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Film Review: Fahrenheit 9/11

Fahrenheit 9/11, by Academy Award winner Michael Moore, is one of the most controversial documentaries in recent memory.

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The newly released documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 by Academy Award winner Michael Moore is, and will be, one of the most controversial documentaries in recent memory. Moore shows the political chaos following the world-changing events of September 11th but even more importantly, he shows the toll that 9/11, as well as the US occupation of Iraq, has taken on the American people. The film opened at number one at the box office and earned $23.9 million in its first weekend, making it the highest grossing opening weekend in documentary history. Known for his outspoken politics, including his criticism of Bush during his Academy Award acceptance speech for Bowling for Columbine (second on the list of highest grossing documentaries), Moore’s latest film is his greatest Bush-bashing to date. 

I do not want to focus too much on the politics surrounding the issues at hand. The people have already made up their minds; many Americans agree with the decisions that were made and many do not. Although the point of this film is to sway voters in the upcoming presidential election, the meaning and overall value of the film surpass its political aspirations. Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, a greener, a liberal, conservative, or a libertarian, Fahrenheit 9/11 is recommended viewing.

In all actuality, the more politically motivated parts of the film aren’t its best features. A link is made between the terrorist attacks and Saudi Arabia while connecting the Bush family to the powerhouse ruler Saudi and Bin Ladin families that rule the nation. It then goes further to say that the US occupation of Iraq is an attempt to smooth over the factual evidence convicting Saudi Arabia of harboring terrorists. The film does point out that the Bush administration never actually blamed Iraqfor the terrorist attacks, but it does show that the American people believe terrorism was the reason for our occupation of the Fertile Crescent. Moore claims Bush did not make good choices for purely financial reasons. These highly researched fundamentals of political ideology are actually the biggest downfall of the film. The connections are tedious, drawn out and hard to follow; easily the worst part of the film. But from Moore’s standpoint, and those who are trying to get Bush out of office, it is crucial for American ears to hear the information that was presented.

Moore’s controversial subject matter often overshadows his skills as a filmmaker. People are always discussing the issues surrounding the matter but more often forget the groundbreaking concepts Moore has mastered in his documentary making. It is an artist who makes the audience laugh when tears are still wet on their cheeks. He innovates constantly with the integration of pop culture, making his documentaries lively and highly entertaining- perhaps it can be said that Moore is the Quentin Tarantino of documentary filmmaking. His artistic ability and powerful skills elevate Fahrenheit 9/11 into a masterpiece. Anyone who does see it will always remember that feeling in his/her gut; witnessing pure pain from a theater seat.

The core of the film, the essence and purpose, shows one family whose son was recently killed fighting in Iraq. His mother is crying, not a silent sob, but a painful, stomach-churning weep. As the sister of a soldier in Iraq, I feel that Moore did an excellent job in portraying the desperation that our families are left in. I have cried like this many times hearing the fate of my innocent siblings and cried more during the film. I was not alone behind me, in front of me, and beside me I heard whimpers and sniffles. I couldn’t believe what an impact the film was having on everyone, not just on me. 

Politics aside, the war in Iraq is having devastating consequences for American families and this is without doubt the most influential element of the documentary. When I go to bed at night I do not know why my brother is in Iraq. I don’t have any strong conviction about what we are supposedly (or being told that we are) fighting for. My brother tries to call about once a week. It breaks my heart to hear that he, as well as other soldiers as shown in the documentary, also feels the occupation is not necessary given its consequences. An effective tool Moore uses in the film is showing the anti-Bush/anti-war soldiers being forced to fight in Iraq. The opinions of the men in Iraq speak louder than any politician or filmmaker; no one is more qualified to voice an opinion than are these heroes of ours.

In the film, Moore asks congressmen to sign up their children to serve in the war. Although this is an extreme measure, he is making an essential statement. It is important to imagine that it is your own family that would be sacrificed. I, as well as many others, feel that the safety and comparative advantages were not considered when soldiers were sent to Iraq. I might be biased considering the love for my brother but I believe that everyone should look at it from my angle. Mooregenuinely argues this point. Whether you agreed or disagreed with Bush’s decision to invade, the outcome and death tolls do not lie and Moore proves this effectively. 

The documentary goes far more in depth than even this article goes in summarizing it. Other topics discussed are the fraudulency of the war, Bush’s leniency towards Saudi Arabia due to financial interests of his family, and even the military exploitation of the poor in the United States. The two-hour film is overflowing with information but one thing will stand out worthy of remembrance. Michael Moore brought us the pain of an American family struggling with the preventable loss of their son; after seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 a substantial portion of America has experienced their agony.

Film Reviews

Film Review: It Chapter Two

The sweet spot between Stephen King fans, horror fans and (believe it or not) comedy fans

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The final installment in the It saga is a clever, scary, probably-too-long allegory about the power of friendship — complete with a 20-foot clown spider. Sure, it’s probably a half-hour longer than it really needs to be — but It Chapter Two is still a fantastic film that hits the sweet spot between Stephen King fans, horror fans and (believe it or not) comedy fans.

It’s a story about friendship, and just like the first film, it’s those relationships that make this story so compelling and keep it woven together in a way that you really care about what’s happening to all the folks Pennywise has been menacing across these two films. Sure, Bill Skarsgård’s absolutely terrifying performance as Pennywise is what puts butts in the seats, but at its heart, this is a story about the power of friendship to win out over pretty much anything. If we work together, we can overcome fear, loneliness, doubt, depression — and yeah — even a supernaturally godlike killer clown. Thankfully, all the blood keeps that message from getting too sappy along the way.

The first It in 2017 was a surprise, monster hit — but for good reason. The Stephen King adaptation by director Andy Muschietti is pretty much a horror masterpiece wrapped in a compelling coming of age story. Think Goonies meets a face-eating monster flick with jump scares galore to keep the blood pumping. But, despite a decently-closed ending to the first chapter, the story was always conceived as a two-part film run, which is pretty much the only way one could hope to possibly wrap up King’s massive tome (the studio actually briefly considered splitting Chapter Two into two films, because there’s just so much material). 

It Chapter Two makes a wise decision to keep the stellar younger cast from the first film involved via ample flashbacks, while still providing space for the adult Losers to live and breathe (and, ahem, die) while bridging the gap between who they were and who they all grew up to be. It also embraces the inherent silliness and insanity of its premise to laugh, now seen through the lens of middle-aged adults as opposed to middle school minds. It’s a hard tone to hit, and it arguably might come off with more laughs than scares, but it’s true to the inherent madness of Pennywise.

The adult cast is also a home run by and large. James McAvoy makes for a capable adult Bill; Jessica Chastain is the embodiment of adult Bev; James Ransome nails grown-up Eddie; and Isaiah Mustafa does a capable job providing the necessary info-dumps as adult Mike. But the real breakout is Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader as grown-up Richie. There’s scattered buzz that Hader could be worthy of an Oscar nomination for his performance, and he deserves every bit of it. We knew Hader had comedy chops, and he uses them plenty to keep this dark tale from getting too dark, but he really taps into the emotion of what it’d be like to go through something so traumatizing. And the moments that break Richie will almost certainly break you, too.

As for the changes to King’s original novel, sure, they’ll certainly be noticeable for fans. That said, the book itself — especially the ending — is absolutely wild and arguably impossible to adapt in a way that could work on the screen. The ending on-screen largely stays true to King’s themes built into the novel, and for the story that’s been told across these two films, it really does work. Hell, even King himself shows up in a cameo to make a joke about just how hard it can be to get an ending right.

Thankfully, despite a few bumps, It Chapter Two pretty much nails the landing. In a world filled more and more with King adaptations, this two-film run will stand as one of the best.

It Chapter Two is in cinemas now

IT CHAPTER TWO
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written by: Gary Dauberman
Cast: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Skarsgård
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Run time: 169 minutes

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Film Reviews

Film Review: Hobbs & Shaw

If you’ve already got the volume at 11, you might as well blast it to oblivion

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Hobbs and Shaw

It is hard to believe that 2001’s The Fast & The Furious was just a film about the underground culture of street racing. Fast forward nearly 20 years later and the films have gotten so ridiculous that the only logical next step for the film series is to blast it into space. Our endless appetite for the series has seen us grown accustomed to cars taking planes out of the sky (Fast 6), cars jumping from one building to another (Fast 7), and cars being remotely controlled to act like a pack of mechanical wild dogs (Fast 8). Ridiculous is not a barrier the film series will ever brake for and so it brings us to this, the biggest spin-off the series has seen, Hobbs & Shaw.

When the chemistry between The Rock and Jason Statham proved magic in Fast 8, it only took The Rock butting heads with Vin Diesel to see that logically, the series needed a freshness to it. Who better than Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham? Well, as Hobbs & Shaw proves, if you’ve already got the volume at 11, you might as well blast it to oblivion as the film cares not for subtlety, pouring gasoline on the fire. The film sees the addition of Idris Elba as supervillain Brixton Lore and the effervescent Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw, the sister of Statham’s character. Both characters fit in superbly well to the colorful, over-the-top personas of the series, but with one difference; they haven’t worn thin yet and are extremely likable. The film benefits greatly from the absence of Vin Diesel’s dopey head and the majority of the dopey Fast “family”, instead taking the Fast and Furious formula and giving it a spit shine, turning it sideways, and sticking it right up… well, you know the drill.

Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham) play the unlikeliest (but most charismatic) buddy cop twosome since the days of Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. Unexpectedly, this film is really quite hilarious- with the two swapping one-liners and jibes that keeps the film light and funny. The two are tasked with stopping global genocide at the hands of the megalomaniacal terrorist organization known as Etheon. The “face” of Etheon is superhuman Brixton Lore (Elba), an agent left for dead and turned into a weaponized cyborg-esque villain using genetic engineering. He’s the “black Superman” as he says, and he’s got an array of tech and gadgets (including a transforming, autonomous motorbike that would have found itself at home in a Transformers movie) that are part of Etheon’s plan to rid the world of the “weak”.

Vanessa Kirby
Vanessa Kirby is one of the highlights of Hobbs & Shaw

Etheon are after a deadly virus that is in possession of Hattie Shaw and what ensues is the expected cinematic equivalent of flexing your muscles and undoing the top few buttons of your blouse soundtracked to explosions, fast machines, and zippy dialogue. Director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) keeps things by the book, and visually it’s all very on brand with the film series. But it is the chemistry and likability of the stars- namely Kirby, Statham, and Johnson- that keeps Hobbs & Shaw light on its feet, big with its set pieces, and never a chore. Kirby, in particular, has shown that her action chops are as deadly as her acting chops (is it too late to make her Black Widow? Or maybe just put her in all the action films). She never spends the film waiting to be rescued and is often the one quelling the childish, but hilarious quarrelling between Statham and Johnson.

The film trades the tired Fast family for real blood family, and while we still get the whole “family” and “heart” spiel that Vin Diesel loves to harp on about in these films, there is definitely a welcome change to the last few films. In fact, the Fast films haven’t been this fun in a long time. Unlike the last few, Hobbs & Shaw knows that the stakes of the film are global, but never does it take that too seriously and we the audience never feel too burdened by the ridiculousness of it all. There are some great cameos (two unexpected stars pop up that add the right comedic touches, plus Helen Mirren is always brilliant) and while the changing of scenery to Samoa is reminiscent of the previous Fast family vacations to South America et al, there’s something spiritual about this trip.

In the end, you don’t even have to turn your brain off because the film is soaked in charm and lightness that makes for a fun, smart enough romp that keeps its two-plus hour run time feeling like quite a breeze. Hobbs & Shaw is what this film series desperately needed. And while we can’t say the appeal will still be there when we’re inevitably sitting through Hobbs & Shaw 2, 3, 4, 5… we can say that for now, we’ll live this life one spin-off at a time.

HOBBS & SHAW
Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Chris Morgan, Drew Pearce
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba, Helen Mirren
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Run time: 135 minutes

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