STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II (video game) [2017] review

Not very often I do a video game review, but here we go.

It should come as no surprise that I looooove me some Star Wars. Big fan since I was I wee lad. The movies – yes, even the prequels – the comics, the books, what few I’ve read for each, and of course, the video games. Hell, STAR WARS KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC (2003) remains my number one favorite video game of all time. When I found out it was available to be played on my Google Chromebook, I lept at the opportunity to buy it. Ten dollars for this masterpiece of a game? Damn steal, if you ask me, but I wasn’t about to complain. Pretty sure it’s available for purchase on the Xbox One, but I haven’t gotten it yet. How does the game compensate for the lack of white and black buttons from the original Xbox controller? Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get it sooner or later.

Anywho, let’s keep it focused here. For those of you that don’t know, the Star Wars Battlefront license has been around since the, well, original Xbox and Playstation 2 era of gaming. They were wildly popular back in the day, allowing you to choose fighting with the Galactic Empire, the Rebel Alliance, the Republic, and the Separatists, generally as ground troops, attacking the opposing forces in wide open battlefields until the other side is utterly defeated. On a personal level, I grew highly attached to STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II (2005). I felt the combat was more refined, playable heroes, like Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Darth Maul were added, as well as an all-hero free for all mode, which I was highly addicted to. There was a solid storyline that detailed the common clone troopers from their days as clones during the Clone Wars and their transition into the Galactic Empire. When the troopers comment on Aayla Secura, my heart always sinks in sadness for them. It was a rockin’ good time and played it for years until I got rid of both the game, and the system. Maybe I can relive the glory days in the future now that I have a PS2 again, but now is the time for the current generation.

The Battlefront games have since been on an epic hiatus, much to the dismay of many uber fans. But when it was announced that developers EA DICE (known for MIRROR’S EDGE CATALYST [2016] and the Battlefield games), and Criterion Games (known for the Burnout and Need For Speed racing games) were rebooting the franchise, fans were beyond excited. However, if I’m not mistaken, the game wasn’t as well-received. On a personal level, I had fun for a very short amount of time, but I grew bored of the repetitive gameplay. There was no story mode, limited hero selection, and a staggering limited amount of selectable maps to play in. The game was a fairly disappointing experience, to say the least.

But two years later, DICE, Criterion, and now with some assistance from EA newcomer Motive Studios, we’re getting a sequel.

Now, it’s impossible to talk about this game without addressing the backlash the developers faced in recent months, specifically the loot crate system. For those of you that don’t know, the loot crate system, to the best that I can explain, is a randomized system of collecting things to enhance your gaming experience. Play the game, you earn points of some kind, and you spend those points on crates of varying in-game prices. The cheapest crates will yield simpler and easier items, and more expensive crates can yield more powerful weapons and armor, that sort of thing. You can play the game to earn those points, or you have the option to spend real money to get the items you want. However, this system has been highly abused for years. When it first became a thing, it was primarily used in free-to-play mobile games. But now, console games have taken that system and, as I mentioned before, abused it. To many, the concept of spending real money on a video game, no matter how amazing or well done it is, is absurd. I join you in that regard. Personally, I have never, and will never, spend any portion of my paycheck on something as grossly stupid as a loot crate, on top of the sixty-plus dollars that I’m already spending on this game.

But how is this system being abused, you may ask? While the details are confusing and escape me, for I am just a casual gamer at best, the best that I can understand is that if you just play the game and progress naturally, the chances of you spending hours upon hours of earning points for those more valuable items and weapons that will give you an advantage against your enemies, are not always guaranteed. For example, say you play a match, win or lose, you earn, for argument sake, 100 points. You can spend that 100 points on a “bronze box,” which yields the lesser items, a “silver box,” which costs 300 points and yields better items, or a “gold box,” which costs 500 points. A crude example, but hopefully this gives you an idea. Let’s say a match lasts twenty minutes. In twenty minutes, you can get lesser items, or you can grind more gameplay out and earn more points for the more expensive crates. But do the math. You would have to play five more matches to earn that gold box, right? Twenty minutes a match? That’s 100 minutes. One hour and forty minutes of gameplay. Now that you have enough for that gold box, you spend your points and what do you get? It’s random! What does that mean? It means you are certainly guaranteed some better equipment, but you may not necessarily get better weapons or armor. Maybe in this one spending, you got something nice, but luck may not always be on your side. So now in order to get a second gold box, you would need to spend another hour and forty minutes to get another gold box, and it’s very much possible that you will not get a better weapon or set of armor. That’s well over three hours of gameplay with very little to show for it. Meanwhile, it’s also possible to be playing with people who have been that lucky and have some of the best weapons and armor to play with. To make matters worse, spending real money would yield a better or more guaranteed chance of getting the same weapons and armor that you want, but with no work required to obtain them. So if you don’t spend real money, you are most likely going to face a grave unbalance in the game and you’ll be at a gross disadvantage, quickly being turned off from playing for a very long time. And since game developers don’t always take the time to properly balance the games, this creates a serious problem for gamers like myself who want to play and progress naturally. It’s a total manipulation and greed at its finest, and many gamers do sadly get sucked into it, feeding the idea that this type of gaming is what gamers want, when it really isn’t.

Again, my example is not a direct reflection of the actual gameplay in BATTLEFRONT II, it’s just to give the common person an understanding of the current frustrations in gaming. Thing is though, all of what I’ve just spoken about has usually been reserved to multiplayer gameplay. In a way, that’s fine. Unnecessary and there’s work-arounds, but you can argue that’s par the course. However, BATTLEFRONT II was getting backlash that they were adding this system to the single player experience. Instead of progressing naturally, which has always been the case for single player games, they did this loot crate system for the single player and fans and gamers were furious. It’s not hard to understand why. EA has since tried desperately to justify the addition, but because the reaction was met with such intense dismay, it was recently announced that EA was pulling the plug on that system for single player. I don’t remember if it was pulled from multiplayer, but for a lot of gamers, this was a huge win. It showed the developers were listening to the fans and understanding them.

Now before anyone gets the idea that this was a bad game from the get-go, that’s not the case. From its beta, the game has been well received. Great graphics, gameplay, all that good stuff has been given a thumbs up. Let’s see how much I agree.

This is my honest opinion of: STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II

(REVIEW)

CAMPAIGN

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Alright, so as soon as the game finished installing on my Xbox One, I made a beeline for the campaign mode. Summed up, the story follows Iden Versio (voiced by Janina Gavankar), an Imperial soldier, specifically an elite group called Inferno Squad. She was there on the forest moon of Endor, and witnessed the destruction of the second Death Star, despite the Empire’s trap for the Rebellion. But as the Empire struggles to maintain control after their devastating defeat, Iden starts to see the Empire’s true evil when they start openly killing planets that are loyal to them, all in the name of maintaining fear among its denizens. It’s not long before Iden and fellow Inferno Squadmate Del (voiced by T.J. Ramini) cut ties with the Empire and join the Rebels in their fight against the Empire, meeting up with heroes like Luke Skywalker (voiced by Matthew Mercer), Princess Leia (voiced by Misty Lee), and visiting worlds that were introduced in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015). Essentially, this entire campaign serves as a bridge between the events of episodes six and seven.

At first, I was a little worried. A good ten to fifteen minutes of the start of gameplay wasn’t with Iden, but rather her droid companion, who camps out on her back until she needs it to open a locked door or splice a camera. But thankfully, when the droid reunites with Iden, it’s traditional gameplay as per usual and you never have to control another droid again, which would have definitely given me a headache. I was also concerned with Iden herself. At first, I couldn’t get behind her character. Don’t get me wrong, an Imperial perspective on what the Empire is all about is certainly a fresh take and not often taken with the Star Wars license. However, I was thinking most of the time, wouldn’t Iden be a better character if she was faithful to the Empire, but didn’t hate the Rebels with seething fire? Like, she respects the Rebels, but has her own personal beliefs as to why the Empire is preferable. But no, she scoffs at the thought of “hope” as a motivator and just doesn’t seem like a likable character to be following. As it turns out, a part of my wish came true in the form of Del, when you take control of Luke Skywalker for a level, and you learn that Del has his doubts about the Empire, but returns to Inferno Squad. The next level is when you see the outrage in Iden when their own people are getting massacred and decides to cut ties. Her arch makes sense and I was about to get into her character a lot more.

Sadly, while there’s some good ideas here, it’s not explored very well. Iden is not very interesting, at the end of the day. I just can’t tell you much about her. When the Death Star blows up, it barely affects her. You could simply make the argument that she was just acting professional, but it comes off as too robotic for my taste. Del is the more interesting character. You see his doubts early on, you see him struggling with what he wants to do about being apart of the Empire, and over time, you see what he wants when the conflict is over and done. He’s not the most fleshed out character, granted, but it’s better than Iden.

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Thankfully, the perspective cuts around to differing characters. Like you have levels where you get to play as Leia, Han Solo (voiced by John Armstrong), or Lando (voiced by Billy Dee Williams), and it’s a welcomed change of pace. A lot of levels are also really expansive, especially the last level which has you piloting space fighters, mixed with landing the ships and assaulting checkpoints on foot, taking down Imperial walkers, it’s impressive to say the least and it’s a load of fun, especially when you get to the level where you control Lando. That level is a real hoot.

A unique feature in the campaign is that it does allow for some stealth gameplay. It’s pretty watered down compared to other titles, though. A simple crouch and sneak up behind an enemy and execute an insta-kill. You might be able to get away with a few snipe kills, but only in certain levels, which is a drag. Still, the insta-kills are pretty satisfying when you pull them off, but the game feels more natural at it’s run-and-gun type gameplay. Also, you get a crouch option that you don’t get in the rest of the game, like arcade mode. Strange, because any other mode makes the crouch button a dodge-roll. A strange decision, but I enjoyed being able to crouch behind cover. It’s just a shame that you can’t do it in arcade mode, nor can you blind-fire from cover. That’s definitely lame. Maybe that’s just the MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA (2017) player in me, but it’s kind of must-have feature in a shooter. Beyond that, that you can also customize Iden’s arsenal, choosing from a variety of weapons to play around with at your leisure, which can be a lot of fun since the game never gives you any shortage of enemies.

Some of my favorite levels include anything like taking control of vehicles. Let me tell you, nothing will make you feel more powerful than hijacking a AT-AT walker through a city and laying hilarious waste to hordes of ground troops frantically shooting at you with their pea-shooting rifles, or when you’re taking down a pair of AT-ST walkers, and a low-flying TIE fighter. The space fights are also a lot of fun. The controls are solid for the most part, though I’d still like the be able to flip. As soon as you preset your controls for it, you should be good to go. Though I’m not sure I quite figured out how to best use my special abilities.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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My biggest complaint is the ending. After Iden helps defeat the Empire, the game makes you think it’s over. Iden kisses Del, in a semi-out of nowhere relationship that’s never explored, and then cuts away.

 

But then there’s one more level.

 

Taking place just before the events of FORCE AWAKENS, Kylo Ren (voiced by Matthew Mercer) has hunted down Del, knowing he knows something about the map to Luke Skywalker. Quite literally, the level is just Kylo infiltrating Del’s mind and learning the secret. We know he and Iden had a child, they’re currently not together anymore, and then Kylo gets what he wants. Del is killed, and then… the campaign ends. It makes you think the story is going to continue into the Resistance fighting the First Order, but no. This is completely dashed for absolutely nothing, and it’s beyond confusing and frustrating. Oh man, I can’t wait to see Angry Joe on Youtube scream about this.

 

 

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***END SPOILERS***

The AI varies in intelligence. Sometimes, they’re pretty cheap in how far away they can hit you even without a sniper rifle. Other times, I’ve had instances where I was sneaking up on an enemy with the intention to stealth kill, and I was right in front of that person who was on high alert looking for me. Guess what, I killed that person a little too easily. Most other cases, it works fine, but the inconsistent intelligence of the AI is pretty laughable at times. Also, they don’t use cover that efficiently. The difficulty in AI really isn’t in how effective they use cover or tactics to try and best you, but rather how powerful each blaster shot is and how accurate their shots are. It’s the difference between you being a laser sponge versus a one-hit kill and this goes for the Arcade modes as well.

For the most part, the campaign is a welcomed mode and I enjoyed myself. It’s not overly long. I think I spent maybe five to six hours playing it. The characters are lacking in good development, and that ending… ugh, that ending is the worst ending I’ve seen in a Star Wars story since KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II: THE SITH LORDS. Even that had something of a resolution, albeit zero follow-up. But overall, I liked it, and I’ll probably play it again in the future, but I know the perfect place to stop playing to make it more satisfying.

 

ARCADE

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Now we’re getting to the real meat of the game, arcade mode. There’s three modes to choose from: Solo, Co-Op, and Versus.

In Solo, you have three modes to choose from: Battle Scenarios, Custom Arcade, and Tutorial. Tutorial is essentially what you were probably playing while the game was installing. You’re on Starkiller Base playing as the First Order and Kylo Ren. But what most people will be interested in is either Battle Scenarios or Custom Arcade.

Battle Scenarios is a pre-constructed sets of challenges. You can pick either light side or dark side and you basically go into a match that’s either your army versus theirs, sometimes with a hero at your disposal, and you basically survive as best you can. Each challenge has its own tier of difficulty, tier 1 being the easiest, tier 3 being the hardest the challenge has to offer. Personally, I think the higher tiers are a little too hard, but then again, I could just simply suck. Even with heroes, you die way too easily.

Custom Arcade is exactly what it sounds like. My first red flag was this: there’s only two modes to choose from, Team Battle and Onslaught. Team Battle is the standard mode of an army of you versus an army of them. Onslaught is basically, you’re a one-person army. You’re timed and each kill is an extra one, three, or five seconds to your timer until you kill all your enemies, or die trying. You can also choose your own level, but there’s only six to choose from: Starkiller Base, Maz’s Castle, Mos Eisley, Yavin 4’s Great Temple, the Cloning Facility on Kamino, and the city of Theed on Naboo. Really? Only six maps to choose from? What about any of the number of levels you play through in the campaign mode? Or any other places that the movies visit? Why is the selection so limited? And why can’t you choose which era you could play levels in? For example, if I wanted to fight on Kamino, why am I restricted to playing only the Republic’s Clones or the Separatists’ droids? No, it wouldn’t make sense to see the Resistance fighting the First Order there, but isn’t that part of the fun? Mixing this sort of thing up for a more imaginative experience?!

The biggest sin of this mode is that there’s no “heroes only” battle mode. And I’m not talking about the one offered in the game, where it’s just you choosing a hero and charging the enemy forces. No, I’m talking about Rey versus Darth Maul. I’m talking Luke Skywalker versus Kylo Ren. I’m talking like 2005’s Battlefront which had you choosing every hero the game had to offer and hurling them into a free for all against one another. Again, that was incredibly fun. It didn’t make sense, but no one gave a crap! It was a ton of fun!

And seriously?! Where the space combat?! Is it seriously regulated to only multiplayer?! What kind of crap is that?!

That’s something I just discovered, all of the best modes, like the heroes versus villains are all restricted to multiplayer. Why? Why do I have to subject myself to an overly competitive environment just to play a mode that I enjoyed just fine in single player? Starfighters are only multiplayer. Objective-based gameplay, it’s only for multiplayer! How hard is it to put this stuff in single player arcade? Perhaps this is a true sign that the game is still meant to be a multiplayer experience like every other game on the market. Halo, Call of Duty, the single player experience is a blip on EA’s radar and only succumbed to putting it in their game to shut up those who wanted a campaign, but still don’t care about us having fun with ourselves, or our friends.

Also, is there anyone else having problems with connecting to EA’s servers? I have this recurring issue after a solo arcade match where the servers will crash on me. I’ll try to reconnect, but it won’t unless I turn off the console and back on again. This is annoying because if I finally do earn some credits or rewards for my victories in arcade, I can’t redeem the crates. It’s been getting increasingly worse the more I play.

 

OVERALL

While I have fun in small bursts, I really wanted more out of this game, and everything that I could possibly want, it’s all in multiplayer, which is a huge disappointment and frustration. I’ll probably play through the campaign one more time, maybe wait and play with some friends in co-op and online before getting rid of this game. It has no staying power for me at all. I’m not an online gamer, and if you’re anything like me, then this game is far too limited for an extended keep. Had it for less than a week and I was finished with it. I wager if you game online, then you’ll enjoy yourself just fine, but I like the experience kept to myself or restricted to my friends and this game doesn’t cater to me or gamers like me. Best option, look for 2005’s BATTLEFRONT II and relive the glory days. Heroes may be born on the battlefront, but EA remains a villain to the Battlefront franchise.

My honest rating for STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II: a weak 3/5

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JUSTICE LEAGUE review

Man, are my nerves on edge today.

The DC Extended Universe has been something of a hit and miss, hasn’t it? People were incredibly split about MAN OF STEEL (2013). Some loving it, some hating it. On a personal level, I loved it. I thought it was a good update to a character that the filmmakers were trying to make a little more realistic. Clark Kent isn’t a complete boy scout, but he constantly tries to do the right thing and restrains himself. I loved the action, I loved Michael Shannon, it was a really good time that I still enjoy to this day.

But then BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016) happened and it’s pretty widely accepted that the film isn’t good. On a personal level, I agree. It was a colossal disappointment. I thought Superman would have learned his lesson about not killing people, but the filmmakers betrayed both the character that fans of loved for decades, and even betrayed their own established character in MAN OF STEEL. The rivalry between Batman and Superman makes no sense, Lex Luthor makes no sense, coupled with an awkward performance out of Jesse Eisenberg, who is otherwise a terrific actor, it was an all around mess and one of the biggest let-downs to an epic team-up that should have been so much better than it was. But it wasn’t all bad. Wonder Woman’s appearance was awesome, as brief as it was. Batman in action was the coolest we’ve seen him outside of the animated shows. Alfred was awesome, reminding me a ton of Bruce Wayne from the TV series BATMAN BEYOND (1999 – 2001), watching the action from the batcave and feeding tactical information to Batman through an earpiece, and the visuals are pretty good.

Then came SUICIDE SQUAD (2016). Again, pretty divisive. I thought it was… okay. Not the best not the worst. I thought Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was solid, Will Smith reliably brings his cool with him, I liked Cara Delevingne’s design as Enchantress (first form only), the soundtrack was awesome and it was an overall fun flick. But Joker was botched by Jared Leto, most of the other characters get no screen time and we don’t learn anything about them, the action is sub-par, and the story largely makes no sense. Regardless, you can tell that this is where DC overhauled its inner workings and brought on new talent for its future endeavors, as SUICIDE SQUAD was intended to be a much darker film, but reshot a lot of the film to add in the comedy. Imagine this movie without it. I shudder to think about it.

But then enter WONDER WOMAN (2017). Yes. A thousand kinds of yeses. You can read my reviews of each of these movies, obviously, but this was the game changer. It was dark, it was light, and it brought forth a character we’ve never seen on the big screen and did fantastic justice. One of my favorite films this year and arguably one of my favorite superhero films of all time. I still watch it and can’t get enough.

Having said all that, we now have… this highly anticipated film. Now, when I say that, I don’t necessarily mean that people are claiming it to be amazing. We’re just anxious to know just how “mixed” this bag will be. Will it be more good than bad? Will it be another BATMAN V SUPERMAN? No one knows but the critics know, and they’re unanimously saying that it is indeed mixed, which is a shame. I love these superheroes. I grew up with the animated series JUSTICE LEAGUE (2001 – 2004) and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (2004 – 2006) and still occasionally revisit as an adult today. This is a movie I’ve wanted to see for years. But I don’t know why we’re getting it so soon. We’ve not seen The Flash have his own movie, or Aquaman. Neither Superman nor Batman are well-defined characters in this established universe. So what gives with jumping so many guns? Warner Brothers needs to stop trying to play catch-up with Marvel Studios and just focus on creating one good movie like they did with Wonder Woman.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Gal Gadot (WONDER WOMAN, TRIPLE 9 [2016], FAST & FURIOUS [2009], and upcoming films WONDER WOMAN 2 [2019] and FLASHPOINT [2020]), Ben Affleck (LIVE BY NIGHT [2016], HOLLYWOODLAND [2006], MALLRATS [1995], and upcoming films THE BATMAN and the untitled The Accountant sequel, neither film has a release date announced), Jason Momoa (THE BAD BATCH [2017], BULLET TO THE HEAD [2012], TV show GAME OF THRONES [2011 – ongoing], and the upcoming AQUAMAN [2018]), Ezra Miller (FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM [2016], TRAINWRECK [2015], WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN [2011], and upcoming films FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD [2018] and FLASHPOINT), and Ray Fisher (BATMAN V SUPERMAN, 1 episode of TV show THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB [2015], and upcoming films FLASHPOINT and CYBORG [2020]). In support, we have Ciarán Hinds (HITMAN: AGENT 47 [2015], THERE WILL BE BLOOD [2007], THE SUM OF ALL FEARS [2002], and the upcoming RED SPARROW [2018]), J.K. Simmons (THE SNOWMAN [2017], SPIDER-MAN 3 [2007], THE FIRST WIVES CLUB [1996], and the upcoming FATHER FIGURES [2017]), Amy Adams (NOCTURNAL ANIMALS [2016], CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR [2007], DROP DEAD GORGEOUS [1999], and the upcoming DISENCHANTED [2018]), Amber Heard (I DO… UNTIL I DON’T [2017], ALPHA DOG [2006], NORTH COUNTRY [2005], and upcoming films LONDON FIELDS [2017] and AQUAMAN), and Henry Cavill (BATMAN V SUPERMAN, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO [2002], TV show THE TUDORS [2007 – 2010], and the upcoming M:I 6 – MISSION IMPOSSIBLE [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Zack Snyder (BATMAN V SUPERMAN, LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE [2010], and DAWN OF THE DEAD [2004]) and guest-director Joss Whedon, who also co-wrote the script (AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON [2015], SERENITY [2005], BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER [1992], and the upcoming BATGIRL, no release date announced). Whedon’s partner-in-pen is Chris Terrio, known for BATMAN V SUPERMAN, ARGO (2012), and the upcoming STAR WARS: EPISODE IX (2019). Composing the score is Danny Elfman, known for TULIP FEVER (2017), THE KINGDOM (2007), MEN IN BLACK (1997), and upcoming films FIFTY SHADES FREED (2018) and DUMBO (2019). Finally, the cinematographer is Fabian Wagner, known for VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (2015) and 6 episodes of TV show GAME OF THRONES (2011 – ongoing).

Overall, I want this to be good, but I doubt it. I think it’s going to have good things in it, but it comes down to the ratio of the good and bad stuff. I think… it’s going to be okay. I’m optimistic that I’ll like it enough, but it won’t be good and for the first ever Justice League film, it deserves better.

This is my honest opinion of: JUSTICE LEAGUE

(SUMMARY)

With Superman gone, Batman (Ben Affleck) is encountering more and more otherworldly creatures that he believes are the first sign of an incoming invasion. Turns out, the invasion has already begun. On Wonder Woman’s (Gal Gadot) island home of Themyscira, the netherworldly blood-thirsty conqueror of worlds known as Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) has returned and taken their mother box, one of three ancient devices of pure power, and is set on finding the other two. One protected by Atlantis, and the other hidden away where no one could find it. In order to prepare for the invasion, Batman and Wonder Woman set out to find other gifted individuals, the speedster Flash (Ezra Miller), Atlantis’ king, Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and the formerly deceased young man now reborn as a machine made from the mother box’s technology, Victor Stone, aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

(REVIEW)

I got my wish. It is, indeed, better than SUICIDE SQUAD. In fact… I don’t think I have too many problems with the movie in general. Or in all likelihood, I set the bar low enough that as long as it did enough right for me, then it was going to be enjoyable enough.

While the characters aren’t exactly the most complex, there is a wonderful likability to them. Each actor is charismatic enough to hold my interest and I like seeing them work off of each other. And you get to see them do their thing, which is probably the hallmark of any proper superhero film. Batman uses a criminal by dangling him over the ledge of a building to lure out a parademon and uses one of his nets to try and capture it. Wonder Woman bursts through doors and beats the crap out of bad guys, while defending innocent hostages from machinegun fire by deflecting the bullets with her bracers. Clearly she got more powerful since World War I because she definitely didn’t have super speed before. The Flash’s super speed looks different from what we’ve seen in both the CW’s THE FLASH (2014 – ongoing) and from Quicksilver from both AVENGERS: ULTRON (2015) and the more recent X-Men films, which I thought was impressive. Also, it looks like he’s a lot faster than those characters. Aquaman… eh, I think we’re going to need to wait until his solo movie comes out before we see him at his best, but his look is great, and Momoa is very personable. I’m looking forward to that solo film. I think Momoa will carry it well enough. I think the two best-written characters are Flash and Cyborg. Flash’s backstory seems pretty faithful to his source material, at least, from what I know of it. His father, Henry (Billy Crudup), is in prison for murdering his mother when he was a child, even though he didn’t do it. Barry’s emotions really come through. Some great drama, and it’s kind of heartbreaking to see, especially considering how fun and funny he is later on. Cyborg struggling with his new life as a someone who isn’t an organic human anymore. He’s clearly angry and depressed. It’s a shame that the story doesn’t lend to more of him, but that’s why he’s getting a solo movie as well. I guess that rumor of FLASHPOINT co-starring both Flash and Cyborg was just that; a rumor. I think that would have been fun.

***SPOILERS***

 

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Is is really worth going through the trouble of saying that it’s a spoiler that Superman is back? I mean… it’s the Justice League! Of course Superman’s going to be in it. Oh yeah, like DC is going to let their most iconic character stay dead.

In any case, there are some fun, albeit pointless, scenes with him. When he’s resurrected and briefly evil. Specifically, he’s beating the crap out of the team right away and when Flash tries to step in to help by running behind Supes, you see the most subtle of eye movement, clearly keeping up with the fastest man alive. The look on Flash’s face is utterly priceless; the most epic look of “@#$% my life” I’ve ever seen on an actor.

Also… while I am more than giddy that Cyborg says his signature line, “booyah,”  – I’m a big fan of the cartoon TEEN TITANS (2003 – 2007) – it could have been utilized much better. How about when the team is wailing on Steppenwolf, someone knocks him in the air, and Cyborg turns his arm into a cannon, and screams the line, and fires an epic blast at the bastard?! Why save it for a borderline whisper after the fight is over? This isn’t a legit complaint, obviously, but it’s not as fun as it should have been.

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***END SPOILERS***

Well, I can’t avoid the negatives forever. It’s time to address them.

First and foremost, Steppenwolf is about as generic a bad guy as you can get. There’s no real character to him. Recently, someone tweeted that Steppenwolf is the worst character ever and Joss Whedon liked the tweet, putting him under fire from other fans. I’ll post a link below in a minute for more details, but if this movie is any indication… yeah, he kind of is. Sure, it’s probably not the most professional thing in the world to be agreeing that the villain of your movie is the worst, but… I don’t know, I think it’s just honesty. In any case, I think someone woke up with a sandy vagina if they’re going to be spouting, “You are a repulsive person,” or whatever the hell that person said. A bit of an overreaction there. I think our President is a slightly more repulsive person. Just saying. Whedon liked a comment – not made a comment, liked a comment – that a COMIC BOOK VILLAIN was not very good. Trump just lifted a ban from hunting elephants. Clearly these men are on the same repulsive playing field. In any case, I agree. Steppenwolf was not a good villain. As copy-paste as you can get.

http://www.digitalspy.com/movies/justice-league/news/a843204/joss-whedon-steppenwolf-justice-league-twitter-mistake-criticism/

***SPOILERS***

 

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Also, some of the re-writes, or original darker moments are a little too obvious sometimes. I hate to swing back around to this same topic, but Superman is supposed to be a twist, so… when he’s resurrected, he is insanely brutal, grabbing Batman by his jaw. Not even his neck, his @#$%ing jaw! And he spouts the same line Batman said to him in BATMAN V SUPERMAN, “Do you bleed.” Compared to how light he is in the rest of the film, this is ridiculously unfitting.

Oh, and we really are stuck with Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor. A part of me was hoping that he went a little cartoony insane because of Steppenwolf’s coming, but now that he’s dead, Lex would have some clarity  and act less… loony. NOPE!!! WE’RE @#$%ING STUCK WITH IT!!! Ugh… as interesting as it would be to see an Injustice League fight the Justice League… not with our current line-up. It’s just not compelling enough right now.

Also, I really think it was a bonehead move of the League to completely forget about the Motherbox. What I’m referring to is when Superman is brought back to life. By this point in the story, Steppenwolf has already managed to get two of the three Motherboxes and seeks the third one. They use it to bring Superman to life, they fight him, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) shows up to calm him down, the team all goes, “That sucked,” but then… Steppenwolf literally pops out of nowhere to nab that third and final Motherbox out of the Kryptonian ship. Um… hello?! Look, a resurrected Superman is all well and good, but Steppenwolf’s final piece of his puzzle for ultimate world destruction is literally just sitting by itself in the open where any satellite, or dumb teenager with a toy drone with a camera attached to it, can see from up above. Even if not, don’t you think that’s kind of an important whats-it to NOT be leaving around unattended?! Pretty damn stupid how that turned out.

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***END SPOILERS***

Before I wrap up, here’s what I want to see in future films. Some of it repeated, hopefully the rest will be new. From Aquaman, I want to see a better explanation of how Atlantis works. Here’s what I mean, are these aquatic people incapable of speaking under water? Do they seriously have to open a bubble of air in order to speak to one another? Because that under water fight scene, as great as it looked, no one’s even so much as grunting. So… are they just holding their breath for an insanely long amount of time, or… how does this work?! Thank Christ this movie is coming out next year, so I hope to see this place get explained better. And dude, more of Mera (Amber Heard). She looked awesome and bad-ass. I want to see an army of deepsea creatures laying waste to his enemies. I want to see a Megalodon named fluffy. I want to see a ten story tall squid. NO! OH MY GOD, A REAL LOCH NESS MONSTER!!! Or surprise me with a creature that doesn’t exist at all. Get creative, DC! From Wonder Woman, I think it’s best we don’t venture into the past. It’s already been somewhat explained that she sort of shut down for a century after losing Steve Trevor, so let’s not try and make a movie to justify it. World War II, Auschwitz, Vietnam, Korea, there’s too many conflicts to try and explain away. Keep it in the here and now. Eh, I’m pretty sure Patty Jenkins will be back to helm the project, so I have faith that I won’t be disappointed no matter what the creative direction goes. FLASHPOINT, man, don’t make it hard to watch. I’ve seen FLASHPOINT PARADOX (2013) and I’m still disturbed by that. Wonder Woman straight up murders children! Just… no! I’ll take the ending though, taking a note written by his father to his son in Flash’s time, causing Bruce Wayne to cry. That’d be awesome. Cyborg… maybe a nod to the Teen Titans? Or… I guess, considering Parker’s age, maybe just the “Titans?” I know there’s already a TV show in the pipe, TITANS (2018), but hey, they’re separate universes. Who cares about confusing anyone at this point? And Batman… man, I hope Affleck doesn’t retire from the character. He’s solid and you really buy it. I’d like to see Batfleck versus Deathstroke. That would be awesome!

Overall, I think it’s worth checking out. I don’t think I cared too much about the problems, maybe a couple, but if you’re going in specifically to look for some, I wager you’ll find them. It’s a pretty basic comic book movie and I can see that statement alone pissing fans off. The Justice League shouldn’t be a “basic” story, especially for a first outing. It should have been bigger and better. Since DC has been trying to copy Marvel and their crossover universes, how about learning from them first. Don’t play catch-up, go at your own pace. But if you’re going in to have a good time and just see these characters work together and off each other, then I think it’ll do it for ya. Don’t expect anything huge or amazing, because it really isn’t, but it’s still a good enough time in my book. Uniting the League was underwhelming, but not too disappointing.

My honest rating for JUSTICE LEAGUE: 4/5

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POINT BREAK (2015) [transfer] review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

Boy, it’s been a long time since I saw the original, but since it’s more successful knock off cousin Fast and Furious became such a sensation, maybe I really didn’t care for this movie. But it’s the final stretch in movies for the year and I wanted to round it out.

Starring: Luke Bracey (HACKSAW RIDGE [2016], THE NOVEMBER MAN [2014], and G.I. JOE: RETALIATION [2013]) and Edgar Ramírez (GOLD [2017], ZERO DARK THIRTY [2012], THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM [2007], and the upcoming BRIGHT [2017])

Support: Ray Winstone (THE GUNMAN [2015], HUGO [2011], and THE DEPARTED [2006]) and Teresa Palmer (BERLIN SYNDROME [2017], TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT [2011], and THE GRUDGE 2 [2006])

Director: Ericson Core (INVINCIBLE [2006]). Writer: Kurt Wimmer (TOTAL RECALL [2012], ULTRAVIOLET [2006], and EQUILIBRIUM [2002]). Composer: Junkie XL (THE DARK TOWER [2017], PARANOIA [2013], DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE [2006], and the upcoming TOMB RAIDER [2018]). Cinematographer: Ericson Core (INVINCIBLE, DAREDEVIL [2003], and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS [2001])

(SUMMARY)

Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) was once an extreme sports athlete, but gave it all up when his best friend died performing one of their stunts. Some time later, Johnny is an FBI hopeful trying to make up for the life that took his friend away. But his captain ropes him into a particular case involving the theft of American banks overseas. Johnny is sent in undercover to find out where this gang is going next and to stop them. Related news, Johnny believes that the gang is trying to complete what is called the Ozaki 8: a series of near-impossible challenges involving extreme sports like sky diving, motorbiking, the works, all in the name of achieving nirvana. Catching up with them where the biggest waves are supposed to hit once every many years, (one of the Ozaki challenges) Johnny tries to make a scene to gain this gang’s attention. He succeeds, but in the best of ways. A big wave comes in and he tries to ride it along side the gang’s leader, Bodhi (Édgar Ramírez). But Johnny gets knocked off his board and Bodhi abandons the surf to save Johnny. He is eventually accepted into the gang. But as Bodhi starts to sensibly rave about life, Johnny finds it increasingly difficult to turn on his friend and the hardest of choices are yet to be made.

(REVIEW)

It’s bad, but… it was kind of entertaining. I had to do a comparison between this film and the original and discovered that this movie did do a few things right that made more sense.

To start, Johnny in the original was a football player…and has to learn to surf. Oh….kay… Odd choice, but in this movie, he was always into that lifestyle. He knows how to surf, skydive, motorbike, all that good stuff. That makes more sense. It doesn’t bother trying to cover up that maybe Bodhi’s gang isn’t the gang they’re looking for and just says that they are. Also, if memory serves, Bodhi in the original had some doubters from those that followed him, whereas in this one, his companions are completely faithful. I don’t think either one is better than the other and I can’t quite remember how charismatic Patrick Swayze was as Bodhi, so it’s impossible to compare.

The real strength of the film, in my opinion, is Bodhi. If nothing else, I believe in his sincerity that he believes he’s doing the right thing. Ramírez’s take on the character is less commanding and more lost, like a man struggling with his inner demons, but is not the kind of person who compromises. If there was any redeeming value to this movie, it’s Ramírez’s performance.

I also won’t lie, the extreme sports stuff, the base jumping, the surfing, especially the motorcycling was bar-none very well done and intense. The visuals are pretty damn impressive and are easily the best parts of the movie.

But before anyone gets the wrong idea that I like this film, well, I don’t hate it, I won’t lie. But… it’s not a good film. The original was simpler. Bodhi and his gang were out to fight against “the system,” because… well, that was the 90’s: sooo radically anti-authority. Sure, that mentality is dated now, but it worked for the time. This movie… it actually had a pretty interesting set-up. It made itself out to be like Bodhi’s gang is more like a Robin Hood and merry men kind of deal going on, stealing from big businesses and giving to the less fortunate. But the same build-up is that these guys are trying to complete the eight challenges of Ozaki. They complete them simultaneously by sticking to the big corporations that are “killing the planet.” Yeah… you don’t have enough fingers to count how many problems with this set-up, do you? That’s a big fucking coincidence; one that the audience isn’t fucking stupid enough to buy. How is giving back money to the poor giving back to the earth? If you guys can get sponsors to assist you with these heists, why the fuck do you need to rob banks at all? And how the hell do you even have the resources to get sponsors in the first place?

There are also way too many pointless and total bullshit moments as well.

***SPOILERS***

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There’s a built-up romance between Johnny and Samsara, played by Teresa Palmer, but it isn’t delved into very much. But later on in the movie, the gang robs a bank and Johnny pursues who he thinks is Bodhi. He kills the person and, VERY PREDICTABLY, turns out to be Samsara. The way this scene is shot makes it like this shit seem like a big deal. But we don’t know anything about Samsara, hence we give no shit about her. She and Johnny share about a grand total of ten minutes of screen time, there’s no relationship that the audience can invest in. And that’s just one pointless moment.

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***END SPOILERS***

Yeah, this movie’s bad. Really bad. But then again, I don’t think I cared a whole lot about the original either. That movie had a few problems as well. Maybe I’ll forget this movie in the future too, but again, it’s visually interesting and the action scenes are done pretty well, but it’s atrociously written and story-wise, weak as hell. Not the worst I’ve seen, but nothing really all that worth it either.

My honest rating for POINT BREAK (2015): 2/5

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THOR: RAGNAROK review

Boy, this movie sure has hype surrounding it. “Best reviewed Marvel film of all time.” That’s saying quite a bit as there’s a ton of well-received Marvel films and Thor hasn’t exactly been everyone’s darling as far as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is concerned.

The Thor movies are funny enough among my favorites. Why? Well, Chris Hemsworth always seems to knock it out of the park for me. He’s got a crap load of charm and charisma. Plus, the dude’s really funny. And that was always the bread and butter of these solo films: the humor. I still laugh hysterically when Thor gets hit by Natalie Portman’s car in the first film. Granted, THE DARK WORLD (2013) had its hits (the final battle with Thor and Malekith teleporting everywhere and Mjolnir just can’t get to Thor, and just Loki) and its misses (Stellan Skarsgård. Just… Stellan Skarsgård…), but I still really enjoy these films. They’re probably not the best of the best in terms of Marvel films, but I like ’em anyway.

The latest installment looks like Thor got himself into a fight with Hela, the Goddess of Death, resulting in Mjolnir getting destroyed, and she being hellbent on conquering Asgard. Thor’s without his powers now and taken to a gladiatorial planet where he meets up with Hulk and later on, Loki, eventually teaming up to try and bring down Hela. Standard enough story, but the cast is great, so I’m sure it’ll be entertaining as hell.

Speaking of which, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Chris Hemsworth (GHOSTBUSTERS [2016], RUSH [2013], STAR TREK [2009], and upcoming films 12 STRONG [2018] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), Cate Blanchett (SONG TO SONG [2017], I’M NOT THERE. [2007], THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY [1999], and upcoming films OCEAN’S EIGHT [2018] and THE JUNGLE BOOK [2018]), Mark Ruffalo (NOW YOU SEE ME 2 [2016], ZODIAC [2007], WINDTALKERS [2002], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR), Jeff Goldblum (INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE [2016], MAN OF THE YEAR [2006], THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK [1997], and upcoming films ISLE OF DOGS [2018] and JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM [2018]), and Tessa Thompson (CREED [2015], SELMA [2014], WHEN A STRANGER CALLS [2006], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR). In support, we have Tom Hiddleston (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], MUPPETS MOST WANTED [2014], THOR [2011], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR), Idris Elba (THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US [2017], PROMETHEUS [2012], 28 WEEKS LATER [2007], and upcoming film MOLLY’S GAME [2018] and TV show continuation THE DARK TOWER [2018]), Karl Urban (PETE’S DRAGON [2016], PATHFINDER [2007], and XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS [1996 – 2001]), Anthony Hopkins (TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT [2017], BEOWULF [2007], and AMISTAD [1997]), and Clancy Brown (STRONGER [2017], PATHFINDER, STARSHIP TROOPERS [1997], and the upcoming SPONGBOB SQUAREPANTS 3 [2019]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Taika Waititi, known for HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (2016). Penning the screenplay, we have a red flag total of three writers: Eric Pearson (3 episodes of TV show AGENT CARTER [2015 – 2016]), Craig Kyle (animation writer for PLANET HULK [2010], DOCTOR STRANGE [2007], and 6 episodes of X-MEN: EVOLUTION [2000 – 2003]), and Christopher Yost (MAX STEEL [2016], THOR: THE DARK WORLD [2013], and the upcoming SILVER & BLACK [2019]). Composing the score is Mark Mothersbaugh, known for LEGO NINJAGO (2017), MAMA’S BOY (2007), video game CRASH BANDICOOT 2: CORTEX STRIKES BACK (1997), and the upcoming HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 (2019). Finally, the cinematographer is Javier Aguirresarobe, known for THE PROMISE (2017), GOYA’S GHOSTS (2006), and THE OTHERS (2001).

I can safely say that I’m looking forward to it. Perhaps not hyped on ecstasy and twenty shots of espresso, but I’m pretty damn excited all the same. Gotta love anything Thor and Hulk, right?

This is my honest opinion of: THOR: RAGNAROK

(SUMMARY)

After saving the world from Ultron, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been on a quest across the cosmos looking for more infinity stones, but not having any luck. Shifting his focus to deal with a set of dreams he’s been having involving the complete destruction of Asgard, revealed to him by the fire demon Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown) that it’s Ragnarok, which can only happen if King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) dies. Having stopped Ragnarok by taking Surtur’s crown, Thor is shown that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) never perished in the Dark World and has been posing as their father, enjoying his fake ruling. Searching for the father Loki hid away, they find him in his final moments, revealing that the two have an older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), Odin’s firstborn, who was imprisoned for having a blood-lust beyond even his own control and so long as Odin lived, she would remain where she was. However, Odin dies and Hela immediately arrives, destroys Mjolnir, and as the brothers try to escape back to Asgard via the Bifröst, Hela tails them and throws them out of the portal. While Hela arrives to claim the throne as her own, Thor is stranded on an unknown planet, run by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), and is taken to an arena to fight for his freedom so he can return to Asgard and fight Hela once more.

(REVIEW)

Dear, Hollywood. Stop making comedies. Your desperate attempts to make cursing and sex funny has failed. Marvel’s got this. Go away and never come back.

OH MY GOD!!! Bar none, this is the funniest movie of the year. I haven’t laughed this hard, this consistently, in a long ass time. Er… well, since maybe the last Marvel movie. Anyway, there is a lot to go through, so let’s get through it.

While Thor has always been a more comedic focused set of movies in the past, it’s clear to me now that they’ve probably taken themselves a little too seriously. What I mean is that despite the humor, and a mixed bag of good and bad as they’ve been, there was still an air of seriousness that probably didn’t mix that well. That’s not to say that the comedy didn’t work, nor am I saying that the drama didn’t work, what I’m saying is that perhaps the tones needed some working. It took some time, but that seems to be the case and it works beautifully. Thor’s just found out that Loki isn’t dead, and what’s worse, has been masquerading as their father to enjoy the perks of being a king, while hiding their real father on Earth. Though this does beg the question… was Odin really just sitting on his ass the entire time letting Loki vainly rule Asgard? That’s… not really explained very well if I recall. Also, really? Thor hasn’t been to Asgard in two years? Isn’t the Bifröst supposed to be his primary source of interstellar travel? The opening makes it clear that he’s been all around the universe. One would think that he’d visit Asgard once in awhile just to sleep in his own bed and eat a proper meal before shoving off. Yeah, now that I’m writing about this, the beginning of the film doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially when you work in that he tries to use the Bifröst to escape the demon dragon pretty liberally. Side note, demon dragons need to be more of a thing. Anyway, the rest of the movie is Thor just trying to get home, but constantly put in situations that he can’t simply walk away from. He’s frustrated, angry, generally being a “hot-headed fool,” as he admits later on. Hulk doesn’t want to help him, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) doesn’t want to help him, Loki’s enjoying his position at the Grandmaster’s side a little too much, so he’s obviously not going to help, so you feel Thor’s need to get home despite how horrible the odds are against him. And is Thor secretly in love with his own hair? Because when Stan Lee is about to cut it, I would swear you’re about to see the God of Thunder about to weep.

Hulk. What the hell can you possibly say? Quite a bit, so let’s start gushing! He’s been a fan favorite ever since his reintroduction in THE AVENGERS (2012), and it’s not hard to see why. Smashing everything, including punching Thor. His fight with Iron Man in AGE OF ULTRON (2015), a classic to be sure. And now he’s gotten even better. If I remember his previous appearances, he’s never said much outside of, “Puny god.” Hell, he technically hasn’t even said, “Hulk smash!” since THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008). Everyone else says it for him. But now he’s given actual dialog. Short, blunt sentences more akin to a child’s speech, but it works out. Because of this, he’s got an actual character. Yeah, how about that? Hulk has always been more or less portrayed like a sad monster with the hots for Betty Ross, and in the Avengers films, he’s just the awesome smashing monster. Finally, he’s got his moment in the sun and they do a surprising amount with the idea. While most everyone under the Grandmaster’s heel is a warrior who exists to fight and die for his and the planet’s entertainment, an obvious form of servitude, Hulk rather enjoys himself. He lives in an impressive penthouse where he lounges around being appreciated for his fighting prowess until the next combatant arrives to unleash the anger that he always feels. So it comes as no surprise why he doesn’t wants to help Thor reclaim his home from Hela. Though why Thor didn’t try to entice Hulk with the prospect of fighting the GODDESS OF DEATH, an opponent that Thor himself couldn’t defeat, is entirely beyond me. But more than that, and the incredibly funny banter that the two characters exchange, there is still an ironic softness to the big green guy. When he and Thor argue and Thor calls him “the stupid Avenger” in the heat of the moment, Hulk actually pauses. You see his feeling are legitimately hurt and Thor knows it, immediately prompting an apology a kind of sweet connection they share knowing that they’re, “just a couple of hotheaded fools.” You really feel for the guy and love him all the same. This is how you do “Hulk with feelings” Hollywood. The emo brooding Hulk from his two solo outings is a little too soap opera.

Now for Blanchett. Holy shit, who the hell knew that an actress as freakin’ classy as her, who brought such elegance to Lord of the Rings, complexity in CAROL (2015), could play such a wonderful comic book villain? And isn’t that a rare thing to say these days? Hela is indeed my favorite villain since Loki. Although you could easily convince anyone nowadays that Loki is just an anti-hero, rather than a full-blown villain, but we’ll get to Loki in a minute. I love Hela. While her… well, I’m not sure what to call her look when she’s not all “metal spiky hair”… urban? We’ll call it her urban look. Her urban look is a little too similar in design to Enchantress’ design from SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), which is already too similar to the Grudge girl and Samara from the Ring franchise, which was initially a bit of a blow to my liking of the character. But give Blanchett credit, she made the look… well, look good. And more than that, Hela’s a BEAST. Aside from tossing Thor and Loki out of the Bifröst portal, which we’ve never seen happen in previous movies, one of the first thing she does is murder the entire Asgardian army solo, or at least the royal palace guards. But more than that, she’s kinda funny. A hell of a lot funnier than they tried to make Ultron. She’s got this great sense of sick humor. Like when she appoints Skurge (Karl Urban) as her personal executioner, she goes on this tangent about how the Executioner didn’t just execute people, but they were enforcers of the ruler’s will. Essentially their champion. But… they primarily executed people. I loved it. Blanchett should do more comedy related work.

***SPOILERS***

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The very first thing she does is murder the Warriors Three, which I am very conflicted about. On the one hand, I get what this is supposed to represent. Hela’s threat to the main characters. And in an action movie where you need the villain to be a threat, they have to do something big to back that up, and that’s a big move. The problem is the Warriors Three had small appearances in the Thor movies. Their characters weren’t very fleshed out. They were enjoyable as “good guy henchmen,” but there really wasn’t much to the characters. In THE DARK WORLD, Sif was the closest who got character by being teased as a romantic interest for Thor instead of Jane Foster, but again, they barely get fleshed out as characters… and that’s kind of lame to reduce Sif as “the girlfriend.” So Hela killing them off does get the job done in showcasing the threat she really is, their deaths aren’t very impactful since we know so little about them. And because they’re killed so unceremoniously quick, we never will. So here’s to seeing Lady Sif again in an upcoming sequel.

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***END SPOILERS***

This is also probably a good time to mention something that will likely break the hearts of a few fans out there. It’s not a negative toward the film, per se, but… at the same time, it kind of is. Lady Sif, played memorably by the lovely and kick-ass Jaimie Alexander, is not in this movie. Hell, she’s not even referenced. What the hell gives?! Well, in reality, it’s because of timing. Alexander was offered a chance to return, but currently, she’s starring in the hit TV show BLINDSPOT (2015 – ongoing), and the timing was really bad. Her show was about to start shooting its new season and she wasn’t able to make an appearance, or something along those lines. Why she wasn’t referenced in this film, who knows? It’s pretty classless if you ask me. Sif was a pretty popular character from the previous two films, being the only bad-ass woman surrounded by burly men. But here’s hoping that she makes a return in a future film.

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/thor-ragnarok-jaimie-alexander-explains-lady-sif-mia-224123524.html

But to make up for the lack of Sif, they did something rather amazing. They included cameos. But not just any cameos. Luke Hemsworth, the eldest Hemsworth boy, followed by Chris and Liam, the youngest. And not just Luke Hemsworth, but Sam Neill. And not just Luke Hemsworth and Sam Neill, but mother @#$%ing Matt Damon. Yes, each of them has a cameo in this movie. But wait! There’s more! Their cameos are all in one scene! But wait! There’s even more! Their scene is this: Thor has returned to Asgard after two years and happens on the Odin-disguised Loki watching a small stage play of his death scene in THE DARK WORLD. And who are the actors in this play? Luke Hemsworth plays Thor, Matt Damon plays Loki, and Sam Neill plays Odin. Yes. Yes, yes, yes, a million yeses! This is about as hammy and insanely hilarious as it sounds.

Speaking of Loki, let’s talk about Loki! Hiddleston is his usual brilliant and conniving self. His opening sequences are great. When Thor and Loki head to Earth to locate Odin, who wasn’t where Loki originally hid him, are both picked up by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Thing is, while Thor is treated like a welcomed guest, Loki is forced into… well, I’m not sure what it was called, but it’s some place where he was just falling. FOR THIRTY MINUTES!!! See the movie, you’ll get it. It’s hilarious. Seriously, Loki versus Doctor Strange should have been one of the most epic fights in cinematic history, and instead it became one of the most epic punchlines in the movie. In retrospect, Loki’s primary purpose is to be the punchline to every joke that he’s apart of. When he sees Hulk appear on the arena, his first reaction is, “I need to get off this planet.” Not simply, “I need to leave this building,” or, “I need to leave this city,” no, he knows his ass is going to get tossed around like a cheap rag doll if he doesn’t get off the planet. But much to his hilarious tension and unease, the Grandmaster won’t let him simply go. Ugh, I want to talk about the jokes more, but I don’t want to give away everything. Just… keep an eye out for the joke, “Get help.” It’s been two days since I’ve seen this movie and I still can’t stop laughing about it.

And here’s a surprise stick-out: Thompson. Out of this cast of heavy-weight actors full of charm and comedy, who would have guessed that Thompson would not just simply hold her own, but be among them as one of the more impactful characters? No joke, she’s really funny and Valkyrie has a really good backstory to her. She was once one of the valkyrie, a legendary group of all-female warriors sworn to protect the throne of Asgard. This is coming from Thor, by the way. Yeah, the God of Thunder is talking about “legendary” warriors. Really think about that. We know Thor was born and was a kid. Childhood and everything. But he’s pretty ageless and has probably outlived some of the longest running Earth civilizations. For a GOD to be talking about heroes of a bygone era with such wide-eyed admiration should really give you a scope of just how incredible the valkyries were. But Valkyrie here has certainly fallen from grace. Awe hell, having written that out, her intro scene is pretty symbollic of that, as she appears drunk and falls into a pile of garbage. Jesus, that’s a hell of a lot more heartbreaking thinking back on it than it is when it happens. In any case, she is a drunk and she’s got a boat load of sass to her, but she knows exactly what she wants and a lot of that involves being left alone and getting drunk to forget her past. About the only thing that I didn’t like about her is that she develops a close bond with Hulk. Not that it’s a bad thing in of itself, but it’s simply because the relationship is heavily implied, but they rarely interact with each other outside of maybe one scene, and it’s not for very long. We know they’re training partners and they like each other. Maybe that’s all most audiences would need, and it’s quite possible that the movie would only be made longer if they focused on this relationship and diverge too much from Thor’s story, so I can see this as being just a “me” complaint, rather than an actual complaint of the movie. Still, for as much excitement the internet has been getting about what their relationship means in the comics, you’d think the relationship on screen would be fleshed out a little bit more, especially if she’s going to be a mainstay of the franchise for years to come. But I guess that’s what sequels are for. Fingers crossed, y’all!

Jeff Goldblum!! Ahhhhh Jeff Goldblum!! Once you see him as the Grandmaster, life becomes just a little bit better. He’s always got these quips ready to go like a cowboy reaching for his six-shooter. It’s incredible. “Ass-guard?” “The Lord of Thunder.” Oh my god, I think Goldblum is my spirit animal. I honestly don’t know what to say about him other than… if it’s true that there’s going to be short films in the same vein as the short films about Thor during the events of CIVIL WAR (2016), and he’s also going to be rooming with Darryl, I think life can be considered a blessing.

Urban as Skurge is also highly amusing. In the comics, I’m pretty sure he’s portrayed as this hulking enforcer with zero dialog. Merciless, blood-thirsty, the works. But here, he’s got plenty of dialog and he’s not a brute by nature. Hell, he’s just a janitor who cleans the Bifröst gateway and shows off Earth trinkets to a couple of easily impressed lady Asgardians. You can tell that he isn’t really much of a warrior, but accepts his place at Hela’s side out of survival instincts, not because he cares about her usurping the throne. Hell, half the time, he hesitates doing anything that she tells him to do. Executing an innocent person? That’s not in his character. He just wants to be recognized as more than who he was, not as some kind of monster, which Hela was almost turning him into.

Notice something here? Despite how many characters there are in this movie, everyone’s got just the right amount of screen time. We know exactly who all the important characters are. We know what their motivations are, their goals, their backstories if applicable, their personalities are all distinct, their resolutions are all satisfying in varying ways, and that’s a real testament to how well-written the movie is as a whole. Most movies with an extensive cast like this, SOMEONE gets the short end of the stick. Usually it’s pretty understandable, depending on the story. IT (2017) certainly fell prey to this, as some of the boys weren’t well-developed or memorable, but this movie succeeds for the most part. Quite literally, the closest person who doesn’t get that much screen time is Heimdall (Idris Elba), but even he has a certain air of badassery that it almost doesn’t matter. All he does is protect the innocent Asgard people from Hela’s undead forces with a giant sword and glorious set of dreadlocks. Also, it’s Idris Elba. He’s kind of automatically cool.

Aside from the beginning of the film, which, a lot of stuff really didn’t add up, I don’t think I had any additional major problems. I am in love with this movie, y’all. I have no idea if it’s in my top five favorite MCU films, but it’s one of the best and certainly the best Thor film. It looks great, feels great, guaranteed to entertain. If you’re a fan of the MCU, you’re likely going to see this, so there’s no point in me telling you that I recommend it. If you’ve only been casually watching these movies, like my parents, I think you’ll still get something out of it. There’s enough humor and tremendous acting to keep you engaged. If you haven’t seen a single one of these films, I don’t think it’s for you. It does heavily reference the previous films and you might get lost in what lead up to these events and might be confused on where the direction will go. But even then, I can’t imagine the visuals wouldn’t grasp you. I can’t believe that there isn’t something that you couldn’t take away from. It’s an amazing film and well worth the price of admission. I hope to God that I can see this again in theaters and I can’t wait to own it on Blu-Ray. Ragnarok may threaten Asgard, but the Mighty Thor will live on.

My honest rating for THOR: RAGNAROK: 5/5

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GEOSTORM review

Oh my god, please tell me Pinky and the Brain highjacked this movie’s weather machine and are finally in the process of taking over the world! Please! You can’t have something as stupid and ridiculous as a weather machine going haywire and not have Pinky and the Brain behind it!

So… it’s 2012 (2009) and SAN ANDREAS (2015), but with Gerard Butler. I have zero problem with this. Oh, I’m not expecting this to be a good film. Of course it’s not going to be. I don’t know how many times I’m going to say this in my review, but… the disaster porn is a result of a WEATHER MACHINE!!! I’m just here for the spectacle, y’all. Mindless entertainment is good for the soul every once in awhile.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have the greatest gift of ham from Scotland, Gerard Butler, known for LONDON HAS FALLEN (2016), P.S. I LOVE YOU (2007), MRS. BROWN (1997) and upcoming films ANGEL HAS FALLEN (2018) and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3 (2019). In support, we have Jim Sturgess (STONEHEARST ASYLUM [2014], CLOUD ATLAS [2012], and ACROSS THE UNIVERSE [2007]), Abbie Cornish (ROBOCOP [2014], SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS [2012], ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE [2007], and upcoming film THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI [2017] and TV show Tom Clancy’s JACK RYAN [2017]), Eugenio Derbez (HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER [2017], JACK AND JILL [2011], PLEDGE THIS! [2006], and upcoming films THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS [2018] and SPEEDY GONZALEZ, no release date announced), Andy Garcia (PASSENGERS [2016], OCEAN’S THIRTEEN [2007], THE GODFATHER PART III [1990], and the upcoming MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN [2018]), and Ed Harris (MOTHER! [2017], NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS [2007], and THE ROCK [1996]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have Dean Devlin, known for TV shows THE LIBRARIANS (2014 – 2016) and LEVERAGE (2008 – 2012). Devlin’s partner-in-pen is Paul Guyot, known for TV shows THE LIBRARIANS, LEVERAGE, and FELICITY (1999 – 2000). Composing the score is Lorne Balfe, known for THE FLORIDA PROJECT (2017), TERMINATOR: GENISYS (2015), and RANGO (2011). Finally, the cinematographer is Roberto Schaefer, known for MILES AHEAD (2016), 007 QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008), and MONSTER’S BALL (2001).

Overall, yeah, this movie is going to suck, but I doubt it’s trying to be good. It’s just going to be mindless fun.

This is my honest opinion of: GEOSTORM

(SUMMARY)

In 2019, the Earth went through a horrendous series of weather storms that caused terrible destruction. The weather issue was resolved when the space station nicknamed “Dutch Boy” was used to control the weather, its construction thanks in large part due to American hotshot genius Jack Lawson (Gerard Butler). However, his hotshot attitude has lead to him to being a troublemaker, causing him to be fired from leading the team that keeps Dutch Boy in proper functioning order, now headed by his younger brother Max (Jim Sturgess). But it’s soon discovered that something is wrong with Dutch Boy and the weather is getting all screwy again. To make matters worse, the problems aren’t accidental and might be sabotage within both the government and the space station itself.

(REVIEW)

Oh my god, I can’t believe I was only kind of wrong. Ha! This movie was awesome! But wait, wait, wait… according to the movie’s Wikipedia page this movie, “received negative reviews, with critics praising the special effects but calling the film as a whole ‘uninspired’.” What?! No! Don’t say it like that, you hoity toity critics, you!

Alrighty, if you happened to have read my summary, you’ll notice that this movie’s global apocalyptic weather starts in 2019. Yup, we’ve apparently got only two years or less before we have to figure out how to make technology that controls the weather, science! Get on that shit before we all die. I don’t even think this was more than a few seconds into the movie before I started snickering and realized, yup, this is going to be that kind of movie. I’m beyond excited by this point to see what else we have in stock.

I previously mentioned the quote from Wikipedia that says the critics praised the CGI and I disagreed with it. I hold to that. The CGI is awful. CG from the 90’s looked better than this. The tornadoes here look worse than from the movie TWISTER (1996). Having said that, the visuals are still very interesting and fun to watch. You see enormous tidal waves getting frozen over, frozen birds falling like hail storm, followed by a crashing airplane, buildings betting toppled over like a set of dominoes, skyscrapers getting submerged in water, giant lasers super heating Russia’s winter snow and setting everything on fire, lightning bolts zapping the ground and blowing cars up, it’s completely ridiculous to the umpteenth degree, but there’s not one second of this destruction that doesn’t have me thoroughly entertained. I’m constantly laughing with sick delight at all of it. There’s a sequence in space where Jake and Fassbinder (Alexandra Maria Lara) are in space suits trying to bring something back into the space station, but something goes wrong and someone hacks Jake’s space suit and attempts to fling him into space. Again, the effects are more akin to a video game’s cutscenes. Jake is moving around like a cartoon character, crashing into the hull of the station, destroying this thing and that thing, I even think there’s a bit where he’s sliding on the hull with his face. How the guy makes it out of the situation without even so much as a fractured arm, let alone his suit coming out with barely anything more than scratches is well beyond me. Either way, no, the CG is awful, but it is something to behold in its own right.

On top of it all, you have Butler helming a majority of the movie. I know there’s a wide belief that he’s not a very good actor, despite being in some pretty popular roles, like Leonidas in 300 (2006). Maybe I’m just a very forgiving amateur critic, but I don’t think he’s that bad. He emotes properly, he has expressions, and he always looks good holding a gun or kicking someone’s ass. I think he’s got tremendous charisma and always gives a hundred percent in anything that he does. Sure, he’s an over actor, but he’s still great as one. Hey, it’s better than being an actor who doesn’t even look like he’s trying. And try he certainly does in this. Jake is definitely a hotshot who needs things to be a certain way for other things to get done, knowing full well that the interference of big-wigs will only cause further problems. His opening scene in the court hearing is certainly longer than it needs to be, and the script is so poorly written, but I couldn’t help but love the character because he is so passionately hating on the politicians right to their faces that I’m silently cheering in my seat.

When I say the script is bad, it’s really bad. I can’t necessarily quote anything, so it’s not memorably bad, but it’s laughable. For example, the relationship between Max and Sarah (Abbie Cornish) is so awkward. They’re that couple that hides their relationship from the public eye because he’s a government official and she’s a secret service agent who directly protects President Palma (Andy Garcia), and they’re not allowed to fraternize. But they’re secretly seeing each other and they do that cliché of complimenting each other like they don’t know each other or trying to be professional about it. Lines will go something like,

MAX
I really like that blouse.

SARAH
It’s the same one I always have on.

It’s so stupid, but both actors are owning the shit out of the lines that it becomes highly enjoyable anyway. Hell, that’s probably the best way to describe the humor. The lines themselves aren’t funny, but because they’re written so badly and the actors are trying as hard as they can to make them work, it sort of does in a hilariously sad kind of way. Beyond that, a lot of the characters speak in exposition, saying everyone’s back story in completely unnatural ways to the point where it’s as out of control as the planet’s weather, aww man, it’s a blast to listen to.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

***

 

 

***

 

Pinky and the Brain were behind Dutch Boy’s sabotage! Sort of. The shark wasn’t jumped over quite like that, but has anyone really taken a step back to see how not-quite far off I truly was? Two guys are behind it, one of them an annoying, child-like character who’s more of an idiot than the movie thinks he is, and the other is a deep voiced frowning dude and Harris’ hairless scalp makes his head a little more brain-looking. To top it all off, the intention is for him to become the President of United States, America’s enemies all destroyed in the geostorm, and the new President risen up as a hero, making America stand firmly as the greatest country in the world. TELL ME THIS DOESN’T SOUND LIKE PINKY AND THE BRAIN!!!

 

***

 

 

***

 

 

***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I think if you went into this movie think it’d be good, then you’ve likely wasted your time. As for anyone else who knew exactly what kind of mindset to have when going in probably had a better time than most. It’s not a good movie, by any means, but for me, it’s ridiculously entertaining. From the characters to the destruction, I had a really fun time and kind of want to see it again. Hell, I wouldn’t even mind owning this on Blu-Ray when it comes out. I can see myself watching this many more times in the future. If you have a fetish for planet wide mayhem with some hammy acting to boot, then I think this is for you and therefore highly recommend it. This is an uncontrollable storm of amazing shit that it’s still a wonder to behold.

My honest rating for GEOSTORM: 5/5

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SAN ANDREAS (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

“It’s 2012, but with The Rock!” That was my first thought. It’s a disaster flick that could have been made by Roland Emmerich, I didn’t exactly have the highest of expectations. I didn’t have a problem with Dwayne Johnson, I think he’s a decent enough actor, but I doubted that this film would showcase his true abilities. I didn’t expect it would. It’d just be destruction porn. It was either choosing this or ALOHA, and I was hearing even worse things about ALOHA than SAN ANDREAS. I opted for the best of the worst.

Starring: Dwayne Johnson (BAYWATCH [2017], G.I. JOE: RETALIATION [2013], RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN [2009], and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and RAMPAGE [2018]), Carla Gugino (THE SPACE BETWEEN US [2017], RISE: BLOOD HUNTER [2007], HOMEWARD BOUND II: LOST IN SAN FRANCISCO [1996], and the upcoming SAN ANDREAS 2, no release date announced), Alexandra Daddario (BAYWATCH, TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D [2013], PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF [2010], and the upcoming SAN ANDREAS 2), Hugo Johnston (stuff I’ve never heard in), and Art Parkinson (KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS [2016] and DRACULA UNTOLD [2014])

Support: Paul Giamatti (MORGAN [2016], SHOOT ‘EM UP [2007], MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING [1997], and the upcoming SAN ANDREAS 2), Kylie Minogue (MOULIN ROUGE! [2001], BIO-DOME [1996], and STREET FIGHTER [1994]), Ioan Gruffudd (JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR [2014], FANTASTIC 4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER [2007], and TITANIC [1997]), Colton Haynes (ROUGH NIGHT [2017], and TV shows TEEN WOLF [2011 – 2017] and ARROW [2012 – ongoing]), and Will Yun Lee (SPY [2015], THE KING OF FIGHTERS [2010], and DIE ANOTHER DAY [2002])

Directing: Brad Peyton (INCARNATE [2016], JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND [2012], CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE [2010], and upcoming films RAMPAGE and JOURNEY 3: FROM EARTH TO THE MOON, no release date announced). Writing: Carlton Cuse (TV shows: 2 episodes of THE STRAIN [2014 – 2017], BATES MOTEL [2013 – 2017], and LOST [2004 – 2010]). Composer: Andrew Lockington (THE SPACE BETWEEN US, JOURNEY 2, SKINWALKERS [2006], and the upcoming RAMPAGE). Cinematographer: Steve Yedlin (DANNY COLLINS [2015], LOOPER [2012], BRICK [2005], and the upcoming STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI [2017]).

(STORY) – SPOILERS AHEAD

Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) is a seismologist and, like the lot of them, wants to predict earthquake occurrences and make the world a safer place. He and his trusted assistant Dr. Kim (Will Yun Lee) might just have unlocked that secret. They decide to test out their theory on a fault near Hoover Dam that’s been ruptured. Unfortunately, a powerful earthquake begins and Dr. Kim is tragically killed, leaving Lawrence to go back home to do what he can to warn the world that the quakes are not over. Meanwhile, Ray (Dwayne Johnson) is a rescue-helicopter pilot and has an impressive rescue history. Unfortunately, he’s also in the middle of a divorce with his wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), who is about to move in with her new rich and successful boyfriend Daniel Riddick (Ioan Gruffudd). This is news that he doesn’t take very well as he still holds a torch for his wife. Even their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) seems to not quite know how to feel about the situation. But they all go their separate ways. Ray goes to the Hoover Dam to save people, Emma goes to see Daniel’s sister Susan (Kylie Minogue), and Daniel and Blake visit Daniel’s job for a quick… something, and Blake relaxes in a waiting area where she meets two lovable British brothers, the older Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) who is seeking employment under Daniel, and the younger Ollie (Art Parkinson). This is about the time another quake hits and Ray turns his chopper around to go save Emma, who’s nearby. Though Susan is one of many casualties, Emma is indeed saved by Ray, and now the two of them start on a journey to look for Blake. Blake and Daniel try to escape the collapsing building, but a piece of the building crushes the car. Though both Blake and Daniel are fine, Blake is trapped in the car and Daniel abandons her to go seek help, but instead leaves her for dead. She is eventually saved by Ben and Ollie and the two of them successfully escape and try their hardest to find somewhere that Ray can find them. Essentially, that’s the rest of the movie. Daniel gets killed at some point, Ray has to steal a couple of vehicles to progress, and they find her, save her from another building about to be destroyed, quakes stop, and yay for Americans who will find a way to rebuild.

(REVIEW)

If it wasn’t already apparent from the trailers, this movie wasn’t exactly supposed to be a good film. It was, as I predicted, 2012, but with The Rock. Now while the movie isn’t going to challenge audiences or really showcase Johnson’s or Gugino’s acting chops, it doesn’t do them a disservice to their résumés either. I find it difficult to believe that Gugino can be bad in anything and as long as Johnson is given a decent script, he CAN act. I think I’m just going to get “the guy” shit out of me and say ALEXANDRA DADDARIO IS SO HOT!!! *ehem* Incredibly gorgeous aesthetics aside, she actually pulls a surprisingly great performance. Blake is an intelligent and resourceful young woman who knows exactly what to do in many of the given situations that she’s forced into. This isn’t even “fun-fact” knowledge either. It makes sense that she has a father who works for the fire department and would impart necessary information in his daughter’s mind. Blake isn’t annoying, she isn’t a know-it-all, she’s a surprisingly well-written character. Most of you have probably heard other reviews raving about Giamatti’s performance, that he’s the best on set. While I may argue with that bit of detail, his performance’s high praise is well-founded. He is indeed the reason why you would see this movie. His sense of urgency, constantly making the right decisions to help as many people as he can by getting the word out, he can be a true voice of seismologists out there, even though the science in the movie is 90% bullshit.

As per usual, I do have a gripe. Why exactly does there need to be a romantic sub-plot between Blake and Ben? This movie’s credibility as an emotionally driven story would be amplified by a factor of 10 if the struggle of the survivors and the trauma of those lost in these real-world events were to be the primary focus instead of a British dude succumbing to the power of his boner at the sight of Blake’s piercing (blue?) eyes and big rack. Granted, the man falls for her BECAUSE she’s so smart and resourceful, but… can’t you keep it in your pants and fantasize about your future date and worry more about getting your younger brother to safety RIGHT NOW? Also, as previously mentioned, the science is basically fiction. Though this isn’t a surprise, there’s some character choices on how to… “confront” the devastation wrought by the quakes that makes me go… “why?” Look, INTERSTELLAR may have had bullshit science too, but they at least took the time to explain SOME of the science in a way to understand it easily. This movie sort of does that, but it’s incredibly forgetful. Maybe pieces of paper and pencils being poked into them weren’t used. Either way, I know the theory behind wormhole travel, but I still have no idea what the hell a fault line is, or tectonic plates are, or how exactly they relate to earthquakes. Of course, we could easily and rightfully chalk that up to simple lack of education on my part.

While the movie succeeds in being amazing to look at and performances range from nothing spectacular to surprisingly good, I feel like movies like this dealing with real world events can really be an opportunity to educate the audiences who may not be armed with knowledge on how exactly quakes work and what to do should one happen. All I gathered from this was Giamatti was a great actor, Johnson has big muscles, Daddario is unbearably beautiful, and destruction is fun to watch… which might be the wrong message to convey. In any case, as a movie by itself, it isn’t bad. In certain aspects, it’s pretty good. But it isn’t challenging and it’s obvious it could have been far more than what it is.

My honest rating for SAN ANDREAS: a strong 3/5

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BLADE RUNNER 2049 review

Hang on. *Grabs my helmet, body armor, and riot shield*

I am not fan of BLADE RUNNER (1982).

It’s true. Despite being a mega lover of sci-fi, the genre’s most celebrated films, such as BLADE RUNNER and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), are my least favorite of them all. In all likelihood, I saw BLADE RUNNER at a time when my brain wasn’t quite ready for something so nuanced and layered. I figured it’d be a grittier and darker Star Wars with lots of action and what have you. Turns out, it’s closer to a sci-fi noir film and I was probably not ready for something like that. I looked at it like THE GODFATHER (1972) of sci-fi films, slow and forgettable. I wish I had the time to revisit the film to see how it holds up with my current tastes, but… day job. What can you do?

The story looks like it’s about a cyborg manufacturer who wants to… I don’t know, take over the world, I assume. But a dude locates the protagonist from the previous film and holds the key to either stopping him, or making things worse. I don’t know, once again, it’s pretty shrouded in mystery.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Ryan Gosling (SONG TO SONG [2017], BLUE VALENTINE [2010], MURDER BY NUMBERS [2002], and the upcoming FIRST MAN [2018]), Ana de Amas (WAR DOGS [2016] and HANDS OF STONE [2016]), and Harrison Ford (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL [2008], AIR FORCE ONE [1997], and the upcoming untitled Indiana Jones Project [2020]). In support, we have Dave Bautista (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 [2017], SPECTRE [2015], THE SCORPION KING 3: BATTLE FOR REDEMPTION [2012], and upcoming films ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES [2018] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), Robin Wright (WONDER WOMAN [2017], UNBREAKABLE [2000], THE PRINCESS BRIDE [1987], and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017]), Sylvia Hoeks (a bunch of projects I’ve never heard of), Jared Leto (SUICIDE SQUAD [2016], MR. NOBODY [2009], FIGHT CLUB [1999], and rumored to be in upcoming films SUICIDE SQUAD 2 [2019] and GOTHAM CITY SIRENS, no release date announced), and Mackenzie Davis (THE MARTIAN [2015], THAT AWKWARD MOMENT [2014], TV show HALT AND CATCH FIRE [2014 – ongoing], and the upcoming TULLY [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Denis Villeneuve, known for ARRIVAL (2016), SICARIO (2015), and PRISONERS (2013). Co-writing the screenplay is Hampton Fancher (BLADE RUNNER) and Michael Green (ALIEN: COVENANT [2017], LOGAN [2017], GREEN LANTERN [2011], and the upcoming MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [2017]). Co-composing the score are Benjamin Wallfisch (IT [2017], ANNABELLE: CREATION [2017], and LIGHTS OUT [2016]) and the living legend, Hans Zimmer (DUNKIRK [2017], THE SIMPSONS MOVIE [2007], and THE PEACEMAKER [1997]). Finally, the cinematographer is Roger Deakins (HAIL, CAESAR! [2016], JARHEAD [2005], and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION [1994]).

Overall, I’m not sure how to feel about this movie. Early reviews seem to be praising the fuck out of it and declaring it better than the original. Well… since I didn’t like the original all that much, I might not think that’s a very high bar to set. Oh well, in time, I’ll rewatch the original, but for now, I’m going to judge this movie for what it is. And… yeah, it looks atmospheric, like it’s got some decent action, but… just taking a shot in the dark, is Ford going to be a glorified cameo? I don’t know, I just have that feeling.

This is my honest opinion of: BLADE RUNNER 2049

(SUMMARY)

Set thirty years after the events of the first film. Replicant blade runner, K (Ryan Gosling) has successfully hunted down and killed another older model of replicant named Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). But buried beneath his farm, K finds a buried box containing the skeletal remains of a woman. But not only that, the woman was a replicant. And not only that either, but she was pregnant, and the child is still out there. K is then tasked by his superior, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), to hunt down and eliminate this replicant before anyone finds out about it.

(REVIEW)

Apologies for the delay on this review. I technically saw it opening night, but the film is so intricate and there’s so many layers to peel back that I couldn’t finish writing unless I saw it a second time to full comprehend certain things that I didn’t… well, comprehend. Having now seen it twice, I can finish.

I think while I still need to revisit the original film to get a full and complete understanding of the film presented here, this movie is… pretty damn awesome. I’m not sure if I agree with IMDb’s 8.8/10 (as of 10/6/2017) and find myself leaning more toward RottenTomatoes’ 89% (as of 10/13/2017), but I agree that this film is very much a great film.

Before I go into my opinion, I think I should probably drop a quick disclaimer. Much like the previous film, don’t go in expecting an action film. That’s not the genre. This is a straight-up thriller, but set in a sci-fi genre. I won’t say there aren’t action scenes at all, there are, but they’re pretty far in between. This film is pure atmosphere, visuals, and story. This isn’t a dark and gritty Star Wars with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford.

And speaking of Ford, I was kind of right. He’s not exactly a glorified cameo, but out of this two and a half plus hour film, he’s only in the final hour or so.

So with that in mind, here we go.

This is probably the most nuanced sci-fi that I’ve seen in years. Hell, I’m not even sure when I last saw a sci-fi film of this caliber. Eh, okay, ARRIVAL, but outside of Villeneuve’s résumé. Why do I think so highly of it? One perfect example, which probably only scratches at the many layers this film has, is one brief exchange between K and Lt. Joshi.

LT. JOSHI
You’ve been getting along fine without one.

K
Ma’am?

LT. JOSHI
A soul.

That alone drove me into a tailspin by the end of the film. Any other movie, even other great sci-fi stories, have hammered in this concept of machines having a soul for decades. GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995), TERMINATOR 2 (1991), THE IRON GIANT (1999), the Mass Effect video game franchise, all of them have tackled this subject and each offers its own fascinating and unique perspective. Even in Mass Effect, this question is literally asked by a character, “Does this unit have a soul?” Most movies ask the question and spend the film offering an answer. Some do it well, some not so much. But what I think this movie brilliantly does is not bothering to ask anything. Instead, it goes the route of great sci-fi and with Wright’s line, she’s declaring an answer. K’s never had a soul, and the movie is spent offering us evidence to believe otherwise. K is a thinking, feeling person. Yeah, he’s by his very nature, a machine, but he’s exhibited just as many human qualities as, well, any human has. He has compassion, shows fear, gets angry, gets sad, human emotion.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about K. This is a masterfully written character and… well, I’ll talk about Gosling’s performance in a bit, but first thing’s first. K is about as perfectly a written type of character like this that can be written. I have a hard time admitting it to myself, Gosling has a tendency to be a little wooden in his facial expressions. But his performances are usually nuanced enough and, depending on the role, he’s just charming enough to work past that. But here, it works perfectly. He’s a machine who seems to have found his own spot in the world. However, that spot isn’t exactly any kind of paradise. He lives in this run down apartment building filled with humans who are extremely intolerant of replicants. They shout obscenities at him and the front door to his room is spray painted with “Fuck you, skin job,” or something to that effect. It’s impossible to tell if he’s unaffected by the names and harassment, or only a little. Gosling’s performance is so subtle that you can probably look at his expressions and come up with your own conclusions.

Once he’s in his room, though, the world outside is dead quiet and it’s here where he’s free. He does what he wants, simple as his choices may be. But what I found fascinating was this relationship that he has with Joi (Ana de Armas). Joi is a kind of computer holographic companion, probably designed for sexual purposes, but K treats her like a girlfriend. He doesn’t talk to her like he owns her, or in any way that would demean her. In fact, our first scene with them is him giving her a gift. Some kind of portable device that allows him to bring her with him wherever he goes, giving her holographic form some… solidity, if that’s a way I can use that word. Basically, she can walk outside in the rain and where normally the rain would pass right through her, now it kind of bounces off of her, runs down her body, and… I guess her hair and clothes get wet, yeah, I think there’s some technological discrepancies that the movie didn’t take into account, but there is some kind of emotional weight to this. It’s… also pretty obvious that at some point, Joi’s going to go with K on his quest, but then again, the movie intelligently doesn’t make this some kind of twist and joins him pretty early on. It’s a really fascinating relationship that they share and I loved watching them interact with each other without ever feeling like it’s distracting from the story. That’s really hard to pull off too.

And yes, Ford is back in his usual gruff self, and just like K, he’s just as nuanced and subtle. You see a man who has been through a lot in the last thirty years and wants to be left alone. Because of his time away from civilization, it’s clear that he’s not good at talking to people aside from his most base instinct responses. But you understand why he is the way he is. Blade Runners hunted down replicants like crazy and he needed to protect his wife and unborn child, whom he’s never met. Anyone can understand how that’d give a person some rough, even violent edges.

If there’s anything else that I have to praise this movie for, it’s in the way that every time I think I found a flaw in the film, it makes me think about and then it doesn’t become a flaw anymore. I was about to say that I wasn’t entirely sure why a replicant born child would cause a war. I generally like to think that I’m not awful with the interpretations of ambiguous motivations and morals, but this one felt like it was shoehorned in to add some stakes that probably didn’t need to be added. But then I gave it a second thought. Then I realized, what do I know about this world? Replicants are not well-liked. In fact, it’s not dissimilar to the world of X-Men, mutants feared and hated because they were born different. The average person probably sees replicants as machines parading around like humans, are given basic rights like humans, but at the end of the day, aren’t humans. They take jobs, ones that include brandishing a firearm, own property, be it a home or a vehicle, I can definitely see how controversial their existence would be. And for there to be a baby out there, a replicant, started off as a fetus and pushed out of the vagina, like a human, there’s way too many fires that would be lit under too many asses. Machines aren’t people, so how can they procreate? What does that mean for humans? Will humans become obsolete? Are the parents both replicants? Is only one of them? Can humans and machines procreate? Can they experience sex and or romance together? Notice how many questions I’m coming up with and the movie, I think, purposely doesn’t answer them because this is that kind of world.

But for how much I could sing about this film’s praise, I do have one complaint… but I don’t know how to vocalize it, and it all centers around Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). Okay, I think I get his motivations. His replicants are instrumental in colonizing the other planets in the solar system. I would very much love to know how he managed to colonize Mercury and Venus, which are crazy close to the sun, and Jupiter and Saturn, which are gas giants, but that’s beside the point. Thing is, Earth is in the shitter, and he’s dedicated his resources to helping Earth, meaning his abundant, but still limited resources are about as stretched out as they can get. The nine planets that have been colonized aren’t enough. I love his line that goes something like, “A child can count to nine on both hands.” He wants humanity to venture further out, believing the stars should be conquered. But due to a lack of resources to make that many replicants, he needs an alternate method of creating them. He’s tried to breed them, but has constantly failed. In comes his proclaimed “best angel of all,” Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) with evidence from the LAPD that an older replicant model got preggers. Now he wants that baby to understand how it happened and duplicate it for future models and get that surplus of replicants that he wants. All of that, I perfectly understand. Capture Deckard, torture him for information on those who helped hide his baby, all of that makes perfect sense.

With that said, I find myself grossly disconnected with his character. There’s nothing wrong with Leto’s performance. Hell, he can get a little creepy with the way he stares at people through his little floating robot things. But there’s still something about Wallace that I just don’t click with and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s because we don’t see enough of him. How can I identify with his desires if I don’t know what he’s like as a person? How can I see the broad scope of his vision if all he does is talk about it? It’s not like we ever see the other planets that have been colonized, or the hard work that the replicants are doing on those worlds. There also seems to be a little bit of inconsistency with his character. For much of his scenes, he calls his replicants “angels.” Weird, but I guess we expect that from a character played by Leto, making his creations feel like the work of the gods, painting himself as a god by extension. But we see him kill at least two of his own “angels” and later calls them his children. Well… what kind of father would kill his own children? I can see a vengeful god blasting his angels into oblivion if they don’t live up to his vision of perfection, but he never acts like a father figure. To any of them, so that line feels awkward. Perhaps that’s one of the other reasons why I feel so “blah” when it comes to him. He’s so… pretentious. I’m sure that was intentional when writing him, but we never truly see him do anything other than acting like a man among men and I just don’t see where he’s coming from. If he’s supposed to serve as more of entity to be feared, then his looming presence should feel more threatening. I am not threatened by Wallace. If he’s supposed to be just a man who’s trying to advance humanity forward, then that doesn’t work either because he neither conducts himself, nor do we get to know him as a man.

But really, if I take a good step back and look at the whole picture, as opposed to this one… discoloration that I really had to look for, Wallace is such a minuscule character with very little impact. The story is engaging, the characters are compelling, the writing is fantastic, the cinematography, yes, I am commenting on the cinematography by Roger Deakins, is gorgeous, the ideas are thought-provoking, the visual effects are breath-taking, ladies and gentlemen, this is truly a masterwork that needs to be experienced.

I want to give a personal shout out here. Villeneuve may not have been in the directing scene for very long, but the man has incredible talent for it, especially in the realm of sci-fi. Already, he’d won folks over with films like PRISONERS and SICARIO. While I really liked PRISONERS, and I thought SICARIO was just okay, I wasn’t won over until ARRIVAL. He is now officially that name that will immediately guarantee my ass in a seat for any and all future projects, especially if he tackles sci-fi again.

If it isn’t obvious enough, I recommend everyone to see this flick. As in, drop what you’re doing and make time to see it. It’s a film of a caliber that we won’t likely get again for a long time… unless Villeneuve keeps doing sci-fi. In which case, all we have to do is wait for his next big project and see what he does with it. I’ve seen it twice now, I would love to see it again, and I can’t wait to own it on Blu-Ray.

My honest rating for BLADE RUNNER 2049: 5/5

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