Displaying Category: Rating_4

Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok ticketstubIn case anyone was wondering what Thor (and Hulk) were up to during the events of Captain America: Civil War well, here you go. Asgard is threatened by the powerful Hela, and Thor must form alliances to defend his home. What stands out to me most is that the stakes in this movie are relatively high, the destruction of all Asgardians and potentially, the loss of the other nine worlds and more, but this is actually a very light-hearted movie filled with genuinely funny scenes. Lots of jokes and sick-burns and sight-gags and physical comedy (which I don't normally like, but works pretty well here). So understand, this is a fun movie with great action sequences and very little emotion and pretty much nothing dark. There are actually situations that, I think, are meant to be dark, but the comedic tone everywhere else overpowers those darker scenes and dilutes their effectiveness. I think I was too busy laughing to mourn the loss of the seriousness this movie might have had. So that's it really. Thor is a lot of fun, go check it out for that, and maybe to fill in some more of the Marvel Universe goings-ons.


Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 ticketstubMuch of what I expect is conversation-worthy about this movie comes from the major plot points and twists, so I won't be discussing those. What I can say, is that this movie is very pretty, very visual, designed in a way to make it all feel real and lived in. You can see the evolution from where we are now with technology, to the technologies presented in the movie... well, most of them. We haven't quite figured out synthetic organisms on the scale of cats and dogs and humans. The score also felt like an evolution from the synthesizers of the original movie to the synth mixed with the heavy rumbles found in many modern films. The action scenes felt familiar, brutal, like every fight is a desperate struggle for survival, which made for some very intense sequences. Again, taking cues from the original movie, 2049 gives the viewer plenty of room to breathe and take in the scenery. Long slow shots that give you time to live in this world, to imagine yourself walking down that street, or flying over the city. It's very effective for immersion and pacing. I would say I liked the movie, it worked really well and it very much felt like it followed from the original movie. I'm just not sure I loved it, and I can't quite tell you why.



It ticketstubAs horror movies go, It is pretty damned good. It has a setting in the late '80s, early '90s, so it hits that nostalgia bone for people around my age. It's about a demon (or something) that takes the form of a clown in order to feed on fear, and therefore, the movie is made up of terrifying scenarios. It has great effects and some satisfying jump-scares and just the right amount of reality. What I think makes this film extra scary, though, are not the horrible terrifying scenarios Pennywise puts the characters through to terrorize them, but the things the people of this town do to each other, largely in the form of abusive parents and sadistic bullies. These kids go through so much at home and at school and in-between, some of it breaks them, some of it makes them stronger (as something to fight back against). But honestly, those scenes, where people are being horrible to each other, is what caused me the most discomfort.

As a production, the movie is put together well, has a smooth escalating build to a finale, is filled with horror scenarios that, while fairly common themes in horror, are satisfying for what they are, and uses believable characters in the children that have clearly been through some shit and are flawed as a result, but overcome all that to become heroes (if unrecognized by the town). You really want to cheer for these characters and every time they stumble you feel that letdown, but you feel confident they will eventually get up and do what needs to be done. It works really well. And, by that I mean, It works really well. Note, this is a hard R rating. There is graphic violence and gore and tons of F-bombs and various forms of child abuse. I felt really uncomfortable about the 8 year olds sitting behind me in the theater.


Spider-man: Homecoming

Spider-man: Homecoming ticketstubHey look, another Spider-man movie! Hey look, a Spider-man movie that isn't an origin story!!! Now there's something to be excited about. What makes this version of Spider-man different, (besides the lack of an overt origin story) is that he actually appears to be a kid in high school, and in fact, a fair bit of the movie takes place in high school. I'm not a real stickler for the importance of movies adhering to their source material, but the character and setting do feel more honest when portrayed as a teenager doing teenager things. In this case, Peter Parker's real drive isn't to save the world, it's be accepted by the Avengers, and by Tony Stark in particular. He wants them to take him seriously, he wants them to not treat him like the kid he clearly still is. In the process of trying to prove himself, he stumbles across a gang of arms dealers selling weapons made from alien scrap. Peter's struggle is between being the normal "good" teen trying to get through high school and hopefully attract the attention of the girl he's crushing on, and, as they say, using his powers for good. He wants to help and protect people, and he doesn't like being kept on the sidelines where he feels wasted and useless.

Yes, okay, but is this a good Spider-man movie? I would give an emphatic yes on that. In fact, I think it may be the best Spider-man movie yet. It is a little slow, and it's not huge and stakes don't feel near apocalyptic, but I kind of like that. We tight focus on Peter and his beginnings as the Spider-man. He still seems kind of clumsy and he is clearly still trying to figure out the ins-and-outs of being a superhero. There's some comedy and maybe a tiny dash of campy-ness, but mostly it feels sincere. It also makes numerous connections to the Avengers, so it has a bunch of comfy touch points along the way. This is an easy recommend for me.


The Big Sick

The Big Sick ticketstubThis movie follows the beginnings of the relationship between stand-up comic Kumail, and graduate student Emily. Over several weeks, the relationship develops, but it comes out that Kumail, a Pakistani, has not told his parents that he's dating a white woman for fear that his family will disown him. Shortly after this argument, Emily gets sick and is very quickly put into a medically induced coma.

This could have been a typical romantic comedy, but to me, The Big Sick feels fresh and challenges the audience to consider how cultural differences can impact a relationship, and the importance of understanding and communicating. We're also dealing with the role of parents, how valuable they are to us, but also the importance of recognizing when you need to put your own happiness before theirs.

I have been listening to Kumail and Emily on podcasts for years, and I have heard Emily explain the real life story from her perspective and it's all very moving and relevant, I think. Seeing Kumail's perspective, both as a man trying to navigate his familial relationships and his love for Emily, all mixed in with his clever observations as a comic helped to give this movie a fresh feel. It was funny and moving and I had feelings...and lots of tears, and it felt wonderful. If you like romantic comedies (and modern trends in comedy), I think you will really love this movie. If you just like good movies with lots to make you feel things, then I also think you'll enjoy this.


War for the Planet of the Apes

Unlike the previous two movies, War is presented entirely from the perspective of the apes. We only know what they know and when they don't know what's going on, neither do we. This helps to persist the swing of sympathy from the humans in Rise to the apes in War and I found it very effective. I think we all saw this coming, but by this movie we are very much on the side of the apes and we see humans as the brutal animals. The events in this movie also bring us closer to the events and timeline as presented in the original series of Planet of the Apes movies.

My body was tensed through the entire movie, even when there wasn't action on screen. The emotion and character and heart demonstrated by the apes was incredible, and conveyed through the most amazing facial expressions I've seen on screen. It's interesting how the faces of the ape characters seemed so much more expressive than any human actor I've seen. I don't know if this is a testament of the advancement of facial motion capture technology, or the motion capture actors, in a way, over-acting to better convey those expressions, but whatever it was, it worked amazingly well.

My only criticism is that the story is very simple. Caesar wants to save his people and get revenge for what humans have done to him and his family. There is a minor B-story and that's it. We're not intertwining multiple stories of any complexity, and I think that helped to keep the focus on the characters and watching their emotional journey. It works well. I was also rather surprised by the lack of graphic violence. Not to say that there isn't violence, it's just most of it happens off-screen or when it does happen on-screen, it isn't all that graphic. I'm sure this was to maintain a marketable rating, but I found it a pleasant change from the borderline unwatchable graphic violence common in war-themed movies. I can't say you're going to have a joyous time with this movie, but I think you'll almost certainly enjoy it.


Baby Driver

Baby Driver ticketstubThis movie felt like the heists (and the escapes gone wrong) from the Payday games with the drama and police chase hi-jinks of the GTA games. Kevin Spacey is the sort of over-the-top fixer you would expect to see in a video game. Jamie Foxx is an over-the-top bank heist addict. Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzales are in it for the thrill and the lifestyle. And Ansel Elgort's "Baby" is just in it to get out. It's a fun cast that, from the very beginning, you know is a bomb waiting to go off. Everything here is about to go horribly wrong, so let's sit back and wait for the shit to get sucked into the fan. As you would expect from a movie about a getaway driver, the movie is chock full of intense car chases, and it feels amazing. What you get here are chases that feel realistic, more or less, not the insanity you would get from a Fast and Furious movie. The crime story is enhanced by a bit of romantic cuteness that feels way too neat and tidy for my taste, but it's sufficient as a motivator for Baby to keep us wanting to see how it turns out. There's also the music that runs through the entire movie. I'll admit, this music is not the sort that interests me, in fact, there was no song in the entire movie that was of a genre I'd be into, but it all worked beautifully and absolutely enhanced the rhythm of everything that was happening on screen. Overall, this was a really great ride filled with thrills, romance, and a great soundtrack.


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.


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!


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.