The Foreigner (2017)

Capsule Review (Minimal spoilers):

The Foreigner is a new film starring Jackie Chan. It’s based on a novel by author Stephen Leather, who co-wrote the screenplay. The basic plot is one of revenge, but the trailers are a bit misleading, because it’s a lot more than that. There is a little bit of political intrigue mixed to the story, and makes this movie a bunch more than just another Taken ripoff. Recommended.

The Foreigner is rated R for violence.

Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers):

After his daughter is killed in a terrorist explosion, Quan Ngoc Minh (Jackie Chan) wants answers. A unknown splinter faction of the IRA has claimed credit, and no one is exactly certain who they are. Frustrated by a lack of traction in the case, Quan turns to Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a minister in the government, who is a former member of the IRA. Perhaps he can find out, however, he is less than cooperative. Quan is convinced he knows more, but he is less than forthcoming. He then tries to convince Hennessy to provide the information by other-than-legal means.

Hennessy has his own pressures. He’s been attempting to work both sides of the fence, to smooth out relations and integrate them together. He walks a dangerous tightrope.

The trailers for the film focus on Jackie Chan’s character Quan, thrown in an explosion or two, and one would think it’s pretty straightforward, however, it really isn’t. He does more than a few stunts, and at 63, he’s still got it. There are a few turns and tweaks to the story, taking us into unpredictable territory, and it’s a welcome change.  More than a handful of the characters are decently fleshed out, so you have to spread your focus on what’s going on. There is palpable tension, and real heart to this story, which helps make it interesting in ways I hadn’t expected.

The stunts are good, the story isn’t a slow plod to the inevitable conclusion, and the soundtrack is moody and helps make it more appealing.  I recommend this film, especially because it’s a lot more than I’d expected.


New York Comic Con 2017 – Panel Discussions

Well, the 2017 NYCC has come and gone. As I’ve said in the past, their ticket purchasing process leaves a lot to be desired. I queued up for buying them, and within 10-15 minutes, I was able to purchase.  I was only able to get Thursday and Friday tickets. Sunday was also available, but I opted not to. I spent most of Thursday walking the convention retail floor, but went to a couple panels. Friday was mostly panels. Here are reports on the panels I attended, and be forewarned, they may contain spoilers:

I Know That Voice: The series

John DiMaggio funded an excellent documentary of the same name, which was released in 2013. It interviewed dozens of voice actors, the ones who speak for cartoons, animation, and even commercials. It’s a great doc, and well worth seeing, especially if you love those things.

John, along with other panelists Nolan North, Jess Harnell, and Rob Paulsen, talked it up, basically saying that there’s enough recorded material from all the interviews that they could piece them together and make a short series with it all.  Amazing stuff.  I helped fund the project, and have downloaded and watched the interviews. They’re right – there’s more than enough. DiMaggio’s putting out feelers to see if any of the streaming services would be interested.

The World of Philip K. Dick – The Man in the High Castle and PKD’s Electric Dreams

Amazon is producing an anthology series based on PKD’s short stories, much like The Outer Limits or Twilight Zone. I missed most of this discussion, unfortunately. Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galatica fame is an executive producer.

Season 3 of The Man in the High Castle is underway, and should premiere in March of 2018. Rufus Sewell (Obergruppenführer John Smith) commented that people are recognizing him as the Nazi commander in inappropriate places in public. They were light on spoilers, but did show a clip that hints at what’s to come:

Robot Chicken:

`More of the same, and they showed clips of the 1/2 hour special dedicated to The Walking Dead (and Talking Dead).

The Orville

Seth MacFarlane wasn’t at the con, but appeared via Skype, and someone made the ‘symmetry on the viewscreen joke’ from the pilot episode. Actors Adrienne Palicki(Kelly Grayson), Penny Johnson Gerald (Dr. Claire Finn), and Scott Grimes (Gordon Malloy) were there, as well as Producers David A. Goodman and Brannon Braga were there, all fielding questions. People complimented them for the recent episode on gender, and MacFarlane mentioned they’re still trying to fine tune the balance between comedy and drama. The show has gotten better and is doing well in the ratings, but there was no word from Fox about getting a full season commitment. They have an order for 12 total episodes.

Family Guy

They aired an upcoming episode, which was a trio of interpretations of an event on the show, as seen by a famous director. I won’t spoil which ones, but each really captured their styles. Carrie Fisher leant her voice to the episode, and it was her last appearance on the show. Adam West did, too, and they said they’d recorded enough of him that he’ll be in perhaps half of the season’s episodes. They were considering tribute episodes.

Seth MacFarlane appeared via skype, as before, but Alex Borstein (Lois), Seth Green (Chris), Mike Henry (Cleveland) and Patrick Warburton all fielded questions. It was hosted by writer/co-executive producer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, and all the cast members told us the way they memorized her name – mostly singing it in their own styles.

Pacific Rim Uprising

The sequel to Pacific Rim is coming in early 2018. It takes place 10 years after the end of the first film, and stars a mostly new cast, including John Boyega.  The trailer they showed us can be found here:


Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Capsule Review (Minimal spoilers):

Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to the 1982 movie Blade Runner, and takes place thirty years after the original. It’s a continuation of the story, and ties back to the original in an interesting way. It’s a long film (2 hours 44 minutes) that moves at a glacial pace, but the premise is deep, and worth the time. Good writing and stunning visuals make this a must-see for fans of the original movie, but it provides enough detail that it stands on its own, for everyone else. Highly recommended. The film is rated R for violence.


Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers)

As we knew from the first film, Replicants are artificial humans created as slave labor for humans, mainly for use in colonizing other planets. They had a limited life span (4 years) because they became uncontrollable after a time. Since that time, there was an uprising, and a great loss of historical data was lost. The old Tyrrell corporation went bankrupt, but after the uprising, another company came along to refine replicants. Around that time, some were created without a lifespan, and after the uprising was put down, most were terminated, but some escaped.

Enter K (Ryan Gosling). He’s a newer replicant that is controlled by the Wallace Corporation, and he has become a Blade Runner for the police. He’s tracking down and terminating the last of the runaways, and in the process, has found a strange anomaly that he can’t understand. It turns out he’s discovered something that has the potential to cause another upheaval, and he’s been assigned to find a resolution to the situation. Naturally, it’s not that simple.

This is an amazing film. It captures the essence of the original and fleshes it out even more. Newer concepts are introduced, and the societal implications are big, but not completely explained. In the original, director Ridley Scott made the public scenes realistic, flooding them with a sense of reality that is rare to see on film. The sequel does the same, and in a much better fashion than the most recent Ghost In The Shell movie. Everything that happens flows in a logical manner, and not just visually, but emotionally, as well.

Ryan Gosling’s performance is cold and calculating, but his job in the film is to be that way. He’s one of those actors who maintains a similar tone in his performance throughout a movie, almost dispassionately. He doesn’t emote well, but for this role, it suits the character. He does have moments where he lashes out, but he has a way of maintaining his demeanor throughout.  Here, it works.

There are many characters in the film, and each one of them is on screen long enough for you to really get a sense of who and what they are. It’s a trivial thing to have, but makes the movie more fulfilling.

I won’t elaborate about the story, but I will say that there were a couple of surprises in it. Some bits, like the character development I mentioned, are rather secondary to the plot, but really enhance the movie. Some of them are things that most movies would just gloss over, but here, they spend enough time letting them play out that you accept rather than question. There were no Deus Ex Machina moments in the film, and that was a huge relief. In my opinion, the slow plodding speed of the movie really helps you absorb it. Rapid pacing would ruin the effect.

I’ll also note that the soundtrack ( by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch) was an homage to the original film, borrowing from it rather heavily. It hit the right tone, mostly very powerful, but somehow was a little lacking, and felt more incidental than specifically memorable.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Capsule Review (Minimal spoilers):

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a sequel to the 2015 film Kingsman: The Secret Service. It puts Eggsy (Taron Egerton) back in the middle of a another plot to “change” the world.

This sequel tries to top the frenetic fight scenes of the first film, but doesn’t quite get there. There is some rather graphic violence, and, to a certain degree, it parallels the storyline of the first film. The Villain is out there, which elevates this film above the usual spy thriller.

I do recommend this film if you’re expecting something slightly better than the usual violent spy/action movie.

Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers)

The Kingsmen support facilities are destroyed early in the film, with only Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) surviving. They come to realize there’s a similar organization in the United States, called the Statesmen, who are effectively cowboy spies. With all these secret spy organizations out there, you’d think they’d be aware of each other, but nope.

The villain, Poppy (Julianne Moore), runs a secret drug cartel that, naturally, supplies most of the drugs to the world. Behind her cheery, but psychotic, behavior is a ruthless drive to be the best, and she clearly is. She demands absolute loyalty, and devises a scheme that will hold the world hostage, until her demands are met. Of course, there’s a deadline, and it’s rapidly approaching.

The deadline approaches, and Poppy chooses to get the US President (Bruce Greenwood) to negotiate, er, capitulate, but that just makes the situation worse. Eggsy has to avoid that ordeal and get to the bottom of it. Poppy is not without her resources, so she’s definitely making his success difficult to achieve.

As I mentioned, there’s some graphic violence, so be forewarned. There’s a celebrity appearance that eventually makes a crack that mimics the similar situation in the first film, which led me down the path of realizing the two movies were very similar in plot, much like James Bond movies are all the same, to a degree. Fortunately, this sequel doesn’t really spend any time telling us how they weren’t James Bond, like the first movie did, so that’s a relief.

I do recommend it if you liked the first film, so long as you don’t have high expectations. If you didn’t like the first, don’t bother with this one.