Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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.

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Eddie the Eagle is a bio-pic about Eddie Edwards, a British Olympic Ski jumper who did not excel at his sport, but captured the imagination of people around the world for his determination and spirit.

It begins with his childhood, as a young Eddie is fascinated by the Olympics, and is determined to be an Olympic athlete. Through a short sequence we see him attempt various sports that would be in the summer games, before deciding on the winter sport of skiing. It is not said outright, but it is evident that Eddie has some disability such as Autism or Asperger Syndrome. Perhaps because of this he is portrayed with a single mindedness to be in the Olympics, and his lack of athletic ability doesn’t waver him in that vision.

Eddie attempts to make the Olympic Skiing team. Falling short, he realizes that the British don’t have a ski jumping team. The next sequence has him training in Germany. We see his struggles with both trying to be a great ski jumper, and with other athletes around him making fun of him etc.

Hugh Jackman enters the film as a hard drinking disgraced American ski jumper who ends up reluctantly being his coach. This character has his own arc which is of redemption, including an appearance by actor Christopher Walken. Jackman’s character feels a little flat, not rising up much against his archetype. After viewing I learned Jackman’s character is fictional, so that is probably why.

After overcoming a series of obstacles Eddie makes it to the Olympics and becomes a celebrity after placing last in the 70 meter jump but simultaneously breaking the British Ski Jump record. Worried that he has become a novelty and wanting to be taken seriously, he enters the 90m event, leading to the climax of the film.

Approaching the final jump, he has a conversation with his hero, champion ski jumper Matti “The Flying Finn” Nykänen. This is an interesting conversation with a theme of the importance of doing your best, no matter how good your best may be.

The film ends with Eddie returning home to a hero’s welcome. His mother is portrayed as having always supporting him while his father did not. At the end his father tells Eddie he’s proud of him, but seemingly not out of any character development but rather because that’s how plots for these kind of movies work. They never have a movie like this where the father is encouraging and the mother is not.

Eddie the Eagle provides some feel good moments, but does not have the impact an inspirational story like this should. Parts of the film, like Eddie hurting himself a lot in his early ski jump attempts, are played for laughs when they should be seeking audience sympathy.

Just as Eddie the Eagle was not the best ski jumper, this is not the best inspirational film, but like Eddie Edwards, it’s endearing and pushes the right buttons enough to get at least some of the audience behind it.

The Witch film review

Posted: March 27, 2016 in Movies
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The Witch is a period piece set in 17th century New England. It opens with a man being excommunicated from his Christian Plantation and forced to live on their own in a forest. The family has a few children, including a new baby. However, after living in the woods for a while, one day the baby disappears mysteriously. It is thought a wolf took the baby, but supernatural forces are also suspected. Evidently there is a witch in the woods, and tension runs throughout the family, as various members are suspected of communing with the devil.

There’s a lot that The Witch does right. The cinematography and acting are very good. It asks a lot of, and is quite rigorous on its child actors. Unfortunately it misses some important marks as well. While there’s a few creepy moments overall it’s not very scary at all. The dialogue is hard to understand, partly because of the old English, and partly because some of it was just too soft spoken. This could perhaps relate to my third point that the story basically didn’t make any sense.

Lastly, in a movie called the Witch, the Witch herself only appears briefly. We basically know nothing of her identity, background, or motivations. In fact you could argue she’s largely inconsequential to the film, as the big bad of the film appears to be Satan himself. Perhaps this movie just should have been called The Devil instead of The Witch.

Batman vs. Superman Dawn of Justice is the second entry in the DC Cinematic Universe following Man of Steel. This movie, more than it’s predecessor, tries to expand the DC Universe, planting seeds for future movies to follow.

Batman appears in the title first as he does in the narrative as well. We start with the climax of Man of Steel where Metropolis is getting destroyed while Superman fights Zod. Bruce Wayne rushes into the wreckage to save his employees that work in one of the demolished buildings.

In this universe, Wayne has been Batman for a long time, and it has taken a toll on him mentally. He doesn’t believe in the inherent goodness of Superman, and sees him as a threat. Hence he starts training to take him down.

Meanwhile Clark Kent is wanting to cover the Bat story in Gotham, against the wishes of his editor Perry White. Clark disapprove’s of Batman’s methods, saying they violate people’s civil liberties. I wasn’t as clear to why he would object to Batman so much, as both Batman and Superman are vigilantes.

There’s some great training scenes with Bruce, and we get to the final showdown that does have a definitive winner. However while the first half of the movie is pretty solid, things fall apart toward the end. There’s a plot point relating to the reason that they’re fighting that should bring a lot of tension, but doesn’t at all. Said plot point almost makes the fight seem silly anyway. Plus certain characters seem figure out certain things out of the blue.

Meanwhile Lex Luthor is lurking in the background and uses the corpse of Zod to create Doomsday. Doomsday at first looks across between the Incredible Hulk and Cloverfield, and is pretty much attacks the heroes because the plot tells him too.

Part of the problem with this film as a sequel is that you pretty much needed to see Man of Steel to understand this. Especially the opening scene, you’ll have no idea what’s going on without having seen Man of Steel. Also, in this film Lois and Clark are very much in love, which is nice, but I don’t see that progressing from the last movie. The emotional weight of their relationship does not rest in the previous movie, but the fact that the audience is probably familiar with their relationship from 70+ years of pop culture.

All the characters are played well. Affleck makes a great Batman. Eisenberg’s Luthor is basically Zuckerberg from Social Network just more mentally unhinged. Wonder Woman is great, but her absence would not have affected the plot at all.

Some big chances were taken with this movie. Batman in particular already has a long established history in this world that hasn’t been touched on yet. Evidently some big changes have already happened to certain things we take for granted about Batman. I also liked that the first time you see Batman on screen the horror aspect of his character is played up.

One of the potential problems I see down the road with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that they’re introducing all their big heroes at once. I like DC taking a different approach, having solo films spin out of the upcoming Justice League film, having their TV shows be their own thing. In this movie world the upcoming Wonder Woman movie takes place in the past. I would hope the next Batman movie would as well.

Batman vs Superman is not a terrible movie, but it falls apart at the end when it needed to be great. It does make me want to see a Wonder Woman movie and a Batman movie set in this world.

Creep is a short minute homage to the slasher films of the 1980s. The killer is not masked, as most characters like Jason and Michael Meyers were, but is menacing nonetheless. There’s only four characters in the story, the girl, who plays the “last girl” bit, her date, the neighbor, and the killer who simply is credited as ???? in the vein of some of the old monster movies. The other three characters don’t have names either. It’s a straight to the point, bare bones narrative about a girl running from a killer, complete with chase scenes through the streets, hiding in an empty house, and a few quick kill scenes. Worth checking out for any fans of the slasher genre.

Deadpool is an R rated film about the Marvel Comics character from their X-men line of comics. The basic plot is a pretty standard revenge story, but the selling point is it’s over the top style and humor. Right from the opening credits (mocking the standard casting of hot chic, British villain, etc) it’s subversive, witty, and openly mocks the superhero genre. Immediately it provides a gag referring to the Ryan Reynolds failed Green Lantern film, as well as the poorly received version of Deadpool from the also dis-liked Wolverine: Origins film (They actually show an action figure of that version of the character). There’s even jokes about actor Ryan Reynolds himself, as well as a few name drops to Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld.

This film does take place in the same universe as the other X-men films (The Days of Future Past apparently retconned the timeline apparently (and thankfully) erasing Wolverine Origins). However there are little to no references to those films. Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead appear offering assistance to Deadpool, which leads to more hilarious moments, like when Deadpool breaks his hands punching Colossus.

Again the basic plot is nothing special, but the story is broken up between flashbacks to keep it from feeling redundant. Deadpool blatantly breaks the fourth wall talking directly to the audience explaining the flashbacks, joking about Wolverine, referencing other films, and commenting that the films budget could only afford two other X-men. There’s a few gags I’ve never seen before on film. In the beginning Deadpool gets shot right in his rectum. He also gets his hand cut off, and we later see him with a baby hand as it slowly regenerates, this gag of course is accompanied by a masturbation joke. It probably has one of the best Stan Lee cameos as well.

With it’s subversive nature, 4th wall breaking and general mockery of the superhero genre, Deadpool was quite a chance for a Marvel movie, but it works. It’s easily one of the best of the X-men series, and one of the best Marvel movies in general.

By the way, there is a post credit scene, but naturally it totally mocks the concept of post credit scenes. It’s purely for laughs, and also reminds people to have good theater etiquette when leaving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Room film review.

Posted: February 2, 2016 in Movies
Tags: ,

Room is the story about a woman named Joy and her son Jack. When Joy was 17, she was abducted by a man only known as Old Nick. He imprisoned her in a small shed in his backyard, with the outside world only visible by skylight. Joy has been imprisoned in this shed for seven years, and her son Jack is the result of Old Nick raping her.

Room is told mostly from Jack’s point of view. The story opens with his 5th birthday. He explains in voice overs his belief, as he was told by his mother, that “room,” as the shed is referred to in the story, is all that exists. He understands the world outside the skylight to be outer space, and everything he sees on the TV isn’t real. When Old Nick comes at night to rape Joy, Jack sleeps in the closet (apparently Old Nick never layed eyes on Jack). Jack’s understanding is that Old Nick uses magic to bring food and other supplies to the outside world.

Circumstances reach a point where Joy concludes they must escape soon. She struggles to reveal to her son the truth of the situation, as he doesn’t fully understand it, is confused, and doesn’t believe his mother at first.

I suppose if you wanted to you could nitpick at how they were able to escape, but for the sake of the narration they had to escape somehow, and the overall situation is so tense I feel you can look over it.

While Room has a consistent overwhelming tension in the first act, that tension is not absent from the rest of the movie. Joy sets forth a plan for Jack to escape and get help, but he has trouble communicating the situation to the first adults he meets. Thankfully the police are able to deduce what happened and his mother is shortly freed. Old Nick’s final fate is revealed in a passing line of dialogue on television, allowing the remainder of the movie to focus on Joy and Jack’s adjustment to the outside.

Jack has a few more voice overs explaining the wonders of the world he is in. He is very observant about things like time, musing how the world is so big there is only so much time for everything, which is why people are always in a hurry. While most of the world is wondrous to him, he still misses the only home he knew in his life. Occasionally he asks when he’ll go back to “room”.

Joy has her own issues fitting back into the world, wondering if she’d been a good enough mother for Jack, and issues with her parents. While she’d been abducted her parents separated and her mother re-married. From Joy’s point of view, her mother seemed to be having a good life without her. There’s also a great line about how women are socialized. During an argument with her mother Joy wonders aloud that maybe if she hadn’t been raised to be so nice she wouldn’t have helped some stranger with his sick dog. Presumably this is how Old Nick was able to trick/abduct her.

Room is the hardest movie I ever had to watch, but is without question the best movie that came out last year.