Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)

Capsule Summary:

Spider-man: Homecoming is yet another restart of the Spider-man movie franchise. It picks up the story of Spider-man from what we saw of him in Captain America: Civil War, and continues from there. What happens next, is, well…interesting.

It’s a fun movie to watch, and has a good story.  I saw it in 2-D, and didn’t miss anything not being 3-D. Definitely recommended.

There is both a mid-credits scene, and a post-credits scene.

Standard Review (contains some spoilers):

Following the events of the first Avengers movie, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) got the job to clean up New York after the Chitauri invasion. Given all the alien technology left behind, he stands to make a lot of money. Just as he starts, the government steps in and kicks him off the job. He realizes that he can still profit, just not legally.

Meanwhile, it’s a few years later, and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has just finished up the superhero fight from Captain America: Civil War. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) gave him an upgraded Spider-man suit, and Tony implies that the Avengers will need him soon enough. Peter’s attending a special high school for gifted technology students, and keeps bowing out of his after school obligations, in case Tony calls.

Spider-man stumbles onto a sale of stolen alien technology, has a fight, and later tries to alert Tony that something’s going down. Tony faffs him off, telling him to leave the big deals to the big boys, but Peter is determined. He gets himself right into the middle of it.

They play up Peter’s naivete properly. He wants to do well, and possibly get the invitation to join the Avengers if he succeeds. It’s played for laughs, but that’s not how he sees it. They treat him like the teenager he appears to be, not as someone who could get to the bottom of things.

There’s a lot of action in the movie. It’s ironic that they cast Michael Keaton as the villain, considering he was Batman, and also Birdman in several other movies. He’s played enough comedic roles to know timing, and he has his character down pat. Definite kudos to him.

There’s also a lot of comedy. Peter is still the clumsy and socially awkward teen, and that plays out well. They have some fun at the expense of Captain America (Chris Evans), too.

It’s well worth seeing, and will probably be on my favorite film list of 2017.  Highly recommended!


The Big Sick (2017)

Capsule Summary (basic plot spoilers):

In The Big Sick, Kumail Nanjani stars as himself in a semi-autobiographical story about finding love in Chicago. Zoe Kazan plays Emily, his potential love interest. Problem is that she’s not from Pakistan, but from the U.S.A., which his family would refuse to accept.

It’s not your traditional rom-com, but I will say that yes, there is romance, and that there is comedy, given that Kumail is a standup comedian and he starts dating someone. Where it goes, I won’t say in this section, though the title is a bit of a spoiler.

The Big Sick is an independent film, and that works in its favor. One of the better stories I’ve seen on screen in a while, probably because it’s based on a real one. Definitely recommended!

You may find the trailer here.

Standard Review (contains some spoilers):

Kumail is a standup comedian, hoping to break into the big time. His circle of friends, Mary (Aidy Bryant), CJ (Bo Burnham), and roomate Chris (Kurn Braunohler) are cohorts who are all struggling together, hoping to be booked for bigger and better gigs. To sustain his career, he drives for Uber in the off-hours.

One performance, Kumail is heckled by Emily, a grad student. He flirts with her after the show, and they hook up. They are so serious about not dating that they stay together for a while, but it comes time to meet the parents, and Kumail backs off, because his parents would never approve, and hasn’t even mentioned Emily to them. In fact, his parents Azmat and Sharmeen (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) have been trying to arrange a marriage for him the whole time. Emily rightfully kicks him to the curb.

That would have been the end of that, but Emily gets the flu. Her friends are all studying for finals, so they call Kumail because someone needs to go. Things get worse quickly, and he is forced to call in her out-of-state parents Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano). Emily’s in an induced coma by the time of their arrival, and Beth is well aware of Kumail’s relationship ender. They don’t mesh well.

This is a good look inside familial relationships, and honestly, I can’t recall seeing the inner workings of a Pakistani/Muslim family as much as was shown. As I am a WASP, I will not start raving about how wonderful it was to see the ‘inner sanctum’ of Muslim family life or anything like that, but given that Kumail and his wife wrote the screenplay, I’m going to lean towards saying it’s  what you’d expect about any family, steeped with its own traditions and quirks. One “we’re not so different, you and I” speech promptly avoided.

One of the best parts of the film is the acting. It did not seem like they were reading from a script, so everything felt more natural and fluid, as if it were actually playing out on the screen instead of “being a movie”. The less said about that, the better.

I rather enjoyed it, and I do recommend it very strongly. This may be one of my favourite movies of the year.

Baby Driver (2017)

Capsule Summary (minor plot spoilers):

Baby Driver is the latest film by Edgar Wright.  It follows Baby (Ansel Elgort) who is a wheelman for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). Baby suffers from Tinnitus, and listens to music to drown it out. He owes a debt to Doc, and has almost paid it off.

A full, talented cast rounds out this movie, and there’s a lot of music and choreography of the getaways that elevates this film above others. Recommended.


Standard Review (contains plot spoilers):

Baby is off in his own world. He was orphaned as a child, and lives with his then-caregiver Joseph (CJ Jones). Joseph is older now, mute and confined to a wheelchair, so the tables have turned and Baby is taking care of him, instead. Joseph is aware that Baby is committing crimes and disapproves, but can’t convince him to stop.

Doc plans all the crimes, and hires different people to commit them, and rarely uses the same crew repeatedly, so they don’t get too comfortable. Griff (Jon Berenthal) is wary of Baby, and is convinced he’s autistic. Buddy and Darling (Jon Hamm and Eliza González) are a couple who share their love of crimes, and Bats (Jamie Foxx) is the trigger happy felon who doesn’t trust anyone. They’re mixed and matched together, along with some others for the various robberies, while Baby gets them safely away.

The escapes are what elevate this movie above the standard fare you see on screen, these days. Baby uses music to center himself, and the editing of the film puts it in sync with the action. There’s a wide variety of musical selections, from rock and roll from the 50s to modern classics, as well. It’s all over the map, appealing to a wider audience than one age group. The editing puts the beats in time with the action, including the gunfire and crashes. It’s quite clever.

Baby does have a love interest, Debora (Lily James) but to me, it’s more like she’s the one who happens to be there and show interest in him because he needs to be humanized. She’s almost a prop, at times, but she gets involved as things fall apart. They do have good chemistry on screen, so perhaps I’m overstating my complaints.

Overall, I did enjoy the film. The acting is quite solid, especially from Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx.

Rough Night (2017)

Capsule Summary (minor plot spoilers):

Rough Night is a comedy about a bachelor party gone wrong. Scarlett Johansson stars as Jess, who reunites with her college girlfriends for the big party, in Miami. Alice (Jillian Bell), Blair (Zoë Kravitz), and Frankie (Ilana Glazer) have that big blowout before the wedding, and things don’t turn out the way you’d want them to.

There are hints of the truly dark comedy Very Bad Things here, but it really isn’t. It struggles to find its voice, but without saying more, it does come to a reasonable conclusion. There is a post-credits scene that answers a question left open.

Standard Review (contains plot spoilers):

I’m not sure I can say too much without spoiling the film. As I mentioned, it struggles for some laughs along the way, trying to walk the line between a traditional comedy and a black comedy.

This isn’t a film you must see in the theater, so I’d recommend waiting for its streaming or disk release.

Wonder Woman (2017)

Capsule Summary (Minor plot spoilers):

Wonder Woman is the first big screen adaptation of this DC Comics Superhero, and it is very good. It tells a proper and complete story without any contrivances, unlike last year’s Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice , which I did enjoy, but had some issues. There is a good balance between action, drama, and comedy that is hard to sustain, but here, it works. The casting is good and the movie is without any real disappointments unlike other DC films of late.

Definitely recommended. See it in a theater for the full experience. The movie is available in 2D and 3D, but it’s perfectly fine in 2D.

There is no post-credits sequence.


Standard Review (contains plot spoilers):

Diana/Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) was born and raised on the island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) has ordained a life of preparation. All Amazonian woman were created by Zeus, to bring order and peace to a chaotic world, corrupted by the god Ares. They are fierce, in the truest sense of the word, all trained for combat by Hippolyta’s sister Antiope (Robin Wright), but Diana has been spared this. She is the only child, but over time, grows to adulthood and secretly trains with Antiope.

One day, a pilot crashes his plane near the shores of Themyscira. It is Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). He is a spy who escaped his would-be captors, and is trying to get back to England with the information he stole. The Amazonians distrust him, and the other men who’ve chased him. Steve tells of the war going on, outside of their peaceful realm, and Diana is convinced who is behind it. She and Steve sail off to find the truth.

I’ve been on the fence with the last two DC movies that’ve come out. The first I mentioned, which I liked, but, as I said, felt contrived a bit much, though the inclusion of Wonder Woman in the story felt like it belonged there. Last year’s Suicide Squad was good, but the inclusion of The Joker into the story was really unnecessary, and distracted from the main story. The best parts of that film revolved around Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and DeadShot (Will Smith), and they should have focused on them without the distraction of the Joker (Jared Leto).

Here there is only one focus, and that’s on Diana. They play up on her naiveté early on, for laughs, but it becomes a key issue later in the plot (why aren’t we doing “this”?). You do get to see a bit of a transformation as Diana becomes the person she is supposed to be, and it seems evolutionary instead of contrived and necessary for the story to continue.

I was really pleased by the story, and I’m glad DC shifted gears to make this properly.

My only beef with the film was the final song over the credits. It’s a perfectly good song, sung by Sia, but it didn’t fit the tone of the movie. It was a little jarring in comparison to the rest of the movie.




Snatched (2017)

Capsule Summary (Minor plot spoilers):

Snatched is the latest comedy from Amy Schumer, and Goldie Hawn. It’s Hawn’s first appearance on screen in 15 years, and is long overdue.

Emily MIddleton (Schumer) has been dumped by her boyfriend, and resorts to taking her mother, Linda (Hawn), on the trip to Ecuador that she’d planned with him. Things go awry, and the two of them are forced to work together to escape the perilous situation they’ve been subjected to. Comedy and action sequences ensue, leading to a satisfying resolution.

If you are a fan of Amy Schumer’s humor, you will enjoy this film. Schumer and Hawn bond well on stage, and there are several good supporting performances. If you’re not a fan of her style of humor, then you probably won’t like it.

Standard Review (contains plot spoilers):

I don’t feel the need to elaborate much further on the film, but I will say that the audience and I rather enjoyed the movie. There are several good performances by the supporting cast, and there’s a subtle context about them not really waiting for a MAN to rescue them that plays throughout, but it isn’t as prominent as some people may want you to believe.

There are far more jokes than what you see in the trailer.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Capsule Summary (spoiler free):

I am Groot. I am Groot I am Groot!  I am Groot, I am Groot. I am groot; I am Groot? I AM GROOOOOOOOT!

OK but seriously, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol, 2 is the sequel to the 2014 film  that went before it.  It lives up to the original, sustaining the action, with more of an emphasis on comedy. The film slightly drags in the middle, but ends satisfyingly.

Recommended, and there are extra scenes during and after the credits, so be sure to stay if you want to see them all.

Standard Review (contains plot spoilers):

The film starts with the Guardians defending a planet from an interdimensional being. Their reward for their job is literally Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s (Zoe Sandana)’s “sister”, who will fetch a huge bounty when they bring her in. Their departure is hampered, and the planet’s leader,  Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), sends their forces to recapture the Guardian’s ship. All seems lost, but they are rescued, in a fashion, by Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt’s) father. There is some credence to this claim.

Meanwhile,  Ayesha wants the Guardian’s heads. She travels to find Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his team of Ravagers, and hires him to return them. The Ravagers aren’t too pleased with how things have turned out, and agree to assist Yondu, for the time being.

Peter, Gamora, and Drax (Dave Bautista) travel to Ego’s home world, and everyone but Peter is uneasy. They aren’t convinced Ego is completely honest with them, and ask why he’s come for Peter, now? There is more to the story then he’s lead them to believe.

This is a proper sequel to the original. It definitely focuses more on the humor in their interactions, but it also plays to your emotions. Peter never knew his father, and struggles to believe. The theme of family is strong in this film, and pulls at your heartstrings.  Music was an important component in the original movie, and that continues here, but its use is not as impactful.

There are two issues I have with the movie. It has a runtime of 2 hours, 12 minutes, so it certainly takes its time to build to the finale. The story does slow down a few times, in some ham-handed ways, but they definitely do not ruin the film. The other issue I have with the film more relates to how many of the better moments are teased/spoiled by the trailer. I really wish they hadn’t used so many moments from the movie in it. There’s always that balance of what to tease in the trailer versus what to omit, but unfortunately they should have omitted more of the scenes from the trailer than they did. The trailer doesn’t ruin the film, either, but they could have used fewer crucial moments.

As I indicated in the capsule summary, there are several teaser moments during the credits, as well as one after the credits are complete. There are two minor elements that directly hint to movies that will be released within the year.

Going in Style (2017)

Capsule Summary (spoiler free):

Going in Style is a remake of the 1979 movie of the same name. The situation has the same basic premise, but it’s been modernized. A fine effort by director Zach Braff. The story is mildly tense, entertaining, and funny, and the cast of veteran actors makes it worth seeing.  Definitely recommended.

Standard Review (contains plot spoilers):

Joe (Michael Caine) is at the bank, trying to resolve a problem with his pension from the steel mill where he used to work. There have been problems because there haven’t been any deposits from the fund in a while. While talking to the unhelpful manager, the bank is robbed by masked gunmen. They are in and out with a few minutes, but not before Joe and the manager are confronted by one of the robbers.

Joe and his two lifelong pals Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin) find out that their pension fund is gone, thanks to some corporate trickery.  As fallout from this maneuver, the bank’s about to foreclose on his mortgage, putting him, his daughter and grandchild on the street. That infuriates Joe, who  decides that he needs to rob the bank that’s handling the pension funds.

Joe convinces Willie and Albert to join him, and the three of them find out what they need to do, thanks to a workable, but slightly convoluted stream of events.

Naturally, nothing is ever that simple, and there are complications, but that’s the fun of this film. The interplay between the three of them is wonderful, and “smooth”, because it’s clear the actors work well together. I’m surprised they haven’t appeared in other films before, because it seems like they have.  There are some other cameo appearances by well-known, older actors I won’t mention, and they properly gel with the situation. Going in Style builds to a conclusion that had me guessing to the end. I won’t say how close it is to the original film’s finale.

With the upcoming summer blockbusters about to burst on the scene, I think I can safely say this movie will make it to my top 10 of 2017.


Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell started as a Japanese Manga (comic), was adapted to a well-received animated film in 1995, then a successful animated series that ran from 2002-2005, and then another movie in 2004, another movie in 2006, and another in 2008, and a reboot of the story in 2013.  All of these are based on the original manga, and have been received differently. When it was announced that there would be a live-action film based on it, expectations were higher than high.

Throughout these interpretations is the same basic story. It is the future. Robotics and cybernetic implants are commonplace. Many people are enhanced with implants and can do extraordinary things. That also leads to crime. Within the Japanese government, Public Security Section 9 is a force who deals with counterterrorism and all sorts of computer/cyber crime. There are variations to this in the various instances of the adaptations, but the rest of this review discusses the film in question.

The Major(Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind – her brain is placed in a completely cybernetic body. Her sense of self is called the Ghost, spirit, or soul, if you will, and her body, the Shell. As a human, she was rescued from downing, and as such, the Hanka Corporation chose her for this experiment. Deemed a success, she is assigned to Section 9. Fast forward to a year later, she is the point person on a suspected attack on a hack involving a high-level person in the Hanka Corporation. Someone is trying to steal information from him by sending a robot geisha to a dinner/reception he is holding. Something is amiss, and the Major is put on the case.

That all transpires within the first 10-15 minutes of the film, and I will not divulge any more. There is a lot of furor about the casting of Scarlett Johansson, because the Major has always been a Japanese woman.  I personally was disappointed, originally, and I don’t know why it was done, but perhaps it could have been related to getting funding/approval for the movie to be made, at all. I will say that they “address” that in the story, but I won’t say more, as it’s part of the story.

There is plenty of action in this film. It’s all highly choreographed, as have been the various animations in the past. The kineticism and energy of these scenes have been one of the most appealing aspects of the previous incantations, and here they meet expectations. The computer and hacking scenes are a little less interesting, as the previous shows have made a strong effort to ratchet up the visual nature of them. Here, they are interesting, but not as visually stimulating.

Along with the visual, there is a lot of dialogue to pad the story with “history” and explanation of the concepts. Those moments can drag for people who are familiar, but they are necessary for people who aren’t.

This film is visually stunning. This is a very rich world, and they can only do so much in a movie that runs 1:47. There are a couple of characters who are well known within the series, but are relegated to them having a scene or two that seem perfunctory, like “I’m this guy, and I do this (and then they do it)”. Again, that’s them loading up the story so there can be a sequel, or they are providing these  elements to make the faithful happy. I can’t say, though there’s a ton of material to cover for this movie so that people understand what’s going on.

One aspect of the previous versions of this show has been the music. The choices were always interesting and full, on their own. Many different styles were used. Here, Clint Mansell, an exceptional composer, has done a decent job, however none of his work was truly memorable. There’s nothing “wrong” with what he wrote, but it didn’t fully work, for me.

The background cityscape this movie exists in is full of Eye Candy – super-sized advertising via hologram, people with various implants walking in the background, crazy vehicles of all sorts and sizes, and so on. There’s a lot to see, and I suspect after several viewings there will still be more to discover.

All this being said, it is a good film. It’s an updated re-telling of the 1995 movie, with some things added on that came along from the series. The final confrontation is acceptable, but not mind-blowing.  I did see it in 3D, but there wasn’t enough that used it well (besides the city scenes) that I recommend you see it in 2D. Overall, it’s a mixed bag, and I suspect people that aren’t too familiar with the story will like it more than those who are.


Logan (2017)

Logan is the latest film from the Marvel X-Men comic book franchise. This review presumes you are aware of the previous movies, if not the comics. Its primary focus is on the X-Man Wolverine, aka Logan (Hugh Jackman).

It’s a few years in the future. Mutants have been eradicated from the face of the Earth, except for a few holdouts, like Logan. The remaining ones are in hiding. Logan is eking out a meager existence as a Limo driver. We see that he’s living in Mexico, and most of the money he earns is to pay for medications for Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is very ill. Also with them is Caliban (Stephen Merchant), another mutant who takes care of the three of them.

All of them are getting by, until one day, a woman approaches Logan, and says she knows who he is. She wants to pay him to drive a little girl to a remote place in the Northern U.S.  The girl’s a mutant, too, but Logan initially refuses, for fear of being discovered, however, fate has other plans. There are people searching for the girl, and they’re not too happy. The movie becomes a chase, but that’s only a part of the story.

This is a well known story, at the fundamental level. The world-weary guy who wants to remain alone is thrust into the role of caregiver, and realizes what must be done. The first example of this that popped into my head was Father Goose, but there are many others. It’s a good story, if told well, and in this case, it is. In previous X-Men films, the mutants and their powers are at the forefront of the story, but in this one, they almost take a back seat to the plot. I am pleased that they do, which allows the writers to come up with a real story that, on its surface, is a bit silly for most of the X-Men movies.

I do recommend this film. Please note that it is rated R for violence, and there is a lot in this movie.