Us vs. Us: The Imagined Communities in Outbreak

National ideology has many different facets, but conceptually it is imagined as limited because, according to Benedict Anderson, even the largest “Nation” has boundaries that might lie within other nations. It is the difference between a nation and a community, the difference between comradeship and unity. This difference is emphasized in movies like Outbreak (1995) in the imagined communities of the common American people and the community of the Army and government. Though both are meant to be of the same country and the same “community”, they are subtly fighting each other to both stay alive and destroy the true enemy: the fictional Motaba virus. The film seems to be a comment on the relationships between a country and its government, on the trust they have in each other and in the community between them – being an American through and through, no matter what level you are at.

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Spider-Man Reminds Us What Marvel Can Be

Extended universes seem to be the norm these days – in the nine years since Iron Man (2008), not only has the MCU grown by fifteen movies (including Spider-Man: Homecoming), but other universes have started to crop up in their wake. DC is attempting to make their own extended universe of superheroes, Universal is bringing together all of their old monsters to create the Dark Universe, and there are rumors abound that both King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) and Power Rangers (2017) are the first stepping stones to their own new universes (though neither movie did so well that I can’t imagine those universes have much of a chance). So, with all of these universes exploding, is it possible for the universe that started it all – the Marvel Universe – to still create movies that are something new, something fresh, and something worth watching when every other film in the world is starting to be just the same? Even when it throws the rest of the MCU into question (maybe even doubt), it seems to me that Spider-Man: Homecoming is trying to follow in the footsteps of its comedic predecessors – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ant-Man (2015) – and the MCU could be all the greater for it. Maybe it’s time to set aside the darkness of Civil War (2016) and let the audience have some fun with their heroes.

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Baby Driver: The Sensory Summer Surprise

Like basically everyone else who heard the title Baby Driver, I went into this one not expecting very much at all. Sure, it was a movie about a getaway driver with a badass Jaime Foxx in the passenger seat, but the title was Baby Driver, how cool could it possibly be? And, just like everyone else, I completely underestimated Edgar Wright and everyone in this movie. Not only is it a fun story and a nice way to spend two hours, it is a great leap into a sensory style of film, pulling its audience into the feel of the moment, actually triggering their sight and touch, and making them part of the experience. With the music so perfectly placed and the actors so in sync with their sounds, as well as some fantastic exploding colors and a lack of CGI car chases (you heard me, Wright went on record saying no CGI or green screens were used for the car chase sequences, how badass is that?!), no audience member can avoid being completely enveloped in this story, no matter what they think of the actual dialogue and plot. Those are almost secondary details, and all we need is the experience of Baby behind the wheel.

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Megan Leavey Earns Your Feelings

Some films, particularly ones with an animal component, have a very easy job of getting their audience to connect to the story. Most of the time this connection seems effortless, as though the presence of the dog or horse or dolphin is such an automatic trigger to human emotion that the film itself doesn’t need to do any extra work to ensure that the audience feels exactly what they’re expected to feel at any given moment. With Megan Leavey, sure, there is a dog in a war scenario, but the dog in question is known to be a violent dog, one who has broken the hand of a formal trainer, and the title character isn’t exactly a ray of sunshine either. In order for the audience to care about this team, Megan Leavey has to work hard to draw the audience in, and the combination of Kate Mara’s quiet and strong acting, the tension-building of her overseas combat, and the surprising delicacy of the portrayal of a former soldier’s PTSD combine to create a narrative that tugs at the heart-strings. The love of a woman and her dog is just an added bonus to squeeze out a few more tears. Continue reading

Zombies: Big Screen vs. Small Screen

Unlike most of their monstrous counterparts that have graced screens across the world, zombies are a relatively visual creation. While creatures like Dracula cast their shadow over the people they terrorize without needing to be seen, zombies are frightening through their stunning visuality, their embodiment of Sigmund Freud’s concept of the uncanny, and their lack of need for backstory or even explanation. Zombies are frightening because they simply are – there is no motive, no convoluted plot, only the constant need for human flesh.

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