Movie Review: STAR WARS Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

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The Last JediDisney / Lucasfilm

“What do you know about the force?”
“It’s a power that Jedi have that lets them control people and…make things float.”
“Impressive. Every word in that sentence was wrong.”

So, this is a first. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi happens to be the first Star Wars movie that has left me without a fully-formed opinion about it immediately after the credits rolled. And even now, as I write this a day or two after watching this with the Exalted Geeks, I find myself chewing over what I really thing about this newest entry in the ongoing saga from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But, I’m gonna give it the ol’ college try, I am I am.

Let’s take some time, then, to warn about SPOILERS, as I have no earthly idea how to keep things spoiler-free while talking about my thoughts on this movie. But, considering I know this won’t be scheduled to be posted until the second day of 2018, I don’t know if there will be anyone in existence that will need the spoiler warning, but just in case there is, be ye warned. If somehow you’re reading this and haven’t seen The Last Jedi, this is your chance to jump ship and go do so. Go on, I can wait.

So, The Last Jedi begins with the First Order striking back against the Resistance lead by General Leia (she’ll always be the Princess to me). After narrowly escaping following a botched defensive attack, the Resistance find themselves on the run and hotly pursued by the First Order. Meanwhile, Ray is finding that Master Skywalker’s reaction to her arrival is not what she was expecting. Which was the Jedi hero of legend. Instead, she’s confronted with a grumpy old man who wants nothing to do with Jedi, and has cut himself off from the Force. But, Ray proves to be a persistent whipper-snapper and manages to get Luke to agree on three lessons. They don’t go as expected. Oh, and Chewy may or may not have gone vegetarian, I don’t know. Meanwhile, a revived Finn has gone off with some new character named Rose to find a master code breaker at a posh high-roller casino so they could get past the defenses on Snoke’s ship so they can shut down the techno-McGuffin so they can outrun and escape the First Order. That goes as well as expected. Ray comes to odds with Luke and leaves, while the surviving Resistance squares off against the First Order at a long-abandoned Rebel base, and then Luke finally squares off against his nephew Kylo Ren. To quote Luke Skywalker from this movie, this is not going to go the way you think.

All that, and I still left out a whole bunch from that synopsis. And there is a lot to take in. And quite frankly, rather than analyze the film (there are plenty of blog and YouTube posts out there, so take your pick), I’ll just cut to the chase: I rather enjoyed The Last Jedi. I thought it built up on and continued the previous story nicely, not just rehashing what has come before while still retaining the overarching saga; there wasn’t just a reliance on the older characters, but a much-needed passing of the torch to the new characters involved. The story was dark, like the second installment in the trilogy should be, and deliciously so. The characters weren’t just 2-dimensional, but had depth and conflict, regardless of what side of the fight they were on. Luke turning out to be jaded and unwilling to get back into the fight, let alone training Ray, is something unexpected, yes…but I loved this character development. It was unexpected, given the hopeful and (admittedly) slightly naive Jedi Knight Luke we last saw at the end of The Return Of The Jedi. Not that I was rooting for a curmudgeonly Skywalker…I too was surprised at his reaction, but I accepted it as one of the logical conclusions his character arc would take. Kylo Ren is turning out to be a far more compelling character than expected. Also, I’m glad those Porgs didn’t end up being this movie’s Ewoks. They’re just there, not really needing to be in the movie as much as they were, but good for some light comedy relief when needed.

That’s not to say that The Last Jedi doesn’t have its flaws. Leia surviving being blown into the vacuum of space being my first point of contention while watching this. I realize this is a movie about space wizards with lazer swords fighting space Nazis; still, presuming this is the same kind of space that we’re subjected to here in our galaxy, that was quite a bit of stretching of my suspension of disbelief, there. And while I get the feeling we’re not necessarily done with him just yet, I still think that Snoke was wasted here. Such a buildup with The Force Awakens, and then…well, rather let down, I was.

Overall, I think the good things about The Last Jedi far outweigh all the bad, especially the cries of this being the “worst Star Wars movie since The Phantom Menace” I’ve seen on some blogs and reviews. I think what may have happened is that The Last Jedi wasn’t what they were expecting, and because it didn’t cater to their own needy sense of entitlement, they couldn’t see past that to just enjoy a friggin’ Star Wars movie. I for one highly recommend seeing this.



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justice leagueWarner Bros.

“I miss the days when one’s biggest concern is exploding wind-up penguins.”

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists newfound ally Diana Prince to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash — it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

Lead-up to the big DCEU team-up movie has not been an easy one. While I seemed to be in the minority in thinking that Man Of Steel was decent if not severely flawed, Batman V Superman was a hot mess, and Suicide Squad was also a hot mess, but at least it was a bit more entertaining. Wonder Woman was awesome, but something I consider more an exception to the rule, rather than being a positive step in the right direction for the DCEU franchise. So, it was up to Justice League to fully turn my doubts around about the viability of the series. Will Justice League prove to be the contender with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or will this prove to be its undoing, ending up like Universal’s Dark Universe?

Also, I realize this is going to be posted at the beginning of the new year, a couple of months since it premiered in theaters, but regardless, possible spoilers ahead. I won’t know until I’ve written this thing, and all.

Pretty much picking up in the aftermath of Batman V Superman, it seems the death of Superman has caught the attention of an ancient intergalactic warlord named Steppenwolf, who has tried to conquer the Earth before, but was stopped by the ancient heroes…heroes which included the Amazons, the Atlantians, and the Green Lantern Corps, among others. Now that the so-called “old gods” have disappeared, Steppenwolf has come back to retrieve three hidden alien devices that, when combined, will turn the planet into the hellish world he desires it to be. As such, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince begin recruiting other superpowered heroes to help stop the invasion and beat it back from whence it came. Among the ranks are half-Atlantian, half-Human Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, Speed Force-adept Barry Allen, aka the Flash, and Victor Stone, aka Cyborg. Cyborg is unique in that his powers stem from bonding with the very alien items that Steppenwolf is searching for. Even with that lineup, though, the team still seems to get their collective butts handed to them. They need to get another team member with a bit more power to go toe-to-toe with this New God. Someone…super. Some kind of super man, if you will.

Okay, fine: they resurrect Superman. I told you there would be spoilers.

So, Steppenwolf gets all three devices, goes to Russia and begins terraforming, and the superheroes plus a newly revived Superman (complete with shiny new duds) shows up, lay the smackdown, and everything ends on a happy note, with Bruce and Diana continuing with the notion of formation a league of some sort, for justice. Then the post-credits scene happens, and now I’m sad again. You’ll see what I mean when it happens.

I’ll be forthright: I went into watching Justice League with some very, very lowered expectations. Like, nearly non-existent. I was pretty much convinced that Wonder Woman was a fluke, and Justice League would continue in the same level of suckage the other two “team-up” movies in the DCEU were. But, I was proven slightly wrong.

First, the good: all the superheroes were done right. I’ve said that Ben Afleck was probably my favorite Bruce Wayne / Batman so far, and I’m sticking by it. Wonder Woman is still awe-inspiring as well as a furious butt-kicker (all apologies to Lynda Carter, you’ll always be my first Wonder Woman). As far as the newbies go: I had my doubts about Aquaman, and especially Jason “shirts make me itchy” Momoa’s kind of dude-bro vibe I got from the previews, but that actually works for the character. I was impressed. I am now interested in a possible Aquaman stand-alone if he continues playing the character, no mean feat. This iteration of the Flash, while effective as the comic relief of the group (because the world is not yet ready for Plastic Man, pity as that is), I wasn’t fully convinced he was Barry Allen. He seemed more Wally West than Allen. But, that’s the direction they took, and he played it well. The biggest surprise for me here was Cyborg, as I was convinced he was going to be regulated to background character that only comes up to give out technobabble and such. No, his arc was fairly substantial, given the time frame. And since I’ve already let the cat out of the bag, I have to say it: Superman is finally Superman. No longer is he brooding, he actually laughs at times. Even his costume is brighter than on Man Of Steel. Also, the running time is significantly less than the other movies, so it goes by in a relatively brisk pace. Which, really, brings up:

The bad: While I was glad for a nice, refreshingly shorter movie run time, I get the feeling that maybe that extra half-hour would have actually been beneficial to flesh out things a bit better. Like, with the main baddy of the film, Steppenwolf. He’s not only the most two-dimensional villain I’ve come across since the heyday of the 1990s superhero films, but his motion-capture CG rendering is the worst I’ve seen. It took a lot out of my enjoyment, as I kept thinking how hard it could have been to just use a live actor and use the CG sparingly to beef things up? Could have used some more baking time, guys.

Overall, while the action and fight scenes were breathtaking, and finally getting to see Supes back in form, Justice League seemed to fall just short of the epicness that a team up movie like this should have been. Regardless, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and while not a complete turn-around, Justice League is a step in the right direction for the DCEU. Definitely try and catch this on a big screen some time.

Movie Review: THOR: Ragnarok

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thor ragnarokMarvel/Disney

“Well, I tried to start a revolution, but didn’t print enough pamphlets so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum and her boyfriend, who I hate. As punishment, I was forced to be in here and become a gladiator. Bit of a promotional disaster that one, but I’m actually organizing another revolution.”

Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

It seemed like not too long ago that a young and excitable Marvel Studios was releasing what would become their First Wave of the grand-reaching Marvel Cinematic Universe, that included the first Thor movie. I remember being enthusiastic about skipping the first Thor movie, because I really wasn’t a fan of the Marvel comic itself. A comic book hero based on Norse mythology? Hard pass. I prefer my comic book heroes dressing up as nocturnal rodents or bitten by radioactive critters, thank you very much. Or, failing that, written by the British Triumvirate (Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and Alan Moore). You get the idea. Pity my prejudices, as when I finally did get around to watching both Thor and its sequel, I actually enjoyed them. Not my favorites of the Marvel Movie bunch, but certainly not terrible. Good enough to warrant trying to watch the third movie in the theater when it was released. And watch it in the theater I did, with the other members of the Coven of Exalted Geeks, which we also recorded a podcast about immediately thereafter. But, since I like to go a bit more in-depth with my coveted opinions on things on this here blog of mine, here’s what I thought of Thor: Ragnarok.

My first thought of the movie was, “This is, hands down, the best Hulk movie I’ve seen.” And no, that’s wasn’t a spoiler, because the trailer to this movie flat-out shows the Hulk, right out in the open. Which is a bit of a point of contention I had, letting that cat out of the bag long before the movie, but then again, I’m just a pseudo-journalist with a blog, and not one of them Hollywood execs calling the shots on this. Not that I’m bitter or anything (wankers). But, yeah, the Hulk makes up about a third of the fun times had with Thor: Ragnarok, what with his gleeful antagonism of Thor like the good frienemy he is.

My second thought: “Wow, they actually managed to get ‘The Immigrant Song’ for the movie, not just the trailer.” Which is a feet unto itself, really. They may be loosening up their iron-clad grip on licensing out their songs, but Led Zeppelin still doesn’t just hand them out like Pez candy. “The Immigrant Song” plays not just once, but twice here. Excellent get. Well, it was either this, or something from the equally tonally-appropriate Amon Amarth. “Guardians Of Asgard” comes to mind…

My third and final big thought on this: “They’re really trying to capture the magic of the Guardians Of The Galaxy formula, aren’t they?” Yeah, while this is a rather dark movie (which is to be expected when the concept of Armageddon and destruction is right there in the subtitle of the movie), there are also a heavy dollop of humor mixed in to help lighten the tone up. This works maybe 85 percent of the time, maybe.

You may have noticed that I decided not to go with my standard method of summarizing the plot of the movie. That’s mainly because Thor: Ragnarok really is an epic fantasy action movie in and of itself. It starts with a massive battle between Thor and the undead army of Hell (or whatever the Marvel equivalent is), and then it ends with a giant fiery demon destroying Asgard. In-between, major characters in the franchise die, Thor goes on an unexpected journey of discovery, we’re introduced to one of the greatest side characters since Luis in Ant-Man, and of course HULK SMASH! A lot of HULK SMASH! All this, and some of the most mind-blowing visuals this side of a Kirby splash page. On the other hand, this may all be part of the downside of the movie, as there’s so much to take in. Also, sometimes the humor itself seems more juvenile than not. And it was mentioned in the podcast we did that Hela seemed to be yet another arbitrary villain introduced without much buildup or fleshing out beyond some brief exposition. I tend to agree with this assessment.

Overall, despite its flaws, I would still urge anyone reading this to try and watch this on the biggest screen you can, and try and take in as much as you can. Thor: Ragnarok may be a filler movie before getting to the main event with the next Avengers movie, but it’s a grandly entertaining filler movie, full of bright shiny things and genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, along with great action sequences. In other words, it’s a Marvel movie. Go enjoy it for what it is.

Movie Review: The DARK TOWER

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the dark towerColumbia Pictures

“It’s a hotdog.”
“Savages. What breed?”

Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black. The Gunslinger must prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together. With the fate of worlds at state, two men collide in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

The Dark Tower. What started off as a series of short stories collected together into a small novel, that suddenly exploded into an epic western/dark fantasy/sci-fi saga of the last Gunslinger in a world that has moved on, questing to find the Dark Tower, the nexus that holds the multi-verse realities together, a quest that is not only personal, but also to protect and save it from being destroyed by the Crimson King. Along the way, he travels to different dimensions, meeting others who would join him on his quest, as they make their way to the ultimate goal. It is a saga that is held in as almost as much regard as The Lord Of The Rings, with fans that are just as passionate about the books and other adaptations and lore.

They made a movie about it, now. I’m pretty sure you may have noticed by now, but yeah. After what seems to be decades of trying to bring it to the big screen, it’s finally happened. And, after a week or so having to wait due to scheduling issues, I finally watched it with some key members of the Coven of Exalted Geeks.

I will pause right now to say that, in case you’re just reading this, and haven’t gotten around to checking out my book reviews, I am what you would call a Stephen King Constant Reader, and have been since I was 14. I’ve also read all of the Dark Tower novels, and some of the comics as well. So, yeah. Dark Tower nerd, here. Anyway…

One more time around the wheel, I guess: So, there’s this tween-ager named Jake Chambers who, for a number of years now, has been having these really detailed dreams involving a mysterious man in black (not Johnny Cash, I’m afraid) trying to destroy an even more mysterious dark tower, while being pursued by a gun-slinging cowboy. This “gun-slinger”, if you will, is seeking revenge, because the man in black, it turns out, killed a bunch of people with magicks, including the gunslinger’s father. Little Jake has been drawing pictures of these dreams and more, and everyone things that he’s a bit…insane because of this, including his mom and step-father. That’s why they decide to send Jake off to a special retreat for crazy kids. Only, the people from the retreat who show up aren’t really people, so Jake parkours his way to freedom and goes to a house he dreamed about and activates a portal that takes him to Mid-Wolrd, the home of the real-life gunslinger. And also the guy in black. He meets up with the Gunslinger, and they go on a journey to find the man in black’s hideout, where he’s taking kidnapped children that have psychic powers to use to topple the Dark Tower, to stop him. Along the way, they make a pit-stop back in New York to stock up on bullets and a certain soda brand they couldn’t get the license for, so they couldn’t show the logo or say the name out loud.

Oh, there was a lot of nerd rage over this movie. Not as ridiculous levels as with the 2016 Ghostbusters movie; there was quite a bit, though, some of which I overheard going out of the theater after the movie. But, this is my review of the movie, and thus you will have my not-so-humble opinion on this movie. And remember, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a long-time Constant Reader of Stephen King’s work, and have also read the entire original saga of books and hold them as kind of my Lord of the Rings. Ready? Deep breath, here, aaaaaaand…

…I rather enjoyed The Dark Tower. No, really. I did. I went in knowing that they weren’t trying to adapt the books–because, really, that would have been nigh impossible, even if you got Peter Jackson in his prime in on things–but essentially do a continuation of the books. Really, even Stephen King himself mentioned that this wasn’t an adaptation attempt, but kind of a sequel to the books. I don’t want to go into the details, but if you’ve read the entirety of the saga, you know why I’m saying this. Also, it’s been documented by the makers of the movie that this was the intention. As such, there were elements that were lifted from all of the books–and some other Stephen King books outside of the Dark Tower universe proper–that have been included here and there, with more of a focus on Jake’s perspective of the story rather than Roland. And yes, I was nerdy enough to pick out the easter eggs abounding.

Beyond that, though, as a movie in and of itself, I would have to say that The Dark Tower was much more enjoyable than most of the reviews I’ve come across have made it out to be. I found it to be a rather well-made, well-acted, gorgeously shot western fantasy with a creamy sci-fi center that entertained me for the surprisingly tight 90 minute run time. Because, if anything had the right to go over the 2-hour limit, it would have been this. But, the filmmakers showed restraint, and it helped things out in that area. Idris Elba was the perfect choice to play Roland Deschain, as he managed to emote more with his eyes to give that haunted look needed for the character. And what can I say, but Matthew McConaughey nailed it as the Man In Black, the evil known as…Walter. Okay, you can probably laugh at that, but that’ll be the last thing you’d do. The guy can charm you one second, and then chill you to your spine the next, all while never changing cadence or going over the top. That said, he may have been underused. The action scenes are probably where you’re going to get the majority of the groans, especially if you have even a rudimentary grasp on basic physics. But, with just a bit of strength to the suspension of disbelief, you still get some very action-packed scenes mixed in with your dark fantasy, here. And I do believe the movie’s best part happens when Deschain arrives in New York City. Some fish-out-of-water comedy to flavor things up.

Overall, yeah, there were some flaws to this iteration of The Dark Tower. I wasn’t happy with how easily the resolution at the end happened. But, when it was all said and done, The Dark Tower managed to entertain me, and did so without feeling the need to cram something happening at every moment of its run time. It was a rather satisfying blended genre flick that, honestly, I hope they make more of the story. Even in television form, which I think would work better overall. But, we shall see if survives the whiners. For me, this is recommended, more of a matinee, but definitely on the big screen if you can.

Book Review: The HARLAN ELLISON COLLECTION: I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream

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I have no mouth and i must screamHarlan Ellison
Ace Books

Slowly but surely I am assimilating eBooks into my reading habit. Not that I’m fully converted to the digital style of reading a book; I’m still very much old-school when it comes to that, I can assure you. But, even I have to admit that there are some advantages to reading something electronically. Like when you’re on a rather long download at work, and can access the ebook account there for some quality reading time while you’re waiting for that dial-up download to go through. Seriously, in this day and age, why do are there still dialups going on?

Anyway, one of the ebooks I purchased was this nifty thing featuring seven short stories by science fiction icon Harlan Ellison. Mostly because for years I’ve been hearing about how the title story was one of the more haunting and scary pieces of science fiction horror written. But, also as kind of a taster for the author himself, as I wasn’t really all that familiar with Ellison, beyond his reputation of not being able to play well with others. Also, he wrote a classic episode of Star Trek TOS. Here are the stories and my thoughts on ’em:

“I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream”
…the classic story of a sentient computer that came self-aware during World War III and killed off all of humanity, save for five, which it (he?) keeps alive for the simple reason to torture them throughout the centuries. I have to admit, this is a very haunting and nihilistic post apocalyptic tale, very effective. Just the way I like it. I can see why this is loved in the Science Fiction community.

“Big Sam Was My Friend”
…a sad tale of an intergalactic circus performer that was put to death due to his interruption of a virgin sacrifice. Also, he can teleport. Also, his circus chums let it happen due to business. It’s quite bittersweet, really.

“Eyes Of Dust”
…on a planet of perfect beauty, the “ugly” couple have a kid equally as ugly, and it doesn’t sit well with the Normals. This one is rather brief, and I get the feeling that there could have been more explored within the context of the story, but it just kind of escalates quickly and then ends.

“World of the Myth”
…three space-faring explorers crash-land on a planet, and while waiting for their rescue ship to arrive, have a run-in with an indigenous species of insects. And yes, wackiness ensues. This one kind of reminded me of a variation of the Outer Limits episode “The Sandkings”, with the insects that are more than what we would perceive them as. Or, more to the point, as they would perceive us as.

…a divorced man slowly goes insane. It doesn’t end well, as you may have deduced by now. Very bleak, very melancholy. Also, it makes me question my desire to not remain single for the entirety of my life.

“Delusion for a Dragon Slayer”
…an average man living a mundane existence happens to be a mere few minutes late on his usual routine and is crushed by a wrecking ball…and that’s when the adventure begins. This was more a straight fantasy, like one of the Dreamland tales of H. P. Lovecraft, with a rather melancholy ending. Not too bad, this.

“Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes”
…a down-on-his-luck guy uses his last literal dollar on a slot machine in Vegas, and begins to win big; the reason of which involves the ghost of a lady that died playing that very slot six months prior.

I have to admit, I had no idea of what to expect when first taking in the stories. It turns out that Ellison’s style is really more of a blend of science fiction, some fantasy and horror, with everything marinated heavily in dark existential nihilism. It’s kind of like Philip K. Dick without the mental illness, and just jaded and grumpy. Which is what I dig. Also, his introductions are insightful, yes, but also a riot.

As a first timer checking out his work, I found this collection to be more than beneficial. I was rather sad that it ended so soon, really. Highly recommended to check out.

Movie Review: WONDER WOMAN

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wonder womanWarner Bros.

“I used to want to save the world, this beautiful place. But the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness within. I learned this the hard way, a long, long time ago.”

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, Diana meets an American pilot who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny.

So, by now, if you’re reading this, you fall in one of three categories: 1) you’ve already watched Wonder Woman (perhaps multiple times), 2) you have yet to watch Wonder Woman, as you’re still iffy about the possible quality due to the track record of the previous DC movies in the past couple of years, or 3) you’re trying to find something to be angry about to satisfy your inner sense of political self-righteousness. I wish I could say I was joking about that last part.

Anyway, Wonder Woman. Officially the fourth movie in DC’s Extended Universe, this one had the stigma of needing to be not as bad as the previous films turned out to be. I say this as the general overall perception of the previous films; you might recall that I ended up liking Man Of Steel a bit more than most of all fandom did. Batman v. Superman was a hot mess, while Suicide Squad was also a hot mess, but a far more entertaining hot mess. As such, by the time Wonder Woman rolled around, my expectations were rather low. All the movie had to do was not suck obnoxiously, and it would be the best DCEU movie of the bunch. And on that basic front, Wonder Woman succeeded. Boy howdy, did it succeed.

After a prologue scene where Diana Prince receives a special package from some guy named Bruce Wayne, we’re taken back to the Greek island of Themyscira, the home of warrior women called the Amazons, at a time when she was a precocious little tot who wanted so badly to be a warrior like everyone else, but her mother–Queen Hippolyta–would rather she pursue a more mundane existence, for her own good. Diana’s aunt, however, disagrees with the sentiment, and begins training the young girl in secret. In time, though, they are found out, which leads to…Diana getting even more training. And after a surprise hint as to Diana’s true nature, in comes the first male to visit Themyscira since ever, with WWI pilot Steve Trevor crashing into the coast. After Diana rescues him, the Germans soon invade, causing havoc and, after interrogating Trevor, Diana decides that Aries, the god of War is behind this World War (under the guise of German General Ludendorff), and sets off to kill him to bring peace to mankind. After a brief stint in London, Diana, Trevor and a motley crew travel to the front lines, where Diana wastes no time in invading No Man’s Land, takes out a machine gun nest, whups a bunch of Germans into submission, and punches a tower (the tower loses) to liberate a small Belgium village from the occupation it was under. However, General Ludendorff decides to wipe out the village the next day with a big ol’ Mustard Gas bomb, which pisses Diana off even further, and she goes off and manages to kill Ludendorff…only Ludendorff isn’t Aries. In a twist that everyone saw coming miles away, the real Aries shows up, he tries to explain that mankind isn’t under his spell, that mankind is capable of all sorts of atrocities by themselves, which clashes with Diana’s sense of altruism, which leads to a big fight with lots of damage and ‘splosions and stuff. Meanwhile, Trevor sacrifices himself to save London from being hit with a cargo plane full of Mustard Gas, Aries is defeated, and we flash back to current times where Diana decides that the power of love will blah blah blah, something-something I’m Wonder Woman now. The end.

It took them a few times in this shared universe of theirs, but DC has finally stumbled upon the formula for making a superhero movie feel like a genuine superhero movie. The tone and feel really brings back the sense of (no pun intended) wonder that Richard Donner’s Superman The Movie did, where you’re watching and manage to go beyond seeing some actor dressed as Wonder Woman, and believing it really is Wonder Woman. With maybe the exception of the CGI heavy boss fight at the end (yeah, it did feel like a video game cut scene), the two-and-a-half run time didn’t seem that long at all.

I went into Wonder Woman expecting it to fail, and wound up suddenly having hope for the other DC movies coming up after this. We’ll see. In the meantime, if you still haven’t seen Wonder Woman, go do so now while it’s still in theaters. Assuming you’re reading this while it still is.


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fantastic beastsWarner Bros.

“I don’t think I’m dreaming.”
“What gave it away?”
“I ain’t got the brains to make this up.”

The year is 1926, and Newt Scamander has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident, were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.

I am not a Harry Potter fan. There, I said it. I have nothing against the series of books and films, and I acknowledge the phenomenon for what it is. I’ve never read the books, but I have watched all of the movies. When you date someone who is a massive fan, watching the movies was inevitable. They’re not bad. Not planning on reviewing them any time soon, mind you; what I’m trying to get at is, the Harry Potter series isn’t really my thing, and I hold no animosity against anyone who does. I write this for the benefit of anyone thinking of taking to whatever social media they use to call down fire on me for not liking what you like, therefore I must automatically hate it. Don’t be stupid.

Now that the disclaimer has been made, let’s move on to the first spinoff movie set in the Harry Potter Universe, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. This one, I actually kind of wanted to see when I first saw the trailer at some other movie I was waiting for to start. I understood it had its basis in the fictional text book in the main Harry Potter movies (remember, I’ve never read the books, so I personally can’t use those as a point of reference), with the story surrounding the adventures of the man who eventually would write that text book. The reason why I had an interest in see it was due to it being set in the early 20th Century New York. I am a sucker for period pieces, especially when united with sci fi and fantasy like this.

The movie itself, which I did see in the theater on opening weekend, turned out to be rather enjoyable. While the trailer makes it look like Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them is about a search for a bunch of magical creatures that have escaped and are roaming about in 1920s New York. And, at its base, it is…but this being part of the so-called Potterverse, there’s a bit more than that, with the search for the fantastical beasts being more of the incidental bit that leads to the overall wackiness that ensues.

So, we have this misfit wizard traveling the globe, documenting the titular fantastic beasts in their natural habitats, arriving in New York for one of his stops, where he suddenly finds his suitcase–where he has his collection of fantastic beasts–was accidentally switched with a similar one owned by a would-be baker wanting to get a small loan to open a bakery. So now, instead of the fantastic beasts, the suitcase is filled with baked goods. Also, a marsupial with a TARDIS-like pouch and a thing for shiny items has escaped. The Baker and the Wizard team up to find the escaped critter, they run into a member of the American branch of the Magic Police, who have their own hands full with…something. Bigger. Soon, the Wizard, the Baker and…not the Candlestick Maker (and her sister) find themselves tied up with a bigger conspiracy within the magic community, one that has ties to a certain wizard school across the pond in England. Whimsical wackiness and wanton destruction ensues.

So, overall, yeah. Rather enjoyed Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. Everyone was good in their rolls (though I got a nagging feeling Eddie Redmayne was trying to channel Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor for his portrayal of Newt), the effects were good, and the story itself kept my rapt attention throughout the course of the run time. Taken on its own merits, Fantastic Beasts ranks as a memorable fantasy flick that should be checked out at least once.

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