Midsommar (2019): Can Ari Aster Top Hereditary?

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“Midsommar” is directed Ari Aster, who is known for directing numerous shorts along with his feature-length debut which came out last year, “Hereditary.” This film stars Florence Pugh (Fighting with My Family, The Commuter), Jack Reynor (Sing Street, Free Fire), William Jackson Harper (The Good Place, The Electric Company), Vilhelm Blomgren (Gösta, The Days the Flowers Bloom), and Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, The Maze Runner). This film involves a couple and a bunch of close friends going away together to rural Sweden. While the main characters intended to take a simple vacation to view a mid-summer festival, they eventually find themselves becoming more involved with various activities having to do with a Pagan cult.

If you asked me about my thoughts on Ari Aster as a filmmaker before this movie came out, I would have simply told you that I love him. Granted, I could be biting off more than I can chew because he only directed one feature film, but it does not change the fact that said feature film, specifically, “Hereditary,” floored me as soon as I witnessed it in the theater for the first time. The interactions between the family was truly worth appreciating. The cinematography is eye candy as delicious as white chocolate Kit-Kats. And Toni Collette gave one of my favorite performances of the decade as Annie. Naturally, the more I heard about “Midsommar,” the more excited I got. In fact, of all the movies coming out this summer season, “Midsommar” might be the one I anticipated the most, which is surprising when you consider how I waited over a month to go see it in the theater. But I just checked it out, so here we are! I feel like I have some weight off my shoulders!

Although before we go any further, I want to give a special shoutout to a friend of mine. His name is Choyon, and he went to go see this movie in July, only to tweet the following:

I cannot say I have seen the original “Wicker Man” film, but from what I gathered by this tweet, that was probably an enormous insult towards “Midsommar.” Having said that, I replied to him saying that I’ll probably instead check out “Spider-Man: Far From Home” that weekend, which in reality I didn’t do until two weeks after tweeting that out. He replied to me saying “Spider-Man” sounds like a better choice, calling “Midsommar” “pretentious crap.” These were followed by two more tweets.

I love Hereditary, I am almost scared for how I’ll feel about this thing after seeing that film. –Me

It may be a letdown, just saying –Choyon

I’ll remind you that Choyon has previously been a contestant on “Jeopardy!” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” so I for one am able to trust him in an assortment of ways. Then again, while he appeared on “Jeopardy!,” he participated in the final round only to do this:

Yeah, that happened! It even got featured in a video from SGSA (Stupid Game Show Answers), a famous name in providing game show fail compilations for years.

But even with that, he is right. “Midsommar” broke me, tore me apart, and ignited me into scorching flames. If I had to judge this as if it were two movies, I would point out the movie’s excellence in terms of direction, cinematography, and location choices. The technical aspects stand out for good reason. But there is a lot that I can’t stand when it comes to how the film plays out as to what characters do on camera.

From the very start of the film, I am instantly reminded of one of my problems involving “Hereditary.” Below is a quote from my review of said film.

“I heard him crying and made me think he was doing a terrible impression of Matthew McConaughey.”

If you put that in context, I will point out that “Hereditary” had a ton of terrific performances by its cast, including Jackoff winner Toni Collete, but one performance that caught my eye at a certain scene was the one given by Alex Wolff. Why? Because he happened to be crying in a manner that managed to lack any sort of match to realism, and overall, it made me think of him as some cartoon who fails at animating their own expressions. This movie gave me the worst possible first impression it could by having Florence Pugh’s character also cry in a manner that just irked me. Granted, I know crying is a natural thing, I know people do it in various situations, but again, I just don’t know if these actors would cry in the movie in the same way they would in real life. And having seen two movies from Ari Aster now, it makes me wonder as to what he will have stored in the future for his projects. Is this going to become a cliche? Is this going to be an Ari Asterism? Is he going to have at least one oddball, Lifetime movie-esque sobbing scene for each one of his films? And I will say, this crying, while annoying, was not even the worst part of this sack of crap!

I will say, when it comes to the characters in general, they are very off and on. For one thing, I kind of hate the main group of guys in this film because they all seem to just be less than friendly to the main character at times and it is sort of off-putting. There’s a scene where everyone completely establishes they don’t want to go on this trip to Sweden with her, only to pretend to be nice to her when she’s in the room and invite her to the trip. I understand why they would invite her, even if they have something against the main character to begin with. But even so, upon first seeing all the guys, they all had this rather unlikable vibe to them. It’s like if a speeding ticket was a person!

But I will say, upon first seeing rural Sweden and the setting for the movie’s main events, I was undeniably impressed. The setting looked vibrant and beautiful, almost to the point where I wanted to go there. All the costumes stand out and it brought this feeling of immersion. Sadly though, as the movie progressed, there was not much of interest when it came to various happenings in Sweden. Granted, the movie does a good job at letting us as an audience experience the traditions of the cult, but when it comes to shock value, which this movie seems to promise, I almost felt nothing. Maybe because I saw it coming though. I remember going into this movie being told it’s more gross than scary, and honestly I can see why, but I won’t go into it.

One comment about this film before it came out that admittedly made my hype levels rise as high as a skyscraper came from director Ari Aster himself. Back in March, he referred to “Midsommar” as “a ‘Wizard of Oz’ for perverts.” Honestly, I took that as a bit of a joke. I did expect this movie to be somewhat gory, I did expect a lot of the costumes to pop, I also expected the locations and setpieces to set the tone for what’s to come, but holy s*it, he’s right. I won’t go into complete detail, but that is a good way to describe this film based on certain scenes.

But it does not change one thing. THIS MOVIE SUCKS!

I–I can’t believe it! This is Ari Aster I’m referring to! I should be praising him like he is god or something! But now, he has diminished some of my hopes for his future projects! As if the movie itself was bad enough based on the beginning and the main events as everyone happens to be in Sweden, the ending just takes those two concepts and makes them look like a breeze to sit through. Why? Because, again, without spoiling anything, it is simply one of the most repulsive things I have witnessed in recent memory. In fact, I might even go as far to say that the ending to “Midsommar” could qualify to be a part of my top 10 worst endings in film history! Granted, I saw where the film was going with the ending, trying to have this compelling vibe that maybe could get some viewers to be speechless or something. It could possibly get them to activate their brain a little bit. In a way, if I had to use a recent example, it kind of had a similar feel to the ending I witnessed in last year’s “Annihilation,” only that movie was ten times better and more interesting than this piece of crap!

In fact, if I really had to make a comparison between this film and something else it has to be “The Favourite.” It’s a film that I heard a lot about, it has a reasonable amount of hype behind it for various reasons, it looks beautiful (both in previews and the final product), but it turned out to be a colossal disappointment. Granted, I will point out this movie is superior to “The Favourite” in terms of how invested I was from start to finish. It was less boring, better paced, and overall a slightly more hypnotizing story. But it does not change the fact that when it comes to “Midsommar,” it is a film that had tons of potential to be associated with prestige, and sadly, it ends up falling flat on its own face.

The best way I could describe the ending to “Midsommar” without further context is by once again going back to the idea of this movie being gross as opposed to scary. To me, it was neither, it was simply annoying. If you think hearing Jar Jar Binks and his hellish voice is ridiculous at home on your living room TV, try going to a cinema with surround sound and listening to every single utterance during this film’s climax. I imagine when this film comes out on DVD, it is not going to change how nearly headache-inducing the ending could possibly get.

Ari Aster, I love you! Please make a better film than than this! I was rooting for you!

In the end, “Midsommar” might as well have as much of a chance of completely impressing me during a repeat viewing as White Castle does of creating a pancake-sized burger. The worst thing about “Midsommar” is not necessarily how bad it is, but how disappointing it is. I say that because there are lot of movies out there that I knew were going to be terrible before watching them like “Batman & Robin” and “The Emoji Movie,” but “Midsommar” looked fantastic. In fact when I call this my most anticipated film of the summer compared to another film that opened the same day, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which ended up surprising me to the point of absurdity, it leaves a hole in my heart. I cannot even recommend this movie as background noise, because again, this film has an ending that is probably just as annoying to me as annoying as Teletubbies may be to parents who are raising newborn children. But again, I cannot give this movie a 1/10 because it is well shot, it does look impressive, and I say that to the point where it would make for a good tech demo. Well, as long as the product is on mute at certain points. I’m going to give “Midsommar” a 3/10. Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that pretty soon I’ll have my review up for “Crawl,” a film about a father and daughter who are caught in the middle of a Florida hurricane. If you want to read a review for an Ari Aster flick that I think is worth your time, my link to my “Hereditary” review is down below! Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account, also be sure to like my Facebook page if you have an account there as well! Stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Midsommar?” What did you think about it? Am I crazy right now or something? Or, who is a director working today who doesn’t have much background that you are curious about? Aside from Aster, Tim Miller would be one of my picks. I’m somewhat curious as to what he’s going to do with “Terminator: Dark Fate.” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Hereditary (2018) REVIEW

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The Maze Runner (2014): The Continuation of Teen Angst, Starring Dylan O’Brien

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! In 2014, one movie I kind of wanted to see was “The Maze Runner,” unfortunately, I never got around to watching it. Although a few months ago I was buying a number of Blu-rays at one of my personal favorite shops around the mall, AKA Newbury Comics, and I managed to come across “The Maze Runner” and “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. I still went on for months after buying them without watching either one of the films. That however, has changed. On January 26th, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” will hit theaters. Appropriately, I felt I should review the first “Maze Runner” and the second “Maze Runner.” Since I’m a chronological type of person, we’re gonna kick this series off by talking about the first “Maze Runner.” Without further ado, let’s start the review.

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“The Maze Runner” is directed by Wes Ball who has mainly done work in the film industry in the realms of art and visual effects. Aside from a few short films, this is pretty much the guy’s directorial debut. This movie stars Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf, The Internship), Kaya Scoldelario (Now Is Good, The Truth About Emanuel), and Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, Son of Rambow). “The Maze Runner” is about a youngish boy who is brought into this green, limited realm. He meets a group of men who tries to get him to adapt to the way things are. However, there is a way out (sort of). There is a maze separating this realm from the outside world. “Runners” are searching inside it every day, trying to find a way out. It’s at a point when this youngish boy learns about all of this, when he desires to join the runners.

This movie came out in 2014, it’s based on a book by James Dashner, and one thing I noticed about not only the 2010s decade, but perhaps slightly before this particular decade began, is how many popular young adult teen angst novels were being adapted into movies. Some examples include “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter,” “Percy Jackson,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” etc. I’ve seen a number of these, and no, “Twilight” wasn’t one of them. Thank goodness! While some of these young adult novels might fall under say the romance or fantasy genres, one concept that has applied a lot to recently popularized young adult books is the sci-fi dystopian element. This has been extremely evident with the worldwide phenomenon known as “The Hunger Games.”

I’ll be honest with you, I read the first “Hunger Games” book in the summer of 2012, and I don’t even recall making it a quarter of the way through the whole thing. I watched the movie, and while it wasn’t bad the first time watching it, the film got worse over more watches and the more I thought about it. The second film’s good, but I’ve yet to see “Mockingjay” parts 1 & 2, because as of now, I no desire to pay for two parts.

There’s a series that relates to this called “Divergent,” and I haven’t read the books for that. I enjoyed the first movie, I thought the second one was slightly better, but the third one sucked. As for the third movie, this is yet another case of splitting a book into two parts, and I’m wondering if that’s partially why the movie didn’t do well in terms of reactions and returns at the box office. Oh yeah, also don’t forget the rather dull story, annoying characters, and crappy CGI. One of the biggest problems I have with the movies however is that Tris keeps changing her hair. What’s up with that?!

People often consider “Divergent” a ripoff of “The Hunger Games,” but that’s simply not true. Both have corrupt governments and are futuristic, but just tinker around with them a little bit and you’ll see the differences underneath. “The Hunger Games” is an event that involves fighting to the death whereas “Divergent” is simply about a girl in a certain class that society doesn’t like. As for “The Maze Runner,” it’s got some similarities to both “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent.” However, as far as the book goes, “The Maze Runner” came out before “Divergent,” so you can technically say “Divergent” has similarities to “The Maze Runner” and “The Hunger Games.” All three books involve a post-apocalyptic world with a nasty regime, there’s a teen who has to fight against the overlords, and they’re all tested. The similarities are significant in all three films. However, I think out of “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent,” and “The Maze Runner,” I have to say I think “The Maze Runner” may be the best film of the three. This doesn’t say much about the book, but as a film, this one likely reigns supreme.

What I just said doesn’t mean “The Maze Runner” is a masterpiece, I just think it’s an enjoyable flick that could help you pass the time for a couple of hours. Since I have that out of the way, let’s get into some problems.

Pacing wise, this movie is mostly competent, you can follow everything quite well, and your eyes will be stuck to the screen for a long time.  However, as the movie gets towards the end, I have to say that there’s a point, specifically when a screen comes on and everybody’s listening, that the pacing just goes off for a second. I don’t know how others feel about that but that’s how I feel. I will say though, without spoiling much of anything, the movie has to do something in particular, and that thing in particular is what caused the drag for me.

One little nitpick, and I don’t know if this was an idea that the book’s author had, or if it was a director, or an editor, or who it could have possibly been that had this vision, but there are these enemies that you see in the film. They’re called Grievers. As enemies, they are serviceable and I don’t really have much that’s significantly wrong with them, but thinking about them, they almost look like ripoffs of the Xenomorphs from the “Alien” franchise. I’m surprised I’ve even said that because believe it or not I haven’t watched one “Alien” movie.

Dylan O’Brien plays the main character of Thomas throughout “The Maze Runner,” and I’d say that the character was well written, and I’d say having gone through the movie, O’Brien’s a nice pick to play the character. Granted, I can tell they probably cast Dylan O’Brien mainly because girls have a crush on him since he’s on “Teen Wolf” and if you know what the show is, you’d understand my point. To my happiness, the script focused less on his physique and more on his hope to become a runner and leave the maze. That remains true for every single one of the movies characters, which is just rather refreshing. Speaking of refreshing, there’s not much romance in this film. There is friendship, there is interaction, but there’s never any romance. And in a world where that is prominent in both the “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” franchises, that is awesome.

I really like the scene in the film where we first meet Thomas and he forgets his real name. The way he finds out is kind of hilarious. Basically, we meet him, it’s daytime, we are introduced to the Gladers, and soon, night arrives, we see a bunch of boys around a campfire. Thomas is in a fight, and as he is fighting, he’s getting his butt kicked, and all of a sudden, he remembers his name is Thomas, announces it in front of all the boys, and everyone is just exclaiming to the tenth degree. Pure hilarity.

As for another standout character, we have the big bad bully, Gally, played by Will Poulter. While Thomas is just trying to save everyone, Gally would occasionally interfere, saying that Thomas needs to be punished. I must say, this is good choice from a casting perspective, and I’m not saying this is a negative despite coming off as repetitive, he kind of looks like bullies we’ve seen in the past in terms of what’s happened in TV and movies. Just compare him with characters such as Biff from “Back to the Future” or Buzz from “Home Alone” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

In the end, I’d say “The Maze Runner” is a really enjoyable film for what it is. It has some of the teen angst cliches, but at the same time, is a little more lighthearted in ways making it feel like you can have fun watching the movie. I have nothing against dark and gritty films, but in reality, that’s how a majority of teen angst films seem to come off. If you have never seen “The Maze Runner,” I do recommend it. I don’t know what to say about the book, or how much you’ll like the movie if you’ve read the book. I just know they’re not exactly the same. I’m going to give “The Maze Runner” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! I’m going to have my review up for the second part of the “Maze Runner” trilogy next Thursday, January 25th, which is also the night of the early screenings of the final installment, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure.” So stay tuned for my review of “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” along with more exciting content coming your way. I want to know, did you watch “The Maze Runner?” What are your thoughts? Did you read the book? Which is better? The book or the movie? Let me know your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!