Sunday, December 31, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - reviewed.

There's a non-spoiler section here and a spoiler section. There's no way to properly review this movie without the spoilers.

First -- the NON-spoiler section:

I was eagerly anticipating this movie. I re-watched The Force Awakens to get prepped for it. I was even more excited after watching that just the other night.

What is going to happen with Luke Skywalker? Who are Rey's parents? What is going to happen to Princess Leia (now that Carrie Fisher passed away)? Who is Supreme Leader Snoke?

All questions that I was hoping to get answered.

I got some of those answers (I think). Still, there was a lot left unanswered.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if that's because the writers are building to answers in the final installment of this latest trilogy or if it's because of absolutely awful writing in this movie.

The best scenes of the movie absolutely involved Luke Skywalker. You won't be disappointed in anything involving Luke. The rest of it? It's a mixed bag.

This movie was such a hot mess!

There were some very cool elements of the visual nature, a few good one-liners and a few great action scenes.

There were also some very cheesy lines (over-the-top cheesy), some seemingly unneeded storylines and confusing messages.

I was impressed with how each character had very individual storylines going for them. In a way, that's a good thing. In a way, maybe that was at the expense of the cohesiveness of the movie.

I gave this movie 3 out of 5 stars -- and 1/2 a star of that rating is probably due to nostalgia. Overall, fairly disappointed.

I'll watch the next installment, but if it doesn't pick up there, future Star Wars movies may become a Redbox rental for me.

If you want to know specifically why, continue on to the *SPOILER* section below:


Where do I start?

Let's start with Princess Leia. When the ship she was on was attacked and she was lost into space, I thought it was an appropriate ending to her character. She wasn't killed by her son. However, she did die.

In times of war, main characters don't always survive. That's one of the things I really liked about Rogue One. It was such a sacrifice story. It was very poetic and showed just how much they believed in what they were fighting for. The fact that they were willing to give their life for their fight (against evil and tyranny) brought such a real element to the movie.

It wasn't just a space fairy tale where the good guy gets the girl and everyone lives happily ever after. It was a realistic movie about heroism, sacrifice and the passionate belief in a cause.

This was not Rogue One, though. So Leia summoned whatever force she has and floated through space like some sort of angel (I guess?) to materialize herself and be recuperated back to life in the 2 hr. and 33 min. timespan of the movie.

As she's recovering, the purple-haired woman with the long neck (surely it was computer-enhanced, right?) takes control and seemingly is a bad leader.

 Later, it's revealed that she was actually putting everyone else's needs ahead of her own.

Problem is: because of her lack of communication about the plan (did she not trust her crew well enough to share the plan with them?), there was a coo that was thrown, lead by Poe.

 That could have been avoided entirely if she'd have just shared her plans (at least a little of them) with any of her crew members.

Because of her lack of looping anyone in on her master plan to get the escape pods (which aren't tracked by the First Order) to the sanctuary planet, that plan almost backfired when the ships crew / pilots held her at stun point (get it? they had stun guns drawn on her).

But after Poe is stunned into a nice, little nap, Leia and the purple-haired woman talk about how they like him because he has fight in him.

Was this some kind of leadership test? I mean, sure, that's Poe's journey in this movie, but it shouldn't have been such a seemingly set up test by these two women. That doesn't happen in real life -- not in these life or death situations.

Speaking of the First Order tracking the rebel ships -- where was that explanation? How did General Hux come up with this? How was it implemented? Did he come up with it or did someone else? None of that was explained (at least from my recollection).

It was just a convenient part of the story line.

How did General Hux even come into power at such a young age? He looks like he just graduated college. Yet, he's already the 2nd or 3rd in command of the most powerful group in the universe?

When it comes to the villains, General Hux is probably the most convincing in terms of his acting. But his character isn't the only one with issues.

What about Supreme Leader Snoke? I was wondering where he came from and how he came to be in power throughout The Force Awakens. The movie ended without sharing those answers, but I was alright with that because I figured we'd get some of that in The Last Jedi.

Nope -- not a bit. He was just there. He's the bad guy. Don't question it. He gets killed mid-movie as a character progress point for Kylo Ren. Seriously?! That's it?

The Emperor was built up as such (and Darth Vader's mentor) for 6 movies. 6 movies! Now, this trilogy's big bad gets killed halfway through the second movie without even a slight explanation as to where he came from, who he was trained by, etc. etc.?

I'd have settled for a one-line explanation in the scrolling text introduction - 'A new Sith Lord rose from the darkest recesses of space' or something like that. Instead, nothing.

I saw the situation with Ren killing Snoke from a mile away. I was a fan of it. He struck down his teacher the way Darth Sidious wanted Darth Vader to do to him. And the way Darth Sidious described doing to his mentor. The dialogue was reminiscent of Ren's conversation with Han Solo -- mentioning being torn, but knowing what he must do -- before Ren killed him.

The fight scene with Ren and Rey teaming up was amazing. Lots of innovating uses of light sabers and teamwork.

Again, there was lack of storytelling there. Why did the guards fight these two? Their leader was dead. I guess they still had allegiance to him? We're supposed to assume that because they couldn't come up with good enough writing to actually explain that.

The other scene that was absolutely awesome in terms of light saber action was the Luke / Ren fight scene near the end of the movie.  Awesome!  The movements, the creativity -- it was all spot on!

I thought they were going to stop the movie when Luke walked out of the rebel base.  Then, I thought they were going to stop the movie just before Luke and Ren battled.

I was really surprised they went further than that, but I realized that the movie was basically the Luke Skywalker movie of this new trilogy.

Much like the previous Star Wars movies, they did a good job with the scenery on Crait, the new planet that was introduced as the escape / save haven for the rebel forces.

First -- the salt and the red dust was an amazing visual.  Second, the land speeders were equally amazing.  For a franchise that's spanned eight movies now, I'm sure it must be hard to come up with new concepts.  That's not including competing franchises like Star Trek, Marvel's cinematic universe, etc.

So I'll give them kudos for that, for sure. I loved the concept of the land speeders and I liked what Crait had to offer as a battlefield.

I liked the addition of Rose Tico.  She was a fun character, especially interacting with Finn.  The situation with her stopping Finn from driving into the blaster beam was just stupid though.  She's upset that Finn is running away (to find Rey) at the start of the movie because he's being selfish.  But then she stops him from making the ultimate sacrifice so that he could save his friends.  Why?  Because they have to hang onto what they love.  Yet the people they love are all about to die.

This explanation comes after Rose is knocked out but wakes up long enough to say this and deliver an awkward kiss and then collapse back into unconsciousness.  Alright, then.

Meanwhile there's apparently going to be a love triangle of sorts with Rey caring for Finn and Finn caring for Rey, but Finn also caring for Rose, who cares for Finn as well.

Not sure how that will end.  I'm not sure I care either.  I'd prefer more focus to be on the rebuilding of the Jedi.

Back to some of the more ridiculous aspects of the movie.  There were too many animals with human characteristics in this movie.

The porg -- absolutely worthless to the movie. It was probably purely a marketing gimmick -- something they could make stuffed animals out of. The only moment I half-way cared about that little creature was when it did the Chewbacca sound in the Millennium Falcon.

I loved how Chewie just brushed it away right after.

Besides the porg, there was the ice fox, which just happened to know to be afraid of the First Order and hide in the rebel base so it could conveniently show the rebels the way out of the mountain fortress.

Then there was the middle part of the movie that featured the Fathiers. They were like race horses, essentially. They were kind of cool, but again, they seemed to be able to know who was good and bad. It's all a little too convenient for me to ignore.

BB8, R2D2 and C3P0 were all there, but really didn't add much to this movie.  BB8 was OK.  The writers gave BB8 all the good droid material though.  R2D2 and C3P0 were kind of pointless.  I honestly wouldn't mind if C3P0 were killed off since he doesn't add anything to the movies anymore anyway other than a few seconds of cheap nostalgia.

Yoda made an appearance.  He was his offbeat self that fans of the original trilogy would recognize.  It was an OK appearance, but it felt like it should've been bigger than it was.  The first time Yoda has been in a Star Wars movie in several years and it felt like a footnote rather than a pivotal moment for Luke in the movie.

Then there was the big (lackluster) reveal regarding Rey's parents.  Was Luke her father?  Nope.  Her parents weren't anybody special.  She's just somehow in the force.  Anybody can be in the force apparently, as we saw at the end of the movie when the boy who was sweeping used it to move his broom towards him.

It's not a bad concept, I guess.  But the reveal about Rey's parents sure wasn't the big movie moment that it should've been.

Lastly, what about that island?  The force comes from the island?  The dark side is underneath the island?  Huh?  What kind of strange situation was that?

About 3/4 of the way through the movie I was legitimately wondering if the writers of the the TV show Lost wrote this movie.  It made about as much sense as Lost's season finale did.

This review has probably been all over the place, but after having seen the movie just once, I was a little surprised at how much I found to fault the movie with. I figured I'd enjoy the heck out of this movie, but instead I left feeling disappointed with it.

I think this was supposed to be a passing of the torch movie from the older cast to the younger cast.  Han Solo was killed off.  Luke Skywalker was killed off.  Leia can't be used any further since Carrie Fisher died.

I don't mind that they did this, but I don't think they executed it as well as they could have.  I don't think they can build as big of a legacy with this younger cast as they did with the previous characters.

Maybe, upon a second viewing once it's out on DVD, I'll have better things to say about it.

Related Content:
Justice League - reviewed.
Transformers: The Last Knight - reviewed.
Wonder Woman - reviewed.
Logan - reviewed.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Casting the He-Man movie: Skeletor

Alright, I figured I'd better finish my series of blogs on potential casting choices for the upcoming He-Man movie before the movie is actually out!

So, jumping back onto the saddle, let's talk Skeletor.

He's one of the most important choices in this movie. Maybe even more important than He-Man. Christian Bale was a good Batman. Almost everyone can agree on that. But I've never met anyone who doesn't think Heath Ledger was an amazing Joker. That's the way I see it with Skeletor.

He's He-Man's arch-rival. He's the villainous part of the story. Every good story needs a good villain and, in this one, Skeletor is it. If the movie's decision-makers choose wisely, it could take the movie up another notch.

Who to choose?

Here are a few people I've come up with:

Daniel Radcliffe

I'm not sure what age range the rest of the cast is, but there's always a benefit to going young in movies where there's a potential to for a trilogy or a series.

 The benefit is that the actor is young enough to remain in that starring role for the next decade. Just look at Hugh Jackman.

 He was Wolverine for 17 years! Action movies require people to be in at least decent shape. That's a lot of fitness dedication to be in top shape for 17 years.

Radcliffe is, of course, best known for his work as Harry Potter. He's not a muscle head, but he seems to have a good build. I assume he could do some of his own stunts.

Everyone (or at least I do) pictures teenage Harry Potter when they think of Radcliffe, so it's easy to forget that he's a much more mature looking 28-year-old these days.

He's got the acting chops to get the job done and I think he'd have an interesting take on the role of Skeletor. I wouldn't mind a bit of he was chosen for the job.

Robert Pattinson

Another younger actor who is primarily known for one major role is Mr. Pattinson. Thanks to the Twilight saga, he's known for pretty much one role. Although he's done other movies, none of them have elevated him past the distinction of being a sparkling vampire in the Twilight series.

Assuming that the Masters of the Universe movie is even somewhat successful, it'd at least be a chance of pace for Pattinson. Instead of being the romantic interest, he'd be a villain. He'd be evil and part of an action movie. I think it'd look good on his resume, but I'm not his agent.

In terms of what he offers to the role, he's got name recognition. He's got decent acting skills. He's also got the physique and, I assume, the athleticism to succeed in the physicality of the role.

Skeletor was never a big hand-to-hand combat villain anyway. He was more of a Loki type of villain -- a plotting trickster with magical powers and a magical staff that he used as a weapon.

Robert Pattinson could handle the role of Skeletor just fine.

Michael Shannon

Michael who? That's probably a question you're asking, even if you've seen this guy in other movies before. He was General Zod in Man of Steel. That's his biggest role to date, but he's also appeared in 8 Mile, Bad Boys II, Vanilla Sky and even Groundhog Day. Needless to say he's got the experience required to play the part.

Shannon is probably more of an 'actor's actor' than Pattinson or Radcliffe. By that I mean he's got a lot of diversity in his filmography. He's taken small roles and large roles. He's acted on TV and in movies. I don't think he'd be unprepared to handle any kind of task the director or producer threw at him.

In terms of his physicality, he proved that he could be a formidable opponent for someone with superhuman strength in Man of Steel.

He's an older choice than the other two choices I've mentioned so far, but Skeletor can be older. Skeletor doesn't really have an age, so that's OK. Shannon doesn't have the name recognition, but he'd bring some good acting to the role.

James Franco

I'm not a huge fan of James Franco, but, for some reason, I could see this working. My impression of Franco is that he's a little out there. That can sometimes make for good actors.

 I can't think of one performance of Franco's that I've been incredibly moved by, but he gets the job done.

He's got some name recognition to his name. I'm good with going with unknown actors or actresses to fill roles. Look at how well it turned out for Marvel with Chris Hemsworth as Thor. However, I think the new MOTU movie needs some big names if it's going to be the start of a franchise.

Franco would provide the project with a big name and some acceptable acting skills as well.

Daniel Craig

How about this as a choice? Little bit of a twist? Craig is, of course, known for being Mr. 007 in what will be at least 5 different James Bond movies, but I think he'd be really good as a villain, too.

 Skeletor would be in the same realm as James Bond (action flick, big budget, kind of realistic but not really). It'd be a very distinct, different character, though.

I'd imagine he'd be happy to not be typecast as James Bond. Being a blue-skinned alien with a floating yellow head and a purple cloak would help expand how people see him, right?

Without a doubt, Craig would be fine with the physical aspects of the role. 5 James Bond movies kind of prepares you for any other action movies that come along. He's been in some other movies, of course, and there was a bit of variety in them.

I think Daniel Craig would be able to portray a complex villain (which is how Skeletor needs to be portrayed) and get the audience emotionally involved. For that reason alone, he's a good choice.

Willem Dafoe

Speaking of actors with a good amount of experience, Willem Dafoe's career goes back to the 1980's. He's starred in comedies, action flicks, superhero movies, and dramas.

He was the Green Goblin in the Spider-Man trilogy from the early 2000's.  He'll be Nuidis Vulko in 2018's Aquaman.

Some of his most recent credits include: Murder on the Orient Express, John Wick and The Fault in Our Stars.

Dafoe can get it done in whatever role he's given.  He's one of those actors who you may not know by name, but have probably seen at some point or another.  He's got a recognizable face, even if people don't know him by name.

That's, of course, due to all of his work in Hollywood.

What does he bring to the table?  Good acting.  Credible acting.  Both of those would help the MOTU be more than just a failed effort.  We saw the G.I. Joe franchise flop, despite some okay box office numbers and one of the two movies starring Channing Tatum, The Rock and Bruce Willis.

I'd like He-Man to be a nice mix of good cinematography, exciting action sequences, visually pleasing CGI (not overdone though!), impressive acting, and a script that combines drama and comedy.

Basically, I want it to be on point.  Dafoe brings impressive acting to the table and a load of experience.

Cillian Murphy

This is the one I want. This is my pick for Skeletor. In my dream world of fantasy casting, Cillian Murphy would be Skeletor. He's not a hugely recognizable actor, but he's got some major roles under is belt -- and a lot of them are as villains. He was the Scarecrow in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.

 He was also the creepy evil dude in Red Eye. Anyone remember that movie with Rachel McAdams? He was also the bad guy in the not-so-amazing Justin Timberlake futuristic flick In Time.

If Christopher Nolan were in charge of the MOTU movie, Murphy would be a shoe-in because Murphy also starred in Inception.

So, basically, Murphy can handle the acting. He's used to big productions. He's used to playing a bad guy. He looks to be in good shape, so I think he could handle some of the stunts, too.

I think Cillian Murphy would be a great choice. He's my number one pick.

I'm hoping someone in Hollywood has at least thought of him for the role, too!

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Casting the He-Man movie: the others
Casting the He-Man movie: Ram Man
Casting the He-Man movie: Orko
Casting the He-Man movie: Trap Jaw
Casting the He-Man movie: The Sorceress
Casting the He-Man Movie: Evil-lyn
Casting the He-Man movie: Mer-Man
Casting the He-Man movie: Man-At-Arms
Casting the He-Man movie: Beast Man
Casting the He-Man movie: Teela

Justice League - reviewed.

I went into Justice League the way I got into all movies that I want to see: without watching the trailers. I tried to avoid as many clips or previews or interviews or spoilers or reviews as possible.

And I wasn't disappointed.

One of my co-workers did mention to me that Joss Whedon apparently retweeted a review by Variety, which said that the villain in this movie was one of the worst villains of all time. I don't know if that's the case because I never actually took the time to find that tweet.

I did see a few months back that Diane Lane, who plays Martha Kent, mentioned on an episode of Watch What Happens Live that she didn't think Justice League would be as good as The Avengers.  She released a statement later, explaining that she was saying that she couldn't reveal spoilers and that she hadn't seen The Avengers.

So, there was that.  Outside of that little bit of information, I didn't know what to expect from the movie, but I was wanting big things.

I was really hoping, after the success of Wonder Woman, that this would be good. Why? Because I'm a fan of comic books and super heroes and I really want the DC Universe to do well on the big screen because that will mean even more DC projects in the future.

So how did this venture compare to some of Marvel's movies? I've got to say: it measured up. For comparison purposes, it reminded me a lot of Avengers 2 in various ways.

First off, the villain, Steppenwolf, wasn't amazing. If I'm being honest, he was OK. He was acceptable, but not a standout by any means. I think there was a little too much CGI involved with him. Additionally, he didn't really stand out that much.

 Just like Ultron in Avengers 2, Steppenwolf filled the need for a powerful enough villain to bring this awesome group of super heroes together against a common enemy.

 It's definitely not as though this guy will go down in super hero movie history as one of the best villains of all time, though.

Unfortunately DC comics doesn't have a bunch of really interesting villains. We've got Batman's villains, but none of them pose a threat against an allegiance like the Justice League. Lex Luthor is great, but, again, he's a human. He's not a physical threat against the likes of Wonder Woman, Aquaman or Superman.

As the DC cinematic universe continues on, they may need to consider coming up with some entirely new villains. I wouldn't mind that at all, actually. Or maybe they find some of the more obscure, yet still threatening villains and bring them to the big screen.

Or maybe they just need to work on their delivery. I didn't know anything about Steppenwolf going into this movie, but upon doing some research, I liked certain comic book depictions of him -- much more than the movie's depiction.

He gets the job done, though.

What really makes this movie awesome is the same thing that made Avengers, Avengers 2, and Captain America 3 awesome: the interactions between the heroes.

There are so many great moments in this movie, whether it's comedic one-liners or action sequences. Batman and The Flash were hilarious together. Alfred had some funny moments. Wonder Woman and Batman had a chemistry in Batman v. Superman and carried that on into this movie, too. Aquaman is freakin' hilarious! I'm anxious to see his movie next year.

The Flash should be a really good standalone movie as well.  His interactions with Cyborg made both characters stand out among some big names.

Cyborg was really interesting. I think he's an interesting enough character to warrant a standalone movie down the road.

Wonder Woman was just as amazing as she was in her own movie.  DC Universe has big money with Gal Gadot and if they handle the character the right way, there will be multiple success stories to come -- either in a Wonder Woman standalone film or in Justice League team-ups.

I know I mentioned how awesome Aquaman was a few paragraphs up, but it bears repeating.  He is a sarcastic bad-ass who can control the water.  Pretty much an under water Thor with an edge.

If you've ever watched The Big Bang Theory, you're probably familiar with the jokes at Aquaman's expense.  Maybe deservedly so.  However, this Aquaman is going to shatter the image of the blonde-haired comic book version with the orange and green attire.

It's interesting that DC is following Marvel's own already winning formula.

They started with Superman in Man of Steel.  Then gave us Batman v. Superman (with a Wonder Woman appearance).

After that, they went with a period piece for Wonder Woman (as Marvel did with Captain America's first movie).

Now it's the team-up in Justice League (like Marvel did with The Avengers).  Next, they'll give us Aquaman and The Flash.

What really impressed me with Justice League was the amount of foreshadowing towards the future Flash, Aquaman and Justice League 2 movies.  They acknowledged their previous movies with small references, told a separate story in this movie and looked to the future all at the same time.

That's an incredible feat for such a big project.  Major kudos to the writers, directors and producers for pulling that off.

Justice League was similar to Captain America 3 in that sense.  Lots of underlying stories, character development and connecting plot points.  Characters like Martha Kent (Diane Lane) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) weren't forgotten.

What really excites me is that this is only the 4th movie into their big screen endeavors.  That means (hopefully) they'll only get better from here.

I'd like to give a more detailed review, but I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.  Maybe when the DVD is released, I'll do a full-on review.

Until then, go see this movie!  If you enjoyed any of the other DC movies so far, you're sure to enjoy this one.  If your allegiance lies with Marvel, you'll still probably enjoy it because DC is getting it right by using lots of the techniques that put Marvel on the map.

I'll end this review on this final bit of advice: if you watch the movie, stay until the end of all of the credits. You won't be disappointed that you did!

Related Content:
Transformers: The Last Knight - reviewed.
Wonder Woman - reviewed.
Logan - reviewed.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight - reviewed.

This was ... a Transformers movie. Simply put: it's what you'd expect out of a Transformers movie. It's number five in their ongoing series of movies and was, once again, directed by Michael Bay, so if you've seen any of the other movies, you probably know what to expect with this one.

A lot of people have mixed opinions on the Transformers movies and Michael Bay's big 'boom/bang' style. I don't mind it.

 The movies don't measure up to the ensemble Marvel movies (like Captain America 3 or The Avengers movies), but they are entertaining and tell a decent story.

If it weren't for the length (that almost makes your butt numb from sitting for so long ... 3 hours including the previews), I wouldn't have much negative to say about it.

This movie included more of what fans of the previous 4 movies liked, plus some new elements. This is the only movie I can remember that had one Transformer assisting in the age of King Arthur and another battling Nazi soldiers in World War II. This movie went further into the Transformers backstory and why there are so many of them who end up on Earth.

There were a couple of quick mentions of Sam Witwicky, so I was happy to see that. I do secretly hope for a Witwicky return to the Transformers franchise, but I realize that's doubtful given how crazy Shia LaBeouf has become.

Josh Duhamel returned in his role as Lt. Col. Lennox (I did have to Google his character's name since it was never really stressed in the first 3 Transformer movies). It was good to see that. Though I may be biased since he's a Midwestern dude, just like me.

Speaking of the Midwest, the badlands of South Dakota were mentioned and were used for a couple of major scenes in the movie.

 They did OK with the portrayal for a while, but then in this apparently abandoned town there's some multi-level building with a robot that looks like it's out of a Willy Wonka or Harry Potter movie. There aren't any buildings like that in South Dakota, much less in abandoned towns.

But it's a movie, so what are you going to do?

I'm not sue the little girl was really needed.  She didn't necessarily hurt the movie, but by the end of the movie you realize that she didn't add much to the movie considering how much time was spent on developing her character.

Sir Anthony Hopkins was great, as usual.  His bits made the movie very entertaining.

Megatron got a pretty bad-ass makeover in this movie.  It made me wonder if this is how he should've looked for the entire franchise.

Mark Wahlberg was alright, but I think his acting left a little to be desired. His attempts at humor at certain points just didn't really leave me laughing. Or chuckling. 

It was more of a 'Huh. That was kind of funny' reaction than anything else. The bit in the junkyard, for example.

I realize that the new normal is living in a land of robot aliens, but his interactions with the baby Dinobots seemed a little bit silly.  Considering there were some rather lame attempts at humor, I was surprised at the adult language that was used in the Transformers movie.

I'm an adult. Doesn't really bother me. But seeing as how this seemed like more of a family friendly or PG movie franchise, it was a little bit strange to hear so many, 'Shit,' 'Damn,' and 'Bitch' words used.

Laura Haddock (otherwise known as an Angelina Jolie look-alike) made for some nice eye candy in the movie, but she also did a decent job in her acting.  She provided some humor and handled the more physical parts of the role well enough.

She had a rather unnecessary wardrobe change at one (or two?) point in the movie.  In a real-life situation where time is of the essence, who doesn't go change into a new outfit?  Maybe they had an advertiser they needed to appease?

Little things like that prevented this movie from being an epic, all-time great superhero movie.

Of course, Haddock was a romantic interest for Mr. Wahlberg.  Gotta have a little romance in there too, I guess.

This was the first Transformers movie I remember with an extended period of time spent in the ocean. That was cool to see.  There were some scenes in space as well.

Optimus Prime's mission to find his makers was continued in this movie.  I don't know exactly what happened there, in all honesty.  There was an evil Transformers woman.

There were some good Knights.  The Decepticons and Optimus were each trying to find a certain weapon.  It was all a little confusing, so I'm not sure how great the story was.

Just as it was with the other Transformer movies, you have to go back and watch it again a couple of times before being able to appreciate the twist and the turns and how involved the storytelling is. 2 and a half hours fits a lot of content into a movie.

Overall, it was good.  I thought it was interesting and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

I'm not sure how many adventures they can come up with before the franchise jumps the shark.

I haven't read the box office results, honestly, but it was in a tough spot -- squeezed between Wonder Woman and the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming movie.

I'm assuming both of them will do better than The Transformers: The Last Knight.

But hopefully they can get another movie or two out of the franchise before it ends.  There's still a lot to be told regarding the origins of the Transformers and their connection to Earth.

Related Content:
Logan - reviewed.
Wonder Woman - reviewed.
Central Intelligence - reviewed.
Nine Lives - reviewed.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Logan - reviewed.

I realized that I wrote this back in March, but never published it.  So, two reviews in two days:

Well, Wolverine finally got a great stand-alone movie!

I was worried, after seeing the first trailer for Logan, that the movie would be a slower pace than some of the other X-Men movies.

 With the 'R' rating, it seemed to possibly bring a darker theme and slower pace than the last couple of X-Men movies, which featured comedic, slow motion Quicksilver montages.

While Logan was darker and did have a slower pace, I think it was, by far, the best story to come out of the X-Men franchise. I

t had the storytelling that you'd find from one of the first Marvel movies -- where everyone had a role and every scene had a purpose.

There were some new characters (a couple of them being mutants) in this movie.  None of them were ones I'd recognized from the animated X-Men series from the '90s or from comics I'd read.  One of them was Caliban, played by the entertaining Stephen Merchant.  He and Wolverine provided some comedy in a somewhat dark movie.

I can understand why the movie had the 'R' rating. Besides a little bit of strong language, there were some very violent scenes. Don't get me wrong, it was no Saw movie. T

here was blood and guts, as you'd expect there to be with Wolverine involved.

There are F-bombs, blood and close-ups of Wolverine clawing into any and all of his enemies in this movie.

They could've probably told this story without all of that, but I don't think it would've been as effective.  Wolverine has always been a violent character who deals with violent enemies in a violent way.  That's just part of the character's origins.

In the previous movies, that Wolverine wasn't able to be portrayed.  That all changed with Logan.

I don't know how familiar any of you are with X-23, but I'd suggest you read up on her a bit before seeing this movie.

 If you want to be surprised, the movie does well in explaining the story, but it does help to have a little background information.

Personally, I didn't know much about X-23. I watched the animated X-Men cartoon from the '90s, but quit by the time X-Men: Evolution came about in 2003. However, as much as I tried to avoid spoilers, I ran across a couple of headlines on Facebook, so I had a general idea as to what to expect.

The actress they got to play this character was great.  She didn't have a ton of dialogue but she didn't need it.  She portrayed a huge array of emotions through her facial expressions, her body language and guttural screams.

If you've read some of my previous reviews, you probably know how much I despise bad child actors.  Either make them bit parts or don't write to a movie with a child actor.  They didn't need to worry about that in this case.

Whoever cast Dafne Keen as X-23 made a great choice!  She stood right there with Hugh Jackman and freakin' Patrick Stewart and didn't look lost at all.

Speaking of Patrick Stewart, this movie gives a nice closure to characters like Professor X and Wolverine, who we've seen as part of the X-Men franchise since 2000.

17 years is a long time for someone to play a character, even if they've only done it for a matter of minutes in a few ensemble films.

Whether or not there are sequels in the future or flashes to the past or prequels, this felt like a nice closure to that 17-year-long journey.

Professor X and Wolverine always had an interesting relationship in the comics and animated series.  Sometimes Professor X was very stern with Wolverine.

Then again, Wolverine was probably the most problematic 'problem child' a mentor or caretaker could end up with.

It was fun to see their relationship portrayed in a different way than it had in the previous movies.  Additionally, their dynamic changed the moment X-23 was involved in the story.

I felt bad for Logan in a somewhat comedic way.  He had to care for an elderly, mutant with failing health and failing mutant abilities along with a wild, emotionally distraught young girl.

As we all know, Wolverine isn't exactly the best caretaker to anyone, much less these two people and under stressful circumstances.

Being the last movie in a long journey, I was expecting some moments that would tung at my emotions.  I didn't expect them to do it so well though.

They really did well with this movie.  Whether you liked some of the decisions made with the characters or not, there were no loose ends.  There were minimal issues that I had with believability or continuity.

There was one moment --- involving a hunter in the woods -- that I kind of groaned about.  Though this review is late, I don't want to spoil anything if you haven't seen the movie yet, so I'll just say this: he must have been deaf not to hear the noise going on that was so close to him.  I guess his dog was deaf too.

Oh, that and the the scene with the perfectly framed and filmed cell phone video.  When someone is secretly filming something on their cell phone in a whistleblower capacity, things aren't close up and framed appropriately.

Minor complaints overall, but so minor that I can't even take half a star off of this stellar movie.

Related Content:
Wonder Woman - reviewed.
Central Intelligence - reviewed.
Nine Lives - reviewed.
The Jungle Book - reviewed.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman - reviewed.

So it finally happened. Wonder Woman made it to the big screen in her very own movie.

If you haven't seen it, I'll leave most of this blog spoiler-free (spoilers at the very bottom).

I had high hopes for this movie for more than one reason. DC needs a boost in their superheroes movie plan. Marvel obviously got a big head start with their Cinematic Universe, but DC Comics has been trying to get on track.

While I was a fan of Man of Steel, I really liked the extended cut of Batman v. Superman, and I liked Suicide Squad, they all had mixed reviews. None were as well-received as some of the Avenger movies or Captain America 3 (which was basically another Avengers movie) though.

If Wonder Woman does well, then DC does well, which means Justice League may do well. That means Aquaman may do well. And the Batman movie. And the Batgirl movie. And Cyborg. And Flash. As a comic book fan, I'm a fan of that.

Meanwhile, with DC going all-out on their female heroes and villains (Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Gotham City Sirens), it's possible that Marvel may take notice and finally pull the trigger on a Black Widow movie. That's a character that really should be given it's own movie -- even if it's just a stand-alone movie and not one with several sequels.

So, how was it? Will this be a boost for DC? I think so. The movie was definitely a success.

And that's saying something because it had a lot to accomplish. While Wonder Woman was first briefly introduced in Batman v. Superman and she's been in the trailers for the upcoming Justice League movie, this was the first time we saw her on her own. No help from the more established Superman or Batman.

Additionally, the movie had to help set up the Justice League movie that comes out in November.

So, basically, not much room for messing up.

The movie was a combination origins story and fish-out-of-water story. It told the story of Diana Prince and how she grew up with the Amazons. Steve Trevor was, of course, introduced.

The flirtations between the two characters began almost immediately, but Wonder Woman wasn't depicted as a giggling little schoolgirl.  It was more of a instant connection.

Chris Pine did well with the comedic bits and banter with Wonder Woman.

It wasn't the sarcastic quips that you'd get out of a Tony Stark or the slapstick that you'd get from Peter Quill, but Pine provided some subdued levity throughout most of the movie and was a good love interest / balance to Wonder Woman.

After Diana left her safe environment to go out to help save the world, we got a bit of comedy with Diana having to fit into the then-modern world of the 1940's.

Diana knows multiple languages (there's a funny scene that showcases that!) and has knowledge of combat, literature and even pleasures of the flesh ( there's another funny scene that references that).

Having never been to London before, however, she's certainly not accustom to the modern way of life or the limited power that women had in that day and age.

Once we get to London, we get introduced to Steve Trevor's secretary, who was absolutely hilarious in every single scene she was in!  She seriously stole those scenes.

Unfortunately it was almost as though she was acting with herself.  There weren't a lot of responses to her comments.

I think she could've been even funnier if there was a little more back-and-forth with the other characters who she was sharing the screen with.

Instead, she was basically there for a quick one-liner and it was onto the next bit of dialogue -- without leaving enough time to laugh or react to the one-liner that was just delivered.

Instead of being laugh out loud funny, as she could've been (the actress really did nail every single facial expression and line she was given), it was more of a chuckle moment.  There wasn't enough time for those moments to breathe before moving onto what was next.  I know that's a small timing / pacing complaint, but it took just a little bit away from the movie being incredible.

Nonetheless, she was a great character to add to the dynamic.

A few additional sidekicks / bit players were added from that point on.  They added a few touching moments to the movie along with some comedy.

They also helped to tell the overall story of people --- who they are and if they are worth saving.

Having never been exposed to anyone outside of the Amazons she was raised by, Wonder Woman did a lot of people watching in this movie.

She was inquisitive and perceptive.

The writers tied some of those moments into the overall story very well.

Eventually, there was a nice little team assembled to try to fight the Nazi soldiers, the evil General Ludendorff and Dr. Poison (a mad scientist whose only objective was to create more lethal versions of deadly gas).

Dr. Poison was a pretty good character.  She was a little bit stereotypical -- a character that might fit right into the first Captain America movie or on a Hydra team from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but the actress performed well and the character certainly didn't hinder the movie.

There were a couple of 'unexpected' turns (though I saw them coming).  I didn't expect the turns to be so well executed, however.

I won't spoil what those moments are, but you'll know them when you see them.

The cinematography was great throughout the movie.

It was somewhat Matrix-like, but the slow motion twists and turns and punches made it seem almost ballet-like.

There were a couple of somewhat cringeworthy CGI moments, but they were literally split seconds long.  The golden lasso of truth?  It didn't just look good, but it looked convincing as a weapon.

The costuming (whether it was in Diana's homeland or in London) was on point, too.  There was even a humorous mini-costume change montage!

While there was some comedy in this movie, there were also a moments of great hope and triumph.

Wonder Woman truly was every bit the hero in this movie that Superman or Batman or Iron Man or Thor are in their solo movies.

She displayed courage, conviction, superhuman abilities and she looked good while doing it.

Steve Trevor (and some of the other mortals) were the 'damsels in distress' in this movie.

On the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, there were some dramatic moments that could almost bring a tear to your eye.

It was a multi-layered script with story A) Diana's introduction to humans and the modern world, story B) Diana's quest to save the world from evil, story C) Steve and Diana's relationship.  By the end of the movie, each of those stories had a conclusion.

There were a few stereotypical superhero movie moments. There were also a couple of cheesy romantic moments.  Not many, but I do have a list of a few changes I'd make to make the movie that much better.

It was just that little bit of pacing issues that takes away from the movie.  A couple of mis-placed comments that didn't fit in a World War II setting.

At the end of the day, it's not much to complain about, but Marvel has spoiled us by perfecting the super hero / action movie that has comedy and drama and suspense all in one 2+ hr showing.

If DC can continue down this road, Marvel had better watch out because the competition is here.

Overall, Wonder Woman tells a decent story, was a good effort, has very good production and is a really good movie -- thanks, in large part, due to an exceptional performance by Gal Gadot, which overshadowed any minor complaints I had.

DC better hope Gadot stays healthy and willing because she can be a huge part of their cinematic universe.

Her facial expressions, mannerisms and delivery were all extremely good here.  Wonderful, you could say (speaking of cheesy... ).

Now ... onto a few random reactions --- SPOILERS INCLUDED:



..... did you scroll far enough?

- I want to live on that secret island Diana grew up on ... talk about a Mediterranean paradise!

- Chris Pine was pretty brave to do that nearly nude scene

-  that line where Diana's mom said 'You were always my greatest treasure.  Today you are my greatest sorrow' was pretty powerful

- it was kind of disappointing to see Wonder Woman have that brief moment of gushing over a baby (very womanly of her)

- I was expecting Wonder Woman to help those horses stuck in the mud before she jumped up and crossed No Man's Land

- the dancing scene with the snowfall was nice ... though I half expected Wonder Woman to break out into some kind of dance (glad she didn't!)

- the bit where Wonder Woman was sizing that rich woman up, seeing if she would fit into her dress --- that was pretty good

- it was a powerful moment when Wonder Woman was in the gas-filled village ... they didn't need to show much of the deceased for it to be powerful

- I knew that Sir Patrick was a bad guy, but I didn't anticipate him being Ares (I figured Ares wouldn't even show up in this movie)

- when it was clear that Sir Patrick was Ares, I was skeptical s to how they'd pull it off, but he seemed pretty legit as a bad-ass God of war

- the most powerful moment of the movie, without question, was when Steve was saying goodbye but Wonder Woman couldn't hear what he was saying (due to the recent explosion that left a ringing in her ears) ... they should've left it at that -- without her knowing what he said

- the speech at the end with 'love triumphing over hate' was a little too simplistic seeing as how the real world just doesn't work like that ... it would've been more realistic to say something like 'For all the bad there is in people, there is a good and hope that will always triumph over hate' -- or something like that

Related Content:
Central Intelligence - reviewed.
Nine Lives - reviewed.
The Jungle Book - reviewed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Casting black actors in white comic book roles

Something that's been happening in recent years is casting black actors in the roles of comic book characters who were typically white.

Of course, it's something that goes back to timing and culture and society. When comic books were published several decades ago, it was during a time when race was still a very sensitive subject.

Race may be a sensitive topic these days too, but in the 1940's and 1950's, black people still didn't have the rights they do today. I wasn't alive at the time, but I'd imagine it was even more tense than in today's current climate.

It creates an interesting dilemma for Marvel and DC movie and TV-makers.

 Do they change the race of beloved characters? Do they create new superheroes who are black (and Asian and LGBT, etc, etc?) to satisfy their diverse readers?

 Do they elevate their lesser-known black characters to more prominent roles (like Luke Cage and Black Panther)?

 Or do they stick to the original portrayals and ethnicities of their characters?

Personally, I'm not a fan of changing the race of certain characters just to change the race of them --- just to add diversity to the show.

I'd much rather the show creators develop a new character with an original story.

Superman will always look like Superman.  He's never going to be a blonde-haired white man and he'll never be a bald black man.  He'll never be a redheaded woman either.

He'll always be a dark haired white man who wears glasses when he's not flying around in a red cape.

I'd much rather see a new character developed rather than trying to change Superman so he's 'diverse.'

Same thing goes for black characters.

Storm, from the X-Men, will never and should never be a white woman with brown hair.  She's a black woman from Egypt and her hair is white.  That's just how it is.

I'm not a fan of Marvel making the new Thor a female.

Why do they need a new Thor?  Why not give her a different name?

Create her own identity.

Have her take over the duties of defending Asgard, but give her different costuming, let her keep her name, etc.  Piggybacking on the Thor popularity won't work.  It's not Thor.  It's a female Thor.  That's not the character fans came to enjoy.

I have the same feeling with remakes of shows -- like MacGyver and Hawaii 5.0.  Instead of trying to recreate what once was, why not come up with a new concept?

Those in charge of the comic book movies and the TV shows tried several options a few different times in the past few years when it comes to creating a diverse cast and it's clear that there isn't one right answer.

Here are some of their decisions that worked and some that didn't.

Idris Elba as Heimdall

This casting choice worked. It seems odd, I suppose, that a black man would be the gatekeeper for a land of Nordic Gods, but I didn't even think twice about it when I saw the first two Thor movies. It wasn't until I read a little more about the history of Thor (after the first two movies were released) that I realized it may not have made the most sense.

Still, Idris Elba just makes it work. The movie version of Asgard seems to have diversity in it, so it makes sense there. This was a good casting decision.

Michael B. Jordan as The Human Torch

This was one of the more controversial casting choices in the past few years. Michael B. Jordan was cast as The Fantastic Four's Human Torch and people kind of scratched their heads, wondering what the backstory was.

Then the movie came out and didn't really offer a backstory.  It seems as though he and sister Sue Storm were adopted brother and sister, but in this day and age, there are mixed marriages between white and black people, so there are people with all kinds of racial backgrounds -- mixtures of all kinds.

That's not really unusual.  I don't think anyone really had a problem with updating the script.  What was odd about 2015's Fantastic Four is that it offered zero explanation as to what that backstory was.

The cast was very sensitive about it (too sensitive, in my opinion) when they were doing interviews, too.  In one instance, there was an awkward interview with a couple of radio hosts and the cast seemed defensive about the topic (probably because they were asked about it several times).

If Michael B. Jordan were The Thing or Mr. Fantastic, I think this would've worked out fine.  Or even casting Sue Storm as black.  Or keeping Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara in the roles they were cast in -- but explaining their relationship better.  That all would've been fine -- and may have resulted in a more successful movie.

I think this one was a miss.  Bad casting decision here.

Candice Patton as Iris West-Allen

This casting decision seems to work.  Candice Patton isn't the best actress of all time (though, after making it through season 2, I'm wondering if the content just doesn't have enough substance for her abilities).

She and Grant Gustin have a nice chemistry that is evidenced in the pilot.  There was no real need to explain any reason for the casting change since there was no brother-sister relationship.  However, The Flash still gives a backstory.  Iris and Barry grow up together in this version (after Barry's mom gets killed and his dad goes to jail).  Yet their Barry and Iris' relationship doesn't seem unnatural or unusual at all.

This was a good casting decision.

Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin

Michael Clarke Duncan is a big dude.  He's bald.  He's got a physical presence to him.  Only difference between him and the comic book / animated version of Spider-Man and Daredevil's Kingpin is that he's black (and not quite as large as Kingpin is depicted sometimes).

I'm one of the select few people who liked the Daredevil movie, I know.  I hope I'm not one of the select people who think casting MCD as Kingpin was a great choice.  He did a great job as the character.  But, mostly, he was one of the few options around at the time.

There weren't big-name, musclebound guys who could take a role like that at the time.  The studios could've gone with an unknown actor, but even today ... there's not many actors who would make a good Kingpin.  Netflix's decision in going with Vincent D'Onofrio was genius.  He's amazing at the role as well.

But back in 2003?  I couldn't name an actor who would've done as good of a job.

Laurence Fishburne as Perry White

No.  I'll get this out of the way right away: this was a bad casting decision.  Number one, he's an awful Perry White.  Laurence Fishburne isn't a name that added to the movie.  He didn't do a stellar acting job.  In my opinion, it was the opposite.  He didn't seem to have a good grasp of the Perry White character.

I saw this as a 'Oh, shoot, we need a black guy in this movie' decision because surely they could've found a better actor with better energy and screen presence than him.

I know a lot of people weren't thrilled when Fishburne came onto C.S.I. to somewhat replace Gil Grissom, but I thought he was okay.  In the end, he didn't really help or hurt that show.  He was just there.  Fishburne was great in Akeelah and The Bee, but Perry White just isn't the character for him.

I'd rather keep him as Perry White throughout DC's upcoming movies -- but I hope he doesn't have a large part in any of them.  He doesn't add anything to the role or the movies.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo

The casting decision of the Dr. Strange movie that got everyone talking was Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One.  There were claims of Hollywood whitewashing the movie.  Yet the casting decision nobody talked about was Chiwetel Ejiofor being cast as Mordo.

Mordo was a white man of European descent, yet in the movie he was a black man with a sword.  I didn't have a problem with this decision since I wasn't an avid Dr. Strange fan and I didn't know most of the characters outside of Dr. Strange, himself.

Chiwetel was great in Salt and, once again, did a good job in Dr. Strange.  I'd classify this as a good casting decision.

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

It's hard to categorize this as a bad decision given how immensely successful the Marvel movies have been.  Then again, is that due to Samuel L. Jackson or Robert Downey Jr.?

I don't think Samuel L. Jackson was a bad Nick Fury.  It worked.  He did well in the role.  So let's chalk it up to a good casting decision.

I just think Jackson is very overrated as an actor.  He's kind of like Adam Sandler or Pauly Shore.  Same delivery and facial expressions, no matter what role he's in.

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