Posts categorized “Movie Reviews”

Friday, 31 May 2019

Movie Review: Avengers: Endgame

Movie Review: Avengers Endgame

He’s baa-aaaaack…

Avengers: Endgame (2019) ★★★½

Directed by the Russo Bros.

Endgame is good! I don’t think it works quite as successfully as Infinity War did, and there are a couple of very poorly-done things, but for the most part it’s exciting, frikkin’ hilarious, and satisfying. Spoilers ahoy!< --more-->

First the good: This movie is sooooo fuuunnnny. Practically every frame with Ant-Man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is an LOL moment. Chris Hemsworth is an unbelievably gifted comedy actor. Even Cap’m America (Chris Evans) gets at least one fantastic laugh (“Yeah, I know…”).

The central tenant of the film (and the entire 2nd act) consists of going back in time to collect the infinity stones to bring them back to the present and snap-back everyone whom Thanos snapped away at the end of Infinity War. Very notable is the fact that that the Avengers are not trying to undo the original snap and the five ensuing years. There is much discussion about time travel and the idea that Back to the Future is bullshit. The time travel rules created in this movie are thankfully internally consistent and everything makes sense, to whit: when you go back in time, you cannot change your past and therefore your present; instead you create an alternate timeline that plays out differently from that point on.

For example: Iron Man and Ant-Man accidentally create a scenario where Loki gets away at the end of the first Avengers movie, so there’s a whole timeline where he’s out there roaming freely since 2012 (this is presumably what his Disney streaming series will be about(??) since his death in Infinity War wasn’t undone). Similarly, Nebula shoots and kills her own past self during the third act, but she doesn’t vanish because 2023 Nebula has a different timeline than that version of 2014 Nebula. Iron Man invents a kind of time/space anchor (he refers to it as a GPS system, which is funny) that allows the characters to return to the mainstream 2023 when they return from the past rather than the alternate futures their time-travel shenanigans caused. It all makes sense! I’m so very happy, because so often time travel stories are incredibly lazy and inconsistent.

The least successful part of the movie is the Vormir segment. It doesn’t work because we, the viewer, already know what happens on Vormir from watching the previous movie. So when two characters go to Vormir in this movie, we know from the rules of the previous movie what is going to happen to one of them. And then the expected happens. *Cough*

Look, I know that when the audience has knowledge that the characters don’t, it can be a way of creating suspense (see Hitchcock). But once the suspense is broken (i.e., once the characters have the same knowledge as the audience), there needs to be some sort of surprise or change. Here’s what I mean: If the viewers know that there’s a bomb underneath the conference table during a mafia meeting but none of the mafioso know, that’s suspenseful. But what if the mafia discovered the bomb, but then it exploded and killed them anyway? Then it’s pointless suspense just for the sake of suspense. It feels like, well, why did we sit through all of that if we didn’t get any new developments? That’s what Vormir was like for me: unsatisfying. You have two founding members of the Avengers, and they just follow the path presented before them like Thanos did in Infinity War instead of finding the third way through.

But there were other moments of Suspense that led to changes and surprises, such as the replacement of Nebula (we know it happened but the characters don’t) that led to an entirely different direction for the whole third act of the movie. That was great! Filmmakers take note: More Nebula, less Vormir!

It’s hard to be too disappointed in a movie like this. I always say that my favorite movies give me experiences that I could never have in my regular life (which is why I’m so drawn to Sci-Fi movies), and boy does Endgame deliver in that regard. It’s the literal definition of “spectacular.” I will own it and enjoy it many, many times.

I do have a question, though: what does the Soul Stone actually do? It’s pretty clear what the other stones do (though the Reality Stone’s powers were changed between The Dark World and Infinity War), but what ability does the wielder of the Soul Stone actually acquire? The Soul Stone is just a MacGuffin in these movies, and that’s kind of a shame.

Categories: Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Movie Review: Captain Marvel (2019)

Movie Review: Captain Marvel

I feel merely Marvelous…

Captain Marvel (2019): ★★★

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

“Hey, this is fun!”

That seems to be the overriding sentiment throughout Cap’m Marvel. Everybody in the film seems to be having fun. And not just the actors (though that does seem to be the case, too), but the characters. Brie Larson as our amnesiac heroine (who is called “Vers” for most of the movie) is witty and quick with a quip, and seems to have a wry smile curling the corner of her mouth throughout most of the movie. Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury is just a bit more exasperated at times with all this alien business, but he seems pretty darned excited by it all, too. More… »

Categories: Movie Reviews, Reviews.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Does whatever a Spider-Man… Men… Woman… Pig… can…

Does whatever a Spider-Man… Men… Woman… Pig… can…

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018): ★★★½

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, & Rodney Rothman

There hasn’t been a Spider-Man Movie (that I’ve seen) that quite so successfully encapsulates the sheer exuberance of swinging through a city as Spider-Man.

Much of that must be credited to the wondrous visual style of SMItSV. Most animated movies nowadays have one visual style, and the whole movie looks like it. But SMItSV has a very idiosyncratic and expressive range of styles; individual scenes are animated with different effects depending on the need of the scene. And indeed, later in the movie when a handful of characters are introduced, they’re all animated in their own individual style in addition to the style of the movie. It’s simply amazing to look at, and extreme care was taken to make sure each shot in the movie looks as gorgeous as possible. More… »

Categories: Movie Reviews, Reviews.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Movie Review: Ant Man & the Wasp

These guys...

These guys…

Ant Man & the Wasp (2018): ★★★

Ant Man & the Wasp is pretty much the epitome of a three-star movie. It’s fun, breezy, exciting, and hilarious, but never earth-shattering. You won’t come out of it a better person, or wanting to be a better person, or still gasping in amazement at the things you saw on the screen. You will have a good time, though. More… »

Categories: Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Movie Review: Moana (2016)

"…you know who you are."

“…you know who you are.”

Moana (2016) ★★★½

I could go on about how awesome it is to have a mainstream Disney fantasy film that isn’t about a European-style fantasy setting. But I’m sure there are people better qualified to write about that subject, and I’m sure they’ve written about it extensively, so you can go read those articles if you want. More important to me than the “importance” of a film is whether or not it’s a good film or not. More… »

Categories: Featured Posts, Movie Reviews, Reviews.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) ★★★½

There are a lot of things to really love about Rogue One. It turns away from the high-opera, swashbuckling theatrics of the magical Skywalker family and their ilk and looks at the people who work behind the scenes of their heroics. The grunts of the Star Wars world, if you will; intelligence agents, freighter pilots, on-the-ground resistance fighters, people just trying to survive in a galaxy gone mad. As such it has a much different feel that the main Star Wars series.

Let’s face it, the Star Wars movies have basically been overblown Saturday morning cartoons. Sure there’s some great subtext and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, but come on. You’ve got wizards and princesses knights and silly jesters droids. But in Rogue One you get a real feel for how this universe actually functions for regular people.

I also really loved how it played up the ambiguity of using violence to fight evil. The Rebellion, which in Episodes IV-VI is held up as this shining beacon of hope, and the ultimate force of good against the evil of the Empire. But the Rebellion has Cassian do some really awful things (including straight-up murder someone as his first act in the movie), and it turns out a lot of the people in the Rebellion are complete assholes and cowards who condone some really bad things in the name of good. It’s a fascinating slippery-slope peek behind the curtain that I thought was great. No heroes are perfect, and no movements are devoid of evil.

I enjoyed the ensemble cast; it ends up being a fun group of merry outsiders kinda like Robin Hood’s merry men. They don’t all get a lot of character development apart from Jyn and Cassian, but their characterizations are strong enough that you get who they are quickly and you like them. Shining star among them is the reprogrammed murderbot K-2SO, who is definitely one of the good guys now but who just can’t help but let that murderbot programming be simmering right under the surface. Most of the movie’s funniest moments are because of K-2. Alan Tudyk (who was also the voice of the robots in I, Robot) is becoming one of my favorite voice actors (look him up in the last five Disney movies). Also as a side note: wasn’t it nice to see such a diverse cast? Anyway…

There are a couple of minor action sequences in the first couple acts of the movie, but really it all just builds to a masterful third act action climax. There are so many things going on in this climax, but it is scripted and edited masterfully so that you’re never confused where anyone is or what they’re supposed to be doing (or what their current obstacle is). The space battles above the planet are top-notch. We know that this plan is successful because the opening crawl of Episode IV says it is (“Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.”), but we don’t know how it was done or at what cost, so there is a surprising amount of suspense.

That said, the pacing of the first act of the movie (not counting the prologue, which is great) is f★★ked up. It bounces from scene to scene with no context and no introduction. The exposition is awkward and weird. You don’t know who characters are. Things happen for no known reason. What the heck was with that “truth monster” thing that Saw Guerrera uses? What was that doing in the movie at all? People spend way too much time talking about other people doing stuff instead of just showing us those people as they do stuff (“Did you hear an imperial pilot defected?” “I heard an imperial pilot defected!”). It doesn’t finally settle into a cohesive rhythm until Jyn ends up on Jedha.

There is also the matter of a seemingly important plot thread being dropped with no consequence. Jyn et al are going to rescue Jyn’s father, until some asshole in the Rebellion gives Cassian a countermanding order: to kill Jyn’s father. And eventually Jyn’s father is killed by the Rebellion, and Jyn learns that this asshole ordered his death and does… nothing. It’s immediately dropped and never mentioned again. It just seemed really bizarre to have that sub-plot in this movie at all.

But this is still a thoroughly enjoyable movie. It’s a grittier (I hate using that word but it applies here), more grounded Star Wars movie in which the heroes have to use guile and pluck and damnable determination to win instead of magic and mythology. It is a worthy entry into the ouvre. I plan on owning it to watch at my leisure.

Categories: Movie Reviews.

Friday, 19 September 2014

New Movie Review: The Wind Rises (2013)

The Wind Rises (2013) ★★★

The Wind Rises

Le vent, se lève!… Il faut tenter de vivre!

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

I have such conflicted feelings about this movie! Much of it is a disappointment of expectations, though. The Wind Rises is a highly-fictionalized film about real-life person Jiro Horikoshi, who is most famous for being the designer of the infamous Japanese A6M “Zero” fighter plane for WWII. In movies about famous artists, designer, architects, or what-have-yous, I have a certain minimum expectation: I expect to learn about the hows and whys of the creative process that led them to their most famous work(s). How shocked and frustrated I was, then, when this film ends (spoiler alert) with the test flight of the prototype of the A5M—the fighter that came before the A6M Zero!

In fact, much of the movie hinges on Horikoshi’s thoughts on an inverted gull-wing shape that is used in the prototype of the A5M—but which is not actually used in the final version of the A5M, let alone the Zero!

The scenes that interested me most were the ones where Horikoshi makes a breakthrough of some sort in the design of his planes. The introduction of flush rivets, for example. The design of wing strut supports. Laughing with his team about how to reduce weight when the military demands two gigantic machine guns be mounted to the plane. In other words, the creative side of things.

Less interesting to me was the dying-girl romance between Horikoshi and his wife. Especially because it was completely fictional, and too perfect to find interesting. Horikoshi’s wife is the absolute perfect 1930s Japanese woman. There is no conflict in their relationship, only the specter of chronic illness. Guess what my least-favorite genre of movie is? The dying-girl romance. Horikoshi himself is portrayed as such a meek milquetoast that if it weren’t for his unending creative drive there would be little of interest at all in this relationship.

Other relationships in the film are great though. Horikoshi and his tiny but bombastic boss at Mitsubishi, Horikoshi and his lackadaisical best friend, and strangely enough the friendship that is formed with an enormous, exiled, big gay German. Wow, now there is a character who chews up the scenery! Also nice are dream sequences where Hirokoshi converses with a European plane designer (a somewhat hero of Hirokoshi)

The main theme of the film is handled exceptionally, though, that of creativity versus the exploitation of creativity. Hirokoshi is designing essentially war machines, but he has no love for war at all; it is the sheer creative and artistic process that drives him to design these planes, not any patriotism or idealism. He expresses great ambivalence about the way his designs are being used to essentially kill people. He believes he is creating something beautiful; but his beautiful creations are being used in less-than-benign ways. Does that negate the beauty of their design? Is the end-use usage of a creation inextricably entwined with its design? Or can the beauty of the design be held separately from the horror of its usage? Wisely, I think, the film never takes a stance either way, and the whole complexity of the situation is simply presented for the viewer to think about. In a wonderful ending dream sequence that takes place after the war, Hirokoshi sighs as a fleet of Zeros (the ony time they’re ever presented on screen) flies away. They are beautiful planes.

So the film is visually spectacular, of course. Especially wonderful are dream sequences of fanciful, old-fashioned airplanes. And dynamic scenes of harrowing test flights are great. But much of this is visually similar to the fantastic Porco Rosso, so I didn’t feel like I was seeing much new there. Scenes of 1920s & 1930s Japan and Germany are extremely detailed and specific.

So is this a good movie or not? It is enjoyable in many parts, and fascinating in many parts, and certainly gorgeous. The ambiguities of creativity and war and the corruption of beauty are handled very well. It also has an hilarious and bizarre Big Gay German in it. But it also feels somehow insubstantial and frustrating, focusing too long on the things that interested me the least and too little on the things that interested me the most. So, three stars sound good? Yeah, I suppose.

Categories: Japan, Movie Reviews.