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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

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ticketstubLike its title, this movie is a bit of a mess, which isn't to say it isn't an entertaining mess. Batman is bent that Superman is a god with unchecked power, while freely admitting he himself is a vigilante criminal. Superman isn't sure if he's helping or hurting the people of Earth. Lex Luthor is the Joker? I mean, not really, but he's played as an insane mastermind who can't keep his train of thought on the tracks. There's a chance this movie is trying to get us to think about heroes and justice, but the internal contradictions get in the way.

The movie is entertaining, the action is intense and frenzied. Batman has his toys, Superman has speed and great hair. Lex has hair and insanity. We also get Wonder Woman and a brief introduction to the rest of the soon-to-be Justice League (which is probably where the sub-title comes from). This film is also dark. Seriously dark. Really f*cking dark. I'm not even sure Batman can exist in daylight, maybe he turns to ash when exposed to sunlight? Someone definitely looked at the Nolan Batman films and said "this needs more darkness!" I do like that Batman is kind of being a detective, but he's also being mislead by Lex, and you have to wonder how the world's best detective could let that happen.

I suppose I didn't hate the movie, I still enjoyed myself, but I am sure that time will not treat this movie well. All I can hope for is that the Justice League movie at least features daylight.

3/5

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot ticketstubA fish-out-of-water story about a New York City journalist, stuck in a rut, who takes a position as a war correspondent in Afghanistan. Upon arriving in Afghanistan, Kim Baker (Tina Fey) realizes she is completely out of her depth in ways that most westerners would be. She acclimates quickly and develops a passion for reporting on the important stories about the soldiers and locals. We watch as Kim's life bounces from the adrenaline highs of war, to the alcohol and hook-ups of all-night parties the journalists throw to escape from the horrors and boredom of their lives. What I found charming about this film wasn't so much the story of the wartime journalist, but instead the wittiness and honesty of Tina Fey's character, a character, I admit, is pretty much the same we always see from Fey, but oh so delightful. It is absolutely a movie of "come for the story, stay for the characters."

3/5

Anomalisa

Anomalisa ticketstubAnomalisa is a peculiar and completely ordinary story about a middle-aged man completely bored with his life who discovers the one voice in the cacophony of sameness that is different. I would call it ordinary because we have all or will all, at some point, feel this boredom with our lives. The daily routine of work and family. You can't tell one person from another as everything blends together. Peculiar because this movie is filmed in stop-motion with puppets, and everyone the main character Michael Stone sees has exactly the same face and voice. Men, women, children, they're all the same. That is, except for Lisa, whom he discovers in a hotel while traveling to speak at a customer service convention.

Lisa has her own unique face and, more importantly, her own voice, and Michael must know her. Must meet this person who stands out. As a viewer, I am confronted with these conflicted feelings around Michael's affair. I can relate to the mundanity of his life and that sense of exhilaration when one finds that thing that is different, the seasoning that makes life interesting. But I am also judging Michael for having an affair or even for committing himself to a dead marriage. This movie is intriguing in its presentation of the completely ordinary mashed together with an almost nightmarish world where everyone is the same. Complex insights into life and relationships thread throughout the film in ways that are moving, and sometimes difficult to confront.

4/5

Deadpool

Deadpool ticketstubI am not familiar with the Deadpool comics. My only real exposure and understanding of the Deadpool character comes from the character's previous parts (in Wolverine Origins) and pop culture references. I know that Deadpool is a wisecracking mercenary who frequently breaks the fourth wall. So, I won't be discussing how this portrayal effectively represents the Deadpool character or things that happen in the books.

This movie was fun. The action was intense (while not being tense) and over-the-top. The witty wisecracking comments are rapid fire and nearly constant. I don't think it's possible to take everything in during a single viewing. I thoroughly enjoyed how the movie constantly crossed boundaries in a not-so-subtle attempt to make you wince while challenging your ideas of what is PC. The movie is also deeply self-referential, both to Deadpool's previous appearances and to other X-Men properties and Hollywood in general.

I thought the acting was good from the main characters, and the writing was entertaining. The plot was thin, but sufficient to move the story along. My only real criticism isn't a failing of the movie, so much as the marketing. Obviously the marketing and publicity has focused on getting across how funny and irreverent the movie is, but it's unfortunate they had to use so many great lines from the movie in the various trailers. I did note that some of the lines used in the movie were not the same as in the trailers, which is good, but it's still a bit of a let down to not be surprised when a particularly great line is presented and I've already heard it.

If you think you can handle the humor and know enough about pop culture to get the references being made, and you don't have a problem with graphic comic book violence, I say go for it and be prepared for a great time.

4/5

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ticketstubPride and Prejudice and Zombies tries to present a 19th century England where there's been a zombie outbreak, and also Pride and Prejudice is happening. Of course, we've all seen a bazillion zombie outbreak movies, but most take place in modern times, so seeing how this rather significant issue is addressed in the 1800's is refreshing. I liked seeing the machines of war and the defensive measures employed like a giant wall around London surrounded by a giant moat. There was also a sense of history to this world when characters would describe "the second battle of Kent" and the like. Unfortunately, the rest of it felt like an awkward mash-up of two things that don't easily fit together, i.e. Pride and Prejudice, and zombies.

Classism is a big part of Pride and Prejudice, and that's a big part of this movie as well. As you might expect, zombies are the lower classes, the farmers, orphans, servants, and peasantry. The wealthy go to balls and have banquets and boast over whether it's better to train one's martial arts (for zombie killing) in Japan or China. What wasn't clear to me is how an economy or even a society can function when the peasants (who pay the taxes and grow the food) are all zombies. Even the wealthy estates were regularly infiltrated by zombies. I think all three of the balls (the type where there is dancing) portrayed in the movie were ended abruptly when zombies attacked. I was confused as to how the zombie outbreak has been going on for years, yet people are so routinely unprepared. They don't post sentries or have patrols or sufficient defenses. Indeed, it's clearly a plot device to get characters moving and interacting and a way to promote the romantic relationships, which instead of being built on witty repartee, are instead cultivated in combat prowess.

Much of the writing felt awkward and forced in the fashion of let's just tack "zombie" on the end of half the lines, it'll probably be fine. The plot was familiar, but left battered by the addition of zombies. The acting was generally adequate, but at times made impossible by absurd writing brought on by the zombie mash-up. The one exception was Matt Smith as Parson Collins, who was not a likable character, but presented an amusing fool who provided delightful contrast to everyone else's serious faces. The end of the movie was the most absurd and disappointing. Right after an aborted battle with the bad guy and a chase by the zombie horde, we find ourselves in a wedding. The end. If you stay past the initial few minutes of credits you are treated to a follow-up scene that basically reminds you "Remember that big bad guy and his zombie horde thing that we never finished up? Well, it's still happening and we aren't going to tell you how it goes." The end (again).

So the point of this movie wasn't the zombies, it was the romance...except the zombie plotline was sooooo much more entertaining than this bullshit forced and awkward romantic storyline that seemed completely dependent on zombies to prop it up. Nope. No thank you. No.

2/5

The Revenant

The Revenant ticketstubA bone-chilling tale of loss and isolation in the violent northern wilderness. There isn't much to give away, the plot develops as you would expect and trailers gave most of the basics to you already. What this movie does really well is to graphically demonstrate man's inhumanity to man in displays of graphic brutality as the encroaching white men skirmish with the natives and the opportunists who prey on the weak on both sides.

The two details that really stood out to me throughout this movie were the spectacular long tracking shots and the film's score. Typically, when you see a movie battle being fought, it's done with quick jump cuts invoking a sort of disorientation as the viewer is unable to work out what's happening (due to the quick shots) and where it's happening (due to all the jumping around on the battlefield). The Revenant instead uses these long shots that track through the action, rotating around so the viewer can see what's happening, where the action is moving, and all the violence close up and in the distance. This isn't just used in battles, it's used throughout to show what's happening to the characters, mostly DiCaprio's Hugh Glass, and to give a feel for the landscape and threats all around. The score is also pretty incredible, it's not loud and booming, but instead comes in swells, like dark lonely waves washing into a rocky shore. Often there's nothing but the sounds of the wilderness, and then the score washes in to emphasize the emotional and physical struggles Glass faces.

Here's where things get tricky. This movie is beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted, it's intense and violent and graphic. There's no dialog for much of the movie and you get the sense that evil usually wins. In other words, this not a pleasant movie-going experience. It takes a toll on you. I know it's getting a lot of buzz, but it's difficult to recommend it unless you're the sort of masochist that really wants to be dragged through such a taxing experience. I don't regret seeing it, but I also don't feel very good about it.

4/5