The Best Marvel Movie Yet?
Thor: Ragnarok (2017): Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.
Hey, look! A superhero movie done the way a superhero movie should be done! Light, refreshing, and fun to watch, filled with charming and charismatic leads and a great villain. It seems simple, right? Well, that's exactly what Thor: Ragnarok is. This film, which is the only Thor film worth watching, moves briskly through its 130 minute run-time and is full of witty dialogue spoken by a cast that just seeps charisma, even from its relative newcommers. I mean in a cast that consists of Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum, (oh, and an AMAZING cameo) you know you have lightning in a bottle when Tessa Thompson steals the show. In other news.....welcome to Hollywood, Tessa Thompson. And welcome to A-list status, Taika Waititi. What a great choice to have him direct this!
So, what makes this movie so good? Well pretty much the entire planet has already seen this sucker, but by far the biggest thing is the fact that it's FUNNY. This movie is laugh out loud funny from start to finish. It might as well be considered a comedy.....and honestly it was funnier than Guardians 2. Now this humor does hurt it at points, as the heroes would be in a life threatening situation and still spouting off one-liners, but is that really that big a deal? No. Also, this movie is colorful! I mean just look at the pic above. So many different colors. All the suits are diverse and are quite nice to look at. The movie is well acted by all parties involved, with Tessa Thompson leading the way. But really the strength of this movie can be traced to director Taika Waititi. Marvel took a big risk with this guy.....before this movie, his highest grossing film made somewhere around $5 million. But the guys over at Marvel knocked this one out of the park, as having Taika direct was a superb choice. I expect he'll have a lot more directing gigs in the future. Also, and this is just a minor thing, but I LOVED the fact that Doctor Strange was in this. It was a brief cameo, sure, but I just really appreciated the fact that FOR ONCE someone did something in the MCU, and another superhero actually acknowledged it! THANK YOU.
There's not much to say that's bad about this film. I guess my biggest complaint is that there's not enough of the villain in it. I LOVED Cate Blanchett as Hela. She's an extremely strong villain, but was not in this film NEARLY enough. It's really funny to me that this is the case, because a typical complaint of Marvel movies is that they have a very underwhelming villain. Well here, they finally have a great villain, but they just don't feature her enough! Geez, guys! Other than that, I guess the only thing I can say is I am starting to get fatigued as a whole about superhero movies. I'll keep seeing them, obviously, but it's getting harder and harder for me to not look at the latest Marvel movie as "just another Marvel movie," and I have a feeling that outside of Avengers: Infinity War, that feeling is just going to get worse and worse as time goes on. But still. This is a great movie, and that complaint doesn't do anything to diminish that. Just.....don't forget about other movies, please?
The Critique: Taika Waititi directs another strong addition to the Marvel franchise filled with great humor and entertaining action.
The Recommendation: At this point, I might as well ask.....who isn't going to see this movie?
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
A Towering Visual Spectacle
Blade Runner 2049 (2017): A young blade runner's discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who's been missing for thirty years.
Ok, first off, GO SEE THIS MOVIE. It's not doing all that well at the box office and that is a HUGE SHAME because this movie is a visual masterpiece! You don't need to have seen the original Blade Runner to follow along here. I can speak with personal experience on that one, because that's exactly what I did. But.....look at that picture! Doesn't that shot just look stunning? The film looks like that basically the entire movie! So stop reading this review and GO SEE IT. NOW.
Ok, now that you're back, let's talk about Blade Runner 2049. First off, the good! As I may have mentioned, the calling card of this film is the cinematography. Master sci-fi director Denis Villeneuve brings one of the greatest cinematographers ever into the fold in Roger Deakins to film this movie, and this may be his best work yet. From the lush colors to the incredible wideshots, there is not a single ugly shot in this entire film. And while the film has these unforgettable wide shots, it makes sure to knock the intimate close ups out of the park too. Seriously.... you could watch this movie with no sound on whatsoever and still be entertained. I feel confident when I say this film will be a favorite to win Best Cinematography at the Oscars, because it is one of the best visual works I have seen in a long while. (At least since 2015's The Revenant) But that's not the only thing this film has going for it, because if you turn the sound off you will miss out on the other great thing here: the score. This film's score definitely follows up the original's iconic score, as (once again....the dude is on fire this year between this and Dunkirk) Hans Zimmer creates a dark and eerie soundtrack that somehow rides the line between sounding similar to the original, while not being just a carbon copy of it. Simply incredible. No doubt Zimmer is on the top of his game right now, and he's making a strong case for winning his first ever Academy Award this year as well.
But that's not all. In addition to the cinematography and score, this film features an incredible set design and great costumes. I mean, look at that picture I used! It's beautiful! There are some scenes that take place in a Vegas casino, and the set design of those scenes is pretty amazing as well. Ironically, the blandest costume in the entire film is worn by Harrison Ford, but that was certainly intentional. Speaking of Ford, the acting is also fantastic. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford are great, and Ana de Armas plays her role well too. Sylvia Hoeks is a newcommer for me, but her performance was excellent as Wallace's right hand replicant. She's definitely a bona fide badass, and I look forward to seeing what she does next. Jared Leto is the screen hogging to the max (as usual) and I can't help but love it, though I think his performance will become somewhat dated as time goes on. OH! And Barkhad Abdi is in this!!!! We finally get an appearance from this great Somalian actor! Woot woot! Buuuuut he did not tell Gosling or Ford that he was the captain of this film now, so I was a little disappointed by that. But seriously, Hollywood: get this guy more work! He's great!
I do have a few faults, though. By far my biggest issue with this film is with Arma de Armas's character. She's basically Gosling's projection girlfriend, but she has a really sloppy and shallow character arc that is "resolved" in a very mute and messy way. It's the focal point of some backlash against the film, and I can kind of see why. As great as Armas portrays the character as this childish and somewhat naive projection that matures throughout the film, the movie itself could not care less about her and her existence. Sadly she's just there to be sexy, but thanks to the talent of Armas she makes it a bit more than that. However it's still easily the weakest point of the film. Really, that's the only major complaint I have with this movie. I wish they had shown us some off-world colonies, but wishing for more film is hardly a gripe to have. Oh! Here's something else: the final climatic battle scene was kind of poorly shot compared to the rest of the film and was a little too chaotic, but given the beauty of virtually everything before it I'm more than willing to forgive that. That sequence is shot at night and I understand why, but I still kind of wish it had just been shot during the day so we could see everything. Ultimately, Denis Villeneuve leads a talented group and creates a gripping and immersive sci-fi drama that falls just short of perfection thanks to some shortcomings in the character arcs. However this film is MORE than worthy of your time and money, and is certainly worth going to the theater to see just to stare at its beauty and listen to the score. Make the time to see this one.
The Critique: A marvelous visual spectacle, Blade Runner 2049 is more than worthy of your time and is headlined by incredible cinematography and a fantastic score.
The Recommendation: You guessed it: an absolute must-see for everyone. There's more than enough to like here for all.
The Verdict: 9/10 Amazing
Oscar Talk: I think this film will get an easy nomination for cinematography, and it may very well earn Zimmer a nomination for the score as well. (Though the Academy may go for the more commercially successful film of his and give him a nod for Dunkirk) I could see costumes and production design, but this film may be coming out too early for that. We'll see!
Not quite my thing
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017): After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.
So, let me start out my review by saying I'm not the biggest fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise. I've seen most of the films (pretty much everything minus the sequels to the '68 film) and I really enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but since the 2011 reboot I've been kind of bored by the franchise. Both Dawn and now War feel like setup films, with neither really progressing through the fall of earth, or worse showing it off-screen. I'm sure the defenders of the franchise will say that's not the point, but it doesn't change the fact that that's what I want to see! When you call your film WAR for the PLANET of the Apes, I expect to see a freaking war! When the marketing campaign is "Winner take all" I expect it to be WINNER TAKE ALL. Not just another random base outside of San Francisco. But on the flip-side, I was absolutely blown away by the motion capture of the film. The visuals are gorgeous, and the acting from Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson was absolutely incredible.So, at the end of the day.....while I can see why many would absolutely love this film, it just wasn't quite my thing. Anyway, let's dive into it, shall we? Because that would be depressing if that was my full review.
First off, the good. (And in this case, incredible) This film's visuals are some of the best I have ever seen in a film. The calling card is certainly the motion capture. Most of this film is nothing but apes, which means the film had nothing but motion capture performances in it. This is undoubtedly where the film excels, and it's all held together by a truly incredible performance from Andy Serkis as Caesar. We're still decades from someone being nominated for an Oscar for a motion capture performance, but he just might crack my top ten performance this year. It's hard to put into words just how good this performance really is, but everything helped factor into it, from the convincing performance of Serkis behind the motion capture to the incredible CGI being able to showcase so much detail in Caesar's face to convey all the emotions they needed to convey. Oh how far we've come. Not to be outdone by Serkis, though, is the villain of this film, played by Woody Harrelson. He puts in a terrific performance, though one of my faults with this film is how little screen-time he actually receives. But the complaint of "I wish he was in this film more because he's so good" is definitely a good complaint to have.
However, my negative complaints are quite negative for me, unfortunately. As I mentioned, I have a problem with the overall story of this film. Personally, I try to see a film for all its characteristics, not just the story. There's no doubt this film is a technical masterpiece, and it's well-acted, but my GOD did I all but despise this story. The marketing for the film was very deceptive as it heavily implied this overarching war between humans and apes that we didn't actually see. Caesar's story arc was pretty good, as the crew definitely realized that the best part of this franchise is Caesar/Andy Serkis, but I just wanted.... more. Additionally, this is a LONG film at 140 minutes, and is mostly devoid of any humor. I don't mind a film with this serious a tone (it's way better than the forced comic relief in the Transformers or even the Fast and the Furious franchise) but it doesn't change the fact that this is a long film that feels overly long. Sure, Bad Ape has some funny moments, but those moments are few and very far between. I really wish the tone had been just a bit more lighthearted than it actually was.
Ultimately, while this is a marvelous technical masterpiece, and will hopefully FINALLY win this franchise it's first Best Visual Effects Oscar, it still wasn't quite my cup of tea. The marketing just turned me off so much after I watched the final product, and the film is just too long. See it for the visuals, but see it when you're ready to fully devote yourself to a 140 minute film that's more of a serious drama than a summer blockbuster.
The Critique: Although it features gorgeous visuals and terrific performances from Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson, War for the Planet of the Apes is held back from greatness because of a slow pace and overlong story that is too serious in tone.
The Recommendation: If you want to see films at the forefront of what Hollywood can do from a technological perspective, see it with confidence. If you're just a casual fan of this franchise, there might not be much else going on here to keep you drawn in.
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
See Sony? Working together has its benefits
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges.
Finally. After years of waiting and 2 sub-par films that were shameless cash-grabs from Sony, Spider-Man is back with the film he deserves. My personal favorite superhero, Spider-Man has long had a special place in my heart. Spider-Man 2 is actually one of my more coveted films of the early 2000's. One of the reasons I loved that film was because it featured a fallen hero as its villain. I am a major sucker for this ploy in superhero movies (of course The Dark Knight did this best with the fall of Harvey Dent) and I am delighted to see it again here. A superhero film is only as good as its villain, and FINALLY we get a good one here.
When was the last time we had a good villain in a Marvel film? I'd argue you'd have to look allllllll the way back to Loki in the original Avengers film for a truly good villain. But finally, we have another. Thank you, Michael Keaton. Were it not for a terrific performance from Tom Holland as Peter Parker himself I'd say Keaton stole the show. But as it stands, there's Tom Holland. Move over, Tobey Maguire. There's a new Spidey in town. Holland's rendition of Parker is easily the best rendition I have seen of the character, and he quickly cements himself in the MCU here. Kudos to Marvel's crew for the fantastic casting. Outside of Holland and Keaton, we have a great performance from Jacob Batalon as Parker's best friend, Ned. Here's another great casting decision from the Marvel crew. Before Spider-Man, Batalon had a single film credit to his name and it was for a small budget horror movie. But I absolutely loved him, as well as Zendaya as Michelle. Seriously, the casting crew for Marvel deserves a huge raise for their job with the young actors in this film.
The other star of this show is its story. Homecoming is a great coming-of-age film that would easily stand up to any of the 6142131123 other coming-of-age films we get every year. Holland and Robert Downey Jr. are great together, and RDJ goes through as much of a good story arc as he takes on the role of a father figure as Holland does learning the classic Spider-Man life lesson. (Tell 'em, Uncle Ben) There are several good story arcs in this film, including with the Vulture. Even Zendaya's Michelle has a good arc here. I really have to give a lot of credit to Jonathan Goldstein and company for doing a great job here. There's six writing credits on IMDB for this film. (And that doesn't even mention the writers-for-hire) Usually when there's that many writing credits it's the result of a subpar script, but not here. Well done, guys.
That said, it's not perfect. It's never good when the weakest part of an action movie is your action sequences, but unfortunately that is the case here. While overall the set-pieces are fine, I really did not care for the big battle sequence on the plane towards the end of the film. In this sequence the film flirts with "Spider-Man vs. Electro" levels of terrible as it was bitterly obvious that everything on screen in front of us was fake. Unfortunately this really detracts from the film as it is meant to be the climax of the movie. Also, please stop objectifying Marisa Tomei. She's a terrific actress and did a great job in her extremely limited role as Aunt May, but it seemed like the film spent more time remarking on how hot she is versus actually letting her be Parker's mother figure. She does get a great moment at the very end though, so at least there's that. Also, do yourself a favor and stay until the VERY end of the credits because there is a gem of a post-credit scene waiting for you.
Ultimately, this is the Spider-Man film we needed and were it not for a lackluster final action set piece, we'd be looking at a film as good as last week's Baby Driver. As is, however, we do have ourselves possibly the best Marvel film to date, and certainly the second-best film of 2017. You're up, War for the Planet of the Apes. Let's keep it rolling.
The Critique: One of Marvel's best installments to date, Spider-Man: Homecoming features a great story and terrific performances from Tom Holland and Michael Keaton, and is the second great summer blockbuster for Hollywood in as many weeks.
The Recommendation: Make it a double feature everyone! We're all gonna see this film because Marvel's name is on it so be sure to watch the excellent Baby Driver too!
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
Image Credit: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMTg4MDAyNjQ3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMzNTMzMjI@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_.jpg
By: Peter Kosanovich
Wonder Woman (2017): Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.
Wonder Woman was, in many ways, the superhero movie we needed right now; as a people, as a society, and as a viewing audience. This movie was a work of love, and better than just about any other superhero movie, it new its emotional core.
Let me go on though, Wonder Woman is definitely flawed! It is far from perfect, and there are definite reasons for that. I have been immensely critical of Zack Snyder and the cinematic universe he has established for DC and Warner Bros. – he desaturated the color palette of his movies, required everyone to conform to his overuse of speed-ramping in the editing suite, wrote stories that were overly convoluted and didn’t flow, and gave us no emotional connection to any of the characters – and while my deepest condolences and best wishes go out to the Snyder family in their time of sorrow, these stylistic choices have harmed the quality of these movies. Because of this, Patty Jenkins, the director of Wonder Woman, was required to go outside her normal wheelhouse to accommodate his style. Generally speaking she managed to accomplish this, but on occasion it got in her way of telling a compelling story.
In terms of the story itself, Wonder Woman, like most of DC’s movies, went through a number of scripts, and directors, and producers, right up until just before principle shooting. Patty Jenkins stepped in last minute after the previous director left; this meant she was working with already established scripts, storyboards, shot lists, locations, much of the crew, etc. These are hardly ideal conditions for a director to step in, and still manage to hit a home-run! To that I say, Bravo Patty Jenkins! You deserve any and all praise you get!
Based on all of this it’s a wonder that Patty Jenkins managed to make the movie as good as it ended up being. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I teared up at points! And for anyone who knows me, that is not an easy feat to accomplish. That is a testimony to Patty Jenkins understanding and devotion to her characters. I will say the script was not the strongest, it had its moments, but it was far from perfect. Patty managed to bring out some of the best moments through the performances she brought out of the actors. I commend her.
Now, enough on the backstory!
Wonder Woman takes place during WWI, “The Great War.” In his escape from German soldiers, American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crash-lands at the Amazonian island of Themyscira. He is rescued by Diana, AKA Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who agrees to return him to the war because she believes it is her duty to save the world of man from Ares, the Greek god of war. While in Themyscira the world is filled with bright, vivid colors – paradise – but upon reaching London Diana comments that “it’s hideous,” noting the bleak color palette often associated with war time and the industrial era of the time.
After assembling a team, Steve and Diana go to the front; we see images of amputees, civilians fleeing danger, smoke and ash raining down. Here the now iconic “No Man’s Land” scene occurs, Diana cannot just stand by and watch the carnage of war. It is here that we feel the power of Diana, the power of Wonder Woman, the power of women. It is an incredible scene, and very emotionally resonant and empowering!
Without going too much further to avoid spoilers, I loved this movie! I did have issues with parts – some of the writing, some of the speed-ramping, one particularly awful piece of CGI/VFX – but most of that I attribute to the constraints Patty Jenkins was required to work in. I cannot wait for the sequel, when Patty will hopefully have more creative control! But regardless of the films issues, it exceeded all expectations from an emotional standpoint. It knew its core! The emotional center of the film felt incredibly grounded and compelling. If for no other reason that is why Wonder Woman succeeds, it made us care about those characters.
The Critique: Wonder Woman was, pun fully intended, wonderful! It was grounded, had a core, and spread love and hope in a bleak and uncertain world! It was empowering and resonant in all the right ways. Many of the issues were from previous problems in the DCEU and should not be attributed to Patty Jenkins or the cast.
Recommendation: Go see it!
The Verdict: I want to make it clear that, despite the universal praise it’s receiving, this movie is far from perfect, but so lovable regardless. My number is 7.5/10
That's our Xenomorph origin? Really?
Alien: Covenant (2017): The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
Yes! Finally! An Alien move with Xenomorphs actually in it! We've been waiting 20 years for the Alien franchise to finally bring back, you know, the alien, and that wait is over. (Shush.....not including the AVP franchise) I was a giddy little schoolboy while that Xenomorph was on screen. It was AWESOME. The problem with this film, however, is when you really start to think about it. Ridley Scott has been given complete creative control over his Alien franchise, and raised a lot of questions in his first installment, Prometheus. I still don't really know what was going on in that film. While this film does actually answer more questions than it poses, some of those answers are going to leave fans of the franchise (such as myself) wishing for more. The lore-building here SUCKS. But hey. There are freaking Xenomorphs this time around. And the film looks absolutely gorgeous. And the acting is awesome. Basically, your mileage will vary with this film. If you're coming in just wanting a monster movie, you will enjoy the crap out of this while you're not sitting around waiting patiently for everything to be explained to you. But if you're coming for the fact that this is a freaking Alien movie, and you want to know more about the origins of the Xenomorphs.....well you're gonna be disappointed.
So! Let's start out with the good. Let's talk cinematography. Dariusz Wolski is one of the best cinematographers in the business, and he does an absolutely marvelous job here. This film is absolutely gorgeous. I'd recommend seeing this film in the theater for the cinematography alone, as it's easily the best of 2017 so far. The set design is great as well. I don't know where they went to film this but Ridley Scott and company did a great job making this look like a foreign world and maintaining the overall grandeur of its predecessor Prometheus, which was definitely the strongest part of that film as well. The sound crew had a lot to do with this as well. This film overall has a strong showing from the technical departments, to the point that it may get a nomination or two from the Academy despite its early release. The acting here was outstanding as well. Katherine Waterston, man. Where has she come from? She is the hero this franchise needed, a worthy successor to Sigourney Weaver. While we may never get a resolution to Ripley's character because Ridley Scott doesn't feel like returning to that part of the lore, they definitely stumbled on a new actress to build the franchise around in Daniels. She has a great story arc and is just overall a total badass. You know who else is great in this film? Danny McBride. Ya. I'm just as surprised as you are. But he shows off his dramatic side in this film and was great! And, of course, there's Michael Fassbender. His duel portrayal as David/Walter is chilling. Though his characters do get to an absolutely TERRIBLE resolution. I guess that leads into the bad!
So, let's first hit that point. So for the first and second act Michael Fassbender's characters are awesome. They get some one on one interactions that are great. But then their characters get the worst resolution ever. Anyone who has ever watched a movie will see this coming from a mile away, and yet for some reason Ridley Scott builds it up and when he pulls back the curtain he seems to think that we're all gonna be like, "Whoa! Didn't see that coming!" Well, I did. As did everyone else in the theater. Then there's the contributions to the lore. I know only people that care about this franchise will be upset about this, but I'm one of those people, okay? The contributions to the lore here are so freaking lackluster man. I was so disappointed! I won't spoil, but it appears that I'm in the majority here thinking that these contributions and resolutions and the answer to "Where did the Xenomorph come from?" are weak, and bring down the overall franchise. Ridley Scott clearly wants nothing to do with the lore of Alien: Resurrection, but if you're going to give the legendary Xenomorph a backstory it's gotta be strong. Unfortunately this is anything but strong.
However outside those two things, there really isn't much to fault with this film. Which is why your mileage will vary. If those two faults don't bother you, you're gonna have a good time and I highly recommend this film. You can certainly watch it without watching Prometheus, and given what this film does to the Prometheus story line, I would actually recommend it. (Ya, this film basically made the entirety of Prometheus irrelevant. That happened) And there are freaking Xenomorphs, man! They get to wreak havoc like the perfect organisms that they are! If only they were given the backstory they deserved.
The Critique: Despite great execution from the technical and acting departments, Alien: Covenant delivers a hilariously lackluster backstory for the legendary Xenomorph, which will ultimately leave fans of the franchise disappointed.
The Recommendation: If you like monster movies but haven't watched an Alien film since James Cameron's Aliens, this might be the film to jump back in on.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
It's basically more of the same
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017): Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' continues the team's adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill's true parentage.
Wow, IMDB went right there with the reference to the mixtape. Right in the description. Anyway! Let's not beat around the bush on this one: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is more of the same. It is nearly a carbon copy of the original film. Now, is that a bad thing? No. To me that is not a bad thing. I have seen so many sequels try and reinvent the wheel on its second go and fall flat on its face in the process that I have no issue with a film taking an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," kind of mentality. THAT SAID. To all of you who groan about franchises like The Fast and the Furious being "more of the same" then turn around and love a film like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? You need to look yourself in the mirror and say, "When in Rome." Sorry, I lost my train of thought there....I have no idea what you should do. But the double standard is real! Is my point. Anyway, moving on. Let's talk about Guardians 2 and what it gets right!
Let's talk about the dialogue. Like the first Guardians film, Vol. 2 is all about the "moments" versus the overall plot. The overall plot here is fine, but it's these moments that we all look back on and smile upon. Besides for the obvious one-Baby Groot-I think Rocket once again steals the show. Bradley Cooper just plays this character so freaking well. Pratt and Saldana are great together, and there's some good interludes between Dave Bautista and newcomer Pom Klementieff as well. And once again Elizabeth Debicki is a GREAT villain. I seriously love this woman...she can pull off a CRAZY villain character. If you have no idea who she is check out The Man from U.N.C.L.E. As if I don't talk about that film enough. Also, the effects are great! Mostly. There were a few times where the CGI was overwhelming, like, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 kind of overwhelming, but for the most part they were great. Especially on Ego's planet! That place is freaking beautiful and that's thanks 100% to the effects. Also the soundtrack is good. It's more of the same from the first film, but at least it was more than surface-level deep. There was just more marketing around it (heck it made it into the freaking IMDB description) so it didn't feel as authentic necessarily.
So! Let's talk about the negatives of this film. You may have noticed I didn't touch on Kurt Russell to this point. Well, that's because I didn't think he was all that good. Look, things start well enough with him, but as the film progresses and he's asked to be more than just charming and charismatic, he really falters. And what happens to him in the final act? Please. Terrible casting choice. Almost as bad as asking us to believe a 61 year-old Ian McDiarmid could take on four Jedi, including Samuel L. Jackson, in Revenge of the Sith, no problem. Then there's the pacing. Holy CRAP is the pacing in this film TERRIBLE. Like, seriously! Nobody else has any problems with the pacing? This film DRAGS its way to the third act with some absolutely meaningless setup. I found myself just straight-up impatient and wanting this film to just get on with it! It comes in at 136 minutes, but it could've EASILY shaved off 30 minutes off its run-time. The pacing is really a product of another big problem with this film-the overall story is really not all that compelling. Like the original, this film is all about the moments (which are great) and in the process of this the overarching story suffers. Oh! Andy FOR THE LOVE OF GOD can we PLEASE get other Marvel characters to acknowledge this crap? I mean, I know they're going to in Infinity War, but there were what? Five post-credit scenes here and not one of them was like Iron Man or someone, ANYONE, from the Avengers investigating the damage the Guardians did! C'mon! Five post credit scenes and literally none of them added anything to the film. I don't even remember them at this point, and I just saw the film a few days ago!
Ok I'm sorry. You probably think I hated the film. I really didn't! It's fine and it's fun, and there's nothing wrong with that. I just hate how a film like this gets a free pass for its missteps. We groan about unnecessary sequels and reboots, but we flock to every Marvel film in existence and think they're the best things ever, even when they do the exact things we always groan about. But all of this does not take away from the fact that this is a FUN movie. It is the definition of a mindless popcorn flick, and that's exactly what a summer blockbuster is supposed to be. But it doesn't change the fact that it is more of the same.
The Critique: While the dialogue is witty and the cast is charismatic, Guardians 2 is simply more of the same. Combined with a lackluster story, mediocre pacing, and a less-than-stellar casting choice with Kurt Russell, this sequel fails to live up to the charming originality of its predecessor.
The Recommendation: We all know you're going to see it, so why bother?
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
Never knew space could be so dull
Passengers (2016): A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.
Shout out to corporate-directed filmmaking. Sony has recognized the growing popularity of space-based films, and they wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Add Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, two of Hollywood's brightest young stars, and BOOM! You have a surefire success. Only problem is you need more than just two charismatic stars and space to make a good film, and Passengers fails on nearly every other level. What's worse is there's a major, essential plot point that is totally ignored in all the trailers that, if done right, could have made for an interesting and sinister story. But, instead, the film really could not try and move past it quicker, and given the marketing campaign for this film, they seemed pretty eager to move past it as well.
So it is impossible to discuss this film without addressing this plot point, so I will give you a big ol' SPOILER WARNING. Ignore this paragraph if you don't want spoilers! Well, it's not really a spoiler as this point happens in the first act of the film, but if you don't want to know anything about the story don't read this part. Spoiler: Chris Pratt wakes Jennifer Lawrence up! So Pratt is stuck on a ship after he wakes up 90 years too soon and is struggling to cope with the thought of dying alone long before he reaches the destination of this voyage through space. One day he walks by Jennifer Lawrence's hibernation pod, and he thinks, "Man, she is really hot! I should wake her up!" and then proceeds to do exactly that, and then proceeds to not tell her that he's the one who woke her up! This film could've turned this into a great moral quandary: the idea that a man, so desperate to not die alone, decides to do the seemingly unthinkable and basically end the life of another human being. (who, as it turns out, was on this voyage to be the first journalist to travel to another colony and come back, so it wasn't like she was important or anything) This plot point could've been done well. We could've seen Pratt sacrifice his soul and then spend years trying to justify and rationalize being a murderer. But no! Instead we have to get scenes of Pratt and Lawrence being charming and charismatic! With Charlie Sheen there to make everyone smile. And when the truth bomb is finally dropped? We get like 5 minutes of Lawrence hating Pratt for, you know, killing her, before the circumstances of the movie bring them back together! And they live happily ever after. NO. The way this plot point is handled sinks the entire ship, no matter how good the scenes of Pratt and Lawrence being charming and charismatic are. I'm sorry. This decision is immoral and unethical, and the film's decision to skirt around it as much as possibly torpedoes everything else.
Ok. Everyone else back now? Hi! Welcome to the continuation of my review of this crappy movie. Let me get the few bright spots in this thing out of the way real fast. First off, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. They're both charming and charismatic. You put them on a screen in any situation, and they can be as charming and charismatic as anyone can be. Did I mention that they are charming and charismatic? Also, there are some cool visuals, particularly the gravity loss sequence. Jennifer Lawrence is swimming in a pool when this happens, and the water goes everywhere. Yes, they marketed the crap out of that sequence, but it was for good reason. It was easily the best sequence in the film. Let's see what else.....uhhhhhh....Michael Sheen is funny! Sure his character is a HUGE swing and a miss, as the film passes up any and every opportunity to let Sheen providing some interesting insight into these characters and their voyage, but he's still a funny guy. And Laurence Fishburne is alright. But oh! We have to talk about revolutionizing the idea of "phoning it in." Hi, Andy Garcia! What the actual crap are you doing in this movie? Andy Garcia, known for such classics as The Godfather: Part III, The Untouchables, and Ocean's Eleven, is in this film for a total of 15 seconds. And it's in the trailer that everyone saw. That's the worst part! Ya it's 2:14 in to this video. That shot is all you get of Andy Garcia in this entire film. They paid him a boatload of money for what was likely less than an hour shoot to "look surprised," and then they put him in every trailer for the film. That's just straight-up false advertising.
Actually, that's probably the best way to describe this film: false advertising. The potential of this film is completely lost in the face of wanting to make as much money off the charm and charisma of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as possible. While there are a few bright spots in this film, and it's two stars do everything they can to make it a pleasant viewing experience, Passengers is ultimately a forgettable and frustrating excuse for a movie. Do NOT bother seeing it. There are soooo many better films out there. Crap, crap, crap!
The Critique: False advertising and corporate greed come together to produce one of the worst films of the year, despite the noticeable efforts of its stars.
The Recommendation: A straight-up AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE. Just watch Guardians of the Galaxy again, or Silver Linings Playbook if you wanna see these wonderful stars in their native habitats.
The Verdict: 2/10 Garbage
Falls short of greatness
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016): The Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.
These are always my toughest reviews. It is so hard for me, a die hard Star Wars fan, to separate fan from "critic." My Episode VII review was a good example of this. I did my best to separate the two, but at the end of the day I was still a bit more excited for the film than I probably should've been. That same mistake won't happen here. Here's the bottom line: I had an immensely good time watching Rogue One. There's some great fan service throughout the movie that we'll all love. It adds more weight to Episode IV, and features some breathtaking cinematography, action sequences, and acting from the entire cast. Buuuuut, there are a few things holding it back. Things that many may not realize right now, but will 6 months from now. These problems lie in the characters. But more on that later let's talk about the good stuff first.
Positives are always fun, right? Well, let's first talk about the lead character in this story, Jyn Erso. Jyn is the heroine we need. Wonderfully played by the woefully underrated (though probably not anymore) Felicity Jones, (Jones did receive my "Actress to Watch" award for 2016) Jyn has a marvelous character arc as she goes from rebellious young woman not willing to follow anyone to the selfless and devoted leader of Rogue One. Felicity's long resume was helpful, as she plays this character with the poise and restraint it needed. Other notable performances include Ben Mendelsohn, who was chilling and cold as Director Krennic, and Donnie Yen/Wen Jiang, though we'll get to their characters later. There's also a lot of fan service in this movie. Most of it I enjoyed, but some of it was forced. However, the best moment in this film came towards the very end in the form of fan service. This scene, which I obviously won't spoil but if you've seen the film you already know what I'm talking about, turned into EASILY the best moment of the film, and will likely be at the top of my favorite movie moments of 2016. SO GOOD. I also must comment on the cinematography. Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Foxcatcher, Zero Dark Thirty) did a great job going all across the board and shooting this film exactly how it needed to be shot. I particularly enjoyed the entire sequence at Jeddah City, which featured great wide shots of a Star Destroyer as well as great gravitas as that sequence concluded.
That said......it has its fair share of problems, and they deal squarely with the supporting cast and their character arcs. As in they don't have any. Do me a favor and try and think of how Bodhi, Baze, Saw, Chirrut, and K-2SO (though I can't deny K-2SO does have some funny lines) developed as characters. Can you think of anything? I can't. How about how they came together, a group of misfit toys, to take on the Empire? I can't. This was a complete failure on director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, and Gary Whitta. There was a great opportunity in the second act of this film to slow things down and bring this cast together to put them squarely behind Jyn Erso, and it didn't happen. Instead we are left with a drawn out sequence at a rainy Imperial Outpost then a TERRIBLY missed opportunity on Yavin 4 where we find ourselves wasting away in the Alliance's version of senate hearings instead of having some intimate conversations with the characters. Forest Whitaker's character, Saw, is also a major missed opportunity. The film even hypes him up calling him too extreme for the Rebel Alliance. But do we see this? Do we see what makes him extreme? Other than pulling off the Frank Booth with a breathing mask (Which, to be fair, why was that even a thing? Was it meant to be an ode to Blue Velvet? It didn't seem to benefit Saw in any way) he didn't seem too extreme to me. All we needed to fix that was one scene of him doing something crazy. A flashback, perhaps. But what we ended up with was a very limp and uninterestingcharacter. That's the overarching theme here within the story: a missed opportunity. It would not have taken much to make us feel for the supporting cast, and they are all beautifully portrayed, but instead the film chose to waste its time elsewhere doing things that, honestly, did not impact the story that much.
There is one other negative I have to bring up, and that's the score. What happened here? The score, the first in the franchise not done by John Williams, is nothing more than filler music with the occasional Star Wars theme thrown in. The quality of this score is on the same level as pretty much any film in the Marvel franchise, and that's not good. At the time I thought the Episode VII score was a little weak, (though it has grown on me a tad) but there's no doubt this is easily the weakest score in the franchise to date. C'mon guys! Where's a theme like Duel of Fates or Battle of the Heroes?
Do know, I say these criticisms because I love this franchise. There's no doubt that this is a good film and I can't wait to watch it again. It achieves exactly what it sets out to do (add weight to Episode IV) and features some of the most exhilarating action sequences in the franchise in the third act. It's exactly what you want from this film, I just wish they had spent more time on character development and not trying to force Alliance politics into it. That's my two cents feel free to disagree and talk about how wrong I am!
The Critique: Despite some exhilarating action sequences, Rogue One falls short of greatness because of a lack of character development within the supporting cast.
The Recommendation: Everyone and their mother's are gonna go see this so who cares, right?
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average.
What happened here?
Morgan (2016): A corporate risk-management consultant must decide whether or not to terminate an artificially created humanoid being.
Ok. So. I went into this movie with some expectations. I (thought) I had heard good things about this movie, but if I did......man were they WRONG. This movie is TERRIBLE. Like, Transendence levels of terrible. Actually, I think Transcendence is better than this. Either way, that's not a movie that you want to compare yourself to. Yet here we are. So.....what went wrong with Morgan? I think it starts with the writing. The writing is hilariously terrible. I'm sorry, Seth Owen, but you should've have thrown out the dialogue in this movie and started anew. But he didn't, and director Luke Scott didn't stop him, so here we are.
You know, I'm kind of surprised. You have basically a novice of a director and a writer, but they managed to line up some pretty big names to star in this. Kate Mara leads a cast that includes Rose Leslie, (Ygritte) Toby Jones, (from the Marvel Cinematic Universe) Vinette Robinson, (Sherlock) Chinese superstar Michelle Yeoh, Brian Cox, Jennifer Jason Leigh, (seriously....you followed your Oscar nominating performance and your award from ME, since that's important, where I called you the comeback actress of 2015 with this piece of garbage????) and PAUL FREAKING GIAMATTI, who is in this movie for like 3 scenes that the marketed the crap out of. Oh! And did I mention that Anya Taylor-Joy is Morgan? You might not know of her, but she was the lead in an OUTSTANDING film called The Witch, which you will be hearing about in a few months when I do my year in review. She was easily the best part of that film and easily the worst part of this film. Morgan.....just wasn't interesting. I can't fault Anya Taylor-Joy too much. She's young, and she was certainly not given much to work with from a writing and directing perspective. But, after seeing what she could do in The Witch, I expected so much more from her! Kate Mara is basically playing Zoe Barnes but as a secret agent, so I guess that was ok. But now I feel like really going to town on this film.
Maybe I hated this film as much as I did because of how good Ex Machina is. Or maybe it's the other way around. Maybe a film like Morgan allows me to appreciate Ex Machina more than I already did. Either way, Ex Machina succeeds at telling a realistic and believeable story about the evolution of an AI at almost every level, whereas Morgan does the exact opposite. I thought that maybe there were going to be tales of Morgan manipulating the scientists that created her. Maybe there would be an investigation into how Morgan's mind works. But no! One second she's basically fine, then, after the world's worst psych evaluation, she's killing LITERALLY everyone. Like, seriously. The people that she called her parent 5 minutes before are now being killed by her. For......reasons. Oh! Also the motivations of the scientists make ZERO sense. Particularly with Toby Jones's character. Seriously. How any character like that would make it past a psych exam is beyond me, and when his fate is shown towards the end I couldn't help but laugh out loud. It's not great. Finally, the final big action set piece (because obviously every movie about AI has to have a car chase and a fist fight with the AI because that's a good idea) was hilariously terrible. If you couldn't tell already. Do you want me to spoil it? Fine. I'll spoil it. This movie isn't going to do anythign but make my worst movies of 2016, so you shouldn't watch it. SO! Kate Mara and Morgan are duking it out, and it looks like Morgan got the upper hand and killed Mara. So Morgan goes back to the lake she was at previous the fight, just to have Mara come out of nowhere and pistol whip her. But then! And wait....you're gonna love this part! Then, after Mara pistol whips Morgan into the lake, rather than taking a few shots at her with the gun that's, you know, in her hand; she jumps into the lake and drowns her! Like......are you serious, movie? And then she shoots the poor scientist watching this whole thing in terror so it isn't like she didn't have any bullets in the freaking gun. No! She just felt like getting up close and personal with Morgan. Brilliant.
I am struggling to find anything good to talk about with this movie. Oh! I know. Even though Giamatti was only in this film for like 10 minutes, he was the best thing about it. His script was terrible-he was the psychologist responsible for the worst psych eval in the history of man-but man was Giamatti clearly having a blast with his limited role. And, obviously, the distribution studio behind this hunk of trash realized that he was the best part of the movie because he was in nearly every trailer. Oh well. Time to forget about this film until I write my worst movies of 2016 list.
The Critique: A total disaster, Morgan is one of the worst films of 2016. 'Nuff said.
The Recommendation: You know it's coming......AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE
Rewatchability: Ya. I think I'm gonna rewatch this. Said no one ever.
The Verdict: 2/10 Garbage
Phew! Well there you have it. Took me 30 minutes EXACTLY to write this. Now let's move on.
Ex Machina Has Some company
Arrival (2016): A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.
Wow. Two weeks and two perfect 10s. Hey, remember when this summer sucked for the movie industry? Hard to believe we're in the same year. Arrival is a captivating, engaging science fiction story complete with strong acting, great sound design, wonderful editing, and even a strong score. Helmed by director Denis Villeneuve (director of Sicario and Prisoners) and led by a great performance from Amy Adams, (who had a busy week between this and Noctornal Animals) Arrival left me speechless. I was on the edge of my seat for almost every second of the 116 minute masterpiece, and the big twist at the end was actually believable. I know, big change right? So what made this film so good?
Well, at its forefront is the story. While this story has a major twist towards the end of the film, I found myself not trying to figure out what the twist was because before it came a very believable and grounded film. Very rare do you have such a winning combination of drama, realism, and science fiction. It is far too easy for a movie to lose me early on in it's rationale of how humans respond to something, whether it be artificial intelligence or alien life or whatever the sci-fi film is addressing, but when it doesn't it's almost guranteed to be one of my favorite films of the year. I think one of the big reasons why it felt so realistic is because of the grand scale of the event. You really feel like the entire globe is trying to figure this out and not just Amy Adams in the middle of nowhere, Montana. And the globe respondes the way you would expect the globe to respond. And the countries that go out on a limb are exactly the countries you would expect to go out on a limb. These global tensions play a big role in the third act of this film as well as the twist itself, which as I said, works. It works really really well. I don't want to spoil anything for you, obviously, so I'll just leave it with this: analyzing and understanding the twist is EASILY worth the price of admission alone.
So what else does this film do right? Well I'll first highlight the sound. While it doesn't compete with something like Hacksaw Ridge, I give it as much credit as I do because of how subtle it is. While there is the obvious sound achievement in creating a verbal language not from this planet and doing so convincingly, but there's also a lot of sound cues I enjoyed elsewhere: the muting and highlighting of certain character's voices at points, the choices of alarms, and others. I think the sound team deserves a lot of credit for going above and beyond. I'll also highlight the score, by Johann Johansson, as it was a very not-from-this-world score that fit in perfectly with the rest of the movie. I think Johansson took a few musical cues from John Williams highlighy underrated Close Encounters of the Third Kind score , but that's just me. Finally, the editing here was seamless, as editor Joe Walker did a marvelous job with the extremely tall task that he's asked to do to help explain the twist.
I really can't find any faults with this film. Even as I sit here and analyze the hell out of it, I can't do it. That is a truly marvelous feat for a film to have this intricate a story. I gave Ex Machina a perfect 10 last year too, but even its story is not as good as Arrival. I cannot stress this enough: go see it. Expect to hear it again as I talk about my favorite movies of 2016, because it is definitely going to be a strong contendor for my number one movie of the year.
The Critique: A gripping and engaging sci-fi narrative combined with a strong performance from Amy Adams make this an easy contender for the best movie of 2016.
The Recommendation: A must-watch for everyone, regardless of whether you like sci-fi or not.
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016): The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.
I. Love. This. Movie. I've honestly been getting a little tired this year with big budget films. Almost all of them have been lackluster at best and straight-up awful at worst. However, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the revitalizing reminder I so desperately needed that big budget movies do still have the capability to be great. Well done, guys. Let's dive in!
So, first off, what does the movie do right? Besides a lot. First off, the film had a lot to live up to going back into the Harry Potter universe. There's no doubt J.K. Rowling has struggled to recapture the magic of the main saga of Harry Potter since The Deathly Hallows was released back in 2007. But she has certainly found it with Fantastic Beasts. This story feels like it belongs in the Harry Potter universe, despite actually taking place in America. (And not without controversy surrounding this decision) The dialogue feels like Harry Potter, the creatures feel like Harry Potter, the settings feel like Harry Potter, the imagination feels like Harry Potter. Right from the opening moments of the film, where we are greated with a wonderfully edited magical newspaper montage, (complete with the trademarked "alive" pictures) I felt like I was watching a Harry Potter movie. This rigorous and painstaking attention to detail throughout the 133 minute film played a big role in allowing me to get sucked in and carried away.
In addition to wonderful set design and great writing from J.K. Rowling herself, you had some of the best acting I've seen yet in a film this year. Eddie Redmayne, one of (if not the) best actors in Hollywood right now, continues his hot streak with another fantastic performance as Mr. Scamander. No doubt this new franchise has its poster child, and this was blaringly obvious from the onset of this film. He was fun, charming, mysterious, and quirky, delivering a performance that you may very well see again in my Third Annual Awesome Actor Awards. Redmayne also had a strong supporting cast around him, featuring great and equally memorable performances from Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, (where did this performance come from???? This is the guy who stared in the terrible Balls of Fury back in 2007) and Alison Sudol. I really appreciated that outside of Redmayne this core supporting cast was composed of relative unknowns, as there's no doubt in my mind that every one of them will be overnight superstars because of this film.
Finally, you had fantastic visual effects. David Yates directed every Harry Potter movie starting with Order of the Pheonix, but I kind of got the feeling watching this that only now has CGI technology caught up with what he wanted the Harry Potter universe to look like back in the 2000's. It was already hard enough going back to watch the special effects of Philospher's Stone (released in 2001) and it will only get harder with the release of Fantastic Beasts. But there's no doubt the special effects, likely the front-runners for the Academy Awards this year, helped build the Harry Potter universe and add to the magic that is Fantastic Beasts.
That said, this film is not perfect. Sadly Fantastic Beasts suffers from the same problems that many modern-day superhero movies do: it has a lackluster and forgettable villain. In fact, the main storyline involving the villain is nothing more than just a placeholder, and it leads to a laughably unsatisfactory ending that sets up future films. There is one very recognizable actor (or actress, to keep you in suspense) that shows up right at the end and delivers exactly two lines, and it signified to me a distributor-mandated requirement to "get people excited for the sequel." As if anything with the Harry Potter name on it isn't going to make a billion dollars. It was sadly a major opportunity wasted at the hands (in all likelihood) of Warner Brothers. Fortunately though this really didn't take away from the overall film too much because I think this film was more about world building and finding these mystical beasts than it was about having a strong villain. However, if the villain does turn out to be great and have a major role in future installments, it may be hard to watch this film in the future and not feel like it's doing nothing more than sequel-baiting.
Oh! I forgot to mention cinematography. The cinematography was fantastic all throughout this film, delivering the same sweeping shots fans came to know and love from Yates's previous Harry Potter installments.....with one major exception. The final sequence was a little hard to follow. There was simply too much going on, and the editing was too harsh and the cinematography too chaotic for me to know where everything was in correlation to everything else, and it left me rather discombobulated. But this is a relatively small complaint in an overall great film.
Ultimately, Fantastic Beasts is a STRONG addition to the Harry Potter franchise. It does a great job establishing the world and lore of Harry Potter, and future installments will definitely be better because of it. I went into this movie skeptical, but you don't have to. Set those expectations high, wizards. Fantastic Beasts will certainly meet them. Now will someone PLEASE take me to Harry Potter world?
The Critique: Fantastic Beasts finally recaptures the magic J.K. Rowling has been searching for since she concluded her original saga and reboots the Harry Potter franchise in a big way with one of the better films of the year so far.
The Recommendation: It will live up to your expectations. See it day one with confidence.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great.
Doctor Strange (2016): A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.
This is a fun movie. Doctor Strange introduces a new and creative element into the Marvel universe that I never thought would work way back in the early days of Phase 1 in magic. Somehow, it does work. While once again there's very little mention of the rest of the universe, this time around it kind of makes sense because of the inclusion of multiverses and the ability to alter time. At least in Doctor Strange's world they can effectively explain how they can level a major city and yet have no one from the rest of this universe notice. That said, this film is far from perfect. However if you're just looking to turn the brain off and have a fun time at a movie, you will be more than satisfied with Doctor Strange.
So, let's talk about what the film gets right. First off, it is damn good to see Benedict Cumberbatch in this universe now. He is great, as usual, as the lead, and the MCU is better off now that he's involved. The supporting cast is strong too. There's some well-deserved criticism surrounding the casting of Tilda Swinton, but Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, and Mads Mikkelsen are all strong in the supporting cast. (Though Mikkelsen is not a super memorable villain sadly) Rachel McAdams is in this too, but once again she fills a role that can be simply described as "the love interest." Deep sigh.
So, in my mind, there are two reasons why Marvel films are more fun to watch than DC films, and both of these reasons are massively amplified in this film. One is the humor. There are great one-liners and humorous asides all throughout the film, and it keeps the overall vibe of Doctor Strange lighthearted and fun. While it's not on the level as something like Guardians of the Galaxy, it also doesn't have to be. The humor is just meant to be a quick break from the overal plot and it allows the viewers to take a quick (and needed) breath before jumping back into this otherwise pretty heavy-handed Marvel film. The other major reason is the color palette. Marvel has long since had a vastly better color palette than DC, (it helps that Zack Snyder isn't involved with these films) but the color palette is amplified significantly in Doctor Strange, and as a result the movie looks absolutely gorgeous. Yes CGI also had a lot to do with the look of the film, but I would also argue that it still wouldn't look anywhere near as good without the diverse color palette. I mean, look at the picture I chose for this review! Do you think that was an accidental choice? Yes, there's good CGI there, but the colors are certainly what sells that shot. No way would DC be able to....conjure a film like this. (Ah? See what I did there?)
That said, this film is not perfect. There are a lot of corners cut in this film to get from point A to point B. Yes I know most Marvel films cut corners, but it was very tough for me to come to terms with just how quickly Doctor Strange comes to understand magic. He goes from a complete novice to master of the arts in just a few short scenes and in what looked like about 30 minutes of time in the film. It was a little ridiculous, but not enough to diminish the fun. The villain was also pretty weak. Mads Mikkelsen did the best he could, but the primary reason this villain was so underwhelming is due to very lackluster writing. His motivations made very little sense, and sadly he wasn't much more than bad simply because he needed to be bad. This is an overarching problem for many of the Marvel films, and it certainly continues here.
However, at the end of the day, Doctor Strange gets the job done. It is a fun time, even if it is an admittidly shallow experience. But thanks to some good acting and solid directing from Scott Derrickson (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil) this film ultimately falls square into the "good" category. It's a fun watch, but not much more than that.
The Critique: A solid performance from Benedict Cumberbatch as a unique new hero makes Doctor Strange a fun time, despite its shortcomings.
The Recommendation: It's a Marvel movie. Who isn't going to see this?
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good
It's disappointingly fine
Suicide Squad (2016): A secret government agency recruits a group of imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency, which inevitably leads to chaos.
Ahhhhh the classic "how do you review this" dilemma. How do you review a film when it can be summed up in two classic words: it's fine. Ultimately, anything I say about Suicide Squad can be summed up with those two words. But that's not what we were expecting, right? After that first trailer with "Bohemian Rhapsody" underneath it, which I enjoyed so much it actually inspired me to create a new category in my end-of-year review highlighting some of the best trailers, (Which you can revisit here) I was excited that we were finally going to get the DC film we deserved. Personally, I love the Suicide Squad: I love the concept, and the actors they cast to play the Suicide Squad (besides Jai Courtney) were all great selections. Even Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje manages to earn my "best unrecognizable performance of 2016" as Killer Croc, beating out two superstars in Oscar Isaac and Idris Elba. And that's not to mention Margot Robbie, who KILLS IT as Harley Quinn, quickly creating a new timeless superstar synonymous with a character. Fox has Hugh Jackman, Disney has Robert Downey Jr., and now Warner Brothers has Margot Robbie. They've definitely struck gold here. So where did this film go wrong?
Let's start with the classic trope I have against DC Films, which again rears its ugly head here: the tone. Once again, the tone to this film is far too dreary, with most of it occurring (of course) at night and, just overall not being as fun as it should be. Hey, Warner Brothers, did you see Guardians of the Galaxy? That's how you can do a fun comic book film with a cast of misfits. And hey, when the final action sequence occurs, is it shot in the day or at night? During the day! SERIOUSLY WARNER BROTHERS. I get Zack Snyder shoots all his films at night, but this is really starting to bother me. I like to see what's going on. Either shoot during the day, or figure out how to improve your lighting because it's been atrocious ever since Man of Steel. Go watch The Dark Knight again! That final big action sequence is shot at night, but at least there they have some decent lighting I mean come on. Next up is the music. Look. I love pop culture selections in my movies. It's one of favorite things about Martin Scorsese. But here.....it's as if someone in corporate was like "the kids love dat music, so let's give them a 50 song soundtrack!" Seriously the movie opens and with the first 15 minutes we are treated to about 10 different song selections. It's overwhelming, and it made me do something I never thought I'd do during a film: tune out the music. But overall, my biggest fault with this film is just that it's not as much fun as it should be. It should've been easy to make this film as good, if not better, than Guardians of the Galaxy. But the pacing is all over the place and the tone (both literally and figuratively) is just too dark. Hopefully they'll get this right with Wonder Woman, because my patience is really starting to wear thin with DC films.
That aside, there are some improvements made here. Most notably, with the cinematography. The cinematography with Batman V. Superman was ATROCIOUS. We're talking laughably bad. But the exchange of shaky cam for slow-motion, while going from one cliche to another, is a welcome one. Though I am absolutely damning with feint praise here. Additionally, you have Margot Robbie. I know I said it earlier, but let me say it again: Margot Robbie CARRIES this film. She picks it up with her bare hands and does EVERYTHING she can to make it better. The rest of the cast is good, (I actually very much enjoyed Will Smith as Deadshot) besides Jai Courtney, but it's Robbie who's the star here. I hope we get a big-budget Harley Quinn movie at some point.
Finally, you may have noticed there's one thing I haven't really addressed at all here, even though I thought going into this film it would be the thing I talked about the most: The Joker. For those who don't know, I believe Heath Ledger's Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight is the single best performance by an actor I have ever seen on film. So it goes without saying Jared Leto had some big shoes to fill. But if anyone could pull off The Joker, it was him. After all, Jared Leto is ACTUALLY crazy so playing The Joker should be easy, right? Well, this was perhaps the most disappointing part of Suicide Squad: Jared Leto was......fine. Nothing more, and nothing less. He really wasn't given a whole lot of time to develop his character, and his writing left a LOT to be desired, but Leto really did not step into the shoes of The Joker as much as I thought he would.
So, ultimately, that's what I have to say about a film that can be described by two words. While there's a lot of potential squandered here, Suicide Squad doesn't completely fall on its face, and thanks to several great performances, especially Margot Robbie, it manages to keep its head above water, barely. While I was expecting so much more, I can't say this is the worst DC film I have ever seen, which at the end of the day is an accomplishment. Well done, Warner Brothers. You have officially achieved mediocrity.
The Critique: Painfully mediocre, Suicide Squad squanders its vast potential with poor pacing, lighting, and musical choices, despite a spectacular performance from Margot Robbie.
The Recommendation: Margot Robbie is worth the cost of admission, but I really hope Warner Brothers identifies this and creates a Harley Quinn standalone film, so for now I'll say Redbox it.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average
TODAY WE CELEBRATE FORGETTING THIS MOVIE
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016): Two decades after the first Independence Day invasion, Earth is faced with a new extra-Solar threat. But will mankind's new space defenses be enough?
GUYS. GUYS. LOOK AT ALL THE INTRIGUE IN THAT IMDB DESCRIPTION. SO MUCH INTRIGUE RIGHT? Look I'll make it easy for y'all: this movie SUCKS. It is actually terrible, and what's sad is I actually had hope that this movie would be somewhat ok. After all while the first one is EXTREMELY dated now, there are still some great moments in that film. I mean that final battle sequence from start to finish is awesome. I still get an adrenaline rush watching it today, and I still get a little emotional when the man who had been mocked most of the film ultimately is the one who saves the day. Not to mention dat speech, which definitely makes a good argument for best speech in the history of cinema. Buuuuuuuuuuuut the original this film is not.
So let's talk about the good first. Let's see what I can find.....um......oh! Bill Pullman was good reprising his role as President Whitmore. He had some of the best lines of the film and his character definitely had the best moment of the film. Seeing Jeff Goldblum not care about anything is awesome. He is clearly only in this film for the money, and he had a blast with that fact. That's definitely not something that should be awesome, but in this case it is because it's Jeff freaking Goldblum. Aaaaaaaand the comedic relief from Nicolas Wright (comedic relief in Emmerich's surprisingly good White House Down as well) was much needed and excellent, and the interactions between Goldblum and Judd Hirsch were just as funny as they were in the first film. Can we PLEASE get a film where it's just the two of them being themselves for 2 hours? Because that would be hilarious. Finally, I must give the film props for having an emotional death scene with two men in love with each other. I'm glad that that is becoming increasingly ok that it's popping up in a big budget summer blockbuster, but I will say it kind of came out of left field so from a relationship standpoint that romance wasn't earned at all. Whiiiiiiiiiich pretty much sums up the rest of the film.
Soooooooooo the rest of the film. First off, the effects. Holy crap the effects were TERRIBLE. With the exception of the mother alien the effects for this film were absolutely awful. Like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 levels of awful. For example in the picture above, and at several other moments you knew there was not a single organic thing on screen. It was all CGI. And when that happens for me it least it really breaks immersion. From a story standpoint this film is basically the first one done over again, which I'd be ok with if I thought the first film had a good overall story. It does not, and when the moments of the first one that were good (like the President's speech) are replicated here it just doesn't have the same effect. I think one of the big things that this film failed to do that the first one did do was give us a sense of scale. Remember that scene in the first one where the world uses Morse code to communicate a battle plan? Well nothing like that happens here. In fact during the "big speech" of this film we get shots from around the world, but this time around everyone is just sitting around their radios. Hanging out. All the action takes place in one place this time around, and that really hurts the film. Finally, the rest of the acting in this film leaves a LOT to be desired. Liam Hemsworth is not his brother, and Jessie T. Usher left something to be desired. I was definitely disappointed in the young talent of this film, the biggest of which being Maika Monroe. No Maika no! The star of It Follows (anyone who follows this blog knows how much I loved It Follows from last year) was very lackluster I felt as Patricia Whitmore. She just couldn't rise above the mantra of being "the girl" until the end of the final action sequence, and by then the film had long since lost me. I know you can do better!
Ultimately, director Roland Emmerich drops a huge dud here with ID4 2. From bad visuals to lackluster writing to terrible editing OH THE FREAKING EDITING. Can I just say the editing of this film is some of the worst editing I've ever seen? Adam Wolfe has done good work in the past, but that good work definitely does not transfer to here, as this film strived to have the fastest cuts imaginable, resulting in me often times having NO idea where anything was in relation to anything else. I've seen this new style start to creep up in films as an alternative to shaky cam, but to me it's JUST AS BAD as that. STOP IT HOLLYWOOD. STOP HAVING QUICK CUTS IN YOUR ACTION SEQUENCES. THE AUDIENCE WANTS TO BE ABLE TO ACTUALLY SEE WHAT'S GOING ON. Sorry for the rant there but come on guys! You should be able to create enough tension in these action sequences with, you know, the action that's happening you don't need to add shaky cam or quick cuts! LAWD. Ok where was I? Right. This movie sucks. While there are a few good moments in the 129 minute film, the majority of this film is, well, garbage. This will likely find itself on my worst films of 2016 list.
The Critique: Bad visuals, editing, storytelling, and well, pretty much everything else make Independence Day: Resurgence one of the worst films of 2016 to this point.
The Recommendation: Ah. You know what I'm going to say. AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE. I know you want to watch it out of curiosity but wait until it's on Redbox or Netflix or something!
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 2/10 Garbage.
Wait what was this movie about again?
Now You See Me: The Second Act (2016): The Four Horsemen resurface and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet.
Ugh. Gotta love corporate-mandated movies. You know, I actually kind of liked the first Now You See Me. Yes it was a mess of a film, but in terms of mindless popcorn flicks it was actually pretty good! Plus any film that brings Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson together again immediately gets points in my book. (Freaking LOVE Zombieland) Really this series as a whole is stacked with some of my favorite actors in the business, and when I heard they added Lizzy Caplan for the sequel I was STOKED. Lizzy Caplan cannot star in enough things nowadays, and she steals the show here. (Even though there is a very unnecessary love story between her and Dave Franco) But despite all the great actors....this film is an absolute dumpster-fire. Why? Because unlike the first film it tries to be more than what it actually is.
Usually I talk about the good first, but I will highlight the bad here because there's a lot of it. First off the overall tone of this film is entirely too heavy. Unlike the first one, which was very playful and fun, The Second Act tries to actually give gravitas to these giant tricks our heroes are doing and it simply just does not work. I could not get past the ridiculousness of this film because the film couldn't help but basically say "Oh look at that! Wasn't that amazing?" right after every trick. Then the film tried to explain everything. Ohhhhhhh boy when this film tries to reveal the curtain and explain everything it completely lost me and everyone else in the theater. Not only that, it even tried to set up a sequel (more so than the original one did at least) because boy did we not see that one coming!
There are so many problems with this film, but I'll highlight a few positive things and wrap up because I have a lot of other things to do. Lizzy Caplan killed it as the "new" Fourth Horseman, as she killed basically every scene she was in. Additionally Daniel Radcliffe had a BLAST in his role, putting in a hilarious and evil performance as he attempts to put his Harry Potter persona in the rear view mirror. If anything this film set up the notion that Radcliff is up for whatever, which he better be because Swiss Army Man is right around the corner. Beyond that.....uhhhhh.....some of the cinematography was good, particularly during the magic sequences, but it was surrounded by shaky cam in the chase sequences and a HORRIBLY choreographed motorbike sequence soooooo that kind of negates that. Annnnnnnnnndddddddd uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I got nothing. Screw it. 3/10.
The Critique: Corporate greed rears its ugly head again in this messy sequel that no one wanted.
The Recommendation: Gotta love it when I say this: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 3/10 Bad.
Film Credit: http://cdn.collider.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/now-you-see-me-2-lizzy-caplan-daniel-radcliffe-jesse-eisenberg-woody-harrelson-dave-franco.jpg
The Most Disappointing Film of 2016 so far
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016): With the emergence of the world's first mutant, Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.
Ok. By this point the word is out on this film. It is…..not great. That said, this is the classic case where ultimately the movie can be described as “It’s fine.” But now I have to talk about it in detail. However fortunately for all of you lovely people that won’t be a problem here. Because the X-Men franchise is one of my favorite superhero franchises. So I have a lot to say about it. (I have a mega-review of the entire franchise through Days of Future Past, which you can check out here) To me, X-Men: Days of Future Past is my favorite superhero movie not called The Dark Knight, and the original film in this new trilogy, X-Men: First Class is another pillar of the superhero genre as well. So how on earth could a film with most of the crew who filmed Days of Future Past returning also film this? Is the fault simply in the source material? How could an actor as charming and talented as Oscar Isaac be so incredibly underwhelming as Apocalypse? I mean it doesn't help that he's under so much makeup and CGI you don't even know it's him, but there's no doubt he was miscast for this role. But, not only that, it looks like the material he was given simply just wasn't workable for him or anyone else! So, how could the sequel to one of the pillars of the superhero genre be just..... fine?
Well, as I hinted to it starts with the villain. Apocalypse is a hugely disappointing character from start to finish. His motivations are never really explained, as he wants to rule the world but.....in his mind in order to rule the world he has to destroy it? Ya. Makes sense right? Why rule over a live civilization when you can rule over a dead one, amirite? But, for me, the biggest disappointment here is the loss of scale. There were several moments in Days of Future Past where the film really made you feel the actions that were happening on screen. There was actually a serious sense of dread and despair, something which does not happen at all in Apocalypse. What I'm trying to say is for me my biggest complaint with X-Men: Apocalypse was how.....by the numbers and ordinary it was. It felt like a pre-Dark Knight superhero film, where the villain is just a cardboard cutout bad guy who wants to destroy the world for some reason and our heroes are. of course, the only ones that can stop him. Throw in your humor to keep the audience entertained (which there's entirely too much of that here) and rinse and repeat. That's not what we got in the previous two installments in this new timeline. There was weight. There was gravitas. Here they completely destroy a major Egyptian city (like....to the point that there aren't even any extras running around in the final action sequences) but nobody talks about it. Not once does anyone address the fact that like Cairo or whatever has been totally and utterly destroyed with millions dead. That's not at all what we see in Days of Future Past or First Class. What happened, guys??
That said, it's not all bad. The acting, outside of Apocalypse (I really hope this doesn't torpedo Oscar Isaac's career because there really was nothing he could do with this material, internet) is fine. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are as charming as always and their scenes together, once again, provide some of the best scenes of the movie. Rose Byrne kills it in her criminally limited screen time, and newcomers Alexandra Shipp, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Sophie Turner are all fine but none of them really stand out. Olivia Munn.....man Olivia Munn cannot catch a break. She is such a talented actress and is once again completely wasted here. I've seen The Newsroom. I've seen what she can be. And we did not get that here. The big however though is this......Quicksilver basically saves this film from being rated any lower than it is. Evan Peters clearly has a blast with this character, and the writers were able to give him some of the funniest and most entertaining moments of the entire film in moments where we should actually expect this! His sequences alone are worth the price of admission. Least they're worth the price of a Redbox rental.
Ultimately, there's no doubt X-Men: Apocalypse is my biggest disappointment of the year so far. While it wasn't Batman V. Superman levels of incompetent, the film certainly left much to be desired, and the incredibly lackluster villain was the twisting of the knife. But it was the end credits sequence and the obvious setting up for a fourth-quel that was like rubbing salt on an already gaping wound. The seeds of corporate greed were already starting to shine through on this installment, and I fear it's only going to get worse from here. We may be witnessing one of the most disappointing falls from grace in the history of cinema for a franchise if that's the case. Please, Fox. Give creative rights of the X-Men franchise back to Marvel before you shame the X-Men like you did Fantastic Four. Please.
The Critique: A cardboard cutout villain, a messy and criminally light story, and an overall lack of gravitas make X-Men: Apocalypse the biggest disappointment of 2016 so far.
The Recommendation: Netflix or Redbox it. I know you still want to see but it's really not worth it. Patience.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 5/10 Painfully Average
All the Superheros
Captain America: Civil War (2016): Political interference in the Avengers' activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.
You know, when I watched Batman V. Superman I mentioned I was feeling superhero'd out. I hadn't watched a great superhero film since Guardians of the Galaxy, and the films were starting to become far too serious than they actually should be. But then Captain America: Civil War comes along and reminds me what a great superhero film is like and why this genre can be an absolute blast. Now, there are some problems with this film, but ultimately? Yes. It is an amazing spectacle and just might be the best superhero movie to date.
Let's talk about positives first. The list of actors in this franchise at this point is ridiculous, and almost all of them show up here. But let's talk about the newcomers, because these were the people that really stood out to me. First off, Daniel Bruhl. His performance was awesome as the "villain" of the film, but his character was somewhat underutilized. But, the man who just might be the most underrated actor in the business right now brings it in his biggest performance yet. Then there's Tom Holland. This relative newcomer (though he does have some experience alongside Thor in the underwhelming In the Heart of the Sea) easily captured the hearts of everyone in the theater as Peter Parker. It only took one scene for me to be so thankful that Marvel finally got the rights back to this beloved character. He is somewhat underutilized in this film, but Tom Holland did more than I ever could've imagined in his limited screen time. Martin Freeman also shows up for just a few scenes and has VERY little to do in this film. It's obvious that his character will be used more in upcoming films, which I look forward to seeing. My favorite of the newcomers, though, was definitely Chadwick Boseman. If I took anything out of this film, it's that I cannot WAIT for Black Panther. Boseman quickly became my favorite of the group, which is saying something because I've always considered Spider-Man to be my favorite superhero. But I digress. This film really is an actor's showcase, but I'll talk about some other positives. The action. Zack Snyder, can you PLEASE take some notes about how this action was shot and, you know, do that? It wasn't perfect, but dear God was the big fight scene between the superheros better choreographed than Batman v. Superman. AND the Russo brothers were smart enough to film this in DAYLIGHT. You know, where you could SEE everything. Wow! What an amazing concept!
Buuuuuuut it was not perfect by any means. First off, HOLY CRAP THIS FILM IS WAY TOO LONG. This film comes in at 146 minutes , and it could've very easily dropped about 30 minutes off of that. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I have no problem with a film being long if it's filled with content, but there were definitely some scenes here that felt like excess fat as this film tried to establish some "seriousness" where there shouldn't be any. There were some great jokes to help us take a break from the tone of most of the film, (the banter between Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan was some of the best banter I've ever seen in a superhero movie) but overall the film was too long and too serious. What other issues did I have? Right. The action. The big superhero fight of the film had too many cliches. Too many times would a certain superhero be in just the right spot at just the right moment to do just the right thing that some other superhero needed to have happen to, supposedly, save their life. It was a little eye-rolling during what should've been easily the best moments of the film. Finally, we come to my biggest gripe of this film as a "fan." We have now had two films where Vision, the character who, in my opinion, is BY FAR the most interesting character in this entire franchise, has been MASSIVELY underutilized. I get that they kind of have to do this to him since he is essentially a god, but they could've given him more screen time talking AT LEAST. The scenes where Vision was explaining his motives and thought-processes were easily the most interesting scenes of the film. Why isn't he getting his own film??? PLEASE CHANGE THIS MARVEL All that said....this film is still a great film and will definitely stand the test of time as one of the best superhero films to come out of this whole craze. Well done, Marvel. Thanks for reminding us that superhero films can actually be fun.
The Critique: While not perfect, Civil War is a refreshing reminder of how much fun superhero movies can actually be.
The Recommendation: Everyone is going to see this film so, uhhhhhhh.....go see this film. That's all I have to say about that.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good
Disorienting But Fun Video Game action
Hardcore Henry (2016): A first-person action film from the POV of Henry, who's resurrected from death with no memory. He must save his wife from a telekinetic warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.
Man it feels good to be writing another review. It's been a while! Hi! Did you miss me? Probably not, but I sure missed this! So let's talk about Hardcore Henry. Hardcore Henry is a truly unique film. It's first person perspective does give us a glimpse into what the future of movie making could be, as this film was shot using mostly GoPros and yet it still looks pretty good. This kind of film wasn't even possible 5 years ago, and here we are watching it in feature-length film. I have to commend Ilya Naishuller and company for being willing to wade into uncharted waters on this. And, on top of that, the lore of this world is actually somewhat interesting! The world created by Naishuller, who also wrote the film, was legitimately interesting to me. The action was fun, though disorienting, and the novelty of the perspective was enough to keep me engaged for the brisk 96 minute film. All that said though.....this film's story is an absolute mess the moment you turn your brain on and try to think about it.
So, let's further praise this film's positives first. The first person perspective obviously dominates this film. But for the most part, coming from someone who does not get motion sickness, that's a good thing! I greatly enjoyed trying to figure out how this film was shot. There are moments in this film that had me completely baffled from a logistical perspective. And, for the most part, the action was engaging and fun. I also have to give props to Sharlto Copley. As much as this guy is a notorious pain to work with (seriously, watch some of the featurettes from The A-Team they're amazing on this front) he is a damn good actor, and it shows here. Yes he is screen-hogging to a freaking T but when you are ACTUALLY the only one on screen I guess it's ok.
But, this brings us to the story. The overall world is interesting here......UNTIL they start to explain things. When the curtain is finally pulled on Copley's character, I was even more confused than before. And the villain had literally no motivation for being bad at all. He was just evil for the sake of being evil. And Tim Roth? What the F is this guy's purpose??? I mean talk about the easiest pay check of your career. He has about 3 lines and that's it. And if I hadn't looked at IMDB I would have had NO idea how he was correlated to the rest of the story. Haley Bennett is also treated like dirt in this film as she is little more than a damsel in distress the entire time. And what's worse is the fact that her character is actually set up to be kind of badass but the filmmakers just decided to not go down that route. What a wasted opportunity.
All that said, I still enjoyed myself watching this film, but I recognize it has some serious limits. And I think a large part of why I enjoyed it is because I like video games. The target audience of this film is limited, but if you like sci-fi and video games, it's not one to be missed. This film is definitely destined for cult status.
The Critique: While it has a very unique style and was fun to watch, Hardcore Henry ultimately goes soft under a weak and underwhelming story.
The Recommendation: Into sci-fi? Video games? Than this is for you. If not? Avoid like the freaking plague.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average
Wildly flawed, Mindlessly Enjoyable
Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016): Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It's up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.
Holy crap that IMDB description is long. Kind of like this movie. But we'll get to that. I want to first talk about the superhero genre. Bring it in, man. Let's chat. Let's be honest with each other: with the exception of Deadpool, there has not been a legitimately great superhero movie since The Dark Knight. I know. That's a lot of films I just threw under the bus. Or so you think. While there have definitely been a few bad apples in the bunch, most superhero films are fine. Some are even good! But that's it. They're mindless entertainment. See, when I go into a superhero movie, I don't expect to walk out of there having learned something. I don't expect the film to help me formulate an opinion. I don't expect a superhero film to be anything more than popcorn fun. And that's FINE. That is absolutely fine. Heck I loved Guardians of the Galaxy! That was an incredibly fun film. But does that mean I hold it in the same regard as Spotlight? Or Mad Max? Or Whiplash? No. I've reviewed many a film here on my blog, and it has made me quite cynical to corporate-mandated film making, and that's exactly what every superhero film since The Dark Knight (excluding Deadpool) has been. Including the Marvel films. Some are just more fun than others. Ok? Ok. So let's talk about Batman V. Superman.
So that IMDB description at the top of the review signifies a major problem with this film: it is way too long and convoluted. The film comes in at a staggering 2 hours and 30 minutes, but it could've easily come in under 2. Now just a friendly reminder I have no problem with long films: my favorite film of all time is the extended edition of The Return of the King (all 4.5 hours of it) but if you're going to be long you have to fill your film with worthwhile content. Batman V. Superman did not do this. There was a ridiculous amount of fluff right from the beginning, as the opening shot of the entire film is ANOTHER retelling of the murder of Batman's parents. But what's sad is this is one of the best scenes of the entire film because it's a very Zack Snyder-esque scene. I honestly expected Rorschach to have a monologue during this scene. I was disappointed by the lack this. But overall, the film is very convoluted as it attempts to clumsily tell three different story lines at once. There were plenty of moments that had me rolling my eyes, but there were plenty moments of.....oh what's the word? fun. This film is still fun.
Anyway, let's talk about some good first. I thought Ben Affleck was fine as Batman. I could tell he tried, and there's a reason he's a superstar actor. Henry Cavill is charismatic as ever, and Amy Adams is pretty good. But the ones who stole the show were Jesse Eisenberg and Gal Gadot. Yes, Eisenberg's motivations didn't make much sense, but remember the part where I said mindless entertainment? Eisenberg clearly had an absolute blast here in this role, and I couldn't help but smile whenever he was on screen. However there's no doubt Gal Gadot saves this film as Wonder Woman. She is amazing from start to finish delivering the female power character this world needs. DC officially has its Wolverine/Iron Man with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. That was an absolutely brilliant casting decision. On top of that, her fighting sequences were easily the most enjoyable part of this film, and her entrance into the fight was particularly awesome. Finally, the big action sequences were overall quite fun, embodying the mindless entertainment I was talking about earlier. Man I'm saying that phrase a lot huh?
But there are definitely plenty of problems here too. Pretty much any time things weren't blowing up and Eisenberg/Gadot weren't on screen this film had issues. I don't want to spoil anything, but let me just say motivations were muddy, some plot points were resolved in absolutely terrible ways that had me rolling my eyes on several occasions, and the film was way too long. Oh and Laurence Fishburne's character doesn't exist. Ever. That pretty much sums up the problems, but they were showing up at every turn throughout the film. But that's all I'll say here about them here. Ultimately, Batman V. Superman is..... fine. It is an average film. Nothing more, and nothing less. Is it worth seeing in theaters? I say yes, but to be fair I say that about lots of films. However at the end of the day I enjoyed myself watching this film. There were moments when I wanted things to just blow up on screen already, but I still had an overall good time while watching this one, as I do with most superhero films. Just....don't have high hopes. Because if you expect a good film you're not going to get it.
The Critique: While wildly flawed and overlong, Batman V. Superman is still a mindlessly fun popcorn flick featuring great performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Gal Gadot.
The Recommendation: Everyone is going to see this regardless, but if you've already seen 10 Cloverfield Lane then it is a fine film to see in the theater right now.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average.
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