Category Archives: Movies

Wonder Woman

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The DC “Expanded Universe” movies have not been doing overly well on a lot of fronts. Man of Steel had people either loving or hating it, but both sides seem to agree that it’s the most divisive comic book movie ever made. Batman Vs Superman didn’t make the box office DC hoped for, and had a lot of bad reviews from critics and fans both (I was one of them). Next up was Suicide Squad, which I liked but could see problems in, and also did disappointingly with critics and fans both. So, I was a bit worried about going to see Wonder Woman.

Turns out, I really didn’t need to be. Wonder Woman is an amazing movie. It’s the best DC has done since maybe the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, and easily good enough to be a Marvel movie. Those are both high praise in my book. I loved almost everything about it, and my complaints are minimal. They knocked it out of the park on every level. I will do my best to avoid spoilers throughout the review.

Wonder Woman is bookended by scenes of Diana in the modern day. She gets a present from Bruce Wayne that triggers some old memories, and tells us the story. They played with her origin a bit, and some of the theology of the DC Universe, but it works well. Like the Marvel movies, the changes they made worked, and worked well.

We see the story of Diana, growing up as the sole child on Themyscira, an island of Amazons. We hear the history of the island, the Amazons, Diana, and a war of the gods that thankfully was much better than the horrid comic book event of the same name. Diana grows up, dealing with an overprotective mother, Queen Hippolyta, and training in secret with her warrior aunt, General Antiope. The Amazons are in a state of stasis, with nothing really changing, until…

As per the classic origin, Steve Trevor, heroic pilot, crashes on the island while on an urgent mission. In this reshuffling of the story, he’s fleeing the German Army during World War I. The story works in this setting, and, as a friend of mine observed, “Captain America pretty much owns World War II at this point.” There will be another Cap reference later. Steve’s arrival shakes things up, especially when he’s pursued by the Germans. After a nasty fight on the beach with some tragic losses, Diana learns about the outside world and the war that rages. It fits in with a prophecy among the Amazons, and Diana makes the fateful decision to go back with him.

After some hilarious exchanges on the boat that takes them back to London (still not sure how a tiny sailboat gets from somewhere near Greece to London in an amazingly short period of time), Diana gets introduced to modern fashion, complicated politics, and Steve’s secretary Etta Candy, who is brilliant in every scene she’s in. This apparently is in the closing days of the Great War, as the Armistice is being negotiated, and Diana’s mission can’t get any official support that might interrupt the negotiations.

Naturally, this means there’s a secret mission with a ragtag band of misfits along to help out. We get an Arabic conman, a Scots sniper with serious PTSD, and an enigmatic Indian who might just be a lot more than he seems. The group moves across war torn Europe, and sees the horrors of modern war. Diana, still more idealistic than anyone else, makes an amazing charge across No Man’s Land that is brilliantly done.

The bad guys, aside from the German war machine in general, are General Ludendorff and Dr. Maru, a version of a classic Wonder Woman foe, Dr. Poison. They really are out and out villains who revel in destruction and kill those around them who displease them. That must be an HR nightmare. The mission doesn’t quite go as expected, and Diana sees things aren’t always as simple as they’d like them to be.

The final fight involves some great special effects and a sad but necessary sacrifice that looked like it was lifted out of a classic Captain America story (told you Cap would be back). It was heartbreaking but it worked really well, and explained why Diana has been so low profile for the last century or so.

What I liked: Damn near everything. Gal Godot and Chris Pine did amazing jobs as Diana and Steve. The writing, directing, acting, and special effects were fantastic. There was an actual story to go with the action. I’m really hoping we see more of Chief down the road. Etta was great for the few scenes she was in. I saw what they were doing with the big bad guy misdirect early, but it was well done anyway. They balanced Diana’s growing power with Steve being a mortal very well. Steve’s first exposure to the Lasso of Truth was great.

What I didn’t: It’s a short list. I’m not sure how the trip to London went so fast. If Steve and the Germans got through so easily, I don’t see how Themyscira stayed isolated so long. I don’t quite get how an armadillo was on a Greek area island. And really, no end credit scene? Audiences love that, and they did it for Suicide Squad.

This was a fantastic movie. I strongly recommend it. I’m giving this my rare 5 out of 5. Based on the strength of Wonder Woman as a whole, I’m reconsidering my decision to not see Justice League in the theater.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2

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Getting the band back together…

Sequels can be tricky, even with a good team behind them. I wasn’t really worried about Guardian of the Galaxy Volume 2. Even the worst of Marvel’s movies (probably Thor: The Dark World in my opinion) is pretty good. And this was better than that by a lot. There was action, humor, nods to the comics, and new spins on characters. I’m doing my best to avoid spoilers, so this is going to be light in detail.

The opening scene is a battle/dance number (no, really) against a big monster. They even carry on a joke from the first movie’s end credit scene. The team does well (for them, anyway), goes to collect their reward, and manages to piss off their clients anyway. Chaos ensues, including a big space battle that has some amusing video game overtones. The Guardians manage to get away, but end up someplace with some serious issues to work on, both among themselves and with the ship. They also have a prisoner to deal with.

Elsewhere, we learn a lot more about the Ravagers and Yondu in particular. There’s a lot more going on with all that than they even hinted at in the first movie. This also introduces several new characters, including some nods to the original, comic book versions of the Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s also got a big 80’s star in a small role.

The Guardians get a surprise visit from two new characters: Ego and Mantis. Ego delivers surprising news, and wants to bring Star Lord back to his home to show him some things. So the team splits up, with Star Lord, Drax, and Gamora taking the trip, and Rocket, Baby Groot, and the prisoner being left behind.

While Peter Quill, Star Lord, gets a lot of surprises about his past and his family tree (no, not Groot), Rocket gets company. He’s actually a real badass in this scene, not just comic relief like he was so much of the time in the first movie. The tides of fortune shift several times, and there are several changes in alliance as the movie goes on.

The big bad guy ends up being a surprise. The Guardians are facing a very formidable foe who knows a lot about them. Along the way, the team grows, and then shrinks a bit. By the end of the movie, there’s at least one casualty, and at least one leaves. The family theme is played on a lot, maybe even a bit too much, but they make it work. There’s all this, and cameos by Howard the Duck, the Watchers, and, of course, Stan Lee. By the end, things have changed a bit, and while it’s not a direct tie in to the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, the pieces are in place to get the Guardians and the Avengers together. And hey, it’s a Marvel movie, so stay for the end credit scenes. For that matter, watch the credits themselves, as they threw in a few amusing little bits.

The writers took a few liberties with character backgrounds and powers. Most notably, this was with Star Lord himself, Ego, and Mantis. Generally, departures from the comics annoy me a bit (yeah, I’m THAT guy). But the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made several changes from the comics that work, and in a few cases, even work better than the original stories. So I was actually fine with that here.

What I liked: Just about everything. This was a lot of fun. There was great action, funny lines and moments, learning a bit about the characters, and a few Easter Eggs along the way. There was another kick-ass soundtrack. I liked seeing Rocket as an effective fighter. Yondu even ends up a bit closer to his comic book appearance, and, as I said, there was nod to the all but forgotten original Guardians team. There were cameos from two more 80’s stars, one a tv actor, the other a video game character. The movie is fun and has heart. It’s a very worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

What I didn’t: Not much. They maybe went a bit heavy on the family theme, and I could have done with maybe a bit less Baby Groot. I know, I know, I just preferred the more competent one in the first movie. At least in the showing I was in, several things from the various previews, trailers, and clips from talk shows weren’t shown. Notable among them were Groot’s screaming “I AM GROOT” when he runs off with the bomb, Drax hugging Star Lord, and Gamora asking Nebula about Guardians vs Gardens. I get the most dramatic death they did, but I was starting to like that character. And, while I know it was a Guardians movie, there was a big event that touched on Earth that really should have merited some kind of Avengers response.

And most of those dislikes are quibbles. I had a lot of fun with this one. I’ll give it a 4.5 out of 5. I’m looking forward to Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War.

Logan

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Things get a little meta in this movie…

The way my life works, I don’t always get to the movies as much as I’d like. So, while it’s been out for a while, this is when I finally got to see Logan, hence why my review is late by many standards. Even though it’s been out a while, I’m going to try to avoid spoilers.

With the notable exception of DC Comics’ Legion of Super Heroes, the future is never a good place for heroes. Coming back to prevent something horrible from happening is a frequent plot device. In this one, it’s just what happens years down the road.

2029 is not a good time in the X-Men universe. The vast majority of the mutants are gone, and the few that remain are far from the peak of their powers. In fact, as the movie goes on, we learn no mutants have been born for 25 years. Logan is looking much the worse for wear, and Professor Xavier is having serious issues.

Logan is trying to lay low and just barely getting by in a job that you really wouldn’t expect for him. He clashes with some car thieves early in the movie and we see that he’s still Wolverine, just not a really healthy one. His tag line about “I’m the best there is at what I do,” doesn’t necessarily still apply.

Well, if you’ve watched any movie where someone with a violent past who is trying to live it down, you know it doesn’t work out. If nothing else, it’d be a boring story. Enter the damsel in distress with a dark secret, begging for Logan’s help. He resists, but is eventually drawn into her problems, very much against his will. The people after her are exceptionally nasty, and Logan’s hope for a peaceful future goes up in smoke, or maybe a spray of blood would be more apt.

Logan, Xavier, and a new face embark on a quest to find a mythical safe haven for the remaining mutants. They meet bullies and allies along the way. I will say that, in general, you shouldn’t get too attached to anyone in this movie. The mortality rate is high, hero, friend, villain, or innocent bystander. There’s a lot of violence, and a lot of death. In the end, there’s a climactic battle that ends the story… and a few characters as well.

This movie is a lot darker in tone than any of the previous X-Men movies. You know those cool bits where Quicksilver does something funny, or the team banters back and forth a lot? Yeah… don’t look for those here. It’s a grim future, worse as we get the hint about what happened to the rest of the X-Men, as well as the source of the mysterious illnesses plaguing the main characters. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It isn’t, not at all. But be prepared for a very different kind of story.

What I liked: There’s lots of action done well. Jackman and Stewart are fantastic, as is the new young star. The effects are good, but don’t overwhelm the story. There are some interesting twists and turns along the way. I completely understand why Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have said this is their last time in these roles.

What I didn’t: I’m a hero geek. I don’t like seeing my heroes battered and broken, no matter how well it’s done. This is a very dark future with a really high kill rate. I don’t quite understand how, if Logan is this beat up in the future, Xavier, much older with no physical powers, is still around at all. Xavier says he’s in his 90’s in the movie, but that doesn’t seem to fit with earlier timelines. I get it wasn’t about this, but a bit more detail on what happened to everyone else wouldn’t have been bad. I get why there wasn’t, but the lack of scenes in the credits was jarring.

I thought this was good, although maybe not quite as amazing as some have raved. It was a very serious take on the X-Men universe. I’ll give it a high 3.5 out of 5.

JUSTICE LEAGUE – Official Trailer 1 thoughts

Oh DCEU, why are they writing you this way?  I just don’t get it.  Read the rest of this entry

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING – Trailer #2 thoughts

OK, you win, MCU – I’m officially excited to see Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Read the rest of this entry

Logan trailers are… for Logan

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Who’s this?  Monster Face?

I love watching Hugh Jackman play Wolverine, so it’s a good bet that I’ll show up at the theater for Logan.  The trailers don’t exactly make me jump out of my seat, though.

So there’s this thing in movie trailer culture where you take an old, fast sold sung by a man and have a woman cover it and slow the tempo way down.  Apparently, that’s unsettling.  Or something.  Anyway, I guess they’re getting tired of that because instead, we get Johnny Cash covering “Hurt” by NIN.  So… OK, this actually seems appropriate.  I’d like to see a movie about how Wolverine faces death… oh, wait, is this about him being a dad in a post apocalyptic world?  And driving a lot?  Is this a road movie?  I want to see Wolverine kick ass, not drive!

Holy hell, did they put the classic X-Men comics in the movie?!?  Why?   And this movie is about family?  I… what…  why?

Wow, somebody figured out how to make “Amazing Grace” even slower than it already is!  Incredible!

And by all this I mean I don’t like this trailers very much or the story they’re hinting at.  But who knows, the movie isn’t even out yet and I like Jackman and Patrick Stewart playing these respective roles, so I’m down to give it a try.

Just dialing down expectations accordingly.

Star Wars: Rogue One movie review

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There are a few things you should know before you read this review. I am a huge Star Wars fan. I saw the original in the theaters, way back when, something like twenty times. I have an entire bookcase of just Star Wars novels. I’ve played several versions of the role-playing games, both Galaxies and Old Republic. I’m enjoying the current Marvel Comics series. So I was really excited about Rogue One. Read the rest of this entry

Honest Trailers – Suicide Squad

We’re not in agreement on Suicide Squad around here, and that’s OK.  That’s life.  But rarely has Screen Junkies so perfectly encapsulated what I was thinking, so here you go.

“Alfred, let’s go shopping.”

“There are super hero products to be purchased. To the store, old chum!” Read the rest of this entry

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie review

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I’ve been a comic book, and general hero, fan my entire life as far back as I go. As a rule, I’m more of a DC fan than Marvel, or at least that was true until the DC reboot several years ago. I’m also a big fan of movies. Give me a dark room, a big screen, and some popcorn and I’m a happy guy. I say all this as background to try and get across what a big thing it was for me to NOT see Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice in the theater. It was the first time two of the most famous comic book heroes out there shared the big screen, and I just couldn’t bring myself to see it after Man of Steel. I’m not going to rehash the Man of Steel controversy here. I will say, and most have agreed, that it was the most divisive comic book movie ever made. For me, on the heels of such dismal products as Green Lantern, Jonah Hex (how do you screw up a cowboy movie??), and Dark Knight Rises, I didn’t like where they went with Man of Steel. Everything I saw suggested that Dawn of Justice would continue that, so I decided to not give them my money. For me, I made the right choice. Read the rest of this entry

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