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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Quick Netflix review: MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011)

Starring: Owen Wilson (CARS 3 [2017], ZOOLANDER 2 [2016], ANACONDA [1997], and SHANGHAI DAWN, no release date announced), Marion Cotillard (ASSASSIN’S CREED [2016], THE DARK KNIGHT RISES [2012], and INCEPTION [2010]), and Rachel McAdams (DOCTOR STRANGE [2016], MORNING GLORY [2010], THE NOTEBOOK [2004], and the upcoming SHERLOCK HOLMES 3, no release date announced).

In support: Corey Stoll (GOLD [2017], CAFÉ SOCIETY [2016], ANT-MAN [2015], and the upcoming FIRST MAN [2018]), Kathy Bates (BAD SANTA 2 [2016], TITANIC [1997], and TV show AMERICAN HORROR STORY), Michael Sheen (NORMAN [2017], PASSENGERS [2016], UNDERWORLD [2003], and the upcoming BRAD’S STATUS [2017]), Tom Hiddleston (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], I SAW THE LIGHT [2016], THOR [2011], and upcoming Marvel films THOR: RAGNAROK [2017] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), and Léa Seydoux (THE LOBSTER [2016], 007 SPECTRE [2015], and BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR [2013]).

Writer/Director: Woody Allen (CAFÉ SOCIETY, IRRATIONAL MAN [2015], MIGHTY APHRODITE [1995], and the upcoming WONDER WHEEL [2017]). This film does not have a composer. Cinematographer: Darius Khondji (THE LOST CITY OF Z [2017], THE IMMIGRANT [2013], and THE RUINS [2008]).

(SUMMARY)

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is on vacation in Paris, trying to find inspiration to complete the novel he’s writing. Though inspiration is slow, he’s quickly fallen in love with Paris and is even considering to move there. His feelings are not shared by his prickly fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams), and the two butt heads constantly. One night, strolling through the streets of Paris, he ends up lost, but the most bizarre thing happens to him at midnight. He’s picked up by an old fashioned car and somehow finds himself in the 1920’s, meeting all of his historical icons, like Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), and even finds possible romance with the beautiful Adriana (Marion Cotillard), a mistress of Picasso.

(REVIEW)

I was surprised by how much I fell in love with this movie.

On top of being Wilson’s best performance I’ve ever seen in his library, it’s a truly gorgeous film just to look at, making the cinematography just as much the star as the actual characters the story follows. Already I love fantasy films and have a soft spot for rom-coms, and it’s not very often that the two are combined and leave this kind of an impact. While I can’t attest to the accuracy of the film using these historical people in Paris at the exact same time, but I doubt I’m supposed to take all this very literal. It’s a fantasy film after all and more of an appreciation of times long gone and a story that challenges a man to assess his relationship and what he wants for himself. At least, that’s what I got out of it. All I can tell you is that I got sucked into the style, the music, the aesthetics of it all, as well as the phenomenal chemistry between the actors, the comedy, and the romance. It’s a gorgeous film to be sure and I’m sad it took me this long to see it.

My honest rating for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS: 5/5

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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

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A GHOST STORY review

Herm… usually I’m a little more open to an artsy-fartsy movie, and I’m open to a movie with Rooney Mara, but… very recently, I saw an artsy-fartsy movie with Mara called SONG TO SONG (2017) and that downright broke my brain. The notion of another one? Merr…

Well, to be fair, this does look like it’s got something to say and might be worth hearing. It looks like it’s a story about a woman who loses her… husband? Boyfriend? I don’t know, but a ghost, presumably his, clad in white bed sheet with cut-out eye holes a la Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin style and starts following her around. This movie is either going to be deep as hell, or it’s going to be beyond silly. I’m on the fence as to whether this will be good or not. Hell, it might just be boring.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Rooney Mara (LION [2016], CAROL [2015], and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO [2011]), Casey Affleck (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA [2016], INTERSTELLAR [2014], and GONE BABY GONE [2007]), and Ke$ha (JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS [2015]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is David Lowery, known for PETE’S DRAGON (2016) and the upcoming Disney live-action remake PETER PAN (2018). Composing the score is Daniel Hart, known for PETE’S DRAGON and TV show THE EXORCIST. Finally, the cinematographer is Andrew Droz Palermo, known for documentaries and short films.

Overall, not super excited or anything, but I do have a passing interest to see if the reviews are worth listening to.

This is my honest opinion of: A GHOST STORY

(SUMMARY)

The story follows a loving couple, simply named referred to as M (Rooney Mara), and C (Casey Affleck). Unfortunately, C tragically dies in a car collision, but returns as a bed-sheet wearing ghost that can’t be seen. He returns to his home and watches M run through her grief and eventually moves on. C stays at his home over the course of countless years as different occupants take up his house.

(REVIEW)

Nope, couldn’t get into this one. It’s boring, pretentious, and… rather unpleasant. This movie is getting some solid critical buzz, but I wholly disagree.

The pretentious thing rears its ugly head really early on. C and M are snuggled up on a couch and they start talking about… who cares, and somehow, she starts talking about how in her old home, she used to write little messages on some paper and hid them in the walls, so there’s a little piece of her still there and to remind her of a memory or some shit. You see the issue here? Who does this?! For a movie that’s supposed be “lovely, mysterious, and cosmic” this is a pretty out there thing for someone to do. But more than just the weird motivations and character logic, the first quarter of this movie has a fetish for needlessly long takes of something that rivals J.J. Abrams’ fetish for lens flares. Literally, there’s a solid forty seconds of just watching Mara and Affleck in bed, sleeping. There’s another one stretch of maybe two minutes that feels like ten of Mara just eating pie. I shit you not. She’s on the floor, eating pie, for two minutes. Nothing else. It’s really freakin’ awkward. I get it, it’s supposed to be that grieving silence and possibly stress-eating. The woman is dealing with her boyfriend’s death. Of course this would send anyone spiraling into a depressive state. But to be this hyper-realistic about it? Instead of feeling sorry for M, all I could think about was, “I really want a McDonalds cherry pie right now.”

And once Affleck becomes a ghost, it’s not much of an improvement. As I feared, the Charlie Brown bedsheet ghost is way too silly and distracting. Whatever “heightened awareness” this movie was trying to get across died in stillbirth when all I could think about is, “I got a rock.” I won’t write off everything though. As silly as this ghost looks, I give credit that the emotions surprisingly shine through. The slow movements and subtle turns of the head, the framing and lighting, it’s surprisingly effective in knowing just how the ghost feels when it’s sad to see M leave, or when it’s angry when a new family moves in. And I do admire how we never see flesh ever again while Affleck is in the sheet. You don’t see blinking eyes in the eye holes, you don’t see a hand or a foot ever against from it. It’s completely draped in the blanket and all of its interactions with everything around it are through the blanket. It’s a nice little detail to be sure. But this appreciation is only in short bursts because, remember this movie’s fetish for long takes of mundane shit? Yeah, the ghost is creepy as all hell when it’s just staring at something. In some shots, the emotions come through fine, but when they’re not, it’s borderline stalkery.

There’s even a little unintentional hilarity. Like, the ghost looks out his window and sees another bedsheet ghost and we’re made privy to how they talk… via generic hand gestures with subtitles. They will literally raise a hand in a “hi” gesture, and the movie couldn’t resist giving a subtitle to it. We obviously know what a hand wave means! The funny thing is, the rest of their “communication,” if you can call it that, is them standing still staring at each other with subtitles across the screen as if their conversation is so thrilling and deep.

But the worst part of this movie is toward the final forty to thirty minutes. There’s a character that goes on this long-ass depressing tangent about how no matter how hard someone may try to preserve their legacy, no matter how far the legacy reaches into the vastness of space, it will all be for nothing because eventually the universe will implode on itself, making their efforts mean absolutely nothing in grand scheme of the cosmos. Fine, call me a closet optimist, but I deal with my own level of depression and I really didn’t need this movie to feed into that bullshit. Oh, I’m sure that ending is supposed to be symbolic of being content with being forgotten, but fuck this movie for giving me that sense of dread with no emotional reassurance. Make a movie all you want to showcase the “enormity of time” but leave the dark and fear-of-life-inducing speeches in your own psyche, please.

Overall, if you got something artistic and beautiful from this, good on you, but this movie made me want to curl up in bed and shiver out of petrified horror. Already, I have an agonizing fear toward death, but I wasn’t expecting this movie to dive into such a dark and depressing angle. Maybe I missed the point entirely. I might believe that, to be honest. But then that proves that this movie is tailored for a specific mindset and I guess I just didn’t have that. Unless you’re a die-hard fan of artsy-fartsy films, I’d say you’re not missing anything. Even if you got the poetry it was trying to get across, it doesn’t change the awkward long takes, the head-bashing boredom, and silliness of the ghost itself.

My honest rating for A GHOST STORY: 1/5

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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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WONDER WOMAN review

Oh man is there a lot to say about this.

So, as many of you know, I’m not much of a comic book reader. So I can’t say I know anything comic-related about Wonder Woman. I’ve never even seen the 70’s TV show of the character. I grew up watching the animated TV shows JUSTICE LEAGUE and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED. That was the extent of my knowledge. I was also a fan of the animated movie that came out, WONDER WOMAN (2009) and even owned the DVD. What can I say, Nathan Fillion is a favorite of mine.

But as anyone can tell you, a live-action movie has been in production hell for years. Again, for those of you that don’t know, Wonder Woman was about to get the big screen treatment with now geek-god Joss Whedon at the helm. A list as long as travel time on the 405 freeway of who would play the character was being considered, but the project was ultimately killed off. Whedon would obviously go on to do great work with Marvel, but keep in mind, this was around the year 2007! Maybe even earlier than that! Holy crap, it looked like we’d never see this superhero brought to life outside of animation. Hell, Hollywood tried to get yet another live-action TV show of Wonder Woman off the ground back in 2011 starring Adrianne Palicki and Elizabeth Hurley, but that was so critically thrashed that not even one episode was ever aired.

But thanks in large part to the success of MAN OF STEEL (2013), Warner Bros. and DC comics were ready to ride the waves that THE AVENGERS (2012) started and wanted to get their own cinematic universe created, culminating into a Justice League film. Despite BATMAN V SUPERMAN’s (2016) financial success, it was horribly beaten down by fans, and it was around this time that DC would get a huge overhaul in their infrastructure and a new team of creators would be carrying this franchise forward. Though that would mean little to BATMAN V SUPERMAN’s messy and senseless story and wasted potential, many couldn’t deny that Wonder Woman’s brief appearance was arguably the saving grace of the film, and I am totally in agreement.

Fast-forward past SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), and it’s mixed popularity, we are given a kind of last hope for this series of films and I have to say, much like the rest of the movies that came before, I am pretty excited for this, and early reviews and ratings sure have me riding on high hopes. I want this to be good guys. I want to love this movie. I really do.

Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring as the bad-ass Amazonian warrior princess is Gal Gadot (KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES [2016], FAST & FURIOUS 6 [2013], DATE NIGHT [2010], and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017]). Although I can’t say I’m her biggest fan, in that I’ve only seen so much of her work and she’s barely had a starring role to really showcase her talent, I am perfectly fine with her as Wonder Woman. No, her résumé isn’t spotless of bad movies, but she’s not usually the reason why. I look forward to seeing her performance here and 100 percent support her. At her side is the ever amazing and charming, Chris Pine (STAR TREK BEYOND [2016], JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT [2014], and THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: ROYAL ENGAGEMENT [2004]). What can I say about the man? He’s funny. He’s awesome. He can perfectly play comedy and drama. I love his work… moving on. In support, we have Connie Nielsen (3 DAYS TO KILL [2014], GLADIATOR [2000], TV show THE FOLLOWING, and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE), Robin Wright (EVEREST [2015], UNBREAKABLE [2000], TV show HOUSE OF CARDS, and the upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017]), Danny Huston (BIG EYES [2014], animated film JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX [2013], and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE [2009]), David Thewlis (ANOMALISA [2015], HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN [2004], and TV show FARGO), and Ewen Bremner (T2 TRAINSPOTTING [2017], AVP: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR [2004], and TRAINSPOTTING [1996]).

Now for the crew. Directing is Patty Jenkins, known for MONSTER (2003). Penning the screenplay is Allan Heinberg, known for TV shows: seven episodes of GREY’S ANATOMY, eight episodes of THE O.C., and four episodes of SEX AND THE CITY. Composing the score is Rupert Gregson-Williams, known for HACKSAW RIDGE (2016), BEE MOVIE (2007), and HOTEL RWANDA (2004). Finally, the cinematographer is Matthew Jensen, known for FANT4STIC (2015), CHRONICLE (2012), and eleven episodes of TV show TRUE BLOOD.

Overall, STOKED! I needn’t say more.

This is my honest opinion of: WONDER WOMAN

(SUMMARY)

Diana (Gal Gadot) is the Princess of the hidden island paradise of Themyscira, raised around an all-female elite class of warriors, trained by the greatest of their warriors to be the best in the off chance that their greatest adversary, Ares, the God of War, should ever return. However, everything changes when a mysterious aircraft crashes into Themyscira’s ocean, carrying an American spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), pursued by German forces. Despite victory against them, Steve is taken prisoner and reveals that he’s fighting in a war, a great war supposedly to end all wars. While Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) believes it’s simply the natural chaos that men bring, Diana believes that it’s Ares influencing the war. Taking weapons and armor, she takes Steve back to his war as long as he promises to take her to where the war is at its most intense.

(REVIEW)

YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAH!!! About damn time, DC!

Yes, folks, this is an awesome movie. A legitimately good film. I’m not just saying that because I’m lying to myself. No, I really do think this is one that shouldn’t be missed.

Right off the bat, the movie does a great job of world-building the Amazon world. Themyscira is a beautifully designed island and really does feel like a paradise. The gorgeous scenery alone almost feels like a character in itself, thanks in no small part to the wonderful cinematography. But more than that, once they introduce the Amazon warriors, you’re immediately enthralled by them. These women are pure bad-asses and in no more than two minutes, you know you’d never want to get on their bad sides. A detail that I found particularly remarkable in this brief introduction is just how good the extras look. No, I’m not talking aesthetic beauty, I’m talking about how these extras actually look like they’re having intense sparring matches. You know how in almost every great sword-fighting movie that it’s always intense thanks to great stunt-work and choreography? It looks like that’s what’s happening with these extras. Each sparring match looks intense and probably took a great deal of time to perfect and look great on screen. So believe me when I tell you when I look at an eight-year-old Diana (Lilly Aspell) looking at the warriors in awe, trying to mimic their fighting techniques, I’m right there with her, and I’m a twenty-eight-year-old grown-ass man… er, mostly grown-ass. Bottom-line, this intro is awesome.

But it’s not just pure, unrelenting action with no character. Quite the contrary, every character is simple, but easy to identify. Young Diana wants to train just like the rest of her Amazonian sisters, but her mother won’t allow it, believing that no threat will come their way in their lifetime… however long that is. Yeah, it’s never made clear if these women are immortals or just have really long life-spans, but whatever! No one cares! But of course, Hippolyta knows that her daughter has a strong will and eventually concedes that if she must be trained, then she must be trained to be better than the greatest of their warriors. And who better to train her just for that than their greatest warrior, Antiope (Robin Wright). I feel like in a lesser script, they could have easily made Antiope a reluctant teacher, jealous of Diana’s eventual combative prowess. But maybe that’s the cynic in me because you see that she has long desired to train Diana and even trained her in secret before her mother found out, eventually caving in to both of their desires to see her become a warrior like them. Even when Diana is an adult, she’s clearly a great warrior, but still has enough to learn.

Oh, and don’t worry, these ladies aren’t just here for practice fighting either. They get their moment to shine as an army right as soon as Steve arrives. German forces find Themyscira and invade the shores in pursuit of the American. They start bungee jumping off the side of cliffs and ride in on horseback, arrows flying like a cloud of locusts, a fair number of Germans are killed. But even the Amazons aren’t invincible as a few of them get killed too, which does feel like a loss that carries weight. I mean, these are warriors through and through. To be taken down by a projectile weapon that you can’t see just like an injustice (no pun intended). But at the same time, you know that these are warriors who know the score and know that death is a possibility, so there’s even this subtle sense of pride that they’re going out doing what they do best. I do kind of wish that this sudden realization of how advanced mankind’s weaponry has grown since their last encounter with men would be more of a shock to the Amazons post-battle, but I guess that wouldn’t have kept the story in focus, so it’s probably for the best that it becomes a cliff-note to be ignored, so no brownie points lost.

Honestly, I could probably go on forever talking about everything on Themyscira. But there’s a ton more to talk about and it’s also worth geeking out over.

How about the lady of the hour… or the, two and a half hours? Gadot is phenomenal as Wonder Woman. Despite never having read the comics, it’s pretty clear that if you’re going to make a Wonder Woman movie, she needs to stand for justice, strength, independence, compassion, and probably a myriad of other adjectives and adverbs that I don’t know about. Well, I would say this movie did all of that justice. She understands that this war has taken lives of noncombatants and wants to be a part of ending it. But when she gets up close and personal to the carnage, both outside and inside of the fighting, she’s horrified. She spends half the movie being kept away from the direct conflict and constantly told no. So when she, Trevors, and their ragtag team arrive at the trenches, and Diana is faced with a woman who begs her for help, which would entail storming No-Man’s Land across German machinegun fire into a German-occupied town. Of course, Steve tells her that it’s impossible to cross and that no man can do it. Aside from my mind immediately turning to LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003) and realizing that bad guys are defeated by grammatically political incorrectness, Diana says, “Nuh-uh, bitch, I ain’t no man. I’m Wonder Woman. This is what I do.” I… might have paraphrased a bit. In any case, this is the scene that many will be talking about because it’s such an awesome piece of runtime. She deflects bullets with her bracers and stands her ground as an unrelenting barrage of machinegun bullets pepper her shield as the Allied forces charge behind her and they take on the German forces, pushing through and saving the nearby town. It’s the first time we see Wonder Woman in her full garb and it’s about as bad-ass as you can imagine. This piece of superheroism should be remembered big time.

But more than her bad-assery, Diana is still a person who takes time to understand the world that she’s stepped in to. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that she hesitantly accepts the way things are. I don’t think it’s quite as well done as it was in THOR (2011), as Thor simply accepts the way things people do what they do, whereas Diana can complain a little bit. Not to the point of annoyance, thankfully. Her motivations are understandable, but there is that impatience that rubs me in the wrong way. But only a little, so I don’t really dock points for that. Still, she plays along, is respectful of customs for the most part, and only challenges the norm when the need is truly understandable.

I’ve only known a couple takes on the character of Steve Trevor. There’s the World War II version from JUSTICE LEAGUE the animated TV show, and there’s Nathan Fillion’s take in the animated movie WONDER WOMAN, which took place in the present day. It’s pretty clear that Trevor’s character is always a cocky and joking kind of guy, but still fiercely committed to his causes and beliefs with an unshakable conviction. If I were to hazard a guess, he’s basically the DC equivalent to Captain America if he were a supporting character. But I have to say, this is probably the best iteration of the character that I’ve seen yet. If there was anything I disliked about the animated film’s version is that he does attempt to get Diana drunk in order to get lucky. I don’t know, every other version seemed to be a gentleman and knew better than to make neanderthal decisions like that. Granted, it was probably unintentional and he was simply too drunk to think clearly, but it’s still kind of a weird moment for the character. Pine’s Steve Trevor is more akin to the animated show’s iteration. He’s a gentleman, funny as hell, charming, and kind of a dork. I mean, it’s a character we’ve seen before and seen Pine play before, but he’s so good at it that it never gets stale. To me, it makes sense that everything he and Diana go through would create this bond that would ultimately lead to a romance. It’s not forced and it feels very organic. They don’t always agree on their respective methods, but they both want to end the war and want the senseless killings of innocents to stop.

The supporting characters are hit and miss. Bremner’s Charlie is the most standout. He’s a drunken sharpshooter who is the comedy relief, but it’s revealed that he suffers from PTSD. And even though this is obviously been done before in just about every war film to exist, Charlie is such a likable kind of fool that when you see that vulnerability in his eyes, Bremner really sells it and you empathize with him. The others get the shaft a little bit. Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) is the well-meaning flirt and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) is the Native American of the group. Beyond that, they don’t really have a discernible set of personalities that will make them all that memorable. Luckily, they’re not annoying, so you don’t hate seeing them on screen, so I let that go.

The villains are… serviceable. While I really like the design of Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) with her prosthetic left-side jaw, I have to say that they’re something of a bore. Sure, their actions are the driving force of our heroes, the bad guys making all new gases that threaten hundreds of lives, but they themselves don’t leave an impact. Although, there is this one deliciously evil scene where Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Maru meet up with some German generals or whatever, and when they disappoint him, he locks them in a room with a single gas mask and gases the entire room. Although, earlier we learned that their newest gas weapon eats through the masks. Dr. Maru exclaims, “That mask won’t help them!” But then Ludendorff says, “They don’t know that.” And then the two laugh maniacally and run away like a couple of kids that played a prank. It’s… bizarrely out of place. Neither character acted like that before this scene, nor do they ever act like that afterward. Once more, I’m letting this slide because the moment barely lasts a minute and… it was kind of funny.

As you’ve probably noticed throughout the review, I’ve mentioned some moments that I’ve let slip and don’t let myself dock any real points from the movie. I bet you think I’m just making excuses to give this movie a perfect score, aren’t ya? Well think again, you damn dirty nay-sayers!

Remorsefully, it’s not a perfect film. My itty bitty gripes are proof enough of that. But I do have some legit problems with the movie that I couldn’t let slide. They’re smaller problems, but still distracting enough to warrant a few eye-twitches. Some will remember in the trailer, there’s a scene with Diana wearing a blue dress in a gala with her sword sheathed in her back, and that bit was criticized for, “Does no one see that sword?!” Well, sadly, that scene is actually even stupider even with context. I suppose you could have made the very, very, very thin argument that she could have said that it was just a decorative piece in the shape of a sword’s hilt for fashion purposes, but… no, that thing sticks out like a sore thumb and you’re left wondering why this isn’t causing a panic. In fact, I’m pretty sure you can see another woman eyeing Diana’s dress from the back and for all intents and purposes should have seen the sword hilt. But no. They just… don’t.

***SPOILERS***

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Also, I’m pretty sure I missed what the hell those pills that Ludendorff took were for. He takes these pills that make the inside of his skin glow silver, but I’m not sure if they really did anything. Were they supposed to make him immune to the gases they were creating? If so, why did he need to leave the room full of German generals that he killed? Were they supposed to give him super strength? It barely matters in the end because when Diana meets up with him, he’s killed off pretty quickly and in an anti-climactic way. So… whatever those pills did either didn’t work, didn’t work very well, or didn’t affect anything in the long run.

But by far the ultimate sin of the movie is this. We learn that Ludendorff wasn’t Ares the whole time like Diana thought, but in a twist, we learn that Ares was actually Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) of the Imperial War Cabinet. They have an epic fight, as all climaxes need ’em in superhero movies, but what made me nearly scream at the screen was when we learn that the “God-killer” sword that Diana’s been wielding this entire time wasn’t actually the God-killer. Turns out, Diana’s heritage as a demi-god was kept from her and she’s the God-killer. Wanna know how we learn that? Because Ares doubles as the God of Dumb-asses because he tells her right her face that she’s the only one that can kill him! This is the same damn problem that I had with THE CONJURING 2 (2016). What kind of bad-guy with a weakness just tells the heroes how to kill them?! I said before in that review, so I’ll it here. A vampire isn’t going to tell you to open the blinds on a bright and sunny afternoon, a werewolf isn’t going to hand you a loaded shotgun with silver shells, the Wicked Witch isn’t going to beg for a yacht party in the middle of the ocean, and zombies won’t be wearing bulls-eyes on their foreheads while giving you advice on aiming accurately. So why is this turning into a trend?! You know if he didn’t open his gob, he would have won that fight. Or more likely and impressively, Diana would have fought him to a stalemate and he would have fled, while still keeping her demi-god status a mystery and we could have kept Ares on as a sort of nemesis for Diana in future solo films. But nope, like a dumb-shit he is, he tells her his weakness and she exploits it and kills him.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this movie is definitely a must-see for everybody. Men, women, boys, and girls. Especially girls because not only is this the first female-lead superhero film, but it’s done such great justice for the character and I feel like there’s something that everyone can cheer for. It’s got a little bit of everything. Comedy, drama, romance, war, it’s a really good film. Sure, it could have benefited from a bit of tweaking in the script, but what few problems I have with the movie, both small and big, don’t hold it back any more than a German sniper holding back Wonder Woman from toppling a roof on him. I may have only seen it once so far, but I plan on seeing it again. Highly recommended at your biggest theater with your loudest screens, wherever it may be and I can’t wait to own this on Blu-Ray when the time comes.

My honest rating for WONDER WOMAN: a strong 4/5

UPDATE (MORE SPOILERS): I am changing the rating to a 5/5. I have officially seen the movie three times in theaters now and there’s one thing that tipped this over for me. When Diana and Steve are in the boat, sailing away from Themyscira, they have this bit where they’re talking about marriage. Steve’s line goes something like, “…to love, honor, and cherish ’till death do you part.” It took me three viewings to see the immense weight his final scene really has. After he sacrifices himself, Diana eventually flashes back to the words that Steve said during her ears-ringing moment. His lines go, “I can save the day, but you can save the world! I love you!” I feel like what makes this moment so fantastic is because even though it’s not a wedding happening, he’s breaking this preconception of marriage. Here’s what I mean. What is he doing right at that moment? He’s loving, honoring, and cherishing her, and death parts them. He even goes so far as to give her his watch, a band that wraps around an appendage… kind of like a… okay, I know I’m grasping at straws here to make this scene more powerful, but that’s honestly what I’m taking away from that whole thing and it’s so well-subtly backed that I can’t help but fall in love with this movie because of it.

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PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES review

Mmph…

Alright, so like most people, I’m very familiar with the Pirates movies. When CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003) came out, this movie might as well have been a landmark of a film. It skyrocketed Johnny Depp’s popularity to a whole new generation of film-goers, catapulted Keira Knightly into stardom, reinforced Orlando Bloom’s talent as an action star, and made a movie that for all intents and purposes should have failed on arrival, yet gave us one of the most entertaining pirate films of all time, if not the most popular. It was an all around blast.

But then something terrible happened. The sequels were made. There is a clear passion that was put into the BLACK PEARL, but DEAD MAN’S CHEST (2006) and AT WORLD’S END (2007) felt like they were just cash-grabs. Because BLACK PEARL was so popular, the filmmakers decided to give us complicated plots involving politics, both in civilization and among the pirates themselves, forced plot lines, pointless scenes, even AT WORLD’S END has a baffling two and a half hour run time. Oh my god, are you serious, Disney?! You’re making movies about pirates, not the next gen GODFATHER (1972). Get off your damn high horses! Jesus! It was painfully clear that the first film was going to be the only good one we’d get. And unless the franchise was going to go back to its routes, simplified and swashbuckling, then this franchise needed a serious time-out… which was indeed the case, but… ON STRANGER TIDES (2011). Four years later, we definitely got a sequel that tried to stray away from what was familiar, but from what I understand, this was EVEN WORSE! How the hell do you do that?! I wish I could tell you what I personally thought of the movie, but truth be told… I still haven’t seen it. I think I told myself that if the reviews weren’t basically, “Back on track, Pirates is good again!” then I wasn’t going to see it in theaters. I couldn’t let my soul get crushed. Well… if I can survive THE BRONZE (2016) and THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY (2016), then I think I can survive movies that are more disappointing than straight up bad.

And now… another break was taken. This one lasted six years. Yeah, it’s been that long. So what do I think of this new one? Meh. It looks like it’ll be another Pirates film. Lame jokes, Depp acting weird as opposed to eccentric, and… to be honest, a little bit of a retread of the the first film. Jack Sparrow gets involved with a pair of young people who inadvertently get involved in his crap, one of them being the grown-up son Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann from the first three films, and someone enchanted by magic wants Jack dead for reasons better than he stole his ship, or whatever. I do admit though, zombie sharks are pretty bad-ass.

Well here we go for the on screen talent. Starring, we have Depp (FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM [2016], BLACK MASS [2015], PUBLIC ENEMIES [2009], and upcoming films FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 2 [2018] and THE INVISIBLE MAN, due out… who knows when), Javier Bardem (THE GUNMAN [2015], 007’s SKYFALL [2012], NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN [2007], and the upcoming BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN [2019]), Brenton Thwaites (GODS OF EGYPT [2016], THE GIVER [2014], and OCULUS [2013]), and Kaya Scodelario (MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS [2015], THE MAZE RUNNER [2014], SHANK [2010], and the upcoming MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE [2018]). In support, we have the ever-amazing Geoffrey Rush (GODS OF EGYPT, THE KING’S SPEECH [2010], and TV show GENIUS), Kevin McNally (THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY [2016], LEGEND [2015], and TV show DESIGNATED SURVIVOR), David Wenham (LION [2016], 300 [2005], and THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING [2003]), Orlando Bloom (THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES [2014], KINGDOM OF HEAVEN [2005], and TROY [2004]), Keira Knightley (COLLATERAL BEAUTY [2016], THE IMITATION GAME [2014], and DOMINO [2005]), and… *double take* Paul McCartney??? Oh dear God, someone find the asshole producer that’s holding his family hostage!

Now for behind the scenes. Co-directing, we have Joachim Rønning (BANDIDAS [2006]) and Espen Sandberg (BANDIDAS, and the upcoming sixth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, due out… who knows when). Penning the screenplay is Jeff Nathanson, known for TOWER HEIST (2011), RUSH HOUR 3 (2007), CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002), and upcoming films THE LION KING (2019), and the sixth Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Composing the score is Geoff Zanelli, known for MASTERMINDS (2016), MORTDECAI (2015), and THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (2012). Finally, the cinematographer is Paul Cameron, known for TOTAL RECALL (2012), DEJA VU (2006), and MAN ON FIRE (2004).

Overall, I can’t say I’m excited. Even early ratings are just a little too optimistically high for my taste. But here’s to a double rum and coke and some slim hopes that this won’t be awful.

This is my honest rating of: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

(SUMMARY)

It’s been five years since the events of ON STRANGER TIDES. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is without a proper ship and after a botched attempt to rob a bank to get back on track, he is now without a crew. Elsewhere, the young man Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who is still cursed aboard the Flying Dutchman, and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), has spent his life learning the curses and legends of the sea and believes he can lift his father’s curse using the mythical Trident of Poseidon, which is also being hunted by a young fugitive woman named Carina (Kaya Scodelario), who is wrongfully accused of being a witch, as opposed to being a woman of science. However, in Jack’s depression and desperation for alcohol, he surrenders his magical compass, which releases the hold of undead pirates, led by Spanish Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who has a vendetta against Jack. Running into Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who can lead him to Jack, the search begins to take control of the seas.

(REVIEW)

While I can’t say that I wasn’t entertained for a lot of the film, I can’t say that this movie still can’t compare to the first one.

Ehh, maybe it’s best if I start with what I enjoyed about the flick. For one thing, I do really enjoy the look of the undead. I love how they retain the form they did when they died in horrible and gruesome ways. Even the way they move, it looks like they’re moving in this real-time slow-motion. It’s really hard to describe, but its like they’re constantly underwater; like their hair and clothes wave as if they’re walking underwater. I really hope this description is enough because that’s the best I got. Give the Pirates movies some credit, they know how to design their villains and give the actors portraying them material that makes them memorable in some way. Speaking of which, I do admit to enjoying Bardem’s performance. I mean, he’s pretty one dimensional, being just a die-hard pirate hater, but he plays the role so well. You feel that burning hatred he has for all pirates, especially for Jack personally as the one pirate who bested him to the point of getting him killed, and Jack was a young and possibly an inexperienced pirate at that. I love how ruthless and heartless he is about killing any pirates around him, and you really see that discomfort when he has to spare Barbossa’s life and work with him to find Jack. Although can I just ask someone to agree with me that someone working on this movie is a big fan of the video game STAR WARS KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II: THE SITH LORDS? Salazar is surprisingly similar to Darth Sion.

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Both characters have grey skin that looks like cracked-cement. Both are cursed with immortality, and not really alive but are literally only “alive” because of sheer hatred and anger holding them together. I mean, am I wrong?!

Of course, Rush as Barbossa is always extraordinary. Seriously, this man was born to play a pirate. He’s incredible as one. Some of the side pirate characters are fun and bring a lot of energy. McNally as Gibbs is always a hoot as Jack’s first mate. I do have to admit that the cinematography is also always great and some visuals are beautiful to look at, especially in the climax. Oh, and zombie sharks? Immediate bonus ten points.

However, that’s about all the good things I can say. This movie is unfortunately laced with far too many problems, both in story and in characters.

Let’s start with everyone’s once-favorite pirate, Jack. He has not evolved past his DEAD MAN’S CHEST curse, being nothing more than forced comedy, lame jokes, and… not even entirely useful a character. Come to think of it, what does he really do in the movie? He provides a ship for the main characters to use… which anyone can steer. He more than often gets in the way or is cannon fodder for the enemies. These movies try to keep Jack relevant by making villains that want to kill him, but that’s not enough to give him drive and motivation. It’s just more exposition that I don’t think anyone truly cares about. We learn how Jack got his name “Sparrow.” Because he looked like a sparrow in the crows nest and was named: Jack the Sparrow. It’s not even that interesting a story. Truly wasted backstory. It’s clear that his days of being a competent fighter and clever improvisor are long dead and behind him, which is a shame because we look at Jack and he’s right there. But everything that we used to love about him isn’t. He’s comedy relief, a role usually delegated to a side character, but no, he’s the focus of the story and it’s aggravating.

And franchise newcomers Thwaites and Scodelario are given really bland characters to work with. Henry is pretty one-note, and a little hypocritical. He’s constantly all about, “I’m only here to free my father from his curse,” but he manages to find attraction in Carina. I’m sure this’ll be a small problem for a lot of people, but I personally can’t stand this trope in movies. Can we just have a few movies out there where the male and female leads don’t hook up in the end? I wouldn’t even really mind so much if it wasn’t so contrived too. They almost hate each other at first, insulting and belittling each other for most of the story, so when the attraction starts, I’m left wondering where the hell this came from. And as much as I enjoy Scodelario for her talent, for as few roles as I’ve seen her in, I really don’t like Carina. She never shuts up about how educated she is and how she’s a woman of science. Also, she’s that poorly written independent woman. Meaning, she’s written like she’s supposed to be resourceful and clever, but she’s always in danger and in need of saving and the constant center of whore jokes and cliché damsel in distress situations. Granted, she contributes a little more than Henry does, as she actually knows how to translate the maps that will lead our heroes to the Trident, but useful doesn’t make a great character. It just doesn’t make them pointless. And unless I missed something in the dialog, why does she care about finding the Trident? She mentions more than a few times that she’s scientifically minded and doesn’t believe in the fabled curses and legends of the sea. Her piece of the map was the last possession that was given to her from her late father, entrusting her to find it. But it makes no sense as so why she’s invested in finding it.

In fact, come to think of it, there’s quite a few things that don’t make sense. How did Salazar get cursed with his undead affliction in the first place? Why is Jack’s signature “heart’s greatest desire” compass the key to the curse? When Jack pawns the compass for a bottle of booze, how in piss-hell does Shansa (Golshifteh Farahani) acquire it so damn quickly? Don’t give me no horse-crap that she “has her ways.” What a blanket f**king statement to hide behind! And where the hell does Shansa go? She literally disappears from the movie! Yeah, she and Barbossa meet up to exchange clunky exposition of how they met and she hands him Jack’s compass, but the next and last time we see her, she’s helping the British soldiers in finding the fugitives that escaped their custody. And why does Scarfield (David Wenham), the soldier leading his troops to sea to find said fugitives, suddenly get invested in locating the Trident? By the way, completely pointless character to have around considering the next time we see him and his troops is when they spend two minutes on screen just to die. I’d say that’s a spoiler, but that would imply that there were important characters with important roles in the story, both of which are not present when explaining these characters. And the hell was up with that bank heist scene in the beginning? The safe weighs a ton and a carriage pulled by less than ten horses has managed to not only drag this safe across town for a good ten to fifteen minutes, but the ENTIRE BUILDING ALONG WITH IT?!?!?!? Are you f**king kidding me?! I don’t remember how many horses were pulling that carriage, but it wouldn’t matter if twenty were pulling, give me a God damn break…

***SPOILERS***

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Also, I’m getting really sick and tired of these “legacy” trends. What do I mean? Carina is Barbossa’s long-lost daughter. A daughter that I’m pretty sure was never referenced in any movie until now. But since I haven’t seen ON STRANGER TIDES, I’ll pretend that’s where she was referenced. But even if so, there is no reason why Barbossa has any desire to be her father. Nothing about him ever screamed, “I wish I was a daddy.” For that matter, continuing on Carina not making sense, she finds out at the last possible minute that her father is Barbossa and after he dies for her, she immediately takes his last name as her own. No hesitation, nothing.

Look, I know everyone deals in emotional stuff differently, but speaking as a man who was adopted and never knew his biological parents, I think she processed these set of emotions way too quickly. She just found out her father is a pirate, a set of people that she’s strongly against. For the record, Barbossa is a pretty ruthless pirate too, not known to show kindness and mercy. Barely has any semblance of honor. He also just died to save her life. Um… I can safely tell you that if I found out my biological mother had a similar shady background, and if I caught up in a situation that threatened my life, and if she died to save me, I’d have ten cargo ships of mixed emotions right there. If I were to change anything, don’t have her change her last name yet. Save it for the sequel. And then in some dialog, a character is all like, “What’s your name?” She says, “Carina.” He says, “Last name?” And then she pauses. Almost like she doesn’t know what to say. But then she says, “Barbossa.” Then, like, Henry, or Jack, or whoever is all like, “Really? You took your father’s name for your own?” Then with the most subtle of emotion, she dryly says, “He was my father. Smith wasn’t my real last name.” This could have been an extraordinary foundation for some inner conflict with her. Like, she’s not proud of her name, but she carries it because the man who died to save her life deserves respect. There’s so much that could have been used for a future movie, but it’s squandered here in lieu of a contrived happy resolution.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I say the movie is definitely not good. Despite the franchise constantly taking breaks, no one who works on these movies seems to understand what made that first film to special. This story is riddled with moments and characters and their choices that don’t make sense, or are even downright stupid. It’s needlessly long, characters exist to be bland, to die, or disappear altogether, it continues the trend of messy story-telling. However, I can’t deny that there are some things of merit. Bardem and Rush are great, the character designs for the villains are awesome, some of the comedy does work, and the movie does look pretty to look at. And like I said, zombie sharks. Too awesome to ignore. But none of its positives save it all that much. With a heavy sigh, I say if you wanted to skip this, you won’t be missing much. Only if you’re a die-hard fan of this franchise, which I find difficult to believe that they exist anymore, could I recommend this. Better as a rental, if you ask me.

My honest rating for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES: a weak 3/5

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