47 days into the New Year, and I’ve reached an all time low in movie watching. 4 movies? Come on, Joey, what are they paying you for? Oh, and you wrote about a video game again? You know your audience doesn’t care about that stuff. This hypothetical critic is unsubscribing immediately. Anyway, I saw 4 movies and played a game this week and I have at least a little bit to say about all of them, so here they are:
Feb 10: Upgrade (Crave)
It’s a shame the greatest action movie ever came out last year, because I think it overshadowed Upgrade, the second best action movie of 2018. The best obviously being Mission: Impossible: Fallout (is that really how I’m supposed to write it? With two colons? Whose idea was it to put a colon in the original title? Didn’t they know that would screw up any sequel title? That’s just poor planning), which despite being the sixth in a high budget popular series, is the most incredible achievement in action of all time. But Upgrade, the movie that this review is actually about, is also very impressive. It has a future sci-fi aesthetic that makes for some cool lighting and visuals, and also serves as a fun setting for Logan Marshall-Green to brutally murder the thugs sent by the dude who killed his wife. Me and Vic were pretty shocked at the level of explicit gore, especially in one of the early sequences that I will not describe for the sake of those who have recently eaten. The plot feels a bit like a dumbed down action version of Ex Machina but in a good way, and it ends on a suitably bleak note. I’d complain about the acting, but I realise that that’s really not the main draw of these kinds of movies. Despite Marshall-Green making some strange choices, I do have to applaud him for convincingly pretending that his body is operating independently of head, making for some very unique sequences where he’s just as shocked by what he’s doing as we are.
What makes Upgrade one of the more special action movies is the way the camera moves. It’s hard to describe, but it’s as if the camera is attached to Marshall-Green with an invisible cord that makes it move with perfect fluidity, following his movements in any direction with absolute precision. It’s so satisfying to watch, and it’s a technique I’d love to see utilized more in the future. In fact, another minor complaint I have is how sparingly it’s used; I would’ve loved to have seen more scenes that implemented it.
Feb 13: Hollow Knight (Steam)
Another video game, and this time it makes even less sense to implement it here because I’ve been playing this one for over a year now, on and off. I don’t even think I played it on the 13th, but that happened to be an empty day so let’s pretend I did. Hollow Knight is probably my favourite game of all time, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I just want to share a perfect moment in this game that can only be achieved through the medium of video games.
Brief plot synopsis with major spoilers: this 2D game with the most beautiful art style I’ve ever seen has you playing as the Knight, a mute, emotionless, genderless character that arrives in the fallen kingdom of Hallownest to save it from an evil that is beginning to break free of its chains. This evil, known as the Radiance, was sealed within a Vessel created by the Pale King, ruler of Hallownest. A Vessel must be absolutely emotionless, as any sign of emotion would allow the Radiance to manipulate its captor (“No cost too great. No mind to think. No will to break. No voice to cry suffering.”). The Pale King creates what he believes to be a Pure Vessel, a truly “Hollow Knight”. He raises the Hollow Knight as his own and when the time comes, seals the Radiance within it, dooming it to an eternity of pain. When the Knight arrives in Hallownest, it’s obvious that the now long deceased Pale King was wrong: the Hollow Knight was not pure, and the Radiance is threatening to infect Hallownest once more, and this time for good.
For much of the game, we see the Pale King as a somewhat pathetic figure: he was deified by his people, and yet he failed them in their darkest hour by misjudging the Hollow Knight’s purity, all while sitting on his isolated throne. Late in the game, you are given the opportunity to visit the White Palace, the final resting place of the Pale King. while there, you may or may not want to experience the Path of Pain, a small area notorious for being incredibly difficult, taking hours to master and complete. The moment that I want to emphasize is the reward for completing the Path of Pain: a single image, brief enough that if you aren’t paying attention, you might just miss the very thing you’ve been working towards for so long. This single image depicts the Pale King standing alongside what appears to be a young Hollow Knight, with the king glancing ever so slightly down at his creation, his child. This moment at first seems like a waste. You spent all that time just to see a king look at his kid? But look deeper and you see that this recontextualizes the entire game and your perception of the Pale King as a character. This intimate moment could very well be the moment that caused the Hollow Knight to no longer be pure, as any expression or even thought of mutual affection would lead to impurity. “no mind to think”. It was not the Pale King’s incompetence that led to Hallownest’s downfall, it was his love. The Pale King, not knowing of the Hollow Knight’s spark of emotion, had to sacrifice what he loved in an attempt to save his kingdom and everyone in it. “No cost too great”. He was a hero. You spent hours with calloused thumbs and cramped fingers in order to reach the end, and a single glance makes it all worth it.
Feb 14: Silver Linings Playbook (Netflix)
This is hands down the best David O Russell movie. Trust me, I’ve seen American Hustle and literally no other David O Russell movies, so I know what I’m talking about. Silver Linings Playbook is what you get when you take away all the silly plot parts of Punch-Drunk Love and just focus on the characters, as it should have been. And you make the love story more entertaining and realistic. And you add a compelling family aspect as well. You know what, maybe Punch-Drunk Love isn’t as great as I thought it was. Anyway, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give some fantastic performances, as does everyone else. David O Russell is notoriously asshole-ish, and yet he’s made some great movies so I’m all for it, I think?
Feb 14: Coherence (Netflix)
Refer to my piece on DPTs (Dinner Party Thrillers) for a more in depth review of this one. I pretty much feel the same way about it as I did my first time watching it: Coherence is arguably the best way you could possibly make a movie on 50 grand. The fact that it’s partly improvised just makes it all the more impressive.
Feb 15: American Beauty (Amazon Prime Video)
Oooooh boy. I’ve seen this movie plenty of times before, but not since it was found out that Kevin Spacey is a sick fuck with zero remorse for the vile things he’s done. I thought it would be easy to separate Spacey from his character, Lester Burnham, but American Beauty makes that so darn difficult. He’s lusting after a high school girl, and the neighbour thinks that his son – also in high school – is going over there to sexually please Lester. I mean, does it get more uncomfortable than that knowing what we know now? Don’t get me wrong, I still love the movie; it’s a fantastic character study with incredible performances all around. But I found myself recoiling at the new context that places Spacey in such a strange position, and I found that a little tough to reconcile at times. It’s still a classic, but it has a dark shadow over it that is there to stay.
It’s been a busy week. I had a ton of work to do for school, so I couldn’t find all that much time to watch movies. I was actually considering doing a review of a book I had to read for my Modern Europe class by my favourite Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, but I don’t know how I’d make that any more thrilling than it sounds.
It was a week of great movies, but I’d already seen three out of four of them, so it doesn’t really count. At least I made good on last week’s promise! My shoutout once again goes to the Oscars, for once again fucking up royally and having to backtrack on a braindead decision! And my shoutout unironically goes to the cinematographers, editors, makeup and hairstylists, and live action short filmmakers for being an absolutely integral part of the film business. They deserve to be shown receiving their rewards live rather than during a commercial break, you moronic Academy hacks!