Saturday, June 24, 2017

Conscientious Objection in the Culture War

I finally got around to watching the much lauded Hacksaw Ridge the other day.  It suffers quite a bit from being obvious Oscar Bait, but overall it was a decent movie.  I'm not really interested in doing a review here though; I just found the movie incredibly instructive for another discussion that continues to rage in the social media circles in which I run.  This time it was re-ignited by a couple of people disrupting a version of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" that features a Donald Trump lookalike being brutally murdered instead of the Roman Emperor.

As usual, one side asserts that disrupting the play goes against their principles and should be condemned, while the other insists that these are the rules imposed upon us by the Left and they should therefore be made to suffer them just as we do.  Or, to put it more succinctly, Be Better Than Them vs. Payback's a Bitch. I of course fall into the latter group for many reasons that go beyond the scope of this particular post.

Hacksaw Ridge features just such an argument about principles versus pragmatism during wartime.  In it we learn about Desmond Doss, a man who could not in good conscience stay home while everyone else went to fight in World War II, and yet, his principles required that he not engage in violence.  He believed this so strongly he refused to even learn how to use a gun, much less carry one into battle. His fellow soldiers saw this as cowardice and tried to drum him out of the service, asking the obvious question of "why are you here if you can't kill the enemy?"

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Mummy (2017) Review

Now that Marvel and Disney have made all the money, everyone's gotta have a shared movie universe.  Universal tried to get theirs started with Dracula: Untold, but nobody wanted more of that movie, so now they're trying again by rebooting The Mummy.  To increase the odds of this one actually working, they recruited some Grade A star power in the form of Tom Cruise to play the lead.

For a brief moment, that idea had incredible potential.  With the first trailer it actually looked like they might unceremoniously kill him off, thereby demonstrating their universe actually was a "Dark Universe" in which anybody was fair game for monsters that have often been seen as goofy in the past.

Of course that moment passed as quickly as it came since they would shortly show him surviving in another trailer clip, thereby ruining all of the tension the scene could have had in the movie as well as dashing any hopes for this thing to be a serious effort.

Despite that though, it was still possible that this could at least be a pretty awesome action flick, so I went into it still holding out some meager hope I'd see something fun.  That's when I saw something truly frightening: Alex Kurtzman had directed this. So let's talk about just how horrific The Mummy really is:

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Wonder Woman Review

I've been pretty clear about my distaste for the current crop of DCEU movies, which is why I went into Wonder Woman expecting yet another train wreck of epic proportions despite it having obscenely good buzz.  Obviously one always hopes these movies are going to be good, but given the track record it's impossible to do anything but put the bar on the floor going in.

Meanwhile, we had the usual political firestorm surrounding this movie because feminism can't leave anything well enough alone for people to enjoy.  In addition to the usual hot-takes about "first female superhero movie evah!" (it's not), The Alamo Drafthouse announced a women's-only screening, including only female employees(!?), and when people rightfully pointed out how a men's-only screening of say, Thor: Ragnarok would result in the theater being burned to the ground by screaming harpies, the screaming harpies complained about having their safe spaces invaded.  Just can't win folks.

Personally, I don't care if you want to hold a thing-only anything. As a small business dinosaur, I believe you should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, even if those reasons are morally abhorrent to the rest of us.  If you're so -ist or you believe in something so much you're willing to lose money for it, that's your prerogative, and only an idiot would want to then force you to go to work for them since it inevitably means they'd get terrible service.

Unfortunately, the screaming harpies refuse to play by those rules, so until such time as they realize how untenable they are, I can only say "bake the cake!" to the Alamo Drafthouse and anybody on the Left who tries to have their own discriminatory practices.

In any case, political ramblings aside Wonder Woman finally achieves what appears to be a win for DC.  Is it really though, or is this a case of everyone walking on eggshells to avoid feminist backlash? Well as the most oppressed class of person on Earth (namely one of the few remaining dinosaurs in this homeosapienarchy), let me tell you the truth about whether or not Wonder Woman is a good movie, and of course, how it made me cranky:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review

Damn that is a long title for a movie, which I suppose makes sense since each successive installment of Pirates of the Caribbean seemed to be exponentially longer than the last.  (Not to mention more confusing and just generally less entertaining.) But hey, we can't just assume because it's the 5th movie in a franchise that really didn't need a sequel in the first place that it'll be terrible right?

I mean Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow's usually pretty funny, the previews have some cool effects like a zombie shark, and they even showed Will and Elizabeth coming back.  How can you go wrong with getting the band back together to fight zombie sharks?

Turns out you can go pretty wrong, so let's just get to it and I'll tell you about the pratfalls of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Review

Robin Hood got his gritty prequel story not too long ago, so why not King Arthur? I must admit the trailers for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword were intriguing.  They had flair, and the Arthur legend is such a classic journey of the hero story that you can do almost anything with it and still have a good movie.

The key word there being "almost."  We had a King Arthur movie starring Clive Owen where they tried to do the "real" Arthur, and that sucked pretty hard.  So it was with that in mind I went into Legend of the Sword with tempered expectations, but hope for something fun and different.

Well, I certainly got the "different" part because it seems director Guy Ritchie couldn't decide which particular "anything" he was going to try with this and just decided to do everything.  Sometimes that does indeed turn out to be fun, but is it enough to save Legend of the Sword? Let's talk about where it went wrong enough to become a box office bomb, and of course why it made me cranky:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

I am Groot. Groot. I AM Groot. I am...Groot. I aaaaam Groooooot.

Or in human speak: at last, the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel has arrived.  Like most people I was skeptical of the first one when Marvel announced it and then pleasantly surprised at how good it was when I got to see it, though it wasn't without a few issues. Then, again like most people, when the sequel was announced I wondered if they were going to be able to recreate whatever dark magic allows them to make a movie featuring a talking raccoon and a tree that can only says his own name and not have it turn into complete garbage.

Of course this is one of those movies where what I have to say about it really isn't going to matter. Everyone loved that first one so much there's no way anyone was missing out on this even if the reviews were Batman v Superman-level bad, but for what it's worth, I can confirm that Marvel does in fact keep dark wizards chained up in the basement at Disney because once again they have produced another fun ride.

It is truly impressive how many times I've gone into one of these Marvel movies thinking "well, this is it. This is going to be the one that finally wears the whole comic book thing out" only to thoroughly enjoy myself even in spite of whatever problems that movie does have.  So without further ado, let's talk about what does make me cranky in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2:

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Fate of the Furious Review

You'd think the death of lead cast member Paul Walker and the touching sendoff his character was given in Furious 7 would've stopped the Fast and Furious franchise cold, but that one made all the money and Vin Diesel always imagined a trilogy of 7,8,9, so here we are with The Fate of the Furious.

It's pretty impressive for any franchise to get to their 8th movie like this, but considering how hard it is to make one great movie much less eight, it hasn't always been a smooth ride (no pun intended.) The first one is essentially a great remake of Point Break, only with drag racing instead of surfing. The second and third ones are universally panned for their lack of Vin Diesel (and also for being terrible in general.) Diesel and Walker got back together for the fourth one that, despite some pretty awful CGI, more or less put the series back on track. Fast Five is the stand out of course, since it's an incredibly fun heist movie that brought in the additional star power of The Rock as a cherry on top.

During that time they were always ratcheting up the crazy car stunts, and by six they were really starting to push the boundaries of suspension of disbelief, having turned these street racers into essentially the team from Mission: Impossible. Still they closed that one on one of the most epic teasers ever by introducing the transporter himself, Jason Statham, into the mix and thereby making another one inevitable. With the loss of Paul Walker during filming, it didn't look like we'd actually get the 7th one, but they managed to cobble together a reasonably fun experience whose sins are largely forgiven thanks to that aforementioned touching sendoff.

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about Fast 8. I think the 7th one had a perfectly fitting finale for this fast family, and when you have to dip into the "main character turns against the team/family" cliché, usually it means you don't have any more stories worth telling. Plus, 7 had already teetered on the edge of what my suspension of disbelief was willing to take with all its computer magic and Avengers-like super heroics. Then again, the trailers for this one had them fighting a nuclear submarine with cars though...and you gotta admit that sounds pretty awesome in theory.

Unfortunately, I can't say it worked out as well in reality. Let's talk about how Fast 8 is not going to be one of my favorites from this franchise: