Posts Tagged ‘zoe saldana’

Movie Review: I Kill Giants (2017)

Posted: January 20, 2020 in Drama

i kill giants

Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) fancies herself a giant killer, she mixes monster bait, and hangs monster traps in the woods outside of her home.  She has a giant killing wand, named Coveleski, named after a Philadelphia Phillies baseball player from a long time ago.  Barbara’s new friend Sophia (Sydney Wade) would like to believe that there are giants, she likes Barbara, and needs a friend since she just moved to the United States from Leeds.  Unfortunately, the others in school are not so willing to believe in giants.  The school psychologist, Mrs. Molle  (Zoe Saldana) wants to ask Barbara why she sees giants, the school bully makes fun of her monster hunting persona, and beats Barbara up, Barbara’s sister Karen  (Imogen Poots) wants to spend more time with Barbara, and her video game playing brother, but work and cooking for the family is taking up all of her time.  Barbara is convinced that if she kills a giant, and saves the town, she will be vindicated, but are the giants real, or are they a result of the traumas of a rollercoaster childhood, and repeated bullying.

I Kill Giants is similar to A Monster Calls in both plot and character development.  But A Monster Calls seems lighter and more whimsical, despite its own heavy undertones. I Kill Giants is a gut punch, several gut punches in fact, and Barbara does not make things any easier on herself.  She pushes away those that are trying to help her, in fact she strikes out at those trying to help her, and all of this is devastatingly grim for a viewer trying to make sense of this story.  The reason she acts out is clarified in the denouement , but the movie takes too long to get to that resolution.  The story could have been made differently, and was, when it was called A Monster Calls, see that instead.

The plot’s weaknesses are augmented by some really good acting.  Madison Wolfe plays an essentially unlikeable character, and makes the viewer root for her, or at least makes the viewer want to know what drives her to do what she does.  Sydney Wade does a commendable job as Barbara’s new friend, Sophia, who gets nothing but abuse from Barbara, but sticks by her as she learns what makes Barbara tick. Zoe Saldana proves she can act by playing an understated role as a school psychologist who wants to help Barbara more than anything else.   It’s a good performance by Saldana, because she plays an everyday working class woman, not an assassin or an extraterrestrial.  She makes the unfortunately named Mrs. Molle a real person with real problems.

The direction could have been better.  The pacing is too slow, way too slow.  The questions are ‘What’s going on with Barbara, and why is it taking so long to find out?’ The answers shouldn’t be so difficult to find out.  There are some minor special effects, but this is not a special effects driven movie, and it doesn’t have to be.

I Kill Giants:  Less Than Meets The Eye.


Thanos wants to steal all the Infinity Stones and kill half the universe’s population.  On the planet Asgard, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is searching for the Space Stone, encased in the tesseract , Thanos battles Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom  Hiddleston) on Asgard.  While the battle rages, Heimdall (Idris Elba) sends the The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to Earth where Bruce Banner warns Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) that Thanos wants the Time Stone and already has the Power Stone.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to take the Time Stone from Dr. Strange, but he refuses to give it up.

Some of Thanos’ minions attack Vision (Paul Bethany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) but they are repelled by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)  Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)   Thanos wants the Mind Stone from Vision, Vision wants to sacrifice himself, and destroy the Mind Stone.

The Guardians of the Galaxy rescue Thor from outer space after Asgard is destroyed,  Thor wants to go to Nioavillir tobuild the Strormbreaker an ax capable of killing Thanos, he is accompanied by Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot. (Vin Diesel)  Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)  and the rest of the Guardians go to Knowhere, where Thanos seeks the Reality Stone.  Gamora  (Zoe Saldana) knows a secret about the Soul Stone, that she effuses to tell Thanos.  Will Thanos learn the secret of the Soul Stone?  Will Thanos collect all the Infinity Stones?  Or will Thor build the Stormbreaker Ax and kill Thanos?

Infinity War does one thing well, and that is to give each character enough lines to make each character contribute an important piece of the film.  The premise of killing half the population of the universe is a dumb one, because repopulation  is a continual thing.  The humor is well-placed, but then becomes overdone, and completely contradicts the stark nature of the ending.  The ending is jarring, it left me depressed and angry, hardly feelings that I expected to have coming out of a superhero action film.  I didn’t expect to have such a visceral reaction to this film, but I’ve spent 18 years watching these Marvel films and suffered through a few bad ones, Thor 1 &2, the first Guardians, the first Avengers, and this is my reward?  The fate of these characters seems random and capricious, and any attempt to write a revision to this movie in the next Avengers movie should be met with loud displeasure.  I, for one will not watch the next Avengers movie, why should I reward such shameless manipulation?

The acting is very good.  At the head of this very big class is Josh Brolin, he is decidedly cruel, but he is also conflicted about killing, and he displays that dichotomy very well.  Robert Downey Jr. plays the snarky Mr. Stark to perfection, like Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, no one should ever play Tony Stark other than Downey Jr. because no one can play Stark better.  Benedict Cumberbatch does a nice job as Dr. Strange.  Chris Hemsworth is finally comfortable as Thor.  He is funny and having fun as the Norse god. And Zoe Saldana packs an emotional punch as Gamora.  She is fantastic.

The direction by the Russo Brothers is over the top.  Pacing to them is getting the audience from one action sequence to another, and jamming as many special effects into one movie as possible, which is fine if that’s all the viewer demands, but there is little time for plot development, character development or backstory, despite its 2 ½ hour running time.  They get good performances, but sometimes the special effects overwhelm the acting.

Avengers:  Infinity War: Thor-oughly unfortunate ending.


guardians of the galaxy 2

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the Guardians, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) Drax (Dave Bautista) Rocket  (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are tasked by the Sovereign to protect space age batteries from alien monsters who want to steal them.  The Guardians fend off the monsters, and Gamora is set to collect a bounty on her sister, Nebula, (Karen Gillan) but Rocket steals some of the batteries for himself, and Ayesha (Elizabeth Debecki) leader of the Sovereign orders an attack on the Guardians.  The Guardians barely escape to the nearest inhabitable planet.  A ship follows Peter and lands on the planet, the pilot of the ship is Ego, (Kurt Russell) and he claims to be Peter’s dad. Ego takes Peter to Ego’s planet, Gamora and Drax tag along with Peter, while Groot and Rocket stay behind.

Ayesha,  still angry that her batteries were stolen, hires Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) to find Peter and the rest of the Guardians.  Yondu captures Rocket and Baby Groot and then ends up in jail himself after a mutiny by Taserface. (Chris Sullivan)  Yondu Rocket and Baby Groot manage to escape with Nebula’s help, but Taserface tips off the Sovereign, who chase after the two Guardians, while they try to find Peter on Ego’s planet.  Nebula just wants revenge on Gamora.  Is Peter convinced of his lineage by Ego?  Do Gamora and Nebula bury the hatchet?  Does Ayesha get her revenge?

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 works very well as a comedy, but then the script calls for everyone to get in touch with their feelings, and this is where the movie descends into an Oprah stained hell.  Peter has daddy issues, Gamora has sibling rivalry issues with Nebula, and Rocket the snarkiest character if all is made to confront deep seated feelings of inadequacy.  When a summer popcorn film wades into the nature vs nurture debate, it’s gone a bridge too far. The ending is predictable, even the post ending credits are predictable.   The comedy was better than the first movie, the family drama was wholly unnecessary.

The acting varies wildly in this film.  Chris Pratt will never be a leading man, no matter how hard Hollywood tries to foist him on an unsuspecting public.  He is ill-equipped to handle the more emotional scenes in the movie.  Zoe Saldana is a good actress, but she wan’t given enough to do, she is pushed into a romance with Pratt, and she battles her sister literally and figuratively in the movie.  Bradley Cooper is a great actor, but they made him emote as a CGI raccoon, that doesn’t work for me.  I wish he was playing Peter Quill and Pratt was playing the raccoon, I think that would have worked out better.  Dave Bautista is surprisingly funny as Drax, and is just sullen when not laughing insanely. Karen Gillan was also very good as Nebula, her intensity never relents, in a difficult role.  She plays a villain, with sympathetic touches. Kurt Russell hams it up relentlessly as Ego, an aptly named character if ever there was one. The only performance worse than Russell’s  was Sylvester Stallone’s performance as Stakar Ogord.  He is barely intelligible.  He had more trouble with the English language than Korean actress Pom Klementieff.  Her acting was better than Stallone’s but not by much.

Director James Gunn does a pretty good job as a director, the pacing is good, the special effects are good, without being overwhelming, he gets some good performances, but he also gets overwhelmed by subplots and lengeth, and that drags the pacing down to a crawl by the second half of the movie, by the end of the film I was looking at my watch, never a good sign.  Gunn also gets points off as writer for overindulging in melodrama.  I walked into a sci-fi movie, and a Tyler Perry movie broke out.That’s Gunn’s fault, for not keeping the drama to a minimum.

The Star Lord burns out.


the book of life

Manolo, (Maximillian Ehrenreich, Diego Luna) Joaquin, (Elias Garza, Channing Tatum) and Maria (Genesis Ochoa, Zoe Saldana) all grow up as friends in the Mexican town of San Angel, Mexico.  Below San Angel, ruling two nether regions, The Land of the Remembered, and The Land of The Forgotten are La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and Xibalba. (Ron Perlman) Xibalba is tired of ruling The Land of the Forgotten, so he wagers with La Muerte about who will marry Maria.  Xibalba chooses Joaquin, and Joaquin grows up to be a military hero, and protector of the town, while Manolo grows up to be a bullfighter, who dreams of being a singer.   Maria’s father General Posada (Carlos Alazraqui) pledges Maria to Joaquin, but she loves Manolo.  Xibalba sees his bet slipping away, so she sends his pet snake to bite Maria, but the snake bites Manolo instead.  Is this the end of the love story, or just the beginning?

I liked this movie a lot, the first half seems like a conventional love story, but then the second half of the story is told and it’s really quite satisfying.  It’s refreshing to hear a story told from a different tradition than usual by mostly Latino actors and actresses, which adds to the authenticity of the story.  The songs are quite good, but most of them are cover songs, I would have liked to see more original songs.  The film is also very funny, I laughed out loud several times, and the ending is emotional, and quite fulfilling.

The acting is very good for the most part.  Diego Luna plays Manolo with a sweet sensitivity that makes him a different kind of hero.  Zoe Saldana gives Maria a lot of spunk, she’s not afraid to get in there and fight the bad guys, which makes her a cut above most females in movies who play damsels in distress.  Channing Tatum is the only sour note in an otherwise delightful movie.  His emotionless, wooden performance is a real distraction.  He mumbles a lot and doesn’t even try a Spanish accent, this performance confirms everything I think of him as an actor.  Ron Perlman on the other hand, has a great voice for animation and uses it to great effect, a great ensemble cast fills this movie with solid performances.

The animation is unconventional to say the least, every character leaps out at the viewer, the heroes have exaggeratedly square jaws and overly broad shoulders, the colors on every frame of this film are dazzling, and fill the film with a vitality that it would not have otherwise been possible. The animation definitely adds a great deal to the overall experience of watching this film, and it reminds me why I like animation so much.  Worlds are possible in animation that would take millions in special effects budgets to recreate.  This movie, like Inside Out takes advantage of the medium.  Some of the animation reminded me of The Nightmare Before Christmas, especially the later scenes.

The Book of Life is directed by animation director Jorge R Gutierrez, and produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who’s directed Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim.

Watch this Mexican animated folktale while you can.  Donald Trump may be President soon.

The Book of Life:  Dead on humor.

out of the furnace

Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is a steelworker, working hard to keep his family together.  His father (Bingo O’Malley) is dying.  Russell’s brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck) is a soldier, serving his fourth tour in Iraq, Rodney is in debt to local loanshark John Petty (William Dafoe).  Russell has a difficult life, but finds solace with his schoolteacher girlfriend, Lena Taylor. (Zoe Saldana) When driving home drunk one day, Russell runs into a car, and kills a child.

After serving his time in prison, his life changes dramatically, his father is dead, his girlfriend has left him, and his brother is back from Iraq, yearning to be a streetfighter with the help of John Petty.  John wants Rodney to throw his first fight because Rodney owes John money, and John owes money to local drug dealer Harlan De Groat (Woody Harrelson)  Russell doesn’t want Rodney to get involved with John or Harlan and wants Rodney to work at the steel mill like he does.  Does Rodney start street fighting against his brother’s wishes?

This is an excellent movie.  The exposition takes a while to unwind, but once the characters are fully developed, the viewer wants to see what happens to each character.  The ending is somewhat formulaic, but even the ending keeps the viewer guessing, because of a scene that preceded it.

The acting is what separates this movie from most gritty crime dramas.  Christian Bale has to be one of the best actors in Hollywood, whatever he does he infuses the role with such emotion, that the viewer cant help but get lost in the character.  The viewer can’t help but empathize with this character, he’s trying to keep his splintering family together, bur one bad break and he ends up in jail, and loses almost everything.  It is a fine, understated performance of a man trying to play by the rules.  Woody Harrelson turns in another riveting performance as sadistic SOB Harlan De Groat.  All that needs to be said about Harlan is said in the first scene.  Casey Affleck also gives a fine performance as a vet suffering from PTSD, looking for an outlet for his rage.  There are also fine performances in smaller roles by Zoe Saldana and Forest Whitaker.  The ensemble cast enhances the movie greatly.

The direction is notable, there are shots from interesting angles, and utilizing the lighting whenever possible.  It uses the sparse landscape of rural Pennsylvania to illustrate the difficulty of life there, and uses the steel mill itself as an interesting backdrop.

Out of the Furnace.  Burning With Intensity.

guardians of the galaxy

Soon after losing his mother to cancer, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is transported from Earth by Yondu Udonta. (Michael Rocker) Twenty-six years later on the planet Morag, Peter steals an orb which is valued at 4 billion units and intends to sell it on the planet Xandar.  Ronan (Lee Price) wants the orbs to threaten extinction to the planet Xandar.  Ronan sends an assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to Xandar to retrieve the orb.  Two bounty hunters named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) are sent by Yondu to capture Peter, and take the orb for himself. Drax (Dave Buatista) a prisoner on Xandar wants to kill Gamora, because Ronan killed his wife and daughter.  Peter proposes to take the orb to the collector (Benicio Del Toro) and split the proceeds five ways.  Does Peter keep the orb away from Yondu and Ronan? Do the others team up with Peter?  Does Ronan get the orb and destroy Xandar.

This could have been a really good good movie but the story is too muddled, there are too many characters, too many worlds and outposts, which further adds to the confusion.  Also, the movie can’t decide if it wants to make the audience laugh or shed a tear. The opening scenes depict young Peter losing his mother to cancer, and then he’s abducted for a laugh filled space adventure.  This movie is trying to have it both ways be a light hearted action adventure, and a sentimental drama, but it can’t do both, and it doesn’t do both well. The characters are paper thin, and instead of using the 2 plus hours of the movie to develop the characters, Hollywood uses its favorite filler, fight scenes and explosions to fill in any slow spots in the movie.  Ultimately the movie makes no sense , in 1988 humanoids are supposed to have mastered the extraordinary skills to achieve intergalactic space travel.  In 26 years, space flight becomes as easy as taking a bus.  Ludicrous.  Somewhere Stan Lee is smiling, because even the comics that no one has heard of are making him tons of money.

The acting and chemistry between the cast is just good enough to make some of this movie enjoyable, although if you’re looking for great acting from the likes of Vin Diesel and ex wrestler Dave Bautista, you’re probably hoping for too much.  Chris Pratt is good enough as an unlikely hero, he won’t make anyone forget Harrison Ford, he was better in the Lego Movie.  Bradley Cooper overdoes the non-distinct New York City mobster accent.  He may not be as good an actor as I thought.  Vin Diesel’s one line of dialogue is both a godsend and a running gag that goes on too long.  Dave Bautista is a good actor for a wrestler, or is he a good wrestler for an actor? It matters not.  Zoe Saldana is funny as both foil and romantic interest for Pratt’s character, and she handles the action scenes well.  It’s somewhat disconcerting to see a beautiful woman like Saldana covered in face and body paint, from the looks of the box office, she’ll be making two more of these movies and three more Avatar movies where she’s covered in blue paint for a change.  If the Avatar movies ever come out, that is. Between this movie, Avatar and Star Trek, she risks being the poster girl for comic con fans worldwide.  I just hope Saldana doesn’t get typecast.

This movie suffers from too much hype, both from fans and critics, it is not the funniest movie in the world, it is certainly not profound even when it tries a serious tone.  It is an ordinary movie that somehow got great reviews and word of mouth.  Take my word for it, don’t believe the hype, if you must watch it, rent it.  The 3D is not worth it, for the most part.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching superhero/sci-fi movies it’s this.  The viewer has to be selective.  The Avengers, Thor, The Spider Man reboot, all are a waste of time, and so is this movie. Be selective, and you will enjoy the genre.

The soundtrack is an melodious throwback to the 70’s.  Enjoy it.

Guardians of The Galaxy:  Spoiled Milk-y Way.