News

Warcraft

Warcraft movieI expect most are familiar with the now well known Warcraft series of RTS games and the MMO, or have at least heard the name somewhere. I played the MMO briefly, but clearly not enough to understand the background and lore this movie is constantly namedropping references to. That said, I don't think it matters much. I enjoyed the movie as a classic fantasy adventure with a story that generally worked and characters I almost kind of cared about. I have read reviews complaining that the story jumps around and is difficult to follow, but I didn't have much trouble understanding what was going on. I am probably missing out by not knowing the characters and lore and I don't get the "squees" from seeing a well known location from the games on screen, but I still enjoyed it well enough.

The acting was alright, script was mostly passable, visuals were pretty great and the violence was much more graphic than I was expecting. Overall, I'd say it was a fun fantasy romp. Keep your expectations low and keep soaring (on griffons) for the clouds.

3/5

The Wailing

The Wailing ticketstubThere have been some gruesome murders in a small South Korean village and a small-town policeman is on the job! Except he's incompetent and a coward and as the body count increases, it becomes more clear the cause is supernatural. The murderer in each case becomes afflicted with a sickness that causes boils and eventually madness, and now the policeman's young daughter has been affected. As the story (slowly) develops over 2.5 hours, multiple causes for the affliction are presented. There are several misdirections, but if you mentally walk back through the events, you can see how it all fits together. However, I may be missing the cultural undertones of this film. One of the potential evil characters is an older Japanese man who is demonized by the villagers. I get the impression there's some rather intense dislike/distrust of the Japanese, but that's beyond my experience.

The acting was great and typically over-the-top for these sorts of movies. There is some humor (mostly early on), some really beautiful shots of the landscape, lots of graphic crime scenes, a fair bit of misogyny, and a plot that will leave you feeling overly manipulated. I liked the movie, but the slow pacing and lack of cultural background left me bored for most of it and lacking in context needed to fully understand everything.

3/5

X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse ticketstubThe heartwarming tale of mutants coming together to save the world... you know, like every other X-Men movie... Honestly, I thought this movie worked quite well. Picking up after the events of First Class and Days of Future Past, it follows the introduction of the super mutant Apocalypse as he recruits his new horsemen and sets off the apocalypse. In the meantime, Xavier's mutant friends and students start getting their shit together and join forces to save the world and rescue Xavier.

I appreciate that the plot was kept fairly simple leaving a little more room for character development. Still, there are a lot of characters, so not everyone gets the full treatment. Overall, I thought it was a solid movie that continues the themes from the first two movies without muddying the core elements. Stay for the scene after the credits.

3/5

Love and Friendship

Love and Friendship ticketstubI believe this movie is based on a recently discovered and unfinished Jane Austen novella. It follows Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) as she moves in with her in-laws after the death of her husband. That's really just the setting, though, the movie itself is mostly about Lady Susan's sociopathic manipulations of everyone around her as she works to secure her own future by hooking her daughter and hopefully herself up with a rich husband. There's probably a lot of sub-text I missed, but on the surface, it's a look at what these ladies have gone through and will go through in a world where they have no professional options, where all they can do is get married in order to ensure food and shelter and, in the case of these ladies, income so they can maintain their lifestyle.

I found Lady Susan to be a very unlikable character. It's difficult to be sympathetic toward a character who is herself, incapable of feeling empathy for anyone else. She's a compulsive liar who manipulates everyone and will frequently throw her own daughter under the bus if it means she can climb one more rung on her own personal achievement ladder. Those around her seem at least remotely aware of Lady Susan's manipulations, but because this is upper crust England and everyone must be proper, she is rarely called out on anything. Awkward encounters aside, the movie is frequently and unexpectedly funny. It managed to get several out loud chuckles from me. Once you get into the language and story, you start to pick up on the funny moments quite easily. Something curious, though, whenever characters are moving about an estate, indoors or out, or walking around the streets of London, there is usually at least one "common" person doing something in the background. It might be lighting candles or tending some equipment or fixing the bricks in the pavement, but there's always something going on in these scenes and I wasn't sure if it was intended to make the area feel "working" or if there's a message about the petty manipulations of this highborn folks while the service class silently keeps their world functioning. The acting was generally good and often quite funny. I mostly followed the story, but occasionally lost track of things amongst all the big words being used. I don't think it felt as polished as the more well-known Austen works, but maybe after it's around for a while we'll feel more comfortable with it.

3/5

Money Monster

Money Monster ticketstubThe trailer for this movie will tell you all you need to know. George Clooney's kinda scummy character hosts a financial news show, Julia Roberts plays the show's director, and a man who has lost everything in an investment that Clooney's character recommended, takes the studio hostage in order to get answers. From beginning to end, this is a gripping story filled with very sincere, sympathetic, real feeling characters (except maybe for the very scummy CEO of the company that lost the money).

I really didn't have any issues with this movie. It moves fast, it's intense, and the characters feel multi-dimensional. Perhaps the only minor issue is that the film obviously plays on our cynicism toward the financial industry, but that is a real thing. We are suspicious, and we have good reasons to be suspicious. So maybe not such a big leap. If you think you'd be up for an intense ride, I'd say go for it.

4/5

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War ticketstubAfter the destruction resulting from the Avengers battles with various threats, the individual members of the Avengers are struggling to deal with the consequences of those battles. Tony Stark thinks the Avengers should be controlled by the UN, Captain America thinks the Avengers need to be independent. Now fight!

And so they do... We got lots of extremely well choreographed and lengthy fight sequences that are great fun to watch. There's other stuff going on, but it all gets lost between these fight sequences. This movie is about two and a half hours long and it FEELS long because there are so many battles. This is that time in a big action movie where I kind of wish there were more plot development. My other issue with this movie has to do with the basis for the conflict. People all over the world blame the Avengers for the people killed in New York, DC, and Sokovia, but what never gets mentioned is the alien invasion in New York, or the Hydra infiltration in DC, or the thousands of Ultron robots at Sokovia. The Avengers didn't create the chaos, they did everything in their power to stop it. Holding them responsible for what happened strikes me as insane. Vision even makes the argument that the mere presence of the Avengers (enhances people), generates more threats, but I don't buy the argument that the Avengers create the threats, it's more likely enhanced (and highly trained people) rise to combat the threats. The more threats there are, the more people rise to help. I understand people want to blame someone, but you don't blame the people who are protecting you. So if the source of all the conflict implodes, everything that comes after vaporizes and you're left without any plot at all. It's a fun movie to watch, but I couldn't buy any of it for a second. Note that there are two post-ending scenes, one mid-credits and one after the credits.

3/5

Hardcore Henry

Hardcore Henry ticketstubHenry wakes up to find he's a cyborg with no memories and without the ability to speak. His wife is kidnapped by a telekinetic man who wants to take over the world. Henry is then prompted, kind of video game style, through a series of quests in order to rescue his wife. If you haven't seen the trailer, I should also point out that the entire movie is filmed from Harry's perspective, whether it's running, shooting, falling, parkour... everything. Though I've heard people reject the idea of seeing this movie because they fear getting motion sickness, I didn't feel that at all. However, I do play a lot of games that use this same perspective, so I certainly can't say for sure no one else will feel sick.

The movie is filled, from end to end, with graphic brutal bloody violence that often feels over-the-top in a video game way. It works. There are a few subtle funny moments and then the overt funny moments that come mostly from Charlto Copley who plays the role of other cyborgs helping Henry and giving him his mission objectives. I have to say, this movie felt most like the game Dying Light without the zombies (though it does kind of have zombies toward the end), mostly for it's mix of gunplay and parkour. It's solid fun wrapped up in a package we really haven't seen (to this extent) in a movie before. If you're okay with the violence and not worried about getting motion sickness, I would definitely recommend Hardcore Henry.

4/5

Criminal

Criminal ticketstubHere it is, I found it, a movie where Ryan Reynolds isn't making jokes. At least for the ten or so minutes that he's on screen (not counting photographs). After that, it's mostly Kevin Costner playing Jericho, a really horrible person who has a spy's (Ryan Reynold's) memories dumped into his head as a way to find out where Ryan Reynold's Bill Pope spy character stashed a hacker before that hacker's tools can be captured by an anarchist who wants to tear down all the world's governments. What makes the story interesting is that Jericho, who suffered a traumatic brain injury at a young age and never developed any sense of right or wrong or consequences from his actions, is now bombarded by Bill Pope's morality and empathy and love and also his kick-ass spy skills.

I found it an entertaining, though predictable trip, and it did bring me to tears in a few places. It leaves out the more complex questions of what it means to have someone else's memories in your head, but I wasn't really wanting for more. It was just enough to see Jericho go from a criminal with nothing, to kind of a hero with something to fight for. Be aware, the movie does earn its R rating for graphic brutal violence.

3/5

The Divergent Series: Allegiant

The Divergent Series: Allegiant ticketstubThe third installment in the Divergent series picks up with Tris and Four and the other divergents looking to escape Chicago to find what's outside the wall. Evelyn has stepped into the power vacuum left by the death of Jeanine and blocks anyone from going beyond the wall, but of course, that won't stop Tris and Four. Once outside the wall, they find The Pure, in their ivory tower, who run the giant genetic test that is Chicago. The Director, David, uses Tris to bolster his power, while obviously caring nothing for the rats in the experiment. Oddly, this movie seems much more about Four than Tris. Four smells something rotten in this place that has the facade of utopia, while Tris is too blinded by the idea that she's at the end of her quest for peace and freedom. Four does some investigating and turns up the truth, Tris doesn't want to hear it, that puts strain on their relationship... then shit goes down and they have to escape back to Chicago. I realize it seems like I'm spewing spoilers, but all of this is obvious and well telegraphed ahead of time. I don't see how anyone could not see everything coming at a distance.

So obviously I wasn't watching this for plot. I actually wanted to get a look at the art design around the buildings, vehicles, and the UI the computers use. That's my jam. There's a lot of good sterile design that I liked, but not enough diversity, I would say. There were only two or three types of flying vehicles, no new ground vehicles. The interface used in some of the computers in the city of The Pure was nice, but actually reminded me a lot of the UI in the video game The Division (the opening credits in particular).

I will say that I enjoyed myself at least a little, and it's good to see the series capped off. Unfortunately, there was nothing surprising about the plot, the writing wasn't interesting or inspiring, and it wasn't clear to me who the main character of this story was. I would think the focus would be on Tris, but instead we get mostly Four...and I'm fine with that, but it's confusing not knowing the narrative focus.

3/5

London Has Fallen

London Has Fallen ticketstubFilled to the brim with pro-American "we're badasses, don't fuck with us!" messaging, London Has Fallen is an enjoyable romp through the streets of London in scenes reminiscent of a Die Hard movie, but with less jokes. It's not a complicated movie, there aren't significant twists or reversals, and the morality portrayed is fairly black and white. The action, though, felt intense when necessary and I found the journey engaging.

3/5