Monday, April 30, 2018

Further Inspection: "Avengers: Infinity War"

Further Inspection

Avengers: Infinity War
Further Inspection is a new column on my blog. Every few weeks, I will pick a new movie and create a spoiler-filled write up for it. Initially, when I write my reviews, I never want to spoil movies in order for my audience to see them. This will allow for a spoiler-filled conversation, because sometimes, movies require the audiences to really indulge in the text in order to understand them. I AM GOING TO USE THIS COLUMN TO REALLY DISCUSS SPOILERS, SO UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

I haven't done one of these in a really long time. Now its time to stretch my legs, so to speak. Trying to really discuss "Avengers: Infinity War" without digging into the text of the thing seems downright impossible. "Avengers: Infinity War" is a lot. But not in a bad way, not quite.

There is a big flaw that I noticed in the film. I guess I shouldn't call it a big flaw. It doesn't derail the movie. It gets better as the film pushes on. Like I said in my original review, the movie is like a long episode of "Game of Thrones." There is a shit ton of characters, and the movie does a good job of juggling all of these personalities. But that means bulldozing through a couple big moments. The movie begins where "Thor: Ragnarok" post-credit scene took place. The ship that parked itself in front of the Asgardian refugee ship was indeed Thanos' ship. When we meet Thanos and his Black Order, they've massacred the Asgardians. He's ravaged Xandar and taken the Power Stone. Loki gives up the Space Stone to save Thor's life. Loki then decides to try and kill Thanos, big mistake. Loki and Heimdall both die in this sequence and for two fan favorites of the Thor movies, they aren't even close to given a satisfying, memorable deaths. Their death scenes feel rushed, and I kind of wished they gave us time to really process what was happening. 

Before Heimdall dies, he uses the Bifrost to move a battered Hulk to Earth. He crash-lands into Doctor Strange's house, which eventually leads to a big battle in New York City. Doctor Strange recruits Iron Man, he's already got Wong by his side, and Spider-Man joins the fight against Thanos' Black Order. The Black Order has arrived to retrieve the Time Stone from Doctor Strange for Thanos. Yes, the good guys kind of get rocked in this sequence. Bruce Banner can't Hulk out, because Thanos whooped Hulk's ass on the Asgardian ship, so Hulk is afraid to come out, leaving Banner useless. The Black Order prove to be formidable foes, giving our heroes a run for their money. There is fun to be had here, but the biggest thing that bothered me was that Iron Man and Doctor Strange were together the whole movie, and not one "No shit, Sherlock" joke. Come on Marvel, get it together!

Once the movie really kicks into gear, the movie really begins to jump around. Thor is intercepted by the Guardians of the Galaxy, Cap and Black Widow and Falcon protect Vision from The Black Order, Iron Man and Doctor Strange and Spider-Man partner up with Star-Lord, Mantis and Drax. What I loved most was Thor, Rocket and Groot go to a Dwarven star to create Stormbreaker, which is basically the Ultimate Marvel version of Thor's hammer. We meet a ten foot Peter Dinklage playing Eitri, an ancient Asgardian dwarf who was forced by Thanos to make a gauntlet for the Infinity Stones. After Thanos got what he wanted, he killed all of Eitri's people. Now, he kind of wants revenge and Thor gets him to make him a new hammer. It's interesting seeing Dinklage playing a ten foot character, since he's supposed to be a dwarf. But like I said in my original review, I want a Thor, Rocket, Groot adventure tomorrow.

That kind of leads to why I thought Thanos was such a great villain. He's not collecting the Infinity Stones for a mad grab for power, he isn't trying to impress a girl like he did in the comic books, he's trying to salvage the world. It sounds crazy, doesn't it? But he's another villain whose heart is in the right place, but his actions are very wrong. I worry about the future why daughter will inhabit. I worry because I know resources for the world are starting to become futile, and who controls the main resources of our world is a scary thing. Overpopulation certainly doesn't help, and it worries me who will ration these things eventually. I don't think the solution is to just offing people at random, but loss of resources and overpopulation will eventually lead to some kind of catastrophe, so how do we come to a solution to stop these things from happening, that makes everyone happy? What also shocked me about the film is that they gave Thanos a heart. This may have felt a little shoehorned in, but Thanos truly does love Gamora. You see that in a flashback scene, featuring an army of Chitauri, when Thanos first meets Gamora and "adopts" her. He begins to care for her when she's at a young age. So when he goes to a planet for the soul stone, and is told that he has to kill someone for the soul stone, he chooses Gamora. He had to choose someone he cares about, and I was amazed that the scene turned out to be wrenching. He believes in his mission to make the entire universe a better place, that he's willing to kill someone he truly loves. That's some warped dedication.

Oh, and did you notice Red Skull in this scene. Remember, Captain America shot him up into space at the end of his first movie. We never find out what kept him alive all these years, but that's really not that important. Red Skull is the one who tells Thanos what he must do to retrieve the soul stone, and he does just that. And this tricked me, but that's not Hugo Weaving reprising his role, that's actually Ross Marquand as Red Skull. You may know him as Aaron from "The Walking Dead." I got to say, he does a really, REALLY good Hugo Weaving impression though. I mean really, that's impressive.

The movie leads to a gargantuan third act. I mean, its truly one of the biggest set pieces ever attempted in a superhero movie. You've got Star-Lord, Nebula, Drax, Mantis, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and Iron Man on planet Titan fighting Thanos, trying to steal the gauntlet from him. Then on Earth; a huge battle in Wakanda takes place, to protect Vision and his Mind Stone from Thanos' forces. Cap, Falcon, War Machine, Black Widow, Black Panther, Bucky Barnes, Okoye, M'Baku, Scarlet Witch all end up fighting, featuring Bruce Banner decked out in the Hulkbuster armor, and they are eventually joined by Thor, Rocket and Groot. Once again, the fight shows off Wakanda's powerful technology. I loved the joke about Rocket taking Bucky's arm, because people have been hoping to hear it for years now. Its amazing how the fights are funny and thrilling at the beginning, then slowly dip into gut-wrenching intensity. Things are looking good on planet Titan, when our good guys nearly get the gauntlet off Thanos' hand, but once Star-Lord finds out he killed Gamora, all bets are off. He ruins the plan for our heroes. And after Thanos kicks everyone's ass, Doctor Strange gives away the Time Stone. Now, I know. You may not want to hear that, but we'll talk more about that in just a minute.

The next gut-wrenching part is when Thanos lands in Wakanda, ready to take the Mind Stone for himself. His Black Order and his army destroyed, but it not really mattering. He's got five stones, all he needs is Vision's Mind Stone. He begins wiping the floor with the good guys, which leads to their nightmare scenario. Vision asks Scarlet Witch to destroy the Mind Stone, so that Thanos can't get it. Oh my gosh...you can't imagine the feels. The look in Vision's eye, the way he mouths I love you to Scarlet, its all too much to take. I was tearing up the whole time, you were too I'm sure. Scarlet eventually does destroy the Mind Stone, but since Thanos has the Time Stone, he merely goes back a few minutes and tears the stone out of Vision's head, killing him. Thanos now has a fully charged Infinity Gauntlet.

But its okay, Thor flies in with his Stormbreaker and saves the day!

That's what your expecting me to write, isn't it. You've been conditioned by the Marvel movies. There is always a happy ending. They are, after all, owned by Disney. This is why "Avengers: Infinity War" is a turning point for the franchise. It truly is the movie that is going to shut the hardcore DC fans up. Stormbreaker doesn't work, and with the snap of his fingers, Thanos destroys half the universe's population and teleports away from Earth. This was the part of the movie where nobody was thrilled, where the whole room was dead silent. Bucky, Black Panther, Groot, Falcon, Scarlet Witch and several Wakandan's begin turning into dust. On planet Titan, everyone except Nebula and Iron Man turn to dust. Iron Man is left sobbing on planet Titan, the good guys on Earth are left distraught and Thanos smiles in satisfaction on some distant planet. That's when the credits begin to roll. Not playing the typical Avengers theme.

It's safe to say that the average moviegoers were pretty shaken by the ending, not really understanding it. But hey, in the Infinity comics, Thanos kills half the universe then too, and in normal comic fashion, there is some thing that brings many of the fallen heroes back to life. Death is a fluid thing in comic books, and it has been in these movies too. Superman died in "Batman vs. Superman," but came back in "Justice League." Loki died in "Thor," but came back in "The Avengers." Nick Fury died in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" but came back later in the movie. This is just how it is. Remember, before Doctor Strange gave Thanos the Time Stone, he looked at several different scenarios and he found one where the heroes beat Thanos. Right before Doctor Strange turns to dust, he tells Iron Man that this was the only way. He knows Iron Man will be important to beating Thanos. He knows that this is the only way to stop him, despite the sorrow and the heartache. What that will actually lead to? I am not sure. I think its telling that all the original Avengers did not turn to dust, which means the old team will have to come together and reverse this nightmare. I don't know what audiences will think with all these characters dying, then at least most of them being resurrected. It will take some good screenwriting.

I think everyone who died before the snap are truly dead. Sure, there is a chance Gamora will come back, "Guardians of the Galaxy" three is planned. But I actually don't want her to be alive, simply because that would cheapen the affect Star-Lord felt when he heard she died. We'll see though. I definitely think we'll see anyone who turned to dust come back though. I really think we've seen the last of Loki and Heimdall though. 

Oh, and the original team will have some strong help. The only post-credit scene featured Maria Hill and Nick Fury calling someone before they turned to dust, and that someone is Captain Marvel. Yes, her movie is set in the 1990's and Samuel L. Jackson will be featured in this. It's a fun tease, but its also a bit puzzling, as these scenes usually are. Why didn't Nick Fury call Captain Marvel when New York happened? Or Ultron? Or any of the dozens of bad things happening on Earth the last decade? I am really going to need that answered in her movie next year. But otherwise, I am really excited to finally see Carol Danvers in the MCU.

(Hawkeye and Ant-Man were mentioned in this movie. But due to them having families, they made deals with the government regarding the Sokovia Accords and are in house arrest. We never see them at all in the movie. We have no idea if they survived the snap or not. But since set photos have confirmed both of them, chances are they did. Apparently, Hawkeye has an important role in "Avengers 4.")

Like I said last night, this is the most ambitious thing Marvel has attempted. While some stuff feels bulldozed, its still a really great movie. The wait for next year is already grueling. (I mean geez, give us the title already!) but the wait will be thrilling. Despite the solemn faces walking out of the auditorium yesterday, people are still pretty jazzed. They want to see how this will all conclude, and that's the best thing Marvel could have pulled off.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: Marvel aims high and bets big with "Avengers: Infinity War"

Avengers: Infinity War Review
Words can’t really describe how I felt on that night ten years ago. That night I saw “Iron Man” for the first time. I had no idea how the world was about to change for me, for all of you, for entertainment. Okay, maybe it didn’t change the world, but when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) broke into Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr) house, telling him he belonged to a “bigger universe” and also telling him that he wanted to discuss the Avengers Initiative. This whole Marvel Cinematic Universe has been the brainchild of Marvel Studios president and executive producer Kevin Feige. He’s been wanting a shared universe onscreen for many years, and he’s finally been making it all look so easy for the past ten years. For better or for worse, he’s changed the entire landscape of Hollywood and filmmaking forever. If we just look at his Marvel universe, some movies have been great, a few have been mediocre, but how well he’s accomplished his ultimate goal, and how much he’s got right here has been rather remarkable.

There is a piece of Kevin Feige’s cinematic universe that I’ve been dreaming about now for five years now. After “The Avengers” in 2012, Marvel introduced Thanos. Cool, I thought. That’s a great way to elevate things for the next movie. In 2013, they introduced the Infinity Stones, which made sense. If Thanos exists in this cinematic universe, so should the Infinity Stones, since the comics with Thanos tied him so much to them. In 2014, we were going to get a huge payoff to these teases. A two-part “Infinity War” Avengers movie. Yes, I understand they dropped the Part One-Part Two thing. But after seeing “Avengers: Infinity War” today, that point is mute. This is a two-parter, no matter how you look at it.

So how is “Avengers: Infinity War?” After all the hype. After all the waiting? After all the big set ups, was there a grand payoff?

If you haven’t been immersed in comic books like I have and if you’ve ever wondered what a comic book crossover truly looks like, well it’s like “Avengers: Infinity War.” The directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, could have easily called the movie “Marvel’s Infinity War.” Because even though the Avengers turn up, its hardly an Avengers movie. As you’ve seen in the marketing, the Guardians of the Galaxy show up. There is a huge chunk of film that takes place in Wakanda, and several supporting characters from “Black Panther” show up here. Heck, tons of supporting characters from several of the MCU movies show up here. (Including some appearances, I flat out DID NOT see coming.) One thing that I have to hand the Russo brothers is that with all of these characters sharing a movie together and also introducing some new characters, its amazing that the film didn’t result in a discombobulated, incoherent mess. You are going to be surprised by how well each character and each piece of story is juggled. I certainly was. It literally feels like a superhero episode of “Game of Thrones.”

But the reason I ended up loving “Avengers: Infinity War” isn’t because of “OHMYGODTHEAVENGERSANDTHEGUARIDANSTOGETHER!” It’s been clear since day one that Kevin Feige has loved every moment putting this huge long story together. Across nineteen movies and across ten years, there is one thing that I repeatedly see in these movies. That one thing is passion. Even in the movies that don’t work as well as the other films are filled with passion. If you’ve ever heard Kevin Feige talk in interviews, that passion is all over his face. He loves these characters. He’s been in love with these characters since he was a kid, I’m sure. He’s been hiring actors and directors and writers and other filmmakers who also love these characters too. “Avengers: Infinity War” was a huge collaboration, and its been said that the Russo brothers discussed the film with the other directors of the MCU movies to bring this film to life. You see that in every frame. The Russo Brothers pay tribute to everyone who has ever been hired to be apart of this franchise. And I’ve learned from watching lots of movies each year, that if you love your creation, that love shows. The audience will follow you, and its really a big reason why these MCU movies work year after year.

Within all of these appearances, there is a story. It’s a pretty simple story. A story we usually see in these superhero stories. But honestly, that’s not a bad thing. In a world this dense, its always best to keep the story simple. Sure, it certainly helps that we’ve come to know these characters for a decade. There are some big moments between characters that pay off in massive proportions. You are going to demand a Thor-Rocket-Groot (Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel) team-up movie after what you see them go through here. Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Iron Man (Downey Jr.), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) all bantering back and forth is great. Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) teaming up was amazing. Shuri (Letitia Wright) schooling Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in science was magnificent. Since we’ve got to know these characters, their interactions are stronger. The stakes are higher. It all makes for a better movie.

Let’s discuss stakes for a minute too. “Avengers: Infinity War” is a movie that will rightfully shut all those hardcore DC fanboys up. The fanboys who think that since Disney bought Marvel that they are only capable of making family-friendly, low-stakes movies. “Avengers: Infinity War” is anything but. This is the most ambitious film in the MCU arsenal. The repercussions from this film are unimaginable. I look forward to discussing this movie with friends and family who are unfamiliar with the comics. Because I am sure this is going to divide viewers. In fact, if the internet is correct, it already has. The ending is confusing and it was pretty clear that most of the people I saw this movie with were caught off guard by it. The post-credit scene is even more confusing, leading a person in my audience to ask what it meant after the lights came up, hoping that a comic book freak was in the crowd. This film just doesn’t work like the other MCU movies, and I humbly commend Marvel for really going big with this one. If you’re expecting just another Marvel movie, you may end up hating “Avengers: Infinity War,” because that’s not this movie. I am totally loving that Marvel chose creativity over easy commerce here.

I will tell you that Marvel has finally cracked their villain problem. Earlier this year with “Black Panther,” they introduced Killmonger, who is easily the greatest villain they’ve ever created. Marvel has been building toward Thanos for six years now, and we’ve seen him here and there a couple times. I am pleased to report that Josh Brolin’s work is just plain superb. I am equally pleased to report that Thanos pays off big time. Much like Killmonger, he’s righteously angry here. He isn’t collecting the Infinity Gauntlet and the Infinity Stones, which happen to be the most powerful relics in the world and can turn anybody into a god, just to simply subjugate people. Too many times in superhero movies, the bad guy does something bad because…well…they are the villains. It’s always easy to give a villain a mad grab for power. But there is so much more to Thanos. Yes, he wants to kill half the universe. But the reason isn’t just due to artificial superhero movie antics. Hell, its not even the same reason as in the comic books. He’s doing it for reasons that are truly important to him. He creates a slippery slope of morality with his motivations, and there were moments with Thanos that blindsided me. The Russo brother were right, Thanos is the main character here. After all the build-up, he truly does stick the landing as a villain.

All the special effects are as top notch as they’ve always been. With all the characters in the movie, there are moments that will be stuck in your head for many, many weeks. With “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War” and now “Avengers: Infinity War,” the Russo brothers have proven that they can maneuver through tones with ease. There are moments where you will laugh out loud, moments where your heart will drop, and moments that will make you want to get up and cheer. If it were up to me, I’d put the Russo brothers in charge of every superhero movie. Not just Marvel movies. But every. Single. Superhero. Movie. Ever. They have such a great command of craft, such control of the genre that you won’t believe how much they get right. Yes, this plays out as big superhero ensemble. I’d say I prefer the story in “Black Panther” over the story told here. But “Avengers: Infinity War” is so confident, so fun to watch, so full of passion that it was impossible for me not to love it. After ten years of build-up, I couldn’t ask for anything less. The future is going to be hard as shit for our heroes, and I am left curious as hell as to how things will conclude.

I know you will be too.

FINAL GRADE: A

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio talk "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood"

Currently in Las Vegas, there is a Comic-Con like convention going on. It doesn't get as much hype as the big convention in San Diego, and not nearly as many cosplayers as it looks. Hell, I can't even tell you how long this has been happening. But there has been some seemingly cool stuff popping up on the internet surrounding this convention. This convention is CinemaCon 2018.

There are a whole bunch of things I could write and discuss right now, but there is one thing in particular that has caught my eye. I always get giddy when there is a new Quentin Tarantino movie in production. He's planning a new film for 2019 called "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood," such a Tarantino title. If you've read anything about the movie, you know its set in Hollywood and that the Charles Manson murders will be the backdrop of the movie. Lots of people seem to think that Tarantino is trying glorify the serial killer, which couldn't be further from the truth. It's simply a backdrop.

Tarantino has already cast Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, which in the video below Tarantino compares to Robert Redford and Paul Newman. DiCaprio was set to play Col. Hans Landa in "Inglorious Basterds" which eventually went to Christoph Waltz, so Pitt and DiCaprio came close that time to co-starring but not close enough. Pitt and DiCaprio will play a TV actor and his stunt double (Don't know which one will play who) who are trying to get back into the acting business, and will go on some type of adventure right around the Charles Manson murders. Seems as intriguing as anything Tarantino has ever come up with, and I am highly curious to see what he does with this premise.

Margot Robbie is confirmed to play Sharon Tate, who was a victim of Manson's. Zoe Bell is showing up in casting, but no idea who she'll play. There are also rumors that Tarantino is in talks with Tom Cruise about a potential role too. So again, Tarantino knows how to get a cast together, and I can't wait to see what he does.


Full Venom Trailer

So, the first full trailer for "Venom" has hit. There's things that I like and dislike about it. One thing is for sure though, I really like that we finally have seen Venom in full force. They blew that with the first trailer.

Look, it seems like Tom Hardy is game to play Eddy Brock. He looks really good in the trailer, playing a typical asshole reporter and giving him life and depth. Hardy excels at this type of stuff, he's always been a great actor. No question. I don't know if he's providing the voice for the Venom part of his personality, but I like the voice. It seems to fit the theme of the story. There are moments in this trailer that are borderline scary, and there are some creepy atmospheric moments in the trailer that I really dug. I've liked Riz Ahmed ever since "The Night Of" from HBO, and I am glad that he is appearing in several blockbusters suddenly, because he certainly deserves it.

My point of view gets jumbled when I think of how Venom fits into a solo movie without Spider-Man. Yes, I've heard the rumors that Tom Holland apparently will cameo in the movie. But that is a rumor, a salty rumor, nothing concrete about it. It seems like story-wise there is going to be an awful lot of silly fan fiction for the sake of fan fiction.

But if the movie ends up being so good, I possibly won't care. I have to say though that I thought that the "strings" of symbiot coming out Hardy's arms and back was kind of lame. I don't get why actors are given masks if said actors barely wear those masks in superhero movies because the said actors like showing off their faces. If there is anything I can say for "Deadpool," its that I like that Deadpool actually looked like Deadpool all movie long.




I also kind of feel Venom should have been A LOT bulkier.

Monday, April 23, 2018

RIP Verne Troyer


I meant to write about this over the weekend, I wish I had written about it over the weekend. April has been a busy, busy month for me. But I wanted to offer up some thoughts on Verne Troyer, the actor who sadly passed away over the weekend. He was only 59 years old. 

Many people probably know Verne Troyer for his work as Mini-Me in the "Austin Powers" movies. I get it. That's how I personally came to know Verne. He may have been a mute in those movies. But he left a memorable legacy from those films. There is a reason why he kind of blew up to a degree after the Austin Powers movies. He was very funny, and he made sure his scenes in those movies counted. It lead to many comedic roles and it lead to some typecast short roles due to his size. (Warwick Davis may have played Griphook in the final "Harry Potter" movies, but it was Troyer who played him in "The Sorcerer's Stone.") But is that all his career added up to? Just funny roles and size typecast?

My favorite Verne Troyer movie is "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus." I think that movie is mainly remembered because it was the last movie Heath Ledger appeared in and that high profile actors Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell all stepped in for Ledger. While the movie is filled with great actors, Verne really stood out this time too. Not because he was silly, but because he showed great range in that movie. He was so much more than the typical funny guy that I wish he did more stuff like "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," simply so more people saw.

Co-star Mike Myers said the following: 
"Verne was the consummate professional and a beacon of positivity for those of us who had the honor of working with him. It's a sad day. But I hope he is in a better place. He will be missed"

Farewell, Mini-Me. Thanks for the memories.


Infinity Week

I can't focus for shit this week.

It's a good thing I didn't go to work today. I actually had jury duty today, and even though some of you would probably rather work than sit around wondering if you will be selected for jury, it was not a bad way to start the week. Especially one where I can't focus. I can't focus because, this is the week where "Avengers: Infinity War" is released.

Tonight, I've been watching red carpet (actually its a purple carpet) coverage of the world premiere of "Avengers: Infinity War." I will confess that I have never, NEVER payed this much attention to ANY type of red, purple, whatever colored carpet coverage of anything. I don't get excited for coverage before awards ceremonies or other big events. I just don't get into it. I don't think I've been on Facebook this long. But tonight, I've been hovered around my computer, watching my Marvel Facebook live feed like a hawk circling a squirrel. I am so excited for this movie, its making my mind explode. I've got my ten year anniversary shirt ready for this weekend, and I am planning to see this.

It's amazing that this has been a fever dream for about four years now. When Kevin Feige announced that Infinity War was coming, it was madness inside my psyche. I mean, we knew Thanos was coming, and that alone would present quite the challenge to our favorite superhero team. But with the stones...that brought this universe to a whole other level. I can't believe its finally coming to fruition and I hope Marvel lands on its feet.

It seems like spoilers won't be a plenty tonight. Unless you really go looking for them. The actors haven't seen the whole movie yet. They apparently were given false scripts, they recorded scenes that had nothing to do with the movie. Hell, everything we've seen in the trailers could all be a bunch of hogwash and what audiences will be seeing this weekend could be something else entirely. This is shrouded in secrecy and I love it. I guess Thanos is that powerful of a motivator because, #ThanosDemandsYourSilence.

How you celebrating this week? When are you planning to see the film? I am going sometime this weekend. I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom second trailer

After the first trailer for the unauthorized sequel to "Jurassic World," I thought I had it all figured out. It was going to be some kind of rescue mission movie because of a volcano on the island. I thought that was going to be the story. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard running around a dinosaur island trying to save them.

After this second trailer, that's clearly not the whole story.

This is going to sound bat-shit insane. But the original idea for "Jurassic Park 4" was going to be about a mercenary going to the island to steal some DNA to give it to a shady corporation that has been designing humanoid miniature dinosaurs who could talk and shoot guns. The said mercenary would then lead a team of these humanoid miniature dinosaurs and they would save children and kill drug dealers. Yes, that was literally the story idea for "Jurassic Park 4." Can you even imagine it? I don't know if that idea would have worked, but a piece of me really, really wish it got made. You can find script reviews and production concept art for the idea if you dig in on the internet hard enough.

I bring that up because it looks like they are borrowing some of the ideas from that idea for "Jurassic Park 4" and incorporating it into "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." There's a shady organization and they are creating these killer dinosaurs for...well, whatever reason. Sure, there are no dinosaurs carrying guns and looking like us quite yet. But, is that on the horizon? Who knows. "Jurassic World" was more of the same, and I am hoping for a new revitalization to the franchise.


Review: "Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay" is the Suicide Squad movie we deserve

I've been saying it for years, whenever DC wants to hand the DCEU over to the people in charge of their animated movies, the world will be a better place.

In 2016, I was expecting "Suicide Squad" to be great. Even though I thought "Batman vs. Superman" was a letdown, I figured they couldn't screw "Suicide Squad" up. They got David Ayers to direct, and he was the king of gritty crime movies. For a concept involving a group of supervillains being forced by the government to go on covert missions or die, well, that's a concept that Ayers should have excelled in. There are about a thousand different excuses as to why "Suicide Squad" wasn't that great, but one of the big reasons is that Warner Brothers refused to give Ayers the leeway and freedom he needed to allow the movie to shine.

DC Animation made one Suicide Squad movie, but while it was super cool, it was mainly a Batman movie in disguise. With "Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay" the team is front and center. There are no special guests to guide us through the movie. Its all about the team. And while these bad guys have been assembled for the greater good. They are still bad guys, through and through. I think the Ayers movie went a little too out the way to make villains heroic, as if that could actually happen. The bad guys in this movie stay evil, even though they are forced to do good things, even though they are forced to work together. It was quite unexpected.

The movie follows Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Killer Frost and newcomers Copperhead and Bronze Tiger. They are required to retrieve a male stripper named Steel Maxum, who apparently has something important that Amanda Waller wants. Which is also being pursued by some of DC's most powerful villains, including Professor Zoom and Vandal Savage. The team must get to Maxum before the other villains can. Everyone is selfish. Everyone is dangerous. Anyone can betray someone at any time, for any reason. It's a fairy suspenseful story, and the team gets the most fun out of it.

I feel like I am preaching to the choir at this point, but DC animation is where its at!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Incredibles 2 Second Trailer

I think its safe to say that "The Incredibles" is without a doubt, my favorite Pixar movie.

Yes, I am a superhero fanatic, so that certainly helps. But I really loved how clever the approach to the superhero genre that Brad Bird made. There was certainly a set-up for sequels, but I never felt like I needed a sequel, Brad Bird did so well the first time around that I didn't know if he could even come close to outdoing himself.

Then a decade passed. Then more than a decade passed. I figured a sequel was out of reach. Brad Bird was doing a host of different things. None of the sequels, other than the "Toy Story" sequels, that Pixar has made have been very good, so I thought maybe it was good to leave good-enough alone. But alas, in 2018, "Incredibles 2" is coming. Looking deeper into the movie, it looks like more of the same. Except different...




Just seems to me that this is going to be the exact same story from the first film, but with Mrs. Incredible front and center. But who knows. Brad Bird is a very smart, clever filmmaker. Maybe he's got something we aren't expecting up his sleeve. Here's to hoping. I'd love two "Incredibles" movies that are both brilliant.

Review: "Love, Simon" is a sincere look at a different kind of high school movie

Love, Simon Review

Last night, as I wrote my review of "Rampage," I mentioned something that I've been saying for awhile now. Hollywood has become obsessed with creating a brand and setting up a tentpole franchise that will literally print the studios money for a good decade. But not only has the business changed in the branding end, but the business has become very politically correct. There are all-women remakes that have been made already, and there are more in the future. There has been controversy every single time the race of a main character is changed. And for some reason, it creates controversy every single time there are gay characters in movies. I've seen several movies that revolved around gay characters, and for some reason most of those movies are smaller, independent releases. Are we really too afraid of seeing gay characters in mainstream movies? Alabama didn't allow "Beauty and The Beast" to show at any of its movie theaters, even though the so-called "gay scene" really wasn't that explicit.

"Love, Simon" is a typical high school at face value. The movie revolves around a guy named Simon. Simon is played by Nick Robinson, and Robinson plays him like a normal kid. He's got his own interests and his own pleasures. He clearly has a good family who loves him. He's got a group a tight friends, and even though he may not be the most popular kid in school, he makes through each day okay. But Simon has a secret, a secret nobody knows. A secret that his family doesn't know about or even his close friends. Simon is gay, he's known he is gay since he was thirteen. He wants his family and his friends to know, but he's struggling how to come out to the people who are most important to him.

If you read that paragraph and have dismissed this review entirely, I feel bad for you. Even though the LGBTQ community is allowed to legally wed in this country, we are still uncomfortable with this community, and we are still especially uncomfortable when it comes to this community being represented in our pop culture. I can tell you that "Love, Simon" feels very much like a new age John Hughes movie, which is the main reason I loved it so much. The movie is funny without being teenage cheesy. The movie is romantic without being sappy. It remembers that these aren't writing weird characters simply because they are played by teenagers. These are just kids going through their own versions of happiness, as well as their own insecurities. The people in "Love, Simon" feel like real people, and if you are going to make a teen romance, you need your teenagers to be feel organic. Nothing that conservatives would consider "gross" happens, and if your so insecure that you can't watch two men kiss without getting squeamish then I guess you'll be skipping this. But this is all in very good taste.

Another reason why this feels like a John Hughes movie is that there is a subplot about Martin (Logan Miller). Martin is a classmate of Simon, and once Simon begins chatting in a closeted gay student forum, Martin accidentally learns Simon's secret. Martin blackmails Simon in order to get to know Simon's friend Abby (Alexandria Shipp) whom he has a crush on. Simon feels like he has no choice but to help him. It's not nearly has antagonistic as it sounds. Martin is one of full-energy, nerdy, hopeless romantics you usually see in high school movies. And the way Martin confesses his feelings to Abby become some of the highlights, simply because they are so shamelessly absurd. I may not agree with everything Martin does in the movie, but Logan Miller does such a good job playing him. 

In fact, performances are really good all around. Jennifer Garner and Josh Durhamel play Simon's parents. Garner plays the typical lovable mother, and Durhamel is the overly-sarcastic father, who is truly blind that his son isn't straight. Which leads to an empathetic crescendo when Simon finally comes out to them mid-movie. Katherine Langford and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. play Leah and Nick, Simon's other two close friends. Leah has secretly had a crush on Simon for a long time, and Nick really wants to date Abby, which Simon has to try and foil for Martin. It's gets really crazy, but there isn't any weird, unnecesary silliness. It feels like something you may have experienced in high school. Where everything happened in broad strokes. When even the smallest thing was either the best thing ever, or the end of the fucking world. "Love, Simon," during its best moments, feels like you are looking into the mirror and seeing your high school self in the reflection. And there were definitely some memories that washed over me as I watching. The lead character may be gay, but the movie still makes you identify with what it was like to be in high school. It conveys every complex emotion of teenagers just merely trying to navigate all of these emotions. 

Oh, and as a huge fan of the band Bleachers, I love, love, LOVE that the film both begins and ends with their music. Well, played.

The film was directed by Greg Berlanti. The guy up until "Love, Simon" is best known for getting "The Flarrowverse" up and running on The CW. I was blown away when I learned that it was Berlanti who directed this movie, since the way the characters move through the film is night and day compared to the Flarrowverse. For how melodramatic The Flarrowverse can be, I was blown away by just how sincere this storyline was and how organically things play out in the film. "Love, Simon" is a movie that is filled with surprises, and if you open your mind to it, you are guaranteed a great time.

FINAL GRADE: A

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: "Rampage" is a rampage, you're either in or your out.

Rampage Review
I don't know if you're interested in seeing "Rampage" or not. If you are, I really hope you know what your getting yourself into. I used to play the video game in which the movie is based on. It's a fairly silly, fairly simple idea to set up. In the video game, you choose your monster. You have three choices between a giant ape named George, a giant wolf named Ralph and a giant reptile named Lizzie. You then go around the world and flip over cars, eat people, and leave a poor town with a beyond-hefty property damage bill. It's an absolutely ridiculous concept, which was why it was so much fun as a video game. I don't know if it would ever be made into a movie.

Here's the thing though, the concept of Hollywood has drastically changed over the years. There are no movie stars driving the business anymore. There was a time when a studio would take a chance on a script, because if they had a movie star at their disposal, they could sell the movie, and it could make money. No studio takes chances on scripts anymore. Every studio has their own brands, because brands sell everything now. And these brands are getting nostalgic. Rampage was a well-known in the 1990's, and so a movie is being made to see if that fan base will follow them. And while I said there are no movie stars left, technically there are, but they are inserted into the branding process too. The Rock could be argued as a movie star, but he sells a certain type of movie at this point. Its the persona that he's built an entire career from. The Rock is just The Rock in all of his movies, and "Rampage" is no different. The Rock is just playing up what he's been doing for years now.

But the persona kinda works for a film like "Rampage." I wouldn't expect an Academy Award worthy script from a film like "Rampage." I would expect moral complexity from it either. There aren't any self-important voice-overs, nor characters finding out some thought-provoking truths. The video game was a bunch of monsters destroying cities, so the movie is going to be giant monsters destroying cities. That's what your going to get from the "Rampage" movies. You will get giant monsters doing giant monster things. The Rock plays Davis Okoye, he's a primatologist, who also happened to work in the military. Just so there can be a scene where he subdues two military guards. He's got a connection to George, an albino ape. There is a mishap in a space station containing genetic alternating material that lands on Earth, getting exposed to George. Who grows in size and in aggression. The material also infects a wolf and a crocodile, and they all end up in Chicago to wreak havoc. Essentially, that's the plot. Sure, Jeffrey Dead Morgan appears, who seemingly brings in his Negan persona from "The Walking Dead." Because it feels like he never left the AMC stage. Malin Ackerman and Jake Lucy play the two most unconvincing human bad guys. Because of course there are human bad guys. Ackerman gets hammy though, so it works in context.

 The thing is, there is lots of set-up, and not as much pay-off as I hoped. This movie should have been filled to brim with carnage. I guess I can give them a few points for taking a stab at character development. Because let's be honest, these movies aren't made for the character development. If it weren't for the cast, this movie would have been on of those direct-to-TV movies you watch at midnight on Saturday on the Syfy channel. The movie spends time developing The Rock, but doesn't spend much time developing many of the other characters. Lots of types in this crew. So I wondered why they even bothered at all.

The big draw is the monster action, and when that is in full gear, I feel you'll be satisfied. I feel if they really wanted to adapt this video game correctly, the animals should have been much bigger, but nevermind. There were many moments that made me think of the times I would play this game with my brother and my friends on my old Nintendo 64. The story line was pretty generic, but that was to be expected. You don't come to a movie like "Rampage" to get wowed by a story, you come to watch monsters blow shit up. That's what happens, monsters run around and blow shit up. There are some wild upgrades to the animals that I didn't remember from the video game, that are crazy here. Like the wolf shoots spikes from his tail. Did that happen in the games? I honestly don't remember, but its crazy here. There is enough carnage at the end that it makes up for the slower "development" parts of the movie.

Time will tell if this ends up being a new brand. But I was a little surprised how much of it worked.

FINAL GRADE: B

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Heroes vs. Villains March Madness. And The Winner Is..

Well this fourth edition of March Madness: Heroes Vs. Villains was full of surprises. Not just because of upsets, because those happen every year. No, the reining champion got knocked off his pedestal. The first three editions of this, Batman was won for the movie heroes. But this year, something happened. Batman was defeated. Only by a mere few votes, but a defeat it is. The winner of this years March Madness: Heroes vs. Villains is...

Yep, we've got a brand new champion. Her name is Shuri, from "Black Panther" fame. Just goes to show that the movie is freaking titan of a creation right now. There is a reason why its shattering so many records right now, and this is just another record it has topped. Good for Shuri, we have a brand new champion.

In the beginning, Shuri ranked seventh among the Movie Heroes. Batman took the first seed as the reining champion, followed by Rey of "Star Wars," Harry Callahan, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, and Ferris Bueller ranking higher than her. Not only that, but there was some stiff competition this year featuring Eggsy from "Kingsman: The Secret Service," Moana and even Andy from "The Shawshank Redemption." Not to mention all the competition in the three remaining brackets. It was going to be another crazy year.

As the contestants began to dwindle, Shuri remained very strong, getting past her stiffest competition with a genuine amount of ease. I will even admit something, no matter how big "Black Panther" has been, I didn't expect her to advance past Batman. I mean, he's been the three-time champion of this, going against would could have easily been a "flavor of the week" type character. As "Black Panther" grew in popularity, it was pretty clear that Shuri was going to make a statement, and that she was becoming a real competitor. She only one by a few votes, but she still defeated Batman, to represent the movie heroes in the final four.

The next big battle was against Arya Stark. She represented the TV Heroes last year, and she once again did this year. As popular as "Black Panther" was, could it compete against the juggernaut that is "Game of Thrones?" The answer is clearly a yes, because Shuri advanced over her, still managing to steal enough of the votes in order to get there.

Then, Shuri became the last hero standing, and she was going against the most perfect rival, Erik Killmonger, from the exact same movie as her had rose through the ranks of all the villains on his side of the bracket. It could not have ended up more perfect than this. Again, the voting was slim, because there are many in the world who DON'T consider Erik Killmonger a villain, so I was definitely surprised when Shuri ended up on top. It was incredibly close the last three votes, but Shuri still ended up the victor.

Thanks so much for voting and participating, folks. Your the reason why I decided to come up with these funny, weird match-ups, keep close eyes on the votes, and brainstorm who goes where every year. It takes a lot of work from me, and I don't know if I would go ahead with it unless there was at least one person enjoying it. It looks like many more besides one person is enjoying this, so again, thank you for your participation. We'll see you back here next year!

Review: Joaquin Phoenix electrifies in "You Were Never Really Here"

You Were Never Really Here Review

Joaquin Phoenix is, for a lack of a better word, a character.

He had a promising career when it began, showcased some real muscle as an actor. Then he announced he was going to retire. Then he announced he was going to pursue a career in rap music. Then after roughly a decade, that turned out be a hogwash. Then he released a mockumentary about what he was really doing during his time off. There were awkward interviews. There was an overgrown beard and overgrown hair. It was a remarkably weird time, and I thought he put such a foul taste in people's mouths that he'd never be able to bounce back. But he certainly has. Even if that "mockumentary" never ended up being a hit, he bounced back as if he never did any of that weird stuff he truly did.

"You Were Never Really Here" made a splash at the 70th Annual Cannes Film Festival, even though it was unfinished at the time. It still pulled a win for best director for Lynn Ramsey and best actor for Joaquin Phoenix. This year, its been slowly trickling out to theaters, slowly and slowly in this month alone. Now, everybody will be able to get a look at it. It's well worth checking out too, if I do say so myself.

The world is plentiful with crime movies. It seems like, as far as the crime genre goes, there are no more mysteries left. If you see "You Were Never Really Here," you will probably see lots of stuff you've seen before. There is a man who is haunted by his past. There is corruption within the police department. There are children who are being trafficked for sex. The haunted man goes on a one-man mission to save a particular girl who has a slight attachment too. I feel like this has happened in any group of crime movies you could name, or at the very least something like it. The thing that makes the biggest deal to me are how well its acted and how well the story plays out. There are going to be indulges in this formula for many years to come, so what exactly the filmmakers do with it is key. Director Lynn Ramsey has made something highly entertaining.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe. He is haunted by the cases he worked as an FBI agent. He is haunted by the time he spent serving our country overseas and now he works as practically a private eye for hire, but who beat the crap out of people. He is often hired by rich people to locate and rescue their children. The next big job he takes on is finding the daughter of a United States Senator. He successfully locates the girl, but she is swiftly taken away from him again. He learns that he's operating in a world where nothing is what it seems. He's determined to get the girl he originally rescued to safety and that is precisely what he does.

Joaquin Phoenix is really solid here. The cinematography is gritty and really sets the mood of the movie. There isn't much to it, but the actors give it some enough life for it to count. Check it out if you haven't.

FINAL GRADE: B

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story Trailer

Here's the first big trailer for "Solo: A Star Wars Story." I have to say, all the problems that we've heard around the production of this film, the trailer looks much better than expected. Do you find it strange that I am more excited for the anthology stories Disney is doing with "Star Wars" instead of the actual saga itself? I mean, of all the modern "Star Wars" movies made so far, my favorite has been "Rogue One." Yes, its true, I can't explain or even fathom the joy I get watching that movie. With this "Solo" trailer, I get the vibe that this will have more in common with "Rogue One" rather than the other "Star Wars" movies, which is fine by me.

It's also looking like the worst fear I had with "Solo" ends up being false. It doesn't look like Ron Howard took this in a safe direction. It doesn't look like this movie will be a check list of Han Solo's life. This looks like a mere random story. I don't want that to sound bad or like an after thought. I love that idea. I like mystique intact with heroes I love. I don't need every single detail explained away. I don't need pages and pages of backstory. I like that these seems pretty centralized and they aren't cramming a bunch of story threads into one film.

Plus, Western style music in a "Star Wars" trailer is something I'd never thought I would see. But I kinda love it.


Monday, April 9, 2018

March Madness: Heroes vs. Villains Four

Well 64 heroes and villains turned into two fairly quickly.

We are down to it now, one last hero and one last villain. It's a total "Black Panther "showdown. No wonder its number three at the U.S. box office right now. People are loving this movie, not that its a bad thing. Shuri beat Arya Stark and Erik Killmonger beat The Night's King. So its those two to decided who becomes the victor this year. Sorry it took so long to get to this point. Three more days of voting and this year's contest is over!

FINAL TWO
Shuri vs. Erik Killmonger

You have until the 12th to vote!

Review: "The Titan" is another forgettable Netflix film

The Titan Review

Netflix has been really astounding. Because what could have been a way of really revolutionizing entertainment, has just become a source for studios to dump their straight-to-DVD quality somewhere where they won't lose money. Make no mistake, most of the movies released on Netflix are simply straight-to-DVD movies with some big stars in them. They aren't making movies for monetary gain, they are making movies for video views. It doesn't matter if the audience likes a movie or not, they will just justify that it was a success depending on how many people decided to watch it. Sure, sometimes they get lucky with a movie, but most times its the same result.

"The Titan" actually has a cool idea. The world is beginning to suffer from overpopulation and global distress and the world is coming together to figure out what to do next. The government looks to the Saturn moon Titan, which apparently has the most livable habitat based on their research. They begin finding individuals who can live on Titan's tough conditions in order to make the world habitable for everyone else. It's a cool idea, something that feels relevant today. I sometimes truly wonder if we are on our last limbs on this planet, and I wonder what the world will do if they have time to save us and how they approach that. Its something that keeps coming up in movies, and it doesn't seem like its going away. That doesn't mean we get lazy with the idea though.

The leader of this government organization that starts recruiting individuals is played by Tom Wilkinson, one of the men he recruits is Rick, played by Sam Worthington. Taylor Schilling and Noah Lupe and Nathalie Emmanuel all make appearances too. So like many Netflix original movies, its got a stellar cast of well-known actors. Too bad none of these fine actors are playing characters, they are types. Wilkinson should have been twirling a mustache. Worthington is his usual blank, Schilling is a typical concerned wife. There is no inspiration or emotion in anything that they do.

The rest of the movie itself is a strange "The Experiment" meets "The Fly" where the recruits are experimented on and they begin changing into blue aliens. The government begins fearing what they created, hunts down their creations and begins to kill them. It's so painfully mediocre, so profoundly predictable, that I really just didn't know what the point of any of this was. There was a chance to make something unique here, and they squandered that completely.

But if you click on this and watch the movie, you will give Netflix the idea to make a sequel. So go them, I guess.

FINAL GRADE: D

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Review: "A Quiet Place" brings ambition and tension to the horror genre.

A Quiet Place Review

Warning; This review will contain minor spoilers, you've been warned.

I actually didn't know this, but John Krasinski directed two films before making "A Quiet Place," he directed "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men" in 2009 and "The Hollars" in 2016. I saw neither of them, and now that I have seen "A Quiet Place," I want to track them down as soon as possible. Krasinski has some real muscle as a director, and its clear from the opening moments of "A Quiet Place" that he was planning to go big with this, and all of that ambition payed off.

We are kind of living in a stand-still as far as creativity in Hollywood right now. There used to be a time when creativity and monetary profit went hand in hand, but its clear that those days are over. Every studio is trying to cash in on their big franchise, and even horror movies are beginning to go in this direction. Something that feels new in the movie theater is a rarity these days, so when something like "A Quiet Place" hits theaters, its bracing. It's a great movie to see in a theater. Because the audience reactions are going to be half the fun. If you have any interest to see this, see as early as possible at your favorite theater. Bring as many friends as you can. Because the audiences reactions will deliver on nearly every front. 

If you want conventional storytelling from your movies, then you should most likely skip this. The movie opens on a title card that reads "Day 89" and we are dropped into an abandoned town. There is a barefoot family raiding a convenience store for supplies. There is the mother, Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), her husband Lee (John Krasinski), and their three children; Regan (Millicent Simmonds), the oldest and deaf child, Marcus (Noah Lupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward). Beau wants a rocket ship, but Lee immediately takes the batteries out and says in sign language that the toy is too loud. In fact, the whole family is speaking sign language and walking on their tip-toes. As the family begins to leave, Regan gives Beau the rocket ship with the batteries intact, just to be good to her little brother. On their way forward, the rocket ship goes off. Evelyn begins to cry, Lee begins to run and before anyone knows it, Beau is killed by a barely-seen, creature.

Yep, a child dies in the opening moments of the film.

That set me on edge. Not only because despite being in the horror genre, there are still many rules that horror movies are "supposed" to follow. Killing children is too terrible, so many horror films avoid it. So, when something comes along and offs one of its kids in the first ten minutes, its something to note. It also became quite clear that John Krasinski was doing anything by half-measures here. The best horror movies don't play coy when they are leading you into the darkness. Its clear that Krasinski as director has fully embraced that notion. Don't let the PG-13 rating fool you. Krasinski is out to hurt you, he wants this horror movie to matter. 

And no, the whole movie isn't exploitation and shock value in order to come off edgy. There is actually a story being told here. It quickly becomes clear that its not really about surviving something awful, but what can happen when a family doesn't talk to each other. It's never explained who the monsters are, where they came from and why they attacked us. But in the end, its irrelevant. I live smack dab in the Midwest, and I know very few people, if any at all, who have links to the government. If an alien invasion went down, there would be no way I'd learn any details. I also doubt that if an alien invasion were to occur, EVERYONE would be at ground zero at the exact same time. (Like, say, "Independence Day") People would be scattered across the planet, not having the answers, just desperate to survive. That's what "A Quiet Place" is about. These blind monsters hunt using their ears, so the Abbotts have created a home and a new world completely devoid of sound. Krasinski is patient and articulate to introduce the world the Abbotts have created in order to keep them safe. They've built a new normal, but even that normal has flaws. Regan feels responsible for Beau's death, and she feels like her parents don't love her anymore. For a situation that is already difficult to discuss, how do you even begin if simply knocking over a candle means your doom?

The performances are great all around. There is barely any speaking in the movie. There are moments of tremendous quiet in the movie, so powerful that the silence easily becomes a character in the movie. There is also quite a bit of sign language in the film, but stepping out of the world of sound, the movie is still effective in the way it creates great tension with no talking. There is a moment when a pregnant Evelyn is literally giving birth in her bathtub, while a monster is in her house hunting her. I know its early, but I am willing to bet we don't get a more tense moment in a thriller the rest of the year. Maybe we will, but I wonder just how well they'll compare to this. The scene is that good, Blunt sells it completely and it had me on the edge of my seat. 

The only real hang-up I had is quite a small one. The monsters, or aliens, or demons or whatever the hell their supposed to be, are not interesting look-wise. It seems we are in a design stump when it comes to monsters and aliens and the like. Everything looks the same now. If I was pressed to describe the monsters, they are like miniature Cloverfield monsters with no eyes and teeth like Venom from Spider-Man comics. There are tons of movies that are beginning to adopt designs either exactly like this or pretty close. Don't get me wrong, they are menacing. But I can't lie and say that they don't seem like things I've seen already.

In a genre that doesn't seem to take many chances anymore, "A Quiet Place" is an astounding triumph. John Krasinski as director hits every grace note with aplomb. The movie looks great, and the chills and thrills laced within are going to make you want to crawl out of your skin. This is a pulse-pounding thriller. Its also one of those strange examples of the MPAA rating system. It's rating is PG-13, but it certainly didn't feel like it. 

FINAL GRADE: A

Friday, April 6, 2018

The First Purge Trailer



By and large, "The Purge" franchise has been fine. Not nearly as great, and while I have a seething hatred for the first movie, the sequels have been building towards the movie I think creator James DeMonaco was trying to make from the start. With "The First Purge," we are going all the way back to The Purge, which means we'll learn how this whole thing got started. The trailer is overstuffed with political overtones, which was to be expected. I mean, just track down the teaser poster, this was always going to have political overtones.

James DeMonaco is taking on a producer role this time out, and also writing the script. I don't know much about director Gerard McMurray. But I will say that prequels are a step back. Maybe that's my own bias talking, but I hate prequels more than sequels. Its really hard to create tension when you know exactly what comes in the future. Of course those protesting against the Purge in this prequel aren't going to be successful, so why even focus on that?

But perhaps he'll do something fun and crazy this time, we'll see.

March Madness: Heroes vs Villains Four, The Final Four

Well, this year's competition is a year of firsts. One of them being that Batman got knocked off his pedestal.

Yes folks, its true. The Caped Crusader has met his match, and this year's final four is a battle between Black Panther and Game of Thrones. Shuri of "Black Panther" beat out Batman, the three time champion, in the a close vote, only winning my two votes. That was for Movie heroes, for TV heroes, there was another close vote. Arya Stark just barely beat Eleven. For Villains, movie villain Erik Killmonger took out Saruman and for TV heroes, The Night's King took out Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Both Lecter and Saruman represented the villains in the Final Four last year. Now, we've got an all new match-up. How exciting.

The Final Four will be settled by April 9th. You can email me your votes (bloggershawn@gmail.com) or fire off in the comment section below. Have fun!

Heroes Bracket (Left)
Shuri (7) vs. Arya Stark (1)

Villains Bracket (Right)
Erik Killmonger (3) vs. The Night's King (2)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Who Played It Best? Lara Croft

Who Played It Best?

Lara Croft
I will say this about the video game genre, it has stayed persistent despite being solely unpopular over the years. In this new age of starting a brand in Hollywood, building franchise after franchise, and getting your studio set for a decade, I would never have thought that would mean a rebirth for "Tomb Raider," especially since the Jolie movies, whether you liked them or not, were not that popular. I guess since the video games continue to stay popular, it meant to make more movies. That means multiple people playing the same character. Jolie may have got the ball rolling playing everyone's favorite tomb raider, but Academy Award winning Alicia Vikander has played the character last. So I have to ask the question, you played Lara Croft the best?

My Two Cents
Yes, Jolie was there first, but Jolie is also one of those actresses who adapts much of her same persona to each role. That's not to say that she's bad or that she's never stuck out, but she mostly plays to the same strengths and rarely takes a risk. She played up the movie star persona very much in her version of Lara Croft. Alicia Vikander, on the other hand, created a willfully vulnerable and organic Lara Croft. The movie took the time to really build Croft as a character, and it payed off very much. In my original review, I praised Vikander's work in the movie, and I truly mean it. She made a character I think most people can really identify with. Therefore, its an easy decision for me, Vikander blows Jolie out of the water.




Agree? Disagree? Fire off in the comment section below. You can also send me your decision via email at bloggershawn@gmail.com. You will have a full week to vote.

LAST TIME ON WHO PLAYED IT BEST?
Last time, I set up Bill Skarsgaard versus Tim Curry for who the best Pennywise was. The results are in and the best Pennywise is...
Congrats, Bill!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Have You Ever Been Indifferent About A Movie?

This was originally going to be a review of "I Kill Giants."

Reading the synopsis for the movie, it sure sounded promising. Something fun and vibrant. Then it turned out to be a more somber version of "A Monster Calls."

I am so indifferent about a movie that I honestly don't even know what to say about it, and this is the type of movie I hate the most. If I can't articulate my feelings on something, whether those feelings are good or bad, that's the type of movie that's a real failure to me. After all, even movies I downright hate or have no interest in seeing feature a few things that I recognize as good or that I like. I like to be able to write down and contextualize why I like or dislike something. If a movie is so painfully plain that I can't write about it, those are the experiences that are the most frustrating.

Have any of you ever had a situation like this? Maybe not in movies but shows, books or even a dish at a restaurant?

Fire off in the comments below.

March Madness: Heroes vs Villains Four, elite eight

Well, the real March Madness is over. So I suppose I should wrap this thing up, right?

We are moving into the elite eight now, and on the Movie Heroes side of things, Batman narrowly survived against Iron Man, but Ferris Bueller was easily defeated by Shuri. For TV Heroes, Arya Stark narrowly beat Rick Sanchez, while Eleven beat out Rick Grimes in a close vote. For Movie Villains, Leatherface got destroyed by Saruman, and Kylo Ren, in the closest vote so far, lost its standings against Erik Killmonger. For TV Villains, Dr. Hannibal Lecter narrowly beat Simon and The Night's King defeated The Borg.

Below are the match-ups for this voting, to wrap this up, I am going to ask that you get your votes in by April 6th. You can email me at bloggershawn@gmail.com or you can comment in the section below.

Movie Heroes (Top Left Bracket)
Batman (1) vs. Shuri (7)

TV Heroes (Bottom Left Bracket)
Arya Stark (1) vs. Eleven (11)

Movie Villains (Top Right Bracket)
Saruman (1) vs. Erik Killmonger (3)

TV Villains (Bottom Right Bracket)
Dr. Hannibal Lecter (1) vs. The Night's King (2)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Review: "Ready Player One" has deep thoughts buried in a dizzying pop culture landscape

Ready Player One Review

Its no secret how much I love movies. But they are not the only thing I am highly passionate about. I don’t know if any other “critics” have ever had this problem, but it can be kind of tricky to review something based on something else you love. Yes, I have a long list of favorite books, favorite TV shows, favorite video games…other pieces of my personality that gives me happiness. I think lots of people who have other passions have heightened awareness of their fandom when these things get turned into movies. Like I said, it can be tricky to review, because how do you leave your bias and baggage at the door? When changes are made in movies, its because the filmmakers are trying to make something that’s accessible to everyone, including general movie goers. I know many people who hate superhero movies because their origins aren’t exactly how they happen in the comics. The Tolkien family wants nothing to do with Peter Jackson and his Middle-Earth movies. Their gripes and plights have nothing to do with character development or theme, but superficial things, like what costume Wolverine wears in an “X-Men” movie.

I read “Ready Player One” prior to its release. The story was still fresh in my head as I went to see the movie. The book and the movie are two very different things though, and I was a huge fan of the book. So how do I go about seeing this movie? Did knowing the book hurt my experience with the movie? These are some fair questions, because I’ll tell you right now, there are some big changes from book to film. If you read the book, and if you are a dear fan to the book, then you may not like some of the liberties Steven Spielberg took with adapting the book to the screen. If major changes bother you, then you might want to skip this. I liked the book, and I think Spielberg did some great work in the movie. I can say that “Ready Player One” wasn’t a perfect book, its not a perfect movie. But you may enjoy yourself if you go looking.

I am sure even if you haven’t read the book, you’ve surely seen previews for it. You are probably thinking that it’s a nostalgia overload. Yes, that’s kind of true. I collected action figures as a little kid, and when I invited friends over to my house, we would divide my action figures into the good team and the bad team then had them fight with vehicles and weapons we found. Copyright infringement never entered our minds. Ernest Cline wrote the ultimate fantasy of seeing all your favorite characters together onscreen. But that’s not the whole story, not nearly the whole story. There are pitfalls though of having a movie that’s full of pop culture icons, and yes, the movie is overloaded with them. If you don’t like an overabundance of pop culture references in movies, then skip this.

“Ready Player One” takes place in 2045. The world is going through a social collapse, global warming is real to everyone, even the conservatives. But with all these bad things going on, nobody seems to care. Because not too many people live in the real world. Not since James Halliday (Mark Rylance) created the OASIS, a massive, open-world, virtual reality where someone can essentially be anybody, go anywhere and do anything, the sky is the limit. Some people may get exhausted by all the pop culture references in this movie, but it kind of makes sense. Look at internet forums, look at your friends X-box names, look at Twitter handles, heck looks at your old AIM screennames. If this type of virtual reality was real today, would you create a personal avatar that was you, or would you dress yourself up as Batman? I have a feeling that it would be the latter, because that’s the world we live in right now.

James Halliday died with no heir and no family. So, he creates a contest, to find an Easter Egg hidden inside the OASIS. The first person to find this Easter Egg gets possession of the OASIS, and a half-trillion-dollar fortune. Its nearly impossible though, and for the first five years, nobody can find it. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is one of these people who loves everything that is the OASIS and he is a huge admirer of Halliday himself, and he’d love to get his hands on that Easter Egg. But of course, he’s not the only one looking and of course there is an evil corporation bent on bending the rules to get the Egg for themselves.

I have loved the output of Steven Spielberg over the years, and there aren’t many artists out there that have a filmography as impressive as his. One of his films I am not-so-crazy about is “A.I.” precisely because there is so much narration that it kills any emotion you might feel towards the characters and their story. For at least twenty or so minutes at the beginning of “Ready Player One,” I had a feeling we were going to get “A.I.” again. Simply put, there is lots of exposition dropped in the opening moments of the movie, so much is explained that you feel you might get a tour of the OASIS instead of an actual movie. I worried that Spielberg didn’t take a fair chance at truly adapting this book, and perhaps it was unadaptable.

Once the first contest for a clue to the Easter Egg begins, all of that begins to disappear. Spielberg proved how he has been known as a connoisseur of adventure, because there are moments in the movie that are just exhilarating. The racing scene maybe a complete reinvention from the book, but Spielberg has fun playing in this world and making the concept unforgettable. The script, which was written by the original author and Zak Penn, reinvent many things, but there is still plenty of fun to be had here. There is a moment in the middle of the movie, when Spielberg pays homage to one of his biggest influences, and I honestly believe its going to be one of the most talked about moments he’s ever put on camera. It’s certainly a moment I’ll be thinking about lots the coming weeks, and I can’t believe I saw it.

Unfortunately, the script doesn’t fix some of the books problems. Watts falls for Artem3s (Olivia Cooke), buts much like it was in the book, it’s not a genuine romance that builds over time based on attraction and personalities. Artem3s says herself that Watts doesn’t love her, but the idea of her and its that idea that plagues their relationship in the whole movie. Watts falls for her because she’s the cool girl who knows everything about every movie and song lyric, and Watts knows that stuff too. So that means their meant to be, right? The movie even turns Artem3s into a damsel in distress instead of a genuine character like in the book. It may not be as an offensive when a guy abruptly grabs a girl’s ass at the bar. But its still a form of objectification and its distracting here. A friend of Watts says in the movie that Artem3s could be a man in his forties named Chuck, the movie would have been a little interesting if Arem3s turned out to be just that, and I kind of wished they went there.

Performances are good all around. Ben Mendelsohn has become the new go-to guy for villains and he’s getting really good at it, playing the leader of that shady organization. Tye Sheridan is a bit of a blank at times in this, but I think that’s appropriate. He’s one of those introverted, John Hughes-style heroes and he does that well. Mark Rylance continues to build a magnificent filmography and he does some truly unique work as Halliday here.

The OASIS itself is pretty spectacular to behold. I know many people have complained about the CGI in the movie, that it wasn’t realistic enough. But I honestly think that’s by design. Video games, no matter what counsel you have, doesn’t have hyper-realistic features, I think its purposely unrealistic to make it feel like virtual reality. I liked it fine. But even though people come to the OASIS in droves, some begin to realize that too much of something isn’t good for you and the movie begs us to drop our digital selves and not forget to go outside. I actually couldn’t believe how the much the ending hit home. In a world where we are glued to our cell phones and children would rather play on a tablet then play outside with you. It’s a pretty powerful observation made by a guy who made a career getting people to watch movies.

It was that sensibility that ultimately won me over, and I was actually kind of surprised that such an endearing, important message showed up in this endless ocean of references and nostalgia. The thing is, audiences may have to really dig in order to get there.

FINAL GRADE: B+