Transformers: The Last Knight

Transformers: The Last Knight ticketstubHoly shit, this movie is an epic disaster!


Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman ticketstubWonder Woman gives us the origin story of the powerful Amazon super hero of the DC Universe, showing her leaving her hidden island paradise and heading into the Front in World War I Europe to save the innocents and stop the most evilest god of war, Ares. Personally, I wasn't really familiar with Wonder Woman's origin story. I had seen the television show in the way-back, but I don't recall any details beyond that she has a Lasso of Truth and wears a very patriotic looking bathing suit. The Diana portrayed in this movie is smart and idealistic, but also naive with regard to the modern world or even the nuances of human behavior... and about men (having grown up on an island populated only with woman and ancient documents). So Diana's innocence is the source of several jokes as she is first exposed to London in the early 1900s. This all works pretty well and lasts just long enough to get Diana the basics she needs to orient herself before heading out to the Front.

I don't really buy into the suggestion that Ares is personally responsible and involved with every war that happens and that killing him would suddenly end all violence, and the same issue is raised in the movie, people are complicated and sometimes they do bad things. This issue in particular lacks the nuance and complexity it deserves, but is probably just right for where this movie lives on the action vs reality scale. Obviously, two powerful beings engaging in what feels like an epic video game boss-fight isn't the most realistic thing to present, and therefor accepts the comic books setting it exists in.

So did I enjoy it? Absolutely. Was it well made? Yeah, pretty much. Does it get me excited for a Justice League movie? Yup! Is Wonder Woman my new favorite DC Universe character? Signs point to yes.


The Mummy

The Mummy ticketstubI understand Universal wants to bring back the monster movies and get some new old franchises going, because what we all need right now are some more reboots. Ugh. This movie, in fact, opens with a "Dark Universe" logo, the triumphant opening to a whole new world of old monsters! That would almost be exciting if this movie were at all interesting.

I believe there were several miscalculations with this movie, the greatest among them was making it impossible for the audience to empathize with any of the characters. The lead, Tom Cruise's Nick, is a selfish thief who doesn't care about anyone else (yup, that was three times redundant). The mummy, Ahmanet, is a power hungry murderer who made a deal with the Devil (they really used that term) and murdered her own family. Nick's friend Chris doesn't have a spine and just follows Nick around like a lonely puppy. Russel Crowe as Dr. Jekyll (uh, yup) behaved like people just don't matter compared to the importance of his cause to study and then destroy evil, in that order. There was also the beautiful archaeologist that Nick inexplicably falls in love with. Besides having virtually no personality, I'm not faulting her, it's just there was no chemistry or even apparent attraction between them. So tell me, who do I root for?

Was the story interesting at least? Not really. Basically, Ahmanet needs to get a ceremonial dagger and a magic jewel for the hilt and stab Nick with it to give the Devil Nick's human body. Now, everyone shrug along with me... very good. So why watch this movie? Effects were good enough, but didn't make it interesting. Look at the old monster movies, they had effects, but I don't think that's what made them compelling. I actually don't know what made those old movies compelling, they never worked for me, but somehow, a big studio wants to bring them back, so here were are with this mess. I can't wait to not look forward to the entire Dark Universe series.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales ticketstubIf you had any concerns this Pirates movie might reproduce the complex multi-plot structure of the third movie, have no fear, Dead Men Tell No Tales keeps it simple. There's only one main story thread here, though it does take several steps and jogs and jukes to get to the eventual destination, it is at least not too difficult to follow. Though, I will point out that, given all these steps, there were a few cases where I forgot where we were on the journey and why. It's not terrible, you're still enjoying the trip, but it's not always apparent why this particular action sequence needs to happen. As with the other Pirates movies, the effects are excellent, though a little gross (the undead sharks in particular). If you're looking for a fun adventure and this is what's showing, I'd say there's no harm in checking it out, but don't expect a movie that's going to stick with you.


Alien Covenant

Alien Covenant ticketstubAt least I can say this movie isn't Prometheus. While Prometheus wanted to be deep and philosophical, Covenant wants to gross you out and make you uncomfortable, and I think this is to its benefit in the sense that this keeps it really simple.

The Covenant is a colony ship that stops to check out an Earth-like planet that may be better than the planet they were heading for. This also happens to be the planet that the synthetic David landed the ship from Prometheus on. I'll skip the rest of the details, but suffice to say, it gets creepy. A day later and I am still kind of disturbed by the turns this movie took. Once again, the spacecraft and the sense of function they project is my favorite part of the movie. The characters are kind of meh... Like Prometheus, most of the crew of 15 dies off before you even know their names. The rest that make it through more than half the movie don't give me much reason to care. The significant factor that was introduced with this movie is that they are all couples, so we get the sting of spouses dying, and that has impact, but again, because we don't know these characters for long, the impact is limited.

Another issue I have with Covenant is that it fails to reproduce the cat and mouse game we get in Alien, Aliens and even the following two or three movies. This adventure doesn't seem epic and if not for the fact that we're dealing with a colony ship carrying thousands of colonists, would have significantly less weight to it. It's an enjoyable movie, but still lacking the magic of the earlier entries in the series.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ticketstubFollowing on from the first Guardians movie, Peter finally meets his Dad and learns the truth (slowly) about his purpose. All the other members of the team have their own stories of personal growth and learning about their teammates, and then emotions everywhere. Besides all that, this movie is a ton of fun and hilarious and I enjoyed nearly every moment. I'm not sure if Vol. 2 is better than the first movie, but it's plenty of fun in its own right, so if you enjoyed the first one, I am sure you'll get a kick out of this one. And wow, Baby Groot got some moves!


The Fate of the Furious

The Fate of the Furious ticketstubI think by now we all know what we're getting into with a Fast and Furious movie, and this entry into the series does not disappoint. Once again, the big bad is the mysterious Cipher, who forces Dom to work for her. On the other side, Dom's team is working to stop Cipher and repeatedly comes up against Dom. While not particularly original, it ends up being an engaging enough plot device. As usual, there's the usual assortment of vehicles and gadgets, and an extra large dose of hacking and movie hacker terms. In fact, what really stood out to me was how pervasive the hacking themes are in this movie. It was a big enough deal in the other recent movies, but it seems like it's half of this one. Overall, it's a big fun movie that gives you the usual angles on family and something new when it comes to the horrors of a world where nearly anything can be hacked. Kick back and enjoy not having to think too much.


Your name

Your name ticketstubI'll admit up front that I have a particular affection and awe of Japanese animated films. I think it comes from the details that ooze from every millimeter of the screen, whether set in the city or the country, it's all about how a place is captured that makes me go all gooey inside. By captured I mean, there is a love of Japan and Japanese culture demonstrated in films like Your name that I don't see in any other style of films. The way we see a character's bedroom, with books and erasers and the next day's clothes hanging up for morning. The way a family gathers for breakfast and how the steam pours out of the rice cooker when first opened. The sounds of traffic in the city streets. A close-up of a bug crawling on a leaf in the woods. The way the rain splashes into puddles during a storm. Everything from the luscious visuals to the perfectly replicated soundtrack of the world, it always moves me deeply.

But there's more to this movie than just beautiful drawings and amazing sound design, it follows a teenage girl living in the country and a teenage boy living in Tokyo who mysteriously swap bodies a few times a week. There's the obvious elements of feeling lost in a world one doesn't know, whether it's the city or the country or the gender difference, or the family dynamics... they each have a lot of adjusting to do. And just as they think they have it down, they have an understanding between them, there are ground rules, there's routine, they communicate by leaving diary entries to each other so they know what each has done for the day, there's a shattering turn.

The movie is filled with sentimentality, as is common for films in this genre. It always feels like a fantasy to me, events and emotions, they may not work out for the best, but they occur in a way that perfectly plucks at your emotional core. I love it, though it's certainly not for everyone.

But it should be.


Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell ticketstubThere's an enormous amount of animated history behind Ghost in the Shell and it should be clear there's no way for any new live action movie to live up to the established canon. What surprised me is how well this movie does next to everything that's come before it. The look of the film matches the animated versions in precise detail. So much attention to detail can be seen in every single shot. And, of course, they were careful to include many of the iconic scenes like the Major dropping off the skyscraper and crashing through the window (as seen in the trailer), and the climactic fight with the spider tank. The story avoided the philosophical questions the series is known for, but I also never really understand the intricacies of what those ideas were in the animated series and movies, so in a way, a simpler story is a bit of a treat. I can enjoy the visuals and the action and a more character driven story without worrying that I'm missing out on all big ideas the story is trying to present.

If you like action science fiction movies, I think you will really enjoy Ghost in the Shell. If you are a fan of GitS, I think you'll be able to appreciate the visuals and maybe just try not to let the story and unnecessarily high number of non-asian casting choices get in the way too much?


Power Rangers

Power Rangers ticketstubMy memory of the Power Rangers TV show was of goofy slapstick comedy, people in costumes fighting in parks, and monsters and mechs fighting Godzilla style in model cities. This big scale movie does away with most of the slapstick comedy in favor of building stronger characters and infusing the whole bunch with some heart. We also get big budget special effects that really work well. My only problems with the movie go back to the source material. In an effort to save the world, the Power Rangers still manage to significantly contribute to the destruction of Angel Grove. But hey, they saved the world, so it's cool... There's also the prominent product placement throughout, but that's just how things work these days. Overall, a solid and fun movie that actually delivers.