IanTheCool's Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Jul
18

Ghostbusters 2016 Movie Trailer Stills 006 Times Square Flashback

For being one of the biggest movies of the summer with a massive pre-release buzz, I actually don’t have a whole lot to say about the 2016 Ghostbusters. I mean, its a remake and those are rarely interesting, but the cast here had a chance to make it interesting. It is clear that there is a lot of love for the original 1984 movie, and this certainly isn’t a remake made as some sort of “ours will be better because it looks modern and slick” like Total Recall or Point Break. Its more a labour of love, and that is apparent and admirable in some way.

But its still just a remake. The updated special effects look quite good, giving the ghosts a modern look while also evoking the original ghost designs. I thought that the final ghost villain was a really cool idea. They also showed the genesis of the proton pack and added new twists to it, like ghost grenades, which gives a “we have to do something cool and different!” vibe I wasn’t into.

But the important aspect of making a Ghostbusters sequel is whether its funny or not. The original film cast was composed of mostly comedians who made one of the funniest genre films of the 80s. This cast was also comprised of comedians and the script was certainly written like a comedy. The only problem was that I simply didn’t laugh, and ultimately that’s where this film fails.

In the 1984 film, much of the comedy emerged naturally out of either the situation that was happening or out of the nature of the characters. Many of Venkman’s quips are a response to something happening and feel in place. Egon’s oddities come more from Ramis’ performance than from script-written jokes. But the new film cannot achieve this type of comedy. The humour seems way, way too forced. Think about the Mike Hat joke, or the Swiss army knife joke(?). It feels almost like they have to pause what is happening in the story in order for the characters to spout off some lines that usually don’t fit their characters too well.

That’s not to say the performances are bad. I quite liked Kate McKinnon’s energetic Holtsmann, even thigh the same rules of forced humour apply to her as well. Leslie Jones provided a good energy for the most part, but again some of her lines felt very out of place (more a fault of the writing). Chris Hemsworth added some levity, but his stupidity again didn’t feel too natural.  Kristen Wiig has no fluidity to her performance at all.

Hmm, I guess I had more to say than I thought. So ultimately, while I was somewhat interested in the Ghostbusting aspects of the story, it has serous shortcomings in the comedy. I maybe laughed twice, which is not a good thing for a big blockbuster comedic romp like this was supposed to be.
5/10

Jul
14

Intro

A little info on what this new blog series is going to be about.  I am a Star Wars fan, and as like any other Star Wars fan, I have had to wrestle with the existence of the prequel trilogy.  Because lets face it, they are not well-made movies.  And even as Star Wars stories they are also extremely defective.  And yet the core of the story isn’t really that bad, and could be worthy of the story that it tries to complete if only some changes were made.

So that’s what these posts will be doing: suggesting changes.  I will be pointing out how I believe these movies could have been fixed to make them more palatable as real entries into the Star Wars canon.  So imagine with me a scenario where these movies get a do-over, where we get to remake them with the advantage of hindsight.   Its a way to vent my frustration as a Star Wars fan, and just a fun exercise.  If you are not a fan of the series, this may not be for you.  If you are, I hope you find it interesting.

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Lets move on to The Phantom Menace:

Jar Jar and the Gungans

Lets get the obvious out of the way first.  Jar Jar is the poster boy for the failings of the prequels, but why?  Because he brings a level of silliness to these films that SW fans are simply not accustomed to.  He steps in crap, gets numb tongue, and speaks so that you cannot understand him.  He also doesn’t really provide much to the story other than introducing the Gungans as a whole, which isn’t really that important.  This character needs to be toned down considerably.   I know many people would like him removed altogether, but he could add an interesting alien aspect to the film if he was just re-imagined a little.  Or… maybe its easier just not to have him at all.

The Gungans have many of the same problems.  I mean, the main guy shakes his head and spits slobber.  Really?  I like the look of the underwater city, and I like the idea of these two races having to join together to defeat a common enemy.  But the Gungans are just so silly…  Now, George Lucas’ defense for Jar Jar and the Gungans is that he says this is a kid’s movies, and that the Star Wars movies have always been for kids. Okay sure, but they’ve never been THIS kind of kid’s movie.  They’ve never been this juvenile, and trying to make it so now just completely clashes with the other films.

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Acting and Dialogue

I really don’t understand why Lucas had the actors play so stiffly.  Its really brings the movie down.  The worst offenders are Natalie Portman and Sam Jackson, but Ewan McGregor ain’t too hot either.  The only one who is able to develop his role into an actual character is Liam Neeson.  Everyone else is  a cardboard cut-out.  Lucas needs to just let them own their characters and make them unique, so we as an audience actually feel something for them.

And lets face it, the script needs a total overhaul, preferably by someone who knows how to write naturally flowing dialogue.  Most of these lines are so bloody clumsy my forehead hurts from all the slapping.

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Queen Amidala/ bodyguard decoy

This was such a stupid aspect of the plot that needed to be removed entirely.  It added nothing and it just made things unnecessarily confusing.  There was simply no need for it.  Just have Padme join the Tatooine expedition as the queen, its fine.  Or, leave Padme as the handmaiden.  She doesn’t NEED to be the queen just because she’s a central character.

Anakin’s Character

I’m not gonna rag on the kid’s acting, cause… he was a kid.  But I can criticize the way the character was written.  This is Anakin Skywalker, the man who would one day become Darth Vader.  The entire concept of the prequels is centered around this character turn.  But what we get here is a sweet, innocent kid, and they bend over backwards to make him seem altruistic and purely good.  But this kid is gonna be Vader.  There should be SOME seed of something that would one day turn him.  And the mostly likely characteristic to use would be ambition.  Show some of the kid’s ambition which would later lead to his corruption and quest for power.

For example, the way that Qui-Gon finds Anakin is really random happenstance.  Maybe there could be some way that Anakin seeks him out instead.  Another opportunity is during the space battle at the end of the movie.  Instead of going through the ridiculous premise of Anakin being taken to the battle by autopilot, make it his decision to join the fight.  Have him take ownership and show some of the cockiness that would eventually destroy him.

As for him being a slave, that’s fine.  I quite like the idea.  But it could have been handled a little more deftly.  For example, during the dinner scene Qui-Gon says that his mission isn’t to free slaves.  But why not? Doesn’t that seem like exactly the kind of missions the Jedi should be on?

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C-3P0

Okay, come on.  Anakin building C-3P0 was a stupid idea.  I’m fine with Anakin being a gifted pilot, clearly that comes from the Force.  But he needs to be some expert builder too, something that never comes up again in any other movie?  Just because he’s a beloved character, it doesn’t mean Threepio needs to have some wacky, shoehorned origin story.  So dumb…

Darth Maul

This movie needs a better villain.  All its got is the Emperor before he was an emperor who is either in hiding or only shown via hologram, and Darth Maul.  And lets face it, Darth Maul as a character is pretty much non-existent.  We know nothing about him, we have no concept of his background or what drives him.  And he’s not menacing in the least.  The only thing frightening about him is his make-up, but otherwise he’s simply not threatening.  Nothing in the way he acts or speaks gives any sense of danger.  He needed a lot of work in order to make him an effective villain, other than the conceptual design of his physical appearance.

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The Senate Story

A lot of people bitch about how there’s too much politics in episode 1 for a Star Wars story, and especially how much of a bummer the opening scrolls were when we start with a trade dispute.  I’m not one of those people.  I’m okay with seeing the senate that existed before the Empire, and I’m okay with starting small, since this is supposed to be the beginnings of the larger story-line.  Actually, I think the Senate part of the story needed to be focused on more.

I think most people’s issues aren’t with the fact that the senate stuff exists, but that its not interesting.  It would work if they made it interesting and put a little more effort into writing how Palpatine is able to take power over the entire political body.  After all, that, along with the introduction of Anakin, is the only real reason this story exists within the larger scope of the overall story.  Its an important point, so spend more time and storytelling effort.

I also very much dislike the Jedi council, but this is something I will go into in a lot more detail when I review Attack of the Clones.  But an ESP test? Really guys?

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Midicholorians

Now we come to what I find to be the most egregious offense committed by this movie.  For some reason Lucas felt it was necessary to introduce midicholorians as some sort of symbiotic bacteria that is responsible for the force.  Seriously? You just took all mystery and power from this concept that was so well-built in the original films.  The force should be some be some inexplicable energy which lets our imagination and wonder define it, not some quantifiable measurement.  Remember that scene where Yoda explains the force to Luke, being between the tree and the rock?  Or when he uses the Force to raise up the X-Wing?  Yeah, this idea just vomits on all of that.  Disgusting.  These need to be erased from the consciousness of all connected to the Star Wars universe.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for The Phantom Menace.  Lets face it, in order to make this movie a worthy entry, it would need a lot of work.  But the kernel of the story is still worth working with.  If only…

 

Jul
12

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Not necessarily an outstanding biopic, but certainly an interesting one. Trumbo delves into the period of Hollywood blacklisting through the character of Dalton Trumbo, a Communist writer. Bryan Cranston gives a compelling performance as we see him try to work the injustice of the congressional hearings and still manage to write despite the ban.

Its a very good movie, with only a few flaws in how some supporting actors basically boil down to celebrity impressions (though not too bad actually).  There’s also some uninteresting “not so great a father” drama that isn’t needed. Otherwise, a good watch.

8/10

Jul
09

The Living Daylights

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I’ve made it to the Dalton era!  I must say I like Timothy Dalton as Bond a lot more than Roger Moore.  He’s less smarmy than Moore was.  He’s more suave, though I have to say he does lack some charisma.  I guess that’s why he only lasted two films?

Living Daylights was alright, but its the 15th film in a franchise and it feels like the 15th film in a franchise.  There’s nothing new or fresh anymore.  So its really just about fun spy stories and sequences.  We start with a training sequence going wrong in Gibraltar, move on to helping a defecting general past the iron curtain, and somehow end up in the Afghanistan conflict.  Nothing was exceptional, except maybe the ski car (once again we have an action scene on a ski hill), and the line “he got the boot”.  The Afghan stuff wasn’t too interesting, and I didn’t understand how the girl fit into everything.

6/10

License to Kill

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Timothy Dalton’s second and final effort as Bond sees him going renegade to catch the man who attacked his friend Felix Leiter.  Leiter has his legs bitten off by a shark.  I mean, that’s pretty insane, especially for a recurring character.  Does he ever come back into the series until the reset with Casino Royale? And if so, does he have prosthetic legs now?

So Bond hunts down international drug cartel leader Sanchez.  My first thought was, a drug dealer, really?  How boring.  But I guess this was the 80’s so they were the in vogue villains at the time.  This movie offers us some interesting stuff, like a very young and skinny Benicio Del Toro and a scene were a guy’s head explodes.  And blackjack.  Love the classic casino scenes.

At first this movie seemed like the same mundane ridiculousness that I had seen from the last 5 or so Bond films, but in the second half it really toned itself down and became a more subdued Bond story.  And if you remember previous ramblings, I prefer the more subdued stuff, so I sunk into this film quite nicely and ended up enjoying it.

7/10

Goldeneye

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With Goldeneye, Bond producers decided to take a different approach and adapt the popular video game into a film.  And it works, providing a strong first entry for Pierce Brosnan as 007.  Goldeneye is a solid 90’s action movie and works as a new age bond thriller.  I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the plot, but I believe the gist is that former soviets are trying to control a space missile system thanks to, of course, hackers! (It was the 90s after all)

I’m sure the plot is fine.  But what really works here is the tone of the movie.  Its just the right level of seriousness and goofiness, and the action scenes actually kept my interest (most of the time).  The opening scene on the hydro dam feels stealthy.  The car chase with the tank is good because, hey, at least it has a tank.  The climactic fight is…. a problem.  Sigh.  It was pretty much telegraphed how the end would play out.  So bloody cliche and uninteresting, I really wish they could have capped off an overall good action flick with an interesting action climax.  C’est la vie.

A lot of the credit for the tone needs to go to Brosnan himself.  He certainly has a presence as Bond.  The villains are also fun, especially Sean Bean.  I also like how a lot of the Bond staples are there: the secret lair, the casino scenes, a playful race on a cliffside road.  But they are all a little bit modernized so as to be less banal.

I did have to laugh at some terrible movie cliche’s thrown in for good measure, like how Sean Bean wont just shoot Bond, he stands there with the gun pointed at him long enough for Bond to get out of it.  Or how when Bond gives the girl a gun and says do you know how to use this?  Of course she can’t just say yes, she has to answer by reloaded the magazine and resetting the chamber.

Goldeneye: one of the better Bonds.
8/10

Jul
06

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I have a long history with ID4.  I was 15 when it came out and was big into nerdy stuff like The X-Files and had a number of friends who were as well.  When we saw the preview for this new alien invasion movie, I became instantly excited.  A group of us made a plan to see this opening day (I am pretty sure this was my first opening day movie).  There were so many of us we took up almost a whole row in the theater.  It was an event.

Twenty years later, I saw the new movie alone during a matinee showing since no one else was interested in seeing it.  Times have changed.

But has the movie?  First I will say that the overall tone of the original film remains intact here.  They manage to capture the same balance of humour, fun, and seriousness that the first movie had.  It may lack Will Smith, but Jeff Goldblum is still Goldblumin’ it up.  I will also say that this is certainly an interesting sequel to a movie I love, but not necessarily a well-made one.

The premise of the story I found quite intriguing.  The aliens answer their own distress call and return to earth in full force.  They manage to establish the mythology of this predator race well, explaining a little more how they work.  They also establish how our world is different now that we have access to the aliens and their technology.  The idea of an alien prison is interesting for example.  One aspect that wasn’t so original however was the idea of the aliens having a hive queen.  (Aliens anyone?  Borg perhaps?)

There is another part of the story with a particular white orb which I won’t go into which starts off as instantly fascinating, but when its played out it becomes sort of silly.

But here’s the reason that this movie isn’t very good: the pacing.  The first Independence Day was a massive hit and a well-remembered disaster film because it left an impression in people’s minds.  We all know the explosion of the White House scene, or the Empire State Building.  But the reason that all work so well is because the build up was so meticulously crafted.  The tension was built in just the right ways that we as an audience were able to feel like something big was going to happen, then were paid off when it did.

In Resurgence, big stuff just happens.  Sans build up.  For example, when the aliens arrive, they just arrive.  There’s no Will Smith getting his newspaper to see the clouds on fire.  There’s no subtle shaking of objects on the lunar surface.  When it shows up stuff starts getting ripped up immediately.  And every big action beat after that is much the same.  They are rushing through this movie, getting from set piece to set piece without thought of making those set pieces feel like they have weight.

I was actually surprised to see that Emmerich was behind the helm again, because it felt so rushed.  He usually knows how to pace these disaster films much better.  While I was interested in this movie as a continuation of the overall story, I was disappointed in the actual film-going experience.  It really needed to slow down and let us take in what was happening.
5/10

Jul
04

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I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about this movie, honestly. It has all the ingredients for entertaining summer fare: a well-known character, a strong cast, great visual effects, and a sense of adventure. This is a well-made movie which piques the imagination thrills the senses.

The Legend of Tarzan does not tell the usual Tarzan story we all know, but instead makes the decision to tell the story of him returning to the jungle after years living as an English lord. This was a wise decision. It gives us something different and adds a layer of this man who is trying to put him uncivilized past behind him, but keeps getting pulled back in. we still see the Tarzan origin in flashbacks, but they are well-placed and work for the most part.

I would say that the action scenes leave a lot to be desired, but may sound odd after I just said this is great summer entertainment, but its the truth. The fight scenes are not filmed very spectacularly and verge on the Snyder-style ramp-ups a little too much. The more jungly action, like swinging through the vines and avoiding stampedes are much more thrilling and interesting.

Legend of Tarzan sports an impressive cast, stemming from Alexander Skarsgard as the ape man himself, down to Margot Robbie as a Jane who holds her own, Sam Jackson as the everyman we can relate to, and Christoph Waltz doing his usual, but good, villain bit.

I really enjoyed the sense of adventure provided by this new Tarzan film. It uses its Congo setting well, with lots of animal encounters and historical issues of the time. I also enjoyed watching this legendary man reluctantly re-exploring his fabled past, and there was certainly a more intimate story there.
8/10

Jul
02

THE GOOD DINOSAUR – SEEING THE LIGHT — An Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend in Disney•Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur.” Directed by Peter Sohn, “The Good Dinosaur” opens in theaters nationwide Nov. 25, 2015. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

While Inside Out was released to box office success and acclaimed reviews, The Good Dinosaur released in the holiday season to little fanfare or attention.  It was pretty clear which of Pixar’s 2015 movies was its champion last year.  And sure enough, The Good Dinosaur doesn’t reach the storytelling heights of Inside Out, must does that mean this secondary cartoon has no value of its own?  Of course not, in fact its quite the charming little movie in its own right.

Here we get a rather commonplace story in animation these days, where Arlo the runt of the litter suffers a family tragedy and has to make his own way in the world.  Along the way he meets a human he calls Spot.  They look out for each other along their adventures and create a  heart-warming bond, which of course will pay off emotionally in the end.

The story of Good Dinosaur isn’t that unique.  There are callbacks to classic animation films like The Lion King in one scene, Finding Nemo is the finding family aspect, etc.  And the theme of the movie, which revolves around making your mark in the world, isn’t delved in too deeply and is really just on the surface, like the hoofprints on the stone.  That’s said, the characters of Arlo and Spot and the relationships in the film, especially Arlo and his father, do a good job of filling the story void and making you care.

One more thing I have to mention is that the computer animation here is exceptional, especially the background scenary.  Pay attention to any scene with water in it.  There was one scene with light reflecting in river water that looked entirely real.  The bark on the trees was also outstanding.  And then when they throw in interesting visual cues like a reverse Jaws moment in the clouds, The Good Dinosaur suddenly turns into a visual feast worth watching on that level alone.

7.5/10

Jun
30

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I was looking forward to Hail Caesar. But now that I’ve seen it, it just kind of came and went. There’s really no lasting effect. The story simply evaporates into nothing, and there’s no payoff with any of the threads. I did like seeing the Coen’s explore 50’s Hollywood and try to recreate it, but that’s really all this movie’s got.

The whole movie feels empty. It seems like it COULD be saying something about various topics. At first it seems like there could be some religious commentary (though I really laughed at the Rabbi’s line “Eh, I have no opinion”), but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It seems like there could be some political musings with the communist angle, but that also dissolves. They could be saying something about the main character trying to choose between jobs, but they only attach any meaning to that at the very end. The movie is really quite vapid at the end of it all.

5.5/10

Jun
20

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This gaming hobby has exploded in the past decade, with hundreds of new games being released yearly in all types of categories. Gamers are obsessed with the newest and shiniest additions to the hobby. But every once in a while when we tear our eyes away from the shiny glare of the “new”, we notice a gem of a game that is over a 100 years old.
Pit is what we today would probably consider a party game: its loud and raucous, it can handle a lot of players at a time, the rules are simple and its very frenetic. If I described it as a game about trading commodities, I wouldn’t be incorrect, but that wouldn’t really capture the spirit of the game. Pit is more a game about trading cards as fast as you can, and yelling. So much yelling.
Let’s take a look at this loudest of games.

Gameplay

Pit is a pretty easy game to grasp. Everyone has a hand of cards, and the goal is to have your entire hand all one type of commodity. Your reward is that you get to ring the bell. Oh, and you get points too.
So how do you get your hand to be all one commodity? You trade. It’s a blind trading system where you can trade 1,2,3, or 4 cards at a time with anyone at the table. The brilliance is that there is no turn-based system or structure of any kind really. You just call out your number, someone agrees, you trade, and keep doing that as fast and as loudly as possible.
And that’s it. After lots of shouting, grabbing, and reaching, someone completes a set, rings a bell, scores points, and then you do it all again.
The only complicated aspect of the rules is when you want to play with the bull and bear cards. Keep in mind these are optional, and the only fiddly thing with them is the exact sets of nine are a little messed up, and people have different sized hands. The bull can act as a wild card, but can also cost you points if you don’t win that hand. And the bear card is also a penalty if you are stuck with it. I don’t like the hand sizes being different when these are added, but I do like the hot potato aspect of the bear.

Components

I mean, its mostly cards. And they get worn out pretty quickly with all the passing around, and scrunching up, and everything. In fact, I am at the point where I’m actually going to have to replace my copy. And the illustrations are just basic wheat, corn, coffee, etc. But that’s all they need to be. But of course there’s also the bell.

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Conclusion

Pit is an old parlour game, and it feels like an old parlour game, but in the best possible way. Its not bogged down by modern day rules, or ideas of what a game needs to be. Its structured entirely around an enjoyable experience, while still existing within the limits of an actual game.
Pit rocks. You will have a good time, and anyone within earshot will be able to tell you are having a good time. So ring that bell and pick up Pit for a great party game experience.

Jun
18

zootopia

Animated movies like to take things that are not highly intelligent and suppose that they were: toys in Toy Story, fish in Finding Nemo, video game characters in Wreck It Ralph, and now the animal kingdom in Zootopia. Its a neat premise and there’s quite a bit of fun in exploring it.

Zootopia runs with the conceit that animals have naturally evolved to be anthropomorphic, much like humans (though no mention of humans exists in this movie).  They have built cities and home s and social morals.  Yet because there are so many species, discrimination and stereotyping still exists.  More specifically, there is a definite racial divide between predators and prey.

Anchoring this movie are the protagonists Judy Hops, a bunny who begins her police career, and Nick Wilde, a con artist fox.  They are interesting characters and have good chemistry.  The story involves them solving a crime where animals are turning feral again, causing more racial divides.  Its pretty heavy with the symbolism, but that’s okay, messages dont always have to be subtle, especially in a family movie.  Sometimes I wonder what they are trying to say about discrimination other than its bad.  At times they seem to be going deeper with it, likethe idea of self-fulfilling prophecies (i.e. a fox acts sly because people always think he is anyways), at others its unclear (is it good that animals have their own specific traits, or not?)

But on a more surface level, there’s a lot of fun sequences and lots of visual eye candy.  For example, there’s a chase scene in “rodent town” where all the buildings are tiny, and Judy has try not to crush everything during her pursuit.  And of course the sloths at the DMV is an obvious joke but a good one.  There’s lots of stuff like that that I appreciate.

Zootopia is a world that could easily be explored further, and I have a feeling it will be.  I am looking forward to it.

8/10

Jun
11

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The Nice Guys is a great piece of entertainment. First of all, its hilarious. And its hilarious in two ways: the script and the performances. The jokes are well-written, but they’re even better when delivered by the likes of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. These two leads are great together. They’ve got a strongly comedic chemistry that never fizzles throughout the whole movie.

Completing the trio is Ryan Gosling’s daughter Holly played by newcomer Angourie Rice. She does a great job keeping up with her two superstar co-workers. Her character can verge on annoying every now and them, but overall she is a real asset to the film.

But not only does the movie work as great comedy, its also a pretty cool mystery story. I actually cared about the plot as it continued to unravel, and was always intrigued by the case they were working on. The opening scene for example is both wonderfully bizarre, funny in its own regard, and tantalizing with the mystery it provides.  Also, the 1970’s setting looks great and is well utilized.

Go see Nice Guys. After being bombarded with comic book movies and franchise sequels, its a breath of fresh air. They just don’t make movies like this very much anymore.
9/10

Jun
04

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The X-Men franchise has always been a solid presence, as far as comic book films went.  The original film kicked off this whole superhero movie movement we’ve been living in, while some of the sequels (not all mind you) have really shown how a comic book movie should be made.  And now after five films and two spin-offs, they finally bring one of the comic’s most notorious villains and biggest threats to the screen.  Should be great, right?

But really, it turns out not that great, and quite disappointing compared to the usual quality of the series.  I mean, I still liked it for the most part, but its a pretty weak film.  I mean, there are a lot of characters, and while films like X2 and Days of Future Past were able to juggle their large casts, this one wasn’t.  Lots of characters which should have been flesh out were merely eye candy for comic geeks: Psylocke, Angel, young Nightcrawler, and of course Apocalypse himself.

The major problem I had was that Apocalypse is too powerful a villain, so that he becomes uninteresting.  His powers aren’t defined other than “powerful”, and the character himself is given no weight.  It was played by “now” actor Oscar Issac, but it really could have been anyone under that thick blue make-up.   And the destruction was too outlandish that it became hard to connect to. They needed to scale the powers back so that the powers they did have had weight and wasn’t just like “well, they can really do whatever they want”.  It all becomes white noise after a while.  So stuff is flying around and buildings are falling down.  So what?  Large visuals don’t equate to cool visuals.

Also, and this is less important to the movie but still a gripe, the continuity of this series is seriously messed up.  I realize its not something the filmmakers care much about, but at the same time they kind of do as they still try to connect loose threads while others are flailing and frayed with no solution.  The ages for example.  So Michael Fassbender is going to age into Ian McKellen in only 17 years?  Havok is 20 years older than is brother but looks maybe 5 years older?  Whatever.  Also, didn’t Mystique capture Wolverine at the end of the last movie?

Now that said, I was still able to enjoy this movie on a surface level despite its glaring issues.  James Macavoy puts in another great performance as Xavier which really holds the film together.  Fassbender as well does great, even though his character’s arc really fizzles out.  Jennifer Lawrence was… well, she didn’t actually need to be in this move.  But I did like the addition of young Jean and Cyclops.  And Quicksilver is an interesting addition as well, with a  scene reminiscent of the last film but more stakes applied to it.

And while I really disliked the villain, it did lend this theme about the need to come together to face an overarching threat.  Its not a theme explored nearly as well as the theme of fear and oppression of others like the other films do so well, but it still there.  (Would have been better had the villains actually been interesting, but…).  There’s also a pretty great moment at the end with Jean (spoiler coming up I suppose):The whole time, Apocalypse has seen Xavier as his biggest threat and made his plans around him, but then this young girl who he knew nothing about was able to overpower him.  That’s a neat idea in a movie lacking neat ideas.

Apocalypse is certainly one of the weaker X-films, and when you compare it to its predecessors it doesn’t hold up.  Not story-wise and certainly not character wise.  But there’s still stuff to like.  I just wish they were more concerned with giving us smaller things that mean more than larger scale chaos that is essentially meaningless.

6/10

 

May
27

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At first glance, Jupiter Ascending is a fascinating film. It hints at a grand scope of intergalactic intrigue with incredible world-building. For example, we see some typical “grey” aliens used as minions to higher powers, which seems fascinating. This movie appears to be a peek into the vastness of a larger, interconnected universe full of interesting futuristic ideas that we as the audience can’t wait to delve into.

However, there are so many aspects of this movie that drag it down. So many. The biggest problem is that the character of Jupiter is awful. Mila Kunis doesn’t inject much into this role, and the character herself just seems to go along with anything. ‘You want me to stake my claim as a galactic royal without knowing the consequences? Sure! Hey creepy space lord, you want me to marry you for no good reason (and plenty of bad)? Sure!” And don’t even get me started on the complete lack of chemistry between her and Channing Tatum, and how badly they try to force feed us a romance between the two.  Oh and I almost forgot how they tried to parallel her origin with Cinderella, which was a bloody joke.

I first knew this movie was going poorly right after the ship battle in downtown Chicago. I thought, interesting, so now the world will know of the existence of this larger universe. Nope, they Men-in-Black it by having the buildings immediately rebuilt. What a cop out.

Atop terrible lines of dialogue and the ridiculousness of Tatum’s hovershoes, we also get very tonally odd scenes like anything with Jupiter’s real family and cousin and a strange part where Jupiter tries to get her royalty sanctioned in a scene that seems straight out of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

And in the end, the whole thing boils down to a basic “i kidnapped someone you care about” plot and generic action and fight scenes.

But here’s why this movie really makes me mad. It gave me the taste for a really space saga, filled with intrigue, politics, and grandeur. A desire for a rich cosmic tapestry with a story worth telling amidst a world filled with interesting sci-fi ideas, locations, and societal intricacies. This may have at one stage been that movie. But it wasn’t. It really wasn’t.

2/10

May
21

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I’ll start off by saying that this wasn’t the unmitigated disaster that I was expecting. It was a movie with a lot of problems but it also had some admirable qualities a well. I think I’ll start with those.

First I’ll say that I liked the visual aesthetic of the film. The darker tone may not entirely fit this particular comic book team, but it did provide its own unique atmosphere. I thought that the Thing looked interesting, for example, and was a big improvement on the rock suit from the other films (and from the 4th season of Arrested Development).

I also quite enjoyed watching the origins of these characters, especially Reed and Ben. And I also thought they did a great job of creating a strong sense of camaraderie and teamwork during the research institute scenes.

Okay, so this is kind of weird, since it probably seems like I enjoyed the movie at this point. But trust me, this is still a bad movie. I just feel like I need to defend some of its better qualities as F4 was so lambasted in the critical movie world. But… its still not good.

Most of the problems derive from the script. There’s a lot of poor attempts at character development such as Johnny Storm having whiny daddy issues (like we haven’t seen that a million times before). Its also dragged down by terrible dialogue all over the place. So many times they build up to some moment that could be great, and its deflated with some terrible line. “What happens if we say no?” “Say yes.”

Another problem with the story was that there was no sense of real-world impact.  The Fantastic Four are never even seen or known by the public at all.  They’ve made probably the most significant discovery in history, yet no one seems to be making a big deal of it.  Its way to isolated of a story for the things that are happening inside of it.

But I think the biggest problem with the script is how it doesn’t really resolve some of the major character dynamics happening in the film. Reed Richards escapes a military compound, leading his friends to resent him, even his best buddy Ben. And then nothing is done with this conflict. Reed doesn’t make up for it, the others dont really let out their anger other than Thing punching a tree, its just not handled well at all. The whole movie ends rather abruptly with a world threatening conflict that just sort of… happens.

So there you have it, the new Fantastic Four. This movie was definitely a victim of group-hate. Its not as bad as many would have you believe, but… that doesn’t really mean its good either.

4/10

May
09

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Superhero fatigue. That’s the buzz word these days on most movie blogs and podcasts. Internet reviewers love to use it, and have jumped on the bandwagon of the phrase’s overuse. It usually makes me roll my eyes, as it seems like an attempt to sound “above all that”. But I have to admit… I may be starting to feel it.

I was quite bored with the first half of Civil War, which surprised me as I was genuinely excited for this movie, and have been more or less on board with the whole Marvel universe experiment. But things were starting to feel very familiar when this movie began. And it didn’t help that I found the action scenes to be uninspired and poorly shot. I’m not sure if it was the cheap 3D or not, but the action felt jerky and rough, and not in a good Bourne way. It wasn’t shaky cam, it was more… fuzzy? Either way, I didn’t like it.

But the movie did start to pick up in the middle. The Civil War storyline was actually more well-conceived than I assumed it was going to be. That said, it did still feel odd that these crime-fighting partners would be at each other’s throats so quickly. But they did try to deal with the collateral damage issue and the growing distrust of superheroes, and it mostly worked. They also added a late movie revelation which… well, didn’t seem that organic to be honest. It really felt like it was there to get one last big fight out of Captain America and Iron Man, who beat on each other harder than they have ever beaten on the bad guys.

There’s a lot of comic book characters in this movie. A LOT. Which admittedly is kind of fun. Age of Ultron had a lot too, but I felt that movie did a better job of balancing them all. Here… okay, it was good too. The only one who felt short changed was Ant-Man, who was awesome whenever he was around It just seemed that for a hero who already had his own movie, being relegated to such a small part, yet big enough not to be considered a cameo, was odd.

We also get introduced to Spider-Man. Again. This time they go all out in making him a 15 year old kid, like he started out. No doubt this will buy a lot of cred among the more particular nerds out there. And its sure to generate a lot of hyperbole about him being the best screen portrayal of Spidey to date. True, he was pretty great and added a fresh dynamic to our cast of well-known movie characters. But this movie still ain’t no Spider-man 2.

Black Panther also had a cool intro to the MCU, and is definitely a character who I’d like to see a whole movie with. Vision is still… wow, I’m surprised they introduced Vision. He’s really out there, and honestly he’s a little too powerful to be entirely interesting. Iron Man is as solid as ever, Black Widow and the other 2nd tier avengers are still great sidekicks, and Bucky, well… he’s there too.

There’s one really great action scene that takes place on an airport tarmac. The set-up behind it seems pretty telegraphed (there’s even a scene where the two teams actually line up on either side of a literal line in the ground). But the superhero action is well realized, giving us cool ideas like Ant-Man going inside Iron Man’s suit, or Spidey trying to wrap up Cap in webs. All this kind of stuff is a lot of fun. (The poorly executed action motions seem to have dissipated at this point as well).

Civil War is much of the expected Marvel “stuff”, with the twist that now they’re fighting each other. And we get a whack load of characters. I can’t say its always interesting, but the parts that are are quite entertaining.
7/10