Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Well Spider-Man: Homecoming was certainly one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Sony finally returned Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for an epic cameo in Civil War, and now we were going to get a full on standalone story for this new Tom Holland version of the wall crawler done MCU-style.  Add in Michael Keaton playing the villain, and you've got plenty of reasons to be hyped.

That of course made me super nervous going in.  I wanted this to be an Independence Day-level movie, the kind that I'd want to turn around and walk right back in for another viewing, and it's tough for a movie to live up to that kind of hype.  Not to mention it had to follow the few fantastic comic book movies we've already had this year and there have been serious concerns that the trailers may have spoiled the entire movie.

Alas Independence Day it was not, but as I've said before, even the less than stellar Marvel movies tend to be worth the price of admission so it's pretty rare to walk out unsatisfied.  Since I'm pretty late putting up the blog post, you've probably already seen it and formulated your own opinions by now, but here's my take on Spider-Man: Homecoming



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cars 3 Review

Hey look, another sequel! This time it's for Disney/Pixar's license-to-print-money, Cars. I actually hadn't seen the original Cars or its sequel because it was a concept that never appealed to me enough to bother, so I actually went back and watched both before I headed off to Cars 3.

I found that Cars 1 is, as others before me have noted, basically just Doc Hollywood with talking cars. Since I liked Doc Hollywood, and Cars did an ok job of translating it (existential questions about this universe aside), I enjoyed it.

Cars 2 was just terrible. If Cars 1 is Doc Hollywood, Cars 2 is like Mr. Bean or The Tuxedo, one of those awful movies where some dumbass character trips their way into a spy movie and is comically better at being a spy than the professionals.

Meanwhile Cars 3 got off on the right foot with a very dark teaser trailer, and it seemed like we might be in for a Cars version of Rocky III, and you can't go wrong with Rocky III even if your hero is a talking racecar named Lightning McQueen. 

Well that assumes you actually follow through with that idea, which they kinda didn't.  Instead they decided to raise some very complicated questions that had me going..."huh?"  Let's talk about them!



And if you want a more in depth argument about Cars 3, check out the latest episode of The Flyby, a weekly podcast I've been doing for a little while about movies and TV shows with my buddy Sarjex.  We'll be moving over to a new network soon, but in the meantime, here's the link: The Flyby 6/21/17 - Cars 3

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 that 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.  I...am 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:




Monday, April 3, 2017

Power Rangers (2017) Review

I suppose it was only a matter of time that the Power Rangers got their gritty live-action reboot given all the properties from my childhood that have now been gobbled up by Hollywood and turned into generic explosion fests so the studios can cash in on the licenses while they still mean something to someone.  Usually it's Generic Action Plot #5: rebellious teenager with daddy issues learns he has a great destiny and must save the world with his awesome inherent expertise in everything. 

And of course they can't give these things subtitles since that might keep people from confusing this new thing with the thing they actually like.  Far be it for them to make it easy for us to distinguish between the franchise Power Rangers, and the new movie Power Rangers open-parenthesis, 2017, close-parenthesis.

It's also not the first time somebody tried to do a Power Rangers movie, and that first one doesn't exactly hold up.  So the odds against this thing being even remotely enjoyable were pretty slim, especially since the trailers appeared to be taking things way more seriously than this concept generally allows.

But, lo and behold, this wasn't all bad and dare I say it, kinda fun at times. How did that happen? Well, I'll tell you:




Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (Live Action) Review

It seems the real magic of Disney is their ability to separate people from their money.  This time, rather than crack that Disney vault so every soccer mom in the country rushes to grab a Bluray of Beauty and the Beast, they got mom, dad, and their 2.5 kids out to the theater this weekend by remaking the movie entirely.

Of course it isn't the first time they've done this.  Last year the Mouse raked in an obscene amount of green with The Jungle Book in addition to the pallets of money they already get from having brought Marvel and Star Wars inside the castle.  They've also done Pete's Dragon, Cinderella, and a pseudo-Sleeping Beauty with Maleficent, and pretty much everything in the rest of the animated library is slated for its own live-action remake in the next few years, all of which are certain to go forward given this had record-breaking hauls this weekend.

Now I'm no fan of musicals so normally this isn't the kind of thing I'd go to see no matter how many people threw their money at the box office and raved about it afterwards, but I did grow up with the Disney animated movies so I hoped maybe this version of Beauty and the Beast had just enough of a nostalgia factor to get me over that hump.  After all they claimed they were trying to be extraordinarily faithful to a movie that I liked as a kid, even if it weren't my favorite, so that seems like a win-win, right?

Well, it turns out that some things simply can't be overcome by nostalgia alone. Let me explain:




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Kong: Skull Island Review

As something of a giant monster myself, it was a foregone conclusion I'd get out to see Kong: Skull Island opening weekend.  Unfortunately, the last time my hairy friend got to appear on the big screen, he was murdering innocent dinosaurs just because some cute blonde showed him she could juggle.  Given what Hollywood has done to Godzilla in the past, I can't really blame the guy for that, so I had high hopes he'd find some redemption in this one.

From the trailers, it certainly appears they learned something from the painful slog that was Peter Jackson's King Kong, since it looks like my man gets to throw down early and often with everything from pesky humans to Godzilla-wannabes, with nary a dinosaur in sight.  Speaking of Gojira, that's actually the polar opposite of the last Godzilla movie, which I enjoyed thoroughly but was received poorly by a lot of people for not having enough Bryan Cranston or kaiju on kaiju action. 

So does this second entry in the giant monster movie universe Warner Bros. is putting together finally strike the right balance between characters and epic monster fights? Ehh, not so much.  Check out my review for more:




Thursday, March 9, 2017

Logan Review

When I first heard about Logan, needless to say I was skeptical.  Fox's history with superhero movies is not exactly stellar, and while some of the X-men films are at least watchable, they're still largely terrible movies, never mind good adaptations of the source material.  The fact that their second attempt at Deadpool openly mocks their first version is proof enough on that score, and Fox had to be dragged kicking and screaming into making the new one.

However, we can all agree that Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine was the shining light of the X-men movie universe, even if his previous two solo outings kind of sucked too.  Everyone likes him so much they even shoved him into X-men Apocalypse's CGI-fest to try and put something in that movie worth watching.  (Fun fact: X-men: Apocalypse was my first review on Youtube, and boy did I have plenty to be cranky about.)

After that stinker tanked, we heard Logan was going to step through the R-rated door opened by Deadpool. "This one is gonna be good," they said, "This one it's going to have all the bloody carnage that a guy with knives between his knuckles should cause.  It's even set in the future where he's old!"

So, did we end up with another Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice-style attempt to cash in on a trend? No, we got something damn near Oscar-worthy.  Let me tell you about it: 




Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Great Wall Review

Other than the obvious Trump jokes, just about the only thing that put The Great Wall on anyone's radar is the controversy over Matt Damon playing the lead. As usual, many people were up in arms that a white guy got a role in an Asian-centric movie.  Never mind that he's playing a white character that wanders into Asia looking for black powder and runs into a giant wall and the massive Chinese army staffing it, so it's not exactly like he stole a role from an Asian actor.

Of course had the complainers bothered to note it's a Chinese studio making the movie, they wouldn't have had much reason to whine in the first place since it's the Asians making the call, and doing so for the specific purpose of getting their first big breakout film in the US.  What better way to do that than cast a superstar like Damon and split the movie's time between him and its Asian characters?

There are however still plenty of good reasons to trash The Great Wall, and surprisingly none of them involve those goddamn Mongorians from South Park. Let me tell you about some of them:



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The LEGO Batman Movie Review

Like John Wick, The LEGO Movie was also an incredibly pleasant surprise.  It looked like it was going to be some shameless attempt to sell toys (it was), but it turned out to be an incredibly funny and well-written film that did incredible justice to the little plastic blocks.  Anybody who grew up playing with LEGOs got to delight in seeing all the interesting ways they used familiar pieces to build things in this world.  And it gave us a brand new Batman.

LEGO Batman was so well received that they decided to give him his own full feature, which as with John Wick: Chapter 2, made me pretty nervous.  In small doses this semi-parody of Batman is really funny, but I worried that trying to drag that out into a full couple hour movie would just get old and repetitive. Still the trailers looked promising, so did The LEGO Batman Movie deliver?  Let me tell you all the ways everything was in fact, awesome.



Monday, February 20, 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2 Review

John Wick was an incredibly pleasant surprise.  It's an action movie where you can actually see the action, and it built an incredibly interesting underground world of assassins that gave the whole thing a cool new feel.  Plus it has one of the single-best character introductions of all time, making their hero look like the ultimate badass before he even does anything. Then when he actually does things, he looked even more badass thanks to Keanu Reeves putting in enough work to do his own stunts.

That's why news of a sequel made me super nervous.  John Wick was a perfectly reasonable standalone movie, and those tend to be the ones that make for the worst sequels since they have to invent convoluted reasons to not only do another one but also to try and raise the stakes in some way.  Usually what you end up with is just an unsatisfying, messy retread of the previous movie.

So the question is, did John Wick: Chapter 2 fall into that trap?  Well, let me tell you:



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Review

It's not often you get a sequel 11 years after the last movie, especially if that last movie was itself a sequel nobody particularly wanted and that turned out to be absolutely awful. Yet, we have xXx: Return of Xander Cage anyway.

Though I'm sure it was intentional way back when that people might confuse xXx for some kind of porn thing, it was actually just a sort of mishmash between James Bond and the X-games.  When the first xXx movie came out, Extreme Sports had become a pretty big fad, and Hollywood is always looking for something good to cash in on, so they created a movie wherein your typical 00 was just too stuffy and uptight to tango with the hardcore adrenaline junky criminals of the 21st century. So, to combat the new threat, Sam Jackson had to go find somebody a little more edgy.  Enter Vin Diesel, a world-famous anarchistic rebel with a penchant for crazy stunts and fur coats.

That original movie was pretty fun overall, but it really didn't have the legs for a franchise, and despite Diesel refusing to sign on for the sequel, they made one anyway, which in any other universe would have been the end of that, but I guess somebody wrote Vin Diesel a big check because he and his fur coat are back with a bunch of new hip faces for another bite at the apple.  So was xXx worth resurrecting? Well, listen to my review and together we can count all the ways that no, no it was not:



Friday, January 6, 2017

Assassin's Creed Review

Hollywood doesn't exactly have a stellar history when it comes to turning video games into movies, especially thanks to Uwe Boll somehow finding his way in charge a huge chunk of them.  Most of the movies are almost unwatchable, and even the ones that are rarely have much to do with the games on which they are purportedly based.

Despite that, they keep on trying to get a piece of the video game industry juggernaut.  We started 2016 off with a couple of attempts to finally crack that video game movie glass ceiling in the form of Warcraft and The Angry Birds Movie, but Warcraft was "meh" and The Angry Birds Movie was absolute garbage.

Now along comes Assassin's Creed, and surely if a named actor like Michael Fassbender signed on to play the lead, this one has to be good right?  After all you've got a perfect action movie setup: a guy from the future is forced to relive the memories of his ancestor back in the 1400s who was a member of a secret organization of assassins famous for their awesome parkour skills and spring-loaded wrist daggers.

So, did they finally figure out the magic formula for creating a good video game movie? In a word...no.  Or in many words, here's my review: