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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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991) review

Well I guess this was somewhat inevitable. What with the mixed bag that was the live-action remake, I guess someone wanted to save a little face. Can’t blame ’em, really.

In any case, wow, considering how many times I go to the cinemas, I don’t know if I ever expected this to ever make a reappearance. Am I utterly shocked? No, but I am pleasantly surprised. Is it some kind of anniversary? I don’t know. All I know is, I was two years old when this was released in theaters, hence, I never got the chance to see it on the big screen. Now I get that opportunity and I intend to take full advantage.

I wager most people know the back story behind this film, but for those few that don’t, I’ll do it for their knowledge. The story of Beauty and the Beast was originally a French fairy tale novel way back since 1740. Version after version exists, even today, but many consider the 1991 Disney classic to be the most popular version and for good reason. In fact, it was so good for it’s time, it was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Not “Best Animated Film,” no, Best… Picture. Wrap your mind around that, y’all. Best Animation didn’t even exist yet. That’s a serious testament to Disney and it’s criminal that animated films don’t get that kind of recognition from award ceremonies of that caliber anymore. Criminal, if you ask me. While I can’t say where this movie falls in my list of “favorite Disney films.” Before seeing the live-action remake this year, I can’t say that I remembered much about the original. But I do remember this being significantly more impressive than the remake.

Here’s the voice talent. Starring, we have Paige O’Hara (ENCHANTED [2007], BELLE’S MAGICAL WORLD [1998], BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS [1997], and the upcoming RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]) and Robby Benson (TV show AMERICAN DREAMS [2002 – 2005], and video games KINGDOM HEARTS II [2005] and KINGDOM HEARTS [2002]). In support, we have Richard White (TV show HOUSE OF MOUSE [2001 – 2002] and video game KING’S QUEST [2015]), Jesse Corti (ZOOTOPIA [2016], FROZEN [2013], and TV show THE BATMAN [2004 – 2008]), Rex Everhart (FRIDAY THE 13TH [1980] and SUPERMAN [1978]), Bradley Pierce (PETER PAN II: RETURN TO NEVERLAND [2002], THE BORROWERS [1997], JUMANJI [1995]), and Angela Lansbury (MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS [2011], THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE [1962], TV show MURDER, SHE WROTE [1984 – 1996], and the upcoming MARY POPPINS RETURNS [2018]).

Now for the crew. Co-directing, we have Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, both known for ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE (2001) and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1996). Penning the screenplay is Linda Woolverton, known for ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (2016), THE LION KING (1994), and TV show DENNIS THE MENACE (1986 – 1988). Finally, the composer is Alan Menken, known for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017), SAUSAGE PARTY (2016), THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989), and upcoming films ALADDIN (2019) and THE LITTLE MERMAID, no release date announced.

Overall, I’m pretty excited for this. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, or… just a few months, depending on how much of this the remake copied and pasted.

This is my honest opinion of the tale as old as time: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991)

(SUMMARY)

Long ago, the cruel prince of a castle was turned into a beast (voiced by Robby Benson) for his actions. The only way to break his curse is if he falls in love and that love is returned before his enchanted rose’s petals all break off. But he became reclusive and has since faded from memory. Today, Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara) lives in a small village as an outcast who loves to read. One day, her inventor father Maurice (voiced by Rex Everhart) ventures off into the woods, but gets horribly lost. Evading a pack of rabid wolves, he seeks shelter in the very castle the beast resides in, resulting in angering the beast and locking him away. Belle learns of this and sets out to find her father, agreeing to take his place as the beast’s prisoner and the two grow to realize that there’s more to each other than their initial impressions.

(REVIEW)

While some aspects of the story and characters don’t quite hold up for me as an adult, this is still one of the most beautifully animated Disney films of its era and arguably of all time.

Let’s start with what doesn’t work for me, since I’m sure people are hanging on that statement more than anything, and I admit thoroughly that I shouldn’t be so critical of a kids fairy tale movie, but this was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, so… I’ma be critical. I feel like Beast is a bit bipolar, or he’s built up inconsistently. The whole point of his backstory is that he was a jerk. He was above everyone, hence turning away the old woman slash beautiful enchantress. When he’s finally revealed, he’s a jerk to Maurice, who only wanted shelter from the storm and wolves. He couldn’t be more sensible and just send him on his way? Locking him in the dungeon was the only logical conclusion? Maybe if Maurice did something a little more insulting or careless, like broke an old vase of sentimental value, then his reaction would be understandable. As is, it’s just really forcing that he’s a grade-A jerkwad.

But this could be a small problem if the rest of his intro to everyone was consistent. When Belle shows up, he’s a jerk to her too. But once the prisoner exchange is completed, the pacing of his hospitality is rushed like a mofo. As soon as Maurice is gone, Lumiere manages to convince Beast rather easily and no effort to give her a nice room. How? She’s a prisoner? Prisoners aren’t treated with this much… respect. And after putting her in the room, he not only admits that she’s beautiful, which fine, comments on a person’s looks can be pointed out rather cheaply, but trying to make a good first impression at dinner? At the dinner table? Someone explain why this is. I doubt Maurice was going to get the full buffet option. I feel like more time should have been spent developing his softness toward Belle and letting her eat like a civilized person. Granted, this could have extended the movie’s runtime an extra ten minutes, but it would have felt more realistic. Weird how I’m saying that about a fantasy story involving a person with a bison’s head, but I stand by it.

Also, the west wing fiasco. First off, instead of simply telling Belle that “it’s forbidden,” how about lying. Say something like… it’s his deceased family’s private quarters. Rare treasures, priceless stuff, which kind of happens to be the case anyway, so she has more incentive to respect his wishes to stay out of there. By that point, if Belle went in that wing with that foreknowledge, then she’d be an inconsiderate jerk as well and just poking around taking advantage of her jailer’s hospitality. This could also apply to Lumiere and Cogsworth when giving her the tour of the castle, giving a proper excuse of what’s up there. Of course when you say that there’s nothing up there, the curiosity will set in and she’ll sneak up there.

And why isn’t the room with the enchanted rose locked? You’d think with strangers in the castle who is free to mosey about as she pleases would take a little extra precautions. Of course, you could always argue that it wasn’t locked because he was technically already in the room. So… fair enough.

Oh, and Chip’s kind of annoying.

Summed up, I think the pacing from Belle’s arrival to the castle and the wolf attack after she runs away is all pretty rushed and not handled very well. Some more time with the characters and their motivations and emotions, and smarter writing would have been appreciated.

But enough of the bashing. Time to gush.

This is arguably one of Disney’s most gorgeous films. I don’t think it was their first foray into this, but the incorporation of both hand-drawn animation and computer effects was in perfect taste. It was a beautiful prelude to where Disney would eventually go, arguably making this more impressive than their current products. Not that I’m ragging on the 3D animated style of TANGLED (2010) and everything after, I like the current films just fine, but there’s something special about hand-drawn animation and such a shame that the market for it is considered irrelevant. I wish Disney would still make one once in awhile for old times sake. But this is the direction they’ve gone in and it’s not at all bad, so I’m not complaining too much. It’s still Disney.

By the way, “Be Our Guest” is still breathtaking to look at and certainly leaves a bigger impression than the remake. Same goes for the climactic fight scene on the castle rooftops, and between the villagers and the servants. I will never stop cringing at the ax dude getting bashed in the face by the drawers. Ouch…

What else is there? I think Beast is much more impressive here than the remake. Perhaps it’s a testament to Benson’s voice, but I felt like Beasts voice has such range from being goofy, threatening, and compassionate. I look back on the remake, and while I maintain that Beast is still impressive to look at in live-action, he’s far more expressive in this and leaves a bigger impact.

Overall, this movie really takes me back and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to watch this in theaters. I don’t pretend to know why Disney is re-releasing their classics on the big screen, and I don’t much care. Reliving them is a wonderful experience and I encourage everyone to do the same. This film may not be my favorite Disney outing, but it’s undeniably one of their best.

My honest rating for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991): 4/5

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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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Netflix review: SyFy’s VAN HELSING (season 1)

Starring: Kelly Overton (video game adaptation TEKKEN [2010], and TV shows TRUE BLOOD and ALL MY CHILDREN)

(SUMMARY)

Set three years later during a post-apocalyptic future. Vampires have taken over Seattle, Washington. In an abandoned hospital, the last Marine of his squad, Axel (Jonathan Scarfe), has been holding his position since the uprising of the vampires. His mission, to ensure the survival of a three year comatose patient, Vanessa (Kelly Overton), who has an immunity to the virus that turns humans into vampires and may hold the key to salvation.

(REVIEW)

Grr. It’s not as good as the posters make it out to be. I’ve got a lot more problems with this show than compliments, but all in all, it’s… okay.

What shall I start with?

The opening has some grim promise. You see our lone and faithful Marine Axel (Jonathan Scarfe) talking to a locked up vampire while he’s feeding her his own blood. It’s a little fucked up, but that’s what I usually come to expect from vampire stories. You’re not entirely sure if Axel’s all there mentally, but then the action starts. A group of human survivors about to be killed by a group of vampires are trying to get into the hospital that’s on lockdown thanks to some makeshift traps and barricades. He lets them in, of course, and then the first problems with the show rear their ugly heads: most of the characters are annoying as hell.

Almost immediately, the survivors are questioning Axel’s situation, exclaiming how the locked up vampire needs to be killed as well as the unconscious woman that “might” be a vampire herself, even though they haven’t an inkling of prove to back that up. For the rest of the show, that’s all these characters do. They bicker, yell, and constantly disagree. Which would be fine if it did feel like a bad sitcom the whole time. In an apocalypse, there will be disagreements on how to survive. Thing is, these people start this crap not even half way through the first episode. They barely ever show appreciation toward Axel for sheltering these people and this goes on throughout the season.

Thankfully, there’s a few characters that I liked. The three that immediately come to mind are Susan (Hilary Jardine), Mohamad (Trezzo Mahoro), and Sam (Christopher Heyerdahl). Susan, prior to the apocalypse, was Vanessa’s neighbor and friend whom has been the victim of physical abuse from asshole boyfriends that Vanessa beats the crap out of. While Vanessa’s been in her coma, she got turned into a vampire and eventually meet up after Vanessa attempts to leave the hospital to look for her missing daughter Dylan (Hannah Cheramy), but got captured by vampires. Vanessa turns her back to human, and the two rekindle their relationship, which I really enjoyed. Mohamad and Sam are the “two peas in a pod” characters that have a nice connection as well, as a pair that always looked out for each other. Mohamad’s a young man who was separated from his sister Sheema (Naika Toussaint), still locked away in a human camp overlooked by vampires and wants to find her. He’s a loyal friend to those he respects and who show him respect. He’s brave, smart, an all around breath of fresh air from all the married couple bickering. And Sam is the deaf gentle giant. Again, he’s a kind guy and his silence is, like Mohamad, a welcomed detour from the arguing.

Now for our titular character. Vanessa, for all intents and purposes, isn’t poorly written. As a character, Vanessa is tough, no nonsense, capable in a fight, but a loving mother and friend, she’s perfectly serviceable, and Overton’s performance is strong enough to carry the show, for my tastes anyway. Here’s my issue: Vanessa as “Van Helsing.” When we’re first introduced to her, she’s about to be chewed alive by vampire-Flesh (Vincent Gale), but she immediately snaps out of her coma and defends herself quite proficiently. However, she’s never quite this deadly in any other scene. She’s just a run of the mill survivor that isn’t stupid. Aside from her inability to be turned after getting bit by a vampire, and her stupid-ass ability to change vampires back to human after them biting her or her biting them (yes, that’s a thing that she does too), there’s never a moment in this show where I’m like, “Yes! That’s our new Van Helsing!” At least, not until the final episode of the season, which lasts probably a grand total of ten minutes.

I can probably guess what the structure was supposed to be and why that moment was dragged out ’till the end. It’s the “superhero” idea. Like in the TV show DAREDEVIL, the first season featured Matt Murdock/Daredevil in a borderline amateur black garb and a black mask throughout the entire first season, only giving him the iconic red suit in the final episode or couple episodes. The purpose of this, I imagine, was to create the character and build him up, getting the audience a near perfect understanding of him before going full comic book on us. But what makes Vanessa as “Van Helsing” so frustrating in this regard is that the character of “Van Helsing,” while well-known in supernatural literature, isn’t exactly a modern pop culture icon like superheroes are. Seriously, can you name a movie that came out that was about Van Helsing? I can. Hugh Jackman’s ill-fated VAN HELSING (2004), which is not considered to be a good movie. I know there’s a ton more than that, but are any of them considered landmarks of cinema or classics? Is Van Helsing truly in the echelons with Dracula, Frankenstein and his monster, and the Wolf Man? No. The character truly isn’t. Not like that. So Vanessa’s development, not just as a character, but as this generation’s “Van Helsing” was crucial to make her really compelling. Instead, she’s lukewarm. Not bad, not great.

If I were to have changed anything, I would have made Vanessa a bit more of a one-woman army. Like, everything about her personality is fine. Her backstory, all that, that’s all good. But in a fight, I would have made it like a Jason Bourne type thing. Like in IDENTITY (2002), when Jason is sleeping on that park bench and the cops try to get him to show them his papers, but when they take out their batons, he instinctively goes into combat mode and efficiently takes them out, and promptly, but subtly, freaks out after with a look that says, “How the hell did I just do that?!” You never get any real sense of bad-assery in the vampire killing department. She’s obviously not useless in a fight, but nothing on the scale of “Van Helsing.” She trips and stumbles a little too much for me to take her seriously like that.

On top of my problems with the characters, the show as a whole isn’t very well-written. One set of dialog sticks out for me.

VANESSA
No offense, but go fuck yourself.

AXEL
Understood.

VANESSA
Good, then go do it!

Ugh, this script gave me an aneurysm. Thankfully, the cringeworthy dialog sort of dissipates as the season progresses, but the way it’s structured and how every event is handled is completely inconsistent and character choices are utterly stupid. Why doesn’t Axel throw the survivors out that give him a hard time? Or kill them? Why do the survivors stay with him if they don’t agree with any of his decisions? There’s this subplot that starts in episode four “Coming Back” that focuses on a murder within the group. You wanna know what’s freakin’ frustrating? This plot thread isn’t resolved until episode eleven “Last Time.” There are thirteen episodes in this season. What the actual fuck? We’re introduced to characters that have a big role early on, leave the show, and then return only to be killed off later as soon as they reappear. Incredibly forced romance subplots that go nowhere, a questionable accent by Tom Cavanagh who is only in one episode and still whispers his lines half the time, infighting with the vampires that no one gives a shit about, the vampires in this show present themselves to be more like zombies than vampires and I don’t recall a single vampire having fangs, all these problems are littered everywhere.

That’s not to say some things are done right. There are some cool visuals, like there’s this one bit where a dude is being hung in a cold room, is missing one arm and a leg I think, and his intestines are hanging out, and he’s totally alive. That was delightfully sick. And there’s another little scene where you have vampire leader Dmitri (Paul Johanssen), his… lover? Rebecca (Laura Mennell), and Dmitri’s sister Anastasia (Gia Crovatin), and they’re sitting at a dinner table, drinking blood soup. I won’t lie, I sadistically giggled when Anastasia got up to get more blood and it’s from a corpse with her throat slit and pours blood with a ladle.

***SPOILERS***

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Here’s one plot point that went nowhere that I really wanted to see developed. So the group is hiding out in an underground bunker and Vanessa and Susan find themselves in bed, just being friends. But before long, they share a kiss. This was quite possibly one of my favorite relationships in the show and felt really organic to the story. Never mind that I’m a guy and watching two hot chicks making out isn’t the hottest thing ever, but that their relationship went in that direction felt right for the characters. Vanessa is very butch and independent, and Susan is a little more vulnerable. She looks up to Vanessa for her strength, but managed to come into her own when the apocalypse showed up. Both women have had lousy luck with men in their lives and Susan did seem to harbor some feelings for her, as demonstrated in the beginning of episode six, “Nothing Matters.” I liked seeing the two of them interact with each other and being friends. To see them possibly testing waters for a romantic fling, I was looking forward to that blossoming in future episodes.

But in probably the ultimate middle finger to my expectations, not only is their shared kiss never acknowledged again, either by the two characters, even to the point where Vanessa has about the most contrived romance that can possibly exist with a male character that she’s only known for less than a day, whose name I couldn’t remember for the life of me, but it’s revealed that Sam was the group murderer and he kills Susan. She was just starting to become a great character and then they kill her off. Fine, make Sam the killer, but it should have been any other character. Like Doc (Rukiya Bernard). She just sort of gets written out of the show randomly. Why not actually write her off more sensibly?

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this show isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen and would certainly prefer to watch it over many other shows that have been considered great, simply because it’s action, post-apocalypse, and vampires, so I’m pretty bias. I sure won’t go out of my way to keep up with the show as the episodes air on TV. I understand season two is underway. But yeah, I can’t claim this to be a good show. There’s some good things to keep myself interested, but if season two isn’t better by the time it comes out on Netflix again, I won’t care to sit around for a third season.

My honest rating for Syfy’s TV series VAN HELSING: 3/5

Van-Helsing-Syfy-TV-Series-poster-02

JURASSIC WORLD (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.

Let’s face it, this movie has been in the making for a long time (since 2007, I think) and we were/are hoping that it’s been worth the wait. I won’t waste any time, I’m going to try to keep this spoiler-free, so let’s get right into it.

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard (GOLD [2017], PETE’S DRAGON [2016], 50/50 [2011], and the upcoming JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM [2018]), Chris Pratt (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 [2017], THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN [2016], THE LEGO MOVIE [2014], and upcoming films Marvel’s AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018] and JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM), Nick Robinson (EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING [2017], THE 5TH WAVE [2016], THE KINGS OF SUMMER [2013]), and Ty Simpkins (THE NICE GUYS [2016], IRON MAN 3 [2013], and INSIDIOUS [2010]). In support: Vincent D’Onofrio (CHIPS [2017], THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, MEN IN BLACK [1997], and the upcoming remake DEATH WISH [2018]), Jake Johnson (THE MUMMY [2017], MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES [2016], TV show NEW GIRL, and the upcoming TAG [2018]), Judy Greer (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES [2017], ANT-MAN [2015], CARRIE [2013], and the upcoming Marvel’s ANT-MAN AND THE WASP [2018]), Irrfan Khan (The Da Vinci Code’s INFERNO [2016] and LIFE OF PI [2012]), and BD Wong (THE SPACE BETWEEN US [2017], MULAN [1998], TV show GOTHAM, and the upcoming JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM).

Directing and co-writing: Colin Trevorrow (THE BOOK OF HENRY [2017], the upcoming STAR WARS EPISODE IX [2019], and writing the upcoming JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM). Co-writing: Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES [2011], THE RELIC [1997], and upcoming films Disney’s live-action MULAN [2018] and AVATAR 3 [2021]), and Derek Connolly (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], MONSTER TRUCKS [2017], and upcoming films JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM and STAR WARS EPISODE IX). Composer: Michael Giacchino (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, ZOOTOPIA [2016], TOMORROWLAND [2015], and upcoming films Pixar’s COCO [2017] and JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM). Cinematographer: John Schwartzman (THE BOOK OF HENRY, SAVING MR. BANKS [2013], THE BUCKET LIST [2007], and upcoming films FIFTY SHADES FREED [2018] and STAR WAR EPISODE IX)

Story on top, review on the bottom.

(SUMMARY)

We open to Zach (Nick Robinson) and his younger brother Gray (Ty Simpkins) who are about to embark on a family trip to the now-opened dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, which is headed by their semi-estranged aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). Gray is more than excited to be in this place, but Zach seems rather detached at first, but eventually warms up. Claire is an incredibly work-driven woman who sadly doesn’t spend time with her nephews to show them the park and leaves them with their personal guide, Zara (Katie McGrath), and even reveals that her scientists have spliced together a completely new dinosaur called the Indominus Rex, revealed by Doctor Henry Wu (BD Wong) to be bigger than a T-Rex. We are also introduced to Owen (Chris Pratt), the park’s very own raptor whisperer and his rocky business relationship with Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who admires the way Owen handles the raptors and sees these intelligent animals as weapons to use for the military against their opponents, to which Owen knows is a colossal mistake, knowing that these raptors only listen to him because they’ve built a relationship since they were hatched, and it’s not a relationship with them thinking that he’s their mother, but uneasy respect. Of course, everything starts going to hell when the Indominus Rex finds a way to escape its paddock and turns the entire park into a warzone. Now, with Owen’s help, Claire must reunite with Zach and Gray and get everyone off the island.

(REVIEW)

To be honest, I never truly believed I’d go into this movie thinking it would be JURASSIC PARK’s equal. It’s a movie that changed cinema with ground-breaking CGI, and perfectly blended horror, action, and wonder. To boot, it was a smart movie. It wasn’t just about a group of people on an island of dinosaurs that run amok. It was about how the advancement of science shouldn’t be wielded like a children’s toy and must be considered if the risks truly outweigh the reward, and shows what happens when there is no contingency plan for when shit hits the fan. Granted, it was far from a perfect movie, but mix all those fantastic elements with a hint of badassery, it’s hard to not like the film as a whole. I knew JURASSIC WORLD wouldn’t be that well-written or impactful, but I was holding out for it to be at least better than LOST WORLD. Boy howdy was I pleased.

Let’s start with what didn’t work, in my opinion. First, D’Onofrio is usually an incredible actor, and coming off his success as Kingpin from Netflix’s DAREDEVIL, I was really curious to see what he was going to bring to this film, and he brings… nothing. His character is there to provide one of the stupidest sub-plots that you can squeeze into a sci-fi like this: turn the subject matter into military weapons. Seriously, writers? It’d be better if Hoskins was like the park’s captain of the soldiers-who-hunt-dinosaurs-if-they-escape and Owen was his most trusted lieutenant who had duel jobs as the park’s raptor trainer. Instead, he’s one of those character who you can write off and the movie would progress just fine. Or worse yet, I won’t spoil anything for anyone, but he does blatantly set up the notion of a sequel. Literally, that’s his only purpose. Not someone we give a shit about. He’s just there to let us know that a sequel could happen.

While I’m on the subject of characters, I really didn’t like Zach. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Nick Robinson. I’m a huge fan of the TV show MELISSA AND JOEY, and Nick is such a presence on screen, but he had to pick the most two-dimensional character that could possibly exist: I’m a moody teenager and I hate everything and I’m just going to ignore everything and listen to my music because I’m just a bad ass. You know what you little dip shit, you’re about to go to a theme park WITH F*****G DINOSAURS, AND YOU’RE MISERABLE???? HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN??? Are you all mopey because you’re leaving your girlfriend? Dinosaurs or pussy, dude? Let’s face it, dinosaurs win EVERY TIME!!! THEY’RE DINOSAURS!!! And never mind his moodiness, he has like no character arch. He comes to this island with an attitude that makes me want to throw a great big pile of shit at him *REFERENCE* and seems rather distant of his brother, or worse, is incredibly cruel to Gray for no rhyme or reason, and even once he starts to care about him… well, that seemed to just come out of his ass. Why do you suddenly care if Gray is getting the full Jurassic World experience? You don’t even want to be here, you hairy scrotum! Nick Robinson played the role well, I just didn’t like the role he was given.

Also, there’s a lot of sub-plots… and they don’t go anywhere. Owen and Claire went on one date. Okay… why was THAT relevant to the story? I think if you watched the movie and fast-forward to ANY point in the story, you wouldn’t really guess that these two had a history together. They’re not divorced, they’re co-workers who went on one date. Oh the drama…

***SPOILERS***

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Also, what’s with the sub-plot of Gray finding out his parents are getting divorced? That was clearly just added to see Gray deliver is a crying performance. As well as Simpkins delivering on that performance, that sub-plot goes absolutely nowhere. Sure both the mom and dad come to Isla Nublar together to find their kids, but… okay, are we going to elaborate on this subject at all now that everyone’s together? Nope? We’re just going to cut to Owen and Claire have a chat and cut to the credits? Cool. Thanks for telling us about a plot that won’t be developed. Awesome sauce *sarcasm*.

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***END SPOILERS***

On a slightly lesser note, why was Judy Greer in this movie? This woman’s got acting talent that can wipe the floor of most actors in Hollywood, so why is she playing a nothing character? Literally, ANYONE could have played Zach and Gray’s mom, and it would have been fine. But no, Greer plays their mom that does NOTHING in the movie other than foreshadow, which is pointless because this is JURASSIC PARK (kinda); dinosaurs running around eating people is kind of a given in this franchise. Also, why was there literally just ONE little pterodactyl with an Indominous Rex head? Anyone else think that was just random for the sake of random? But fine, whatever.

But for as much as I hate some of the characters… and seemingly much of this movie now that I’ve read through some of it, I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t like this movie. For as many problems as it has, it does a great deal more good than bad.

The moment you step out into Jurassic World itself and the immortal Jurassic Park theme starts playing, I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. I remember reading the review on Collider.com about how the reviewer would have been perfectly content just exploring the theme park itself and just do away with the chaos and death, and I have to say, I’m in complete agreement. The park itself is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Bright colors, large crowds, it makes the 8-year-old Peruvian boy in me giddy with delight. The fact that the movie takes a beat to actually let us in on some of the attractions, such as feeding the mosasaurus and, how awesome is this shit, lowering the bleachers below the tank water to see the reptilian fish underwater. SO F*****G AWESOME, I’M JEALOUS!!! And a petting zoo, a f*****g petting zoo. Never in my life have I ever been so jealous of an 8-year-old kid getting to hug a baby brachiosaurus, or riding a baby triceratops. Makes me wanna punch those f*****s off and have my turn. F*** YOU KIDS, I LOVED DINOSAURS FIRST!!!

Another unique thing that you might notice in this movie is that the raptors are somewhat given personalities. You can tell there’s a complicated relationship between Owen and the raptors. These are clearly wild animals that want to maim everything in front of them, but there’s clearly some kind of connection they have with Owen that makes them understand that THIS human isn’t meant for eating, but for respecting. This relationship really shines through later on in the story, both for the best and the worst, but always makes sense and even provides a couple of the tensest and somewhat heart-warming scenes. Plus, totally awesome when Owen and the humans team up with the raptors to hunt down the Indominus Rex.

The Indominus Rex is pretty fearsome for a newbie and is a rather well-written monster whose motives and actions make sense. It’s been in captivity all its life, has had no other interaction with anyone or anything other than a crane that lets it know that it’s feeding time. So when it does escape, its rampage makes sense. It’s smart, it’s vicious, it’s something I don’t want to run into on a Saturday night drive home. Nah, bro. Just nah. So no one needs to worry if whether or not the new Rex is a lame new element. It really isn’t.

***SPOILERS***

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The only real problem with the Indominus Rex is this: Owen comments after seeing all the dead brachiosauruses that it’s killing for sport. If any of you have been following the movie as it was being developed, there were some fan theories going around that maybe Indominus had some human spliced into it because the only creature on Earth that hunts for sport is a human. I guess I can chalk this one up to another plot point that doesn’t go anywhere.

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***END SPOILERS***

As much as I bash the characters, Pratt and Dallas Howard have great chemistry. Maybe Pratt makes it easy because he’s such a charismatic actor. But hey, what do I know? In fact, both Pratt and Dallas Howard are great. They’re plots go nowhere and are pretty pointless, but they play their characters very well. Especially Dallas Howard. It’s so strange, though. Her resume consists of some pretty awful movies. TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE (2010), TERMINATOR: SALVATION (2009), M. Night Shyamalan’s LADY IN THE WATER (2006), and SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007). It’s curious how this wonderful actress even has a career after being in some of the most hated movies in their respective franchises, but here she is in JURASSIC WORLD, practically headlining it and she’s great. I knew she had talent, but there was never a movie that really showcased it. This may be her best performance yet, but here’s hoping that she will get better roles because I know she can act the f*** out of a movie if she was given better material.

And there’s a nice throwback to JURASSIC PARK’s character Tim, who was a dino nerd; now it’s Ty Simpkins playing Gray. While certainly Tim was clearly more knowledgeable about dinosaurs, he was a far more annoying character than Gray. Gray is probably younger, but there’s a certain gravity that he has about him; a youthful strength that he plays so well that doesn’t feel like he’s needy or frustratingly helpless.

And yes, Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus are incredible comic relief.

***SPOILERS***

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For anyone who wants me to dish out my thoughts on the Indominus Rex duking it out with the T-Rex, don’t kid yourself. It’s beyond f*****g awesome. Oh my god, to see these titans chomping down on each other and f*****g each other up, oh my god oh my god oh my god, so much SQUEE, and then the velociraptor enters the fight, overload of badassery, my brain can’t take much more of this, f***, three-way fight! T-Rex and velociraptor versus Indominus Rex, holy mother of shit! And then the Indominus Rex gets it by getting eaten by the mosasaurus. In case you can’t tell, it was f*****g awesome. I mean, clearly it’s fan service since the T-Rex is clearly the fan favorite of the franchise and needed a win after getting straight murdered in the third movie by the less popular Spinosaurus. Still, the only real downside to the fight is that the Indominus Rex is killed rather anticlimactically; not by the T-Rex, but rather randomly by the mosasaurus.

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***END SPOILERS***

While this movie has glaring, even frustrating problems, there is more than enough awe-inspiring visuals, badassery, and fan service to more than make up for it. It may not have the brain of JURASSIC PARK, but it plants its feet as the second best Jurassic Park movie, which I think is something any fan of the franchise can walk away happy with.

4/5

PS: If you recall the scene where the pterodactyls are attacking the tourists, you probably remember seeing a guy fleeing from the dinosaurs with a pair of margaritas. You wanna know who that is? Famed singer Jimmy Buffett! No joke, look it up online! It’s really, hilariously, him!

jurassic-world-poster-dino-chris-pratt

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS review

Well this looks like a visual spectacle. Sci-fi is a wonderful way to guarantee my ass in a seat, but heavy CGI epics like this looks like… well, let’s just say the taste of JUPITER ASCENDING (2015) hasn’t completely washed out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty easy to please. I love CGI and this film looks gorgeous, but it runs a dangerous gamble of making the effects the star, rather than the actors and story. Won’t matter much to me so long as it’s fun and exciting.

Well, a little history before I get to my initial impressions to set some records straight before, God forbid, another overly sanctimonious nerd gets mad at me. As some of you may know, I’m a casual gamer, and one of my favorite video game franchises is BioWare’s Mass Effect games. Been a fan of them since its initial release in 2008 on the Xbox 360. So when this movie was announced, my first thought was that this movie was ripping off Mass Effect because the armor design for the main characters was incredibly similar to Mass Effect’s armor design for its main character. Turns out, it’s the other way around. This movie is actually based on a French comic book series called Valérian and Laureline, originally published in 1967 and ran for several decades. To the best of my knowledge, they have stopped getting made, but it’s pretty inconsistent when they stopped. Some time in the 2010s, I think. The comic company that made the comics went bankrupt. In any case, these comics have been influential in many sci-fi films, including Star Wars and Luc Besson’s THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997), and by extension, heavily influenced Mass Effect. I had it backwards. So now anyone who thought the same as me, now you know too. Although, question mark, why did the filmmakers change the title to just “Valerian” instead of “Valerian and Loreline”? I understand it would have made the title longer, but long titles aren’t new to movie-goers. LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003), DOCTOR STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964)? Just saying, throwing in “and Loreline” wouldn’t throw audiences off too much.

So what’s this story about? Actually, the story presented in the trailer is pretty vague. It just seems like it’s about a couple of space-faring… mercenaries? They go around a giant city with a thousand different cultures that’s about to be threatened by a mysterious dark force. I don’t know, but it looks pretty to look at.

Well, here’s the cast.  The starring duo are Dane Dehaan (THE CURE FOR WELLNESS [2017], THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 [2014], and CHRONICLE [2012]) and Cara Delevingne (SUICIDE SQUAD [2016], PAPER TOWNS [2015], and ANNA KARENINA [2012]). In support, we have Clive Owen (KILLER ELITE [2011], SHOOT ‘EM UP [2007], and CHILDREN OF MEN [2006]), Rihanna (HOME [2015], THIS IS THE END [2013], and BATTLESHIP [2012]), Ethan Hawke (MAUDIE [2017], THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN [2016], BOYHOOD [2014]), Rutger Hauer (THE RITE [2011], HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN [2011], and BATMAN BEGINS [2005]), and director-going-actor this time around, Louis Leterrier (CLASH OF THE TITANS [2010]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have famed French filmmaker Luc Besson, known for LUCY (2015), THE FIFTH ELEMENT, and LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL (1994). Composing the score is Alexandre Desplat, known for THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS (2016), THE DANISH GIRL (2015), THE QUEEN (2006), and the upcoming Guillermo del Toro flick, THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Thierry Arbogast, known for LUCY, FEMME FATALE (2002), and THE MESSENGER: THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC (1999).

Overall, this will certainly be a hit or miss. My guess, I’ll like it enough for it’s special effects and cinematography. Can’t speak for the story, so I should probably keep my expectations moderate on that front.

This is my honest opinion of: VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

(SUMMARY)

Valerian (Dane Dehaan), a cocky and arrogant space soldier, and his partner, the more professional Loreline (Cara Delevingne), his romance interest, are sent on a mission to bring back an alien creature to be the last of its kind, which is being hunted by factions all across space.

(REVIEW)

As feared, it’s this year’s JUPITER ASCENDING. And I had such high hopes, man.

The first and foremost thing that I have to say… this movie is BORING!!! Holy shit is it boring! This movie is two hours and fifteen minutes long, but its plot never takes off until the final twenty minutes. But I’m jumping ahead of myself a bit. It starts off promising enough. Some gorgeous visuals, which is all that saves this movie, impressive CGI, and an ominous tone by the end of the sequence. In fact, there’s a really neat idea in the prologue where the human race has created this space station that houses all the many cultures of the planet. Then aliens come along and the station is constantly expanded as more aliens join in until the station is so big that it has voyage into deep space. I thought that was really cool, making the subtitle, “City of a Thousand Planets” make much more sense.

But then the first red flags crop up.

We’re introduced to our titular character, Valerian. He’s supposed to be the Han Solo of the movie. He’s arrogant, yet suave and charming with a hint of self-absorption. Except that’s not what he is. He’s arrogant, oh yeah, but he lacks any semblance of legit charm and he’s completely self-absorbed, making him a character that I just couldn’t care about. Like, at all. Throughout the film. I get what they were trying to do with him. He’s supposed to be a womanizer who decides that Loreline is going to be who he decides to commit to. Thing is, this is horribly told to us via clumsy exposition. From the beginning of his character’s introduction to the end of the movie, you would never guess that he was a skirt-chaser. So why is this detail so necessary? To narrate that he has commitment issues? That’s already demolished early on because he proposes to her and commits to his suggestion throughout the movie without ever being tempted to be with another woman. And Bubble (Rihanna) doesn’t count. He never truly has a character arch that even gets you to empathize with him. This is obviously no fault on Dehaan’s part. He’s a fine enough actor who gets all the emotions down to a tee, but the way his character is written… it would have been merciful if he died in this movie.

Then the “plot” gets underway and Valerian and Loreline, who are space soldiers of sorts, and have to retrieve something that their higher-ups want. Again, the visuals are breath-taking. We’re introduced to what looks like a hilariously empty desert, but then the extras are given some goofy goggles and then we see an enormous holographic marketplace city. The movie cleverly shows that even though the city is holographic in the point of view from the tourists, we’re shown that the city Alpha, the space station that I mentioned earlier, is the real location and the tourists are holograms on the station. It’s actually really damn cool how that set-up is. In fact, one of the better aspects of this movie is how creative the technology can be. You have these boxes that act like little worm holes where if you stick your hand in them, your hands appear in the real location where your holographic image is. It’s beyond awesome.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long as the tech soon dives into the realm of fantasy. What do I mean? There seems to be a piece of tech for any given situation in this movie and even the established tech gets utterly confusing. Remember the goggles that make you a hologram in the marketplace? There’s a chase scene with Valerian and he gets shot at with these sticky and heavy balls on his arms that are supposed to weigh him down. In order to escape, he slams the bunched up orbs on a… sewer manhole, I think and… falls several dozen stories down… as a holographic image where he’s grunting as he’s falling through floor after floor. Um… so many questions! First off, fine, he could be grunting because his arms are getting yanked as he’s falling, but how are his arms still attached?! For someone falling several stories at the velocity he’s going, you’d think his arms would get ripped off of their sockets before long. There’s another bit where a holographic goon has his guns out in the real location, ready to shoot someone. But there’s this vicious alien dog that somehow manages to tackle the man down despite that he’s a holographic image, even though it would make more sense for it to attack the man’s hands. Also, both Valerian and Loreline have this armor, right? It’s all over the advertising and trailers. There’s a bit where the armor is basically superpowered and Valerian can run through solid steel walls at double the speed of a normal human. Thing is, Loreline gets kidnapped later on and she’s locked in a wooden basket. Um… hello?! Super suit! Use it! Or is wood the supersuits weakness?! Freakin’ blow me!

There’s a lot of that in this movie too. Both characters find themselves in situations where they need each other’s help, but those situations are either anti-climactic, or unbelievably senseless. Like when Loreline get captured, her capture is a dim-witted alien that looks like it could put up a fight on par with a kitten. So why isn’t she just blazing through the guy and taking her payload to where it needs to go? If Valerian can single-handedly fight a legion of those things, Loreline should easily be able to fight against a fraction of those numbers. It’s total crap.

And like I said, the plot makes no sense. The two are supposed to be protecting this one-of-a-kind creature that makes valuable minerals and there’s a shit ton of people who want it, including their superiors. The problem is that neither character is on a journey to figure out who wants it for what reason, but rather just going from point A to point B just to either recover the creature from someone else’s clutches, or to keep it away from everyone. At no point does the story truly further itself along, which is where the “Jupiter Ascending” effect comes in: the effects and visuals are the stars, not the actors or the story, as previously mentioned.

So with all that being said, is there anything worth complimenting? Well, I’ve mentioned the visuals plenty of times, so that goes without saying. Also, Besson is a great director, so when an action sequence is happening, you do get to see the action as opposed to a Michael Bay film where there’s way too much shaky cam and you can’t make out what’s going on, so his vision is always appreciated. And as for the characters, Loreline is a much better written character as opposed to Valerian. She and him never truly hook up by the end of the movie. Their feelings are always addressed, even in inappropriate moments, but she’s at least grounded enough to tell him off when he’s not being professional and has a much better sense of right and wrong than Valerian does, making her much more likable. It’s just a shame that she’s relegated to being a dame in distress one too many times.

Overall, I can’t say this is a good movie. By any stretch. But there’s enough visuals for me to say that it is worth the time of day to ogle over, but that’s not enough to make a good story, which is the crux of any movie worth a damn. And because this movie is impossible to connect with, it’s ultimately boring, which is so disappointing for how interesting it looks. I may not recommend it for anyone expecting the next Star Wars, and I certainly don’t recommend it at the theaters. It might be worth a rental though. Just be ready to kill off two hours and fifteen minutes out of your day. So viewer beware.

My honest rating for VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS: a weak 3/5

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THE MUMMY review

This is the start of the Dark Universe!

For those of you not in the know, Universal recently decided that they wanted to do their own Avengers/Justice League type cross-over deal, with the Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Invisible Man, all those classic horror stories eventually coming together for… whatever reason gets asses in seats. In 2014, back when this plan was made public, the movie DRACULA UNTOLD was supposedly the start of this upcoming franchise. But I guess Universal scrapped that idea and decided to make this the start of it all.

Upon first glance at this movie, I doubt it’s going to be very good, but it looks fairly entertaining enough. I question how exactly the protagonist simply stumbles upon a sinkhole and happens to find the tomb that holds the titular mummy. Other than that, it’ll probably be a dumb but fun movie. I do enjoy some of the cast though.

Speaking of which. Starring, we have Tom Cruise (JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK [2016], MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION [2015], ROCK OF AGES [2012], and upcoming films M:I 6 – MISSION IMPOSSIBLE [2018] and TOP GUN: MAVERICK, due out… who knows when) and one of my new favorite actresses, Sofia Boutella (STAR TREK BEYOND [2016], KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE [2014], and the upcoming ATOMIC BLONDE). In support, we have Russell Crowe (THE NICE GUYS [2016], THE WATER DIVINER [2015], and MAN OF STEEL [2013]), Annabelle Wallis (KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD [2017], THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY [2016], and ANNABELLE [2014]), Jake Johnson (SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE [2017], JURASSIC WORLD [2015], and TV show NEW GIRL), and Courtney B. Vance (OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY [2016], TERMINATOR GENISYS [2015], and TV show AMERICAN CRIME STORY).

Now for the crew. Directing is Alex Kurtzman, known for PEOPLE LIKE US (2012). He’s usually a producer who will also be producing some of the future Dark Universe films. Red flag alert: three writers! Suddenly, I’m concerned. Co-writing the script are David Koepp (INFERNO [2016], WAR OF THE WORLDS [2005], SPIDER-MAN [2002], and upcoming films BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN [2019] and the as-of-yet-titled Indiana Jones movie [2020]), Christopher McQuarrie (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION, JACK REACHER [2012], THE USUAL SUSPECTS [1995], and the upcoming M:I 6 – MISSION IMPOSSIBLE), and Dylan Kussman, who is known for stuff that I’ve never heard of. Three writers… not usually a good sign. Composing the score is Brian Tyler, known for THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (2017), THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (2016), and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015). Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Seresin, known for WORLD WAR Z (2013), PAIN & GAIN (2013), and TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (2009).

Overall, I’m not overly excited for this. Early ratings and reviews seem to paint it negatively. I can’t pretend to be surprised, but it’s Cruise. I can’t imagine this movie being boring. So… I go in with high hopes of entertainment, not the next DARK KNIGHT (2008).

This is my honest opinion of: THE MUMMY

(SUMMARY)

Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) was destined for the Egyptian throne. But when her father had a son, she killed her family, relying on magic from the God of Death, Set. Eventually set on releasing the god into the mortal world, she was stopped by her people and imprisoned in a tomb far from Egypt for eternity. In the present day, she is unearthed by a soldier of fortune named Nick (Tom Cruise) and unwittingly releases Ahmanet onto the world and must stop her from taking back what she thinks belongs to her.

(REVIEW)

Yeesh, and we thought the DC movies were in trouble. The movie isn’t very good. In fact, it’s so not good that I agree with the critics that this might rightfully stop this “Dark Universe” from taking off. Yeah, it’s that bad. It’s by no means the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but this franchise shouldn’t happen if more effort isn’t put into them. Not to mention these classic monsters that have rooted themselves so deeply in pop culture for generations deserve so much better than what this movie presents.

Eh, it’s probably best to start with the few things that I do enjoy about the movie. First off, I will never not like the double irises in the eyes. I love that look and even if this movie franchise dies, I hope that look lives on in something better. And while we’re on the subject of double-iris eyes, I really like Sofia Boutella. She is quickly making a name for herself as “the woman in make-up.” If she doesn’t have prosthetic apendages, then she’s completely undercover in some fantastic make-up, making a unanimously popular role in STAR TREK BEYOND. Now, cue that same chick in a role that, on paper, should be a match made in god damn Heaven. The original mummy was a role made famous because of the ground-breaking make-up. Her casting makes a great deal of sense. Even though the make-up is… underwhelming and nearly half the time her mummy character is CG, Boutella still makes it look good and her acting does come through.

In fact, the acting isn’t really the problem… er… except for Russell Crowe, but we’ll get to him in a little while. Cruise has a surprisingly refreshing role that is completely different from what he usually plays. In nearly every action movie, he’s confident, calculating, a tried and true bad-ass with or without a weapon. In this movie, he’s… kind of incompetent. There’s this scene in the beginning where he’s gotten himself and his partner, Chris (Jake Johnson) in a fire-fight with some insurgents and they’re cornered on a roof being shot at on all sides. Chris is panicking and Nick is shouting, “Just let me think!” After a beat or two, Nick cries out, “We’re gonna die!” It’s… surprisingly funny to see him so hopeless. Whereas Jack Reacher, or Ethan Hunt would have had a plan B through Z three times over, this character is kind of idiotic. He spends most of the movie freaking out and being confused, and gets his ass hilariously kicked by Ahmanet later on. As a result, I kind of love it. I don’t think I want to see it again, but as a first off, it was probably more entertaining than it should have been.

Beyond the actors, I do admit to enjoying the twitchy zombies that Ahmanet creates when she sucks the life-force from her victims. I don’t like that they’re CG most of the time, but it’s a fun and even creepy visual. The swarm of crows taking down that plane was also a really fun scene to watch. I don’t know, death by beaks is always a bit of twitch for me. And there’s a scene where Ahmanet hunts down Nick and shatters the glass around her, converting it back into sand, and then we get the iconic and popular sand-face effect.

So… some fun visuals, a refreshing abnormal character for Cruise, and Boutella being the best part of the movie, as seems to be a pattern with her, but… the good qualities come to a dead stop. And I don’t mean a slow petite screeching halt, I mean hit-a-titanium-wall-at-top-speed dead stop.

The first red flag is right before the movie even starts. You know how both Marvel and DC are creating a cinematic universe involving crossovers with the most popular superheroes from their respective comics? You know they’re affectionately called The Marvel Cinematic Universe and The DC Extended Universe? Well… when did any of these movies openly say that in the movies? The correct answer is that they don’t. You know why? They don’t need to be that confident. Well, guess what this movie does? It flashes it’s traditional “Universal” across the planet, but then completely circles around, and in the same shot, a new logo circles Earth and we see “Dark Universe.”

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What?

Does this movie honestly think that audiences wouldn’t know that? Even if they don’t, they’ll pick it up when they realize that Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde are in the movie. But really, if that was my biggest complaint about the movie, we’d be in a better spot. Sadly, this is not the case.

Nope. We get one of four movies that I saw this weekend that decide that it’s necessary to throw in a narration. I am getting really sick of these things. I know voice overs may be necessary to explain backstories that the movie wouldn’t otherwise showcase, therefore supposedly explaining certain details that would be random and or confusing without context. However, when a movie uses it just to talk over the events already played out, it’s wasted resources. In this opening, we see Ahmanet training to be a fighter and overlooking Egypt with pride, in a manner that she knows she will rule over it all one day. But then the infant prince is born and Ahmanet begins to worship the evil god and goes on a familial killing spree. Then she aims to sacrifice her “chosen” to the evil god and possess him so that he can enter the mortal world. Everything that I just said, it’s all visual and pretty easy to understand. The narration explaining everything that we see is completely unnecessary.

As much as I like Johnson as an actor, he can be really funny even if the movie isn’t, but he is some seriously pointless talent in this movie. His character, Chris, is annoying as hell. At first, it just seems like he’s playing the hysterical cowardly type who has no sense of adventure. It’s been done, but some of his humor comes through okay. And to be fair, when he gets into a fire-fight, he does look natural holding an assault rifle. But once that bit is over, all he does is whine and complain. The worst is when he, Nick, and Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) have already entered Ahmanet’s tomb and they’ve just been attacked by a swarm of camel spiders, leading to Chris getting bit. He starts firing his rifle wildly, already a dumb-ass move because, you know, ricocheting is a thing, and starts freaking out begging to leave. I don’t know, man, if you’re a grown-ass adult and you don’t want to be somewhere, then don’t be there. It really shouldn’t be that hard.

As this happens early on in the movie, so I don’t consider it a spoiler, but Chris dies not long after. That bug bite allowed Ahmanet to possess him and he kills a dude, and then Nick shoots him dead. But his appearance is later relegated to being a comic relief vision in Nick’s head, who is obviously trying to entice Nick to making the choices that Ahmanet would want him to make. These appearances are about as annoying as they sound. Hell, there’s a good stretch of time when Johnson is completely dropped from the film and doesn’t come back until the final twenty-ish minutes.

If it wasn’t bad enough that we have annoying characters, we’re also exposed to characters we don’t care about. Take Wallis’ character, Jenny the archaeologist. Literally, this is her entrance: suddenly appear, slap Cruise, and spend a good five to ten minutes about awesome or not awesome the sex was, and that he stole a map from her. Where do I begin with this? It is so painfully obvious that these two characters are going to do that stupid cliché of hating each other, but the audience knows they’re going to hook up at the end, which they do. You see it coming a thousand miles away and it’s boring. She’s not an interesting character. You never care what happens to her, or the contrived relationship she has with Nick. She’s just the pretty face that Cruise gets to make out with and make him look good. Wasn’t this type of female character supposed to be killed off when SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007) ended and why we never really got another “Mary Jane” character? It’s sad that Wallis had this role because she doesn’t seem like a bad actress. To her credit, she’s not bad in the movie, but she’s got nothing to work with that would leave an impact on audiences.

Beyond the characters, there’s a lot of questionable story and directing choices. Like during that scene with the camel spiders, Nick is exposed to visions of Ahmanet, which clearly freaks him out. Yet, he says nothing to anyone about them and seems perfectly okay with being near Ahmanet’s sarcophagus. If that were me, I’d be up against the wall on the opposite side of the room until I was outside and able to run away like a bitch. You also have dumb characters that see something that any normal person would stay away from and call it in. But these characters do the “Alien” thing by sticking their faces in them to get a closer look and lo and behold, they get axed off. Bleh. And while Ahmanet is quick to dispatch nameless extras, she takes her time killing Jenny when she has the chance because… pudding. I don’t know, but it’s as good as any other explanation this trope offers.

And what’s with the Jekyll and Hyde stuff? Okay, in some ways, this makes sense. I mean, it’s a crossover universe with these classic monsters coming together. Jekyll is this universe’s Nick Fury, which is fine. He illustrates the scale and points the direction in which these movies will go. When it’s just Jekyll, it’s fine. But when he turns into Hyde, it’s literally just fan service. Can’t have Jekyll without Hyde, right? You can, but this movie disagrees with me, especially since his story isn’t the focus. But in addition to that, isn’t Hyde supposed to be a hideous creature? I’ve not been liking these incarnations of Hyde in recent media, like this movie and TV show ONCE UPON A TIME. In every iteration of the character I’ve seen, he’s a violent monster and such. Almost inhuman in appearance. But these movies depict the character as a charismatic and pompous dick who is more or less attractive… or in Crowe’s case, no deviation in look other than a couple warts. Shouldn’t Hyde be a complete transformation in appearance? Even ONCE UPON A TIME got that down.

Overall, it’s not a good film. The story is cut-and-paste, most of the characters range from meh to annoying, it’s littered with senseless sequences and choices, and marinated in tropes. Having said all that, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few things that I enjoyed about it. Cruise is a humorously incompetent fighter, and of course, Boutella steals the damn show for me. None of that really makes it a recommendation, however, so I’d say you could skip it. It’s not something that you should run away from, but it’s a rental at best. Even then, that’s a pretty weak suggestion. See it if you want to see Boutella as a homicidal mummy who kicks Cruise’s ass, but don’t expect a good movie between those scenes.

My honest rating for THE MUMMY: a weak 3/5

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