Denise Dutton's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

The Light Between Oceans
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

7 Pieces of: "The Light Between Oceans"

"So what do you wish for, then?"

Story: WWI veteran Tom (Michael Fassbender) tries to leave behind the horrors of war by becoming a lighthouse keeper. Meeting and falling in love with the beautiful, spirited Isabel (Alicia Vikander) starts to turn his life around. Until one miscarriage after another plague the couple. A baby that washes ashore seems like the answer to their prayers. But baby Lucy's real mum is out there, somewhere...

Genre I'd put it in: Kleenex grabber

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Orignal: based on M.L. Stedman's 2012 novel of the same name.

Gotta say: Fassbender rocks the 1918 haircut-n-mustache look. Nails it, in fact. And if I had a moment in Vikander's gorgeous turn-of-the-20th-Century lace & embroidery? I still wouldn't be able to fit in 'em, but a gal can dream.

Oh, the movie? It's just as lovely as Isabel's outfits. Wide shots of the lighthouse at sea are so picture-perfect I dream of having them as my desktop image. Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw won the American Society of Cinematographer's Spotlight Award for his work on 2015's Macbeth, and it wouldn't surprise me if he got recognition for his work here too. Director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) uses his skill at the slow-build to paint a picture of a perfect marriage slowly coming unraveled by a horrible secret one is forced to keep for the love of the other. Fassbender's Tom is a good guy who's SOP is doing the right thing. But when Isabel slowly breaks down after her miscarriages (OMG it was probably Rh factor incompatibility...but nobody knew back then) he's torn between doing the right thing, and doing the right thing by her. His paladin definitely feels the sting of guilt, and it consumes him.

And these two actors are absolutely breathtaking in their roles. From their meet cute to their adorable, beautifully shot honeymoon phase, to their literally storm tossed dark night of their souls, Vikander and Fassbender are marvelous. And while Fassbender's makes Tom's inner war seem easy to convey (and with those layers, it's definitely master-level acting), it's Vikander's devastated Isabel that does much of the emotional heavy lifting here. It's amazing to know that in real life she's never had a child; her scenes where Isabel miscarries could pull blood from a stone.

And I'd be amiss if I didn't mention the other mother in the room; as Lucy's biological mother Hannah, Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardner) had me torn. As much as I loved Tom and Isabel, Weisz's Hannah is a woman trying to stay strong, but failing. It's a performance that could have been simply pitiful, but there's a backbone in it that lifts it above the usual maudlin weeper. Sure, there are times in this film that feel a bit too tailor-made for tissues. But the stellar cast and beautiful scenery lets those scenes flow nicely with the rest.

This film is one of those that is a perfect jumping point for heavy conversation after the film. What's right? Whose version of right should be the correct one? What does it take to let go, or to hang on? And of course the ideas of PTSD after World War I. I want more movies about/set around WWI. I want more movies as delicately lovely as this one. Hopefully Oceans will see the start of a trend in both these areas.

#Protip: Vikander joined the cast because she'd always been a fan of Fassbender's work. After meeting during this film, they became fans of each other; they've been dating since 2014. #adorable

Grade: A-

Morgan (2016)
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Nutshell: like its title character, Morgan is a hybrid; a sci-fi/horror mashup that doesn't know what to do with its interesting premise except beat it to death with ennui. A waste of not only a fine story idea, but a cast that seem to know they're all too good for this. Grade: D

"You know the cruelest thing you can do to someone locked in a room? Push their face to the window."

And you know the cruelest thing you can do to a genre fan? Create an interesting story, and then waste it. With Morgan, there's hints of Ex Machina, Firestarter, Stranger Things, Blade Runner, and other finely twisted stories of natural order gone boink. And by "hints", I mean the screenwriters ripped off the basic ideas, but not the themes or behind 'em. And that's a crying shame.

It's present day, or present-day-ish. Risk Management Specialist and all-around fun killer Lee Weathers (hollowly otherworldly Kate Mara) visits a rundown hipster compound full of high-concept AI developers. Apparently one of the scientists in this community got attacked by their latest creation; a human-looking creature named Morgan (beautifully otherworldly Anya Taylor-Joy), who lashed out when she couldn't control her emotions. Seems the nanotech/DNA combine may not be working as well as they'd hoped. Or is she simply trying to figure out what it is to be alive? Better hurry though; Lee's really tehre to assess if the "asset" should be "terminated".

First things first. For a film that has a Big Reveal, it's way too easy to guess the final scene "twist". In fact, that reveal is so obvious from the get-go that it's simply a matter of how the film is gonna get to it. It's as if screenwriter Seth W. Owen crafted the entire script so it could twist and contort itself painfully to the last line of dialogue. That everyone who has a pulse can see coming rocketing at us from ten miles away. And poor director Luke Scott simply follows the script, letting things unravel as the story progresses.

It's not that I don't enjoy a good Man vs. Created Man storyline. I do. But not when everything gets dropped a third of the way in (I'm being generous with the timeline here) in favor of the usual stalk-n-kill. It didn't work for The Lazarus Effect, and it doesn't work here. #Protip to filmmakers: if you've got an incredible story idea, don't hobble it with the usual ol' ultraviolence simply for a hopeful cashgrab. Work the story. Don't end it mid-point just so you can put your FX team to work. Want gore? Make it interesting. Make us care about the characters. Don't simply pull a 180 on the tone of the film. Because viewers will notice.

Morgan has themes that are well worth exploring. The price of technological advancement. How far is too far when it comes to playing God? Nature vs. Nurture vs. Manufactured. Who has the right to determine what someone's humanity is? And yet while these ideas are trotted out, that's all that happens. After that it's boom - time for the action show! Except even as a thriller, it's a dud. Characters get mowed down one by one, as if it's a live action first-person-shooter game. There's a callous lack of interest in these characters, a feeling that they're only chess pieces to serve that all-powerful last line of dialogue. And did I mention that last line is so obvious that when it finally comes it lands with a thud (and not a little laughter in the multiplex that was screening this dud)?

Speaking of characters, there's a surprising amount of star power up in this joint. Kate Mara, Rose Leslie, Toby Jones, Michelle Yeoh...even Jennifer Jason Leigh and Paul Giamatti make appearances. Guess the mortgage was due? Or they were duped into believing this was going to be an art-house think piece. And it could have been. But it so totally isn't. Shame. I'd have watched the hell out of a film that had dug into the ideas this film first started out with. But in Morgan it's a bait-n-switch. Bummer.

So yeah; go see Morgan if you're into nihilistic obvious stories that play to the lowest common intellectual denominator. Me? I'm still pissed at all the money and talent that got thrown at this pointless exercise in yawn-inducement.

Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad (2016)
11 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Nutshell: All pop-art acid trip posters with happy bunny colors, Suicide Squad's ad campaign came on like the new and different stepchild of Zack Snyder's DCEU (DC Extended Universe). But Squad is just as bleak as what's come before, it just has sprinkles. And while Smith, Hernandez, Robbie and Leto are engaging, Squad still suffers from that same WTF-itis that hobbled Man of Steel and BvS. Fun, but forgettable. The Squad deserves better. Like a film that wasn't afraid to go for a hard R. Grade: C+

Captain America: Civil War
14 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Nutshell: If you're an MCU fan, you know you're gonna see this, but wanna know if it's actually any good. IT'S BETTER. If you're not an MCU fan and wanna know if you should see it? There's plenty of amazing battle scenes, as well as scenes that will have you feeling all the feelings, because the actions in this gutsy storyline have very real consequences. So yeah, Civil War can satisfy fans and non-fans. What are you waiting for? Grade: A

I've been salivating over the idea of a Civil War storyline in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe, for folks who are still having trouble with all the acronyms) ever since they announced it back in 2014. The idea that Marvel would make a film about the consequences of epic superhero throwdowns, and how dealing with those consequences shatter the Avengers, made me bounce in my seat. Because let's face it; as much as I love superhero movies, after a while it's the same old Bad vs. Good punchfest we've seen a million times or more. Adding themes of responsibility, the price of freedom, and what it means to be a hero? Could reboot the entire franchise, and Civil War does just that. And it might just be the best thing Marvel has dropped into our lap so far.

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD. At least for the next paragraph. Don't say I didn't warn ya.

Synopsis: After the events in Sokovia, the Avengers are still going out and fighting the good fight. But during a mission to stop a bad guy (Crossbones/Brock Rumlow), Scarlet Witch becomes "distracted", causing the deaths of Wakandan aid workers. The UN decides to ratify the "Sokovia Accords" (the "Superhero Registration Act" in the original Civil War comic book arc), with Tony Stark/Iron Man supporting the idea, and Steve Rodgers/Captain America deciding that having others telling them what to do could mean that superheroes could be prevented from doing the good they should if the powers-that-be deemed their actions unnecessary. But the building is targeted by a bomber, leading to the death of King T'Chaka of Wakanda. Heroes choose sides, and battle lines are drawn.

Civil War works on several levels. First, it's a knock-down, drag-out fight; a movie that takes every kid's "who'd kick who's ass" comic book conversations and plops up up on IMAX. Because let's face it; monster-on-monster movies are the best Kaiju movies, hands down. So of course seeing superheroes duking it out is boom-tastic. But knowing these superheroes after following their stories for years makes their feuding tough to watch. Picking a side though, well that's easy; you're either with Captain America and his stand for freedom, or you're wrong.

But how can you cheer Iron Man, Black Panther et al. getting beat up by Captain America, Falcon and their crew? Well, you can't. These scenes are tough to watch because directors Anthony and Joe Russo manage to keep the bonds these characters feel for each other front and center. They may be fighting, but they still feel the pull of friendship. And while these battles are absolutely amazing - Ant Man in particular gets to show off his stuff in a big way - I couldn't help but wish they'd stop fighting and band together again. (Particularly heart-wrenching? Seeing BFFs Black Widow and Hawkeye on opposite sides.)

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely inject plenty of humanity into the storyline, from Black Panther's reasons for siding with Iron Man to the Big Bad's reasons for being a Big Bad. They also add in the requisite jokes and bonhomie between comrades we've come to know and love here in the MCU. Yeah, that mix of anger and humor doesn't sound like it'd work, but whipsmart editing and a cast that knows their characters inside and out, Civil War leads the charge into MCU Phase Three beautifully. Not only does Civil War stand on its own, but the aftermath of what happens here is sure to echo through the rest of this new Phase.

No spoilers, but the climax will break your heart. And you'd better have a strong one, because that's not the only time you're heart will get put into a blender on frappé. A major character we all know and love dies halfway through the film, and it's gut-wrenching. Or at least it is if you have a soul. And there are many more moments that will have you clutching your popcorn, pearls or what have you. In Civil War it's not the story that's the thing - this is basically a who's in/who's out thing - but how they get there, and why. Here, the why is the thing. And the behind the scenes craftsmanship, along with actors giving top-notch performances, make for a compelling two-plus hours.

Gotta say I'm glad to see Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff and Anthony Mackie's Falcon/Sam Wilson get lead status here. You know there's more to them than what we've been given so far, and getting to know them even better - especially Falon and his kickass suit - is just what the movie doctor ordered. After so many Marvel movies and TV shows, things can feel weighted down, or worse yet, dull. Getting each character to decide where s/he stands is a great way to dig into their psyche, giving us heretofore unknown tidbits on who they really are. Eight years into the MCU wonderland, that brings new life to the franchise. Bonus: with getting to know these characters, I didn't miss Thor or Hulk once. (Okay, maybe Thor's abs. Sue me. But keep an eye out for Cap biceps. Seriously, you'll wanna catch that.)

Here's the newbie rundown. Spider-Man? As much as I feared this new revamp, Peter Parker feels like the high schooler I remember. (And Marissa Tomei's vivacious Aunt May is a nice 21st century upgrade.) He definitely makes his presence known in Civil War - everyone's seen the Spidey-with-Cap's-shield teaser - but Petey is the bumbling newbie he was when I read the comics and Sunday papers back in the day. And there's plenty left over for Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017. Black Panther? This is just...wonderful. Chadwick Boseman is absolutely amazing as T'Challa (aka Black Panther). His commanding but understated onscreen presence is powerful, and I can't wait to see what he does when Black Panther hits theaters. Plus, gotta love that suit! I'm a sucker for retractable claws. Just ask my cats. And while we've seen Vision and Scarlet Witch in Ultron, it's good to see their characters fleshed out a bit more here, as they bond (after all, both Witch and Vision are hyper-powerful beings) and choose sides.

As for the usual multiplex add-ons, definitely go IMAX. 3D isn't necessary, but if you need it for your IMAX thang, do it. You really wanna see this on the biggest screen possible. Let it all come at you large and in charge. You're welcome.

Sneaks after the film? Most definitely. There are the usual mid-credits & post credits sneaks. The after-credits song "Left Hand Free" is a groovy way to pass the time between the two. Oh, and don't forget to keep an eye out for Uncle Stan. I think this is my favorite cameo of his to date. Ranks right up there with Cap's "Language!"`

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
16 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Nutshell: Director Zach Snyder knows how to craft a scene to reach maximum audience reaction. With Batman v Superman, he builds up each superhero and then shows the cracks in the facade. But BvS suffers from too-much-itis; there's a whole lot going on, and people who want an actual story may be disappointed. For those of us who just want to see our heroes on the big screen, and don't mind wading through "what's going on?" moments in order to get it? This serves as a kickass, albeit flawed, opening to the new DC movieverse. Grade: B-

"I'm saying there's a cost."
NOTE: I won't be spoiling anything that you haven't already seen in trailers for this flick*. Carry on.

Batfleck. Man of Steel. There's been a lot of back and forth about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, almost as soon as the film started production. I've waffled about this film myself; part of me was totally pumped to see these two heroes together on the big screen. Another part of me cringed when I heard Ben Affleck deliver the line "Do you bleed?" - seriously, they couldn't have used a better voice modulator? On the whole though, I decided to wait and see, because this matchup sounded cool, because the comic book version of this story kicks all sorts of ass, and because this is the start of a whole Justice League series of films that proves the DC Universe has serious penis envy can toss product into the multiplex with the best of 'em. (In fact, Justice League: Part One hits theaters next November, with Wonder Woman aiming for a summer 2017 release.)

So now I've seen the film, in all its dusty, dark-hued glory. And it ain't bad. No, I'm not gonna blow smoke up its ass and say it's the most amazing thing I've ever seen. But as far as superhero films go, it's got a whole lot of action, and a ton of cool special effects. I'll even go so far as to say that this story is better than Marvel's Age of Ultron, the last multi-superhero film to hit theaters. Why? Because BvS is still cobbling together the ol' JLA gang, so there's still new superhero smell to be had. And while there are several crazypants scenes of destruction here, at least this storyline isn't crazy enough to tear a chunk out of the world. There's only Doomsday. Y'know, between the two Doom seems relatively sane in comparison. But more on that Big Bad in a minute.

Three years ago I said Man of Steel was about "75% style and 25% substance", and the same can be said of BvS. Well, Snyder's consistent, I'll give him that. And I'll say that he made a helluva watchable movie. There's a lot of eye candy here, and I'm not talking about the times both Bat and Kal-El go shirtless. With BvS, Snyder takes iconic moments of DC canon and shoots them with his usual combo of darkness, grit and seipa. But he takes an interesting turn by showing what one superhero's heroic moment may be like for someone else. Clark Kent fights General Zod while Metropolis crumbles, and Bruce Wayne sifts through the wreckage in the streets. This is what happens on the sidelines of a superhero/supervillain throwdown, and it's an amazing scene. It also serves to get everyone in Batman's headspace, because otherwise really; why in the world would anyone think Superman is anything other than super?

With BvS that answer is clear; anyone who has lost anyone as collateral damage. Not only is this a particularly poignant message today, but it actually inadvertently serves as a warm-up to Marvel's Captain America: Civil War and its themes of accountability and balance. Apparently 2016 is the year when superhero movie fans have to meditate on what it truly means to have power. Don't worry; comic book readers have been digging into this issue - and arguing about it - for years. We're here for you, and we'll hash that out again and again, as long as you're buying.

Every superhero movie has to have a super Big Bad, and while the title of this film lets you know what the showcase throwdown will be, there are several other plot points along the way. Let's just say that there's also Doomsday, a well-known baddie from the DCU, and perhaps one of the most powerful villains in comics. There's a lot of tweaking of this super-bad, and anyone who's seen this trailer knows Doomsday is a force to be reckoned with, regardless. Hey, that's just the villain to get Wonder Woman in on the action...

I'd dig into this a little deeper, but 1) spoilers darling, and 2) I really have no freaking idea what the hell the point of all of that was. Okay hint: it all ties in, but damn if Snyder doesn't make it tough to follow. So tough he lost me several times, and I ended up simply watching the ADD-pacing of yet another battle scene. It's as if Snyder decided to re-write the old fastest-way chestnut to say that the fastest way from point A to point B is by taking as many alleys, misguided shortcuts, and looping narratives as possible. And then tack on a few scenes with real-life cameos, don't forget the dream sequences and flashbacks, now! Yeah, it's beautiful. The art director should be applauded. But all that glory doesn't cover up the fact that Snyder doesn't know what he's doing when it comes to telling a coherent tale. But bring the pain, baby!

As for Ben Affleck as Batman? Do not let that one line in the trailer sour you. Affleck does an admirable job of donning the cowl and cape, and the hints of silver in his hair and his world-weary eyes lend a post-"A Death in the Family" gravitas to the bat. Plus, he holds his own alongside Jeremy Irons' Alfred, which ain't bad. Granted, as with Diana Prince, Alfred doesn't have much to work with here. But hey.

Henry Cavill is still a bit too polished as Superman - I much prefer his bespectacled Clark Kent - but now I kinda get that as a man from another planet, he's got to have an air of the otherworldly about him. And that he's got. Though during one scene where Clark is off on walkabout, I kept trying to figure out how in the world the Man of Steel would shave his stubble. It's a quibble. And probably the best product placement ever.

Let's take a moment and talk about Wonder Woman, shall we? Becuase Gal Gadot is absolutely amazing. Here in the Bat versus Supe show she's second string, and Gadot's air of mystery and commanding presence made me wish she had more screen time. Lord knows I could have done with a touch less brooding side-view shots of the guys. But with the Wonder Woman movie hitting theaters next year, I'm guessing they're saving the meaty backstory stuff for that. Okay, while I'm talking about the lead woman in the film, I've gotta take a moment to mention Amy Adams, whose Lois Lane manages to humanize her man, while not only managing to have a life beyond pining for her caped crusader. She's as badass as a human without a batarang can be.

Yeah, Batman v Superman is choppy as hell. Yeah, it's hard to follow sometimes, and the easy-to-guess plotline is often a welcome relief because of all the crazy. What amps up in a trailer soon turns to muddled mush as the minutes and hours tick by. Still, for opening up the wide world of the DC Universe even for just a small peek? It's a cool ride. A messy, convoluted, crazy ride, but if you're down with the superhero jam, you won't want to miss it. With other directors taking the helm for other Justice League films in future, I'm not too worried that Snyder will bring his addled storytelling brain to wreak havoc on more heroes. But it's a shame he brought so little circumstance to all this high-quality pomp.

*One sorta-spoiler: ZOMG Aquaman y'all! Okay, so this has been teased a bit online, which makes me feel a little better. But I can't help myself, I had to share. The brief footage of The King of the Seven Seas was worth the price of admission for me. (Yeah, I got in free. So?) Jason Momoa looks absolutely, 100% perfect in the role, and I can't wait until Aquaman in 2018.