Roma in 70 millimeter review

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I felt Alfonso Cuaron went above and beyond with technical elements with “Gravity” in 2013. “Roma” is brilliant with its technical elements as well. “Roma” can be found on Netflix instantly, but that is not the way to experience “Roma” (I think). “Roma” should be experienced in 70 millimeter projection at cinemas that offer that still. At Music Box Theatre of downtown Chicago, I experienced it there. Immediately, as the film opened I was immersed with its print and breathtaking imagery¬† that captures Mexico City in the 1970s. The film is a dark, but moving drama that has elements that may be disturbing, but very attention-grabbing.

The film focuses on a woman named Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) who is a maid to Sofia and Antonio (Marina de Tavira and Fernando Grediaga) and their four children. Cleo does tons of work for the family by doing chores, cooking, running errands, and being on top of the household. Cleo is somewhat in thought that the relationship between Antonio and Sofia is strained. This is because Antonio keeps finding reasons to go out of town. However, Cleo starts to gear on her own relationship with Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero). From that point on, there are catastrophes that happen in “Roma.” The issues start to come into place in family conflicts and issues with Mexico city in the time frame. The big issues though, is Cleo is pregnant.

What came to my mind about “Roma” was its color of being black and white. It has been a while since I have seen a 70 millimeter movie in black and white. Now Cuaron makes some intense movies definitely, and some are fairly gruesome. I feel in certain key moments of suspense, the black and white element on 70 millimeter heightens the moments of violence because it leaves its viewers to wonder how disturbing something might actually be in color. Also there are moments of continuity where the 70 millimeter concept feels very inviting and that is because the format takes up the entire screen, where as digital takes up half the screen.

I found “Roma” to have many connections to Cuaron’s “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (2001). That film also takes place in Mexico and contains just an equal amount of tension between its characters as “Roma” does. However, the conflicts take place in different time periods, but in the same country. In most of Cuaron’s movies, the conflicts are somewhat obvious, but not very much in “Roma.” “Roma” challenges its viewers to try and put the pieces together towards figuring out which character or which event has led to uncomfortable situations.

At times when Cleo and Fermin seem to be not on the best terms, Cuaron creates most of the tension by having Fermin be more self-centered. It is like the tension moments in “Y Tu Mama Tambien” but without the spanish narrations. I remember that “Y Tu Mama Tambien” would have an event, a new chapter to tell, or a fact, and there would be narrations in Spanish when those moments served an element of importance. “Roma” identifies its the feelings of its characters through their thoughts and dialogue.

With Cleo being pregnant, that play suspense in “Roma.” Cleo’s pregnancy is at a bad time for herself, for her job, and she is not sure if it will work with her boyfriend or on her income. This is like the problem in Cuaron’s “Children of Men” (2006) which is a futuristic film where the world is going insane because women have become infertile. However one girl is all of a sudden able to get pregnant and one man agrees to take her to a sanctuary. I remember that movie being suspenseful because of someone being pregnant more because its in a time frame of violence and corruption. “Roma” is somewhat suspenseful because of Cleo’s pregnancy but more suspenseful for financial and mental health reasons for Cleo.

Overall, “Roma” is worth the viewing, but I highly suggest experience it in 70 millimeter to remember its vast cinematography. Cuaron is becoming quite talented at making his films visually moving. He was visually moving with almost all of his movies and with “Roma” being his eighth film, he is definitely stepping up his game with using cinematography and lighting to make his work be inviting for his fans. “Roma” was very inviting for me and was well worth the time at a location that has 70 millimeter projection. This is definitely one of the best films of 2018, and I hope it receives tons of more press. Four stars.


Mid90s Review

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By the “Mid90s” tagline, “fall, get back up,” that is exactly what the thirteen-year-old Stevie (Suny Suljic) does throughout the film’s daring, negative, and dangerous behavior. Directed by Jonah Hill, “Mid90s” is a film where Hill has basically created “Superbad” (2007) but with teenagers and still for adults. Now “Mid90s” is that as graphic with language and drugs as “Superbad” was but the ages of the actors makes it feel hard, but also mesmerizing. “Mid90s” has a strong R rating and here is the listings of why it has earned that rating; pervasive language, sexual content, drug and alcohol use, some violent behavior/disturbing images-all involving minors. The final three words, “all involving minors,” will definitely be some disturbance to the film’s subject matter, but it is still a very worthy movie.

In “Mid90s” Stevie lives a life that is full of challenges for himself.¬† Ian (Lucas Hedges), his brother is abusive and he has a single mom (Katherine Waterston). Stevie tries to fit in with school and such, however his friends who are from the higher class families seem to view him negatively. Stevie roams the streets of Los Angeles in hopes of finding a group of friends to fit in with. He comes across friends at a skate shop. These friends are bad news, because they gear on heavy topics ranging from religions, ethnicities, and choices. This leaves Stevie to view life differently. He begins to become rebellious, joins his new hoodlum friends into breaking rules, and feels he is becoming someone that he is not. From that point on his life becomes to turn around positively for himself, but he does not realize his judgment can have consequences.

Throughout the film, Stevie attends adult parties and starts putting himself into awkward situations. He is already experimenting with drugs, girls, and getting into mischievous behavior to make himself feel cool. His brother Ian, still views him like he is nothing, by continuing to abuse him. The abuse that Stevie encounters at home is basically what makes him want to bend all kinds of rules to fit in with his gangster friends. With that element I felt like I was watching a younger version of Seth from “Superbad” but age thirteen. Ironically, Seth (who was played by Jonah Hill) is the director of “Mid90s.”

I did find this movie to be faithful to its element of a young kid wanting to be popular. That is because there are various moments where Stevie is trying to prove himself worthy by doing tricks on a skateboard that he considers rad and he is doing so to try to impress his friends. This was also because in this time frame, our internet was still evolving, and social media was not a big thing yet, so without that element, we realize that Stevie is trying to get his name out there through his presence in the vivid streets of Los Angeles.

For Suljic and Hedges, this is definitely a film they will be remembered by. Hedges is the bully and Suljic is the one trying to come out of his shell and prove himself worthy. Both do an excellent job with playing their roles with hating each other. For Hill being the director, I feel he is capable of directing more movies gearing on teens and popularity because of him playing someone who wants to be popular in a variety of movies. He did so in “Accepted” (2006), “Superbad” (2007), “Get Him to the Greek” (2010), “21 Jump Street” (2012), and “22 Jump Street” (2013). Now I feel he has incorporated his acting skills and inspirations to direct this disturbing but honest film about growing up.

I remember reading that Hill said once that “The Sandlot” (1993) was one of his inspirations to direct this “Mid90s.” I felt like also it had many similarities to “The Sandlot” but on negative terms. Instead of the teen characters investing their time in baseball history, going through multiple baseballs, and playing games all day, the teen characters care about mayhem and crossing boundaries with the law. Unfortunately, the destruction causes a majority of elements to go down hill. From that, I will say “Mid90s” is fun to watch, but it is quite negative. It is a ninety minutes filled with consistent swear words, uncomfortable discussions, and scenarios that definitely go over the line for minor actors. Three stars.

Bumblebee Review

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Now this is a “Transformers” movie that is actually worthy. It is not like the other ones directed by Michael Bay where they are close to three hours and have continuous explosions, confusing plot points, and characters that serve no purpose (a majority of the “Transformers” movies directed by Michael Bay has characters that make no sense to have). “Bumblebee” is a “Transformers” movie that is worth the time and money. The chemistry between Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) and “Bumblebee” is captivating, there is a fair amount background to how “Bumblebee” comes as an importance in the film, and the best part….the main focus is Charlie and “Bumblebee.”

The setting of the film is the year 1987 in California. Charlie is struggling to come to terms with herself after losing her father some years ago. She comes across a yellow VW bug that is basically trashed, but she takes it, and soon begins to realize her condemned vehicle is “Bumblebee.” They begin a friendship and start to have some fun together. The film feels like it has the setting of “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” (1982) but with a robot and a female. They create a friendship that is quite entertaining and heartfelt, and the best part, there is very little explosions.

I remember continuing watching the other “Transformers” films after the first one, and I kept on telling myself I was done with “Transformers.” However, even though a majority of them were poor experiences, I still sat and suffered through them because of all the frequent commercials and such. “Bumblebee” though was not a poor experience, it was a positive one. I like how the director Travis Knight mostly incorporates friendship over protagonist vs. antagonist (which was something that Michael Bay did in literally all of his films). Even though, I kind of liked the first “Transformers” I think somewhat differently now. I wish that robots had their own separate story in separate films and came to meet up in a film later (like “The Avengers” where it is part of a universe). With “Bumblebee” i found myself wanting to know much more about the robot’s story over why certain enemies are part of the conflict.

This film only had a budget of $102-128 million, and this is the least expensive “Transformers” movie that has been made. When I think about that, I just think now with the second, the third, the fourth, and the fifth “Transformers” that all that money was invested so much in countless and dreadful hours of special effects, buildings falling, explosions, and way too many where I asked myself, “What am I watching again?”

I believe this new director used the limited budget to focus solely on the meaning of its title. Knight has producing credits for mostly animated films and before “Bumblebee” he directed “Kubo and the Two Strings” (2016). He has also produced the two animated films “Paranorman” (2012 and “The Boxtrolls” (2014). They were decent animated films, and I believe for still being new in the game with directing, that Knight has made his mark “Bumblebee.” He is a director with a bright future ahead.

With the film’s time setting, I like how it takes place in the era with VCRS, cassettes, and old box TVs. That is because this one does not look into the future like other ones have, it keeps its place and time period as a serious component. The 1980s with very limited resources and the internet still becoming popular. That makes the reaction to its characters more intense because they are not used to seeing something so advanced like a robotic car. I remember in the first “Transformers” there are scenes where video games systems turn into robots along with other pointless technologies transforming, but that does not happen in “Bumblebee.” “Bumblebee” is one of the only transformations which builds excitement for its viewers.

Now, I am surprised myself that I enjoyed “Bumblebee” but the truth is I did. I had a great time with its laughing moments, its retro setting, and its funny humor with Steinfeld. Steinfeld is truly a talented actress with a bright future ahead. I find that she picks her roles carefully and this role was truly for her. Overall, it is a film that is definitely worth the time and money. Three and a half stars.

Treating cinema in many forms of art!

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