Month: May 2021

Movie Review – Batman

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger

Year: 1989

I can appreciate that Tim Burton has a uniquely dark and twisted approach to film, which usually plays spectacularly.  I can also appreciate that Batman as a theme can be pretty goofy, so going over the top isn’t that insane an idea.  But what I can’t swallow is Burton’s mind and Nicholson’s take combining into what can only be described as a joke on us.  The gag is that Batman is a real movie, not a shockingly stupid skit put on by idiots.  I can’t remember exactly how I felt about it when I was young, but I know how I feel about it now, and summarizing that feeling includes many swear words.

Gotham City is a crumbling metropolis, ruled over by gangs and crime and corruption, until the shadow of the city is so dark its people live in constant fear.  Newly on the main stage is super-criminal Jack Napier, who an accident turns into The Joker.  He now begins playfully murdering the populace, held back only by The Batman, a mysterious presence who we know is really millionaire Bruce Wayne.  In the middle is Vicki Vale, a journalist, who is trying to uncover the story and, at the same time, falling in love with Wayne, whose face may be hidden, but whose heart may give him away.

The only good thing to come out of this Batman is the theme song; Danny Elfman is a giant genius.  Apart from that, Tim Burton failed to bring anything awesome to the character, instead trying to force the comic into his version of cinema, which I usually love, but this time I couldn’t stand.  I literally was appalled and angry throughout most the movie, as around every turn was something so incredibly dumb it was hard to believe.  The Joker, his goons, the law, the reporters; good god.  And the Prince music; really?  Prince?  Like Crown Prince of Crime, I guess, but no thank you.  Keaton was abysmal, all Basinger did was scream, and Nicholson was a nightmare.  I hated every second, it’s perhaps the worst superhero movie I’ve ever seen, and I’m about to watch the next three; wish me luck.

My rating: ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎


Movie Review – Army of the Dead

Category : Movie Review

Director: Zack Snyder

Starring: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Nora Arnezeder

Matthias Schweighofer, Omar Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera

Year: 2021

I liked Dawn of the Dead, 300, and Man of Steel.  I didn’t like Watchmen, Dawn of Justice, or Justice League.  So I’m neither a Zach Snyder “stan” nor a Zach Snyder “hater”, I just want to enjoy a good movie and if it isn’t good I will say so.  My attempt to stay even, as far as taste goes, is, I’m sure, only infrequently successful, but I try, and I want films to work, I don’t root for them to fail, I believe in being as honest as I can be.  I say all that to impress upon you that I have no agenda when calling Army of the Dead a complete waste of space and an utter disaster.  Snyder or not, like him or not, this movie simply isn’t good and doesn’t work well; that’s not really a matter of opinion, it’s a matter have having eyes & ears.

You’ve heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?  Well, how about Siegfried and Roy and Zombies, because the undead are coming to Vegas, baby.  An outbreak of a military experiment caused a zombie apocalypse in the Nevada desert, and Las Vegas quickly becomes a kingdom of the unliving.  We win the war, wall off the entire city, it doesn’t spread, but there are still countless human-eaters living inside, a problem that is finally addressed when POTUS decides to drop a bomb and nuke the whole damn town.  But before that happens, a crack team of mercenaries is hired to sneak into Vegas, steal a bundle of casino cash, and get the hell out of there much richer than they came in.  Well, it’s not gonna go that smoothly, obviously, and most everyone will probably die; welcome to the waking afterlife, party people.

In concept and in audacity, Army of the Dead is awesome.  But that’s …it.  What starts out as silly, funny, kinda cool, really bloody, and pretty promising, quickly becomes everything you would never want from a movie, and you’d think a professional filmmaker would notice that if I did.  It’s not that Snyder is bad, it’s not that Bautista is bad, it’s not that zombies are bad; it’s that this movie wasn’t crafted correctly and the end product is more than messy, it’s downright hideous.  They simply didn’t do anything well; the weird cover music, the constant head shots, the pauses for deep conversation, the little plot holes, the wonky edits, the jokes that fell flat, the mediocre acting.  It was one giant problem, an obvious idea-gone-bad, full of bumbling cliches and clunky dialogue, until you about give up and hope everyone just dies already.

My rating: ★ ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎


Movie Review – Greenland

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Starring: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd

Year: 2020

If you enjoyed The Day After Tomorrow, you’ll be happy with a modernized version of the same general tale in Greenland, set similarly in a collapsing ecosystem and focusing on a family dynamic instead of a series of escalating disasters.  Don’t get me wrong, escalating disasters are awesome, Dante’s Peak is one of my cult favorites, and I generally dig any poorly done ARMAGEDDON film, because they’re usually tons of fun despite tons of problems.  But Greenland is different, just like Day After Tomorrow was different, because it doesn’t try to bludgeon us with cataclysm, it pulls us in with heart, and apparently that makes a DEEP IMPACT.

The Garrity family is going through a rough patch; John & Allison might get separated, 7-year-old Nathan is in the middle, and their perfect bubble has been burst without warning.  But you know how they say “it could always be worse”?  Well, that’s true, as the entire Earth is about to find out.  A large, passing comet is going to skim by much closer than predicted, leaving behind fragments that will soar through our atmosphere and cause a variety of damage.  Kept quiet at first, scientists believe that one chunk might bring with it an “extinction event”, and governments across the globe scramble to put as many folks underground as possible, using a lottery system to value some lives over others.  The Garritys are chosen, but first they have to get to the rescue plane, which will not be easy, not in a land gone mad by impending doom.

Setting aside my puns, the genre’s special effects, the over-dramatic acting, the ridiculously dangerous events, disaster flicks are a good time, an entertaining excursion, and that’s why we keep watching them.  We keep showing up, studios keep pumping out, and everyone wins, even if the product isn’t really (or usually) all that great.  But some rise above, and I was struck by how Greenland played the same cards as Tomorrow, and so won the same big pot.  Let the events unfold, don’t force them, don’t even make them the primary focus.  Let the journey be the point, the family, the survival, the great heroism in the face of great change; that’s the ticket.  The plot worked well because it was important, not a sideshow to the explosions; it was simply a good story with surprisingly good acting.  Also, there was more being said beneath the surface; first responder respect, immigration prejudice, pandemic control.  And of course, yeah, the end of the world looked awesome too.  Greenland is shockingly good, given the premise and the cast, but we need to make sure we reward it so that filmmakers will use it as an example going forward.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ⭐︎


Movie Review – Alien: Resurrection

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman

Year: 1997

Alien Resurrection is more Jason X than Aliens, a grab at the fading glory of a franchise and a complete miss.  Actually, it’s exactly like Jason X; awful & unnecessary.  Alien 3 was pointless enough, not great like its buddies, and then they decided to make another?  Not a good idea.  And then there the Alien/Predator movies, which we won’t even go into; I’m not sure those are considered canon.  Suffice it to say, there should not have been a 4th installment, or at least Resurrection should not have been it.  Not even Alien Covenant is this bad; at least that movie was just kinda poorly made, not devoid or coolness and only palatable as a joke.

200 years after Ripley’s death, Ripley is reborn.  A group of military scientists have grown her in a space laboratory, combining her makeup with that of a xenomorph, thus allowing one to grow inside her so that they can study it at leisure.  They would simply discard the new Ripley as trash after extraction, but she seems to have unpredicted skills and strengths, which they want to study as well.  Meanwhile, a starship arrives at the facility with a shipment of bodies, that are then implanted with aliens as well.  The plan is obviously a bad one, blows up in the faces of all involved, and the creatures take over the station.  Ripley will now lead the survivors to safety, as she ponders her own existence and her own connection to the animals that have always been her destiny.

Well, watching this was an experience.  It’s Alien, sure, but it’s also Lockout, a running-around-a-space-station-with-bad-actors extravaganza that is definitely not worth your time.  The creatures are cool, that’s about all there is; there’s really nothing else to grab onto.  Weaver & Ryder are god-awful, which should be a surprise to no one, and everyone else sucked royally as well.  The whole movie is a chase, a gross out, a dumb storyline; there’s no reason for audiences to jump in, not even xenomorph lore is enough.  The cast in interesting, but don’t be fooled; this isn’t the franchise you’ve watched and want more of, it’s a throwaway money grab that’s not even good sci-fi fun.

My rating: ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎


Movie Review – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Category : Movie Review

Director: George Lucas

Starring: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman

Year: 2005

Finally a prequel seems to understand Star Wars, and to, more importantly, understand how to entertain an audience.  AND, maybe most importantly, how to work around bad acting, because there’s no denying the failure of both actors who played Anakin, but there’s also no doubt that Revenge of the Sith is the best prequel film, hands down, blowing Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones out of the water.  This is mostly due to the reins being taken away from Christensen, the story centered on action and history instead, which is, after all, why we’re watching, so you wonder why it took Lucas so long to figure out what it was he should have been delivering to us.

Anakin is the chosen one, the Jedi and the Senate are weak, evil pulls the strings of events around the galaxy, and nothing will ever be the same again.  After the Trade Federation was brought down, after the Seperatists coalesced into a solid group, there’s not much left to do but fight for the future of the Republic, and that’s exactly what the Clone Troopers were bred for.  But as war rages against Dooku and Grievous, the Sith gather power behind the backs of the Jedi, and current events might be just to their liking.  When an ally is revealed to be on the dark side, Anakin will have to decide between the peace of the Jedi and the power of the Sith.

This time around, Lucas got it right, mostly by relying on legend and action, and finally admitting that focusing on the acting was a …poor choice.  Anakin and Padme still have scenes together, and they are the worst scenes, but they are full of doubt and fear and horror, which lends itself well to the story, so it works just fine, as long as you don’t pay attention to their lack of talent too closely.  The rest of the story is helmed by Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Yoda, Bale, the cool characters, and so that works to the film’s benefit.  The fighting is non-stop, the deaths comes in droves, there are heart-breaking sequences, and finally, once again, we feel like we’re watching Star Wars, which is all we ever really wanted.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ⭐︎


Movie Review – The Woman in the Window

Category : Movie Review

Director: Joe Wright

Starring: Amy Adams, Fred Hechinger, Julianne Moore

Wyatt Russell, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry

Year: 2021

The Woman in the Window is a combination of Rear Window and The Girl on the Trail, in title, concept, and execution, which is exactly as frantic as it sounds and as bad as it could potentially be.  They even did those two films in order; it’s Hitchcock at the beginning, very suspenseful, quite fascinating, and then amateur-poorly-writes-a-popular-thriller at the end, complete with booze, binges, affairs, and face stabbings.  Had they maybe stuck with Alfred for a bit longer the entire outcome could have been different, had they not gone to the Gillian Flynn antics so soon.  But alas, and as much as I wanted to like this film, enjoyed it for a time, and rooted for it to succeed, the end is so bad and so outlandishly ruinous that there is no forgiving what they put us through, and no reason to recommend that anyone else sit down in front of such horror.

Anna Fox is an agoraphobic, a shut-in, her life existing only within her New York City house and within her own confused mind.  Her family is out of the picture, their distant a major part of her problem, but she fuels her disorders with drugs and alcohol until it’s hard for her to tell which end it up and which leads way, way down.  When a new family moves in across the street, Anna is curious, because that’s all she’s got do, spy on neighbors, but soon after meeting the wife she witnesses something terrible; that same woman being stabbed.  Immediately calling the police, Anna becomes confused when a woman is brought in who claims to be the mother of the family, alive & well, though it’s not the same woman Anna met.  Is she imagining things, did she dream it all, or was there really a murder, and will her mind stay together in one piece long enough for her to solve the mystery?

I’ll be honest; it was hard to watch Amy Adams this way, overweight & sloppy & scared & broken.  It’s not her typical character, she’s so special & strong & awesome & attractive, and while I know she can do anything because she’s one of the best working, it was hard for me to swallow this role, even despite the reasons this woman is this way in the story.  Her acting was spot on though, and really no one dropped the ball; all involved were completely committed, and it really was a nice ensemble cast.  The Hitchcock elements were a nice homage, this take on that classic was cool, and I really was invested for a while, as the story unfolded and the clues became more complicated.  But then the wheels came off.

It started when Anna relived her past, that scene was all wrong, and it went downhill from there.  The point became to shock us, to rattle us, not to deliver quality cinema and let us enjoy it ourselves, but rather to attempt to force us to enjoy it, which is a pressure I take personally when it’s applied to my viewing.  Tracy Letts, who had a small role and who I absolutely adore, adapted the obviously-bad novel for the screen, and he simply didn’t know how, creating an overly-dramatic sequence that acted as a climax but never really had the capacity to thrill us the way the film promised we’d be thrilled.  It was gross, bizarre, out of sync, and unsettling, not violent and heroic in the way it was intended.  Plus, as the spouse of a therapist, the mental health aspects from all angles were all off, and the entire team should have known better.  The end is a cop out, a roll over, and it generally just completely sucks, which is a pity, because The Woman in the Window isn’t all bad, it’s simply murdered in the final act and we are the unhappy witnesses.

My rating: ★ ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎


Movie Review – The Mitchells vs the Machines

Category : Movie Review

Director: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe

Starring: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph

Year: 2021

You should know that, though the film was created by Rianda & Rowe, it was produced by Miller & Lord, who directed Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie, and the 21 Jump Street movies.  The Mitchells vs the Machines feels much more like Cloudy & Lego than I wanted it to, feeding off that frantic energy until it almost exploded under the weight of its own insanity.  Honestly, it resembles those and a dozen other movies; this film doesn’t have an original bone in its entire bloated body.  I might be feeling extra harsh, and I think I know the reason; I really wanted to like this, for my kids to like this, for this to be the best animated film since Spiderverse.  But it simply isn’t/wasn’t/couldn’t, and that’s a real shame.

As Katie grows older, she realizes that she & her family are pretty weird.  Her dad is a burly nature enthusiast, her mom is always extremely positive, her brother is obsessed with dinosaurs, and Katie wants to be a filmmaker, though her early work is rather …unique.  But being unique doesn’t bother her, especially when she gets in to film school and realizes that so many others there will be just like her; strange, but in a good way.  Now if she could just get her dad to jump on board; they used to be close, but now they’re drifting apart.  Nothing an impromptu family road trip won’t fix, or at least until, at the same time, our cell phones turn against us and the robot uprising begins.  Wait, what?  Yup, the robot uprising; Katie just wanted to make movies, she didn’t want to live through one.  She and her family might, somehow, be the world’s only hope, which comes as much of a surprise to them as it does to the rest of humanity.

There are great pieces to MvsM, which is why so many people got so very excited about it and are claiming that it’s the best thing since Inside Out.  It’s not, it’s simply not, but I can actually see why they think that; it’s a pretty tricky little nugget of a film.  First, the animation style is awesome, very fun, and combines mediums in a cool way.  Second, the story has real heart behind all the action, it has something honest to say under all the jokes, and that’s rare.  Third, the robots & explosions & gags & surprises & computers & climaxes are all quite intense and eye-popping, you really can’t look away and will most definitely not get bored.  That’s all to the film’s credit, there are reasons to watch, my family had a good time, it’s that kind of flick; I just want the world to know that there are problems too.

I better address first that I can’t stand Danny McBride, and I don’t like Maya Rudolph that much either.  Constantly hearing McBride try to act his way through a paper bag through a microphone was torturous; the guy sucks.  Not only that, but his character was a complete Mr. Incredible clone, minus the cape, from the big chest to the inability to understand new tech, and it was pretty lazy not to make him more interesting.  Which brings me to the biggest hurdle I had in loving this film, and what ultimately tripped me up; it’s shockingly derivative.  Big Hero 6, Next Gen, Incredibles 2, that story of technology and family and saving the day; we’ve seen it a thousand times.  I didn’t see much of what’s new here, only recycled plots I’d viewwed before, and that reliance was apparent when the film constantly reran its own scenes, the few it knew how to do well, playing the same music, plugging the same videos, making the same jokes, touching on the same themes, over & over again.  It’s not that MvsM isn’t fun, of course it is, and I’d recommend that any family check it out; that’s the target, the family unit, watch & learn & feel together.  It’s simply not a high-end, upper-tier, animated instant classic, which is exactly what I wanted it to be and what some are calling it.  Lower the bar, enjoy the celebrity cameos, and have a, bumpy-but-entertaining ride.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎


Movie Review – Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw

Category : Movie Review

Director: Mark L. Lester

Starring: Lynda Carter, Marjoe Gortner, Jesse Vint

Year: 1976

Lynda Carter’s first feature film was Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw, and boy is it a doozy.  Not only does she show her boobs, play guitar, shoot a machine gun, and scream obscenities at police, but she does it all while holding her head high in a way that you would assume isn’t possible, considering the fact that this movie is about the worst ever made.  That must say something; she’s by far the best part of the film, doesn’t seem like she minds getting a little dirty, and somehow comes out a star (thanks to Wonder Woman of course, but still).  Bobbie Jo is an experience, I guess, if a wildly weird and wonky one.

Bobbie Jo is just a simple country girl from a small town but with big dreams, if only some hero would come driving through and sweep her off her feet, taking her to all the place and showing her all the experiences she ever imagined.  Well, as luck has it, in rolls Lyle Wheeler, with a quick gun and some lovely curly hair, although he isn’t exactly as heroic as he lets on.  In fact, the fancy car he’s driving is stolen, and the law will soon be after him, setting in motion events that will make him, Bobbie, and all their friends the most wanted bunch of crazy outlaws in the whole dern state.

So, of course this movie is bad; you can see that coming from the opening scene on.  It was sure stylish though: the cowboy motif, the fast cars, the Bandit & Hazzard action, which would actually come after, so maybe there’s some credit to be given here.  But not for the acting, the writing, the direction, the filming, the music, or the dialogue though; those all sucked.  They used the same two crappy songs the whole movie, it was just one gunfight after another by the end, and the plot was nonexistent about halfway through.  The only reason to watch is Carter, who is beautiful and surprisingly talented, even against such a terrible backdrop and with completely awful complimentary pieces.  Bobbie Jo is best avoided, unless you’re simply morbidly curious.

My rating: ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎ ⭐︎


Movie Review – Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Category : Movie Review

Director: George Lucas

Starring: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor

Year: 2002

The Phantom Menace was even worse than a remembered it, a complete waste of our excitement at the time and a total disaster no matter when you watch it.  I expected similar sadness from Attack of the Clones, a film I rated better than its predecessor when I first saw it in theatres, but a movie I expected to hate this time around.  But while Hayden “Sk8er Boi” Christensen is as god-awful as anything you can possibly imagine, even he can’t ruin what it otherwise a pretty good Star Wars movie, one that boasts far better acting as a whole in Lucas’ second try at a prequel.

Ten years after the events of the trade war on Naboo and the election of Palpatine as the leader of the Senate, relationships between star systems have never been tenser.  Some, the Separatist movement, want to break away from the Senate completely, and are building a droid army to do so.  Others want to build an army of their own, a Grand Army of the Republic, to make sure no separation takes place.  Many Senators, like Padme Amidala, want no such army, as, with it, comes too much power, but an attempt on her life forces her into hiding and therefor into silence.  Now grown, Anakin Skywalker volunteers to protect her, while his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, hunts for the would-be assassin and attempts to unravel the mystery behind the dark side’s influence over all of these new and terrifying events.

I gave this movie a middling rating when I watched it originally, slightly better that Phantom Menace, not as high as Revenge of the Sith.  So far that’s accurate, because Attack of the Clones is definitely a step in the right direction, but not nearly as strong a Star Wars film as we wanted/deserved.  The bad parts are laser focused on Christensen; he’s about as bad an actor as you’re ever going to come across.  The way he plays Anakin is moody, whiny, creepy, and rather stupid, a terrible person for the heroic Amidala to fall for, despite whatever way destiny played into their love affair.  Their scenes were mostly awful, but I still like the dark path Skywalker takes, that’s still compelling to me, even coming from an abysmal actor.

The rest of the film, other than an idiotic droid assembly line scene, is really not that bad, mostly because Natalie Portman is much improved and Ewan McGregor is as incredible as ever.  His missions quickly become the highlight of the movie, much more than he & Liam were able to accomplish in the first film, definitely because Little Ani was constantly weighing them down.  Kenobi’s scenes were great, the Fetts were cool, the new planets were fun, the story is complicated, Dooku is a good villain, as is Sidius in the shadows, and everything works so much better so much more of the time, culminating in an epic arena battle followed by a kick-ass aerial assault.  Attack of the Clones still has problems: its young leads aren’t great, it’s a little goofy, and it feels forced into an existing story arc more than a real origin story.  But, at the same time, it does a lot well; excellent music throughout, a smart division of quests, fewer simple explanations, and an overall feeling that we’re heading somewhere exciting.  I hope the third movie is by far the best and fixes the majority of the issues, because I’m ready to be happy about Star Wars again.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎


Movie Review – Stowaway

Category : Movie Review

Director: Joe Penna

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson

Year: 2021

Stowaway is like Arctic (Joe Penna’s only other feature film) combined with Life (a space adventure film that I thought was much stronger than the throw-away treatment it was afforded).  With Arctic, Penna was able to give us quiet action and a somber mood, taking minimalism to the max, but entertaining us all the same.  In Life, we got something a little different than the basic sci-fi/horror most people were expecting, something a little more scaled down, which I thought was a solid idea.  Stowaway combines those ideas and makes audiences ride those waves, all while creating a wonderfully uncomfortable atmosphere.  That it didn’t end well doesn’t make the entire project a failure, but it sure makes the mission a bit of a miss.

Three highly-trained astronauts are getting the chance of a lifetime, as they rocket toward Mars on a two-year journey that will take their careers even further.  They are healthy, they are intelligent, they are competent, but none of them saw this particular curve ball coming; there’s a fourth passenger on board.  This man poses not only a puzzler to how he got there, but a dire threat to their mission, as the spaceship was perfectly balanced for only three individuals.  Hard choices will have to be made if any of them hope to survive the voyage, especially as more & more problems arise with the ship, the conditions, and their sanity.

As I was watching, I was wondering why the overwhelming consensus was that Stowaway was a sad misstep full of surprising mediocrity; I enjoyed it for a strong hour and a half.  It was extremely scientific, it was believable, it was interesting, the acting was great, and I was hooked when bad things started happening; I was ready for a great ending to what I thought was, so far, a great movie.  And then the other shoe dropped.  There was a moment, a sequence, at about 15-20 minutes left in the movie, when the action picked up and the actors needed to make us feel the intensity, and they simply were unable to do it.  As much as I love Anna Kendrick, she was asked to push us over the edge and she couldn’t, she simply couldn’t.  That’s where the film lost me and, I assume, many other critics; when it had to take a step in a tough direction and it just fell.  The end faltered as a result, we lost what we had already anted up, and we came out bitter; not a great feeling.  Kendrick was mostly excellent, Collette & Kim & Anderson were superb, the last scenes of the movie simply didn’t live up to the rest, and that’s a major bummer.  If you choose to watch anyway (and I think you should because there are many reasons to), beware the last 20 minutes and look out for the moment where the horse throws his shoe; it’s easy to see and you wonder how it wasn’t avoided.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ⭐︎ ⭐︎