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.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Movie Review: Victoria and Abdul

Yes, you read that correctly. I, Hina, went to see a non-horror, non-action, non-animated movie. Look, mom wanted to see it and her hot date (Dad) was not all that excited, so I buckled up, sans popcorns, and went with mom. This movie is based off of a book (surprise! Hollywood stole a book and turned it into a movie). I haven’t read the book, but mom was giving me asides throughout the movie. 

The story is about what you might expect. Dame Judi Dench plays Queen Victoria and Abdul is played by some guy I don’t know. Queen Victoria is getting on in years and is very lonely, the vultures of her family circling for her death so they can take over. There is a ceremony to be held in England and they are looking for two tall Hindus (to the British, I suppose there’s no difference between Hindus and Muslims). At the police station that Abdul works at, he is the tallest. The two are told not to make eye contact with the Queen, but of course Abdul can’t help it and when she sees him, she comments to someone else that he is quite handsome. The story pretty much spins from there. I would hate to SPOIL this movie, but it is rather predictable.

This is not a movie I would normally see, but I do so rarely get to spend time with my mom. It’s easier to talk sports with my father, and with the DC teams always collapsing, we have a lot to talk about. Mom wanted to see the movie so I went. It was enjoyable. There were a lot of good things about it and a few heavy handed things as well. In this political climate it isn’t easy to hit a nice balance, but this movie veered far to the side of racism and whites hating anyone who wasn’t white. Given the time period the movie was set in (late 1800s), it was sad how similar our current circumstances are to these.

As per my Hina test (strong female characters, diversity) this movie is an easy pass. Dame Judie Dench is wonderful. The fact that there are a variety of ‘brown’ people in the movie meets the pretty low bar of diversity. What is more, the movie had a lot of diversity of thought. If we are to believe the journals that the book is based off of, Queen Victoria was learning Urdu (an Indian language), learning about India, from Abdul. It is rare to see a movie where a person is open-minded and wants to learn about another culture. If you have time, this is a movie you can see with anyone (family-friendly) and worth seeing.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Movie Review: Flatliners (2017)

In the long saga of Hollywood believing that if it worked once, we should repackage it and sell it again, this is a remake of a 1990 movie, one I did not see at the time.  Having not seen the original, I can only assess the current movie. The story made sense about halfway through, then got quite tame and sort of boring as it moved on. There may be SPOILERS ahead, but please, don’t waste too much money seeing this.

The movie opens with some sort of flashback of Ellen Page’s getting into a car accident. The next thing we see is her working at a hospital with other young doctors. For whatever plot jumping reason, she decides to get two of her friends to help her with a so-called experiment, letting her body die and come back to life. This already seems like a poorly thought out plan, but whatever, they do it, and suddenly she like unlocks all this stuff and can do all these things. The other kids go and it doesn’t really get better. Each of them begins to be haunted by misdeeds they did in the past. This is just as stupid as it sounds. I really stopped paying attention, but basically Ellen Page’s ghost of her dead sister pushes her off of a fire escape, but everyone else escapes just fine.

With respect to me diversity and strong female representation test (the Hina test), this one gets a very small pass. The main character was a gay woman. Even though this wasn’t explicit, the way Page’s character dressed left little misinterpretation. There were two other women, one white (Nina Dobrev of Vampire Diaries) and some African American girl that seemed familiar. There were no other minorities really present, but it had a good mix. It wasn’t like last week’s Friend Request where the entire cast was white.

Overall, this was not a very good movie and I’m glad I paid under $7 to see it. Plus I stole ice from the theatre to ice my knees, so that was fun. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Movie Review: Friend Request

I really wondered what I thought I was doing bothering to see this movie. When you enter the theatre and there are only 2 other people there and it’s an 11 show, it does make you start to rethink your choices. Let’s not kid, after watching The 100, seeing Alyicia Debnam Carey in anything is almost a must, though I do avoid Fear the Walking Dead because I just can’t do any more zombies. Lexa did deserve better, and so did we. Anyway. This movie is about a girl who is super popular, and pretty, and white, because of course (more on complete lack of diversity later, though there were fat people, so a quarter of a point back). Possible SPOILERS AHEAD. So, super popular pretty girl takes pity on unattractive crazy girl and then crazy girl stalks pretty girl and then commits suicide (crazy girl). Wackiness ensues. 

I could talk about the substance of the movie, but there’s not much to say. There was some implication that the crazy girl was disturbed from an early age and turned to the dark arts, how that factors into her hacking everyone’s Facebook accounts wasn’t totally clear. I always love how these sorts of movies show these people being so utterly deranged they can’t handle any sort of rejection. That seems sort of crazy. If you deal with a lot of rejection, yes, it doesn’t get easier, but people don’t usually lose their minds. Of course, the movie tries to tie in some sort of lore about the horror paying itself forward, but that’s not really interesting, is it? The movie wasn’t all that interesting either, sorry, ADC.

With respect to my Hina test (to test diversity, strong female characters) – this movie gets a hard fail, like a flaming, unforgivable pile of fail. The main character, Lauren Woodson (a Lexa reference maybe? All the fan fictions give her the last name of Woods), has to have men come save her at every turn and everyone is white. There’s the ex-guy who is still into her and then she’s dating Peter from the Chronicles of Narnia. I didn’t recognize him until I saw the cast page. Wow, Peter is all grown up and looking good. So, I think this could create a whole new sub-genre of fan fiction – Peter and Lexa with Clarke, of course, because Lexa is with Clarke. I know, this review is as focused as the movie was yesterday. 

Horror movies are supposed to be kind of scary, kind of teaching something, but this movie really didn’t teach me anything, though I may have smuggled Starbucks and yogurt in, so that was a first and while I may have covered my eyes, I wasn’t really scared. The acting was decent. AIycia Debnam Carey was wonderful as ever, but this wasn’t a strong story and the cast was not as strong as she was. I thought Will Moseley (Peter from Narnia) was actually decent, but that’s about the extent. I did think the creepy girl was creepy, but that could be attributed to makeup and lighting.  I did like that there were actors of all types, a chubby girl and her chubby boyfriend get killed first, because of course. There were no non-white people in the movie pretty much.