Movie Reviews: 4/5 Stars Spiderman Homecoming

Note: I don’t own the rights to the movie poster. You can find it here.

Introduction:

I enjoyed this movie. It’s an origins story for Spiderman, but it gets past the stuff we’ve seen before and dives into Peter’s struggle to balance school and life as the webslinger. He’s frustrated because Tony Stark/Iron Man’s treating him like a kid. He’s also crushing on a girl who’s head of the Academic Decathlon team. He’s a genius but unreliable when it comes to competing.

Additional Comments:

  • I loved how doing the right thing didn’t always make everything better.
  • Much of the movie turned into typical Marvel action fare – how many buildings and vehicles can we destroy in the next two hours?
  • Tom Holland fills the role nicely. Aunt May works. Her last line’s perfect. I like how they worked MJ in.
  • I’m never a fan of home videos so the beginning was annoying. I like the idea, but the shaky cam style messes with my head.
  • There’s a good balance between ups and downs for the hero, sentiment, growing pains, and action. And comedy. I don’t think there were quite as many funny lines as other Marvel movies, but they worked in some situational comedy like the gangster giving him interrogation advice.
  • I wonder how many Death Stars they broke for that one scene?
  • They’re definitely shooting for a sequel, but there’s enough closure to feel like you’ve seen a complete story.
  • Except the stinger. It’s a stinker. (Okay, so mildly amusing but leaves one feeling annoyed nonetheless.)

Conclusion:

They’ve successfully passed along the Spiderman torch, yet again. Not even sure I saw the Andrew Garfield version. Last Spidey I remember was Toby…and that was a very long time ago. Definitely the sort of movie worth seeing in theaters and adding to your blu ray collection if you have such a thing.

In the mood to splurge on your Spiderman Obsession?


Movie Review: 4/5 Stars A Man Called Ove

Note: Here’s where I found the movie poster.

Introduction:

I had the privilege of seeing this movie while on my vacation to London, England. If you want to read up on that trip, go here. My mom and sister had both read the book and recommended it. I don’t have time to read much these days but the premise sounded fine and the ticket was free for me. (I’d bought the London Pass, which let you attend one of four Curzon theaters at off-peak hours.)

So, I roped a poor friend into going with me to see this. I’m fairly certain we were the youngest in that tiny theater. And I mean tiny! It was the smallest, cutest little theater I’d ever been in. My friends at home have a bigger setup in their living room. Anyway, the theaters in America might be bigger but not many of them serve a cup of cappuccino, which this one did.

Additional Comments (About the movie):

  • I don’t generally like movies with subtitles, but this was fine.
  • General premise: Grumpy old man finds himself in a strange position thanks to his new neighbors.
  • There’s a strong suicide theme throughout the movie, but there’s also both dark and light humor present as well. My personal favorite was his obsession with keeping people from driving where they’re not supposed to.
  • Second favorite moment: When his neighbor lady is feeling down and he just goes off on a 2 minute rant including something like: “You’ve escaped Iran, married a loser, and …” It was honest and priceless.
  • It’s not a comedy, but there are funny moments. It’s not a tragedy, but there are tragic moments.
  • Not a fan of flashbacks, but here they were necessary and well-done.
  • Characterization is handled nicely. You learn to love Ove, his wife, his new neighbors, and even that darn cat.

Conclusion:

If you have the time and opportunity, check out A Man Called Ove. Can’t say I’ve seen many foreign films, but this one’s worth seeing. There’s something very moving about the character.

If you don’t want to watch the movie, check out the book:


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Movie Review: 4/5 Dunkirk

Note: I don’t own the rights to the picture. Pretty sure it’s just one of a dozen different versions of the movie’s promo posters.

Summary:

You know what happens. It’s kind of like watching Titantic in that you have a general gist of the story. The taglines are pretty cool. There are a few very sentimental and moving parts, but by and large, I think they missed several opportunities to humanize the film.

Additional Comments:

  • It’s visually stunning and as gorgeous as a war movie can get. Lots of explosions, but nothing gory.
  • While on the short side, the movie is like watching one giant, long battle scene.
  • The way they chose to edit it made certain parts choppy. Nighttime, daytime, nighttime, and so forth.
  • I really wish I knew all of the character’s names. In the beginning, they did little lettered parts telling you the obvious like you’re now watching the air battle or the sea battle. How hard would it have been to add like 8 letters telling us some of the guys’ names?
  • I’m okay with there being little dialogue. The middle of a firefight is hardly the getting to know you time, but even a well-placed flashback would have sufficed to give the viewer more of a reason to care about these people and their fate.

Aside: Hearing British accents again was kind of fun for me since I’d just gotten back from a 10-day trip.

If you want to check out that series, go here.

Conclusion:

It’s a beautiful movie that’s well-worth seeing at least once in your life. I’m not sure if it’s a buy the blue ray and play repeatedly sort of good, but it’s definitely good. Certain elements would have made it better, but overall, it’s a solid war film.

Check out the Soundtrack


Awesome Movie Reviews: 5/5 Stars Wonder Woman Scores Big

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to the picture. Took it right off of Google images.

Here’s where Google got the pic.

Introduction:

I’m one of those people on the fringe of the comic book crowd. And I’ll admit I knew nothing about the Wonder Woman comic series or back story. I think my first glimpses of her were in the Batman vs. Superman movie. That one was okay, but this movie’s better. The not knowing part could have been the reason I didn’t mind there being a lengthy backstory for her. That, and the kid they got to play Diana as a child is adorable.

Additional Comments:

  • While it could be said that the morals of the story were about as subtle as a sledgehammer, it’s still a charming movie.
  • Gal Gadot pulls off the presence of Wonder Woman beautifully. So, I’m guessing her background as a model helped with being comfortable in some of those outfits. The scene where they were getting her clothes to blend in during WWI London era hit some much-needed nice light-hearted chords.
  • I love the line about slavery, and Steve’s secretary was awesome. She didn’t have many scenes, but the few she graced worked well.
  • Scene in the London back alley came through big too. The fight scenes in general were spread out enough to carry the slow points. The movie makers overdid the slow-motion a tad, but it did make the fight scenes fun.
  • The guy who played Steve (Chris Pine) did a nice job but he didn’t really sound like a British guy. His German accent was passable, and his acting was superb.
  • Not too sure about the evil chemist. Is she a character from the comics? Why did she have face coverings?
  • There are some fun reveals in the movie, but I won’t say more for fear of spoiling the movie.
  • When going to see an action movie, I subconsciously ask myself: was it fun? Am I entertained? Would I see this again? When I can successfully answer “yes!” three times, I know the movie’s a winner to me.
  • Not sure if I’ll see it in theaters again, but it’s got enough of a mix of story and action to carry a few viewings. I might have to buy the blu-ray.

Conclusion:

Wonder Woman scores as an action movie. It’s bright, flashy, and gorgeous on so many levels. Definitely worth watching. There are enough moments involving punching people to keep the crowd happy.

 


Movie Review: 4/5 Stars Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales – Surprisingly Good

Introduction:

The fifth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Men Tell No Tales, follows in same footsteps as the first few. It’s weird. It’s loud. It’s got a gorgeous soundtrack. They were never the “serious” tales. Overall, I enjoyed this one much more than 2-4. It suffers from being a sequel, but that’s to be expected. As a story, it has quite a few “convenient” moments, but it’s pretty standard fare action/adventure/humor with quite a bit of Disney’s touch upon the tale.

I’ll try to keep this relatively spoiler free. No promises though.

Additional Comments:

  • Casting worked out very well. I thought the guy who played Captain Sullivan would annoy me because his voice is super annoying in the trailer. It’s the same voice in the movie but thankfully, his speaking parts are limited and most of the time he’s just stomping about shouting. The young man they got to play Henry Turner and the young woman they got to play, Carina (sorry, dunno if it’s supposed to be K or C), did nice jobs with their roles. Depp is his usual oddball self as Captain Jack Sparrow.
  • The opening scene in St. Martin sets the tone for what you’re going to get. It’s pretty funny among other things.
  • There’s no real sense of danger for our heroes and heroine during any of the times they’re on the land. You know they’re going to escape. It’s just a matter of how.
  • The banter between Henry and Carina is not always funny, but they do innocent charm decently well.
  • Although I think this movie’s world’s better than 2-4, it also makes more sense if you’ve seen them, especially the 2nd movie.

Conclusion:

I don’t think it’s a see-8-times in theaters movie, but it’s certainly well-worth watching. I was entertained. I’ll probably end up buying the soundtrack. As usual, it’s a beautiful score that mixes the old and the new. Not bad for something inspired by a ride at Disney World.

 


Movie Review: 4.5/5 Guardians of the Galaxy Spoiler Free Version

 

Introduction:

I know a lot of movie review sites use a 4 star system, but I’m too well-trained by Amazon reviews to adhere to it. Just saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. As I didn’t know much besides what I’d seen in the first movie, I shall leave this spoiler-free for now.

Summary and First Impressions:

Crude humor and well-placed jokes punctuate the movie in all the right places and a few oddball ones. Still, there’s a surprisingly deep and touching story to be found if you really dig through the crassness. It probably won’t be on my must-buy and watch 80x list, but I’m glad I saw the movie. Most people will think it pales compared to the first in the series. While it suffers a tad from being a sequel, the makers took the story in a cool direction.

Fun Stuff:

Guardians of the Galaxy would never fall under “serious” movies, but I love how much fun they had with it. Things like “Taser Face,” the Sovereign golden people fighting with video game like drones, repeated “I am Groots” all over the credits, and so forth.

How many “I am groots” did you come up with in the credits?

I found 9, but I may have missed a few. Marvel does a stellar job of making you want to watch the credits. There’s so much going on in the sides.

Conclusion:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 lives up to the ridiculous tone set by the first movie while also moving the story along. (It doesn’t come off as a “gee, we just want to cash in another payday” sort of movie.) Go see it!

Movie Review: 4/5 Stars Born in China

Summary:

This is a documentary that follows a mother panda and her baby, a mother snow leopard and her two cubs, some scrappy deer-like critters, and an adolescent monkey.

Additional Comments:

  • The script got a tad silly sometimes, but the narration was done well.
  • There’s triumph and tragedy in this relatively short movie.
  • The little additional snippets provided a nice look at behind the scenes. This must have been one heck of a long, hard job.
  • I noticed how most of the movie posters are harping on the pandas, but it actually follows 4 different animal families.
  • The beginning part with the map was pretty neat.
  • Best part by far = the music. Beautiful and sweeping, it’s definitely got an Asian flare to it.

Conclusion:

I’m not typically a documentary person, but I found this enjoyable. Definitely worth seeing.

 

 

 


Movie Review: 4/5 Stars Logan

(I don’t own the picture.)

Introduction:

My rating on this movie may be slightly generous, but according to Rotten Tomatoes, it’s definitely fresh. It’s an action-packed. Even the kid’s fight scenes are brutal, bloody, and cool all at once. Both Huge Jackman and Dafne Keen did an amazing job with their roles. If you want to see the full who’s who in the cast, go here. The dude they got to play Dr. Rice was suitably creepy. The cast list is actually pretty long.

Content Warnings: Definitely not for kids. It contains violence and strong language in high extremes.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • An action movie like this provides many opportunities for expletives, but this movie kind of took that to the outer extremes. It seemed like 90% of Logan’s dialogue consisted of the f-bomb.
  • I didn’t really get a good sense for the main bad guy. I’m probably missing background that’s given in the comics or previous movies.

What I Liked:

  • That little girl’s at once adorable and deadly. I don’t think she even gets lines of dialogue until the last half-hour of the movie.
  • The plot’s rather simplistic, but it works. An evil company creates genetically altered children. When the program’s shut down, the doctors and nurses are ordered to kill the subjects, and of course, some have an attack of conscience. Bad guys try to contain the problem by sending overwhelming force. What’s not to love? Okay, so I’m a sucker for those sorts of plotlines.
  • I’ll admit to not keeping up very well with the X-men movies, but as far as I know, the makers stayed consistent to Logan’s character while attempting to expand him.

Conclusion:

I’m not sure it enters my “must buy and re-watch 80 times” pile, but it’s definitely worth looking up and renting once or twice.

 

2016 Movie Mini-Reviews

*Note: I’m an Amazon reviewer, I’m just used to a 5 star system*

*The dates I saw the movie are in parentheses.*

*As usual, I don’t own any of the images. I got them via google searches.*

As much as possible, I will try to keep these mini-reviews spoiler-free, but no firm promises. Most of these films have long-since left theaters and been picked apart every which way by critics and movie lovers alike.

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Star Wars Ep VII: The Force Awakens

(1/2; 1/5; 1/12; 1/19; 1/26; 2/2; 2/16; 2/22; 2/29; 3/7/16)
5/5 stars. Mini-synopsis: A Stormtrooper and a scavenger team up with an adorable orange droid to bring the Rebellion vital information. Judging by the amount of times I saw this movie in theaters, I’d say I loved it. It’s kid-friendly. Yes, it’s very reminiscent of Star Wars Ep IV: A New Hope, but in good ways. The new characters: Rey, Finn, BB-8, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren are largely hits. The comic relief is handled with a deft hand. There’s a struggle and both a tired Rebellion and New Order ready to deal each other what death blows they can.

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Zootopia

(3/15/16)
3.5/5 stars. Mini-synopsis: A bunny cop takes on stereotypes to expose an evil plot to set Zootopian society on its ear. It’s a solidly good movie, but there seemed to be hidden agendas that were about as subtle as a neon sign. I typically try to overlook such things and just sit back and enjoy, but this movie sort of kept throwing it in your face. It’s not a bad message, but I go to the movies for entertainment not moral postulating.

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Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

(4/1/16)
3/5 stars. Mini-synopsis: Batman and Superman are pitted against each other by someone with a twisted mind. It’s okay. I honestly don’t remember all that much about it. I enjoyed it while in the theater, but I didn’t run home to Batman or Superman toys, not that I’d do that anyway.

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The Jungle Book

(4/19/16)
4/5 stars. Mini-synopsis: A boy raised by wolves makes dangerous enemies simply by being human. A beautiful return to a classic cartoon. I kind of think I liked the cartoon version a bit better, but this stays true to much of that classic.

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The Huntsman: Winter’s War

(4/26/16)
3.5/5 stars. Mini-synopsis: The Huntsman returns to battle the Ice Queen. I’m probably in the minority here in actually liking this movie. It’s not a super-deep thinker. The fight scenes are decent. The comic relief falls a little flat, but overall, it’s a worthy follow up to The Huntsman. Fantasy movies are almost as hard as video game movies to get right. (Unless it’s Harry Potter, then it’ll make money anyway.)

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Captain America: Civil War

(5/10; 5/17/16)
4.5/5 stars. Mini-synopsis: Captain America and crew are sharply divided when the world turns against heroes and a council hands down some pretty strict oversight rules. Although not as good as the first, it’s an interesting sequel. Marvel does a nice job of weaving in a large cast of beloved characters and making them relevant. The action sequences are great and the plot has a few layers.

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Independence Day: Resurgence

(7/2/16)
3.5/5 stars. Mini-synopsis: The aliens Earth sent packing 25 years ago are back with a vengeance. Suffers from being a sequel, but stays true to the original in key ways. Cast is very good. The mythology expands a little. Not sure it made enough movie for them to attempt making it a trilogy, but it took a few decades to get a sequel so you never know.

secret-life

The Secret Life of Pets

(7/16/16)

3.5/5 stars. Mini-synopsis: Privileged animal companions end up in quite a scrap when they become lost in NYC. I appreciate this more having seen it while actually in New York City. Entertaining but not memorable. For some reason (maybe I’m just old??), the new animated films don’t have quite the sticking power with me as the old school ones. I think Frozen is the last one I can think of that really stuck out as fantastic.

moana 

Moana (12/27/16)

4/5 stars. Mini-synopsis: A chieftain’s daughter embarks on a grand adventure to write some mythical proportion wrongs brought about by one demi-god’s misdeed generations ago. Amusing. Beautiful. The songs are lovely but not the sort you’ll find yourself humming in the shower. The comic relief is a tad forced but it works. The chicken is hilarious.

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Rogue One (12/16; 12/17; 12/19; 12/30/16)

5/5 stars. Mini-synopsis: A band of Rebels go on a desperate mission to give the galaxy hope once again. I have determined to make this the last movie I see of 2016, so I’ll include it last even though that means some of this will be out of order. Somewhat unfairly, I think people are naturally going to compare this to The Force Awakens and find Rogue One slightly wanting. While in a straight up duel between the two I might be tempted to side with TFA too, the comparison’s not exactly fair. The movies fulfill different purposes. TFA expands on Star Wars mythology and gives the Star Wars fans hope that our beloved saga will continue on in steady hands with Disney at the helm. Rogue One is a backstory. It tells a tale we’ve long known had to be out there and answers some deep, burning questions that could crop up during Ep IV: A New Hope. I don’t think it will have as long of a run in theaters as TFA because it’s really a film aimed at the massive amounts of adult fans. TFA fulfills that role (aimed at fans) as well as has a general audience appeal. Rogue One is way more violent. That said, I loved it. I loved it differently than I did TFA, but once again, I will be spending quite a few afternoons in theaters immersed in a galaxy far, far away.

Conclusion:

It’s been a pretty good year for movies. What’d you think?

What movies in 2017 are you looking forward to?
Of course, I’m interested in the new Star Wars movie, but I’m also sort of interested in Hidden Figures, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Logan, Lego Batman, and The Boss Baby (though I’m not sure about seeing that one in theaters).

 

Spoiler-Filled Review of Rogue One

*Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers, spoilers. And once again, I own nothing of the pictures.*

BTW, this movie is definitely better without spoilers. Go watch it first, then look for the discussions.

Introduction:

I love this movie. I’m a little baffled as to why people keep trying to compare it to The Force Awakens. They’re completely separate entities and fulfill different functions within the Star Wars canon as re-imagined by Disney. It definitely deserves its PG-13 rating. It’s a movie about war during the height of the Empire.

Discussion of the Character Arcs:

They did a very nice job with the character development of Jyn Erso. They took her from innocent kid pretty much orphaned by war, raised by a radical, emotionally wounded by being abandoned a second time by Saw Gerrera when she was 16 … in short, hardened by life … and gave her a cause to fight for. The more times I watch the movie, the more I pick up on in terms of the connections and turning points in some of the characters, especially Jyn. This is what I meant by replay value in my spoiler-free review. I’ve seen this movie 3 times to date and will likely see it a few more times.

Jyn Erso

When we first meet her, Jyn’s a criminal imprisoned for possessing illegal weapons, resisting arrest, etc. She’s got this flippant shell around her emotions that gets blasted to pieces when she sees her father’s hologram message. I’d say that’s the first real turning point for her. The second major turning point happens on Eadu when her father dies in her arms, killed by Alliance bombs. I’m surprised she can push that aside and focus on the mission her father basically hands to her, undoing his life’s work. She returns to Yavin 4 to convince the Rebel Alliance to go to Scarif for the Death Star plans, which will allow them to exploit the weakness her father put in the system. And fails. But she convinces the right people who go rogue with her, breaking away from the Alliance long enough to steal the Imperial shuttle acquired on Eadu and dash off to Scarif. I think the last major shift in her attitude takes place when she realizes they’re trapped but the mission’s only really half completed at that point. They don’t even have the plans secured. Staring at the end flying her way along with Cassian, you get the sense that she’s accepted it and made peace with the fact that others will have to carry on the war from here.

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Cassian Andor

We don’t learn all the much about this guy’s background. He’s a captain in Rebel Alliance intelligence. He’s done things he regrets in the name of the cause. And he says he’s been in this fight since he was 6. The viewer gets the sense he’s got a ship’s load of tragedy in his past. Throughout the story, his attitude toward Jyn changes. At first, she’s just a pawn to be used to approach Saw Gerrera without getting killed. He doesn’t trust her, and he certainly doesn’t trust her father. I think the first turning point for him is when he sees her fighting when they’re in the streets of Jedha. It probably helps that at one point she jumps in front of K2SO—Cassian’s droid buddy—to protect him. His second turning point is when he’s staring down the barrel of his sniper rifle ready to take out Jyn’s father. Cassian hesitates and ultimately disobeys General Draven’s orders. Another turning point happens when he realizes she wants to fight despite the Council’s decision. He’s been in the fight long enough to be able to predict the outcome of the political machine. The last turning point comes when he pulls her back from going after Krennic. I think they both knew they were doomed at that point.

Galen Erso

The more I see the movie, the more I love this guy. All the actors and actresses did a splendid job, but the character of Galen Erso is awesomely tragic. He’s the kind of misunderstood figure whose name gets lost to time. Is he a hero or a villain? That depends on the point of view you’re seeing the situation from. He’s a brilliant scientist forced to work on a project that scars his conscience. Collaborator – certainly. Double-agent – apparently. He loses his wife and his daughter in one fell swoop, one to death, one to inevitable separation. (There are still some big leaps of logic one has to nod and smile at in order to enjoy without questioning it too much.)

K2SO

K2SO joins a long list of lovable droids. He tends to say whatever comes into his circuits. The interactions he has with Jyn and Cassian are great. Pretty much everything he says is funny. He’s reminiscent of HK-47 from Knights of the Old Republic. The sassy droid seems to love what he does.

Bohdi Rook

We don’t get to learn much about his backstory. But somewhere along the way, he interacted with Galen Erso who basically told him to follow his heart, which led him to the Rebellion.

 

Baze Malbus

Once a devoted guardian of the Whills. He seems a little cynical, but he’s devoted to his blind friend. I love his machine gun blaster. The dude wears a backpack tank thing that must have a lot of fuel in it because he mows down opposition.

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Chirrut Imwe

He’s blind, yet he sees much in the Force. This might be the first time we see a cool action sequence of this nature without a lightsaber involved.

orson-krennic
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) Ph: Jonathan Olley �Lucasfilm LFL 2016.

Director Orson Krennic

In some ways, you want to feel bad for this guy. He’s a bureaucrat who’s devoted his life to making the ultimate superweapon in the galaxy only to have a pen-pushing psychopath who happens to have more favor with the Emperor to usurp control at the last second. Ouch.

War is Messy:

Good guys being bad; bad guys being good. The movie portrays the blurred lines of morality in war very well. Some examples include: Cassian shooting the informant who tells him about the Imperial defector, Galen Erso’s revenge in the design of the original Death Star, and Saw Gerrera’s rebels relying on terrorist tactics in their quest to rescue the Kyber crystals.

Things that they could have cut or modified:

The tentacle creature Saw uses to probe Bohdi’s mind. I get it; it’s Star Wars, they want to include some weird stuff, but I think it would make more sense to have him using an Imperial probe droid or something. Make it so he’s using a weapon of his enemy against the defector. His suspicion comes through clearly enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the end, but there could have been one survivor. I will say that the end gives new depth and menace to the way Tarkin calculates things

Reaction to the End:

I had zero expectations going in. Not sure what it says about me, but I find the ending beautiful and powerful and, of course, very, very sad. It brings new meaning to the simple words from the opening crawl of A New Hope where we learn that the Rebels have finally struck a decent blow to the Empire by stealing the Death Star plans. Typically, I’m a happy-ending sort of girl, so the fact that I love this movie despite its tragic ending says a lot.

I’m definitely game to see it again. (I’m up to 3 times vs The Force Awakens 14, but hey, it’s early in the run.)

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