Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Dark-Phoenix

Jean Grey (Summer Fontana, Sophie Turner) has had a disastrous childhood.  Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) recognizes her as a troubled mutant with vast powers, and takes her in to his school for gifted children. Soon, Jean is grown up and part of the team, and her first mission is to save a Space Shuttle mission, which is in danger because of solar flares.  Jean saves the crew and keeps the shuttle from breaking apart, but the solar flares increase Jean’s power exponentially.  The problem is Jean can’t control her powers, and this has a dire effect on the X-Men, and causes Jean to feel alienated from the X-men.

She tries to befriend Erik (Michael Fassbender) but he is on a commune of sorts in his island of Genosha, and has no interest in joining up for Jean for any evil deeds.  Then, when Jean is close to doing something desperate, she meets Vuk (Jessica Chastain ) an extraterrestrial, who explains the origins of her new powers, and tells Jean that the X-Men, specifically Xavier, want to control her and use her for her power.  Is Vuk genuinely trying to support Jean, or is she driving a wedge between Jean and the X-men for their own nefarious reasons?

Dark Phoenix is not the Jean Grey origin story that the character deserved.  The writers change many things about her origin story and one big detail in the X-men lore that confuses everything.  The themes of mutant alienation and mutant internment have all been discussed before. The writers borrow a lot from other Marvel origin stories and even from DC, and all of this lends to the feeling that this movie is a rehash of older, better X-Men movies. In fact, X3:  The Last Stand , told the Jean Grey  origin story, and even touched on the Phoenix metamorphosis, and did a better job of telling the story.  The writers substitute violence and special effects for storytelling and that is never a good sign.

This movie is a waste of a very talented cast.  I’ve never seen Game of Thrones but I assume it’s a good show and she is good in it, she’s stuck playing a confused , scared character for the majority of the film.  And knowing she is British, I was searching for her British accent, and she slipped a few times.  James McAvoy has done a great job playing Xavier for three films, n this film he is stuck mouthing pious platitudes about always trying to do the right thing, or the X-Men being “family” whatever that means. Similarly, Michael Fassbender is playing a neutered Erik, who doesn’t have nearly the excitement  of prior iterations, Magneto has to be dangerous to be interesting.  Jennifer Lawrence is not a good actress, but she was given the role of Raven for no good reason, and she put nothing into the role for 4 movies now, Rebecca Romajn was the better Raven by far.  Jessica Chastain is one of the best actresses in the country, she deserves better than to play an underdeveloped, poorly written alien.

The direction is nothing more than the average special effects driven superhero film, there is no scene that is memorable, either visually or to tell a story.  This is just another forgettable film in what’s going to be an onslaught of reboots and prequels and variations on different comic book characters.  The genre is getting tired, and Dark Phoenix did nothing to energize it, the placing is lethargic, no acting stands out, and the story limps to a finish.

Dark Phoenix:  Does not rise to the occasion.

 

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killing eve

Episode 1: Nice Face

MI5 Security Agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) is doing her own private investigation of the murder of a shady Russian politician.  She is making side bets with her boss, Bill Pargrave, (David Haig) about how the politician was killed and who killed him.  Eve is tasked with protecting the only witness to the killing, the politician’s girlfriend, Kasia Molkovska  (Edyta Budnik)  Can Eve protect her?

This episode is a great introduction to what looks to be a very good show, the plot is interesting and unexpected in a lot of ways and the acting is very good.  The cast is mostly British, except for Oh, who I never really cared for as an actress.  I did not like Sideways at all, but Oh shows good timing here and the humor is very dry understated British humor.  Pretty impressive for the opening salvo.  There are even some good production values here and the show looks stylish.

Episode 2:  I’ll Deal With Him Later

After being relieved of her duties, Eve is offered an opportunity by Carolyn Martins (Fiona Shaw) of MI6 to track down the assassin whom Eve seems obsessed with.  The assassin , Villanelle (Jodie Comer) is having a little trouble controller her bloodlust, despite being warned by her handler, Konstantin(Kim Bodnia)  many times to tone her flashy behavior down. Has Eve met Villanelle before?

It’s interesting that this episode spends most of this episode is devoted to Villanelle, because she is the much more interesting character.  Eve and her gang of detectives seem to be comedy relief, and play second fiddle to Villanelle in a show named after Eve.  I don’t know if that was intended, but that the way it seems.  Great performance by Julie Comer who seems to enjoy killing way too much, her performance has hijacked the show from Sandra  Oh.

Episode 3:  Don’t I know You?

After Villanelle kills a Chinese cyber expert, Zhang Wu (Simon Chin) in a dubious location in Berlin, Eve and Bill try to track her down, even while Konstantin warns  Villanelle that they are in town, and that she should report their doings back to him.  The Chinese government representative, Jin Yeong  (Lobo Chan) seems more interested in Eve  then finding out what happened to his dead compatriot.  What is he after?

This is the first, and I hope, only, weak episode of Killing Eve, the plot breaks down in silly and correctable ways, the secondary characters are cartoonish in their simplicity, and most shocking of all the script has some really old and tired female objectification. I guess the #MeToo movement hasn’t reached the UK as of yet.  And this script was written by a woman.  The ending of this episode is very predictable, and Villanelle, who should be the most unpredictable character is predictably crazy.

 

 

Episode 4:  Sorry Baby

Eve is distressed about what happened to  Bill.  Chinese intelligence points to a mole in British intelligence.  At the same time, Villanelle is part of an assassination team that wants to kill the same mole?  Who I the British mole and do Eve and her time save him from Villanelle?

This was another weak episode,   because it makes Mi6 so inept, Eve and pals spend half the episode tailing the right person, and then half the episode wondering who’s after the mole.  There’s an assassin on the loose, and they can’t figure out why the mole is running for his life?  Don’t ask Eve Polastri to protect anyone, she is unable to o it.

Episode 5:  I Have A Thing About Bathrooms

Eve tries to protect the mole, while being chased by Villanelle.  Is she successful in either catching Villanelle or protecting the mole? Villanelle also finds out that Nadia, who was part of the hit squad on the mole, is alive, and sharing information with the British authorities,

I used to like this show, but it has left  the realm of reality, and entered some fantasy world, trying to make a point other than anything to do with spying.  There is no way an MI6 officer would act this brazenly stupid all the time.  And on top of it, Eve screams, proving the sexist point that spying is not women’s work.  Whatever point this show is trying to make, it’s making the opposite point.

Episode 6:  Take Me To The Hole

Villanelle travels to Russia to find Nadia, and Eve and Carolynn Martins follow suit.  Following Villanelle puts a strain on Eve’s marriage. At dinner, a surprise guest joins Eve and Carolyn, who is it?

This was an interesting episode, because instead of trying to psychoanalyze Eve, it got back to the central premise of the show which is spying.  The spying aspect is more interesting than any of the personalities involved.  The writers tend to overplay Villanelle’s character, like she’s a superhero that can’t be destroyed.  They should stop that.

Episode 7:  I Don’t Want To Be Free

Something has happened to Nadia, and Villanelle wants to get out of the jail cell she’s in desperately, but Russian officials are making it difficult.  Carolyn is considering shutting down the operation tracking Villanelle, what does that mean for Eve?  Villanelle has a new target, who is it?  Eve follows up on a promising new lead.

This is another interesting episode, because Eve is doing actual detective work, and there is more backstory about Villanelle. This is what the show should have been about all along, but it took a few episodes to find its footing.

 

 

Episode 8:  God I’m Tired

Villanelle has taken a hostage in order to get to her target safely.  Eve disregards orders from Carolyn to go back to London, and instead goes to Paris to continue tracking Villanelle.  Does Eve find Villanelle?  Is she prepared to kill Villanelle?

This was an ok episode, it was hardly a cliffhanger for me, because I knew something about the show that others may not know, but what I knew sort of ruined the ending for me.  The last three episodes almost redeemed the show for me, more on  why I said almost in my season 1 summary.   This was a good closing episode, not a great one.

Season 1 Summary:

After the first episode of Killing Eve, I was genuinely excited about this show and the seemingly limitless directions in which it could go.  By episode two, my enthusiasm for the show was dampened, because Eve was not even the main character in a show named after her.  The show made Villanelle a supervillain, incapable of being hurt, tormenting people and leaving them in awe of her supreme evil. Villanelle is written like Freddy Krueger or some other horror movie bad guy, an evil that will never die.  I’m reminded of Dr. Evil’s son Scott, who, “Don’t overcomplicate things, just take a gun, and bang.”  But Eve seemed incapable of doing anything to Villanelle, either frozen with fear, or moist with admiration.  The last 3 episodes get back on track, but the show was too far gone for redemption. The middle three episodes take the show way off track, and to the point of being silly and inconsequential.  When there are only 8 episodes in a season, 3 episodes off the rails are much too much.

Sandra Oh was absolutely the wrong person to play Eve, she plays Eve as a frightened, screaming  unsubstantial person.  This character undercuts women having serious jobs like an analyst in MI6 and this is clearly not what the writers intended, but this is how the show appears.  Eve is a bumbling goofball who can’t find her bottom with both hands, and the MI6 brain trust seem like the Keystone Kops.  It’s groundbreaking, even revolutionary to have two female leads, but the  Eve character undermines serious women everywhere by being a frightened immature woman child.  Even Villanelle is pure Hollywood psycho, the character is fun at first, but ears thin after 8 episodes.  Both Oh and Julie Comer could have done more to add dimensions to their characters.  Oh’s  heavy handed approach  to the comedic aspects to her character really  ruin the character.  She won a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Eve Polastri. Go figure.

Julie Comer has a lot of fun with this role, and why not, she gets to play a seductress and cold blooded assassin, and she takes great joy in killing people.  Julie Comer does a great job playing the remorseless Villanelle, so much so, that she takes over the show, and leaves nothing for the rest of the cast to do.

The direction is not very visually stimulating, there are some moments interior and exterior shots that pop with color, but on the whole, it’s not a visual show.  The pacing is god and most of the acting is good from the ensemble cast. I don’t know how much of a role the directors play in the acting of the cast, so I really can’t comment on that.  The paving was good most of the time, and the episodes were short enough not to be burdensome.

 

Killing Eve:  Didn’t  slay me.

 

 

 

spiderman spiderverse

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a typical teen from Brooklyn, he likes his tunes, he hates the magnet school he goes to, and he has an artistic streak, which he likes to express by painting murals in the subway. One day, while finding a spot for his latest mural with his Uncle Aaron, (Mahershala Ali) Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider, but he convinces himself that it’s a regular spider, after all Peter Parker (Chris Pine) is  patrolling the city, so why would there be a need for another Spiderman?  But then, Miles feels his hands getting sticky and all of a sudden, he can climb walls, but he’s clumsy, which ruins any chance he thought he had with the new girl at the magnet school, Gwen. (Hailee Steinfeld)

Just as suddenly as he got his powers, Miles finds himself in a warehouse fighting Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) with Spiderman.  Peter/Spdey tells Miles that Kingpin has a supercollider, and he is trying to open up different dimensions to bring back Kingpin’s wife and kid.  Peter gives Miles a key and tells him to use it to destroy the supercollider if he doesn’t make it out of this battle alive.  Kingpin has already succeeded in opening up five dimensions.  What else has Kingpin succeeded in doing?  Does Miles get to use the key to blow up the collider?

Spiderman Into The Spiderverse is an interesting take on Spiderman, but as hard as the writers try to make Miles a laid-back cool guy, they fail.  Miles uses spray paint to create art, lives in the cool borough, Brooklyn, wearing  the ever-present ear buds, leaves his shoes untied , it’s all meant to make him relatable to teens everywhere.  Having said that, it’s important to have an Afro-Latino superhero on screen, just for the message that it sends to all kids, that they could be heroes regardless of their race, ethnicity, or the neighborhood they grow up in.

Undoubtedly, the really cool character is Gwen Stacy, but she takes a backseat to Miles, despite having the vastly more interesting backstory.  And the other character like Penni Parker, are woefully underdeveloped, and are only in the movie to bring in a certain demographic, in the cynical way movies are made these days.  There’s a twist to the story, but the ending is as expected, and I suspect there will be sequels aplenty.

The acting is good, voice acting is difficult.  Shameik Moore does  a good job as the gangly clumsy Miles, trying to fit in and find a way to use his new powers.  Mehershala Ali does his usual fine job, as Uncle Aaron, the cool uncle, he really does bring all his skills to any role he plays.  Hailee Steinfeld does a good job as Gwe, she does a good job of keeping her mysterious and distant, the unattainable girl.  Brian Tyree Henry does a good job as a supporting actor, playing Miles’ supportive overprotective dad.  The father son bond is evident in Henry’s performance.

There are three directors in this movie.  The animation is great, eye-popping comic book animation, which is probably why it won an Oscar, but the pacing is awfully slow for an action flick.  The performances are good, but the actors deserve more credit than the directors for that.

Spiderman Into The Spiderverse:  A web of intertwined characters.

peppermint

Bank teller Riley North (Jennifer Garner) is working hard to make a good life for her daughter Carly.(Calley Fleming)   Riley’s husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) flirts with the idea of being a getaway driver for a bank robbery with a gang headed by Diego Garcia, (Juan Pablo Raba) but Chris decides against getting involved. In retribution, Chris and Carly are shot to death by Garcia’s gang. With the help of a corrupt judge, named Stephens, and a dirty cop, Detective Stan Carmichael, (John Gallagher Jr.) help Garcia and his cronies avoid even going to trial.  Riley is shocked by what transpires, and drops off the grid. She wants revenge against the corrupt justice system, does she get it?

Peppermint is a truly offensive film, it’s not only violence porn, it’s also filled with xenophobia and National Rifle Association propaganda.  Hollywood can and often does amplify racial and ethnic animus and this is a movie that amplifies the ethnic antagonism that exists in the country today, and proffers a simplistic solution to all of Riley’s problems.  And Riley goes beyond her mandate in this film to overtly bully people she doesn’t like, who had nothing to do with the death of her loved ones.  That kind of anything goes revenge is what makes this film go beyond awful to actually being harmful. This is not just badly executed escapism, this movie is filled with dangerous ideas.

Despite her roles in Alias and Electra, Jennifer Garner seems ill-equipped to play Riley North, soccer mom/avenging angel.  It doesn’t help that the script makes her more like a superhero than a person on a vendetta.  And Garner is not a good enough actress to carry a movie by herself, and this movie forces her to do it. The other actors play stereotypical roles, gang leader, crooked cop, corrupt judge, and these actors bring no nuance to these hackneyed, badly written roles.

Pierre Morel started this whole vigilante movie reboot by making Taken, so one would think that he would know his was around a film like this, but the movie is dull, and predictable and the pacing is slow, there is nothing surprising or innovative about the direction here, and  Morel gets nothing from the performances of the actors.

Jennifer should Garner a Razzie for this trash.

Movie Review: Overlord (2018)

Posted: March 31, 2019 in Action, Drama

OVERLORD

Near D-Day in 1944, a group of paratroopers are on a mission to destroy a Nazi radio tower behind enemy lines in France.  Before they can prepare for the jump, the plane is hit by enemy fire and the soldiers have to jump out of the burning plane to save their lives.  Private Boyce (Jovian Adepo) finds his platoon leader, Ford (Wyatt Russell) the company photographer, Chase (Ian De Caestecker) and the only Jewish member o the group, Rosenfeld (Dominic Applewhite) who’s worried about what will happen if the Nazis capture him.  Boyce gets separated from the paratroopers, and finds himself in a church basement, where he finds some pretty disturbing things going on.  Boyce also finds Rosenfeld, and escapes to a house in a French village inhabited by a woman named Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) and her brother Paul.  A Nazi officer named Wafner  (Pillau Asbueck) is also in the house.  Does Boyce tell everyone what he’s found in the church basement?  What exactly is happening in the church basement?

Overlord could have been a great or at least a good movie, based in some part on reality, Nazis doing unspeakable things during World War 2.  The writers do a pretty good job of keeping the secret of what the Nazis are doing, but this movie quickly devolves into another Hollywood bloodbath, full of gore and violence.  The characters are paper thin,  stock World War II movie film characters, whatever plot there is quickly dissolves.  There is a nascent love story that is hinted at, but never fully developed, and the ending is forgettable.

The acting is poor.  Jovian Adepo tries his best to play an interesting character, but there isn’t enough on the page for him to work with, so it’s a waste of time.  Mathilde Ollivier is stuck in the damsel in distress role, Wyatt Russell is stuck with the hero archetype, and doesn’t do much with it.

The direction, by newcomer Julius Avery is not worth mentioning, the pacing is slow, there are really cheap visual effects, and the acting is bad, it’s definitely a low budget B movie, please don’t waste time on this movie, goodness knows why J.J. Abrams would want to associate  with a film as badly made as this.

Overlord:  Thank the lord it’s over.

captain marvel

Vers (Brie Larson) is a Kree warrior, who is captured by the Kree’s archenemy the Skrull, who search her memories for some information vital to the Skrull civilization.  Vers escapes her captors and crash lands on Earth circa 1995, followed in hot pursuit by the Skrull, who can shapeshift into any human on earth.  Vers and the Skrull are met by two Agents of SHIELD Nick Fury, (Samuel L. Jackson)  and Agent Coulson. (Clark Gregg) Fury kills one of the Skurlls, an takes part in an alien autopsy with his superior, Keller, (Ben Mendelsohn) who is really the Skrull leader, Talos in disguise.

Using Fury’s security clearance, Vers finds out about a secret Air Force project called Pegasus, run by Dr. Wendy Lawson.(Annette Benning)  Vers has some dim memories of Earth, and of Wendy Lawson, but she’s not sure if she can trust these memories.  So Vers and Fury go to Louisiana to see Maria Rambeau  (Lashana Lynch)  Does Maria remember Vers, or is Vers’ mind playing tricks on her?  What about Talos, is he a terrorist as the Kree think?

What happens when one has low expectations for a movie, and is happily surprised?  Captain Marvel happens.  The writers do an excellent job of turning the usual superhero narrative on its head.  The writers also make Vers relatable, they do this in several ways, and all of them work.  The movie also works as a buddy movie between Fury and Vers, although some of the banter seems forced, the characters seem pretty natural and comfortable with each other.  There are some sloppily written political messages interspersed in the movie, and probably one too many 90’s references, but above all, this movie is about a person’s search for her true identity.  The women’s empowerment message layered on top of the identity crisis is unmistakable and powerful. And the ending is satisfying, unlike Avengers Infinity War.

The performance by Brie Larson is multifaceted.  She gives her character vulnerability, but also strength, and wit and confidence, she makes the character her own, and the question of gender becomes irrelevant.  Samuel L. Jackson is very comfortable playing Nick Fury, and he’s clearly having fun with the character.  His chemistry with Larson is obvious, and it redounds to the benefit of the film.  Lashana Lynch plays a key role in this movie, and she makes it absolutely authentic, for the movie to work, Lynch’s character has to work, she has great chemistry with Larson and Jackson.  Annette Benning is another actress who is enjoying the complexity of her character.  It’s fun for the audience too, to see actors, not just play one dimensional characters.  Ben Mendelsohn also does a great job giving Talos multiple dimensions.

There are two directors, and they often work together on projects, even though this is the first big budget film they have worked on.  They keep the pacing brisk, after getting past the origin story and the exposition, the story moves along nicely.  The directors are smart to visually tell the story of a woman trying to reconstruct her life through montages and still pictures, and those visuals support the written story hand in glove.  The pair is also smart not to overuse special effects and let them dominate the story.

Captain Marvel:  Tip your cap to the filmmakers.

RGB

Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and his wife Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and their family Violet (Sarah Vowell) Dash (Huck Miller) and Jack Jack (Eli Fucile)  are arrested after stopping The Underminer (John Ratzenberger) because superheroes are now illegal.  But a wealthy family now headed by Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk)and his sister Evelyn  (Catherine Keener) want to start a campaign to bring back superheroes and make them legal again.  Winston wants Elastigirl to lead the campaign, Mr. Incredible reluctantly agrees to stay home and mind the kids. During Elastigirl’s first tv appearence, a new villain appears, Screenslaver (Bill Wise)  tries to hypnotize the television audience, and carries a troubling message.  Elastigirl tracks Screenslaver down almost immediately, and is surprised to find out that he is only a pizza boy.  She can’t shake the feeling that the capture of The Screenslaver  was too easy, that there was something deeper to Screenslaver.  Is she right?  Do the Supers become legal once again?

The second installment of the Incredibles has some good ideas, but if the viewer doesn’t listen carefully, those ideas are lost.  There are ideas about the role of superheroes in society,  the role of technology, including social media in society, but those ideas are contained almost exclusively in one soliloquy, and then those interesting ideas get obscured by more mundane ideas, and the Incredibles 2 just turns into another routine Hollywood action flick.  This movie is a case study in why sequels shouldn’t be made.  Sequels shouldn’t be made unless they have something new or different to say.   This one could have had interesting things to say, but it restrains itself.

The acting is good but predictable.  The idea of a superhero as househusband seems like it’s been done before, Craig T. Nelson tries to breathe life into this character again, but there’s not enough in this character in this movie to make him fun again.  Holly Hunter tries to make Elastigirl a feminist hero, but again that aspect of the character is not fully developed.   Samuel L. Jackson brings his usual energy and fun to the role of Frozone, but again he doesn’t have enough material to make the character interesting,  Catherine Keener is given an interesting role, but the viewers are never given insight into why the character behaves the way she does.  There just seems to be too many characters in this movie, and not enough depth in any one character

The direction is ok, there’s nothing visually spectacular in this movie.  Pixar has had some really visually breathtaking movies, but this one didn’t even try to have one scene that caught the audience’s eye.   The result was underwhelming.  The pacing was slow at times, during exposition, but sometimes had the pacing of an action movie, a brisk pace.  The performances were ok, not great.

The Incredibles 2:  Incredidull.