption. Like most viewers, I was taken aback by Miss Salazar’s exaggerated eyes. When first exposed to the imagery, I admit that the effects of the uncanny valley were strong. This detail can be somewhat ignored after you take into consideration that the manga makes a point to give Alita exaggerated features, though, if I recall it was originally her “large” lips. This detail would prove to be the only character design decision I found myself continuously questioning.

My main qualm with the film is that there were often times the CGI was poorly executed. As a result, there were scenes in which I found myself being pulled out of the film, solely due to the poor integration of computer-generated backgrounds with the live-action actors. Additionally, the digital augmentation of Alita’s face often came off as awkward, most notably in the scene in which she tries chocolate for the first time. Otherwise, the film was beautiful and fully embraced the cyberpunk aesthetic.

For the most part, I have minimal complaints with the film. I was pleasantly surprised by the character development as well as the overall execution. I wouldn’t call the film your run-of-the-mill origin story. For what it’s trying to achieve in regards to its source material, I would call it successful. Many may say there isn’t really a plot, but as a introductory film to a potential franchise, the film gets the job done. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was not what I expected.

With all considered, I find myself giving the film a very good rating of: 4.1/5