Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
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It feels like I have watched a ton of comic book movies recently, probably because I have watched a bunch in the last few weeks. It's the golden goose that keeps delivering for the studios even if the film is mediocre at best. Some studios are able to produce a better product than others and Black Panther is another example of Marvel having the ability to translate their characters to the big screen in a way that doesn't turn them into over the top parodies of what people know about them.
Of course Black Panther could be considered outside the awareness of the general public. I admit to knowing very little about Black Panther before Captain America: Civil War, but Marvel has an uncanny ability to take its lesser known characters and making extraordinary films out of them.
The film directly follows the events of Civil War as T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has returned to Wakanda to assume the throne as king and the mantle of the Black Panther following the death of his father. We learn that Wakanda is a technologically advanced nation that has camouflaged itself as a poor nation that has little attention paid to it in the realm of worldwide affairs- all the better to keep their society hidden. Issues arise when the nefarious Klaue (Andy Serkis) crazily goes into the business of using Wakandian technology to propel his evil schemes along with Kilmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who is more than the mercenary he appears to be.
Black Panther takes the typical super hero tropes and delivers them with a fresh perspective. T'Challa is rich, endowed with technology, and given super human powers, but they are by no means par for the course. There is a procession of birthright, but it's not going to be handed to you. Worth has to be proven to become the Black Panther. It's a step beyond the usual getting powers, here's you suit, and go for it attitude of numerous other stories.
T'Challa isn't alone in his challenges during the film by adding supporting characters that practically create its own cinematic universe within a cinematic universe. Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) is what I guess you would call T'Challa's love interest, but plays more like an equal in quell the issues that have occurred in Wakanda. If Black Panther was James Bond then Shuri (Letitia Wright) would be Q, developing tech to give Black Panther the edge. The thing she does have that Q didn't do much was go out in the field, be it in person or manning a drone of some sort. And the person who should get her own film is Okoye (Danai Gurira), the bad ass leader of the guard that is sworn to protect the throne. Each of these characters really fills out the actual Black Panther and when you get right to it they all hold a piece of the persona along with T'Challa.
On the other side of the conflict Serkis as Klaue is an over the edge madman, going so far as trying to peddle his mix tape, but the real stand out is Jordan's Killmonger. Your film is only as good as your villain and he is an intricate part of what makes Black Panther a good film. When you get down to it what Killmonger wants to accomplish in the end is actually moral, it's just the way he wants to get there that's evil. I have always been more inclined to antagonists that want to do an essentially good thing in their minds, but are blinded by their goals into doing whatever is necessary for their achievement (or, on the other hand, the concept of a villain doing something just for pure chaos and no real motivation ala Heath Ledger's Joker). Thos characters are so much more interesting than the "I am here to rule the world because I'm evil" motif of a villain. Villains with a purpose are deeper. There's a back story of why they got there and that is what fuels their desire. Michael B. Jordan exudes these traits as Killmonger. You can feel his anguish and pain that feeds the things he does as the film moves along. It is a great performance and ranks as one of the best comic book performances ever.
Director Ryan Coogler, who also had a hand in writing the script, delivers a world that while part of the MCU, shies away just as Wakanda. During the first quarter of the film the audience gets what feels like your typical action/comic film (which worried me as I watched), but it's at this point that they deliver something more. Taking a hard left the film becomes a testament of family bonds and how they serve as the fuel for someone as they carve out their place in the world, which seems to be the theme of the film. How do we honor our ancestors? How do we help the people that we care about the most? Black Panther goes beyond the typical "pew pew" mentality and delivers a large budget action film that also has a lot of heart.
The idea of a superhero crossover film was taboo twenty years ago. Everything was standalone and that's the way we liked it. Honestly, did we even really know that we wanted to see more than one comic book lead in a film back then. I don't remember myself, but once Marvel began spoon feeding us these tiny cameos in their after credits sequences that became films that had full fledged teams of superheroes it seems as though a hole that we had as movie audiences was filled. Everywhere we look now we get the news that some studio is planning a "cinematic universe" to create an entire slate of films and more importantly revenue.
The main competition on comic books news stands for Marvel has been DC for decades. Marvel has some iconic characters, but DC also has characters that have been a part of popular culture since the late 1930's. The thing is that the stars have never aligned to deliver a film featuring their own team called the Justice League, other than cartoons and an awful TV special back in the 1970's. They're now trying to play catch up with a definite hit or miss game plan as they enter their fourth film Justice League.
The film follows an intergalactic threat named Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) whose objective is to find three cubes called Mother Boxes that will turn the Earth into his home world. It's destroying to create, ala Genesis in the Star Trek II and III arc. This is a post Superman world and Batman (Ben Affleck) has decided to not be so homicidal and build a team to work together to battle evil across the globe. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) round out the Justice League as they prepare to battle the greatest threat to this world.
The idea of a Justice League film would have gotten me excited ten years ago. Now, not as much as it should have mainly due to the poor delivery of films such as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (a marquee film that is a waste of stories and characters) and Suicide Squad (a film with a good concept, but no real antagonist). Wonder Woman bucked that trend with a film that is interesting and exciting, but there was still the feeling of dread when this newest DC film came to the local Cineplex.
Even before an audience saw this film the troubled production left many without hope for how Justice League was going to turn out and the verdict is that it is nowhere near a perfect film, but it is a step in the right direction being better than BvS and SS. There isn't that dark despair that punctuated those two films and it feels more like a typical superhero film that actually takes a few beats and has some comic relief. One of my main complaints about Batman v. Superman is that there were no real breaks from the constant action and darkness of characters that were developed so many years ago. Justice League manages to get some laughs, breaking up the seriousness and tension of the film, mainly with Miller's timid portrayal of The Flash, and the general bad assery of Momoa's Aquaman. These characters are more like you would want, except for Wonder Woman who feels like she has been regulated to second fiddle in this film, a shame considering her solo film was such an exciting film.
What causes the problems with Justice League lie in the story. Once again we get Steppenwolf and his collection of video game sprites for our heroes to fight throughout the film, which is something that really polluted Suicide Squad. The character is better than Enchantress, but in the end it feels like you're fighting thousands of the same thing, which has become a well dulled cliché. Then there's the Superman (Henry Cavill) issue. We all knew he was going to come back in this film after being dispatched in Suicide Squad. Sadly, it really isn't very momentous and seems a bit too easy. I know characters come back in comic books all the time, but this really doesn't gel with the rest of the film. The plus is that when Superman does work out his issues, Cavill plays the character more like we are used to instead of the brooding character that was really cutting into Batman's psyche territory.
Justice League is a step in the right direction for the DC Extended Universe. It is an entertaining film that doesn't feel like a two and a half hour depression screening (thankfully they kept the running time at two hours). It is not close to a perfect film, but it does stand as a popcorn movie. I have had an appreciation of these characters for as long as I can remember, so they do hold a special place for me. Hopefully they can keep going in the right direction as they move forward.
Of all the horror franchises that are out there, the one that has been literally treated like a victim in its films is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. How many times has this series been rebooted, re-imagined, or recycled? That would be a daring assignment to figure out with probably no real satisfaction at the end, just a slippery slope into further mediocrity. And when you're about to land at the bottom of the barrel you do an origins film.
Leatherface is a prequel to at least 2013's Texas Chainsaw 3D, a terrible film in its own right. Now why do I say at least? Mainly because I see listings that associate this with the films in the franchise from 1974, 1986, 1990, and 1994 (that being The Next generation, a film thrown in the trash until stars Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey hit the big time). Who knows? The film follows a young Leatherface from his early days of getting a chainsaw and gutting a fella at his fifth birthday party, which is slightly more painful than a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. Eventually the Sawyer clan, led by the matriarch Verna (Lili Taylor) push their meat harvesting activities too far and end up killing the sheriff's daughter and the wee Leatherface is taken away to an asylum until he is old enough to do whatever he was going to do. I do wonder why none of the family members were arrested for the crime.
We do a time jump and discover an asylum that is full of unscrupulous employees except for the new nurse Lizzy (Grasse). A riot breaks out and Lizzy is taken captive by Ike (Bloor) and Clarice (Madsen) as Jackson (Strike) and Bud (Coleman) go along for the ride. They go on a death race to nowhere while being chased by the same sheriff (Stephen Dorff) as we try to figure out which of these fugitives is going to wind up being the legendary killer Leatherface.
Leatherface is your basic modern era horror film that tries to be coy with the reveal of who ends up being the legendary Sawyer, which is all this film has going for it. The characters are all boxed in stereotypes and the filmmaker's poor attempts at making a plot twist backfires horribly. It will be solved before they even leave the hospital. It's amazing how stupid characters can be written in a film and I understand that many of these individuals are deranged, but I don't buy the idea that has the concept of self preservation at one moment, but they don't at another integral scene. What makes this so difficult to understand is that these people act manic all the time, leading to a sort of cancelling themselves out. Even with the name Leatherface in bold letters to open the film, this is a poor paint by numbers horror film that is banking on the many past glories (and failures).
I'm not big on reboots. I'm even less interested in origin stories, particularly with horror film icons. Rob Zombie made that mistake with his version of Halloween in that he gave us too much back story on the character of Michael Myers as opposed to Carpenter's approach of the mysterious Boogeyman (I'm not counting the sequels, but comparing Halloween to Halloween). Leatherface pulls the same mistakes by giving us not only a back story that eliminates the mystery that a man in a mask has, but manages to do it with some of the worst concepts I've seen in a very long time. Honestly, the opening birthday scene could have been taken out of an issue of Cracked or Mad magazine. It's totally ridiculous.
By 1987 the slasher genre of horror was starting to lose its stride, mainly descending into sequels of already established monsters committing mayhem throughout the countryside or the suburb. Apparently the makers of Slaughterhouse not only missed the memo on how horror films were progressing as the decade headed for its inevitable end, but they also decided to make no attempt at making anything new, otherwise relying on not only the standard tropes of horror films for the last decade, they out and out steal them.
The film does open with something unusual- the processing of pigs at a slaughterhouse. We get a nice look at the shocker and the saws and all of those fun things that go along with a slaughterhouse. Now I'm far from being a vegetarian and I also know that this is a horror movie, but this is a bit much to start with.
What the film amounts to is random people stumbling on the Bacon family's slaughterhouse (Yes, I know the irony of them being called "Bacon") and being wiped out by the resident psycho Buddy (Joe B. Barton), a large hulking man that snorts like a pig and eagerly uses his splitter to dispatch his victims. As progress has taken over the old slaughterhouse looks to be going to either sale or foreclosure the patriarch of the Bacon family Lester (Don Barrett) decides to use Buddy's skills to take care of the people that he feels are trying to steal is property and livelihood from him, while forgetting that even by killing these people I'm sure that's not going to stop the sale of the property for back taxes.
You probably get the idea of how the film progresses from this point. People get killed, other people look for them, and people stumble by and so on and so forth. There are attempts to make a deeper plot to Slaughterhouse, such as the deputy that is having an affair and the local Pig celebration that gets a half hearted build up and an even less enthusiastic execution. It's your basic kill, kill, kill, which is fine if you have something new to say. Slaughterhouse doesn't do that. If you have seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre or My Bloody Valentine you have seen this film as they are the two main victims to the theft that is the plot of Slaughterhouse.
Slaughterhouse was lost in a sea of horror slasher boogey men that were roaming the Cineplex's and few remaining drive ins during the 1980's. A C bill film in a genre that at the time was B level at best. There are a few parts that standout, such as one special effect and a line about being kosher before that effect, but this film winds up being a pedestrian endeavor at a horror film. Doing a bit of research shows that a sequel was planned and it was set up (ala Friday the 13th), but that film never materialized. A person should wonder why there hasn't been an attempt to re-make this film, especially after seeing the glut of horror films that fill or VOD streams (I watched this on Vudu for free). It would be the perfect film to polish up, make with very little money and put a few dollars in your pocket. Maybe that version would be a better film, but we're talking about this film not an imaginary re-make. This film is mostly a waste of time and will be of interest only to people that have exhausted all of the other horror films that use the same formula.
I've never really been a fan of Thor. I know this may make me a blasphemer, but I've never been much into the whole god's thing or gladiators for that matter. You can probably add dragons to that list with the exceptions being Harry Potter and Bruce Lee. So it wasn't really a shock that I wasn't into the either of the first two Thor films. The only word that comes to mind when talking about those films is forgettable because I don't really remember them. Maybe it's just me, but they are the weak links in the MCU.
I have a feeling that the producers and creators of the third outing from the Son of Odin felt the same way because Thor Ragnarok really swerves into something that the previous films did not have. It's an adventure that's tongue in cheek, not taking itself too seriously, which is quite refreshing in the film landscape we have today.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns from high adventure to find his father being mimicked by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and forces him to find and return their dad to his rightful place. After a bit of cameo by Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) that could have been awkward, but actually works in the tone of this film, they find Odin (Anthony Hopkins) preparing for his death and the eventual return of Hela(Cate Blanchett), the hell beast daughter who wants total control of Asgard, meaning she needs to get rid of her siblings.
They're sidetracked on a world that is dotted with junk and ran by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum in full Goldblum mode) who uses Thor as a plaything to compete against his champion, The Hulk. Along with the fallen hero Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) they embark on stopping Hela and regaining control of Asgard.
What's great about Thor Ragnarok is that it veers off into territory that is rarely charted with success being even more fleeting. Instead of the typical comic adventure story, this time the camp button is pushed a little bit more than usual delivering a feel reminiscent of Flash Gordon or Big Trouble In Little China. The film is comedic without making the heroes and villains bumbling idiots, which is a tightrope act when making a movie such as this. Even though this is his third solo outing, Thor as a character feels as though he grows the most in this third chapter. He goes from being quite full of himself in the beginning to modesty as a leader during a tragic time for his people. Director Taika Waititi almost reboots the character into something more entertaining for the audience.
The film doesn't take itself too seriously and even keeps running during the Dr. Strange cameo by making the scene fun instead of the typical advertisement. "Hey, we have other superhero movies!" Sure, the scene wasn't really needed, but it still works. It could have bogged down, but didn't. I had reservations seeing this film since I didn't care for the first two, but this one surpassed my expectations. Thor Ragnarok has really set up a track for future films that makes them a bit more interesting and more importantly, a bit more fun. I dare say that at this point this is one of the best films from the MCU.
If there was a standard in films it's the unwritten rule (that was dropped in last years X-Men: Apocalypse) that the third film of a franchise is always the worst. No franchise has ever been able to break away from this tradition. I never thought I would see anything like that and that's why I'm a little bit shell shocked right now at how great a film Logan happens to be. This film is a revelation, an oasis in a desert of the tried and true comic book movie formula. Like last years Deadpool, Logan breaks the conventions and succeeds at several levels.
The year is 2029 and Logan (Hugh Jackman) is a chauffeur, saving up his dollars to buy a boat and live out his days on the high seas. Mutants are all but extinct with Logan having a safe house across the border in Mexico with a senile Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and albino tracker Caliban (Stephen Merchant) caring for the professor while Logan is away driving prom dates and bachelorettes around in the wee hours of the morning. When a woman mysteriously tracks Logan down and asks for help in taking a young girl named Laura (Dafnee Keen) to "Eden", a sanctuary for mutants that gets them into Canada and safety. They need Logan's help because they are being pursued by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and the corporation that has managed young Laura since her birth.
Director James Mangold almost had it with The Wolverine, but that film derailed in its last 20 minutes. With Logan he makes it to the finish line with a film that isn't all about explosions and flashy costumes. The film takes a swipe at the comics that furnished the characters and how ridiculous the stories contained within them. Logan is a character piece expanding between generations and the passing of the torch that occurs in our lives. Both Logan and Xavier are old and beginning to feel the pains associated with aging, like we all do. Jackman is Wolverine and always will be, but he goes beyond the typical Bub and one liners by bringing a raw emotion to the tole that hasn't been there before. The breakdown of everything he once had has worn him down along with time. The rest of the cast holds up to the subject matter that is well written and doesn't play the audience like idiots. As a story the film does take pieces from the graphic novel Old Man Logan, but has managed to break it down into something else, partly out of storytelling (where it succeeds) and partly out of not having access to all of the pertinent characters.
This is the movie Marvel wishes it could be. This is the movie DC once was (The Dark Knight). A gritty and realistic take on super heroes without the other worldly components. Logan is a film that borrows more from the western genre than the comic books where the characters were born. Shane is referenced heavily in this film as a man resists going back to what he once was only to be pulled back to it like the tides. Nature will always push you there. Logan and Shane are men cut from the same cloth. Add in the feel of The Searchers and you get a film that feels epic without blowing up a city. You just blow up someones life. If only other comic book films could be more like Logan and less like disaster porn. Where Stephen Spielberg compared comic book films to the westerns of old, Logan has embraced that identity fully. Films like this will keep the genre alive.
My son turned 16 a few months back. Thinking back tonight I realized that in all the franchises out there Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is the only consistent throughout his life. The actor and the character have become synonymous with each other and the idea that the next time you see that character on screen played by someone else is a heartbreaking proposition. I can only compare it to Christopher Reeve as Superman for me (By the time I was 20 we had had 3 Batmen) and the attempts to recast that role in the years since have always led me to the finally verdict that "they were OK, but they aren't close to Reeve's Superman". Call it nostalgia or whatever, but that's what we have to face now. Hugh Jackman has (supposedly) stepped down from a wonderful run, though it had some low spots, he played the role with a relish rarely seen in today's franchised film world. Logan is a wonderful (possible) swan song for the man that has given us the original anti-hero in comic book cinema. We will all miss his take on the character and the permanent mark he has made on super hero films. This generation of the genre ultimately started with him and Logan manages to be the best super hero film I've seen in close to a decade.
John Wick: Chapter 2 does something that you usually don't see in sequels: it ties up loose ends from its predecessor. It's cool to see it, but is it really necessary? Nope. Not at all. I've never been more torn with an opening scene in retrospect. It's a great idea, but it adds to the bloat that this film already has.
Essentially that's what John Wick 2 represents . It's a film that continues the reluctant assassin story from the first film, but lumbers around much more than the sleek original film. Wick (Keanu Reeves) has just completed his out of retirement rampage and plans to withdraw back into the normal life he had created for himself. He barely gets a nights sleep when Santino (Ricardo Scamarcia) knocks on John's door demanding him to honor the marker he had used to get out of the business in the first place. Santino proves to be persuasive by blowing up John's home (the dog survives), forcing him to uphold his code and perform one final job.
John Wick is filled with action. Tons of it. Cargo ships loaded to capacity of it. What I'm saying is that 1. there's too much and 2. it gets repetitive. There are more double taps in this film than in most films from the last 20 years combined. The disposable henchmen tend to have hipster beards and man buns, making easily excusable fodder for Mr. Wick. The film continuously bombards you with these high octane action sequences to the point that they get kind of ridiculous. It makes the film dull and that is not what you want in an action film.
The only time the film finds itself is when the characters interact with more than fists and bullets. Ian McShane returns with another good performance, though some of his lines are drivel and you can almost see it on his face. Cassian, played by Common, was a great addition to the film. I was disappointed that he didn't have ,ore to do in this film. An underutilized asset. Of course there has been a ton of discussion about Laurence Fishburn and Reeves having a Matrix reunion of sorts. Hype it up to push the film it seems because the Fishburn role is quite disposable and bogs the last act of the film.Remove this and the opening sequence I discussed earlier and you go from a bloated 122 minutes to a tight and lean 105. Overboard isn't a good thing.
You can say that John Wick Chapter 2 is a disappointment and truthfully it really is. The performances are strong and carry the picture, but it's an overblown rehash of the first film. There's nothing new here; a shame after the first film was such a breathe of fresh air. There is a soft set up for a third film, which will probably show up in a few years, but how many more man bun double taps can an audience take?
Cannonball Run II is the sequel to the 1981 coast to coast race film from Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds. Did you see that one? Then you've seen this one. It's a cartoonish romp with a collection of Las Vegas royalty and country stars. Yes, this is another on of those Burt Reynolds good ole' boy comedies.
Way over the top, Cannonball Run II is almost fun to watch. Almost. It's poorly written and the performances are strictly phoned in. Did Shirley Maclaine really follow up Terms of Endearment with this? Ugh. And Frank Sinatra's cameo? It's legendary in that the Chairman wasn't even there with the cast, yet appears in the blooper reel. Really? We can easily tell with the poor editing that they were not together. A poorly matched mess.
Far removed from Crosby and Hope, it's a road picture injected with steroids and over used '80's cliches. You can watch it, but the camp is turned up to eleven and all you get is a need to go on a real road trip. There isn't much left to say about it. It's just a bad movie.
Throughout the history of film one of the characters that continues to pop up is the mad scientist attempting to push his studies to the point of lunacy. This is a person who has become so obsessed with their primary objective that they throw any sense of moral code or obligation right out the window. The first and most famous example is Dr. Frankenstein in the numerous incarnations that have been brought to life over the decades, be it Colin Clive or Peter Cushing. Science is the only thing of importance to these men. With Re-Animator we get another take on the Frankenstein mentality, though it is more tongue in cheek and finds some humor in the situation.
Based on the H.P. Lovecraft story, the film opens with what will be our resident mad scientist Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) encountering the possible consequences of his experiments when his mentor dies at the European school he is attending. Having "learned all he can" there he arrives at an American university and rooms with golden boy med student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott). Dan is the typical over zealous student that's dating the dean's daughter Megan (Barbara Crampton) and being a general BMOC (big man on campus). Herbert uses the relationship between Dan and Megan as leverage in getting Dan to assist him in his experiments. His goal: to bring people back from brain death. Eventually the pair are discredited by the administration and they are forced to go about their work in secret. Of course these plans go awry as issues spring up with how Herbert's "agent" works.
Director Stuart Gordon delivers a film that, even though it could have dated itself, manages to break that 1980's mold and become something more than a late night cable TV film lost to obscurity. He manages to walk the thin line between a horror film and a comedy, balancing the two and delivering a film that is stronger for it. It is a gorefest, but there is enough humor to take the edge off, but it doesn't end up a parody of itself. For being a lower budget film the performances are well done with the stand outs being Combs and David Gale as Dr. Carl Hill, an under handed professor that becomes a failed experiment with consequences.
The film is visually striking with its effects and even though the budget was low, still managed to push the envelope and deliver something new. Gordon shoots the film not with the effects as star, but as a valued character actor. There are scenes that remain legendary in Re-Animator even if they are old school camera trickery.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Re-Animator is the Frankenstein of the 1980's. The film is built as a loving parody of the Mary Shelly classic. It comes from an era where films are perpetually stuck because of their reliance on cliches of the era, but Re-Animator stands out and survives beyond those neon bounds. It captures you with a well worn idea that is garnished with more modern sensibilities. It's horror that gives you a break instead of slamming you in the head with murder-death-kill every ten minutes just for the sake of it. Re-Animator is a great overlapping genre piece that has the ability to be enjoyed more than once. The film never gets old and always delivers a great experience for the audience.
Retro-sequel seems to have become all the rage lately. Star Wars is back with a vengeance, Indiana Jones is on his way, Alien, Blade Runner, Jurassic World and others have taken franchise stagnant for a decade or more and revived them not with a reboot, but a sequel that continues the long dead story. A film that could have delivered a sequel decades before now is Independence Day, a film that wasn't the greatest but it did deliver some summer popcorn entertainment. Why we didn't get a sequel until now is a mystery to me.
The plot isn't going to take much to describe.Honestly, if you've seen the first film then you have seen this one. I was thinking about doing a copy and paste from my view of the first film, but why go to the effort. Plus, there seems to be to much copy and paste going on with this one anyway. Aliens, angry that we beat them in the first film, show up. Throw in a McGuffin so that we have a way to set up another sequel and you're done. Like an assembly line.
The film is pure paint by numbers and that philosophy can work when you add something interesting or at least make an effort. This film doesn't do that. The beats are the same as the first film and what is new happens to be well worn cliches from films such as Pearl Harbor. Bill Pullman returns as the ex-President, but actually takes up the crazed Randy Quaid character. Jeff Goldblum also returns, does his thing, and collects his check. Will Smith does not return, opting to appear in Suicide Squad. Not perfect. but better than going backward on the part of Mr. Smith. Throughout the film the cast does its thing, re-making Independence Day.
I guess we're going to get hit with more of these. Reboots are garbage, so let's revitalize. The problem is that a retro-sequel can end up being more pathetic than actually starting over from scratch. The movie blatantly sets up a sequel, but whether or not that will come to fruition is up in the air at this time. It sounds like something different, which this movie should have been if it wanted to recapture an audience. Nods to the original are encouraged, but give the viewer a reason to spends time watching your movie. Oh well. The grand daddy of modern disaster porn has fallen. Let's just pack this one away as a relic of the old days.
When X-Men movies first hit the silver screen the world was staggering from the comic book films of the late 1990's (I'm looking at you Batman and Robin and Spawn). The concept of adapting super heroes was just not as viable as it is today. The X-Men series is the odd franchise that has been rebooted, but is still tied to its former self more tightly with timeline swaps creating a convoluted mess that becomes more and more confusing with each additional movie.
X-Men: Apocalypse opens in Egypt where Apocalypse (Oscar Issacs) is being transferred into another body, merging his powers with the powers of his new host. A coup renders him buried hundreds of feet below the ground in perpetual hibernation, waiting for the day that he can be rejuvenated by the sun. Obviously he is released and begins the process of taking control of the world back from humans- he feels that he is their god. He recruits four mutants (the four horsemen), one of them being Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who, after experiencing another tragedy, now feels that humanity is evil and needs to be exterminated. This leads to a confrontation with Professor X (James McAvoy) and his team of X-Men.
Bryan Singer is the mastermind of the X-Men franchise, helming four of the installments. After continuous disaster porn offerings in comic book films it really isn't a surprise that a film with the sub title Apocalypse should also contain massive destruction. It doesn't seem quite as bad as other comic book films, but it's still there and is starting to wear thin on viewers. The film holds itself together, but it does have issues. There are pairings that don't really fire on all cylinders, leaving an awkward feeling in the film when it really wasn't intended. The problem is that these intermingle with moments in the film that really work so when you get going into the movie and become heavily invested the film hits the breaks with awkwardness and pulls the viewer right out of it. This is all secondary when you get to the tacked on scene that is just there so that we can have a gratuitous Hugh Jackman cameo. To sum up that part of the film, it was not needed at all and the film could have been fine with it cut from the final product. Discarding it would have made the film a tighter piece and better in the long run. But it gets you hyped for the next film, right?
X-Men: Apocalypse is probably the weakest of the current X-Men franchise. The film blatantly sets up Logan, but where does this series go from here? Is there a future with this franchise in this form or will another reboot be in order? Time will tell. All in all this is a respectable film if you can get past the issues it contains. A decent super hero film as long as you don't expect too much out of it.
Once again the remake train derails into another franchise with Ghostbusters, the 2016 comedy that seems to be made by people who have never seen the original film. The funny thing is that I now am filled with regret after seeing this overtly controversial film of this summer.
Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones star as the title characters in this film about the paranormal invading New York City and the recently unemployed small business owners that are here to fight this new nuisance. A bell boy named Rowan (Neil Casey) is expanding ghost activity for some reason, coming to a climax with Times Square full of scares. (Times Scare? Slime Square?)
The script is immature at best and bottom feeding at worst. A nice middle finger scene here, a crotch shot there, basic 13 year old humor like that which plays well to kids and the soft headed. The story is like falling from a tree with the plot hitting one branch, then another, then another, and never really landing anywhere to settle except the eventual land fill that this film feels destined for.
I can't really say that the acting is bad. You're only as good as your script and we've already established the mess that road map is. The real issue with the main core of the cast is that there is little chemistry between the quartet. This is probably the biggest fault with Ghostbusters '16 especially compared to the chemistry that is exuded in the original film. Even the sequel felt more on point than this film and it shows. This is reason this film didn't click with viewers, too.
I will admit that I was very pessimistic when it came to discussing this film and it wasn't because of the swapping of the sexes, though that felt like it was marketed as a gimmick. In all honesty, the film didn't look good from trailers and research that I did pre-release. Even if it didn't have the no ghost insignia stamped on its marketing this film would have been mediocre. This one had to stand up to one of the most beloved films of the last 30+ years. It feels rushed and thrown together into something for the mass quantities to consume instead of that special thing that was the original film. I'm not going to blame the cast because it feels like they actually believed in what they were doing- an honest retelling of a story that they grew up with, just like you and me. No, this is a failure on director Paul Feig's part. He delivers a soulless film that is just empty calories to be purged and forgotten in a day or two. An albatross on a decent career.
Dog Eat Dog is about a trio of criminals (Nicholas cage, Willem DaFoe, and Christopher Matthew Cook) that are trying to get a big score. Their big score is kidnapping a baby. It goes down the toiler. Messy, so very messy.
This film is an incoherent piece of trash. The plot is all over the place and leaves so much hanging out to no resolution. It's like a building that is midway through its demolition. Hallways lead to oblivion and pieces of junk just sticking here and there with no real purpose anymore. Junior high schoolers could write a better script than this. The stories that children develop when playing with a menagerie of action figures are better than this. I can't really say that the ending is satisfying because there is nothing satisfying in this film. It goes for a cheap shock to introduce the film and really just sits there spinning its wheels for the remainder of the film.
The acting is hammy and over the top. Cage continues to bury his once great career in another garbage film with another garbage performance. He goes overboard ala The Wicker Man and does a terrible Bogart impression. Let this be a lesson to everyone out there to pay yout taxes or you'll have to be in crap like Dog eat Dog. Dafoe isn't as far down the shoot as Cage is career wise, but if he keeps appearing in films like this his legacy will be torched by the easy paychecks films like this must pay. He plays a parody of himself. It's a miserable experience because he doesn't really have anything to work with and an over the edge Dafoe isn't anything new. Been there and done that in much better films. The rest of the acting is pedestrian at best and does nothing to carry the film higher than mediocre.
Finally we get to director Paul Schrader, a darling of cinema thirty years ago gives us a film that can really be summed up as a cliche of 1990's cinema. Most of the hip artistic tricks that he employs in this film were being used by Oliver Stone 20 years ago. Sorry Paul, but movies have grown past that, for better or for worse and in a better film they may have lent to telling the story more, but with Dog Eat Dog it just makes you want to watch Natural Born Killers. Schrader is another casualty in this "film".
Dog Eat Dog really is a cliche. Acting, directing. Everyone does the typical stuff and delivers nothing beyond what they get paid for. To be truthful, the script is not a cliche. If it were this film may have been better. Average, but that would be better than what we have now. This film is written terribly at the expense of trying to be cool. It tries way too hard and falls right on its face. Not very cool. This film will be remembered for being horrible as it buries the three talents associated with it.
I went into Rogue One with uneasiness, being a fan of this franchise for as long as I can remember. To split away from the soap opera that is the Skywalkers is an unprecedented move that was obviously going to happen if Disney wanted to actually make money on their $4.5 billion investment in George Lucas' empire. Still, sitting there without that epic Star Wars stinger and crawl was difficult to watch because it wasn't what I was used to- damn it, don't ruin my childhood you corporate fools!
Rogue One is a prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy (Star Wars (A New Hope), The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi) and a sequel to the prequel trilogy that wrapped up 11 years ago (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith). If this doesn't confuse a casual film goer I don't know what will. The film tells the story of the construction of the Death Star and the Rebellion's fight to stop this super weapon designed by the Empire. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the daughter of the designer of the new weapon Gaylen Erso (Mads Mikkelson), who were separated years before when the Empire ran into snags in development. The Rebels feel that Jyn's lineage will guarantee the help they need in their fight against tyranny. Assisted by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and the reprogrammed K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) they develop a band that grows as the film goes on as they attempt to find Jyn's father and the secret that may save the galaxy from annihilation in the face of Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mandelsohn).
Director Gareth Edwards has taken the monumental task of trying to develop a Star Wars film that breaks the traditional conventions of the franchise. Rogue One is a film with an expected outcome and is a dark entry into the series and possibly one of the darkest films of the year, though the film doesn't take itself to seriously. There are some breaks for humor in the film, breaking the enormity of the film. This is a way film, depicting space battle as the violent, heartbreaking experience that all wars are, even in a galaxy far, far away. This is the main accomplishment of this film. There is a weight to the battles that goes beyond what we have seen previously.
Even though there are slow points in the film, they tend to be balanced by action sequences or an intriguing throw back. I guess you can call this fan service, and there's a lot of it here, but what do you expect from a film that is set directly before one of the most beloved films of all time. They make it work in this film and it does. The acting isn't Oscar worthy, but the story overcomes that, thankfully. In a year where acting and story have taken a backseat to sheer spectacle it's refreshing to get something that's intriguing.
Rogue One represents the first step in expanding Star Wars beyond the linear story that it has been for the last forty years. The main trunk of the tree is gaining branches. The film represents the bridge between the original trilogy and the not as beloved prequel trilogy, tying them together in a way that makes them more a acceptable as a whole instead of one being the generic brand of the other. I was pleasantly surprised by Rogue One and hope other spin off films are as entertaining as this one, though I am still skeptical about some of the ideas I've heard about. This is a Star Wars film that gives the audience a real look at the battle between good and evil and the consequences of such a battle. It's an entertaining adventure that runs non stop and holds you until the end.
In the 1970's Mel Brooks was the cinematic comedy genius. He created the most celebrated western parody with Blazing Saddles, a wager that paid off. During that same glorious year of 1974 he delivered Young Frankenstein, a tongue in cheek look at the Universal monster movies that he also released in black and white. Brooks wasn't afraid to go way outside the box to deliver his films, which brings us to his 1976 film Silent Movie.
Silent Movie follows the antics of Mel Funn (Brooks), Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman), and Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise). The trio has a plan to make a silent movie, forty years after talkies took over the cinema. The main focus of the film is to get big stars for their trip into nostalgia, such as Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Liza Minelli, and Anne Bancroft as a way to produce a hit for the studio that is on the edge of being consumed by a conglomerate. Hilarity ensues.
Oh, did I mention that the film is also silent? Yes, Mel Brooks accomplished a silent film in 1976. The man could do no wrong. The first thing we need to get out of the way is that when compared to Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie is the weakest of the three. So if you're expecting an equivalent, don't do it. Now taken on its own this is a pretty funny film. Mel Brooks delivers a film with slap stick and uses silent film conventions in the modern era. The film works, but it's doesn't quite achieve the greatness of Brooks work two years prior, mainly due to the limitations of making a silent film.
The thing I ask myself is that after creating two of the greatest comedies of our time did Mel Brooks submit this film as a joke because the studios thought he could do no wrong? I can just imagine him being asked what his next film would be and him saying, tongue in cheek, that he was going to do a silent movie and the studio went wild over the idea. Even though set with an early 20th century motif, it does comment on the film industry of the 1970's, mainly in the fall of the studios to the conglomerates that gobbled them up. The studio system was dead and this film partially examines its obituary. Silent Movie isn't Brooks best work, but it is a funny film that is lulled by its main premise. It's still enjoyable after 40 years and spotlights the audacity of the film industry's greatest comedic genius.
Sharing a distinction with Sunset Boulevard in showing the aftermath of Hollywood stardom, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane goes a step further in that we follow the fallen careers of former vaudeville child star Baby Jane (Bette Davis) and her invalid sister, the former star Blanche (Joan Crawford). How does your life go on when you had access to everything, but end up with nothing but memories and fallen glory. It is truly enough to drive a person mad.
The film opens with Jane being the child star on the vaudeville circuit, with all the spotlight shining on her young face and every whim of the young girl being fulfilled. At such an early age this child is being merchandised by dolls, perpetuating the idea that she is the center of the universe. Hiding in the shadows is Blanche, all but forgotten by their father who focuses on Jane's career. There is a deep resentment in her face as she watches Jane's behavior. We jump to later where Blanche is the star in Hollywood, but insists that Jane also have a film contract even though her childhood talent did not translate into adulthood. Things turn for the worse when Blanche is paralyzed in an incident that Jane is blamed for, effectively ending both of their careers. After the accident Jane has been caring for Blanche in their spacious Hollywood home. Resentment is the main ingredient in Jane's fall into madness and it finally comes to an apex when she learns that Blanche plans to sell the home for something more manageable. Resentment turns to torture, turns to terror as the film plays out.
Casting Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as the sisters was a work of genius. While watching the film I realized that the reason that both actresses took their respective roles was due to the intense competition between the two that had occurred for decades. Joan Crawford could make Bette Davis look terrible and Bette Davis could kick Joan Crawford around for two hours. A wonderful time was had by all. That genuine resentment between the two flows throughout the film, delivering an even deeper experience that pulls the viewer into this world that they created. Blanche is still loved and her films still run on television. Jane's vaudeville career is forgotten. Either actress could have played either role, but they were set in the roles that were best for themselves.
Director Robert Aldrich shoots a film that, unlike Sunset Boulevard, doesn't cast a bleak, dark world, but a world that has continued beyond the careers of the two leads. The sun still shines, people still have a good time. Aldrich follows Jane's spiral into madness, hinting around the psychological and physical torture that Blanche receives. This feeling that the world has moved on fully develops in the ending where the world around them is being entertained while the sisters are literally in the middle, gone and forgotten. An ending that seems weird, but symbolizes the entire theme of the film. No matter how famous you are, eventually the world will move on no matter what. It's a sad truth that every celebrity needs to face and some may take it better than others.
Films about Hollywood are always a touchy subject. The possibility of falling into the pit of over glamorizing is always an issue that can occur and dilute the message that a filmmaker is trying to achieve. With Baby Jane show business really dies in the film when Blanche is paralyzed, something that Blanche accepts, but Jane cannot do. Eventually she descends into replaying her childhood career, a middle aged woman singing songs that a young girl sang all those years ago, becoming a pathetic parody of herself. This film is a more subtle examination of the fallen star than Sunset Boulevard and stands on its own. They may be related, but they're distant cousins. Both with madness, both with terror, but this film is more optimistic. This film is one of the greats and serves as the swan song for the careers of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. What Ever Happened To Baby Jane is a necessity in cinephile viewing.
Let's face it. The main question that everyone had going into Suicide Squad was whether or not this film would resurrect a fumbling DC movie universe. Will this be the film where they burst everything wide open and take over the world or would this be another questionable entry in the Warner owned property. In many ways this film is a bit of a gamble. How would an audience accept a comic book film where the heroes are villains and the villains are, in some not too distant past, would have been considered heroes or good guys. In this film there is no one riding in dressed in white. There are levels of morality between our group of villains.
The film is set in the aftermath of Batman v. Superman where the federal government fears of other supermen. Paranoia fills the air as the thought of metahumans that do not hold the beliefs of Clark Kent could overrun the world. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has a creative idea where she creates an elite unit using super powered beings and extremely talented humans as a reactionary group in the event of an overpowering enemy. Yes, this idea lends a lot to The Dirty Dozen in that there is no coming home from an incomplete mission. The group consists of Deadshot (Will Smith), an assassin that never misses. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) an acrobatic psychopath who happens to be the better half of the Clown Prince of Crime The Joker (Jared Leto), who plans on breaking his baby out of her dilemma. Jay Hernandez is Diablo, who literally holds the power of fire in his hands. Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje) brings a raw power to the group... and the ability to roam the sewers. Boomerang (Jai Courtney) rounds out the squad as an Aussie villain looking for a way out and using fellow members to do it. The ground baby sitter is Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who reminds the squad throughout the film that he is the final say on the ground, only answering to Waller. He is also romantically involved with the witch possessed June Moone (Cara Delevingne), causing the typical problems when a hairy situation arises and that situation is that when the witch called Enchantress escapes, she decides to destroy humanity with a machine like the ones humans worship. Initially the Suicide Squad's mission is basic, but balloons to the regular "save the world" motif.
Suicide Squad cuts straight to the point, showing the history of these characters via flashbacks. It would have been nice to explore these characters a little deeper, but we only have 2 hours and if this makes enough money... We get the situation set up quickly with very little baggage, other than Leto's Joker and that baggage is most welcome. When her appears it's a great performance that takes Ledger's take on the character and adds the over the top comic book dimension that this film employs. I'm looking forward to Leto getting more screen time in the upcoming films. Will Smith and Margot Robbie really run with their characters and seem to enjoy the playground they've been given to run around in. This is one of Smith's best performances in a long time and, even though he has become an iconic actor, gets lost in the role of Deadshot. For Robbie, this film will push her to super stardom. All around the film has a wonderful cast that are having fun, which shows in the film and lets the audience in on the good time.
David Ayer treats this film as his own child and it shows. There is a care to not lampoon the characters and it delivers a genuine feel to the film that wasn't in Batman v. Superman. I cared about these characters, some of whom I had very little interaction with. Batman v. Superman, featuring some of the most iconic figures in fiction made me not care about characters that I had grown up with. Been born with practically. Be it due to acting, editing, or direction I had a stake in the Suicide Squad. Batman v. Superman didn't give me that. For that, we have to give David Ayer some credit in nor letting the DC ship capsize.
Not that the film is without issues. The most glaring one is that the villains in the film are weak. Very weak. I couldn't pinpoint where on Cara Delevingne's portrayal of the Enchantress was it too much ham and too much holding back. It was both. She is just there, with her CGI brother, sprouting out countless CGI henchmen. Nameless CGI henchmen like a video game. It is an old saying that I'll throw out there, your film is only as good as its villain. That is the big stumbling block of this film. What is a great journey stumbles in the final act, leveling what could have been a great film down to a little above average. Yes, Enchantress is that bad of a villain.
So what's the verdict? Suicide Squad does run much better than Batman v Superman. As a whole the film makes me feel better about later entries in the DC Universe, but it is not the all out blow the competition away film that they really need right now. There was major stumbling in the third act that holds the film back. The scenes that are the Squad are wonderful. When you throw the weak villain in, it grinds to a halt. Overall, it's a good film. Not great, but not mediocre. As an entire piece I rate it ***1/2, the same as Batman v Superman. BVS rating was shaky, but solidified with the extended cut. SS is a fine, fun film with a lackluster villain and a meh finish. Good, but not great.
To start with, I'm going to be perfectly honest. Pixar, that company that 10 years ago was practically infallible, has developed a poor record with sequels. Other than the Toy Story follow ups, the sequels they have produced have been empty shells of their predecessors. Monster's University is a lackluster film that doesn't really capture the feel and magic of the original film. Cars 2 was a miserable follow-up. So after all of these years, we have the sequel to Finding Nemo titled Finding Dory, a film that starts strong, but derails during its final act.
The plot of the film is that Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) has suddenly started to remember segments of her childhood and realizes that she does have a family and goes on a journey to find them. Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) accompany her as she makes her way to an oceanic institute where she was born and her parents may still be waiting for her to arrive. As with the first film, they encounter numerous characters with various personalities that help or hinder their progress.
Finding Dory is an amazing looking film that visually can be paired with Finding Nemo and the feel from the first film goes along. Hopefully Pixar has learned from their mediocre sequels (prequel) that trashed the concepts of the original films for a dull, sophomoric premise. It's a wonderfully created universe that pulls you in, revisiting memories from the first film and delivering new ones along the way. The story is also strong with another long journey looking for family. I was enthralled by the story as Dory pieced her way to her goal, almost reminiscent of a detective story. This film would have probably been a much better film if it wasn't for the third act. I'll try not to spoil it, but the film becomes so over the top that it slams the brakes on the story, pulling you right out of the film. And you never get it back. I know there were some over the top situations in Finding Nemo, but this film really drove that idea over the edge. A good film becomes a slightly above average film.
Pixar is an animation juggernaut. This is the company that caused the entire industry to revert to computer animations and they are still the pinnacle of the business. When it's an original story they are geniuses, developing a world that immerses you. Their work is amazing. Unless it's a sequel. It seems that a company that rarely did sequels until a few years ago has not been able to repeat (except for Toy Story) any kind of continuation of the original film. Finding Dory comes close. I enjoyed the film, but the ending really kills the film and you find yourself wondering why they didn't finish it simply instead of the over the top conclusion that could almost be considered animated disaster. This is a good animated feature with a huge anchor dragging it down.
As the comic book juggernaut (pun not intended) continues to grow, there are going to be numerous comparisons between movies as they come out and how much better this film was over that one. A film should be allowed to stand on its own (even though I am going to be writing a special comparison between this film and the clash film from the "other" publisher). After the mediocrity that was Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War has the ability to continue the greatness of The Winter Solider. It doesn't have to stand on the remains of the film before it, even though Civil War plays more like an Avengers sequel, this is Captain America's story.
As the film begins the world is angry after the massive collateral damage that's occurred in the battles of the Avengers. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), faced with the real life cost of their wars, spearheads the idea of the Avengers to be monitored and controlled by the government. Of course this splits the Avengers into two camps, which is going to happen when such a revolutionary idea is placed upon a group of people. This is coupled to the fact that Captain America (Chris Evans) has the added stress of finding and helping his friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) a.k.a. The Winter Soldier. As the story progresses we learn that there is a puppet master pulling the strings on the situation, continuously driving a wedge between the already fractured Avengers.
Civil War is what a great movie should be. The film takes the audience for a ride, literally and emotionally. We travel the world as this characters, many of whom we grew up with since we were children, build for their cause. It's these same characters that cause us as an audience to finally choose a side in the ultimate confrontation that builds throughout the film. It's an experience that sucks you in and involves you in the action that's happening up on the screen. A hallmark of any good film. In a world flooded with comic book films this film will be one that stands out.
This film has everything in place and gels in every way and is currently the one stand out in a summer movie season that seems to be more about malaise than masterpieces. Obviously there will be more films and Civil War makes me want to see them. The film made me want to go back and check out what I missed (Ant-Man- review coming soon). A stunning film in a bloated market.
Sandwiched between the controversial Cruising and the controversial Scarface lies this Al Pacino vehicle that finds him as a dysfunctional play write, juggling a dead marriage, a house full of kids, and a fully backed play perpetually looking for its 3rd act. AP stars as Ivan Travalian, the atypical New York writer who comes home one day to find that his wife (TW) has left, leaving kids from various marriages throughout the house. Hilarity ensues as Ivan struggles to maintain a household, a career, and figure out whether or not he still loves his wife or the star of his play (DC).
Author! Author! feels like a sitcom. I mean it really feels like a sitcom to the point that you'll be in hysterics at the title theme song. Pure Friday night on ABC drivel that doesn't really go anywhere, just spinning around in circles. The only thing that progresses in this film is the play. Everyone is in the same place as they were in the film, with Pacino epiphany being unheralded and lacking everything. Tuesday Weld plays her role as sympathetic to start, then you just don't care about the selfish.... Dyan Cannon is the rebound and pretty much disappears when her part of the story is over, which is sadly the best part of the film. If they could have dove into their relationship and how another adult deals with the offspring of another it would have made this film much more interesting. But it abandons that idea half way into it.
Did AP lose his way after the greatness of his 70's films? It's hard to say, but AA is an unexcited, dull adventure into divorce