Category Archives: Movie Review

Justice League (2017)

Capsule Review (Minimal spoilers):

Justice League is DC Comic’s latest attempt to bring their comics to the big screen. It’s a followup to 2016’s Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, which set the stage for the formation of the Justice League from the comics. It makes a good-faith effort to repair the flaws of the previous movie. It succeeds, and sets the stage for future DC movies quite well. Recommended.

There is creature-fighting violence, and an appropriate level of humor.

There is a mid-credits scene that’s a nice cap on the events, and then a post-credits scene that adds some wrinkles.

Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers):

Justice League

The film starts with a good montage of what happened next, as it were. After Superman’s death in the previous movie, people are trying to get their lives back together. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) has stopped covering front page news. Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Godot) is still saving the world, in small ways. Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is on the trail of some creatures that are kidnapping some people and killing others.  It’s becoming a pattern that’s adding up to something, something that he can’t prevent on his own. After a time, he talks to Wonder Woman, and they agree, they need help. That’s when they reach out for more.

At it’s basic level, the movie becomes a ‘follow the MacGuffin/create the team/face the bad guys’ sort of thing. As per the previous film, Batman and Wonder Woman had Lex Luthor’s files on The Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Each have their own reasons for joining or not, but given the title of the film, you know they eventually do. Each encounter was reasonably thought out, and they all do realize they must play a part in what’s to come.

Unlike BvS, the tone of this film is a lot less bleak. My initial assessment of the film had me loving it, though on successive watchings, I can see how desperate I was to like it amidst the sea of Marvel movies. The movie, while  mostly dark and moody, has some better moments, thanks to decent dialogue, and a story line where all the heroes don’t act like idiots when it’s convenient for the plot.

Speaking of story, it relies on elements from BvS, as well as this year’s Wonder Woman. A new foe appears to menace everyone, but at the real heart of the movie, it’s team building. Not everyone gets along, and all for different reasons. I won’t spoil any of those, because some of that’s the best part of the film. Everyone has to feel each other out to get a better sense of how they’ll properly mesh together.

As mentioned, there are jokes. Most of them are related to some joshing amongst the team, for who they are, as heroes, and what they do, or won’t, as the case may be. My favourite of these are related to The Flash, and it just helps form him personality as different from The Flash on the WB TV show.

The soundtrack is rather good, too. The opening montage uses a song from Leonard Cohen quite effectively, and the majority of the soundtrack is by Danny Elfman, who makes use of his old Batman score, and adds some themes from previous DC movies. It’s a worthwhile compilation that complements the film.

I do recommend the film. It’s not a great film, but it’s comforting to see that DC is starting to get things right.

 

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Capsule Review (Minimal spoilers):

Thor: Ragnarok is the latest superhero movie from the Marvel Universe of characters, and is, in my opinion, one of the best movies they’ve produced. Every component of the movie works – the story, the visuals, the music, and the characters combine to make it a very entertaining movie. Oh, and the humor, lots and lots of humor in this film.

As has become the tradition with Marvel films, there are both mid-credits and post credits sequences, which both advance the overall  Marvel story. It covers a lot of ground in its two hours and ten minutes run time, and is well worth the price of admission.

Highly recommended.

Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers):

A forgotten Asgardian, Hela (Cate Blanchett) has returned to claim her title, but not if Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) have anything to say about it. While fighting her, Thor and Loki are diverted elsewhere, while Hela makes her claim. Naturally, the Asgardians  won’t just relinquish control.

Thor ends up in an unlikely place, and is captured, but allowed a way out. The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) holds gladiatorial games, and decrees that Thor will be released if he defeats The Grandmaster’s Champion. The trailers give it away, but I won’t, in the highly unlikely case there is someone out there who still hasn’t seen the answer. Of course, nothing is ever that simple.

This movie is firing on all cylinders. The story is good, and complex, to a point. All of the characters with speaking parts make sense in their own ways, instead of just being their to accommodate the main characters. Meanwhile, everything looks incredible – the costumes alone really stand out for the secondary and background characters, with wild designs and color schemes that have to be seen to be believed. They put a lot of effort into making truly unique supporting characters.

The music, at first didn’t really seem to fit. It’s full of ’80s synth flourishes mixed in with its dance beats. It didn’t make a lot of sense, until you couple it with the wild pastels of the supporting characters, and something clicks.  These two components work together to make it an homage to ’80s films in general. Flashy and fabulous. Oh, and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo was the composer.

I was really pleased that the trailers don’t really give a lot away. There’s much more to this film than the trailers tease. As mentioned, this movie starts to set up the next few Marvel movies, without being heavy-handed about it, at all.

Definitely recommend Thor: Ragnarok as the sort of movie you should see in the theaters. The grandeur is so very appealing. There’s a strong likelihood I’ll see it a second time before it leaves the theaters.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Logan Lucky (2017)

Capsule Review (Minimal spoilers)

Logan Lucky is the latest film from director Steven Soderbergh, who’s known for creating Magic Mike, and the Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13 movies.

The Logan brothers, Jimmy and Clyde (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver), are not doing so well. Jimmy gets laid off from his construction job, but decides to strike back by staging an epic robbery.  However, Jimmy knows they’re going to need help.

This is a finely crafted film, and I recommend it. There a lot of twists and turns, and there is more humor than I expected. There is some “mild” violence and crude language, but the film is rated PG-13, so gauge accordingly.

Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers)

Jimmy didn’t reveal his leg was injured, so he’s fired from his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s his only income, and he’s none too happy about it. It’s a crucial time with his daughter, too, because Sadie (Farrah MacKenzie) has entered a beauty pageant competition, and he was supposed to take her to a preliminary event, but missed the day. Naturally, his ex-wife Bobbi Jo (Katie Holmes), reads him the riot act because he missed it, and because he can’t hold a job, as well.

This is when he’s had enough and decides to rob the Speedway. He gets his brother Clyde on board, but they need more people, including his sister, and needs advice from someone in jail.

It goes on from there, but this movie could have been a mess of scenes and people doing their part. Given Soderbergh’s experience with the Ocean’s films, it goes well. There’s humor to be found in the dialog, and it works. The crime’s never just a straightforward ordeal, but it plays out well.

There are enough surprises in the film to keep it from being predictable, including the outcome. There are some interesting actor choices in the film, so I won’t spoil them.

If you hadn’t guessed, I rather enjoyed this film, and I’d put it as a strong contender for my annual top 10 films of the year.

There’s an amusing note at the end of the credits that scrolls off quickly.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

Capsule Review

In The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is given the near-impossible task of escorting hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) to very important trial in The Hague. Unfortunately for them, the person he’s testifying against really doesn’t want him to appear.

This movie is violent, and there is harsh language, so it’s not for people with tame sensibilities. For those that expect that, it’s a rather clever buddy comedy that is everything you’d expect it to be.

Highly recommended for those who want that sort of film!

 

 

Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers)

This is essentially a buddy cop film, minus the cops. Michael Bryce was a bodyguard that was highly rated, until one of his charges was killed. Since then, he’s been scraping by with low-level clients who need protection.

After an Interpol prisoner transport goes awry, Bryce has the assignment dropped in his lap, whether he likes it or not. He’s well acquainted with Darius, but only because of the jobs he’s ruined for Michael. They are clearly not friends – Michael plays it cool, by the book, in a way that doesn’t attract attention. Meanwhile, Darius is an improviser, which infuriates Michael to no end.

This sort of film lives and dies on the interaction between the two main characters, and it excels at that. The two argue and come to blows over certain things, but they realize they have to make it to the destination in one piece. There is a definite back and forth between them, with neither gaining the upper hand in the end.

Being a buddy-cop film, there’s also a lot of fighting. Their opponent, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), will stop at nothing to prevent Darius from testifying. The conflicts that come from this are relentless, and each one is more audacious than the previous one. There are car chases that are extremely well choreographed, and in my opinion, are the best I’ve seen in several years.

Some of the best buddy cop films insert humor, sometimes to the point of being rather strained. That’s not the case here, as the comedy flows from the bickering, and seems more integral to these character’s lives than just something tacked on. It flows freely, as does the profanity – we are talking about Samuel L. Jackson here, not to mention the guy who played Deadpool. It definitely works for this movie. The interplay between Reynolds and Jackson rivals that of the back and forth between DeNiro and Grodin in Midnight Run, which shares more than a few parallels with this movie, but with more profanity. A lot more.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great casting for Darius’ wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek). There’s a scene, and you’ll know it, that just works so well for her. The stunt coordinator and stunt people did an excellent job here!

I definitely recommend The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Capsule Review

Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets is a fantastical science fiction tale, brought to you by Luc Besson, who has made such films as The Fifth Element, Lucy, and The Professional. Valerian, as I will call it henceforth, is an adaptation of a French comic series, Valerian and Laureline, which ran from 1967 to 2010. I’m unfamiliar with the original material, and this was probably intended to be the start of a new movie series, but despite the amazing visuals and strong base story, it will probably exist alone.

Stone-faced acting and a near total lack of chemistry between the two leads lessens the excitement of the film. It’s sad because this could have been a greater movie.

Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers)

The City of a Thousand Planets came to be when nations of Earth cooperated and created an international space station that everyone contributed to. As time went on, other worlds and species contributed to its growth over time.  This story takes place several hundred years beyond that,  and our story picks up from there.

Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are government agents. They’re tasked with confiscating a contraband device that’s being purchased by less-than-legal citizens.  This turn of events has major repercussions throughout known space, and causes a load of trouble for the City.

Stunning visuals abound, and are not part of this story. Repeated viewings will provide more detail on that front, but it makes for a lush movie experience. So many possibilities there. It’s a good story, regardless of what comes next in this review.

Valerian and Laureline work as a team, and it’s clear from the start that Valerian wants more. Laureline rebuffs him, but he doesn’t give up that easily. Here is the main problem with the film – these two just don’t work together, as a couple. I’m not convinced of the spark, and it’s as if they interact not because they want to, but because they must. Neither actor is very expressive in a way that tells me they like each other. While Cara Delevingne has very expressive eyes and eyebrows, it stops there. She’s like a joyless Christina Ricci, but without the intensity. Dane DeHaan is no better. I almost feel like someone shot their faces up with Botox before shooting the film, and their atonal acting just ruins it.  Yes, they say their lines about their attraction, but I’m not convinced. Not. One. Bit. More than anything else, it ruined my enjoyment of the movie. Rihanna is a scene stealer, but I won’t say more about her role.

As much as it pains me, I cannot recommend the film. If you really want to satisfy your curiosity, by all means, do so, but whatever medium you choose, definitely watch a high definition recording. It’s a very pretty movie.

Dunkirk (2017)

Capsule Review

Dunkirk is a retelling of the incidents surrounding the Allied evacuation of France at Dunkirk in World War II. It is an intense war drama that is less graphic than the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, but just as compelling. There is wartime violence, and it’s rather intimate, and great in its way.

Strongly recommended if you like movies of this type.

Standard Review (with some minor spoilers):

Without going into too much detail, Dunkirk focuses on several soldiers, mostly, all  part of the forces trying to escape France. The Axis powers have encircled them on the land, and there’s no escape, except via the English Channel. You’d think it’d be straightforward, but it’s not such a simple task when there’re several hundred thousand of you!

It’s a bit confusing, at first, but it mostly focuses on several individuals. Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) is the naval officer in charge of the evacuation. Cillian Murphy plays a soldier who is rescued at sea. Civilians with boats were asked to surrender their boats, but Mr Brown (Mark Rylance) just leaves England with his boat, and two shipmates to help him. He and his crew more or less form the core of the film. There are a lot of characters to remember, but you don’t really need to, in order to follow the story.

This is a film that’s told Rashomon style, covering some of the same events from different perspectives. It really seems authentic, and there are some nuances that many war films of this type get horribly wrong. The plot’s a bit confusing until you get into the rhythm of the film. You should eventually catch on, though. In an interesting twist, the Axis power soldiers at all. The primary focus is on the British.

I have to comment on how powerful this movie is. It winds you up and practically never gives you a release. Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack drives the movie’s tension, which intensifies throughout the movie. It’s a vital component to this excellent war drama. I noticed a couple of people in the audience who were literally on the edge of their seats throughout. After the credits started, I even overheard several guys mansplaining the events around the evacuation of France to their partners and friends. Be prepared for that.

This film is one of the great war films that will probably stand the test of time. I’m probably overstating that, but right now, it’s what I’m feeling.

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!