Monday, April 9, 2018

Movie Review: A Quiet Place

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good scary movie. This was a good one, but with all the hype, I expected something to stay with me, and it really didn’t. This movie reminded me a lot of Signs. That was an M.Night Shyamalan movie, so that shouldn’t be lost on you. For those of you trying to avoid SPOILERS, it is worth watching, for those of you that want to know more, read on.

The popularity of post-apocalyptic movies seems to have no end in sight. In this movie, the story starts out with a family foraging for meds for one of their kids. Clear in the first scene, you see all the chip bags untouched by the family, by anyone, which is interesting given that in that time, you’d think it’d be hard to find food. So, the family leaves the store, all using sign language. The one kid wants to take a noisy toy, but the dad says no, but one of the kids lets him take it, this doesn’t end well. The scary thing shows in the first few minutes and the dad can’t get there in time to stop the kid from getting eaten. The movie moves up about a year and the mom is prego. How she can have a baby and be quiet is beyond me. 

Anyway, of course, the family goes in separate directions, to collect food, or something, and wackiness ensues. I don’t want to give away the last mystery, but it does keep you on the edge of your seat. The scary things aren’t nearly as scary once you’ve seen them a few times, but they’re still creepy looking. The acting was well done. The entire movie was white. There were no people of color, but movies like this tend to get away with that. The two women in the movie were sort of strong, but not really. For diversity, this movie gets a hard fail. For strong female characters, it also doesn’t get a high passing mark. 

This was a good horror movie, but it left a lot to be desired. The ending was just as gut wrenching as the beginning, but just like Signs, the movie gives you slight hope, in the end.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Movie Review: Pacific Rim Uprising

I’m not sure why I had it in my head to see this movie. I was re-watching the original yesterday and it was about as silly as I recall. I get that these movies are supposed to be throwbacks to the old monster movies, like Godzilla, but there really is no heart, just a lot of special effects. And let me be clear, the special effects are amazing. The huge monsters and the huge mechs that fight them are quite impressive on the big screen. The story, with the son of Idras Elba’s character had less draw to it. John Boyega plays his estranged son, who has, in the past, gets thrown out of the flight school or something. There may be slight SPOILERS ahead, but really, I don’t know how much of the story I can talk about.

The premise of the overall story is basically that the bad monsters are gone, but there can never be enough production, so drones are being built and tested to replace the regular robats/mechs. They need another pilot to help train the new kids, so they’ve found John Boyega’s character in jail and told him he has to re-enlist or go to jail. He chooses the former option and brings a young kid with him, who has built her own mech. The two get there and the drones crash some event, putting more people in danger. Then one of the scientists from the first one who mind-melded with the bad monsters has secretly been a double agent and has been trying to get a gateway open so the monsters can come through and take over.

As you might expect, the good guys win. It wouldn’t work any other way, I suppose. There is a decent amount of diversity in this movie. The lead actor is of African descent, and he is paired with a white girl, but there are other people, of other colors throughout the movie, so that was nice. The female characters never need the guys to come save them, which is a nice change of pace. Overall, that aspect of the movie was strong. If you have kids, this might be too scary for them, especially in 3D, but it was fun. For $12, I’m not sure I’d recommend it.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Movie Review: Tomb Raider 2018

Video game movies are notorious for not being done well. I can honestly say that isn’t the case here. I wouldn’t say this was the best movie I’d seen, or that it was the best video game movie, but it was a good movie. It kept you sort of guessing, had lots of puzzles to watch being solved, very much like the game. At the same time, the movie strived for emotional moments that it never quite hit. It’s been a day and I’ve already forgotten some of the movie. There were lots of great set pieces, big action sequences, but that doesn’t make for a good movie, per say.

There may be SPOILERS ahead, so you’ve been warned. If you’ve never played a Tomb Raider game, this movie might not fully make sense, in a ‘why would anyone do this’ sort of way. The movie tries to tell the story of Lara Croft trying to discover what happened to her father. She doesn’t want to admit that he probably died on a treasure hunt, so to speak. Her guardian has to come bail her out of jail or something to introduce the audience to Lara’s immense responsibility and wealth, while she was living like a pauper for the first bit of the movie. In his will, Lara’s father gifts her with some sort of puzzle box and so she runs off, not signing the papers, which I thought was kind of funny, and tries to get some money for a necklace and then runs off to the other side of the world. Of course, there are mercenaries that are living on an island since her father’s disappearance, trying to find what was hidden. Lara escapes, with the help of a local, and somehow finds her father, who has gone a little crazy, and the two have a strange reunion before Lara takes a bow and arrows and runs off to defeat the heavily armed mercenaries. It doesn’t end the way she had hoped and Lara ends up leading them inside the tomb, to find the treasure, only discovering the treasure is really an active disease that passes through touch. As you might guess, this proves costly and Lara knows that she can’t let it get out, so once again she’s fighting with the mercenaries to stop the disease from getting free.

The diversity in the movie, as per my Hina test, was okay. Yes, the movie was helmed by a female actress, one that doesn’t seem to be white. But most of the cast was white, except the Asian actors, all men, who were on the island, being held hostage by the mercenaries. It didn’t strike me as all that empowering, even though it should have been. I didn’t get a positive vibe from the movie, not really. That might just be me.

I am not sure I can recommend this movie or not. It was enjoyable, but was it worth $10, I’m not sure. I wonder if I’d like it better if I saw it again.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Movie Review: Black Panther

This movie was touted as the best superhero movie ever. I’m not sure I’d give it quite that high of a bar to reach, but it was quite good. It is on par with Captain America, the first movie, in the origin of T’Challa and his ascension to the throne. There are going to be SPOILERS ahead, so be aware. But before we get to that, I will say that the overall look and feel of the movie was refreshing, yet it still seemed familiar, like it was a Marvel movie and you knew it. It was nice to see all the faces that weren’t all white. I thought Chadwich Boseman was very subdued as the title character. In a way, his performance let the other amazing performances come forward. I couldn’t figure out why I recognized his general of his female army, but that is Michonne from The Walking Dead. The surprises for the movie, for me were his little sister, played by Letitia Wright, and the head of the Jabari tribe, played by Winston Duke. Those two stole every scene they were in.

On to the movie itself. The majority of the movie took place in Wakanda, a fictional country in Africa. It is hidden by the technology that they possess. The opening of the movie was a CG/FX wonderland, that, with 3D glasses, in the second row, was kind of nauseating. At times, the 3D did really disorient me, more than I would have liked. I am also still miffed that AMC promised me a lanyard, but supposedly the lanyards never arrived. That’s some grade A BS. Someone yanked them and is selling them on ebay, as I might have done, given the same chance, but I wouldn’t have taken the entire box, that’s just rude.

Anyway, the story progresses and the audience is introduced to lot of new faces, including T’Challa’s younger sister and ex-girlfriend, who he saves at the very beginning of the movie. One member of the Jabari tribe challenges the new king, but T’Challa wins, then he is crowned the king. His first order of business is to catch someone who stole vibranium from Wakanda, Andy Serkis, playing a South African thief.  Let’s all stop and remember that there are two Hobbits in this move as the token (Tolkien) white guys. I can’t take credit for that line, I saw it on Twitter a while ago. Anyway, the cast was meticulously put together and everyone worked amazingly well together, as in most Marvel movies.

I posted this review without talking about the very obvious politics of the movie. The main conflict is between T'Challa and his cousin, played by Micheal B Jordan, and Jordan's character wants to send out a support structure to Africans across the globe to overcome their oppressors. T'Challa was given the leadership to keep Wakanda a secret. It is an interesting conflict between empowering people and helping them, vs. the isolationism that T'Challa grew up with.

I enjoyed the movie, but I am not sure I’ll see it again, even though a friend wants to see it this weekend. I love the inspiration this movie will provide. As the representation for African Americans was great. There were hardly any threatening white faces and that was quite refreshing. There was tons of diversity and the female characters were wonderful because they didn’t need saving, like the usual damsel in distress that superhero movies do. No, these women were fierce and smart. In a way, it almost made T’Challa a bit of a bumbler, but with a good heart. Either way, you’d be foolish to miss this movie. And if you get a lanyard, hook a charmander up!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Movie Review: Winchester

Horror movies, I never get my fill, yet I never find one that really scares me, not anymore, it seems like. This one did not scare me as much as it could have, but the based on a true events sort of thing only does scare me some of the time. The movie, in a nutshell, is a ghost story. But there’s more to it than that, and that more does make a slight difference. Helen Mirren plays the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune and the company has called in a person who can assess her mental state to see if they can’t wrestle the power of the company away from the old lady. She has been building a house, building and rebuilding for a while, and continues to do so until she dies. The idea is that the ghosts tell her to build rooms and then she seals the rooms off so that the spirits can come to rest. It is an interesting concept. One I’d not be inclined to investigate firsthand.

Overall, the story was cohesive and interesting. There were a lot of jump scares, but the evil ghost didn’t do nearly as much damage as expected. An unexpected earthquake cause a lot of damage, releasing spirits throughout the house. There is a part of the plot that involves the Winchester curse, and how any of the family will be killed because they had created a weapon of destruction. That sort of thinking is somewhat novel in this day and age of everyone thinking they need to have a gun to protect themselves. I won’t devolve into a political discussion, but in some sense, it makes the movie timely. 

The special effects were decent, the acting was decent, given a not so impressive script. There were a few twists and turns, but nothing wholly unexpected. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it, but it didn’t floor me. It just sort of existed and I watched it and that was really it. I’m not sure I’d say you should see this movie or not, but if you’re bored and it’s on, you might enjoy it.

As for diversity in this movie, there was none. I don't think there was one non-white character. I will say that having Helen Mirren in a movie, and she is a strong character, certainly helps, but it won't salvage the lack of other colors in the movie. I get that it is a period piece, so it wouldn't be normal to see anyone other than whites, but still.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Movie Review: Proud Mary

I love Taraji P Hensen. She’s great in everything, even with that ultra-awkward forced love storyline in Person of Interest. This movie was pretty straightforward, not a lot of twists and turns, really. The story had promise, but I didn’t feel like it executed as well as it could have. The story follows a hit-woman who accidentally kills a guy who has a kid, then follows the kid around as he lives on the street, perhaps not accidentally killing the small fish he worked for. Wackiness ensues. A hit-woman having a child is weird enough, but then, of course, she wants to leave her job killing people and that isn’t what the people she works for wants. I do wonder if they opened a bed and breakfast, like one of the other bad guys suggested.

There were a lot of curious moves for this movie, like for me, why was it set in Boston? Also, why would a hit-woman be driving a Tesle, a 4-door Tesla no less. Like, who else was ever going to be in the car with her? Towards the end of the movie, the car gets shot up real good and somehow it turns right back on, really? Come on, now. The kid was not running around trying to shoot people once he discovers that Taraji has all those guns, really? The guy she used to date ends up kidnapping the kid and threatening to kill the kid, which I thought was kind of presumptuous. I mean, if he killed the kid, then their relationship is over, but if he doesn’t, then Taraji is going to put that dog down. A lot of plot holes, as best I can see it. The action was decent, fun even, but the movie didn’t have a ton of staying power, if any at all. I’d say you’re not missing much not seeing this movie. 

Can't say much about the diversity in the movie when it was primarily African American actors. Would have been interesting to see other races represented. Also, there were no other women except the title character.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok

At this point, every year we get about two, maybe three, Marvel movies. I’ve been underwhelmed by them lately. I think the last one I saw was Spiderman, but from the Avengers, I think it was one of the Avengers’ movies, or possibly Captain America. I was expecting a light-hearted affair with this latest Thor movie, as the trailers suggested and I was right. There really is no point to discussing the plot. It is as convoluted as it comes, yet is quite predictable at every turn. The trailers provide the viewer with the knowledge that Thor loses his hammer, some woman (turns out to be his sister) is killing everyone in Asgard (Thor’s home world) and that he fights Hulk in some sort of gladiatorial combat. What makes all of this interesting, and very funny, is that the characters never seem to take anything too seriously. It often feels like comments and jokes are made for our (the audience’s) benefit.

For me, the stars of the movie were the woman. Anything Cate Blanchett does is amazing, but paired with her Lord of the Rings cast-mate Karl Urban (Eomer), the two were quite hilarious together. The other strong female was portrayed in a sort of side-kick to Jeff Goldblum’s crazy, was Rachel House (who I don’t really know), but she was quite comical beside Goldblum’s Grandmaster, who was delightfully eccentric. The trailers pretty much gave away everything else, so the story with Thor, Loki and Hulk seemed secondary. I wasn’t even all that interested in their story, I wanted to see how the other characters would fare going forward. I mean, at the end of the movie, it was the tamest of all Marvel movies, really no consequences seem to have come down, save for one.

Thor was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. It had one minority woman, a bunch of white women, one minority man and a ton of straight white men. The movie utterly fails at diversity, even if the aliens could be argued to be of different races. Being a Marvel movie, people will see it regardless. You will probably find it enjoyable, but I would lean towards a day showing to save a few bucks.