I’m back baby! And I finally understand those memes. Yes indeed, I’m talking about the one, the only, 1997 socio-political commentary disguised as big-budget sci-fi xeno-war Starship Troopers! And it did not disappoint.
Do you want to know more?
Let me just start by saying the interjected propaganda bits are pure gold. It’s part of what elevates the film from your standard, near-B-grade sci-fi, to a legitimate topical satire. It doesn’t hurt that Barney Stinson is one of the scientists bandying about bug brutalization and badassery.
Look closely at how frenzied the mother is as she watchers her kids stomping on cockroaches. Or how the mobile infantry recruitment tactics bear a striking resemblance to decades-past American armed forces ads. This isn’t a movie about noble humans fighting evil bugs. This is a movie about runaway big-militarized-government and ruthless imperialism, with a dash of blind nationalism for good measure.
And it’s surprisingly relevant, even today.
Welcome to the Roughnecks!
If you start paying too much attention to the visual FX, you’ll probably say it looks a bit dated. Now, this was 1997, 1 year later than Independence Day, for example, so you may be onto something. But remember, too, that this was only the late 90s. So I would say, actually, go back and watch other sci-fi from around the same time, and you’ll find that it actually fits right in.
The war-time scenes, both in training camp and actual combat, are average at best. There is a decent amount of guts and gore, mixed with some tongue-in-cheek humor and interpersonal drama, and sprinkled with the standard lead-character heroics. However, you get frustrated with lack of tactical sense and storm-trooper-level firearm competency (that is to say, very little, for those of you who’ve never seen Star Wars). But again, this actually screams ‘parody’ to me, as though they did it this way on purpose to show how laughable most sci-fi action really is.
The characters are, generally, a bit one-dimensional. But some of the actors play it so well that you’ll forgive them for it. Like the drill sergeant and the stump-arm commander. Make no mistake, a lot of the acting IS quite bad. But is it bad.. on purpose? Think about it.
The enemy cannot push a button, if you disable his hand!
And can we just take a moment to acknowledge how incredibly forward-thinking this society was in one very small yet very significant way? Gender equality! The football team, the infantry, the co-ed showers. I mean, there was literally NO friction caused by the fact that men and women were completely equal in these environments. Hats off to that, my friends, hats off to that.
Here’s the main problem I had with the character arcs and story. Right from the jump, Dizzy is framed as a strong, kickass woman who knows what she wants, and doesn’t put up with your crap. She proves it in bootcamp, and again in the field. And yet, spoiler-alert, her death scene is just so terribly weak. I mean sure, she also played up the silly schoolgirl crush on Rico, but she definitely wasn’t the lovelorn doe-eyed damsel. Maybe I’m reading the character wrong. But COME ON. “It’s OK, because I got to have you”?? PLEASE. And your competition is literally in the front seat, maybe even within ear-shot.
If I were to see this movie remade, and I had any input, this scene would be my rewrite. Oh don’t get me wrong, she’d still die horribly. But ol’ Carmen would be close enough to hear Diz’s very last words, which would be something to the effect of, “But hey, Rico, I rocked your goddamn world!”, sending that metaphoric knife-to-the-heart for Ibanez. And she would NOT beg that candy-ass of a man to “hold me” or anything as she drew her last breath.
Come on you apes! You wanna live forever?
Two thumbs up, but beware the dated CGI and bad acting.
PS: OMG is that freakin Father Gabriel from The Walking Dead!?! IT IS!! Hah. Oh I can not see him as a soldier. But he tried, God bless him, he tried. =)
Sure, it’s called ‘International’, whatever. It’s still the 4th one.
Make no mistake, I’m a fan of the series. The original was, like many Will Smith blockbusters of the late 90s, a force to be reckoned with. The elegance was in the simplicity — Smith at his standard boyishly charming cocky rookie game, Jones as the weathered old wise master, taking on a big bad with the unexpected help of an innocent-victim-turned-almost-femme-fatale. Overseen by Rip Torn at his finest. And Vincent D’whateveryoucallit amped up the ick to 11.
5 years later, we get a surprisingly decent sequel. Nearly a full cadre of the original actors, and some fresh blood like Rosario Dawson added a healthy ‘oomph’ to the second step in the series. Plus it’s always fun to see Puddy do something ridiculous. Now don’t get me wrong, it was far from perfect, but overall there’s more to like than dislike.
Another decade, another sequel. The third installment was.. passable. Again, lots of positives. Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson; the touching story of how K first discovered J as a child [spoiler alert!]. A bit more negatives, though — the villain, for one thing. I just couldn’t get past his.. everything. I mean, ‘ick’ is one thing; ‘just plain gross for gross’ sake’ is another. But the “I can see all future possibilities at once and it’s made my brain a little frappuccino-y” dude was really cute, and as I said, the timeline intersection subplot was worthwhile. So would I watch it again? For sure. Would I watch it more than a couple times? Ehhh… maybe, but I wouldn’t be ecstatic about it.
Now, we come to 2019. First of all, good luck getting ANY of those people to come back for round 4. I mean, at least one of them is dead. RIP, Rip. (And yes, that was literally on Twitter.) Fair enough; I didn’t really expect to see them anyway. No, this is a departure from the trilogy. This is… well, it’s like a remodeled apartment. The same foundations, the same basic framework, but with a lot of upgrades and a fresh coat of shiny new paint.
For starters, our new headliners — Hemsworth and Thompson (Tessa, not Emma; no relation) — are pretty. But the great thing is, she (particularly) doesn’t need to flaunt it. As the thematic undercurrent alludes to, this is no longer a ‘boys club’. This is the “Men and Women in Black”. A bit unfortunately, she still goes a little schoolgirl ga-ga over him — at first. She doesn’t let it stop her from being a badass, so it all evens out. Props.
Now, the villains are immensely superior to anything we’ve yet seen, which is both refreshing and expected. On one hand, we know it’s going to take a lot more to stop them from bringing about our doom; but we kinda had to know that going in, otherwise what’s the point of another sequel? The side-story and featured NPC aliens (that’s RPG-talk for “neutral party characters” i.e. ones that aren’t the main bad-guys but aren’t necessarily at the beckon-call of our heroes either), are pretty decent.
Finally, we have this whole ‘internal intrigue’ / ‘mole in our midst’ plot. To me, it almost seemed like they wanted to make H out to be the mole, but then they wanted us to think it was C, then finally ol’ crusty boss-man. Now, this may seem like responsible mystery storytelling, right? And yes, I get it; you DO want the audience misdirected before you get to the big reveal. Obviously. But that traitor-y vibe, for me, lingered a bit too long on H’s character. I’m not sure if that’s the filmmaker’s fault or mine. Regardless, the storyline definitely does its job in taking us on the journey to a happy ending. It just felt a little too forced.
The thing I’m missing, I think, is the heart — that spirit of wonder and mystery that propelled the first film forward in a way that only truly good sci-fi does. This was more flash than function; more spark than fire. BUT! Still enjoyable. Good times.
And damn if that scene where he picks up the hammer ain’t a perfectly executed self-trolling-cameo.. I mean COME ON! You can’t not love it for at least a few seconds.
One thumb up. Have fun out there friends! ❤
Disclaimer: None of these images are mine and I never claimed any rights over/about/related to them whatsoever. 😉
Have I written on this subject yet? I feel like I have, but it may have been via Facebook or something. Apologies in advance for the language. You’re an adult, you can deal with it. =)
So here we are, in the aftermath of yet another series of deadly, tragic, terrorist shootings. Oh, they were white you say? THEY’RE TERRORISTS. Full stop.
There is no excuse, no rationalization, no equivocating. Just like the radical Islamic terrorists that suicide-bomb the gathering places of those they hate, so too did these white racist extremists assault and slaughter those who they hate, just as vehemently and just as irrationally.
Oh, the 2nd Amendment you say? Well guess what, you ignorant asshole. Assault, automatic, and semiautomatic weapons WEREN’T FREAKING INVENTED when they wrote that. So shove it up your NRA-loving ass. To be clear, I fully support your right to own a handgun and a hunting rifle, after passing a thorough background check, psych eval, and safety training. Heck, I want good people to be able to protect themselves. Concealed carry? Sure! If you’ve proven you’re mentally capable and fully invested in the greater good of society, awesome.
But you look me straight in the eye-holes and tell me that we should sell AK-47s and their ilk on the shelves of Walmart in Texas, or at Bass Pro Shops, with a straight face. Go ahead. Be sure to explain why, too; I’d love to hear it.
Oh, the shooters obtained them illegally you say? NOT THE POINT. Not even CLOSE to the point. Obviously, that whole issue is complex, and we’re not going to solve it by arguing about it on the Internet. But you know how else we won’t solve it? You know how else we’ll make literally zero, even negative, progress toward the goal of reducing this kind of violence and carnage? By doing NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. Just as we’ve continued to do for decades. Because our government is too damn lazy, and too damn full of themselves, and too deep in the pockets of super-PAC lobbyists, to be bothered to get off their old fat asses and do something real about it.
Oh, mental illness you say? Nope. Sure, you’ve gotta be pretty fucked up in the head to do this kind of thing. But there are plenty of mental patients who wouldn’t dream of it. No, this kind of behavior comes from one thing and one thing only: HATE. Pure, unadulterated, fear-based media fueled, fiery political and social rhetoric induced, intolerant, ignorant, bigoted, uneducated, unchecked and unbridled hate.
Now I’m not a psychologist. K had that degree. I’m just a tech geek. But even I can understand that this is a complex and multi-faceted problem that requires critical thinking and hard choices. Mental illness, as a societal ill, is certainly a large problem that we need to wrap our heads around. But again, it’s not the point, and it’s not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about reinforced mentalities and behaviors of intolerance, bigotry, and hatred of fellow humans. And I’m too damn tired of this crap being swept under the rug as if it’s “not news” or “not something we can do anything about.”
You know what the families of these victims are really tired of? INACTION. They’re sick to death (literally) of their government representatives’ plain and simple lack of motivation to DO something about this shit. They don’t want your “thoughts and prayers”. They don’t need your tweets and your Facebook sympathies and your hashtags. They need vindication. They need to know that their loved ones’ deaths will not become yet another sad statistic in an ever-growing black stain on the American dream.
But they will. They already are. Do you know how long it takes for us as a society to “move on” from this kind of shocking tragedy? A day or two. Sometimes less. Isn’t that horrifying? We will have already forgotten about it by the time the next viral trend hits our feeds.
UPDATE: it’s already happening. Everybody’s moved on to this ridiculous “30-50 feral hogs” meme. Shameful. Disgustingly shameful.
Society is broken. Morals are broken. Justice is broken. Do we sit idly by and let it disintegrate further? Or do we stand up and cry out, “Enough!” and take action?
Write, call, and email your representatives. Tell them enough is enough. Action is the only acceptable answer.
And may the victims rest in peace. May their families and friends and loved ones find comfort in each other’s arms, and in their faith, of whatever sect or religion or creed they hold, in this time of unconscionable tragedy. And if you do know any of them personally, reach out and offer your love and support, in a concrete, compassionate, caring manner.
Both of these actresses are fabulous. I mean, neither one is everybody’s cup o’ tea, but they have terrific screen presence and charisma. Just look at Ocean’s 8 or Pitch Perfect. There’s a lot of potential here, given the vast difference in their appearance and demeanor (as characters, specifically, but also in general). Although, let’s face it, Wilson is very much a character-actor and doesn’t have nearly the range that Hathaway does.
The trailers gave us some really good lines about women being underestimated and using that to their advantage, with some hilarious “Rebel blunders” to guffaw at. And while the premise of the master grifter teaching the amateur the art of the con is not new, it does generally make for compelling cinema, when done right. However, when you take that formula too far off the rails, you can end up in cheese-land.
The problem here is that we get too deep too fast.
That’s what SHE said!
Right, anyway. What I mean is, there doesn’t seem to be a truly compelling reason for Jo (Hathaway) to take Penny (Wilson) under her wing. We’re just kind of shoehorned into it, like “Yep, that’s the way it is now, keep that train a’rollin’!”. Similarly, the main motivator (turf war, really?) for their ultimate “gentleman’s wager” really doesn’t seem that crucial to the story. Nor does the target, the silicon valley whiz-kid. Again, taking a page from the Ocean’s trilogy, why not just compete for the sake of competition?
And then there’s the whole she-Gollum shtick, which just didn’t work for me. It’s nothing against the actors or the writing… They’re leaning too far into the whole “Rebel Wilson isn’t really attractive” angle. Right? But I get it, that’s the characterization — Jo is sophisticated high-class elegance and Penny is the opposite. I’m completely on-board with that; I merely wanted to see more variety in the cons, not the same few tropes replayed.
Spoiler alert! No, just kidding. I won’t actually tell you what happened. I will say that it wasn’t that bad. It was a little unnecessary, a little forced, sure. But overall, fairly satisfactory.
Meh. The ~48% audience-score on Rotten Tomatoes feels about right. It’s not a terrible movie! It’s just not that fantastic either. Worth a theater visit or a $4.99 rental? No, definitely not. Worth a spot on your watch-list when it comes to streaming-ville? Sure.
It’s been 15 years since the original Guillermo Del Toro adaptation of the comic-book anti-hero Hellboy, a demon-prince-turned-good-guy who fights the forces of darkness for us here on Earth because he was raised to be SUCH A GOOD BOY! by his adopted father. And if that premise sounds cheesy to you, these movies are probably not your cup of tea. However, Del Toro is a master of his craft, and can turn just about anything into a decent movie, if not a visually striking and emotionally compelling film proper.
So quite obviously, the remake/reboot/whatever-you-want-to-call-it drew heavy comparison and criticism for not “living up to” or “being as good as” its predecessor. Most remakes do. But this review isn’t about that (mostly). I’m also NOT a comic book reader; thus, I have absolutely no basis to relate either movie to their comic counterparts, nor to judge them based on how closely they resemble them. And frankly I don’t care. A movie is a movie, nothing less, nothing more.
Cool? Great, let’s get down to it.
There are a lot of things to like here in this 2019 reboot. The actors are charismatic and well-cast, and their chemistry is good. The creature design is stunning and otherworldly, in some ways harkening back to the Fae world of Maleficent, albeit with a much darker evil bent. With an R rating, we get a hefty helping of satisfyingly gory action and blood violence — the giant fights are super crunchy — all set against a thumping soundtrack that reminds us not to take it all too seriously. It is, after all, fantasy.
As most reboots do, it attempts to pay tribute to and acknowledge its origins. We get the infamous “horn-breaker” scene, the flashback to Rasputin’s occult-fueled demon-portal-opening (despite the horrible interjection of a completely unnecessary character; more on that in a minute), and even a direct re-quote with “Hey! I’m on your side!”
Then of course we have the inner turmoil of the Hellboy character himself — If he’s a monster himself, why does he fight monsters; does he really belong in this world? SO EMO. The dialogue and sub-story there is fairly satisfactory, if a little overplayed. I mean, he’s gonna have a tantrum at some point — that’s a given — but did it have to be so angsty? But ultimately he does, as we expect, lean on the teachings of his father and make the right choice.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of things to dislike, too. Pacing and consistency of ambiance being one (or two?). Half the time I felt like I was watching a blood-pumping action flick, another third of the time felt like a grimdark horror-fantasy, and the other.. whatever fraction is left.. of the time, I wasn’t sure how to feel. It wasn’t necessarily jarring, but it was definitely noticeable. My favorite scene, though, by far, was the very end, where our three protagonists just rampage through a baddie hideout to the tune of Kickstart My Heart.
Secondly. Ugh.. CGI. When will Hollywood re-learn that “less is more”? Have we just lost the magic of practical effects and the kind of backbreaking work that went into VFX masterpieces like Lord of the Rings and The Walking Dead? I guess it’s just cheaper these days to throw everything at the supercomputers. And to be fair, it’s usually just fine. But there IS such a thing as over-use. The Star Wars prequels (1-3) did it, probably even before it was a trope; and here, it’s a bit over-the-top. And the problem, when that happens, is that it takes you out of the fantasy that you’re supposed to be engrossed in and enjoying.
A small nit. Plot-holes don’t generally bother me too much. But the amount of blood sweat & tears that went into finding out this key piece of information — that the Blood Queen would return to the exact same spot in which she was slain, to be reborn, was pretty ludicrous. I mean, was that not obvious to anyone, EVER?
Speaking of ugly, Baba Yaga? Gawd, I needed to shower after her main scenes. Shudder. If they were going for gross, they really nailed it. Anyway.
I have two major problems with this movie. One of them is likely dismissed as “but they were being faithful to the comics” — again, don’t care, but that’s fine if it helps you. The other is such a teeny part of the movie that it’s not a deal-breaker; I just need to point it out because of how god-awful it was before I took a minute to purge it from my brain so I could enjoy the rest of the show.
Firstly, the likely-dismissed problem. Mixing too many mythologies. Good lord, am I watching a King Arthur retcon, a Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland, if you’re completely unaware) spin-off, or freakin’ Hellboy?!? Pick something and stick with it! The sword in the stone is now a key to the demon apocalypse? Really? And don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the character of Alice, but did we need the explicitly emphasized call-out to the rest of the Carroll-verse? I think I could have lived without it.
Secondly, the teeny part that drove me bonkers for half a minute. In the flashback to Rasputin’s demon-portal-summoning-ritual, the Nazis are ambushed by an Allied hero named “The Lobster”. He’s supposedly this super-elite soldier-hero commando. But… OH. MY. GOD. The cheese on this character.. you could cut it with a damn Pampered Chef knife. “Beware my claws!”?? No. Just no.
Also, the body-count during this little scuffle (same scene) was unsatisfactorily low. Especially at the hands of the legendary evil assassin Karl Kroenen, who, while shown on screen, is not named nor hardly acknowledged; which again, is fine, since it doesn’t fit this narrative, but still! You know, he has blade-arms, wears a menacing black faceless mask, and is really half-machine and runs on some weird combination of pocket-sand and black-magic…
I’m not bitter, I swear!
One thumb up. Despite my criticisms above, it’s still a decent movie — if you go into it without lofty expectations and don’t try to compare it to Del Toro’s work. It’s a fun little supernatural action romp through vaguely familiar territory, mixed with some brand-new characters and blended mythos that feel mostly complete, if a little rushed. Reminds me a bit of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which had the good fortune of NOT trying to “live up to” any precedent or source material.
Plans for a sequel? The ending scene points to “maybe” — they discover an aqua tank with a nameplate that keen viewers will recognize as a reference to Abe Sapien, the half-man-half-fish character from the original film. However, due the abysmal box-office performance, it’s not likely to materialize. And that’s not a bad thing. =)
Another piece from K. This is a letter to all her fellow women, but specifically to those who are either ignorant or insensitive to the issue of infertility. It’s often not purposeful, but it still hurts, and this is one voice willing to stand up and make known something that is difficult to talk about and difficult to hear.
I don’t understand what it’s like. I never will. It’s a foreign concept to me. I don’t understand having a conversation with your husband or significant other regarding the timeline of when you want to have kids, and having it actually go according to plan. I once thought that is how my story would be, but nearly 5 years later and I can tell you, it’s not that way for everyone.
5 years. Can you imagine waiting that long? The truth is, I don’t want you to imagine. It’s painful and it’s hard. I’m writing because I want you to know how many women all over the world would do anything to be in your shoes, including me. Anything? Yes, anything. Spend tens of thousands of dollars. Inject medications in their bodies daily. Fly across country to see a better doctor. It’s not uncommon for their marriage to be on the line because of the turmoil that infertility brings.
Or maybe they are like me, and are trying to follow God’s direction, to be still and trust Him for a miracle. Yet it’s been almost 60 months and there is still no miracle. Finances, dreams, hopes and desires are surrendered. And after all that? Still waiting. So many women are still waiting. The reality is that 1 in 8 experience infertility. And even after enduring the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental pain, many women still don’t see that positive test; or if they do, they miscarry, which leads to more pain, and more waiting.
We are heartbroken. We are crushed. Our bodies are tired. Our minds are tired. Tired of it all.
To have this dream, that you’ve had since childhood, take so long to fulfill, as you wonder if it ever will be, is really very hard. Especially knowing that same dream comes so easy to so many. Add not being able to leave the house without seeing that one thing desired, dreamed of, and hoped for — seemingly everywhere — that is even harder.
I am writing you to remind you to consider it a gift and a blessing that your story is not like mine. I am writing you to remind you that, even on the hard days, there are millions of women who would trade places with you in a second. I am writing you to remind you to please be thoughtful of your words. And maybe, instead of complaining that it took you 3 months to conceive, consider it a blessing. Or instead of grumbling that you have 3 children of the same gender, consider it a joy.
Maybe, instead of complaining of how sick/nauseous/big/uncomfortable/miserable you are, think of those women, myself included, who would gladly feel all that and more, if it meant that, at the end of the journey, we could hold our precious child in our arms.
Just like I will never understand what it’s like to get pregnant when I want, much less “on accident”, you will never understand what it’s like to wait, painfully and longingly. Our stories are very different, and I find peace in that. But whatever stage of motherhood you are in, please remember the ones who are waiting — the moms in-the-making.
There are women are all over the world who, month after month, even year after year, are told “not yet”. And just like every month before, we have to pick up the pieces, and hope that next month will be different. Hope against hope, for a month that will end with joy, instead of heartache. A month that will end with celebration, instead of tears. A month that will end with a positive pregnancy test, instead of another period.
Finally, please remember, this is not directed ‘at‘ anybody, so don’t take it that way. This subject is supremely hard to talk about. It’s not that I want to talk about it; it’s a very private matter, for the most part. I don’t ask for your sympathy or condolences or anything like that. I merely ask that you take a moment, before you post yet again, to consider those women, like me, who silently hurt, as they read and hear the constant pregnancy/baby-centric buzz around them, from their friends and loved ones. And who cry out against the unyielding night, “Why, God? Why not me?”
Welcome to the first post of the new year. I’ll be keeping things a little on the lighter side for now. I’m still very into my work and learning lots of share-worthy things in the data world. But for now, movies!
I also want to take a moment to appreciate those who reached out to us after our devastating loss. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Please continue to remember our family as we struggle to find a sense of normalcy.
So, some of my elder moviegoers asked me the question that many people have been asking over the last year or two: “What Marvel movies do I really need to watch before Infinity War?”, or more recently, “before End Game?”. More generally, which ones are worthwhile viewing to a casual non-geek, to someone who doesn’t need to obsess over every little minutiae, someone who is not by nature a “comic book movie lover”. It’s a completely fair question, and honestly it needs more.. less nerdy answers.
Hence, this post!
Iron Man (2008)
Really, how could you not? RDJ at his finest, and the start of what we now call the MCU. One could argue that it’s actually not entirely critical to “Avengers”, as a whole, especially if you have a general idea of who and what Iron Man is. But come on.
Thor (2011) OR Thor: Dark World (2013)
Opinions vary on which is a solid film and which is a dud. Either one is sufficient to introduce the Asgardians, the handsome dude with the big hammer, and our favorite flip-flopping hero-villain-depending-on-the-day-of-the-week.
Obviously. While it precedes Thor 2, chronology isn’t the most important thing in the early storyline. It’s more about understanding the characters and the way they work together. If you just did Thor 2, you might not understand why Loki is the bad guy at this point; whereas if you just do Thor 1, you’ll miss the part where Loki “turns good” (ish?) as a lead-in to a future story. Not terribly important; just enjoy the big battle with giant alien snake-ships.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
While not critical to the Avengers storyline, per se, it’s an excellent movie, with some key character development that ultimately explains a pivotal point in Starlord’s (Pratt) behavior in the third Avengers film. And the music is fabulous!
This is also not technically required viewing, but is widely regarded as one of the best films to this point in the timeline. It also sets up some important elements in the larger story arc. However, if, like me, you’re not a giddy schoolgirl superfan of Chris Evans and/or the Cap in general, you can skip this one in favor of Civil War.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Not the greatest movie from a quality perspective, but quantity, you get. Plus major plot and character development. Paul Bettany is amazing as always, and newcomer Elizabeth Olsen does not disappoint.
Honorable Mention: Doctor Strange (2016)
Again, not critical to the overall arc, but it’s something different. Cumberbatch really made his mark as a cross between the sarcastic cynicism of Tony Stark and the higher moral calling of Steve Rogers.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Basically Avengers 2.5, this film gave us so much plot and character push that it’s a sin to ignore. And it’s a truly fantastic movie to boot. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is a breath of fresh air, and he will definitely make you want to see his first standalone feature, even if it’s not super essential to the Avengers storyline as a whole. As I said before, I’m not a drooling Captain fan, but this is truly a full-fledged ensemble worth watching.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
If Civil War was business as usual for the Avengers, Ragnarok is a welcome departure. It nearly flies in the face of the serious and dramatic tones of its predecessors, and I absolutely LOVED it for that. Hemsworth and Hiddleston are back to their charming selves, Ruffalo comes off a Hulk-high and bumbles back into our hearts, and Jeff Goldblum ramps up the ridiculousness. But the star of this show is Cate Blanchette’s villianess, Hela.
Hella fab in this badass latex bodysuit!
The most important thing about Ragnarok is that it directly leads into the beginning of Infinity War. So watch past the credits and get ready for some epicness.
Honorable Mention, prior to Infinity War: Spider-Man Homecoming (2017) and Black Panther (2018)
As I mentioned, Tom Holland managed to breath fresh life into the Spider-Man character, after Sony churned out way too many movies bearing his namesake. Here he’s re-established as a pop-culture-savvy teenager who just wants to do the right thing and finds this HUGE world of good-vs-evil that he may hesitate about but ultimately knows he needs to become a part of. Black Panther really needs no introduction; it was one of the top performing movies of 2018, and for good reason. Not just because it’s one of the first black super hero movies of the decade, and indeed of the Marvel universe, but because it firmly and distinctly fired on all major cylinders of modern comic cinema – action, character, heart, culture, morality, and legacy. Yet, neither of these movies is, I argue, absolutely critical to understanding the larger Avengers plot-line. You get enough of an introduction to both characters in the other movies.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The big daddy of them all. So far, of course. End Game will likely rightfully claim that title once it hits, but for now, this is the climax, the apex of the Avengers arc, and the MCU in general. It’s got everybody. It’s long, at 2.5 hours; it’s epic, full of action, and (semi-spoiler-alert, but honestly if you haven’t at least heard the gist of it by now, you have nobody to blame but yourself) heartbreak. If you’ve enjoyed any of the preceding movies, you will want to see this. And if you plan on seeing the final one, you definitely need to see this one first.
Upcoming: Captain Marvel (2019)
We know that, chronologically, this one takes place in the past. So it’s not absolutely crucial to the Avengers storyline, on its own; but we know that the heroine herself DOES play a crucial role in End Game, so it’s probably worth the time investment. Plus who doesn’t love a strong female superhero flick? We haven’t seen enough of those from the MCU, to date. To be fair, the source material is fairly patriarchal too, but this is 2019, so it stands to reason that a studio of Disney’s size could do anything they damn well please, including giving the leading ladies more of their own features. (Fingers crossed that the Jean Grey and Black Widow spinoffs do well!)
Where does it all end?
Avengers: End Game (2019) is hyped to be the absolute biggest superhero cinematic event of the decade. Some of the characters will continue to have their sequels or even origin stories, while others may meet their permanent end, be it death or just old-fashioned retirement. One thing is certain: if you haven’t at least watched the first three Avengers movies, you are by no means prepared for what’s coming.
Dude, that’s still like.. TEN movies. Ain’t nobody got time for all that!
Fair enough. Let me cut the list in half. If you had a gun to my head (RUDE!) and asked me which films were absolutely 100% guaranteed required viewing, I would tell you this: Avengers 1, Avengers 2, Civil War, Thor Ragnarok, and Infinity War. That’s roughly 10-ish hours of quality cinema, and includes just about every hero and villain that you need to care about going into this year.
So I excluded your favorites, big whoop, wanna fight about it?
Do you disagree? Did I leave out anything terribly important? Do you still think Steve Rogers is a dreamboat and should be idolized by all his fellow heroes for his unwavering moral righteousness? (Spoiler alert: WRONG.) Let me know in the comments!
Briefly, here’s my two-cents about why the rest are unnecessary. Starting with the Iron Man sequels: 2 is messy and doesn’t really move the hero forward, while 3 is a far better character study at the expense of being slightly too CGI-heavy. (Then again, they all are going that direction, so you might as well embrace it.) The Incredible Hulk was ret-conned into the MCU, and it’s not Ruffalo’s Hulk, so it really serves no great purpose other than to fill a slot on a timeline. With the first two Thor‘s, as I said, you could do away with either one and still understand that world in general. Then we have the one-off origin stories in Captain America and Ant Man, which, fine, they’re decent, but quite unnecessary to the bigger picture. And Guardians of the Galaxy 2, while a very good sequel, has nothing earth-shattering (see-what-I-did-there?) to add to the timeline. Finally, like I mentioned before, Panther and Homecoming are truly great movies; in fact the adorable surrogate-father-son relationship that Stark (Iron) and Parker (Spidey) establish in the latter makes one of the final moments in Infinity War exponentially more heartbreaking. But do you absolutely need to have seen them to get up-to-speed for Avengers? Not really.
A final note. About the TV shows. I don’t watch them. Never have. If that’s your game, great, go for it. But the movies know that they can’t rely on the shows to make any significant plot contributions, let alone to be seen by nearly as many, or the same, people. So in my book they’re still all fluff. Maybe that’ll change someday, but I doubt it.
Now, go do your homework and watch some movies! =)
It’s that time again kids! Today (which is now yesterday), I saw Peppermint at the local cheap-seats theater. Aside from being surprisingly uncomfortable compared to the plush recliners of the deluxe place, it was a nice bit of nostalgia. There was almost nobody there. Frankly, I’m not sure how they’re still in business; their operating costs must be absolutely minuscule. But hey, works for me, $4 movies! Let’s get to it, shall we?
Revenge is Fun to Watch
Call me a sucker for a good revenge flick. Even more so when the protagonist is a badass woman. I don’t get into the really graphic “rape-revenge” stuff like I Spit On Your Grave and its ilk, but in general, if you’ve got a leading lady kickin’ ass and taking names to avenge some injustice done to her or her loved ones, I’m game.
And the user reviews agree with me, but the critics decidedly do not. That’s typical. Critics look at lots of deep facets of film-making, but the average audience just wants to be entertained. Are there a few moments when it’s difficult to believe the character, or the lines feel just a tad forced? Sure. Are there some bits where perhaps we stretch reality just a bit? Of course. But it’s a damn fun movie to watch, as Garner takes out one gangster or corrupt-cog-in-the-justice-machine after another.
Jennifer Garner’s Appeal
Speaking of our leading lady… I’ve never seen Alias, so you’ll forgive the lack of comparison. I did see Elektra, which, although a pretty bad movie overall, at least showed that she could convincingly play a tough action hero, even if that particular character was over-sexualized. Obviously that was 13 years ago, but her age plays well as the seasoned, slightly weather-worn mother, who can still whip herself into better shape than the cartel thugs half her age, dispense her vigilante justice, and look good while doing so.
It’s purposeful, and effective, that she does not show skin or become a sex-object at any point. That’s not what this is about, nor should it be. She’s all business, and that business is bloody, brutal, and filled with sharp objects and shotgun shells.
The Bad Guys (and their deaths)
One of the best parts of a revenge flick is seeing the imaginative or poetic-justice-esque ways in which the hero deals death to those that deserve it. (Yes, I’m using those terms “hero” and “deserve” loosely and in the context of the film itself, not engaging in a philosophical debate outside the world of the story.)
While some of these are lackluster, especially for an R rating, there are few that really shine. The judge, a sort of Kevin Spacey lookalike, gets it good with nails-in-the-hands and a courtroom-sized explosion. The three shooters are strung-up by their ankles on a ferris wheel, the process and lead-up to which, I feel, would have been even more interesting to watch than the end result. And there are at least a few fantastic head-shots that you’ll just want to see for yourself.
As I said, given the rating, I do think the film makers could have gone darker with some of the kills, but overall, we get what we came for. It feels very similar to Taken, for obvious reasons (same director), and that’s a good thing.
Sadly, and seemingly more often these days, the trailer showed some sequences and dialog that either didn’t make it into the movie, or misrepresented it slightly. The titular ‘Peppermint’ moment isn’t there, at least not with the same impact; and a couple of the more badass-sounding vengeance lines are diluted by too much context or a lack of ‘oomph’ in the background score.
But again, that’s Hollywood. The trailer’s job is to make you desperately want to see the movie, and they often succeed. So we can’t blame them too harshly. The film is gritty, well-made, and compares favorably with others in its genre.
Speaking of trailers, they played one for Glass, a really intriguing upcoming crossover-continuation of Unbreakable and Split, from everybody’s favorite writer-director name to purposefully mispronounce. If you haven’t seen either of those, do yourself a favor. (McAvoy is phenomenal in the latter.)
Conclusion: one solid thumb up
If you enjoy watching a tough female lead, seeing bad-guys get their comeuppance, and following a story through to the end, this movie is for you. Even if you’re not generally a J Garner fan; she really does well with this role, and there are no hints of her typical rom-com personality sneaking in. It’s a good solid ride with a satisfying conclusion — exactly what you want from a popcorn vengeance flick.
It won’t always be new movies, I promise. I could go on for pages about such classics as The Gladiator, Independence Day, Jurassic Park, Scream, Pulp Fiction, Face/Off, Lord of the Rings, and more. And I will, eventually. I’m going to try out a hosted WP service with my own domain soon, and then I’ll have more freedom to draw lines in the sand between the tech stuff and the fun stuff. But for now, you’ll have to settle for reviews of new or recent movies that we go enjoy semi-regularly at our local recliner-lined pizza-serving cineplex.
Without further ado…
Things Are What They Are
Let’s make something clear right off the bat. This is a popcorn flick. For those who aren’t up on the movie-goer lingo, that means it’s more or less mindless fun. It’s CGI-infused, big-screen big-sound action, with a few recognizable faces, a few up-and-comers, and a whole gaggle of extras. Throw in a Wilhelm Scream for good measure (fair warning: TVTropes link!). And yes, a black guy dies first.
Statham is no stranger to this sort of film. One might even say he’s built his entire career on them. But most of those are more the dark, gritty, pure action flicks. Yet he’s proven he can handle himself with the lighter, more humorous side as well.
The monster, the Megalodon, is sufficiently large and in-charge. It menaces and mangles effectively, and even outsmarts a hapless human or two. The premise around where and how they find this beast is mildly interesting, despite the occasional disregard for high pressure physics.
One of our favorite things to do with movies is to call out where we know the actors from. Here we have Dwight from The Office, and Travis from Fear TWD — we’re supposed to believe he’s Statham’s brother, which is a pretty hard sell, unless one is adopted. Oh, and that short-haired techie chick with the annoyingly hipster name? That’s the lead singer of ‘Evermoist’ from Pitch Perfect 3!
Where It Hits and Misses
We get some cinematic moments of shock and awe, a few tearful goodbyes of self-sacrifice, and a handful of suspenseful close-calls. And obviously, some big meaty carnage.
Unfortunately, the dialog falls a little flat sometimes, and the humor isn’t always snappy. Now, you’re not watching this for deep character development. The only thing deep here is the water. But there could have been a bit more emphasis on some key elements that would make the characters more memorable or relate-able.
Comparisons Are Fair Game
It’s quite natural to compare this to Jaws, and the many myriad of mimics that it spawned. Obviously, this film has no such aspirations, nor does it feel the need to shove this fact down the audience’s throat. Unlike, say, Sharknado, which tries way too hard to be “so bad it’s good” that it ends up looping back around to terrible again.
Furthermore, the actors understand this, which means that, while they do take their roles somewhat seriously, they allow themselves to have fun with it. Nobody’s trying to impress the Academy here. And frankly, nobody’s expecting you to watch more than once. Your enjoy it for what it is, and then you walk away.
The Verdict: one solid thumb up
Lets be honest. You’re going to watch this because you enjoy big sharks, Jason Statham, and/or ocean-themed action-adventures / creature-features. And you won’t be disappointed. It’s just good-old-fashioned shark-movie fun. Enjoy your popcorn, then go about your business.
You, dear reader, may have guessed this already, but just in case you haven’t: We watch a lot of movies. Like, a lot. That new red MoviePass card came out just around the same time that our local cineplex remodeled itself into a “luxury theater” with the reserved reclining seats, dining service, and all that jazz. But besides that, when the day’s work is done and it’s time to chill, Netflix/Prime/Kodi are our M.O.’s.
Side-note, I’m running Kodi on LibreElec on a Dell micro-PC that I procured for $99 a few Black Friday’s ago. It’s puny by PC standards, but beefy by media-stick/RPi standards, so it works pretty well. We’re finding that our WiFi isn’t always quite up to the task of steadily streaming 1080p, but… meh. It’s generally usable. It serves up movies from my 3TB spinning-rusts on the circa-2014 gaming PC via Plex, which is a phenomenal app for the modern moviephile — if you haven’t checked it out, do it.
Let’s Get To It!
Back on topic. Off topic, I mean. We recently saw The Spy Who Dumped Me. I was excited for this movie as soon as I saw the poster: Mila Kunisand Kate McKinnon. Need I say more? Not really, but I will, because that’s presumably why you’re reading. I mean, I could watch these two actresses do just about anything for 2 hours. Let alone a buddy-action-comedy about international intelligence intrigue gone awry.
I first loved McKinnon in the Ghostbusters reboot, where she, no disrespect to the rest of the phenomenal cast, stole the show. That was a super fun movie too. (I’m not an SNL guy, though her Hillary impersonation was superb.) And Kunis, I’ve loved since she took over the voice of Meg in Family Guy. It didn’t hurt when the wife said she had a girl crush on her too.
This is somewhat of a directorial debut from Susanna Fogel (she has some credits, but nothing blockbuster-worthy, as far as I can tell), and it hits a lot of good notes. The acting is solid — especially, obviously, the two leads — the action believable, the punchlines not overly cheesy, the character development realistic, and the twists compelling, if a bit predictable.
The one notable gripe I have is the completely random and unnecessary bit of male nudity. And it’s not that I’m a prude; nudity can have its place in movies, if it serves a purpose. Look at Forgetting SarahMarshall — very similar to this instance, technically, but its purpose was clearly to emphasize the point of the character’s vulnerability and shamelessness. Contrasted to here, where it’s just some dude that Kate’s character hooked up with who turns out to be the first of dozens of agents to try to kill the duo in pursuit of the elusive “flash drive of doom” (which, surprisingly, is not yet a TvTropes trope, but I feel like it should be). There was literally no point.
On the whole, the movie was excellent — a fun ride through Europe on the tails of two hapless yet confident, inexperienced yet tough, and sometimes supremely lucky ladies who go toe-to-toe with agents of CIA, MI6, and the big scary Russian Mafia. We see these amazingly close best friends overcome frightening odds and tense situations by sticking together and encouraging each other, which is pretty awesome if you think about it. There’s a lot of negativity thrown around these days, whether it’s in the name of politics, social movements, or otherwise. Even your standard male buddy-cop movie usually hinges on the guys’ “banter” of tearing each other down (even in jest), and rarely does it truly bring out the best elements of their character.
Speaking of characters, the chemistry of these two women is top-notch. They’re different, to be sure, but it works in their favor. McKinnon is obviously more extroverted; “a little much” as someone tells her derogatorily, but that’s why we love her. Kunis is of course more subtle; coy, yet never a damsel in distress. One of the best bits of dialog in the movie, I think, comes from McKinnon’s positively bursting joy at seeing the head of MI6 is in fact a woman, who “hasn’t sacrificed one ounce of femininity!” (Gillian Anderson, of course, being very familiar with the role of an intelligence officer).
Now, I will normally try to avoid spoilers. Today I will simply tease that yes, while Kunis ends up falling for a guy, he’s proven worthy, and there’s no reason to fault her for it. If anything, it keeps us grounded in reality. Of course that reality quickly turns fantasy again in the “post ending”, but that’s for you to enjoy.
Highly recommended, two thumbs up.
Happy Hump Day! Now go watch some movies. Preferably this one. But hey, I ain’t the boss of you. Do your thing. And stay tuned for more!