Archive | November, 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

22 Nov

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Hooray! Spider-Man’s back after being “snapped” from existence in “Avengers: Infinity War” and brought back to kick some spidey ass in “Avengers: Endgame!” Speaking of which, spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame!” (Not just that Spider-Man is back, obviously—that’s kind of a given.) You’ve been warned. 

Even with more Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in the works, “Avengers: Endgame” worked wonderfully as a finale for all the MCU material we’ve seen in the past eleven years. But even so, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which takes place after those events, works as an effective epilogue to “Endgame.” (It’s also much lighter than the heavy epic scale of “Endgame”—not that there’s anything wrong with that.) 

Directed by Jon Watts (who also directed “Spider-Man: Homecoming”) and led by Tom Holland (the best live-action Spider-Man representation), “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is more practical and refreshingly so—lighthearted with a down-to-earth, humorous touch (I mean, for a Marvel superhero movie). 

Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) and his high-school friends, including his best buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) and potential love interest M.J. (Zendaya), are “blipped” back to existence after Thanos finger-snapped half the Earth’s population away in “Avengers: Infinity War” (and the Avengers brought them back in “Avengers: Endgame”)—how convenient; most of their old classmates have already aged five years in their absence. (There’s a funny bit when we find out Peter’s Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) mentions she vanished as well before she was suddenly brought back into her old apartment, which is now rented by someone else.) 

I personally would like to see more of what that must be like for others who were “blipped” away for five years. Think about it—if you were 16 and your little brother was 13, and you were suddenly blipped while time went on for everyone else including your brother, if you came back after five years, your brother would suddenly be older than you. How would that sibling dynamic work for you nowadays? That’d be an interesting story to follow. 

But I digress.

Peter is still mourning the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who died in the final battle of “Endgame.” He still wants to prove himself worthy of being Iron Man’s protege—a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, if you will—but he also wants to have somewhat of a social life as a high-school kid as well. He joins his classmates on a trip to Europe, and he couldn’t be more excited, mostly because he hopes to get closer to his crush, M.J. 

But uh-oh! Something serious is happening here. Venice is being torn apart by a mysterious, huge, seemingly water-based monster, causing Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) to recruit him to save the day. They also brought in someone else to help: Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has his own supersuit as well as his own skills, resources, and charisma that match Peter’s late mentor. He even gets a hero name: Mysterio.

Is it really a spoiler to say Mysterio isn’t really on the up-and-up? 

I have a complicated relationship with the “Spider-Man” movies—whenever a good one comes out, I always tell people it’s “the best ‘Spider-Man’ movie.” Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2,” Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and especially the wonderful, animated, highly energetic “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Well, I was perfectly satisfied to say that “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was “a good Spider-Man movie.” But then…we get the mid-credits scene. Every MCU movie has something extra to keep audiences through the end credits to tease the next adventure. This particular one made me drop my jaw before I exclaimed to myself, “Holy cow, WAS that the best Spider-Man movie??” I won’t give it away here, but I will say that now I’m REALLY curious to see the next Spider-Man movie, just to see what happens!

Maybe I’m overreacting. But still, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is a solid Spider-Man flick. Tom Holland is still a highly charismatic Peter Parker and the film goes deeper into the anxieties that comes with the responsibility of being Spider-Man. Whenever the film deals with Peter trying to have a social life as himself while still doing what he can as Spider-Man, it’s great. My favorite scene is when, without giving much away, he literally ends up in a maze of illusions that present his own fears and insecurities. 

I’m not a huge fan of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio, because he’s more interesting before he reveals his true nature and then he just becomes another villain. But that’s really more of a nitpick because the reveal does lead to some cool action and also some nicely-done character moments (including my favorite scene I just mentioned). 

The overall focus of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is still where it should be: with the burden of being Spider-Man getting heavier and heavier for this kid who’s becoming a man in the process. And I’m always going to be interested in seeing the journey progress…especially after that mid-credits scene. (Seriously, I have to know! That was a hell of a cliffhanger!) 

Joker (2019)

22 Nov

Smith’s Verdict: ****
Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I can’t say “Joker” is one of the most “fun” movies I’ve seen this year, but it’s definitely one of the most unforgettable.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s just so demented and disturbing and tense and twisted and oddly fascinating at the same time…in other words, it’s the perfect Joker movie!

Oh wait, I’m supposed to come out of this movie wanting to commit heinous crimes and partake in bloody anarchy–that’s what the media told people to be afraid of, right?

Btw, don’t say anything like that about a movie unless you’ve actually seen it, because that makes you look pretty stupid.

“Joker” is a dark, gritty, violent character study that serves as the origin story for one of the most devious comic-book villains of all time: the Joker. I’ve seen comic-book movies that ask complex questions about the hero, such as where does one draw the line in the ways of vigilante action and whatnot. But Joker asks more challenging questions that most people wouldn’t want to know the true answers to, such as…what roles do WE play in the creation of a killer?

In that sense, this isn’t a film that glorifies violence–it’s not even a sympathetic origin story. Instead, it’s more of a cautionary tale about a guy who feels left out by society that doesn’t want to understand or help him, which causes things to go from bad to total horrific sh*t-storm.

But if you do see this movie and are appalled by something that could be seen as irresponsible or dangerous, that’s fair enough. Not everyone is going to have the same reaction. But see the movie before you decide.

Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant as Arthur Fleck, the sad, mentally-unstable clown-for-hire who doesn’t know what to do with his life…until he commits his first act of horrific violence and suddenly feels more alive because of it. Slowly but surely, we see this guy transform into one of the most storied, psychopathic comic book villains of all time.

A major surprise for me was that it was so easy for me to forget I’m watching a DC comic-book movie. Compared to the tone of this film, “The Dark Knight” feels more like your typical comic-book film. This film was directed by Todd Phillips (who was previously best-known for comedy hits like “Road Trip,” “Old School,” and the “Hangover” movies), and a lot of people have compared his storytelling to a Scorsese film (particularly “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy”)–but I don’t see it as a Scorsese-ripoff either. I think Phillips was inspired by touches of those films and added some touches of his own without copying Scorsese’s style.

The way the story develops was so chilling that there were times when I couldn’t move. Usually, I twitch in my seat or shake my legs out of nervousness during a good scary movie–but not this time. This time, there were numerous sequences during which I was frozen in place, just shocked at what was happening and what could happen next.

It’s a nightmare, and a well-crafted one at that.

Like I said, “Joker” is not necessarily a “fun” movie. If I want an entertaining film from DC, I’ll just watch “Shazam!” again.

Last thing I’ll say for now is there’s a moment I can’t help but appreciate from early in the film. It’s when Arthur watches a standup comedy show and takes notes on how to be influenced for his own performance–one of the notes he takes struck me to the core, that to win over the audience (which serves as a metaphor for general society), you have to act like you don’t have a mental illness.

The word I think I’m looking for is DAMN!

The Farewell (2019)

22 Nov

Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

If there’s anything more important than a comedy that can make you laugh, it’s one that makes you feel. “The Farewell” is a wonderful comedy-drama that goes for both the comedy and the drama at high goals, and succeeds at both.

“The Farewell” is a semi-autobiographical film from writer-director Lulu Wang, about a young woman, named Billi (well-played by Awkwafina, who stole scenes in last year’s “Crazy Rich Asians”), who doesn’t know how to feel about her Chinese family keeping her beloved grandmother’s fatal illness a secret. The grandmother (Shuzhen Zhou) is unaware that an entire wedding ceremony is happening in Changchun, China, just so everyone in the family can be there with her one last time. Billi, who’s spent most of her life in America (and lives in New York), sees a moral dilemma here (as did I—I didn’t know this was a common cultural thing with Chinese families) and wonders if she should tell her or not. 

Where to start with this film? For one thing, the family dynamic is wonderfully presented. It feels real, is written and acted beautifully, and reminds me of the complicated, ridiculous, and overall loving aspects of many extended families, such as my own. 

The acting is spot-on. Awkwafina is truly moving as the underachieving, emotional Billi—so much so that I had to keep reminding myself that this was the same hilarious loony from “Crazy Rich Asians.” (She has impressive range as an actress.) Shuzhen Zhou as Nai Nai (“Grandma”)…it’s a cliche to say someone in this type of role will “melt your heart,” but I can’t help it—she’s adorable and she melted my heart. Also good are Tzi Ma and Diana Lin as Billi’s parents who are dealing with this distressing secret while hiding under a shield. 

I love that this family can just take a moment every now and again and just talk—and I’m interested in what they have to say. There’s an extended dinner sequence in which the family talks about whether or not moving from China to America is the right thing. Is the American Dream a myth? Some think so, others don’t. It’s one of the best scenes in the film.

And last but not least, this film knows when to bring the levity. It’s not always a downer—sometimes, it’s very funny. But like with “50/50,” another “dramedy” that deals with heavy issues, this film knows death and cancer are never funny but the different ways people react to a situation like that can be humorous—and not with cheap laughs, either.

“The Farewell” is both appealing and emotional, and it’s one of the best films of 2019. I can’t recommend it enough.

Oh, and it’s rated PG! Remember when you could tell a mature story without containing adult language or imagery? So does Lulu Wang. 

Looking Back at 2010s Films: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

22 Nov

By Tanner Smith

I admitted in my review of Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” that seeing that film was my first time seeing ANYTHING “Star Trek”-related. And it got me to watch other “Star Trek”-related stuff. I saw a few episodes from the ’60s TV series (on a “best-of” DVD) and a few episodes of “The Next Generation” too (it’s been on my Netflix list for years–I should really watch more of it), and in between, I watched the other movies. (I didn’t review them all, but I see them all.) Here are my quick thoughts on the pre-Abrams Star Trek movies:

“The Motion Picture”–boring+beautiful=beautifully boring
“The Wrath of Khan”–terrific film, one of my personal favorite movies (#215 in my Top 250 Favorite Movies)
“The Search for Spock”–overall pretty solid, though with a few awkward spots here and there
“The Voyage Home”–fun stuff (“Well, a double dumb-ass on YOU!”)
“The Final Frontier”–a pretty lousy movie with hardly anything accomplished…but it contains one of the best moments in any Star Trek movie (“I don’t want my pain taken away! I NEED my pain!” Pretty powerful stuff.)
“The Undiscovered Country”–…I remember seeing it…but I don’t remember what happens in it. (I’ll see it again sometime, surely.)
“Generations”–underrated
“First Contact”–VERY good
“Insurrection”–boring
“Nemesis”–meh

(And no, I haven’t seen a single episode of “Enterprise” or “Deep Space Nine” or whatever other spinoff series there was.)

Then came J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek,” which something old and brought in something new, which resulted in a fun adventure that respected the familiar characters. He was called back to make a new film, which became “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

What am I getting at with all of this? “The Wrath of Khan” is the film that I (and a lot of other movie lovers) get the most out of when it comes to quality “Star Trek” entertainment. And I feel like “Into Darkness” came really (and I mean REALLY) close to being the “Dark Knight” of the rebooted franchise.

But it failed. Why?

Because it ended up with nothing more than a reminder of how great “The Wrath of Khan” is. Can we say “irony”?

I rewatched “Star Trek Into Darkness” recently. It was my first time seeing it in six years, since it was first released, when I wrote the review. I forgot how much I truly enjoyed the first 90 minutes (or so) of this two-hour-12-minute movie. I loved it! It was taking the characters in deeper waters than expected, the action was just as exciting as the previous film but even more tense because the stakes were raised, the villain was great and I loved the parallel connections between him and Kirk…why didn’t I watch this film again in the last six years??

Oh, right…the ending. The final 20 minutes brought the whole film down like a house of cards. (Even so, I still can’t pan the movie overall, but everything that came before it was entertaining as hell. So…3 stars, I guess.)

It ticks me off, because I keep thinking of other ways this could have worked. Keep what they were going for, but throw out the “Wrath of Khan” callbacks (in that they recite the lines of dialogue practically word-for-word!!)…and have NO dialogue in the scene! Just focus on the emotions alone–everything that we’ve seen before would’ve been part of a puzzle that this would have been part of!

And most importantly, THROW OUT THE EPILOGUE! That’s the part that REALLY killed the movie for me. It’s like everything that we’ve been through before and everything we’ve learned (everything the characters themselves learned in the process)…suddenly meant nothing. If the writers (who also wrote “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″…that makes so much sense the more I think about it) wanted to leave a memorable impact on movie audiences, they should’ve given us more to think about than easy resolutions.

If they had, again, this could have been the “Dark Knight” of the rebooted “Star Trek” franchise! But alas…it made me want to watch “The Wrath of Khan” again.

But it came SO close!

Looking Back at 2010s Films: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

21 Nov

By Tanner Smith

As fun as “Guardians of the Galaxy” was upon first viewing, much of it sort of wore off on me after watching it again. But “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which I have seen about four times now, is just about every bit the comedic, insane, energetic sci-fi romp that I like to revisit from time to time. (Not quite up there with “Serenity” for me–that’s the high standard I hold for this kind of fun sci-fi movie–but there are a lot of times when it reminded me of such.)

Yes, there are some things that still bug me about the Guardians themselves (especially Peter Quill’s arrogant personality), and yet…they don’t bug me AS MUCH as they should. Instead, I’m just having fun embracing this movie’s sense of humor, its vibrant colors, its effects, its pacing, and even its drama–and its characters are fun enough to get me through it.

The Guardians of the Galaxy–Peter Quill aka Starlord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel), only this time he’s been regenerated and is now Baby Groot, designed to sell toys–are back and on the run. Looking for a place to hide, they encounter a celestial named Ego (Kurt Russell), who it turns out is Peter’s father. He can create anything much like a god (and can also destroy them if he wants) and seems like a good guy, so they crash with him. But as follows the formula for this kind of Marvel movie, something about Ego just doesn’t feel right. Peter doesn’t see it at first, of course, because he’s glad to find his father and bond with him, as well as discover who he himself is.

Yondu (Michael Rooker), the space pirate who sort of raised Peter as a drunk, abusive father type, is back into the mix, although his connection with Peter is called more into question, making for an interesting family dynamic. Other family dynamics are considered here. For example, one of the Guardians’ captives is Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s vengeful sister who wants to break free so she can kill her; the longer she’s with these people, the more she wants to assist them. And the Guardians consistently bicker and try to one-up each other in the downtime–one of them brings up that they’ve become like a “family” as a result. That’s actually a pretty telling statement. This movie is more than just intergalactic battles–it’s about relationships. And I admire this film for that.

Oh, and there’s a giant Pac Man that attacks…because that kind of thing works in a movie like this.

Everything in “Vol. 2” feels elevated from the first movie. The sense of humor is upped, the effects (from captivating to cheesy) are better, the emotions are more present, the worlds are more visually impressive, and it just overall feels more fun.

I mentioned Peter’s abrasive personality before, and sometimes, his ego is too much–sometimes, I want to smack some sense into this jerk. But I get that it’s part of his character and it’s a question of where he goes with certain choices he’ll have to make in the future. He does at least get when others are about to cross the line (otherwise, he wouldn’t be a Marvel superhero)–he even asks Rocket at one point, “What is your goal here? To get everyone to hate you?” So…I guess I give it a break here.

BUT as for his actions in “Avengers: Infinity War”…I’ll get to that later.

What else can I say but…”I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!”

Doctor Sleep (2019)

21 Nov

Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Doctor Sleep” is the sequel to “The Shining”…but is it a sequel to Stephen King’s novel “The Shining” or Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic “The Shining”? It’s no secret that Kubrick took a lot of creative liberties with King’s original ideas, to which King expressed his disappointment—on the other hand, it’s hailed by a majority of cineastes as one of the greatest horror masterpieces of all time because its atmosphere and execution caused us to fill in many blanks that we actually cared to fill in. (There’s even a documentary, “Room 237,” about all of the fan theories surrounding many of the film’s ambiguities.) 

King wrote a sequel to his original novel, titled “Doctor Sleep,” and writer-director Mike Flanagan, who established himself as a modern master of horror with movies like “Hush,” “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” and another King adaptation, “Gerald’s Game,” as well as a hit Netflix horror series, “The Haunting of Hill House,” is making it into a film. But not only is it to be a faithful adaptation of the “Doctor Sleep” novel—it also has to work as a sequel to Kubrick’s “The Shining,” because that’s what movie audiences who love the original want to see. That’s a really tough challenge to take: appeal to both Kubrick fans and King fans—and you thought Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence” (based on a Kubrick script) was ambitious! 

Well, no need to worry. It works wonders either way you look at it. “Doctor Sleep” is a terrific horror film and one of Flanagan’s most successful in an already-long line of gripping horror films. 

Our main character is Dan Torrence, who was the little boy (“Danny”) that was terrorized along with his mother (Alex Essoe, playing the Shelley Duvall role from the original film). Played by Ewan McGregor, he’s an aimless, alcoholic drifter who one day decides to get away from himself, as the experiences that haunted his childhood, which he’s tried to keep locked up using his psychic abilities (or “shine”) for many years, are still getting to him. After trying to drown out the senses of his gifts with booze, he wants to use it to help people (and himself). He travels to the small town of Frazier, New Hampshire, where he attends AA, gains a friend in his sponsor, named Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis), and gets a job in hospice to care for dying people. (He knows when people are about to die and, using his shine, gives them each one last moment of peace and reassurance that there is life after death.) 

Fade to eight years later, when Dan has now cleaned up and bettered himself, and he also communicates telepathically with someone else who has the same psychic ability: a teenage girl named Abra (Kyleigh Curran), who is afraid to make her gifts known even to her parents. When a pack of nomadic, monstrous, humanistic beings is caught on her radar, Abra comes to Dan for help in stopping them from causing any more damage than they’ve already caused. Dan is reluctant as it seems these “people” are too dangerous, but before long, he knows he can’t let them get away with their doings. 

Let’s talk about these guys, shall we? They roam the country to capture, torture, and kill psychic children to feed off of their souls (or their “Steam,” as they call it)—they keep what’s left of the children’s essences in containers to feed off of when they need it. In return, they live longer lives than the average person. They may look ridiculous as somewhat of a ‘60s touring hippie rock band (complete with tour bus), but they are terrifying—especially in a gruesome sequence in which they snatch an innocent Little-Leaguer (Jacob Tremblay) and torture him to death to feed on more steam. They’re led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson, wonderfully, subtly diabolical here), named for the black hat she always wears. Rose is near-immortal as she knows the ways of getting more steam (mostly by astral projection to seek more targets). 

Oh, and there’s a member on their team who can easily manipulate people’s minds by speaking to them. This is Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind), a 15-year-old new member of the pack. Having her around makes things even more unsettling as she can easily convince someone to fall into one of their traps. 

They learn of Abra’s power, particularly that it’s stronger than they’ve ever faced before. Despite the possibility that she could fight back and overpower them, Rose insists on going after her to feed off her steam. Dan agrees to help Abra go against them when the time comes.

What surprised me most about “Doctor Sleep” (and what shouldn’t surprise me about any Mike Flanagan film by now) is that it put character and atmosphere ahead of terror and jump-scares. So much of the film depends on the acting, the writing, and the directing to keep us invested. They all work terrifically. Ewan McGregor is excellent as Dan Torrence, who is trying to move past his childhood traumas through alcoholism and then by getting away from himself before ultimately using his shine to help those in need. Up-and-comer Kyleigh Curran “shines” (forgive the pun) as Abra, a sweet, bright girl who is ready for battle when someone deserves to suffer for the horrific deeds they’ve done. We’re given plenty of time to witness the establishment of both interesting characters before they’re thrust into madness with Rose the Hat and co. Once that gets going, it’s an entertaining ride that also isn’t afraid to delve into deeper territory at times. 

As for the question as to whether this film is more “King” or “Kubrick,” I’d say it’s more “King.” Most of the time, watching the film is equal to the same experience as reading one of his stories. It’s more accessible than Kubrick’s work, which is to say that it’s more narratively polished and straightforward. But there are many visual cues that remind viewers of his work on “The Shining,” so that it still feels like a fitting sequel. And what’s even better is that it doesn’t rely TOO much on people having seen the original film (though it’s more of an interesting experience if you have seen it), and the scenes that call back to it (which have unfairly been dubbed as “fan service” by other critics) are satisfying because of its context within THIS story and not the previous story. 

I loved “Doctor Sleep” for being what it is and being a lot better than it could have been. How does it rank against “The Shining?” That’s both a fair and unfair question, but one is obviously all Kubrick and the other is obviously King (and Flanagan, obviously)—so, I guess it comes down to the question of are you fine with a more-than-suitable companion piece with more emotion than anticipated? I’m more than fine with it, which is why “Doctor Sleep” is one of my favorite films of 2019. 

Parasite (2019)

21 Nov

Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I went into Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” as cold as possible. (And thankfully, the film’s trailer was vague enough.) I came out of it feeling like I had experienced something rather amazing. 

There were so many things in this funny, insightful, clever, ambitious story that I couldn’t see coming, and then by the end of it, I realize it was all inevitable. And it was masterfully done by a director whose work I’ve admired before (“Snowpiercer,” “Okja”)—“Parasite” is most definitely his magnum opus. 

“Parasite” is a darkly funny, totally insightful, intelligent social satire with so many narrative twists and turns that kept me on edge for a majority of its running time and (HYPERBOLE ALERT) made me very appreciative of the art of innovative cinema. This has always been Bong’s strength—even when we think we know where something is going when the rug has ALREADY been pulled out from under us, he always finds another way to keep us invested until the very end. 

I will be as spoiler-free as possible—as I mentioned, you should go into this one knowing as little as I did. I won’t even dig deep into the film’s setup aside from what’s in the trailer. Speaking of which, this is the story of two four-person families in South Korea. One family is super poor, the other super rich. (And as a clever touch to the setting, the rich live high up on a mountain and the poor live below the streets—wait until you see what can happen in a rainstorm.) Our main protagonists lie within the poor family, as the film opens by showing us the only spots available in their cramped basement home where the Wifi connection is strongest. Dad (Song Kang-ho) and Mom (Jang Hye-jin) are unemployed and not very motivated, but son Ki-Woo (Choi Woo-sik) is an ambitious go-getter and daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam) is an aspiring con artist—both teens take their shots wherever they can and are very good at what they do. The next opportunity comes with Ki-Woo is hired as an English tutor for the wealthy, privileged Park family (the aforementioned rich family). His student is Da-hye (Jung Ji-so), the teenage daughter of Park Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun) and Yeon-kyo (Jo Yeo-jeong), whose common sense (or tact) don’t match their wealth. Ki-Woo is able to earn their trust, which leads to a complicated con. He’ll bring in Ki-jung as an “art therapist” for the odd, rambunctious little son of the family, and the family never has to know she’s related to Ki-Woo. (And all she knows about “art therapy” is from studying Google results, but damn if she doesn’t act like she knows exactly what she’s talking about!) So that leaves their parents—how to get them hired by the family for any purposes such as chauffeur and housekeeper…

OK, we have an interesting thing going on here, especially when the “have-nots” experience the perks of the “haves” like a family of this sort would. They even take time out to analyze the situation, such as how would the Park family act if they were as poor as this family? We get to know all members of both families—there’s even a quiet domestic drama unfolding underneath the surface of this seemingly happy rich married couple, as Dad tries to manipulate some answers out of Dong-ik. We get to know the prejudices between classes. We learn a few things that could be used for or against certain characters (there are some great clues here, looking back on the film after seeing it initially). All of that is interesting and intriguing. And then…

Whoa. Definitely didn’t see that coming. 

And from that point on, it’s an unpredictable series of twists and turns that grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go until it was done with me. As crazy as it is, it still feels real because the characters feel like real people, even when they do things that aren’t the best (or even morally sound) decisions. We’re with them when they go through one crazy situation after another and while I’m wondering how they’re going to get out of this, I’m also wondering how things could possibly get worse. Bong Joon Ho’s storytelling here is nothing less than creatively brilliant. 

“Parasite” is one of the best films of 2019 and one of the best films of the 2010s—the acting is excellent across the board, the directing is top-notch to say the least, the writing is brilliant with many different layers to it, the visual style is lovely, and the whole film overall just reminds me that there are gems like this hitting the screens that it would be a shame to miss. 

It’s good that even if I can’t get too deep into the story for a spoiler-free review, I can still get across how it affected me.