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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KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE quick review

For those not in the know, “Kingsman” is based on a comic book series of the same name. Actually, I think the original title for the comic was “The Secret Service” but changed the name to tie in better with the 2015 film. Fun fact of the day, this comic series actually takes place in the same universe as the “Kick-Ass” comic books, as they’re written by the same writer, Mark Millar. Something about Kick-Ass referencing something that took place in the Kingsman series.

But we’re not here to talk about comics. We’re here to talk about movies. The first film, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2015) was wildly popular with audiences upon its release. It shot Taron Egerton to the stars, gave us one of my personal favorite newcomers, Sofia Boutella, was over-the-top violent, had a fun cameo by Mark Hamill, and was an all around fun time for all. What did I think of it? I thought it was… mostly good. While all of what I said is true, there was one detail about the film that I absolutely hated. The Kingsman training program is, obviously, very hardcore. Few people get through it. But then the final test is to get close to a cute little dog and then shoot it. Do that, and you’re a Kingsman. This pissed me off. The Kingsman prided themselves on being spies, of course, but also being gentlemen. This implies a level of grace, coolness, confidence, class. What’s graceful, cool, confident, and classy about murdering an innocent animal? Eggsy refuses to murder his dog and he’s thrown out of the Kingsman. What sense does that make?! If the dog was trained to fight back without prejudice, then fine, you gotta defend yourself and might teach you a thing or two about trust and betrayal and learning to overcome that kind of grief of killing your friend who tried to kill you. But no, Eggsy’s dog was a cute, innocent pug. Or maybe the exercise could be this: there is no failure in this test. It’s more of a placement thing. Like, okay, you murder the dog, that means you can follow orders to the tee. Field agents need to be able to do that, making you a desirable field agent. If you don’t kill the dog, you’re still a Kingsman, but because you didn’t follow your superior’s direct order, you’re assigned to intelligence work, like Mark Strong’s character, feeding tactical information, but never on the front lines himself. You know, something like that. But no, because you didn’t murder a defenseless animal, you can’t be a gentleman spy. Fuck the Kingsman, man. I never got past this element of the movie, so I personally give it a strong 3/5. As I said, the rest of the film is a load of fun.

But now we have a sequel that I know will be better than the first one. Why? Because comic book sequels have a tendency to be better than their predecessors. Plus, I’m sure there’s not going to be any more “dog murdering” bullshit to piss me off. This movie looks like it’s about the Kingsman getting wiped out by a terrorist organization and it’s up to Eggsy and Merlin, the two surviving Kingsman to work with their American cousins, the Statesman, to bring down this terrorist. As per usual, it looks fun, inventive, and bad-ass. So sign me up, bitches!

Here’s the onscreen talent. Starring, we have Taron Egerton (SING [2016], EDDIE THE EAGLE [2016], LEGEND [2015], and the upcoming ROBIN HOOD [2018]), Julianne Moore (THE HUNGER GAMES: THE MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 [2015], STILL ALICE [2014], BENNY & JOON [1993], and upcoming films WONDERSTRUCK [2017] and SUBURBICON [2017]), Mark Strong (MISS SLOANE [2016], JOHN CARTER [2012], and STARDUST [2007]), and Channing Tatum (LOGAN LUCKY [2017], THE EAGLE [2011], COACH CARTER [2005], and upcoming films with no release dates announced, GAMBIT and VAN HELSING). In support, we have Halle Berry (KIDNAP [2017], PERFECT STRANGER [2007], EXECUTIVE DECISION [1996]), Jeff Bridges (THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK [2017], SURF’S UP [2007], TRON [1982], and the upcoming ONLY THE BRAVE [2017]), Elton John (THE ROAD TO EL DORADO [2000], SPICE WORLD [1997], and 1 episode of TV show NASHVILLE [2012 – 2018]), Michael Gambon (HAIL, CAESAR! [2016], THE KING’S SPEECH [2010], HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN [2004], and the upcoming VICTORIA & ABDUL [2017]), and Colin Firth (BRIDGET JONES’S BABY [2016], NANNY MCPHEE [2005], SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE [1998], and upcoming films MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN [2018] and MARY POPPINS RETURNS [2018]).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Matthew Vaughn, known for KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2015), X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011), STARDUST (2007), and the upcoming KINGSMAN 3, no release date announced. Co-writing the screenplay is Jane Goldman, known for MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (2016), X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, STARDUST, and the upcoming KINGSMAN 3. Co-composing the score are Henry Jackman (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], CAPTAIN PHILLIPS [2013], MONSTERS VS. ALIENS [2009], and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]) and Matthew Margeson (RINGS [2017], KICK-ASS 2 [2013], and SKYLINE [2010]). Finally, the cinematographer is George Richmond, known for EDDIE THE EAGLE, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, and the upcoming TOMB RAIDER (2018).

Overall, I’m excited for this. Not out of my mind, but I’m pretty hyped.

This is my honest opinion of: KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

(SUMMARY)

The Golden Circle is the largest drug cartel in the world and no one knows that it’s ran by the nefarious Poppy (Julianne Moore). She, of course, wants to hold America hostage to legalize all drugs or she won’t give up the antidote to her latest drug, which has been secretly inserted in nearly every single drug that the common person can get, which is millions. But before all that, she gets rid of the only people that she knows can get in her way: the Kingsman. Effectively wiping out all of the Kingsman, with the notable exceptions of Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong). Desperate to find help, they seek it in the form of their organization’s American cousins, the Statesmen.

(QUICK REVIEW)

Meh, it’s not bad. Not as good as the first one, but not bad.

What I liked: Moore is usually a welcomed sight in anything that she’s in, so to see her as the villain in a movie like this was a kind of shock. But as far as that’s concerned, she was a lot of fun. Hell, her intro scene is having a dude send another dude through a meat grinder and makes a burger out of him and then makes the dude try a bite. It’s pretty fucked up, but I enjoyed how deliciously sinister she was (no pun, intended, but I’m taking credit for it anyway, so…. pun intended). And I think it’s hilarious that she kidnapped Elton John for her personal amusement, who is also really funny in the film. Kind of wished we saw more of her robotic creations doing shit, but the dogs were enough, I guess.

The comedy is still there, Egerton is charming as always, as are Firth and Strong. There is a sense of fun about the film, so it’s not boring, thank God. The action is awesome and delightfully violent, and pretty creative for the most part. I’ll never get tired of seeing Whiskey’s (Pedro Pascal) laser whip. Now Star Wars can’t put a monopoly on that idea.

But now for the negatives. Despite some solid talent, like Berry, Bridges, Tatum, they’re barely in the film, or barely contribute to the story, making you wonder why they were even in it at all. Which is pretty manipulative because a lot of the marketing surrounds these characters. I didn’t like how the movie kills off the entire Kingsman organization in its second movie. I mean, wouldn’t it be better to see Eggsy and his team take down a rival organization at their peak power to really showcase their tech, their intel, and their bad-assness? Why kill them off in the second film? I don’t get it. The subplot of Eggsy and his girlfriend Tilde (Hanna Alström) is a little annoying. He’s a spy, of course he’s going to be faced with situations of seduction. How would she not know that?

And fine, let’s talk about that controversial sex scene. Honestly, I thought because Poppy (Moore) created a female robot that does the Golden Circle tattoo thing, I figured that the sex scene would be about the robot fucking a dude or something weird like that. But nope, it’s about Eggsy fingering some blond girl who is the girlfriend to Poppy’s main henchman with a tracking device shaped like a condom that he’s supposed to shove up her vagina. Honestly, maybe I’m just a guy about it, but it took me a good minute to figure out at the end of the movie that this was the big ole controversy. I mean, it’s not overly graphic in the fingering, and technically does serve the plot of the story and carries dramatic weight, albeit in the subplot that I barely cared about. But the more I thought about it, yeah, this was unnecessary. A tiny tracking device can be placed anywhere and didn’t need to be implemented like this.

Overall, yeah, not quite as good as the first film, but it’s alright. If you’re a fan of the first one, I can’t imagine you feeling betrayed or not having fun with it. But I do recommend toning down your high expectations if you have them.

My honest rating for KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE: 3/5

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AMERICAN ASSASSIN review

It’s so nice to hear that Dylan O’Brien is well enough now to be up and working. Better yet, he’s not put off from doing action movies, which is what put him in the hospital in the first place. A true inspiration, if you ask me.

The story looks like it’s about a young man who goes on a revenge rampage after his girlfriend is murdered in a terrorist attack. Picking up the ability to essentially kick ass, he locates and kills these bastards until he’s caught by a secret government agency that’s been following his exploits and wants to hire him for his skills. Then his instructor gets a shot of reality when a former student of his turns up as a terrorist himself and the instructor, our protagonist hero, and their team are sent in to stop him. Looks pretty standard as an action movie is concerned, but both O’Brien and Michael Keaton are great actors, so it might be worth it just for them.

Speaking of which, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Dylan O’Brien (DEEPWATER HORIZON [2016], THE MAZE RUNNER [2014], TV show TEEN WOLF [2011 – ongoing], and the upcoming MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE [2018]), Michael Keaton (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING [2017], FIRST DAUGHTER [2004], MULTIPLICITY [1996], and the upcoming DUMBO [2019]), and Taylor Kitsch (LONE SURVIVOR [2013], X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE [2009], and JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE [2006]). In support, we have Sanaa Lathan (NOW YOU SEE ME 2 [2016], AVP: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR [2004], and BLADE [1998]) and Scott Adkins (DOCTOR STRANGE [2017], THE EXPENDABLES 2 [2012], and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM [2007]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Michael Cuesta, known for KILL THE MESSENGER (2014) and 8 episodes of TV show HOMELAND (2011 – ongoing). RED FLAG!!! A grand total of four writers: Stephen Schiff (WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS [2010], TRUE CRIME [1999], and 8 episodes of TV show THE AMERICANS [2013 – ongoing]), Michael Finch (HITMAN: AGENT 47 [2015], THE NOVEMBER MAN [2014], PREDATORS [2010], and the upcoming HANSEL & GRETEL: THE WITCH HUNTERS 2, no release date announced), and duo Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, both known for JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK (2016), LOVE & OTHER DRUGS (2010), and THE LAST SAMURAI (2003). Composing the score is Steven Price, known for BABY DRIVER (2017), GRAVITY (2013), and ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011). Finally, the cinematographer is Enrique Chediak, known for DEEPWATER HORIZON, 28 WEEKS LATER (2007), and THE FACULTY (1998).

Overall, I’m looking forward to this. I may not enjoy this movie having so many writers attached, but I guess we’ll see what happens.

This is my honest opinion of: AMERICAN ASSASSIN

(SUMMARY)

Eighteen months ago, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) was on vacation with his girlfriend Katrina (Charlotte Vega). He proposed to her and she said yes. But almost immediately after that happy moment, a group of terrorists open fire on the innocents. Katrina is murdered and Mitch is left for dead. Today, Mitch has been training his mind and body in hunting down those responsible, which catches the eye of the CIA. They bring him in for his raw and impressive skills and sent him to Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), the trainer of a secret special ops unit called Orion, who need his skills to hunt down a former student of Stan’s: Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), who is planning to build a nuclear bomb.

(REVIEW)

Aww yeah, son! Welcome back, O’Brien! This movie was bad-ass!

Let’s get the negatives out of the way. The story is pretty basic. All two of them. You read that right, there’s almost two stories here that don’t seem to connect very well. Mitch starts the story off looking for the terrorist group that’s responsible for his girlfriend’s death, then that story is pushed to the wayside so Mitch can help Stan take down whoever keeps stealing nuke pieces. Mitch’s backstory feels like it’s an excuse for the true plot to take place and I feel like there was a more sensible way to go about this. Since this movie is already sequel-baiting by the end credits, it would have been a better idea to keep his reasons for being a vigilante terrorist killer for the sequel instead of revealing that now. I only say this because I don’t know how the filmmakers could build on what’s already been established. By keeping his motivations a secret, you give an air of mystery about the protagonist, and in the sequel, when they’re ready to bring his story full circle, you reveal his motivations, and then his story carries weight. But what happens when you blow that load too early is you make Mitch look distracted and if there’s anything that Mitch’s character doesn’t seem like, it’s a dude who doesn’t get distracted.

Also, I really disagreed with how the villain was written. On the one hand, Ghost is an intimidating dude who is up close and personal with his kills, and he’s just as scary in a fight like Mitch, but I don’t think his motivations for going rogue are really that interesting. He was trained under Stan and the two apparently had a father-son relationship type thing. You know, the whole, “You trained me! You were like my father! And you left me out there to die!” thing. It’s like that. Here’s the problem. Even when the two are face-to-face with each other, you never get that impression from either actor, and I’m not ready to blame the acting. It was a writing issue, I think. They just seemed like two people with opposing opinions, not a father and son working out their problems or facing them. Ghost was a grown-ass man when he was in the Navy, and I can’t imagine that the two worked with each other for more than a few years. It would take much longer than that to develop a father-son relationship. And even if that were the case, Ghost knew what being in Orion was all about. Make a mistake, you don’t exist. You have your orders to follow and he didn’t follow them. He screwed up, so now he blames Stan for his own shortcomings. Having this father-son relationship actually strips away any bad-assery that the character was supposed to have, whittling him down to a crybaby bitch. So it’s kind of weird for that to be inserted in there and doesn’t really add any layers to either character, especially Ghost.

But enough with the bashing! Time to gush!

The action is really good here. It’s high energy, fast paced, looks brutal, there’s a lot of focus on MMA fight styles here. Take downs, leg grabs and the like. While the hand-to-hand fighting isn’t wasted, the gunplay is pretty awesome too. Lots of juicy violence. Every bullet that goes through somebody feels so impactful that you can almost feel the bullets going through your body too. That’s a hard feat to accomplish, so well done to this movie. The fight scenes involving blades of glass, virtual reality simulations that shock you if you hurt a civilian, a fight scene on a boat that hits every wave, it’s all really awesome.

But if the action movie’s action is up to snuff, then is that worth all the praise? Nah, bro, that’s just an action movie doing its job. It’s the characters that make the action memorable and this movie doesn’t disappoint in that. First up, I’m nominating O’Brien to play the role of Kyle Reese in James Cameron’s upcoming reboot of his Terminator franchise. He’s got the kick-ass soldier thing down to a tee and has a death stare that would make a grown man piss himself. Mitch is intimidating as fuck. A crack shot with a firearm, knife throwing, all virtually self-taught. While the character is always in some danger, no duh, you’re never truly worried about him because he’s too “off the charts” to be killed off by patsies and O’Brien’s intensity sells everything, from the loud action, to the quieter drama of a man pushing himself to seek revenge against those who deserve to die.

The rest of the supporting cast does well enough. Lathan has an amusing scene here and there, but if there’s anyone that steals the show, it’s Keaton. Holy shit, this might be one of his scariest performances ever, and that’s saying something considering he’s been Beetlejuice, Batman, and Spider-Man villain the Vulture in his career. When he flips a dude on his back and instructs how properly slice a throat, you get this sharp, icy chill surging through your spine at just how deadpan he delivers his lines. I felt myself sinking myself into my seat in hopes that extra inch would keep me safe from Keaton’s wrath. But more than that, and I’ll just end it with this… he bites a piece of a dude’s ear off… then proceeds to chew it in front of him, eyes widened like a horror movie cannibal! Need I say more?!

Not gonna lie, I wanna see this again. It was too fucking awesome for me to only see once. Yeah, the villain’s lame and the story sets itself up to be one thing then completely drops it for another, but the action is awesome, and the characters are pretty solid, especially Keaton, who is worth the price of admission alone, but arguably most importantly, it’s great to see O’Brien up and about again, kicking even more ass than before. I highly recommend this flick in theaters if you’re an action junkie.

My honest rating for AMERICAN ASSASSIN: 4/5

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TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (3D) [1991] review

Oh god, here comes the absolute WORST of the Terminator films… said NO ONE, EVER!!! Holy shit, and I almost forgot that this was coming out!

Heads up for those who haven’t seen this movie. First off, SHAME ON YOU!!! Second, I’ll be talking spoilers, so if you have an interest in seeing this movies and you don’t know the twists and turns, then don’t read any further. But seriously, get on it. The first two films are classics.

I have been a fan of the Terminator franchise for as long as I can remember. THE TERMINATOR (1984) may not always hold up in its special effects or score department, nor does Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hair-do, but it’s a horror classic and it was slick and cool. A sci-fi grim reaper… man, James Cameron had fucking vision and it paid off incredibly well.

I’ll nerdgasm about T2 in a minute, but the impact from its successors have been… lackluster. Let me be clear, I do actually enjoy TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003) and TERMINATOR: SALVATION (2009), but even I know that these movies are no JUDGMENT DAY. TERMINATOR 3 threw away a perfectly great and ambiguous ending that JUDGMENT DAY provided and its own ending was almost bleak. Plus, they also got rid of John Connor’s pluck and determination. Some will argue that the ending is actually what saved the film, and I agree, not to mention that it was great to see Schwarzenegger back as the Terminator who didn’t miss a beat, and I really did like Kristanna Loken as the TX, but there are too many aspects that felt both forced and unnecessary. While it’s been awhile since I’ve seen SALVATION, I remember loving Christian Bale as John Connor, but finding Sam Worthington’s character a bit unnecessary and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Kate Connor to be criminally useless as well. But I loved the post-apocalyptic setting and the late Anton Yelchin (may he rest in peace) as Kyle Reese was pretty good too. But why did director McG proclaim this as a prequel to THE TERMINATOR? Who the hell would have pieced that together, especially in a franchise leaning heavily on time travel?

But how about the best of the franchise, GENISYS (2015)? Yes, I’m kidding. But I do have to confess, I didn’t hate this movie either. Obviously, it’s the weakest of the franchise and by all accounts, not good. While I blame that on the marketing more than anything, it’s hard to deny how poorly written and constructed it was. Making John Connor a bad guy? Excuse me, while I wipe that spit off my face. But not even that, they made him essentially a T-1000, but nano-bot version. He operates like a T-1000, can shape-shift, and regenerate damage. So yeah, T-1000. The nano-tech is just an aesthetic, nothing concrete that affects anything. But all that said, I enjoyed Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor. She’s no Linda Hamilton, of course, but this was a different interpretation of the character and I thought she did fine. I loved Pops versus the original T-800, and I thought the recreation of Kyle’s arrival in the past was pretty well-done. But yeah, this wasn’t a good film. I guess it was easier for me to separate from this from the official canon because… well, shit, JUDGMENT DAY is still king and trumps whatever retconning GENISYS was attempting and failing at.

But here isn’t the best place to talk about JUDGMENT DAY. All I can say is that because this film came out when I was two years old, I was never able to see it in theaters. There must be a God because I’ve been graced with this opportunity and I do not intend to miss out. Even if it is in headache-inducing 3D. I’m not going in for the three dimensions. I’m going because it’s TERMINATOR 2 in the cinemas, bitches!

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Arnold Schwarzengger (TERMINATOR: GENISYS [2015], THE EXPENDABLES 2 [2012], JINGLE ALL THE WAY [1996], and the upcoming AFTERMATH [2017]), Linda Hamilton (DANTE’S PEAK [1996], CHILDREN OF THE CORN [1984], and TV show CHUCK [2007 – 2012]), Edward Furlong (THE GREEN HORNET [2011], THE CROW: WICKED PRAYER [2005], and AMERICAN HISTORY X [1998]), and Robert Patrick (BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA [2007], WALK THE LINE [2005], and TV show SCORPION [2014 – ongoing]). In support, we have Earl Boen (TERMINATOR 3 [2003], THE SCORPION KING [2002], and video game PSYCHONAUGHTS [2005]), Joe Morton (BATMAN V SUPERMAN [2016], AMERICAN GANGSTER [2007], and SPEED [1994]), and Jenette Goldstein (CLOCKSTOPPERS [2002], LETHAL WEAPON [1989], and ALIENS [1986]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is the great (and possibly difficult) James Cameron, known for AVATAR (2009), GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS (2003), and TITANIC (1997). Co-writing the script is William Wisher Jr., known for THE 13TH WAR (1995), JUDGE DREDD (1995), and THE TERMINATOR (1984). Composing the score is Brad Fiedel, known for TIMECOP (1997), JOHNNY MNEMONIC (1995), and TRUE LIES (1994). Finally, the cinematographer is Adam Greenberg, known for SNAKES ON A PLANE (2006), THE SANTA CLAUSE 2 (2002), and GHOST (1990).

Overall, my plans are set and I’m seeing this shit.

This is my honest opinion of: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY 3D

(SUMMARY)

In the year 2029, the human race survived a nuclear holocaust only to face a new nightmare: Skynet, the sentient computer system that destroyed the world and wages a never-ending war against John Connor and his Resistance. Using a time machine, Skynet sends back an advanced machine to kill the ten-year-old John Connor (Edward Furlong) back in the year 1995 before he gets a chance to become the great military leader he’s fated to become. In turn, the Resistance also sends a lone warrior to protect him.

(REVIEW)

Oh what do you think I’m going to say? This movie holds up unbelievably well. Okay, yeah, the visual effects for the T-1000 are a little dated, but honestly, it’s still such a cool and iconic sci-fi villain that it doesn’t matter in the least.

That opening scene with Hamilton’s narration and that big action scene between the Resistance and the machines never gets old. Despite lasting probably about two minutes, it’s so intense and action-packed, and somehow significantly more memorable than the entirety of SALVATION. Lasers flying everywhere, the T-800s that are physically there, dual wielding phased plasma rifles, likely in the 40-watt range (bonus points if you chuckled at my reference). Let me say that again, the T-800 Terminators were really there! They were really built! Practical effects! It’s such a dying art that you barely see it anymore. The closest we get to a machine-person that wasn’t completely CGI was EX-MACHINA (2015), and she still had more human flesh surrounding her. By the way, now that it’s in my head, Alicia Vikander as a Terminator. Alicia… Vikerminator? Terminander? Someone be more clever than me.

In fact, this is probably one of the more important reasons why this movie holds up so well. Because of our advancements in CG, most movies of this caliber are completely dependent on computers doing everything. Hell, even James Cameron himself has conformed to it with AVATAR. But even then, he did it with motion capture that kind of set its own precedence with how good the effects looked. Hell, the best that modern day films can muster is an impressive combination of special effects as well as practical, like THE AVENGERS (2012), which did both. Maybe indie films who dedicate their time to the practical stuff will do it for the sake of classic filmmaking, but it’s a dying art. Of course this movie wasn’t devoid of CG, the T-1000 was, but it’s so rarely seen. Even to this very day, the Terminator cutting the skin of his arm and ripping it off to show his skeletal machine-arm still gives me both the chills and my deepest admiration in not knowing how the fuck they did it.

And how about that score from Fiedel? Still iconic as ever and still stuck in my head.

Ha! And the Terminator’s intro at the bar scene. I mean, how much fun was that?! He just walks in, you’ve got this chick staring happily at a naked Arnold, a few others gasping, and a few others just confused. Walks up to the biker dude and is just… “I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle,” prompted by laughter. Question, wouldn’t the boots be considered clothing? Eh, whatever. Then Arnold throws the man into the kitchen and on a burning stove. You know in any other action movie, his line would be, “You’re toast!” But nope, just some staring… and then… “Baaaad to the bone.” The most perfect intro for Schwarzenegger in film history.

And the T-1000. Patrick is just as intimidating as Schwarzenegger. Actually, he’s more impressively intimidating because he’s not as bulky as his T-800 counterpart. But because he’s even more silent, advanced, and less destructible… man, that is one machine that I wouldn’t want after me. But more disturbing than just the thing’s presence, there’s also a haunting realization that the machines are advancing and testing, a serious testament to how smart Skynet really is. They’re learning creativity. I mean, liquid metal? Shit, man…

Now let’s talk about John Connor. Kid characters, when you really think about them, are tricky to write well. They tend to either be ungodly annoying, or… well, John Connor. Especially these days, where kids are written as products of the time, but have no interesting character to them. Cameron doesn’t do that with John. One of my favorite ways for characters to be written is that you’re supposed to hate them at first glance. I mean, he’s a delinquent, refuses to listen to his foster parents, is pretty nasty about his lack of relation to them, “She’s not my mother, Todd,” steals a credit card to steal money to go play at the local arcade, it’s pretty easy to not like the kid. But it doesn’t take long for the audience to understand why he acts like he does. Over time, we learn how he was raised by his mom that in the future, he’s this great military leader who will save humanity. I mean, in the movie’s present, he’s ten years old. That’s still a good age to be soaking in what you are lead to believe are facts. He grew up around guns, electronics, a ton of other things that no other kid would. But then one day, his mom gets arrested after trying to blow up Cyberdyne and thrown in a mental institution, which is when John is told that everything is a lie. We obviously know it’s not, but because of this “revelation,” and his mom being labeled as insane, is anyone surprised by his choices? Kid’s got no parents, Janelle and Todd are likely not the first foster parents he’s had, so of course he’d do the things he does.

It’s only when he gets a face-full of the truth where the best aspects of his character start coming through. He doesn’t reject it. In fact, he comes to the realization really quickly when you think about it. After the harrowing chase with the T-800 and 1000, he tells the 800 to stop the bike and almost immediately puts two and two together. This is all happening in the span of less than an hour. He doesn’t freak out, break down, more than anything, he just needs an adjustment period. And once the truth has settled in nicely, his first reaction is go save his mom from the institute. The only person who truly knew what was going on before he did.

Now for arguably one of the greatest female characters ever written. Sarah Connor, arguably the only character in cinematic history who is haunted by her future, not her past. That’s an interesting twist. Oh fine, we’ve had the age-old tale of Ebenzer Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol” who is haunted by all aspects of time, past, present, and future, but if you wanted the penultimate character who is only haunted by the future, Sarah Connor is the character to end all characters of this type. Give John some credit, he was raised to be a bad-ass and proved to be one at ten years old. Sarah was a young woman, a waitress at a diner, and wasn’t really that good at her job. She was mild-mannered, going on dates, just a normal girl. But then a killer machine from the future tries to kill her, a soldier knocks her up, and she knows that the future is coming and she wants desperately to prevent it. Even before she’s introduced in her cell, looking like she could go into a boxing match with Schwarzenegger and hold her own, we can already tell she was trying to stop the future and make the world a better place for her son. At least, that’s what we can assume. But things went south and now she’s locked up, trying to escape and get back to trying to save the future, only to be thwarted at every turn. Even when she escapes, she’s not an easy woman to root for. She’s cold toward John, doesn’t even hug him, but rather checks his body for wounds. She doesn’t even express relief to be reunited with him. Granted, she’s not happy with being face to face with the exact same Terminator that tried to kill her and successfully killed her son’s father (okay, it’s just the same face, not the same machine), but still, it should be pretty obvious that if it was there to kill John, it’s had plenty of opportunities to do just that. She remains distant of him pretty much until she tries to kill Miles Dyson.

Speaking of which, I love that aspect of the scene too. I mean, yeah, after that we have Arnold ripping off his skin to show machine-arm, but simply for her actions and its resolution. She learns of how Miles is directly responsible for Skynet’s development, so it stands to reason that killing him will prevent the future from happening. She grabs some guns and sets out to kill him. Even when she pulls the trigger and misses several times, she doesn’t go through with killing him. My interpretation is probably an obvious one, but it’s in that moment when she’s looking into his eyes, telling him “it’s all your fault,” and his simple response is, “what” she realizes that she’s about to kill a man who has no idea what’s going on. But more than that, she’s also realizing that she’s about to kill someone with no intention of bargaining, or reasoning, without pity, remorse, or fear, and no intentions of stopping… gee, that doesn’t sound familiar in the least! She was about to become the very thing she was fighting and it’s such a defining moment for the character that there are lines as humans that we shouldn’t cross. No matter what the future holds, we can’t lose our humanity in the process, otherwise, what’s left to fight for?

At the end of the day, this is a modern day classic. Even in another twenty-something years, when the effects are laughably dated, this film will stand the test of time. Even for an action movie, it’s a beautiful film about the exploration of humanity’s value. It’s an all-encompassing story, full of action, emotion, meaning, bad-assery, just like any other great and timeless film. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor, and make the time. It’s beyond fantastic. It’s truly one of those movies that you need to see before you die. It’s a work of art.

My honest rating for TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (3D) [1991]: 5/5

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BIRTH OF THE DRAGON review

I guess it’s going to be pretty pointless to politely request to not be hung for the statement I’m about to say, so I’ll just take a quick moment to say a Hail Mary and y’all can tear me apart as you see fit.

*prays*

Okay… I’ve never seen a Bruce Lee movie before. Yeah, it’s bloody true. To be honest, especially for me, such a statement doesn’t make any sense. I love action films and I love martial arts films. But so few are made these days that I guess I just never got into that particular subgenre. That’s not to say that I haven’t seen any martial arts films. I saw ONG-BAK: THE THAI WARRIOR (2003) and IP MAN (2008) and IP MAN 2 (2010), as well as a few Jet Li and Jackie Chan American films, which may or may not count, but I do enjoy the simplicity and special effects-free punching and kicking. So when names like Tony Jaa and Donnie Yen crop up, I do get legit excited. But again, anything with Bruce Lee, I’m a blank. Never seen any of his films before his passing and it bums me out.

Well, it looks like I won’t be able to avoid it any longer… sort of. I know it’s just a biopic, but I know nothing about this fight and what makes it so controversial, so not only am I going to get a taste of something resembling Bruce Lee, but I’m also going to get educated about his life. I’m probably misinterpreting everything from the trailer, but Bruce Lee almost looks like he’s part of a gang or something and he enters a fighting tournament where he gets into a fight with another master and… it’s controversial for some reason. It looks fun enough, I guess. Won’t know until it comes out.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Philip Ng (known for unknown and foreign projects) and Yu Xia (known for unknown and foreign projects). In support, we have Billy Magnussen (INGRID GOES WEST [2017], BRIDGE OF SPIES [2015], and INTO THE WOODS [2014]) and Terry Chen (TV shows THE EXPANSE [2015 – ongoing], VAN HELSING [2016 – ongoing], and CONTINUUM [2012 – 2015]).

Now for the crew. Directing is George Nolfi, known for THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (2011). Co-writing the script, we have Stephen J. Rivele (upcoming films BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY [2018] and A STAR IS BORN [2018]) and Christopher Wilkinson (ALI [2001]). Co-composing the score are Reza Safinia and H. Scott Salinas, both known for unknown projects, documentaries, and short films. Finally, the cinematographer is Amir Mokri, known for PIXELS (2015), MAN OF STEEL (2013), and COYOTE UGLY (2000).

Overall, not super excited, but interested.

This is my honest opinion of: BIRTH OF THE DRAGON

(SUMMARY)

Set in San Francisco, circa 1964. Bruce Lee (Philip Ng) is a kung fu teacher on the rise in Hollywood, respected among his students. Wong Jack Man (Yu Xia) is a Shaolin Monk who is on a pilgrimage to atone for a terrible decision he made. As tensions rise between Bruce and Wong, leading up to a fight between them, Bruce’s student Steve (Billy Magnussen) meets a young Chinese woman named Xiulan (Jinjing Qu), who is a servant paying off a debt for being smuggled into America, and seeks to free her from her servitude.

(REVIEW)

Objectively speaking, I don’t think it’s a good movie, but it’s not wholly incompetent.

Let’s start with the good. For one thing, the acting is pretty solid, particularly with Xia. I have no problems with believing him to be a monk searching for redemption. I think there was a ton of subtlety to his performance, making him the best character in the movie, in my opinion, or at least the most compelling.

The fight scenes were actually really well done and entertaining. High energy, hard-hitting, especially that climactic fight when Bruce and Wong invade the building with the slave girls. Hell, there’s even downright hilarious moments. Like while Bruce is taking on the bulk of the henchmen, every so often a lone goon tries to take on Wong, only to get his ass quickly beaten.

But now for the negatives.

I didn’t like Ng’s portrayal of Bruce Lee. Let me be clear, the man’s not a bad actor, and the man isn’t technically bad here. But I have to question, was Bruce Lee this obnoxious in real life? Was he so unfiltered with his perception of himself that he was borderline unlikable? I guess that would make sense, considering that this movie states that because of Lee’s fight with Wong, he changed his fighting style and developed Jeet Kun Do. But… still, was he this much of a diva?

But fine, if this was the biggest problem with the movie, it’d be downright good. The cardinal sin of the film, it’s horrendously unfocused. What does this movie make you think it’s about? All the marketing says it’s about the controversial fight between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man. But… this film is barely about that. No, this movie is also about white guy Steve, who fell in love with the cute Chinese girl and wants to free her from her life. There is nothing compelling about Steve’s relationship with Xiulan. They talked outside of the restaurant where she worked, he spoke bad Chinese, taught her how to swing a baseball bat, and suddenly, audiences are expected to accept this? The obvious question someone might have is, “What does this have to do with Bruce versus Wong?” An excellent question. But never mind their relationship, Steve is a terrible character because he’s such a whiny little bitch. If he’s not worrying about Xiulan, he’s constantly getting in the business of both Bruce and Wong, telling them how they should be living their lives and how their way of thinking is so foreign. He has no sense of respect, despite the movie trying to convince us that he does, he constantly butts heads with them, and complains how they don’t want to get involved in matters that don’t involve them. This behavior would be more appropriate for a five-year-old, not a dude in his late twenties, or early thirties. And this is who the movie centers on!

Even when we do get to what this movie advertises so much, even that isn’t done very well! For one thing, Bruce is utterly convinced that Wong came to America to dismantle everything that Bruce was building up. And yet, Wong never pays him a visit and even admits that this isn’t why he’s in San Francisco. But Bruce is obsessed with challenging Wong to a fight, even when he admits to Bruce that he’s not interested. Okay, problem solved! But Bruce keeps pushing it, so of course they end up fighting, but the motivation behind it seems more like, “Fine, Bruce! I’ll fight you! Just shut the hell up!” Jesus, and we gave Batman and Superman a hard time? Even when their fight approaches, this movie’s marketing is all about how “controversial” it was. But… what was controversial about it? This movie never explicitly says. Was it because people were betting on who would win? That’s seems pretty standard in sports. Was it because no one truly agreed on who won the fight, causing the winnings to be frozen in place until one of the fighters admitted defeat? Again, it seemed like this only concerned shady underground gangsters. How is this any more controversial than anything else that they do? Were common folks betting on this fight too? Where was that shown in the movie? Nothing about this fight is truly explained! While I do like how there was no clear-cut winner in the respective fighters’ eyes, this fight is only ten minutes long and neither the build up to, nor the repercussions from the fight in question really make a huge difference to the story. Nothing about Steve and his story connects to what Bruce and Wong are doing, and hell, even Bruce and Wong’s shit never connects very well.

Is this movie good? No. But is it god-awful? I don’t think so, but you’ll never hear me argue with anyone who thinks it is. It’s unfocused and horribly written, but it’s not devoid of fun action and some decent performances, not that it saves it much. I’d say if you don’t see this, don’t feel bad. It’s not good. But if you have a passing curiosity, wait for it to stream or make it a rental at best. But even then, I don’t recommend it. I can’t imagine many people liking it. I think I’d rather have watched an actual Bruce Lee movie.

My honest rating for BIRTH OF THE DRAGON: a weak 3/5

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INHUMANS (1st Chapter) review

Before seeing this… first chapter, I guess I should call it, I only knew a handful of things regarding the Inhumans. Specifically, I knew a movie was in the works before the TV show become the new reality. Beyond that, nothing. I assumed they were alien mutants or something and the redhead seriously reminds me of DC’s Starfire. Long red hair, purple get-up, the aesthetic was pretty hard not to draw a comparison. In any case, like I said, didn’t know much. But I’m a fan of anything superhero. The TV shows, like AGENTS OF SHIELD (2013 – ongoing) I’ve drifted away from in favor of the Netflix ports. Though to be honest, if these first two or three episodes didn’t get released in theaters, I probably wouldn’t have checked out this show. Too many movies to watch. It’s hard for me to get into TV anymore.

With that said, this was an opportunity to see if I wanted to see what this had in store for me. The show sounded like it was about this group of superhuman called the “family” and get torn apart and must reunite. I hadn’t seen any trailers or, obviously since I don’t watch much TV anymore, any TV spots, so I can’t say that I had any expectations going in, other than witnessing what a TV show looks like without the obvious cuts to a commercial.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Anson Mount (MR. RIGHT [2015], NON-STOP [2014], and CROSSROADS [2002]), Iwan Rheon (TV show GAME OF THRONES [2011 – ongoing]), Serinda Swan (PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF [2010]), Eme Ikwuakor (a ton of TV shows), and Ken Leung (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], X-MEN: THE LAST STAND [2006], and TV show LOST [2004 – 2010]).

Now for the crew. The series composer is Sean Callery, known for TV shows JESSICA JONES (2015 – ongoing), BONES (2005 – 2017), and LA FEMME NIKITA (1997 – 2001). Finally, the series cinematographer is Jeff Jur, known for MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (2002), JOY RIDE (2001), and DIRTY DANCING (1987).

Overall, interested, but not stoked.

This is my honest opinion of: INHUMANS

(SUMMARY)

The Inhumans are a group of super-powered people who have managed to construct themselves a home on Earth’s moon, called Attilan, hidden away from humans who have only acted violently to their kind. The Inhumans are ruled benevolently by their King Blackbolt (Anson Mount) and his beloved Queen Medusa (Serinda Swan). They rule alongside their Royal Family in relative peace. Most recently, however, one of their family, Triton (Mike Moh), is attacked by humans and thought to be killed. Blackbolts younger human brother Maximus (Iwan Rheon) wants to take Attilan’s armies and invade Earth, what he believes is their rightful home. But Blackbolt doesn’t want to go to war with Earth and instead doesn’t believe Triton isn’t dead, sending the sarcastic but lovable Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor) to Earth to find him. But Maximus’ patience is at its breaking point and organizes a coup. Medusa’s sister Crystal (Isabelle Cornish) manages to think fast enough to use her giant mutant dog Lockjaw to teleport her family to Earth to save them, while she is held captive. The Family is unfortunately separated and now must reunite while also dealing with the inhabitants and evading Maximus’ wrath.

(REVIEW)

It’s… *sigh* it’s not very good. Which is a shame because I really could have used an excuse to get back into Marvel TV. Instead, I’m only given more reasons to stick to the films.

The issue: the villain, and by extension, its heroes. Let’s start with the villain first. Maximus is not intimidating in the slightest. From the moment he’s introduced, he’s obviously that guy who is going to disagree constantly with the characters in charge and take matters into his own hands. You know what a character like that is? A whiny brat. I look at Maximus and I would rather put him over my knee and spank him. I know he’s supposed to be this sort of leader for the lower class of Attilan, and his purpose is to take Earth so they can forge a less subservient future, but because all of his complaining toward the Family, it never truly feels like he’s ever doing anything other than seizing power for himself. Furthermore, since he’s completely powerless, Maximus has to use clever a subtle tactics to be able to sway so many of the Royal Guards to his ideals, but we never get that out of him either. If the audience can’t see how manipulative, or clever he can be, there’s no reason to see him as a legitimate threat. And what’s with his creepy fetish for Medusa? Like, is this dude certifiably insane? He makes comments when he’s taking power like, “I wouldn’t treat you the way Blackbolt does.” Um… he treats her very lovingly and they have trust and are respectful of each other and their decisions. What a… monster? I never saw Blackbolt treat Medusa like an inferior ever. So here’s all I know about Maximus: he’s a whiny dip-shit and he’s a creeper. This is not how you write a compelling villain!

***SPOILERS***

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You know what? Now that I’m thinking about it, Maximus is basically just a discount Loki. Really think about it, he lives on another planet, in a Royal family who is not destined for the throne, hates his older brother and jealous of his power, works with the enemies in secret, and attempts to usurp power, and serves as a defacto leader while the real leader is out of commission.

You see the problem here?! It’s basically “Thor: the television series.” On top of its infuriatingly incompetent characters, the movie doesn’t have an original bone in its body, and it’s ripping from a movie that I think is legitimately good.

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***END SPOILERS***

By extension, the Family is beaten by this guy?! This weasel of a person managed to outsmart a king and queen, the captain of the Royal Guard, and a dude who can predict outcomes of his choices, and they all managed to get their asses handed to them? In positions of power, sniveling assholes will who disagree with their benevolent leaders will always take it away. Maybe the Family was so close that no one truly thought this would happen, but once again, we’re not shown any legit connection between the characters. Our introduction to them is how they disagree with one another and bicker. How did this Family seriously not have their suspicions that this would happen? If they can be outsmarted like this, how am I supposed to care about their moon kingdom? I have zero investment in any character.

There’s also a bunch of other things that feel like they’re unnecessary. Like, I guess when you’re an inhuman, you aren’t born one until you’re both “of age” and you go into this gas chamber-looking thing… they insert a crystal which turns into a gas, and then you get your powers that way…? Why does that have to be so complicated? Why can’t an inhuman just be an inhuman and they get their powers naturally? Why does it have to be so… technical? And why does Medusa take getting her hair cut off so personally? I mean, okay, I get it. It’s her power: deadly hair. Therefore, makes sense, cutting it off makes her somewhat defenseless. But she’s acting like her hair is her murdered baby. She’s absolutely traumatized. But we later learn that she’s not completely defenseless and knows how to fight back with her bare hands. Plus… hair grows back. Maybe it’d take a long time, fine, but how much longer? Even at normal length, it looks like she can extend her locks, so I doubt she needs a shit ton of hair to get her back into fighting form. And even the action scenes are stale. We finally get situations where Blackbolt can use his powers, but he doesn’t use them. Even when an actual fight breaks out, there is way too much slow-mo and feels like it’s an episode of Power Rangers. There’s no real bite to the hits.

Is there anything that I did like? Well… I suppose for the most part, the acting is pretty good, specifically with Mount. Since his character can’t speak without vaporizing his loved ones and everything around him, he has to rely purely on his expressions and hand gestures (is that actual sign language?). His expressions read pretty clear and there’s even some solid humorous reaction shots of him. I also enjoyed Leung as Karnak, who is this overly smart guy and is so brutally honest that he’s kind of amazing. His loss of powers on Earth, while senseless, feels much more urgent to his character because he relies on his ability to see into the near future to survive deadly encounters, making his situation much easier to empathize with.

With all that said, none of what I saw in these first couple episodes are enough for me to take time out of my day to watch the rest of the show in length. I’m predicting a crap ton of fish-out-of-water stuff that’s tedious and annoying, more boring fight sequences, and a never ending scream at my TV any time Maximus shows up. There’s better shows to watch and even better superhero shows. For me, this is a hard pass, I do not recommend this to anyone, and I don’t see this show being successful. My guess, it’ll last one season, but that’s it.

My honest rating for INHUMANS: a weak 3/5

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THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD (quick) review

Deadpool and Nick Fury teamed up while hating each other. Sounds like a fun ride to me. Always down for an action comedy and with these two men at the helm, I can’t think of a more exciting spectacle.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Ryan Reynolds (LIFE [2017], DEADPOOL [2016], DICK [1999], and upcoming films DEADPOOL 2 [2018] and X-FORCE, no due date announced) and Samuel L. Jackson (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], THE LEGEND OF TARZAN [2016], GOODFELLAS [1990], and upcoming films INCREDIBLES 2 [2018] and CAPTAIN MARVEL [2019]). In support, we have Gary Oldman (THE SPACE BETWEEN US [2017], CRIMINAL [2016], BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA [1992], and the upcoming DARKEST HOUR [2017]), Salma Hayek (HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER [2017], SAUSAGE PARTY [2016], and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN [1996]), and Elodie Yung (GODS OF EGYPT [2016], G.I. JOE: RETALIATION [2013], TV show DAREDEVIL [2015 – ongoing], and upcoming TV show THE DEFENDERS [2017] and video game CALL OF DUTY: WWII [2017]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Patrick Hughes, known for THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014). Penning the screenplay, we have Tom O’Connor, known for FIRE WITH FIRE (2012). Composing the score, we have Atli Örvarsson, known for THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (2016), SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011), and VANTAGE POINT (2008). Finally, the cinematographer is Jules O’Loughlin, THE DUEL (2016), KRAMPUS (2015), and WISH YOU WERE HERE (2012).

Overall, yeah, I’m pretty excited for this flick. Maybe it won’t be good, but entertainment seems to be what this movie is going for, not poetry, so what’s wrong with that?

This is my honest opinion of: THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD

(SUMMARY)

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) was once one of the best bodyguards. But two years ago, a client of his was murdered and now his clients are… less than important. Meanwhile, violent Russian President Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) is on trial for his alleged crimes, but his sentence is stalled due to a lack of evidence. Only one man can bring him down: the notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), who has agreed to a deal that will set his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) free from incarceration while he testifies against Dukhovich. Unfortunately, interpol has agents working for Dukhovich who try to kill Kincaid. They attack and only Kincaid and Agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) survive, who happens to be Michael’s former lover, whom he blames for compromising his client two years ago. She calls him to protect Kincaid and bring him to the courthouse, and in exchange, she’ll get Michael better clients.

(QUICK REVIEW)

It’s not bad. It’s neither DEADPOOL or AVENGERS, but it’s a satisfactory action comedy.

The positives. The actors. Holy shit, they make this movie work so well. All of the bantering is where the comedy works the best. Reynolds and Jackson, Reynolds and Yung, Jackson and Hayek, all of their interactions are hilarious and carry this movie so well. Reynolds and Jackson are obviously genius in how much shit they give each other, and it makes for some great comedy.

But never mind the men, their respective ladies are really funny too. Hayek as Sonia, Darius’ wife, is so hilariously brutal. There’s this amazing running gag with her in prison that every time her scene ends, it cuts to her cellmate, whom Sonia has somehow forced into facing the corner like a bad kindergarten student, and has to grant her permission to leave the corner. It’s so delightfully sadistic that I wouldn’t mind a spin-off film of this bitch. And Yung… okay, she’s not given any particularly funny lines, but that’s the script’s fault obviously. But to make up for it, she has some funny reactions. I had no idea the woman had it in her. For someone who plays a ruthless, blood-thirsty assassin in DAREDEVIL, she can get quite the chuckle out of me. Please, Hollywood, put Yung in more comedies! She’s not half bad.

But for all the praise I can throw about how everyone’s chemistry is great, this movie is beyond flawed. When the camera isn’t focusing on Reynolds and Jackson, it’s on Oldman and Joaquim de Almeida as the villains, and because these characters get a healthy amount of screentime, the result is criminally boring. Oldman as a Russian villain, how do you make that boring?! You know how? By making him do nothing. He’s got a great intro with him murdering a man’s wife and kid in front of him, but from that point on, it’s Oldman’s easiest paycheck with him just sitting in a chair and talking in a Russian accent… sometimes. These scenes are so remarkably uninteresting that they might as well just be pointless padding until you the story gets back to Reynolds and Jackson. If the villains were as maniacally enjoyable and shared a similar chemistry with each other, then this movie could have had something to elevate itself, but no. If the movie shows anything other than the bickering of the two leads, then the aforementioned scenes are utterly pointless.

There aren’t many surprises, so the movie rests squarely on whether or not you enjoy the chemistry between Reynolds and Jackson. Since I do, the movie is serviceable. If you’re a fan of the cast, then I recommend it. Just don’t keep your expectations too high or you’ll run the risk of disappointment. If you want to see it in theaters, shoot for a matinee screening.

My honest rating for THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD: a strong 3/5

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