Saturday, December 31, 2016

Some of the best and worst movies of 2016

The Huntsman: Winter's War

I was actually excited about this movie. Even though the first one had a few issues, there were some positives. Chris Hemsworth did a great job. It was somewhat of an action movie, but it wasn't about a flying God in a cape. Therefore it was in Hemsworth's wheelhouse but it wasn't the same old thing either.

Plus, it gave a fresh spin on the tale of Snow White. I thought the second one might be as good, but unfortunately it ended up falling short of my expectations.

There was the sister of the Evil Queen. Then there was the Huntsman's former wife. They were both taken in as children and trained by the Evil Queen's sister.

Meanwhile the Evil Queen comes back into the story, too. It felt like it was all just a little too much. Too much going on, too much of an attempt to build a backstory. I guess it's good that they put effort into it, but the backstory they used felt a little too standard.

No surprises, really. No drama. Just waiting for the movie to end. It wasn't one of those movies that you are dreading while you're watching it. It's not until after that you end up realizing, 'That wasn't very good, was it?'

I don't regret seeing the movie, but I won't be adding it to my DVD collection either.

Final Rating: 2 and a half stars

Finding Dory

So much disappointment. That may be an exaggeration, but I was anticipating so much more. Unfortunately the sequel that I was waiting for maybe shouldn't have been made.

Finding Nemo was such an unexpected and entertaining movie. Finding Dory seemed like an effort to make a sequel for the sake of making a sequel.

Seeing as how this sequel was 10 years too late, I figured they would've at least had a good story developed.

While it wasn't a bad movie, it lacked the creativity and wit that Finding Nemo's script was full of.

 To be fair, there were a few fun moments that made me laugh out loud, but they were few and far between in comparison to the first movie.

Final Rating: 3 stars

X-Men: Apocalypse

Here is another movie that failed to live up to the expectations. I was so excited to see that this latest X-Men movie was going to feature X-Men's uber villain: Apocalypse.

While Magneto has been involved in all of the X-Men movies (either played by Ian McKellen or by Michael Fassbender as the younger version), Apocalypse had never been featured before.

Sabretooth, Mystique, Emma Frost, and Juggernaut have all been featured as well. Yet one of the main villains had never been brought to life on the big screen?

I was excited about the makers of this movie correcting that oversight.

After seeing the movie, I wish they hadn't.

There were some really great moments in the movie, actually. 20th Century Fox's version of Quicksilver is incredible. That's one thing they beat Marvel at. While this movie's Quicksilver scene wasn't quite as good as the scene in Days of Future Past, it was right up there.

The young Nightcrawler was great. The actors playing Cyclops and Jean Grey were OK. Seeing Jubilee on screen was cool (even if she had a minimal, minimal role). They did a much better job with Archangel in this movie (remember the awful version in X3?). Psyclocke was in this movie, too, which was another fresh face we hadn't seen before.

Really, the positives outweighed the negatives.

The only bad part of the movie was Apocalypse. When the movie is named X-Men: Apocalypse and your main villain is Apocalypse, it's a very bad thing when Apocalypse's portrayal is awful.

Everything about him was awful. The voice. The outfit. The horrible blue paint on his face.

Instead of coming off as intimidating and bad-ass, he came of as a creepy, oddball mutant.

They really wasted an opportunity to do something cool with Apocalypse. The story wasn't even that bad. It wasn't amazing, but it was OK. The biggest problem was what they did with the main character of the entire movie.

Final Rating: 3 stars


A lot of people loved Deadpool. Some people didn't like it. I was kind of torn.

I was very surprised. Even though I knew it was Rated R and even after my friends said it was graphic, I was still very surprised at how the movie played out.

It was kind of a bloody, raunchy, spoof of a superhero movie. It was a different kind of super hero, for sure. And it kind of worked. After all, Deadpool is that way in a lot of the comics.

Given how saturated the movie theater is with super hero movies, you need to stand out sometimes. Between Marvel's Cinematic Universe, DC/Warner Brothers and Fox all making super hero movies, there's a lot of competition. And that doesn't even include DC's string of shows on the CW Network or the Marvel series on Netflix.

It was kind of a refreshing change of pace to see a movie break the fourth wall and not have such a serious tone.

They did a nice job including comedy with action and a little bit of drama.

Deadpool really had no competitors in 2016 because there was no other movie like Deadpool in 2016.

Final Rating: 3 stars

Star Trek: Beyond

I hate to sound like a broken record, but, just like with a few movies I named above, I started 2016 being really excited to see Star Trek: Beyond and I ended 2016 feeling a little disappointed with it.

Instead of feeling like a big, cinematic space adventure, this Star Trek flick seemed more like an extended version of one of the television shows or maybe a made-for-TV reunion movie.

The main actors of the movie (Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, and Zachary Quinto) didn't seem to have the passion they did in the previous two movies.

It seemed, to me, like they were just going through the motions. They seemed like three actors who were locked into contracts and had to make a third movie in the franchise rather than three actors who were really excited about the content they were working with.

I can't really pinpoint the problem with the movie. The story was alright. The action was OK. The graphics were great.

I think my main complaint is that the extra effort wasn't there.

There were a few missed opportunities. In each Star Trek movie, Capt. Kirk has been put in a spot where he does this dive. In the first installment, he dove onto the enemy-controlled drilling platform. In the second, he went from one spaceship to another alongside Khan. There was a quick line in Into Darkness where Kirk made reference to his first dive. He said something along the lines of, 'I've done this before.'

Sure enough, there's a similar scene in this installment. Only thing is that there was no line reference that he'd done it before.

Little things like that -- quips that show Kirk's personality -- were really missing in Beyond.

Simon Pegg (as Scotty) really helped save this movie. It seemed as though he and Karl Urban ('Bones') were given more screen time this time around. I don't know if they actually had more screen time, but they certainly maximized their minutes in front of the camera by putting forth entertaining performances.

I'm hoping the already in-the-works Star Trek 4 will make up for this less-than-stellar effort.

Final Rating: 3 and a half stars

Suicide Squad

We'll start with the biggie here. Yes, Jared Leto's portrayal of The Joker was different. No, he doesn't compare to Heath Ledger, but those are huge shoes to fill.

Now that that's out of the way, Leto did well. I thought he successfully portrayed Joker's back-and-forth feelings for Harley Quinn.

And Harley Quinn! It was her first appearance in a movie and it was definitely successful. Margot Robbie (although possibly featured a little too much compared to the other characters) did a absolutely amazing job as Harley Quinn.

There were lots of great moments with her. Very dynamic performance that showcased her vulnerability, her craziness and her independence.

Viola Davis as Amanda Waller was a great casting choice as well. Very no-nonsense portrayal there.

Will Smith as Deadshot was OK. I was neither here nor there on it. He could've easily been replaced by someone else, but he didn't detract from the movie with a bad performance either.

Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) were all decent characters as well.

I think Killer Croc probably stole a bit of their thunder despite being given just a few lines in the movie. He was a fun character.

Rick Flag wasn't a character I expected much from, but Joel Kinnaman's performance really helped that character stand out -- which is good because the character was fairly important in the overall movie.

I'd seen Kinnaman in a couple of his previous acting endeavors (House of Cards and 2014's RoboCop), but wasn't that familiar with him.

He's got some acting chops.

DC was obviously thinking ahead with this movie, as they did have a few cameos that help introduce or familiarize ourselves with the Justice League characters.

The story itself was probably lacking a little bit. I joke with some of my family members about the super hero movies that always feature a big, bright light going into the sky. The light of destruction. Or the wormhole (or portal) of destruction.

It's overdone. Come up with something new.

That was the case here, too.

But, considering they were squeezing a bunch of new characters (new to the general public anyway) into this movie and trying to set up for the future, I can forgive some of the more generic aspects of the movie.

I don't know if we'll get a Suicide Squad 2, but I sure hope to see more of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn (and yeah, Leto as Joker, too).

Final Rating: 3 and a half stars

Dr. Strange

This movie was question mark. Would it be as successful as some of the other Marvel movies? I once suggested Eric Dane as a possibility for Dr. Strange, but had they made that casting choice, it probably wouldn't have been as successful.

Benedict Cumberbatch almost guaranteed a box office hit and I'm glad it did because there's lots of potential with Dr. Strange on the big screen.

To me, he's kind of like Thor. While Iron Man can do amazing things with his technology and money, Spider-Man has genetically-altered powers, and the Black Widow is a highly entertaining and highly dangerous super spy, none of them can travel to other dimensions like Thor or Dr. Strange can.

Dealing with Thanos in the upcoming Avengers movies means Dr. Strange will likely be utilized in a big way. Cumberbatch was very good at portraying an egotistical, selfish doctor and making the transition into an enlightened man who was willing to put his own well being on the line to save others.

It was kind of like Marvel's Tony Stark in that he's not a boy scout. Yet it had a different twist. It didn't feel like Cumberbatch was replicating what Robert Downey Jr. did in Iron Man.

Rachel McAdams is usually pretty good in movies and she provided a little comic relief in a couple of scenes. Her role in the movie was more supplemental to Dr. Strange -- to develop his character moreso than develop anything meaningful of her own. To that extent, McAdams did her role well.

Chiwetel Ejiofor played Mordo (who, in the comics was apparently a white dude). This was a very good choice as he is a very believable actor.

I haven't seen him too much before, but I remember his role in Salt (a movie I have a soft spot for and have seen several times over). He did a great job there. I always wondered why he never had bigger roles.

But over the past few years he ended up getting roles in 12 Years a Slave and The Martian. I haven't seen those movies, but I do know that they were critically acclaimed.

While Marvel didn't really seem to get praise for casting a black man in a role that was a white character, they sure felt the heat for Tilda Swinton portraying The Ancient One.

As you probably read at some point this year, The Ancient One is a Tibetan male.

But because Tibet and China don't get on so well and China is a big market for the movie industry, they cast Tilda Swinton in the role instead and made her a Celtic version of The Ancient One.

I really didn't have much of a problem with this. Though I do think characters should probably stick to how they were portrayed in whatever medium they became popular in (whether it's comics or a TV show, etc., etc.), there are several instances of change working out for the better.

I felt that this was one of them.

Swinton did a very good job playing a complex, powerful sorcerer who kind of walked the line of moral standing, depending on the viewpoint of the characters in the movie.

Madds Mikkelsen playing the villain Kaecilius was alright. This guy stood out a little more than your typical villain, but certainly won't make it with a spot on the list of best villains of all time. He did his job though and it worked.

I think the writing and Cumberbatch's acting are really what made this movie more than just watchable and made it something you'd want to see more of.

Final Rating: 4 stars

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

A lot of people crapped on this movie with their reviews, but what was so bad about it? Granted, I'm a big fan of the Bat, but I thought it was really well done.

It fought the odds and delivered (Ben Affleck was Batman and it was still good!). The story in the theatrical version was a little tough to follow because there were some things they left on the cutting room floor that they shouldn't have.

If you watch the extended cut (which should have been the theatrical version ... it wasn't that long), then it makes sense.

That's the only version I'll be watching in the future.

If we're talking the extended cut, then I don't have much to complain about. Lois Lane didn't really seem that intelligent, but Amy Adams' portrayal is something I've made peace with back during Man of Steel. She's not a bad actress, but not my ideal Lois Lane either.

Nonetheless, there were lots of great things about this movie.

Lex Luthor was great. Jesse Eisenberg really studied that character. I wasn't sure he'd be able to compare to the very good performances of Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey, but he made the part his own while keeping with the traditional aspects of the character. His speaking, his mannerisms and his facial expressions all pulled me into the movie.

The few glimpses of Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller) made me anxious for the full Justice League movie.

Alfred (played by Jeremy Irons) was a little stiff. He wasn't as fun as some of the other actors who tackled that role in the past.

They had some great actors in supporting roles that were specific to this movie too. Holly Hunter as Senator Finch, for example. Holly Hunter is always 100% natural in her roles.

The big three did well too. Henry Cavill did an even better job as Superman in this movie than in the first. He seems comfortable, which says something because it's a big role. Christopher Reeve did it justice for 4 movies. There were others before Reeve and, of course, small-screen versions after him. Cavill looks the part and his acting doesn't come off as hokey, which could probably happen at times given the fact that you're dealing with alien super-monsters like Doomsday.

Ben Affleck. Oh, Ben Affleck. People were not on his bandwagon when the casting was announced. I, too, would've preferred to see Christian Bale take the cape once again --- even if it's just for continuity.

I hate it when there are multiple actors playing the same character in such a short time span.

It kind of bastardizes the character's legitimacy in my opinion.

But, good job Ben. You didn't ruin anything.

And, of course, Wonder Woman finally made her big screen debut. The people in the movie theater I was at actually clapped when she appeared for the first time in her Wonder Woman gear.

I'd never heard of Gal Gadot when she was announced but after seeing her in this movie, I think she'll do the role justice (no pun intended).

Final Rating: 4 stars

Captain America 3: Civil War

While DC did a great job in trying to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 2016 was still Marvel's year. Civil War was the best super hero movie by far. Marvel knows itself. They know their audience and what their audience likes.

While Captain America: Civil War did kind of cheat by basically becoming Avengers number 3, it was still very fun to watch hero against hero.

The story with Iron Man's parents passing was a little too sappy for my taste, but it would require something traumatic like that in order to pit two good pals like Captain America and Iron Man to do battle with each other.

Overall, the movie served several purposes: introducing new characters for future stories, continuing the stories of current characters and telling it's own story.

When you think about all that the movie accomplished, it's impossible to not give this movie at least 4 stars. Only complaint is that the story line with the villain was a little hard to follow the first time around.

The Black Panther should be a really cool character going forward. Spider-Man's inclusion worked as well. Ant-Man pretty much stole the entire fight scene with his involvement. What would a Marvel movie be without Black Widow, right? This wasn't her movie though. She was there to support the others, which was fine.

The Scarlet Witch ended up having a larger role this time and her quasi-relationship with Vision was interesting.

This is kind of a short synopsis, but I'm not really sure what to say other than it was what you've come to expect out of a Marvel movie. It was really good. The writing, the acting, the action and the cinematography were all on point.

Final Rating: 4 and a half stars

Star Wars: Rogue One

I saw this movie twice -- once in its' regular format. The second time in 3D. It'd be a long time since I'd seen a movie in 3D. Avatar was the last movie and that was --- 2009? 2010?

I don't know that 3D was necessarily that much better, but it was good seeing the movie for a second time. I caught a few things that I missed the first time around.

I've seen all of the Star Wars movies (I'm actually rewatching them now because I'm on a bit of a Star Wars kick) but not to the point that I know every detail.

However, if my memory serves me correctly (and as I'm watching them again now), I've got to say: this is probably one of my favorite movies of the entire franchise.

It was definitely a sacrifice story, but considering the makers of this movie had a huge task in bridging the original Star Wars trilogy to the prequels, they did an incredible job!

Add in a little bit of cameos from some aged or deceased actors and you also have a major technological feat. It was the story that grabbed me though.

There were great characters who fit right in with the rest of the Star Wars universe.

I don't really remember the Death Star being such a huge part of the franchise. I remembered the destruction of the Death Star from reruns of the trilogy that aired on the USA Network back in the 90's. But I didn't realize how well the prequels did in setting it all up. Ever since Episode I, it was all about planning and building the Death Star.

They planted the seeds very well through little images of the schematics in Episodes II and III. This was the first full-on movie that went in-depth about how it was created though.

It's a shame that they are limited in what direction they can go in due to the ages of the original actors (R.I.P. Carrie Fisher, by the way) and the fact that certain characters have been killed off. Even though this movie is set in between the two trilogies, it did a great job of making me even more excited to see Episode VIII.

Final Rating: 4 and a half stars (only missing half a star because Vader's first appearance in the movie wasn't as intimidating as I'd hoped).

Related Content:
Star Wars: Rogue One - reviewed.
Captain America: Civil War – reviewed.
Daredevil, Season 1 – reviewed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

WWE should sign Melina as well

It was announced recently that, after her outstanding performance against Asuka at Takeover: Toronto in NXT, Mickie James has signed a new, 3-year contract with WWE and will be assigned to the Smackdown brand.

Mickie is one talent who has only gotten better with age. She was a good wrestler when she first signed a developmental deal with WWE in 2003, but since then she's refined her skills, expanded her move set and truly lives in the moment during her matches.

 As a result, her matches have psychology and lack the rehearsed feeling that sometimes even Sasha Banks and Charlotte end up having.

I'm very happy, as a longtime Mickie fan, that she's getting a second shot in WWE and will, hopefully, end her tenure on a better note. I see a Hall of Fame induction in her future.

Meanwhile, there's another former Diva who I hope will attract some interest from WWE: Melina.

For several years after being released back in August of 2011, Melina kept a relatively low profile, making occasional appearances at autograph signings or fan expos. 2016 was the year that she returned to the ring, capturing two championship titles --- one for a Los Angeles-based promotion.

Apparently she and John Morrison (now 'Mundo' in Lucha Underground) broke up within the last year or so. I'm assuming that's why she's stepping back into the ring. John Morrison has kept a steady schedule, whether it be with wrestling or with appearing in small-scale movies. Now that they've split, she's got to support herself.

She doesn't have a reality show deal with E! like Kelly Kelly, she didn't sign onto a deal with Vivid like Sunny, and the probability of her making it big as an actress in Hollywood just isn't good.

With the exception of The Rock and, to a lesser extent, Batista, there aren't too many people who have had luck getting anything other than bit parts in movies. Steve Austin has made a second career out of making straight-to-DVD movies and hosting reality competitions, but Melina isn't Steve Austin.

That means stepping back into the ring to earn a paycheck. I have no idea what her financial situation is. This is all purely speculation on my part, but it makes sense.

Now that Melina is back in the ring, she's become more active on her social media accounts as well. She posted a video to her YouTube channel earlier this December about her feelings on Mickie James.

 Apparently some fans had asked her a question (probably since there was rumored heat from their OVW days). They obviously mended any issues they had.

Melina also spoke about Mickie in a second video that was posted on the Southside Wrestling YouTube page.

Melina spoke about how fans still talk to her about the matches she and Mickie had while they were both in WWE.

If you're not familiar with all of their work, I'd recommend doing some YouTube searching (look for a series of matches on Heat in 2008).

She mentioned the idea that if they had such good chemistry at the time, then they'd have even greater matches now. That idea got me thinking: she's probably right. Surely a few matches with a familiar ring mate would end up in some rave reviews.

I haven't seen any of Melina's return matches, but Mickie James really grew as a performer during her run in TNA after she was released from WWE. Mickie had very good matches with the likes of Gail Kim, ODB, Madison Rayne, Winter and Angelina Love.

If those matches are any indication of what she can do with top level talents, then I like the idea of Mickie James vs. Melina -- revisited.

WWE could make that happen by signing Melina to another contract as well. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of faith that this will happen since WWE has a history of not making obvious and easy decisions that lead to a good TV product.

Knowing WWE, if they were to sign Melina, she'd probably wind up on Raw as Nia Jax's jobber and never even cross paths with Mickie James.

I remember WWE's awful women's division during the initial brand split. The talent was there. Beth Phoenix, Melina, Jillian, Mickie, Trinity, Victoria and others all on the same roster but rarely used together or in a meaningful way.

That's probably what would happen this time around too. Still, I have hope.

 WWE signing Curt Hawkins, using The Headbangers, bringing in the Spirit Squad, and having interest in Shelton Benjamin gives me hope that they'd give Melina a second run with the company as well.

Ideally she, too, would go to Smackdown and Raw could have the likes of Asuka, Ember Moon, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay when they are called up.

Even if they were just matches on Superstars or Main Event (or whatever secondary TV show WWE has these days), Melina vs. Mickie James would be a fun feud to update. They've both still got it in them.

I hope they both get the chance to show it.

In the mean time, take a look at some of Mickie and Melina's best matches:
Monday Night Raw - July 16, 2007
Monday Night Raw - October 1, 2007
Sunday Night Heat - October 21, 2007
Monday Night Raw - November 26, 2007
Sunday Night Heat - March 9, 2008

Related Content:
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Nia Jax and Layla El --- the same person?
RIP Chyna
My Wrestlemania vs. The Real Wrestlemania

Monday, December 26, 2016

Star Wars: Rogue One - reviewed.

As a fairly knowledgeable fan of the Star Wars franchise (I've seen all the movies, but not over and over again like some have), I wasn't extremely excited about Rogue One.

First of all, it was a prequel story and I'm not always the biggest fan of those. Sometimes it ends up being a money-making attempt by the studio rather than a full force effort to produce something of quality.

Second, it wasn't going to feature any of the classic Star Wars characters or any of the newer ones from Episode 8.

However, when I went to see Dr. Strange there was a trailer for the Rogue One movie and I was impressed.

I was faced with the decision of being stubborn and refusing to go see Rogue One or putting my pride aside, admitting I was wrong and going to see the movie.

I decided to go with the later. And I'm glad I did because it was a great movie.

I haven't read any full reviews yet, but I saw some tweets and/or headlines that mentioned some continuity issues.

I was kind of surprised by that because I thought it was a great bridge between Episode III and Episode IV.

Granted, as I said before, I'm not a Star Wars fanatic so I don't have every single detail memorized.

The makers of this movie did a great job of making this movie a Star Wars, Episode III.5, which, when you think about it, isn't an easy thing to do.

You have to create new, likeable or detestable characters right away. Yes, the Star Wars backstory is there, but this film wasn't using those established characters.

Shockingly (small SPOILER ALERT!) ....


.... there weren't many light sabers used in the movie. Very little Jedi mind tricks.

The entire Star Wars backstory was there (and a few welcomed cameos), but this was very much a standalone movie (while still bridging the gap between the previous movies).

I've heard a few people complain that the movie was too dark, but I thought it was very poetic.

I don't want to give away too many spoilers, so we'll just say that what happened probably had to happen to prevent any continuity issues.

The acting choices and chemistry of the cast was very impressive (though it seems anyone with blonde hair just doesn't exist in the Star Wars universe).

Ben Mendelsohn makes such a great villain. I immediately recognized him from The Dark Knight Rises (where his part was too minimal).

Felicity Jones was great.  I took a quick look at her IMDB credits and I think this is my first introduction to her. I guess she was in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but I didn't recognize her at the time and that was such a bit part that it almost doesn't even count.

Diego Luna did well as the character of "Cassian Andor" while Donnie Yen (playing "Chirrut Imwe") was one of my favorite characters in the movie.

Chirrut's pal "Baze Malbus" (played by actor Jiang Wen) provided some great comic relief as well.

It's kind of unfortunate that this was a stand-alone prequel/sequel because the actors in this movie would be fun to watch in future installments.

Rogue One opened my eyes as to the potential of the Star Wars universe.

 Sure, we all probably figured that there was success to be had with the continuation of the original two trilogies, but how many of us were betting on branch-off movies without Yoda, R2D2, Luke Skywalker, etc.? You may have seen that coming, but I sure didn't.

I'm not enticed by the idea of the upcoming pre-trilogies Han Solo movie without Harrison Ford, but maybe that'll work out too.

So far this Disney / Lucasfilm Star Wars deal seems to be going very well. Maybe they'll prove me wrong again.

Just two movies in and Star Wars seems to be the new Marvel.  By that, I mean that they've done a great job with the storytelling, the action, the cinematography, the comedy and the drama all rolled into one package.  An epic, fun adventure that shouldn't be missed.

Final rating?  Four and a half "death" stars out of five (only because the first appearance of Darth Vader in this movie was a little underwhelming ... I feel he was wimpified to begin with).

Related Content:
Pan - reviewed.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 3 finale - reaction (yes, there are spoilers in here)
Captain America: Civil War – reviewed.
Daredevil, Season 1 – reviewed.