Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the ninth installment of the horror series and is exclusively on Netflix. Taking a cue from 2018’s Halloween, this installment seems to only acknowledge the original 1974 film, ignoring every other chainsaw film that came after.

This entry opens with an old DVD playing at a gas station, the DVD is a documentary about the events that happened in 1973 (which to us would be the 1974 original movie) regarding the masked chainsaw killer known as Leatherface, who was never found. The in-film documentary is narrated by John Larroquette, who is known for narrating the opening crawl of the 1974 film.

At the gas station we see there is some fandom relating to Leatherface, as there are chainsaw shirts, corkscrews, and other merchandise for sale. At the gas station we are also introduced to the main characters, a group of young Instagram influencers who have invested their money in the Texas ghost town of Harlow. Their plan is to make a small paradise for affluent young people who want to escape from big city life. One of the youths is Lila, who is traumatized from surviving a school shooting. Lila wrestles with survivors’ guilt and it is interesting to see a slasher film tackle this modern issue.

Naturally we see a generational clash as the young people assume the worst about the older generation of Texans, who themselves are not fond of the self-righteous youth.

Upon descending into the ghost town, we see an older woman is still living in one of the buildings (an orphanage) with her son. The original film featured a whole family of maniacs, by 2022, the only surviving members of the family are Leatherface and his mother. They come into conflict with the entrepreneurial youth, as the family claim that they have the deed/are the rightful residents of the property (It should be noted that this ghost town does not have the family homestead of the first movie).

Murder and mayhem ensue. The first act of violence is sudden and shocking. Unlike the first film, there is on screen gore, but the gore is seen so quickly that it feels more effectively disturbing than other violent horror movies.

Again, taking cue from 2018’s Halloween, Sally Hardesty, the lone survivor of the first film, returns for vengeance. It is explained that she became a Texas Ranger (presumably she’d be retired now) who spent the last near fifty years trying to find Leatherface (I know Texas is a big place with lots of empty spaces, but if you wanted to, you could nitpick how it’s a stretch that she never found the family in almost 50 years). When you first see her, you could mistake her for Leatherface given what she is doing in her introductory scene. She seems more functional than the Laurie Strode of 2018’s Halloween but is definitely still haunted by the trauma she faced all those years go.

Given most of the victims of this massacre are millennials, we of course get the gag of people putting everything on their phones. During a particularly brutal scene, the massacre is live streamed on social media, and leads to the highest body count of any TCM entry.

1974’s original Chainsaw movie is revered as a classic. Like most horror series, it has had its share of stinkers regarding subsequent sequels. This Netflix original stands as one of the better entries in the series, and I’m curious to see what the future holds. Definitely recommended for fans of the slasher genre.

P.S. I can imagine a Netflix TCM series involving a younger Sally as a Texas Ranger trying to hunt down the family. Maybe she never found Leatherface, but who knows, maybe she managed to find and kill the rest of the family.  

Rocky IV premiered in 1985, a period which was arguably peak American culture. This time capsule of 80’s bombastic-ness transports Rocky from his first film’s mean Philadelphia streets to the Soviet Union; where he fights the near superhuman Ivan Drago in what is simply the greatest fight in cinematic history. In 2020, looking for something to do during Covid lockdown, Stallone decided to retool this now classic of 80s cinema, the result is Rocky IV the Director’s Cut, A.K.A. Rocky vs Drago. In this cut, he adds some humanity to his monstrous opponent, and dials back the over-the-top nature of the original film.

Most Rocky’s open with an exciting recap of the previous film’s fight set to a rousing score, such as Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger. Here we open to the much gloomier moment of Rocky getting knocked out by Clubber Lang. Cut to the beginning of Rocky’s friendship with Apollo Creed leading up to the rematch and finale of Rocky III where Rocky regains his title, ending not with Eye of the Tiger, but Sweetest Victory, from the original ending of IV. This recap of Rocky III takes up the first 6-7 minutes of the director’s cut; and establishes the friendship with Rocky and his former opponent Apollo Creed.

Just as in the original, Apollo is now swimming in his pool while seeing news of Soviet boxer Ivan Drago coming to America. This is followed by the first actual new footage of the director’s cut. Rocky and Apollo talk outside of Rocky’s mansion, where Rocky reveals that the boxing commission was approached by the Soviets about an exhibition bout with Rocky. At the time, Rocky was hesitant, telling them he’d think about it, feeling he didn’t have to do it if he didn’t need to.

While playing around with a football, possibly a nod to Carl’s real-life stint as an Oakland Raider, we get more insight into Apollo’s motivation for wanting to fight Drago first. Apollo sees this potential fight to be not only against Russian propaganda, but as a great historical moment that he wants to be a part of. This is followed by the original scene of Apollo talking with Rocky’s family inside the house, with the addition of Adrian talking about medieval armies fighting to the death, illustrating the intelligence she had in the first movie. There is also a new scene where Rocky and Adrian talk in the kitchen. Adrian can see through Apollo’s hubris, realizing not only that Apollo is afraid of being forgotten about, but that this is something her husband will face one day as well.

Stallone recently said he now regrets having killed off Creed in Rocky IV. It is interesting to think how the rest of the franchise would have carried on with a living, but wheelchair bound Apollo. Of course, Apollo still dies in the director’s cut, but he is shown as putting up more of a fight, even in the second round after he has already been badly beaten.

One of the subtle but more significant changes is that Rocky is not asked by Duke to throw in the towel. In the new cut, Rocky picks up the towel but drops it just as Apollo is dealt the fatal bow. His motivation now is not guilt, but a belief in a warrior’s code that Apollo had previously expressed (Adrian’s previous insight is apparently ignored). This is followed up on during Apollo’s funeral, where his trainer Duke gives a eulogy of how the warrior has the right to decide his way of death. Rocky follows this not with his somber speech about how Apollo always did things the way you wanted, but with a few wailing lines about how Apollo gave him a chance. What Rocky says makes sense, he owes everything he has to Apollo, who believed in him and gave him a break when no one else would. The problem is in 1985 Stallone wasn’t an actor anymore, and what should have been a very moving scene is instead cringeworthy.

Now we’re off to the Soviet Union for the two training montages, where it’s revealed that Rocky did in fact plan to spar, but the Soviet’s conveniently forgot to provide sparring partners (we do see him hitting a heavy bag in a training montage). This was a nice touch, showing his opponent’s home country purposely trying to screw Rocky over in training.   

The director’s cut of the fight itself remove the sins of the original in that we don’t see punches that obviously missed scored with a shotgun blast sound of impact. Here the sound effects are scaled back and the editing is redone as to not show missed shots having an impact. There’s also more commentary about Drago being younger than Rocky, adding to the champ’s underdog status. Before the last round the ref threatens to stop the match. Nothing comes of this of course, but the ref also almost immediately calls the match after Drago is knocked down, not even bothering with a ten count.

Drago’s wife is almost absent from this cut. Her sincere lines about the threats on her husband’s life and her wicked smile during Apollo’s death are inexplicably cut. Drago’s promoter Nicolai Koloff does have a few lines adding to his already great performance. We learn that the Balboa Drago fight will take place in Russia partly because they believe the fight would not be scored properly in America. There’s more of an emphasis on how the Russian’s really wanted Drago to face Rocky first, and we see see Koloff’s isolation and can sense the looming consequences he will face once Rocky is victorious.

There is an attempt to humanize Drago, as he is portrayed more as a tool of Soviet propaganda as opposed to a superhuman monster. His punching demonstration to the press is shown, but without the context of him being stronger than average boxers. We can see that he wants to speak for himself; and does not care for his superiors speaking for him. He has more charisma, openly mocking Apollo during their match. After killing Creed, he adds to his after-match speech that soon everyone will know the name of Drago, and we see via a reaction shot that his superiors don’t approve of Drago going into business for himself. However, there evidently wasn’t much more of anything filmed of Drago to add to his character. It would have been nice if they’d subtitled whatever was said to him right before the Apollo match. It’s also too bad they didn’t film more dialogue of Drago’s training, as this would have helped Stallone’s intent in recutting this film 35 years later.

Rocky vs Drago has about the same run time as the original. While there are a few short new scenes, most of the “new footage” is simply different takes and re-edits of the scenes we already know, such Rocky and Apollo’s conversation while watching their rematch, Adrian telling Rocky he can’t win, Rocky’s talk with his son (who we don’t see again) and Rocky’s post fight speech are abbreviated and shown with different takes. I’m unsure why Sly felt the need to shorten these scenes as it just makes them all feel rushed and less meaningful. Also, this angle of following the warriors code does not seem as interesting as the guilt Rocky felt in the theatrical cut.

Rocky IV was the first film in the series not to use Bill Conti, opting for composer Vince DiCola, whose score added to the otherworldly feel of this entry. The director’s cut insert’s traditional Conti compositions over certain dramatic scenes in an attempt to make this sequel feel more like the previous films. It also ends with Eye of the Tiger, trading places with Sweetest Victory which is now played at the end of the Rocky III recap. These changes make Rocky vs Drago feel more like the previous films, but there-in lies the problem. Rocky IV was not just another Rocky film. The complete absurdity and over the top nature of Rocky IV at the mid-point of Reagan’s America is exactly what made it work. One can’t possibly scale back all of Rocky IV’s bombastic-ness, but in making the attempt, it takes away from what made the original special in the first place.

No one knows Rocky better than Stallone, but I have to disagree with the creator on most of this cut. Artsy types romanticize the lone artist’s creative vision, but movie making, perhaps more than any other medium, is a collaborative art. Sometimes the lone creative vision isn’t the best one. See George Lucas’s Star Wars prequels or Rob Zombie’s Halloween II for examples, and I feel you can add Rocky vs Drago to that list. While Rocky IV’s Director’s Cut has some interesting additions, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone other than a diehard Rocky Fan.

For my review of the original Rocky IV, click here.

Leatherface is a prequel to the 1974 classic horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and focuses on the origin story of the franchise’s chainsaw wielding lead character. For whatever reason, Leatherface was given only a limited theatrical release and was then sent straight to Video On Demand services.

The majority of this film takes place in 1965, the premise being that years prior local law enforcement took the Sawyer children into protective custody. Now, nearing adulthood, they have spent several years in an insane asylum. One night there is a riot, and four inmates escape along with a kidnapped nurse.

Surprisingly this entry takes the feel of a horror road trip movie, akin to The Devil’s Rejects or Natural Born Killers, with some scenes reminding me of Hannibal and the more recent Revenant. The majority of this prequel focuses on the inmates being on the run from the police, one of which is shown to be pretty crazy in his own right. I suppose this is an attempt to make Leatherface more sympathetic.

There’s also the issue of which of these inmates turns out to be Leatherface, which adds a hint of mystery to it. However, maybe because of this, the cannibalistic nature of the Sawyer family is downplayed until the end, and once Leatherface’s identity is revealed, it was unclear to me what ever made him think to make his first skin mask.

Clarice, one of the escapees, was to me the most intriguing character of the film. Given she was a supporting character, I suppose that counts as a weakness. The scene taking place in a diner was the highlight of the film. If you pay attention to character names, you’ll catch few nods to the first second, and previous chainsaw films. Until the end there is limited onscreen violence, but if you recall the same was the case for the original. It does have a modern polished look to it, and it could have used more of the grit of the first movie.

Leatherface is not a great movie, but it is not terrible either. It is better its previous entry Texas Chainsaw 3D from a few years ago. If you’re a fan of the series I would recommend it.

Annabelle Creation is a prequel to the Conjuring spinoff featuring the evil creepy doll. This fourth entry in the Conjuring shared movie universe shows the making of the actual doll and how it came to be a supernatural object.

Mostly set in the 50s, Annabelle Creation focuses on an older couple, Samuel and Esther Mullins, who have opened there home to a Sister Charlotte and several orphan girls. It was unclear to me what happened to their orphanage or why they had no where else to go, but that’s the story.  We know from the opening scene, and the orphans soon learn, that 12 years prior the Mullins tragically lost their daughter Annabelle. Samuel interacts with the children and Sister Charlotte, but Esther rests in her room, and has been bed ridden for some time, but not for the reason you may think. When she is seen she wears a porcelain mask over half of her face, reminiscent of Phantom of the Opera.

Soon the doll turns up and uncanny events ensue. While nothing is absolutely jump out of your seat scary, there is a consistent sense of dread throughout the film. On the writing side it has connection to all three preceding movies set in this world, including an unexpected tie to the previous Annabelle film.

Annabelle Creation is an improvement over its predecessor, and has expanded the world of the Conjuring films. In this age of shared cinematic universes, the Conjuring is looking to be right behind Marvel as one of the top shared movie worlds we have.

The Mummy is Universal’s quasi remake of their own 1932 Boris Karloff film. It is the first entry in what they call the Dark Universe, a planned series of interconnected monster films, set to include Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Mummy in fact opens with a new Dark Universe logo.

The plot is similar to the original. An Egyptian tomb is (accidentally) found, and the titular Mummy awakes and is on a quest to bring back her ancient lover. In the original the Mummy was male but had a mostly similar scheme.

There’s a little more to the plot than that, but basically Tom Cruise is the host for the Mummy’s lover, and the film has him being chased around by the Mummy in various action scenes.

While it attempts to retain its horror roots, the tone of this movie goes all over the place. Tom Cruise’s intro is an action comedy scene. More humor follows, including scenes where a dead friend of his that only he can see keeps pestering him. I doubt anyone came to the Mummy for laughs.

More of a sense of mystery is lost as we get the Mummy’s backstory almost right away via narration by Russel Crowe. It would have worked better for the audience to learn said backstory along with the main character.

Russel Crowe is the link to the wider Dark Universe that this film tries to prepare us for. He is the shady leader of a secret organization that fights monsters throughout the world. Basically it’s to the Dark Universe what SHIELD is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Crowe filling in as this world’s Nick Fury. At headquarters of said secret organization we get our Easter Eggs/nods to other monsters. We see skulls with vampire teeth, an encased hand from the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and many other items in the background. Also, I don’t know if this was meant as a joke or not, but a book that appeared in Brandon Fraser’s 1999 Mummy film is shown.

Also regarding Crowe, they tease it at first, but after not very long he is revealed to be Dr. Jekyll, who of course has the sinister alter ego of Mr. Hyde, which does play a minor point in the plot.

We’re in an interesting time in Hollywood now, as studios are trying to copy the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warner Brothers has finally established a DC Universe while also doing the Monsterverse with King Kong and Godzilla. Hasbro is also working on a shared film universe with various toy properties they have. It’s a wonder why Marvel thought of this first. This Dark Universe in particular could have been done years ago. They did in fact, cross over their monsters in the 1940s, with Frankenstein meets the Wolfman, House of Frankenstein, and House of Dracula. However those movies were made after ten plus years of making separate monster movies, that whole world was not planned from the ground up.

It is notable that the Dark Universe takes place in the present, where many of the original Universal Monster movies took place in the past. However, due to the aforementioned Easter Eggs, it is evident that monstrous events have taken place already in this world. Should they choose to do so, some of the other upcoming Dark Universe pictures, such as Creature, could take place before Mummy. The timeline could be spread out a bit.

I’m still curious to see other Dark Universe films, but they need to get really good really fast if this universe is to be sustained.

Kong: Skull Island is the second entry in what is called the Monsterverse, which began with 2014’s Godzilla and will continue into at least two more films. Skull Island is a period piece set in the 1970s. Just as the Vietnam War ended, an American military unit, led by Samuel L Jackson, is assigned to escort a group of scientists to an island that was just discovered via satellite. Skull island is surrounded by a perpetual storm, which explains why the outside world hadn’t found it already.

Kong: Skull Island breaks the basic rule (which I believe the original Kong might have established) of not showing the monster right away. As soon as the expedition gets to Skull Island they encounter Kong. They at least show Kong’s hands first, but the big reveal comes pretty fast. In the original King Kong, the monster doesn’t show up for quite a while. We get time to build up the mystery and tension, as the audience obviously knows there are monsters to be encountered before the film characters do. Kong Skull Island offers none of this.

Not only that, but it spoils what should be a surprise in the plot. The opening scene is actually in 1945. During World War II an American and Japanese pilot have shot each other down and crashed on Skull Island. They’re fighting to the death when Kong arrives. So later in the second act when the Vietnam vets discover an American who’s been living on the island for the past 28 years, it’s not a surprise at all. Granted this plot point was revealed in the trailer too, but still, it should be something of a shock. Even worse, the WWII vet, played by John C. Reilly, is played for laughs. As I’m writing this I think back to the original Predator, I can honestly remember feeling a sense of dread as the soldiers trekked through the jungle, being picked off one by one by the predator. Even though it was Arnold Schwarzenegger, I was still thinking “Arnold, just forget about it, just get on the chopper and go home!” Here on Skull Island, we have another group of soldiers trekking through the jungle, and instead of one killer alien, there’s a whole bunch of big giant monsters running around, and most of the time it’s not even remotely scary.

Further removing itself from the proper tone is the soundtrack, which reminding us that it’s set in the 1970s by having hits of that era playing. While it was great music, and, just as in Suicide Squad, I was perfectly happy to hear Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, cool songs alone don’t save a movie.

One piece of advice writers are given is to start the story as late as possible. It would have worked to start the film with the military unit getting assigned to the island, and the audience would slowly find out what’s going on as the characters do. There’s that scene in the trailer where Samuel L. Jackson points his gun at John Goodman and says something to the effect of “You better tell me what’s going on right now.” By that point in the movie the audience already knows everything Goodman tells him. After the un-needed WWII flashback we get a scene in Washington introducing John Goodman as an agent of Monarch, which is the secret government group that looks for giant monsters. Monarch appeared in the previous Godzilla film, and presumably will be the Monsterverse equivalent to Marvel’s SHIELD. At this point Monarch is considered a joke by most, but Goodman manages to finagle this mission. He does provide some interesting personal backstory to how Monarch came to be, but, in my opinion, this whole scene in Washington could have been cut, and the audience could have learned all of Goodman’s secrets at the same time as Samuel L. Jackson.

There are lots of other giant monsters to see on the island. We don’t get to see dinosaurs, (and I just realized, why not!!!) but there is a giant spider. Giant ants are hinted at but never shown. Kong’s primary antagonists are called Skull Crushers, and they may vaguely remind audiences of something across from Godzilla and Cloverfield.

Interestingly enough, Kong appears to have an ambiguous ending, leaving the audience to wonder if anyone escaped the island or not. However, as the credits roll we learn what happened to the WWII vet. There is the question of, given this is a period piece, how the general public never learned of Skull Island. Late in the movie the characters simply state they’ll never tell anyone, which is a bit to believe.

This issue is partly hinted at in the post-credit scene. Yes by the way there is a post credit scene, which sets up the monster mayhem to come. King Kong vs Godzilla is slated for 2020. Monster fans often speculate on how they will fight when Kong is significantly smaller than Godzilla. Kong Skull Island tells us that Kong is just a baby, so presumably he’ll have grown in the last 40 plus years.

There is some decent cinematography, with imagery that reminds audiences not just of old monster movies, but of Vietnam movies like Apocalypse now etc. The basic story is interesting, and provides some good old fashion monster fun, but overall was disappointing. It’s remarkable that over eighty years later the original King Kong is still the best Kong film.

Lego Batman is a spinoff from the 2014 Lego movie (which featured Batman), and has a surprising level of introspection into the Batman character.

It’s a very meta film, with Batman’s voice talking over the opening credits, remarking how cool movies start in black with ominous music, going on to comment on the Warner Brother’s and DC logos. The opening scene offers more self-awareness as its remarked that a plane with a ton of explosives is flying over a city (Gotham) with an extremely high crime rate. Naturally the Joker hijacks the plane, but the pilot is not scared of the Joker at all, as he remarks all the times Batman has stopped him (actually referencing the Dark Knight film as well as Tim Burton’s first Batman film). When asked what to do, Commissioner Gordon says out loud that they’ll do the only thing they ever do, which is turn on the Bat-signal. Naturally Batman saves the day. Joker gets away, but Batman is greeted with his usual hero’s welcome. Batman soon returns to his Bat-cave, as a journalists comments that Batman will probably go home and have a big party with all his friends.

This leads to some surprisingly quiet and mundane moments. Batman goes home to his mansion, puts some lobster in the microwave, and eats by himself. Watching the “You complete me” scene from Jerry McGuire he cracks up laughing, he finds it hilarious. His butler Alfred eventually shows up, and we immediately get the surrogate father/son relationship between the two. Batman acts like a spoiled child, while Alfred tells him that he needs friends.

Lego Batman’s central theme is Batman learning that he needs other people, and also explores what Batman fears the most, along with the concept of a sidekick, his relationship with the law, and Batman’s relationship with the Joker. In fact, it is a breakthrough in that relationship that leads to the resolution at the film’s climax.

Without giving major spoilers, early on in the movie, Joker outsmarts Batman by actually surrendering. Joker knows being locked up at Arkham won’t be enough for Batman, and this knowledge moves the plot. Along the way Joker teams up with villains from various media, including Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter, King Kong, the Kraken, Dracula, Sauron from Lord of the Rings, the Gremlins, and the Daleks from Dr. Who, which are referred to as British robots. I wonder if they weren’t allowed to use the name Daleks or something.

Batman villains aren’t lacking however, we get the traditional rogues gallery of Catwoman, the Riddler, etc, but also a bunch of obscure ones. The Joker breaks the fourth wall telling us that all these characters, no matter how ridiculous (Condiment Man) are real characters, and actually encourages us to Google them.

Lego Batman is the kind of movie you’ll want to get on DVD and pause a million times to get all the Easter eggs. I doubt any movie ever had more Easter eggs than this. I believe there are references to every live action Batman appearance (including the 1940’s serials), as well as nods to the animated series of the 90’s and Batman Beyond, and nods to various comic books like The Dark Knight Returns. There’s a ton of references to the Batman Adam West TV show of the 1960’s. Actual villains from the show like King Tut and Egg Head appear, there’s more than one reference to the Bat-Shark Repellent, and there’s even actual footage of the series shown.

Given the plot, I was hoping Batman would team up with heroes from other media. This didn’t happen, but there is an appearance by Superman and the Justice League. In their segment we get both musical and visual nods to the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies, and we see a bunch of obscure characters from the old Super Friends cartoon.

Personally, one of my big nerd fantasies is a story/a world with characters from  various media, comics, TV, film, video games, etc. all together. The Lego film series may be the closest I come to seeing this. It’s nice to have various references to things in film, but things like that don’t matter unless the movie is good. Given it’s a kids movie, Lego Batman is infinitely better than it needed to be. It is a very poignant examination of the Batman character and the tropes that surround it. Honestly, Lego Batman may be the best Batman movie there is.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Strange, the latest entry in the Marvel Universe, opens up the world of magic in the MCU. At first it plays like Iron Man with magic. Strange is an arrogant but brilliant celebrity neurosurgeon. He’s on the lecture circuit and on TV and is pretty rich. While Tony Stark in the first Iron Man was an asshole, he was played up as a cool asshole. Dr. Strange takes the chance of presenting the main character as a real asshole. In fact in one scene the audience audibly reacted to his assholeness.

So one night Strange is driving his sports car too fast and looking at his phone. This causes an accident which messes up his hands. Now he’s out of work and looking for a way to heal himself. Desperately running out of options, he follows an off the wall tip to travel to Nepal for a chance at healing.

Here he runs across the Ancient One, not an old Asian man like in the comics, but a Celtic woman who apparently is much older than she looks, and is the latest in a long line of Ancient Ones. She wastes no time exposing Strange to magic, putting him on a wicked mind trip and allowing some great cinematography. There’s no sequence of Strange doubting, then coming to believe, it’s straight up right to the magic.

So Strange begins training, eventually learns magic, and reluctantly comes into a conflict with enemy sorcerers who are seeking to bring a powerful being from another universe into our realm. Along the way we are introduced to the idea of a multiverse, meaning the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just one universe known to exist.

Dr. Strange follows the familiar trope of someone who never knew about something suddenly becoming a master of it/being better at it than people who’ve trained their whole lives. We don’t get a sense of exactly how long Strange has been training, but his accident does happen in the present day. They do try to work around that by showing strange astrally projecting himself so he can study in his sleep. While I appreciated that it wasn’t enough for me. There’s almost no reason why his accident could have been in the past and the film could have acknowledged that he’d been training for years.

Like many MCU films the villain seems rather one note. We do get to see the big bad at the end and I thought he looked a little silly. Interestingly enough the third act doesn’t feature the normal epic battle, rather Strange manages to trick his enemy to get the victory.

The post credit scene is an interesting one, in that it seems to have changed something from a previous MCU sequel.

Dr. Strange isn’t one of the better MCU movies, but it’s not one of the worst either. Assuming it gets a sequel someday, I hope it would introduce more horror/scary elements.

Shin Godzilla, also known as Godzilla Resurgence, is the 31rst film in the Godzilla franchise. Produced by Toho pictures, it was given a limited US theatrical release for one week in October of 2016.
Not tied to any previous Godzilla film, Shin opens with the Tokyo Bay Aqua line being flooded. Government officials meet to discuss action, and one person suggests that the disaster is due to a giant creature. While dismissed, is quickly (too quickly) revealed to be accurate, as a giant tail is shown coming out of the ocean near Japan.
The central problem of Shin is too many scenes of people sitting in a room arguing/discussing what action to take. While I appreciate the critique of an inefficient Japanese government, these scenes aren’t compelling enough to maintain interest in the film.
Soon the creature come ashore, after the government predicted it couldn’t. The first shot of the creature appeared to be done with puppetry instead of CGI, it looked really different and they eyes in particular didn’t look good to me. Honestly I thought the creature was Anguirus at first because of the design. However what happens is we see Godzilla evolve on screen until he changes to his final form, which is the tallest Godzilla ever on screen.
Some backstory is dropped about how the creature was mutated from toxic/radioactive waste dumped in the ocean. There’s no suspense or even story about trying to expose this information, it’s just kind of there. We get some angle about a missing scientist (who we never see on screen) who’s been studying the possibility of the creature’s existence for years. In the notes he left behind he named the creature both Godzilla and the original Japanese name Gojira, which was a sort of Easter Egg for the fans.
The final act is more satisfying, with the humans coming up with some innovative ways to slow down Godzilla. The creatures powers are enhanced in this film, but come with an accompanying weakness.
Naturally the Shin Godzilla is left open for a sequel, but while I appreciated the effort of trying to make a political statement, future entries in this series will need to be much more interesting.

Suicide Squad is the third entry in the DC Extended Universe. A Dirty Dozen with super villains, the premise is government operative Amanda Waller assembles a team of criminals to fight super human threats. However, only a handful of the operatives are meta-humans themselves. One might wonder why regular humans are on this team, aside from the fact that they’re characters the movie audience knows or are played by well known actors like Will Smith.

I’ve never seen a movie that tried so hard to have a cool soundtrack. It opens with three or four classic songs in a row while the premise is set up. While I was perfectly happy to hear Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, by that point the constant use of songs seemed excessive.

While working so hard to be cool it forgets a few basic things, like giving the audience enough time to read the text shown to introduce each squad member. In fact the opening shot is of Harley Quinn’s prison and they show text on the bottom right corner of the screen to tell us the location, but the colors on that part of the shot are so dark I couldn’t even read it in time.

Interestingly enough the squad isn’t assembled for a specific mission, but soon enough a situation arises that they’re sent off into, partly involving finding a certain mystery contact. The identity of that contact serves as a plot twist but the way it’s edited doesn’t carry the feeling of shock that it should, it’s just kind of like “oh ok.” Shortly after this another bit of information is presented to the team that is supposed to surprise them, but I couldn’t quite grasp why this information would be surprising, other than to serve that part of the script where the team says “screw this mission I’m going home.”

Most of the Squad members seem pretty interesting, but this team movie mostly centers around Harley Quinn, because she’s a beloved character, and Deadshot, because he’s played by Will Smith. Quinn is fantastic by the way, and I’d happily watch another movie with her, but potentially more interesting characters like Killer Croc are underused. I wanted to know what his condition is, what is his life like, etc. Instead Killer Croc seems to serve the role of Groot in this August would be block buster. Action happens, Harley says something funny, Croc grunts, repeat.

The character Slipknot just kind of shows up, and it’s said that he can climb anything. Why can he climb anything? Is he a skilled master thief (and if that’s all it is why does this qualify him to be on a team to fight meta-humans)? Is he a meta-human? Can he climb walls like Spiderman or something?

Katana is another character that just kind of shows up, apparently because when they wrote the script they forgot to introduce her earlier. She seemed like a cool character I’d like to see more of. She’s not a criminal, but a government operative, which left me wondering why she joined the team in the “screw this mission we’re going to the bar” scene. Maybe because the writers didn’t know what else to do with her or they didn’t have time to film a scene where she fought them instead.

Team leader Rick Flag is pretty good, his life as a government operative leaves him conflicted. Amanda Waller is like an evil Nick Fury of this universe and she’s good to watch. I enjoyed the Joker as well.

The final battle isn’t very suspenseful. The evil plot isn’t exactly clear, a machine is being built, but I couldn’t tell you what it was supposed to do, other than generic destruction. There’s no timeline on this plan either, it just seems to always be there with no real progress. One of the big bads get’s destroyed by conventional explosives, which made me wonder why the conventional military couldn’t have stopped it, aside from the fact that the movie is about Suicide Squad. Rick Flag himself wonders why he can’t just take care of the problem with his own soldiers. So is a character in this movie wondering why this movie exists?

As I’m writing this I realize I have a lot of negative things to say. I didn’t hate watching this movie. Looking back on it Harley Quinn pretty much saved it. I will say that one of the things the DC Extended Universe has over the Marvel Cinematic Universe is they’ve established that a lot of things have already happened. Rick Flag has a history. The actual government name of Suicide Squad, Task Force X, has a history. Katana has a history, and Batman ran Killer Croc out of town. Batman vs Superman established a Batman that was active for 20 years, and the upcoming Wonder Woman movie takes place in World War One. (BTW I’m disappointed nobody made a World War One movie since it’s been a hundred years. I find it ironic that the only World War One movie we’ll get is a Wonder Woman movie.)I enjoy this approach more than how Marvel has all their big name heroes being active right now.

Suicide Squad is not a terrible movie, but in the context of a underwhelming Man of Steel and a divisive Batman vs Superman, this movie needed to be so much better than it was. In fact, for all my complaints I’d still say it’s the best movie of this universe so far. As I think about it, that’s worrisome for the future of this franchise.