Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Jason Bourne

Major Spoilers.

You know his name... but they still felt the need to make it the title.

Bourne's story was pretty well wrapped up last we saw him, so this movie has to make up new information to draw him back into the fight again. It comes from Nicky () who was just minding her own business hacking the CIA when she came across an interesting (new!) fact: Bourne's father Richard Webb was involved in Treadstone. This is important to Jason because of... reasons, so he starts chasing down leads and baddies again. Meanwhile, upstarty and serious CIA agent Heather Lee () and the CIA Director () catch wind of Bourne and can't resist giving chase -- in spite of the long track record of disaster for all others who have tried.

You know what this movie's problem is? Bourne Legacy. That is literally its problem. This whole movie seems to exist as some kind of incarnate indignation over Legacy's existence. It's been nine years since Ultimatum; a satisfying ending to an excellent trilogy. Now, back for no reason, Matt Damon's Bourne is older and significantly less interesting than he used to be. The movie's plot is basic and a thinly veiled excuse to bring the character back, and nothing brought to the movie brings anything worthwhile, or even new or interesting, to the table.

In some instances, quite the opposite.

In fact, they spent most of their time taking away things the franchise has given us so far. Maybe I was alone with this (I doubt it) but I personally liked the open ending of Ultimatum; an implication the there was more adventure to be had, with a happy ending somewhere nearby. I liked to imagine that once thing quieted down Jason and Nicky got together and managed to live a little. But no, this movie says. Nicky gets killed so that we can have more, bigger car chases and blurry fist fights. And no, we can't rest leaving the plot as a smart spy conspiracy; we have to throw in from left field some weird stuff about Jason's dad... to make it personal I guess? Jase, Shark. Shark, Jase.

But as offensive as all that ridiculousness is, the biggest offense here is simply that the movie just doesn't bother to be as good as any of Jason's other outings. Personally, I found that each sequel to be slightly worse, but at least they all fit together as a cohesive unit; this one tries to attach itself to the trilogy, while having more in common with Jeremy Renner's spin-off -- except without the freshness of a new face and story line. I enjoy Legacy immensely, but I do consider it to be on a lower quality level than the other Bourne movies. This one is on that step down with its general quality and being, and can't even manage to be fun and entertaining to make up for it.

I appreciate what you've done in the past, but if this is what you're gonna give us now, I'd rather someone else have a shot.

Jason Bourne has always been a great character, and Matt Damon seems incapable of failing to pull the weight of any movie, but he sure does come close here. He gets very few lines (he's never been chatty, but this is like BvS Superman-level-bad), and even when he does speak words they have nothing to do with his character at all, and are delivered so weirdly flat... I just don't get it. Why did they jump the shark to bring a personal issue to this movie if they weren't going to make Jason sympathetic, and develop the character in new ways? Yeah, he's still good at and driving, and hiding in a crowd, and punching people, and looking good with blood on his face, but it turns out that those are not things that resonate with an audience on a personal level.

I should also mention that Vikander I've always enjoyed in movies so far, but she does nothing to help out this film either. Her accent kept slipping through, her character was way too deadpan, and this is hardly her fault, but the twist of her being the bad guy in the end was poorly timed. It should have been earlier or later. Tommy Lee Jones was decent for what he had to work with. I was very impressed by his death scene, actually. On board with the wooden line delivery was Stiles. That was the only upside of her being in the film so briefly. is the obligatory cool and mysterious asset who's sicced on Bourne, and Rogue One's makes an appearance too.

*cue disappointed and resigned sigh*

Cinematography and action is the film's biggest pro. There's still a shaky-cam during a lot of the action -- sometimes it felt like the camera was being punched along with people's faces -- but that's something we've come to expect, and it wasn't too hard to follow. Otherwise there were a few memorable shots. And the climatic chase and subsequent fight scene was a well-done and entertaining piece of action. What was in the rest of movie up til then could hardly be considered action at all, let alone entertaining action.

This is a little sad. I kinda just feel sorry for everyone... mainly the characters who got dragged back out of a nice retirement for basically nothing -- just to join the ranks of "Franchises With Too Many Sequels" and films that suffer slow deaths via half-hearted sorta-reboots. Leaving well enough alone has never been in Bourne's wheelhouse, but one might have hoped that it would be for filmmakers who really care about his story and making good movies. This movie is perhaps not nearly as terrible as it could have been, but it's a long way from justifying its unnecessary and uninspired return.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Man in the High Castle - Season 2


This show's ability to make me care and cheer for the most unexpected characters continues to amaze.

(read my review of Season 1 here)

Based on the Philip K. Dick story, The Man in the High Castle features an alternate reality where the Axis Powers won WWII. The entire world is now controlled by Nazis and the Japanese Empire, with neutral zones separating their territories. Season two has a more concise plot, when The Man in the High Castle meets with our heroine Juliana () setting her on a journey that he hopes will lead this reality to the best possible outcome that he has seen take place in the mysterious films.

The story seems to take many rabbit trails from that beginning until it finally comes around to the end ten episodes later, but by then all those trails are tied together wonderfully. I did feel like Joe () was wasting time, though. He had an important part to play, but was put in place too soon, and then since he's a main character we still had to spend time with him, as he puttered around aimlessly. His father () was an excellent new character.

This season felt more purposeful than the first, and it was nice that I already knew the characters.

Then there's Frank () now with a major death wish who slowly gets involved in the Resistance while hanging out with his lovable and well-meaning friend Ed () and the hilariously stuck-up antiques dealer (). When Frank is on screen he feels like the main character, but with this season I cared more about what he was doing than what he was feeling.

Chief Inspector Kido () was almost the exact opposite. I found myself so involved in understanding what he was thinking and feeling that I often forgot to pay attention to what he was actually doing. His changes of countenance based on whether his company was above or beneath him was fascinating to witness; relating to every person so differently, from a fatherly/brotherly relationship with his Sergeant () to actual creepy villainy to the people he interrogates. I didn't get much new out of Trade Minister Tagomi () this time, but that is only because the first season established him so well; his part of the story was ever-important and intriguing.

Pretty much the best.

My favorite continues to be Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith (), and I loved what this season did with him and his wife () and family. From beginning to end it was nothing but incredible. I can hardly believe that I could sympathize so strongly with someone who is a Nazi, but that's the magic of this show. Even though there are actual Nazis involved, characters aren't defined by their affiliations -- outwardly or inwardly. Smith wears the uniform, but we know him and know it doesn't fit him. However his teenage son () is completely steeped in the Nazi culture, and yet we still care for him too.

Juliana is the piece that connects all these people, and it was so neat to see how she brings everything together. I particularly enjoyed watching her when she's living in the American Reich, visiting with the Smiths and learning about the Nazi ways. It was all such an epic combination of friendly and proper and utopian, and deeply, deeply disturbing.

Also pretty much the best.

The show is visually beautiful, the filming style reflecting and enhancing the smooth, sharply detailed tone. I love that even the evil was presented visually with no bias -- the magnificence of the Greater Nazi Reich shown in all its glory -- the awe of it effectively making it even more harrowing. Rich with complex characters, and a twisting, mind-boggling sci-fi plot, The Man in the High Castle continues to defy convention for unusually exceptional results.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Upcoming Movie Roundup - January

Happy New Year everyone! In December I went to see Rogue One (check out my review here) and that was it, in spite of the number of interesting movies. Turns out December was even more busy than I expected it to be what with Christmas... and my sister getting married!

I saw Rogue One again yesterday, and its enjoy-ability factor at least doubled for the second viewing! So now La La Land is at the top of my must-see list, and it looks like I'll have plenty of time for it in January, because there is not even one new movie coming out that I'm even remotely interested in seeing. January isn't known for being a month full of quality movies, but come on, you could at least get my hopes up with an interesting premise or good trailer and then dash them later...

So instead I'm going to talk about some TV shows premiering this month! Something I usually forget to do, what with all the movies distracting me, and there is a handful of them in Jan.

Are you interested in any of the movies coming out in January? Is there any I've missed? And are any of these shows on your radar? Let me know in the comments!

Sherlock - Series 4
Well the first episode of the new season aired last night, and I have to say I wasn't terribly impressed. Don't shoot me! I may try to review it and pinpoint why I'm not liking it as much as the early seasons, but that doesn't change that I will be watching the next three episodes like clockwork every Sunday night. It is still Sherlock, after all! It's airing on PBS here in the US, and streaming on their website.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Back in the day I remember enjoying the film version with Jim Carrey enough that it led me to read several of the books too, which were, unsurprisingly, better than the movie. Now Netflix has begun a series, that, as best as I can tell, will be adapting the entire series (of 13 books) with two episodes per book. Season one will be 8 episodes, available on Jan 13th. This is, in my opinion, the ideal way to adapt this story to the screen, and I'm very excited to see it! (Even though I'm now a little older than the target demographic...) Neil Patrick Harris stars as Count Olaf, and Patrick Warburton narrates as Lemony Snicket. Hilarity and misfortune will undoubtedly follow!

Emerald City
Probably the most re-imagined story next to Cinderella, and now NBC is taking a turn with an Oz story, with a 10-episode series airing starting Jan 6th. This one reminds me a lot of Tin Man which I absolutely loved (and last I checked is still available on Netflix...) except this one looks grittier and more steampunk and hopefully will have its own neat spin on the well-known story! Vincent D'Onofrio is the only face I recognize, as the Wizard. I don't know if it'll turn out to be a good telling or not, but I definitely think it's worth finding out!

An 8-episode series from Ridley Scott and Tom Hardy coming to FX. The show also stars Tom Hardy, is set in the 1800's, and looks extremely dark, gritty, and serious. I won't be surprised if it winds up being too inappropriate for me to bother with anyway, but as it is, in spite of Hardy, it's not super-appealing to me in the first place. Still, it looks like a high-quality show. Begins airing Jan 10th.

Sneaky Pete
Another that I'm not eager to watch, but it looks like a neat and probably fun show, with it's main character being a con man. This one is coming to Amazon Prime of Jan 16th. It stars Giovanni Ribisi, and Bryan Cranston as one of those villains that you just know was a blast to play. I'll definitely bee keeping an eye on reviews and ratings for this one.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Major Spoilers.

In the first non-Episode Star Wars film, we jump back in time to just before the legendary events of Episode 4, where Jyn Erso () an every-girl with a tragic childhood and a cold attitude shaped by it becomes a key piece in the Rebellion's increasingly desperate attempts to fight back against the evil Empire.

Directed by Godzilla's

Testing the waters outside of the lines that have been in place for so long, there's bound to be a misstep or two. Rogue One hits all the checkpoints of a successful, entertaining film, but going deeper, it gets more complicated. There are some undeniably great aspects, and some arguably bad ones, and it's all mixed together.

As I see it, the foundation of the movie's main problems is this: it's an emotional and personal story, but is told too much like it's an action blockbuster. For comparison, that was the appropriate way to tell The Force Awakens. Even though it had many important, personal aspects to it, it was, at heart, a space epic, and was told as such. Rogue One is at heart an intimate story; a character journey. On a larger scale we already know what will happen; what we need to see is Jyn, her emotional journey and the things that she cares for.

...the people she cares for.

And when the film does focus small, it's exactly what it should be, inherently darker, but never less than the Star Wars level of engaging. But it doesn't always do that, getting distracted, giving in to the temptation to be big, and epic, and then using the characters only to drive the plot. Then useless things start to fill the run time. Like cameos and winking references. Some of them fun additions, but narratively they gunked up the works. Even Darth Vader, who I enjoyed seeing again in spite of apprehensions. CGI Leia and Tarkin could have been cut completely, and not only because the effects (impressive as they were) were distracting. Even the excellent battle scenes could've been cut back, when not relating directly to the individual characters.

And unfortunately, when the film forgets about its heroine, she doesn't come across well. When we don't get to focus on understanding her, she comes across as one-dimensional; just a tough girl in a bad mood. I loved the brief glimpses we got of her vulnerabilities -- her nightmares of being abandoned, her cynical resistance to feel anything, or the scene where her father dies. But those things weren't developed to complete her arc. The framework was all there, especially in her fear on abandonment, but it wasn't explored and filled in enough for us to feel the full impact when her friends never abandon her. To show her issues resolve.

Forget the action; I want to see some relationships growing.

I'm being hard on character with this movie because all the characters die. It would have been different if they had lived. Even without a sequel, we would know that they continue to grow and change. At the very least Jyn's death needed to be the final piece of closure for her arc. In retrospect I can see that her journey was completed technically, if you fill in some gaps with assumption, but it felt unresolved at the time. I should be able to go back a second time and experience everything properly, but that doesn't mean it's not a flaw.

Normally, I'll guard myself from emotion in films, but I expected the deaths going in, and was constantly preparing myself to embrace the sadness; ready to be moved. I wanted this film to break my heart but, busy and distracted, it didn't linger in the sadness long enough to fully affect me. Every time I'd start to tear up the scene changed to something not sad. That being said, the sadness that was there didn't feel manipulative, but natural, and easy to fall into. It is a sad movie, and I can't fault it for not going as far as I was willing to go.

It is much sadder now, thinking about it with my own filter in my head.

And I don't want to fault it either. There a quite a few details about the way this film was done that I wish had been different, but at its core it got everything right. You can see a good story there. A story that maybe wasn't told as clearly as it could have been, but was told nonetheless, with dedication, a lot of heart, and a great sense of darkness and gritty beauty. My biggest question going into the movie was "will the story be truly worth telling?" and I felt that the answer and my opinion of the film would coincide. Well I was right, and the answer is undoubtedly yes.

I knew it going in and I was happy with my choice coming out: Cassian () was my favorite. I definitely think he could have used more development, like almost all the characters, but my initial impression was a pleasant surprise at how developed he was... fairly quickly followed by a wish for even more. He was very compelling to me; a worn soldier who follows his orders, knowing that the end will justify the means. And I could have watched a full two hours of just him and Jyn having heated arguments. Their relationship was built up really well for a while before speeding along to the conclusion, and had a lot of great potential; if I could reorganize the film's focus, I'd put the spotlight directly on them.

I love that he has to suppress emotion in order to work for the rebellion, and Jyn does the same to keep herself out of it. 

Nothing but love for K-2SO -- he was the best comic relief (basically the only comic relief) as a droid with no verbal filter. Nothing but an endless supply of excellently unique humor, delivered in the perfect way that only can supply. (He also performed motion-capture for the character on set.) But of course, that led to an equally great amount of heart from him as well... and a surprising amount of badassery. His death scene was the best and maybe the most affecting of them all.

The other three rebels of the group (pilot Bhodi (), blind guy Chirrut () and blind guy's friend Baze ()) sadly didn't have time to make a huge impression before the end, but I was attached enough to them to feel significance at their deaths. They all were good for the screen time they received, and I'm sure the future will see me more familiar with and attached to them. as Jyn's father Galen is very cool, and his character expertly done. No complaints at all -- he got everything done with limited time and drama and style to spare. was good too, but in the end, unimportant.

This scene was so beautiful...

The film's villain Krennic was overshadowed by the bigger, arguably unnecessary villains above him, which was too bad, because made him a great, stylish, and easy to hate villain, and he could have owned the screen alone. I really wanted the climax to be more just him and Jyn in an epic personal struggle instead of the whole epic-in-scale one we got instead. That moment on the tower lasted a mere fraction of the time it could have.

I get the feeling that Rogue One was a little... disconnected. Or misinformed. I don't think it understood what we wanted out of a Star Wars spinoff film. All the things I didn't care for seemed like the stuff they thought was fan service, and where I wanted to go deeper was often casually glazed over or cut short. Maybe that's only me though. I know they wanted to cater to the broadest audience possible here, and to do that the movie had to find a balance between its inherit personal nature and a widely appealing blockbuster one. The balance is awkward, but it may be the most ideal, considering the circumstances.

Not a perfect film... but a great story.

I don't mean to cut this movie any slack where it doesn't deserve it, but, in the end, my view of it can't help but be overwhelmingly positive -- in spite of my complaining and wishing for more out of the characters. I wouldn't wish for more if I hadn't loved them, after all. A little misguided perhaps, but Rogue One's Star Wars story is a story worth telling, and a brave and beautiful plunge into the ever-expanding reaches of a galaxy far, far away.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Upcoming Movie Roundup - December

In November I went to see Doctor Strange, and it was everything I didn't know how to hope it would be! A wonderful surprise, and a fun and original origin film from Marvel. And then in an unexpected turn of events, I also went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with some friends. And I thoroughly enjoyed it, in spite of a handful of less-than-great aspects. I said in November that I didn't want to invest in a new long series, but I'm afraid I might have done accidentally.

And now -- December. The end of 2016! So tell me, what is your favorite film of the year so far? And are there any movies releasing in December that you think might displace it?

Here's what's interesting me...

La La Land
Dec 8th; PG-13
Honestly, all I need to know concerning this film is that it's from Damien Chazelle, the writer and director of Whiplash. And, equally as honestly, if I didn't know it was from him, and watched this trailer, then THAT would be all I need to know. So, at this point, I already know too much. I even know that it stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. I have a lot of questions, like is it a legit musical, or is the "musical" moments just fantasy? Or daydreams? Cause you know -- La La Land. And there's some weird stuff going on in the trailer, but I kinda want it all to be real. But anyway, that doesn't really effect that fact that I want to see this movie! It looks so beautiful, in every sense of the word. I seriously doubt this could be anything but excellent.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Dec 15th; PG-13
It's hard to put my finger on what exactly excites me about this movie. First, it's Star Wars, so I have to see it. There's no way I won't. But also, it's a smaller scale story. It's not about the Jedi, with their chosen ones and prophesies and such, it's just average people caught up in the rebellion. It's a neat opportunity to be different. Like, they go undercover in the Death Star, so is it going to be more of a spy film? A Mission: Impossible kind of thing? And then there's the cast. I've always liked Felicity Jones, so I'm ready to love her character, and I can already feel a little crush developing on Diego Luna's character, just from the trailer. (I just realized I've seen him before, in Elysium! He was the dude with the pigtails. No wonder I like him.) There's also Mads Mikkelsen, and Forest Whitaker, and Alan Tudyk voicing the robot! And then, there's the look of it. I mean, good grief, you could play the trailer, pause it anywhere randomly, have it printed and it'd be the most gorgeous piece of art. If the entire movie looks like that, I might be so distracted that I don't even notice the story. And that seems like that is the only thing that's up in the air right now. But seriously, if Episode 7 could be so fantastic just by copying Episode 4's plot, there's not much to be worried about. All they have to do is come up with something original that fits inside the preexisting narrative, and I'm there. Well, I'm there anyway, but there you go.

Assassin's Creed
Dec 20th; PG-13
NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION! Ahem. So, I'm not a big video game person, and the only reason I even knew about this movie is because everyone else does. My brother has lots to say on the subject of this movie, but for me, it boils down to this: It's an action movie, so is the story there, and, are the visuals there? From the trailer the story is ambiguous. That could be a good thing, if they're just trying to not reveal too much, or it could simply mean the story is not there. Same thing with the visuals. It seems to promise good things, but if what we see here is the very best they have, the movie won't be able to stand on visuals alone. Personally, I'd really like it to end up on the positive side. I like Michael Fassbender, he can handle action well, and the sci-fi side of it is interesting to me. But honestly, it'd be the bigger surprise if it wound up being truly good.

Dec 20th; PG-13
From the moment I saw that Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence were going to star in a space sci-fi movie together I was on board. And, well, I still am, but my expectations have slowly been diminishing since the original announcement. Like, I'm all for a little romance with my sci-fi, but this is more "a little sci-fi with the romance." The only news I've seen concerning the film is about the sex scene. Not a great sign, even if it is PG-13. And something I'd opt to cut out completely -- I like the actors too much. Maybe it'll surprise me and wind up being a great sci-fi story as well after all, but I'm not confident. The premise is very neat, and the look of it is great -- just my kind of thing. I love how as the trailer goes on they slowly morph from clean and pristine to panicked and dirty. It one of those times where I'll just have to wait and see, but man, I'm really hoping here.

Dec 20th; PG
This animated movie as about a singing competition with animals, and is stuffed full of big names. Too full, I think. I saw a couple different trailers for this, and the one I have here made me pretty interested to see the movie, but the other one tried very hard to cancel that out. The first trailer gave the impression that the movie was focusing mainly on one story -- that of the kid gorilla voiced by Taron Egerton -- and letting all the other characters be more in the background. But it's clear now that all the characters will be basically equal. It's a kid's version of Love Actually with animals! So now I bet that a lot less than average effort is going to be put into each story. It's a kid's movie, so for them that hardly matters, but for me the only appeal left is hearing the actors sing. And we don't even get to see them sing.

Dec 22nd; R
The latest from Martin Scorsese is based on a novel, and about two missionaries -- Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver -- who go dangerously and illegally into Japan in search of one of their own, Liam Neeson. It's getting a bit of Oscar talk, and looks serious and intense but also highly artistic, and I just hope that it isn't only existing to be Oscar bait, but actually existing to tell its story. It's definitely a different story that we haven't seen before, and I'd love to see it find success if it's as good as it looks even without the help of the Academy.

A Monster Calls
Dec 22nd; PG-13
A fantasy coming of age story that has Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson and Sigourney Weaver surrounding the newcomer in the lead. From the trailer, this doesn't look super interesting to me, though it does look neat and uniquely dark for a movie where the lead is twelve years old. The critics seem to think it's worth our time, so I'll definitely be keeping an eye on it.

Dec 27th; R
Just this trailer leaves me feeling so relaxed and happy. I love the tone. And it's got Adam Driver in it, and that's pretty much all I need to know! Definitely need to see this one. It's limited release only leaves the question of "when?"

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Some Spoilers.

In this Harry Potter spin-off, it's still the wizarding world, but there's a distinct lack of grade school kids. Instead we have Newt Scamander () an animal-loving wizard and writer visiting the good old US of A in all its 1920-something splendor. When his packed belongings make a run for it, he teams up with a spunky wizard investigator Tina Goldstein (), her mind-reading sister Queenie () and a Muggle-- er, excuse me, Nomaj -- Jacob Kowalski () a regular chap who chose a bad time to apply for a loan for a dream bakery.

No offense Harry, but I liked this guy more than I ever liked you after, like, five minutes.

As I've said, I'm not a huge Harry Potter fan. From my perspective the stories have their fair share of flaws, but are enjoyable, mostly on the merit of the expansive and creative world they inhabit. And it was exactly that that piqued my interest with this new series set in the same world. It's an opportunity to explore more of the world outside of Hogwarts -- in a vintage era no less -- featuring fantastic creatures. I figured I'd watch it someday like I did Potter, but wound up seeing in theaters after all, and, here I am.

The movie is almost exactly what I expected out of it, and while that means there were plenty of flaws and moments that were significantly less than excellent, it also means that what I hoped to get out of it was delivered on. Though the plot doesn't move out of NYC, The time-change and the jump across the pond was plenty of expansion. I thought that the late twenties was an excellent era to mix with the magic and fantasy too. And the introduction to some of the magical beasts was a neat aspect. I hope it was only an introduction though, and that they'll expand significantly as the story moves along.

The CGI effects were pretty and had some neat ideas to portray, but was spotty in the execution.

There's also a plot line that is disconnected from creatures though, in which a villain feigning to be good () enlists a troubled and abused teen () to exploit his adoptive mother's () work as an anti-witch zealot to find a magic child who possesses a huge and dangerous power. The slight connection with that and Newt's escapades to recollect his collection of creatures is that he had once found child like that before. It is a little jarring to jump between this serious and maturely-themed plot, and the one that mostly involves the constant chasing of a slippery hedgehog that looks like a platypus and has an affinity for shiny things. There was too much of that silliness, and it works even less in movies where the characters adults than it does when with little kids. I much preferred the times when the tone landed at a middle ground between the two.

The element that both gave me the most satisfaction and left me wanting to see more was the characters. If there's going to be four more movies of this, I would actually happily sit through them all, as long as the characters stay this good. Newt was the standout. Eddie Redmayne is quite the talented character actor, and Mr. Scamander is a very specifically characterized character. Socially awkward and awkwardly charming, he's completely unaffected and uncaring at how he's viewed. He's also very still and doesn't express much, but I found him easy to read and to understand; perhaps because there's no excess to him, so every movement's expression is clear.

Similarities between him and the 11th Doctor are apparent, but I also saw a lot of Endeavour Morse in him, which won me over fast.

All four of the film's circle group of heroes were excellently characterized. They give the sense of their being stereotypes the impression they leave is so strong, but they're not. And they all work together nicely with potential and chemistry. The one problem I had concerning then is unfortunately pretty significant -- that the romance is forced. Extremely, in the case of Newt and Tina. There was no call for that last scene with them. They didn't know each other long enough for that level of drama. And if they're going to have four more films together it's not like they're pressed for time. Just watch them have to backtrack later because the romance is moving too fast.

With Queenie and Mr. Kowalski it was much less forced, but still didn't have any significant substance behind it. But it was cute, so -- more forgivable. The plotting in general was more just simply creative than smart and thoughtful. Motivations in general are ambiguous. And I found myself predicting a lot -- even two of the film's biggest twists. In one case the movie was projecting against it too much, and in the other case, not enough.

Here's to no changes where it was good, and lots of improving where it wasn't!

The whys and the hows of the plot could use some serious improvement, and I honestly expect it will improve with more films. This one, as the first in a new series spent its efforts in establishing the nature of the world around it, and the characters it wants us to care for. It is far from perfect, and far from converting me into a Potterhead, but I must say, after so many franchises that have struggled and then faded away unresolved, it's refreshing to have one come that we can count on. Maybe we can't count on it being exceptional or groundbreaking, but we can count on it being fun and engaging and seeing through to a set conclusion. That, plus scifi/fantasy imagination, a retro setting and some worthy heroes, and it's hard to go too far wrong.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence

Twenty years ago, aliens attacked the Earth and the people of Earth joined forces, fought back, and won. Now, there's a cool new trend going around known as "reboot sequels," and so the aliens attacked again. And this time, everyone loses.

Every picture of Jeff just looks like varying stages of intense regret that he's involved in this film...

I went in with such low expectations. I tried to set them lower than they'd need to be... it wasn't far enough. Sadly, this film is even worse than I expected with a grand total of zero redeeming factors. I thought at least would be one, but he's just not into the role, and that makes his presence more painful than singularly entertaining. Characters are usually my back-up redeeming factors, but actually none here fit the bill. was probably closest since I forgot she was in the movie at all, but in the end all she did was make me want to watch The Guest again. was the main character I guess, but he accomplished absolutely nothing.

There were just too many characters, what with the returning, aging cast, and new younger, cuter, less talented additions. The movie's focus was stretched so thinly over all those people that I wanted to send it on a very long holiday to Rivendell, poor thing. I'm pretty sure the only person who didn't return was Will Smith. (By the way, canon for Will Smith's character's death NOT accepted.) And I would say that half the characters were so useless they should have been cut out entirely, but the real truth is that every character was useless and deserving of being cut. Along with the whole movie.

Favorite moment: The Burj diving headfirst into the Thames.

The movie starts out horribly boringly as it tries to introduce the parallel earth that is utilizing the left-behind alien technology. That could have been the neatest part of the film, but instead the opportunity was wasted, and we had to deal with that near-disaster-on-the-moon-base opening -- the camp high point. And the lady President who was an actual idiot. The plot is just nothing but trite and uninspired nonsense. The good news is that it gets better as it goes along. The bad news is that's probably just by comparison of the beginning, which is bad, but has no aliens to distract us.

The alien stuff, of course, just goes over the top in an attempt to expand and improve on the original. And yes, the animation and CGI effects are better than the original's, but that was twenty years ago -- you don't get points for that. In the end I was just reminded of a lot of things. Weirdly, Clash of the Titans with that final battle, and Ender's Game. They weren't even evoking memories of good movies! The only positive that comes to mind is at least there was very little in it that I full-on hated. It's all garbage, but it never offended me. I'd rather be offended at something though, and have a little to love -- or at least like -- as well, instead of this lukewarm participation trophy drivel.

You didn't try at all!

Try -- and make a bad movie if it goes that way, but at least then you can get some respect for trying. Resurgence never made an effort at all. It's a bunch of nothing overfilled with nothing characters standing around looking bored in front of a cold, dead, overblown CGI backdrop. There were occasional moments where I saw glimpses of potential for something that could have been neat, but that's not even near close enough for cigars. And thanks to movie politics, none were smoked. That would have just been insulting.