Short Random Movie Reviews

Originally posted on my Tumblr.


 

Ant-Man and The Wasp

I went to see the latest Marvel movie today and I really liked it. Like the previous movie, it’s comedy-action with a solid plot. The Wasp gets plenty of action scenes and never gets sidelined. I really liked Ghost, one of the main villains. The recent run of Marvel movies have had great villains like Vulture, Killmonger, and Hela. Ghost continues this trend of villains with understandable motivations.

Fyi: There is a scene after the diorama credits and then another at the end of the regular credits. The last end credits scene is entirely skippable, has no bearing on any other movies, and is not worth watching.

Rating 4/5


 

Monster Trucks

I just watched Monster Trucks, a movie about monster trucks that have literal monsters for engines. It’s a “kid and their monster” type of fun movie. Overall it’s a well made movie with a goofy concept. There aren’t any glaring plotholes and the minor ones can be ignored if you just want to have fun. The characters are pretty shallow but likable. Mostly white cast except for Danny Glover who appears in the beginning, disappears for the bulk of the movie, and then reappears for a couple of scenes near the end.

It’s not art but it was fun to watch once.

Rating: 2.5/5


 

Bright review

I just got done watching Bright on Netflix and I liked. The biggest praise I can give this movie is: it doesn’t get bogged down trying to explain two thousand years of alternate history with elves and orcs and pixies and dragons.

The world just is this urban fantasy and people live there. A centaur cop shows up in the background for like five seconds. A dragon flies through the clouds over LA. Orcs have block parties. Pixies are pest creatures like wasps. Nothing is explained in great detail but because the characters interact like their world is real, it makes sense.

Beyond that, it’s an action cop movie with Will Smith and an Orc. The race metaphor gets hit a little too hard at times. A couple of scenes feel like they linger so Will can ad lib a joke or two but it’s done with restraint.

Rating 4.5/5

Alien Covenant and Faceblindness

The other night I watched Alien Covenant with my roommate.  She hadn’t seen it before but I had seen it in the theater. This isn’t a review so beware of spoilers if you haven’t seen it.

I wanted to write about my experience watching this movie as someone with faceblindness. Faceblindness is the inability or difficulty to recognize or remember faces.  My own faceblindness is fairly mild. While I can learn to recognize a person’s face it takes some time. A person I’ve just met is as easy for me to lose as a grain of sand on a beach. Unless I take note of some distinguishing feature or clothing item I could literally turn around and not recognize them when I turn back. Even after I know a person’s face, I mostly rely on hairstyle, clothing, and body shape to recognize them.

Alien: Covenant starts by reintroducing David, the robot from Prometheus, played by Michael Fassbender. After a short ominous scene with his creator, the film cuts to the spaceship Covenant, where we meet Walter, a different robot also played by Michael Fassbender. To my eyes, Walter looks like a different person. Fast-forward to after the Covenant’s crew has landed on an alien planet, been infected by alien spores, fought white pseudo aliens, blown up their landing ship, been rescued by David, and led to a destroyed city. David walks right past Walter and calls him ‘brother’. I still don’t recognize them as the same actor. I think David is calling Walter brother just because they were both robots.

Fast-forward past David cutting his hair to a similar style as Walter, to an extended scene of them interacting as David teaches Walter how to play a flute. They are literally face to face split screen Parent Trap style. I think “Hey they kind of look alike,” but I still don’t think they are the same actor. Walter has a bulky physique and wide face while David’s is slimmer and has a thin pointy face.

Fast-forward again this time to the two of them fighting. Wait are they the same actor? Then there is a cut away from the fight when it seems like Walter has won but we don’t see the killing blow. Later, Walter rejoins the other survivors but something about him is different. He still looks like Walter but there is a tiny voice in the back of my head saying “David has replaced Walter.” That’s nonsense of course. How is the movie going to explain it? Walter and David look nothing alike. Did David skin Walter? Maybe he downloaded himself into Walter. The action is really picking up at this point with an alien fight with a crane attached to a flying platform so I mostly ignore these thoughts. They kill the alien and get back to their ship in orbit.

Fast-forward past the final fight with the last alien to Walter putting the Heroine of the movie into hypersleep. She makes reference to the log cabin she was planning on building with her husband and he doesn’t react. As she begins to realize Walter is David, I see, like magic, Walter’s facial expression shift into one of David’s. I am now 95% sure David and Walter are the same actor. David does a final bit of creepy robot stuff and the credits roll. There in black and white, I see “David/Walter Michael Fassbender” and then finally I am sure they were the same actor.

TL;DR – I only suspected two characters, played by the same actor who were supose to look alike, were the same actor near the end of the movie and wasn’t sure until the credits.

Tale of Two Trailers

Two trailers for two media properties I’m interested in were released recently: The Dark Tower movie and The Defenders.

Watch The Dark Tower trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjwfqXTebIY

Watch The Defenders trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4h3m7B4v6Zc

I have mixed feelings about both.  Let’s start with The Dark Tower.

Now, I’ve read all the original books at least once.  Stephen King wrote another book after he “ended” the series that is an interquel that I haven’t read.

I honestly don’t pay a lot of attention to movie set pictures or read speculation about the story of things I’m interested in.  I like to see one trailer and then see the thing.  So, I’ve seen Idris Elba in costume, I don’t know how many months ago, and that’s all.  I’m also aware that the movie is technically a sequel to the books but I wasn’t prepared for how far the story would bend from the books.  It looks like a combination of the first and third books but a couple of major characters are missing.

I would have liked to see a seven or six movie series since the fourth book is largely a flashback to Roland’s youth.  But I can see how hard it would have been to make such a series profitable.  After giving myself a little time to let the implications of this movie as a continuation of the books sink in, I feel more at ease with the apparent story choices that have been made.  Ka is a wheel, after all.  We won’t know for sure how it pans out until the movie is released on August 4.

Now The Defenders.  First some positives.  Yay to Misty Knight returning!  Yay to the return of Matt’s scarf mask!  Yay to Jessica’s snark!  Yay to Luke Cage’s reaction to Danny!  Yay to Iron Fist getting a haircut!  Yay to seeing these superheroes all together!

Now my concerns.  Mostly, I’m not happy about The Hand being the apparent big bad that they all have to band together to defeat.  I was talking to my roommate the other day about how I didn’t really like that Iron Fist was fighting The Hand in his series.  The Hand was introduced as Daredevil’s villain so I feel like it should be dealt with in his series.  I get that The Hand is a city-wide threat and it makes sense for them to all fight it but that could have happened in the Daredevil show via a series of guest appearances. The Defenders, I feel, should be about them facing something none of them have encountered before with Claire being the one to bring them together.

Also, I’m feeling like Daredevil season three is going to spin out of The Defenders which means it won’t make sense to watch season two and three back to back in the future.  This is just like in mega crossover comic events where the last page of a comic tells you to read a completely different comic to continue the story.  TV shows, like the CSIs or Buffy and Angel, occasionally have done this but only with one episode.  To have an entire season of the story from one show in another show is unheard of.

But, like with The Dark Tower, all we have is a two-minute trailer so we won’t really know the story until the show comes out on August 18.

 

Boom Mics and Movie Mistakes

So back in 1999 I saw the Sixth Sense in the theater and thought it was great except for the boom mic popping in at the top.  Later when I saw it on vhs the boom mic was gone.  I never gave it much thought.  At most I thought when movie had been cropped into the full screen version they had cropped those scenes in a little more.

Last night I was listening to episode #289 of My Brother, My Brother, and Me, in which one of the brothers talks about how he saw one of the Night at the Museum movies and the boom mics where clearly visible.  The other brothers mock him for suggesting such a high budget movie would allow boom mics to appear in the frame.  In the next episode they mention they got some emails explaining that movies don’t come pre-framed and it’s up to the theater to “letterbox” the movie correctly.

This practice is also the result of many movie mistakes wherein something that should be just offscreen is made visible by bad framing either in the theater or when transferred to vhs or dvd.  For instance, in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure the gag of him pulling out an absurdly long chain is ruined by bad framing showing the chain entering the bottom of the container.

It boggles my mind that filmmakers would leave it up to thousands random people to make sure their movies were shown correctly.  Like I wouldn’t publish a book and tell the readers, “Don’t read the paragraphs at the top and the bottom of the pages.  They’re not part of the text.”  I would guess there are mechanical reasons that the physical frame of film has to be a certain height and width to work with existing projectors but I don’t understand why the “letterboxing” wouldn’t be applied to the film before copying it and sending it out to  the theaters.

Gillian Reviews Predestination

My roommate and I watched Predestination, a movie based on the short story “-All You Zombies-” by Robert A. Heinlein.

When I first heard of this movie and what it was based on, I was interested in seeing it.  The one trailer I saw made the movie look action heavy and was focused on the Fizzle Bomber who isn’t a character in the short story. I assumed the filmmakers had taken the basic idea and changed almost everything else.  The movie is actually very faithful to the short story and expands it without rewriting it into a different story. The Fizzle Bomber plotline shows up mostly at the beginning and end and a few scenes in the middle but it doesn’t overwhelm the story like I thought it would.

Even going into the movie basically knowing the entire story, I still really enjoyed it. If you like smart time travel movies, then you will probably like this movie.

Rating 5/5

Cloverfield – Review

Ok, so I’m only like nine years late with watching this move but 10 Cloverfield Lane is on Hulu so I thought I’d watch Cloverfield before watching the “sequel”.

For starters, it has been a while since shaky cam has given me a headache, so long in fact that I almost didn’t realize why my head started hurting.  I don’t know if newer movies have “fixed” this problem but it hasn’t been an issue for me for some time.  Or maybe I just haven’t been watching movies with a lot of shaky cam.

Beyond the movie causing me actual physical pain, I was also in mental pain watching this so called found footage movie.  Most found footage movies have a reason that the cameraman keeps filming.  They’re making a documentary or they’re a journalist or they’re trying to document something specific.  Hud, our cameraman, starts filming a party and when the giant monster attacks the city he just keeps filming.  Not a bad premise but he films everything.  He films when they’re walking along the subway lines, when they’re just standing around talking, when his friends are pushing against a door to keep out the little monsters; he just keeps filming.  There are so many times when he should be using two hands to do something and he just keeps filming.

And once he’s dead you would think that would be the end of the tape.  Nope cause then his friend picks up the camera from his dead body and starts filming everything.  He films himself and his girlfriend huddling under a bridge.  In that scene he has to be holding the camera up at eye level.  Why?  Why would he do that?

Another problem I had with the movie is near the end after they have rescued Beth from her building, where she was impaled on some rebar, And everyone starts running toward the military.  Everyone is faster than Hud.  Even the woman who was impaled through the chest can run faster than the cameraman.  How is that possible?  I understand it’s so the filmmakers can have a shot of everyone running to the military but come on.

I’ll admit the monster looked cool and when it was on screen smashing stuff the movie was enjoyable but these moments were short and fleeting.

So overall: shaky cam bad, cameraman motivation bad, monster cool.

Rating: 1/5

Review – Arrival

Twelve alien ships appear around the world.  Louise Banks, a linguist, is brought by the army to one of the ships and attempts to communicate with the aliens.

I watched this movie last night and I am blown away. I love stories that play with the audience’s perceptions or preconceptions.  I really can’t say more without spoiling the movie.

Rating: 5/5

Batman v Superman Review and Reaction Post

I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  I know it’s old news and I’ve missed the boat to write anything original about this movie but I thought it would be fun to write down my reactions as I watched the movie.  I am going to preface my reactions with a short review.

I’m tore about whether I like this movie or not.  Superman is a weird Christ-like figure who is conflicted about being a Christ-like figure but doesn’t do anything to dispel that image of himself to the public.  His mother tells him he’s can be the hero or not because he doesn’t owe people anything.  A message that pairs nicely with the lesson his father tried to teach him last movie about letting kids drown in a bus to protect his secret.

As much as I hated Superman in this movie, I loved Batman just as much.  Batman is shown to be the urban legend, almost supernatural being, and the World’s Greatest Detective.  Alfred is a joy to watch interacting with him.  This is the best Batman I have ever seen, not counting Batman the Animated Series.  It’s very obvious that this was meant to be Batman’s movie and if Superman’s characterization had not been broody angst man, it would have been a truly excellent movie.  As it is, Superman brings down the movie to just good enough.

Rating: 5/5 for Batman and 1/5 for Superman.  Wonder Woman gets a 3/5 for showing up.

And now for my reactions: (beware of spoilers beyond this point) Continue reading

Quick Movie Reviews

Terminator: Genisys

I had very low hopes for this movie after Terminator: Salvation but this movie has resurrected the series for me.  Salvation was a slog through a plot that didn’t really matter since we already knew about the human looking terminators and that Skynet would be defeated someday.  Genisys takes the story back to what was good about the first two movies: traveling through time to kill Sarah Conner.  It doubles down on that by introducing two more plots to kill her and a guardian terminator called Pops.  What could have been a confusing mess is handled well enough to be fun action movie.  Rating 4/5

American Ultra

This movie was much more violent than the trailer led me to believe.  I expected a bumbling stoner clerk with “super spy” abilities.  What I got was closer to Kill Bill than Clerks.  Still not a bad movie.  Story runs on over the top action but still delivers some comedy and drama. I really liked the dynamic between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.  Rating 3.5/5

Interstellar

This movie is a hard science fiction movie in the same vein as 2001: A Space Odyssey but with a bit more action.  Set in a future, year unknown, that doesn’t look too different from our own a man stumbles into a secret NASA project to find a new home for humanity in a distant galaxy.  I like that movie is almost purely driven by science.  The NASA robots were a surprise.  They look like the monolith from 2001 but coated in polished aluminum, with two small monitors for a “face” and very human sounding voices.  Completely nonhuman looking but still very humanized.  Rating 4/5

The Giver (movie) – Review

So, The Giver has been on Netflix for a couple of months and it keeps showing up in my “Top Picks”.  I’ve never read the book so I didn’t have any nostalgia for the story nor did I have any real idea of what the story actually was.  I had seen a trailer before the movie came out and the fan outcry that the movie was in color but that was it.

The story is pretty average for a YA dystopian novel.  After a great war/cataclysm society has been rebuilt around the idea of “sameness” and everyone has forgotten the past and takes daily injections to suppress their emotions.  Jonas is chosen to be the Receiver of Memory.  A job that entails receiving memories of the past from The Giver.  There is a minor romance subplot with Jonas’s childhood friend but the main plot concerns how the memories of the past effect Jonas.

Most of the movie is shot in black in white with color added once Jonas begins receiving memories.  This lack of color to express the “sameness” the community was built around was well done.  I liked how color is introduced slowly into Jonas’s pov instead of the movie suddenly wiping to full color like The Wizard of Oz.

There’s nothing really new in the movie.  It shares a lot of tropes with other dystopian movies.  An emotional suppressed populace like in Equilibrium.  Constant surveillance, lack of privacy even in one’s own home, and the erasure of history like in 1984.  I also noticed a stylistic resemblance to Pleasantville with the black and white suburban imagery representing the “ideal” society and color used to show characters “awaking” to some truth.

The Giver is well made and the acting is fine but you’re not missing out if you skip it.

Rating: 2.5/5