Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Review: Warner Brothers Animation strikes again with "Reign of the Supermen"

Reign of the Supermen Review
If there was one thing I wished for, I wished that the DC animated movies being made at Warner Brothers Animation got theatrical releases. If people knew just how cool the brand is and what it would be like for people to make good DC movies, the DCEU would be fine right now. There is so much more to the DC Universe than just Batman and Superman, and ironically enough, I tell you that writing a review for a Superman movie.

"Reign of the Supermen" is yet another winner for the DC animated movies. Just another title to be added to an already impressive direct-to-video list. They are all fun movies. Some of them connect with each other, and some don't. That's okay though. Just like Marvel is doing with their cinematic universe, the animated side of DC filmmaking is really taking chances, doing fun things. I mean, we have a Batman and the Ninja Turtles movie coming soon. This is how much fun Warner Brothers is having with these characters and again, I wish it was shared by all.

This story takes place after the legendary "Death of Superman" saga, a story huge in scale that "Batman vs. Superamn" just kind of glossed over. There is a fight with Doomsday in the comics, and it leads to Superman's death. In the years that follow Superman's passing, several other heroes wearing that big, red S begin showing up. (Because it typical DC fashion, it's biggest heroes have about five allies with similar powers.) We have a Cyborg Superman, Steel Superman (as in the same character Shaquille O'Neal played in the 90s), a harsh version called The Eradicator and Superboy. Superboy is bankrolled by Lex Luthor, who uses this opportunity for political and social ends. 

But of course, this whole event is being manipulated by another force. Because of course it is. That is the nature of comic book stories. All the supermen have to figure out what is going on. Who is manipulating this situation and why? What is there end of the bargain.

I am not familiar with all things DC, I don't have that encyclopedic knowledge that I have with most Marvel titles, simply because I am more of a Marvel comics reader than DC. Even though I like both companies just fine. So there were some fun twists that I didn't see coming. For awhile, it seemed like Warner Brothers Animation was doing nothing but Batman-oriented stories, so seeing one dominated by Superman was a nice change of pace. Its humorous to see all the different Superman personalities clash. 

It's also just loads of fun to watch.

FINAL GRADE: A

Toy Story 4 Full First Trailer



Well, I'll give Pixar this, "Toy Story 4" has completely received my attention. My full attention.

I've already discussed at great lengths why I wished a "Toy Story 4" didn't happen. I've already discussed exhaustively about great trilogies and how few of those we have. It seems to me that Pixar has collectively decided to stop being creative and just make product. But there is something about this trailer that gives me hope. What is it about the "Toy Story" franchise that Pixar gets so right? Is it because it was their first movie? The hit that got the studio rolling? Could be. It just seems like they've really put lots of effort into these movies, as if they are the only franchise that matter.

Maybe Pixar will break the mold on this one. There's a first time for everything, right? Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have already said some wonderful things. But they are supposed to, right? Would you go to see "Toy Story 4" if you knew it sucked? I probably would not. But there is something special about this trailer. Maybe I loved the first three movies so much that I desperately want this one to work too. I hope it does. If we get four great movies, history will be made.

Monday, March 18, 2019

March Madness All-Stars Begins! Heroes Vs. Villains!

For a quick preamble, click here!
It's March now, and that means Heroes vs. Villains over here at my site. The time of year where you vote for your favorite heroes and villains. This year, I've brought back a handful of favorites from the past four years. This is the first round! Voting will last until March 21st! Happy voting.

Keep an eye on my social media outlets to vote in polls!
Send me emails of who you want to advance!
Fire off in the comment section below!

That is how you guys can vote!

MOVIE HEROES (TOP LEFT BRACKET)
Shuri (1) vs. Roger Murtough (16)
Indiana Jones (8) vs. Han Solo (9)
James Bond (5) vs. John Rambo (12)
Wolverine (4) vs. Spider-Man (13)
Wonder Woman (6) vs. Gandalf (11)
John McClane (3) vs. Trinity (14)
Jyn Erso (7) vs. Ellen Ripley (10)
Batman (2) vs. Rocket Raccoon (15)

TV HEROES (BOTTOM LEFT BRACKET)
Arya Stark (1) vs. Commissioner Frank Reagan (16)
Goku (8) vs. B.A. Baracus (9)
Eleven (5) vs. Ragnar Lothbrok (12)
Buffy (4) vs. Agent Dale Cooper (13)
Mulder & Scully (6) vs. Doctor Who (11)
Jack Bauer (3) vs. Melinda May (14)
Daryl Dixon (7) vs. Rick Sanchez (10)
Spock (2) vs. Daredevil (15)

MOVIE VILLAINS (TOP RIGHT BRACKET)
Erik Killmonger (1) vs. Alexander DeLarge (16)
Xenomorph Queen (8) vs. Lord Voldemort (9)
Saruman (5) vs. Regina George (12)
Tony Montana (4) vs. Count Dracula (13)
Darth Vader (6) vs. Maleficent (11)
The Joker (3) vs. Samara (14)
Chucky (7) vs. The Enchantress (10)
Thanos (2) vs. Ed Rooney (15)

TV VILLAINS (BOTTOM RIGHT BRACKET)
Dr. Hannibal Lecter (1) vs. Russell Hantz (16)
Killgrave (8) vs. Victoria Grayson (9)
Ramsay Bolton (5) vs. Aunt Lydia (12)
Tony Soprano (4) vs. The Borg (13)
Claire Underwood (6) vs. Annalise Keating (11)
Don Draper (3) vs. The Monster (14)
Negan (7) vs. Slade Wilson (10)
Walter White (2) vs. Mr. Burns (15)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

30 Entertainment Candles! My special Birthday list

March 17th, 1989 a nerd was born. A nerd who became obsessed with movies, music, comics, and anything and all else that is entertaining. Thirty years later, I count my blessings each and every year. It's been a wonderful thirty years, all things considered. Finished grade school, high school and college. Found and married the girl of my dreams. Became a dad. Its wild to imagine all the things we've accomplished after thirty years of life. I also love that I have the freedom to create, design and execute a personal blog on movies, my most favorite vice. Instead of focusing on my quais-quarter life crisis regaring turning 30 years old (sarcasm) I love that I have this outlet where I can tell strangers and friends alike how art makes me feel. The cherry on top is that any of you have ever decided to read it, and for that, I give you all my thanks.

Some people don't find entertainment important. While yes, we could very well live without it, I do find that it plays an important part of our lives. The world has grown darker, sadder and more cynical and a good movie, a good show, a good book, a good album...these are among the things that keep me sane. So like everything, I believe entertainment does play its part.

I've turned 30 today, and when we blow out the candles on our birthday cakes, we make wishes. The list I have for you guys today are 30 entertainment-oriented things I am most thankful for, the things I am most excited about, and the things I WISH the most to NOT fail. This is not a list of my definitive favorite entertainment things, because that list changes all the time. New stuff on the horizon is announced everyday. Just at the moment these are the movie (few TV things) I am most thankful for.

1. Kevin Feige & the Marvel Cinematic Universe
This will probably end up being the biggest DUH on this list. Like I explained the other day when the second "Avengers: Endgame." trailer hit the internet, this is my favorite franchise I have had the pleasure to live through. I saw this franchise form at ground zero, I didn't have to track down existing movies from another decade. Its been so much fun watching this franchise take form, stretch, revealing other corners. I also have to give massive credit to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige for being on-point with every single movie. Believing in his vision to its fullest. Many have tried to get their own cinematic universes up and running, and its pretty clear that nobody does it like Feige right now. There probably will come a point where this franchise begins to slow down, but I have to say how impressed that we are still enjoying this to its fullest ten years in. So yes, bring on "Endgame," bring on "Spider-Man: Far From Home," bring on "Eternals," and "Shang-Chi" and that "Black Widow" prequel. I also have no idea what else is in store for the future, and neither does anybody. I can't wait for the next wave of announcements!

2. Star Wars
Yes, "The Last Jedi" was polarizing. Yes, even I wrote a negative review on this website. Yes, I think the polarization of "The Last Jedi" affected the box office of "Solo: A Star Wars Story," which was a movie I did like. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in this story and this universe. It has woven itself into our pop culture, for better or for worse. I was bit by the "Star Wars" bug early in life and it would take a lot for that goodwill to burn down. I am one of the weird fans who loves the prequels, and I love episode 7. I love most of the shows, and I still boot my old Playstation 2 to play my old Star Wars games. My interest isn't going anywhere anytime. So I am curious to see Episode 9. I am blown away we've been kept in the dark on trailers and even a title. December will be here before we know it. I am sure J.J. Abrams will bring his A-game. I look forward to the shows that will appear on Disney+. I will continue to be a Star Wars fan until they stop making stories set in that galaxy far, far away. I am a fan for life, and I am cool with that.

3. Eggers, Peele, Aster & the Horror Revolution
The horror genre is one of my favorite genres, and it seems like something is happening in the genre right now. Something I find incredibly exciting. You can trace this to 2014 with "Babadook" or possibly to 2016 with "The Witch." But I think its much more clear now. I really enjoyed "Split" and "Get Out" in 2017. That year also had a huge slew of great Stephen King adaptations. In 2018, I enjoyed "Hereditary," and when I finally caught up on "Susipiria" and "Overlord" it was pretty much love at first site. I recently read the script for "Midsommar," the next film by "Hereditary" director Ari Aster. We also are getting "Us" next week, which made a huge splash at the SXSW film festival in Austin, TX last week. There are also more Stephen King adaptations that are generating positive buzz. All of this gives me hope. The horror genre is in the hands of people who care about scaring the shit out of us, and I couldn't be happier. Jordan Peele. Robert Eggers. Ari Aster. These guys are the future. These guys aren't interested in found footage. They aren't interested in teenagers who can't act getting killed in gruesome ways. They care about putting all of our fears under a microscope and if that doesn't interest you or if that's not "cool" enough for you, they don't care. The future looks bright, and I can't wait for this new wave of nightmares.

4. Game of Thrones
Yeah, not a movie. But for all the creativity and quality that goes into this show, it might as well be a movie. It certainly feels like a movie that takes hours and hours to get to the end. Which is a-okay with me. HBO pretty much rules all television these days, but to me, this is their crowned jewel. This is their most prized possession. I've been obsessive about television before, but I don't think I've ever been so rabid about any type of show until now. Maybe it has to do with the show feeling so cinematic in scope. Who knows? I do know that I am curious as hell to see this conclusion. I'm sure all of my favorite characters will all be dead at the end, that's Game of Thrones fashion. But if the ending is worth it, I am okay with that.

5. Taika Waititi
The way to my heart is to make me laugh out loud. Right now, there isn't a director that is doing it better than this special New Zealander. A guy who seemingly came out of nowhere. You know this director, whether you realize it or not. In 2014, he made "What We Do In The Shadows," a silly little mockumentary about vampires that has so much fun making fun of horror tropes that I felt overwhelmed. Its the perfect type of spoof. Then in 2016, he made "The Hunt For The Wilderpeople," I don't think I could explain my love for this movie if I tried. Its so out-there, yet so confident in what it is that I love it. His most high-profile film was "Thor: Ragnarok." While the comedy was laid a little thick in that movie, its still a Marvel film unlike any other. This guy has a unique sense of humor, something that I think is rare these days. He's gearing up to make a televised version of "Time Bandits" and I can't wait. I hope he continues to make original concoctions though, and I hope he never gives up his original voice.

6. Netflix
Streaming services have begun to change up our mass media intake, and whether you use this service or not, its responsible for the ones you DO use. Netflix changed the game in lots of ways. It single-handedly destroyed home video rental stores, and now its helping tear down the foundation of cable packages. But the most fun has been them continue to churn out original content. Yes, I don't come close to keeping up with any of it, but I've enjoyed quite a bit of it. I can say that I don't think anybody anywhere is doing adult animation like Netflix. "BoJack Horsemen," "Big Mouth," "F is For Family," these are all amazing. There's others too. I can't wait to see how Netflix continues to change the game for media.

7. Amazon Prime
If Netflix is the popular kid at school, then Amazon Prime is his artsy-fartsy younger brother. There seems to be an arthouse feel to lots of their original content. If you don't dig their original content, then I hope you enjoy their wide array of movies, from all genres and types. I feel like their selection is a bit better than Netflix's selection. This might prove just how big of a movie nerd I am, but I love all the older movies you can find on this platform. That will be appreciated from everyone who doesn't need the big, the loud and the now.

8. Evan Glodell
If I could elect one person to be the face of independent cinema, I would give it to Evan Glodell. Weird, that he's only made one movie so far. That movie though, is "Bellflower," and as far as modern independent movies go, its definitely my favorite. Right now, he makes cool content on his Patreon.com page, something I would push all of you to follow. If you know a writer who uses it. He's got some more movies in him, and I am dying to see the end results.

9. International Cinema
As much as I like movies coming out and while I certainly praise the mainstream, I have admitted to living in a slow time for cinema. I have said before that I think we are living in the least creative time for movies. Nostalgia Overload has taken full force on our movies. You aren't seeing the same trend when you look around the world though, which is why foreign films are enriching me on a level that most American mainstream movies can't right now. Sure, you may not like reading subtitles, but you can get past that, there is a whole world of film out there and you won't believe the joy you'll get exploring that world.

10. Godzilla & his potential future
I know I made a big stink about how the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an anomaly to itself, but if there is one franchise that could give it a run for its money, it's what is happening with "Godzilla." While I love thought-provoking movies, or art that is emotional or important dramas, sometimes I just want to sit back and watch monsters. I t seems like we are starting to get monster movies with care, and the future looks bright for good, old gojira!

11. HBO in general
While "Game of Thrones" certainly stands out, I think one could pick any show out of HBO's library and find something worthwhile to watch. They have a lovely library of programming, and it all deserves to be seen.

12. Matt Reeves
So, if Evan Glodell is the face of independent cinema, then I think I can safely deduce that Matt Reeves is the face of modern mainstream blockbusters. If you watch "Cloverfield," "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," and "War of the Planet of the Apes," it seems effortless how Reeves can blend the special effects, big action set pieces with characters that count. Usually in those summer-oriented blockbusters, character and development come last. Not with Matt Reeves though, he creates memorable characters we really care about. If anybody should be directing "The Batman" in 2021, its him. I think his Batman movie will be unlike any other, in the greatest possible way.

13. Warner Brothers Animation
If I had made this list a decade ago, I would have talked my head off about how thrilled I was about Pixar and how they've changed the game of family animated movies. Now, I am not so sure. Like so many other studios, they've settled on the familiar. Pixar, along with Dreamworks and Sony Animation, just seem to make product. No matter how well packaged their content is, its all just product. Pixar used to be the shining beacon of creativity, and now they are fine making sequels. I hope someday they can get back on top again. While Warner Brothers makes product too, they make it with character first. Yes The LEGO movies are as over-the-top as movies can possibly get, but they have a heart and soul intact. Also, if DC really wanted to make a splash with their DC universe, they should have hired the team that makes their DC animated movies. Then they possibly would be kicking Marvel's ass right now.

14. A24 Studios
We are living in a time in Hollywood right now where the big studios are buying up little studios. Hell, the big studios are even taking chunks out of each other now too. Some small studios even go bankrupt. Its sad. So when I see a small studio, that isn't intimidated by the big guns, its bracing. Making movies that perform well at the box office is just icing on the cake, and if those movies are actually good to watch, all the better. They've put together a wide-range of titles, a thought-provoking, entertaining library of movies that deserve to be seen. This is what the Hollywood American Dream is all about, and I hope they continue to do their thing for many years to come. Maybe even become a major player in the business.

15. The Return to Pandora
You'd think after all the revenue James Cameron made with "Avatar" that we'd have at least one sequel by now. The truth is, we were supposed to. We should have had at least two sequels by now, maybe more. The thing is James Cameron keeps pushing these movies back to work on them, perfect them, tweak them. The thing is, you can work too hard, you sit on a project for too long. I question I have is, will anybody care once the "Avatar" sequels begin hitting theaters? I thought "Avatar" was a massive achievement, and I want to feel that power again. I just hope after all this time, Cameron has something of substance to say.

16. Bad Boys For Life
The triumphant return of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in their balls-to-the-wall police franchise. It ain't gonna be for the faint of heart. But man, I hope I can have three movies with these characters worth a darn!

17. Quentin Tarantino
A near-perfect storyteller, who has talent that seems to have not withered in any way since he began. Quentin Tarantino is my favorite filmmaker, my favorite cinematic storyteller. Bar none. I haven't hated a single movie of his, which is damn hard to do. He's thinking of retiring, to pursue other artistry and while I commend him for wanting to try other things this late in his career, I will miss his unique voice in cinema if he does retire. We don't have many unique voices in the business right now, and its cool that Tarantino has kept himself fresh for so many years. I hope "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" this summer is another hit for him. Even though, I haven't seen a trailer, Tarantino's name is more than enough to get me excited.

18. Christopher Nolan
Yeah, I don't know if any of you think its uncool or no longer hip to appreciate Nolan's work. But for me, there is no other choice. Even when he makes mediocre films, they are neat and thought-provoking to look at. There aren't many that can dress mediocrity up and make it look nice, and its a miracle that Nolan's career has basically been bright. He's the only commercial filmmaker right now that doesn't seem interested in indulging in straight-up nostalgia and I love that he's got enough muscle to make the movies he wants to make. He's got some good ideas on the horizon, and I know I'll be buying tickets to ride.

19. Jeff Nichols
We live in a time where every piece of entertainment news is written about, devoured and digested before something even gets a chance to be released. So its nice to see somebody working in the shadows, and not allowing us to peak behind the curtain.

20. Wonder Woman 1984
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, who represents the best part of the DCEU. Yeah, this one's a given.

21. Viola Davis
Best actress in the business right now. Yeah, I said it.

22. Guillermo del Toro
Much like I tried to explain with my Godzilla piece above, I don't know if I can really explain my fascination with monsters. Thank god that somebody else in movies is fascinated by them too. I am also glad that he's decided to populate his movies with them. The horror genre is important because it allows us to confront death. It forces us to face our fears. There is nobody who has more fun with that than del Toro and I find him increasingly fascinating that he tried to understand the monsters. Nobody does it like del Toro.

23. Fox's continued animation domination
There seems to be a piece of me that never grew up, but there is also a piece that exaggerates how much it loves being an adult. It seems like those two different sides of me are at conflict with each other, and nothing gets those sides of me high like Fox and its Sunday line-up of animation domination. The greats have stayed close, "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" don't seem to be going anywhere. It also seems like "Bob's Burgers" is here to stay for awhile. Fox has subbed other shows in and some have been taken out. But after a long week, there no better way to end a week than laughing my ass off to these shows. I hope Fox can continue to build a strong line-up and also to keep it weird.

24. Dune
Denis Villeneuve has the coolest of cool opportunity here, and it seems like he's busting ass to make sure it turns out well. It seems like no matter who tries to make a "Dune" film, it either doesn't get made or the end result doesn't make much sense. It makes sense, kind of. Frank Hubbert's book is dense, huge in scale. It doesn't translate to film very well. There is a great documentary about how Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to get his version on its feet, which ended up failing. Then there was David Lynch's version, which was too dense, so dense that theater goers were given glossary cards. How will Villenuve fair? I am curious to find out.

25. Joaquin Phoenix
I don't understand what sense a Joker origin movie makes, but I am curious to see it, simply for one man. That man is Joaquin Phoenix. He's probably my favorite actor working right now. Always making a memorable character without ever being typecast. It might have been weird that he pursued a career in gangster rap right as his career was getting interesting, but I think it lead to something even better, and we are all richer for it.

26. John Wick 3
Keanu Reeves as John Wick. Kicking ass. Mega-Duh

27. #chifilmfest
When I mentioned how I have loved international cinema, especially in today's Nostalgia Overload, there one thing in particular that I can thank for that. In 2017, when I had the chance to go to my first international film festival, it was an experience unlike any other. I've belonged to Chicago International Film for my third year now. Through them I am always discovering something new and amazing through their incredible output. It's a great way to mix up what I am seeing in a year. I hope I can go back to the festival this October, and have a whole new host of things to recommend to you all.

28. The 50%
I get a little sad that there is a portion of our population who think that diversity is somehow getting "forced upon us." Is diversity really such a terrible thing. Is it really so bad to have movies that are a clear representation of the country we are living in right now? Regina Hall makes a good point on the award's circuit, wanting 50% of the crew of all the things she produces to be 50% women. Maybe that does seem like force to some. But is it really a bad thing to make sure that every perspective is being heard? That everybody has a loud and clear voice? That everyone's story matters? The passing of ideas can only be a good thing, can only enrich future lives. So instead of getting grumpy over it, why not embrace it?

29. You!
Its a little crazy to me that this movie blog of mine has been up and running for seven years now. That would not be possible without you. If you've read this blog everyday. If this is your first time here. If you've only read one review. If you've only read half of a review. Let me please say thank you. Thanks for reading. Thanks for giving me a shot. Thanks for trusting my opinion. Thanks for including yourself in the rabble. I don't get paid a cent for this, this is all stuff I've produced in my free time. With a baby, that free time isn't nearly as free. Even when I had a full time job and a personal life, I know I broke promises and didn't always come through with ideas and projects for this site. Thanks for sticking with me even when I did stuff like that. I sincerely apologize for it. I try really hard everyday to make this a cool outlet for you all, and if you continue to read here, that means I'm getting somewhere. So again, thank you. Thank you so much.

30. The Unknown Future
Like I said above, this is not the definitive list of things I am excited and hope for right now. I am constantly learning new things. There are always new things to get excited about, things to look forward too. Every time I feel like I can relax about being excited about something, a new thing comes along. Just when I think I've had my fill of a franchise or the bar can't be raised any higher, somebody seems determined to try and raise it anyway. If people didn't make me feel this way, everyday, I wouldn't be a movie watcher. I would have stopped a long time ago. I don't know what's coming in 2021 or 2022 or 2023 or s on and so forth. But I do know that there are going to be things I won't be able to wait to see, things I will obsess over until they are released. That's the nature of being a movie geek, which is a badge I wear proudly.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed. Happy Saint Patrick's Day.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Review: "Triple Frontier" is a star-studded, thrill ride

Triple Frontier Review
Its been interesting to see Netflix grow and evolve as a platform over the last couple of years. In the beginning, when these streaming services were still coming into their own, the original content was mediocre at best. Sure, Netflix produced some great television shows, but their movies were items purchased at film festivals, typical festival fare. Who would have thought in just a few years, they'd fund some major motion pictures, but also get some of their content nominated for major awards in the yearly circuit. As these streaming services continue to grow, they will continue to become an interesting alternative to going to the theater. I love Steven Spielberg, but I wish he'd be willing to work around Netflix, instead trying to sabotage them.

In just the last few months, Netflix has boomed with their movies. I know there is a wide fan base for "Bright," I just wished I liked the final result as much as I liked the original script I read. But some key changes to the final film took it from "fun urban fantasy" to "generic urban fantasy." I do wish David Ayers and his team luck on the sequel, and there is no denying that a potential franchise is a big deal for a streaming service. Then last year, we got "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" and "Roma." Not only did those films get nominated for Oscars, but "Roma" actually won some. Again, another big deal for a streaming service. To continue their appeal, its a good thing we are getting something like "Triple Frontier." Its a star-studded thrill ride. A big, fun action movie that relies on its cast, instead of nostalgia or being an adaptation of something else.

The film revolves around five former Special Forces operatives who all seem to be down on their luck now that they are out of the service. Of course, they are all so cool, that they all have nicknames for each other. There's Redfly (Ben Affleck) who is struggling to provide for his teenage daughter. There's Pope (Oscar Isaac) who works with Mexican police on some dangerous raids. There's Ironhead (Charlie Hunnan) who became a motivational speaker. There's Ben Miller (Garrett Hedlund) a cage fighter who I guess is too cool to have a nickname. Finally, there is Catfish (Pedro Pascal) a former pilot who's not up to much. At the beginning of the movie, we see Pope assist the Mexican police in apprehending some dangerous drug dealers. After a big bust, a woman linked to the drug dealers named Yovanna (Adria Arjona) asks Pope for help smuggling her and her brother out of the country in exchange for intel on a big dealer named Lorea. Since all of Pope's colleagues are down on their luck, he recruits them to not only take out Lorea, but steal his money.

Pope's friends reluctantly agree, and before they know it, they are down in South America. They easily kill Lorea and extract his money. They find way more than they thought, and they try to steal as much of it as they can. Literally, more than they can carry. It may sound like comedy, but the film is rich in drama. It doesn't become a cat-and-mouse game between Lorea's men and Pope's crew. Not quite, at least. Its more about survival, about how greed can seep into all of our hearts, about how greed can also lead us into danger. Getting all that money out of the country becomes more than they bargain for. While its a fairly simple story, I think people will be surprised where it ultimately goes.

Directed by J.C. Chandor, who also worked with Isaac on 2014's "A Most Violent Year," "Triple Frontier" is a striking thriller, one that people may be blindsided by at first glance. The screenplay co-written by Mark Boal (who has collaborated with Kathryn Bigelow on "Zero Dark Thirty," and "Detriot") is tight and intense. The actors all do an impeccable job bringing their flawed, bruised characters to life, not a bad performance in the bunch. It's good at balancing the action and the thrills, but also has an important message too. I do feel bad that so many of those who serve our country have a hard time finding work. But is greed truly the answer? How far are we willing to go for easy money?

"Triple Frontier" began as a tough production. Actors like Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Johnny Depp, Casey Affleck, Mark Walhberg, Tom Hardy, Channing Tatum and Mahershala Ali were all attached to star at one point. Ben Affleck apparently signed on, then dropped out only to get back in again. It was originally going to be distributed through Paramount Pictures, but the studio eventually dropped it. Netflix swooped in and acquired the rights to the film. After so many exchanges, after a film goes through so many hands, its normal for the ending result to be bad. I won't say the film does anything special, but man does it entertain.

FINAL GRADE: B+

"Avengers: Endgame" Final Trailer



A dear friend of mine recently asked me if The Marvel Cinematic Universe is my favorite film franchise. I told them that while I'm not sure I could take the time to rank my favorite franchises then and there, I did assure them that the MCU is my favorite that I've ever lived through. I can't name another modern franchise that I've been so invested in so intensely (Lord of the Rings comes close). I've adored these heroes ever since I was a kid, and seeing them come to life so flawlessly has been a pleasure. Watching artists tell stories that mean something, that hit you at a gut level, is true artistry. To stay persistent over 20+ movies is an accomplishment too. Most franchises fizzle out after just two or three movies. Heck, the James Bond franchise has ups and downs. But I firmly believe that the MCU has made good movies, fun movies and some great movies. There isn't a single MCU film I'd call awful or bad.
I can't believe that I've invested over ten years of my life to this franchise, or for the guy that sees hundreds of movies a year, for that excitement to not subside is a miracle.
I watched this latest Endgame trailer and I cried. Go ahead and laugh, but I cried. Cried because they are really going for it, on all story fronts. Cried because they are pushing the boundaries of the genre. But most of all, I cried because I felt the weight of those 10+ years of investment. Just like so many people in their 40s and 50s, who camped out in front of the theater for "A New Hope," "Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" felt when they saw trailers for Star Wars prequels or Episode 7. Movies are empathy machines, on a level I've never seen before and there isn't a flood of emotion on this planet similar to seeing a series of movies that you've been invested in for so long.
The MCU isn't going to be the same after ENDGAME and you can feel a sense of closure in this new trailer and I'm not sure I'm ready for it. But I'll continue to watch, because of that investment. These may just be superhero movies to some, but for a kid who never thought they'd see something on this scale being do done so well...they've become something else.
Best of all, there are probably going to be kids who leave the theater after this movie and they will go home and dream big. Maybe theyll try and write a script. Maybe they'll invest in a video camera. Maybe they'll look at filmmaking and fine arts colleges. These movies will inspire the next wave of filmmakers, much like "Star Wars" did for many, like J.J. Abrams. They will be fearless and that is a good thing.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Captain Marvel Review: Even minor-key Marvel features wonders

Captain Marvel Review

Its hard to believe that "Captain Marvel" is the twenty-first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Twenty-one movies ago, even though we'd seen many superhero movies up to the point, they were still met with a certain degree of skepticism. Not only has Hollywood moved passed that skepticism in a huge way, but studios depend on these types of movies just to have a good fiscal year. They have changed the entire landscape of the business. No matter what you think of Marvel as a brand or as a comic distributor, they lead this charge. They deserve heaps of credit for making superhero movies a big thing each year.

Now that we've had so many superhero movies at this point, I think its time to start changing the dynamic of them. Its time to stop playing by the traditional rules and have more fun. We also have to make the origin stories come alive better and have more fun with them. If there is one huge complaint I have regarding "Captain Marvel," its that the origin story feels just like that...an origin story. Characters in this franchise have proven so interchangeable that perhaps its hurt the origin story when introducing new characters. I will admit that I kind of have a tough time sitting through "Thor" and "Doctor Strange" simply because they treated those origin stories so plainly, in such a pedestrian manner that they come off a bit boring. I get it, budget restraints kept many of the earlier films from being every bit as epic as they could have been. But as we've moved more into this genre, and based on how much money even the shittiest of superhero movies make studios, you'd think they would fork over bigger budgets to directors.

By now, you know if you are on the Marvel train or not. If you've paid close attention to this very website, you know I'm a Marvel boy. You know I love this franchise with every fabric of my being. You know I anticipate each new Marvel movie every year. There are millions and millions just like me who have been bit hard by the Marvel bug. Again, they were the first ones to create the cinematic universe, and I have fallen in love with what they've accomplished. You can call me bias all you want, but I still have an entirely open mind to every new movie I sit down to watch, and that includes these Marvel movies. I want each of them to shine. At this point, its pretty much impossible for Marvel to make a boring movie. So yes, "Captain Marvel" is a freaking fun film. Every bit of the Marvel spirit that has been developed thus far. 

"Captain Marvel" steers straight through the typical Marvel formula. There's this extraordinary person named Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), but when we meet her, she's just Vers. She's lives on a planet occupied by the Kree Empire, aliens we've grown accustomed to in this franchise. She is a member of the Starforce, an elite fighting squad of Kree warriors who are at odds with an evil alien race known as the Skrulls. The Skrulls are sneaking little bastards who look like gremlins, but can shape-shift, becoming any being they lay eyes on. Danvers is haunted by dreams, dreams of another life, a life she can't really comprehend. She knows these dreams mean something, if only she could figure it out. When she accidentally crashlands on Earth after a fight with some Skrulls goes wrong, she is ready to investigate her past.

No matter what I say about the plot, it basically boils down to bad guys wanting to do something bad and the good guys going in to stop them. No matter what these Marvel movies try to do, they all take that form. That can sometimes be a little aggravating, if you want to see something a little different. But no matter how they try to cover up the story with twists and turns, "Captain Marvel" feels like its built from the same kit as all the other superhero movies. But hey, I guess that makes them true to form. Why reinvent the wheel? There are twists and turns in the plot, and that makes this particular ride much more fun. The pacing could have been a little bit better. But I'd be lying if I wasn't continually swept away in the mystery and the adventure of this movie.

I have to say too, I am shocked by the cold reaction to Brie Larson. Maybe I'm just biased, because I've always loved Brie Larson. She was an out-of-left-field choice for this character, one I never considered but felt was ultimately perfect. She's an Oscar winner, she knows how to build a character. Is she kind of no-nonsense in this movie? Absolutely. But that's true to the nature of the character. She looks like a soldier. Sometimes she comes off like a blank because she's a fierce warrior, and she wears that side of her character well. That's not to say that Larson doesn't have any fun, because that's not true. She has plenty of fun and she makes Carol relatable. I'm sorry some fanboys were sad because her boobs weren't big enough or her butt wasn't big enough or she never put on the sexy superhero costume. But none of that has to do with this movie or this performance. Larson did a great job here.

Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg are pretty much totally Nick Fury and Phil Coulson at this point, just know both of them do a good job. It was also fun seeing Lee Pace and Djimon Hounsou return from "Guardians of the Galaxy." No doubt the most controversial character(s) are played by Annette Benning. Too bad fanboys can only see what they are used to reading comics. Yes, Benning plays a character who was a man in the comics, but that doesn't mean that Benning does a bad job. I kinda feel hypocritical for saying this. Because some of the gripes I have come from knowing the comics. Being a comics fan myself, these superhero movies can be tricky to review. Because sometimes your comic side is at odds with your movie side. I struggle to keep them in check. To hell with the gender-swap, Benning does real good here!

I'd say the two big things that keep this from making me roll on the ground crying is the pacing and the feeling I got that reminded me that I was watching just another origin story. Only at times, though, but I still felt it. Perhaps each new character needs to show up in someone else's movie, it was fun getting to just jump right into "Black Panther" and "Wonder Woman" since they were both introduced in other movies. But then, would that take away from those introductory movies themselves? Its tough terrain these days, because we've seen so many variations of heroes, that the general audience is starting to get how each hero is alike and how they are not. Which means these origin stories need to be more interesting. 

I do love that the movie takes place in the 1990's. The music of the 1990's is some of my favorite music on the planet. They use it to expert detail. However, jumping back in time hurts the continuity of the whole franchise. There is stuff that happens on Earth that would have been talked about in the other movies. I give the studio the benefit of the doubt, they are making all this up as they go along and I get that. But small continuity errors can make this whole thing slightly discombobulated. In "Ant-Man" it was simple to cover up what Hank Pym was doing, because all of his missions as Ant-Man were covert. Not here though, and the whole business with Fury's eye falls apart based on things he's said in other movies.

Nevermind though, the point is, besides all my nitpicks and problems, "Captain Marvel" still manages to be a fun trip to the theater. Marvel's machine isn't slowing down for anybody and still making their stories shine.

Oh, and the Marvel Studios Logo for this movie? Made my heart soar.

FINAL GRADE: B+