Category: movie reviews

Movie Review: Solo

The movie news pages are all abuzz with headlines of how poorly Solo performed at the box office this weekend, earning much less than predicted both in the US and internationally. I’ve read some reviews that are mixed to negative, and some that really liked the movie. Having seen the movie myself, I’m happy to weigh in on the matter.

I’ll be upfront about it: I gave the film a 7/10, which means I liked it a fair amount. I was leery about seeing someone else in the Solo role other than Harrison Ford, but I felt like Alden Ehrenreich really nailed it, enough that I stopped thinking of him as someone filling in someone else’s shoes, and just started thinking of him as a young Solo. (His smile seemed particularly on point to me.)

Beyond that, it was a fun movie, with a whole ton of action. The effects were spot on, the fighting was intense. It’s a movie that’s a lot of fun to see in a theater with a group of people.

Was it a Star Wars movie? Well, it had Chewbacca in it. It had cool droids. It didn’t have the Force at all, and it had no one named Skywalker in it. Overall, it still managed to feel Star Warsy, even without the Force (though the Force has always been my personal favorite aspect of Star Wars.)

At its heart, this is a heist movie, which feels natural for a Solo origin story. It tried a bit too hard to explain every tiny bit of back story about Han, right down to his name. Those were the parts that felt weakest to me, as if they were contorting to fit it all in there. That isn’t necessary. It’s also a movie that’s an amalgamation of different directors. Started by two, finished by Ron Howard, though it’s up for debate how much of the original conceit hung around. I would be really interested to know what Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the original directors, who also did The Lego Movie) had up their sleeves. From what I’ve heard, it was a much more humorous take. Part of me is curious to see what a truly funny Star Wars movie would be like, but at the same time, I can’t fault Disney for ultimately balking. I think they took a risk and then decided the end result wouldn’t be good for the brand they’re trying to build.

Though at the same time, I think it’s inevitable that they will ultimately end up with some pretty crazy Star Wars movies. It’s one of the only things you can do to keep a brand fresh. See Guardians of the Galaxy.

One of the biggest criticisms the movie is getting is about how expensive it ended up, and how hard it will be to make a profit. I’m not sure Disney will view it that way, since a large part of the expense is on their shoulders. They started, stopped, changed directions, and restarted. That costs money. And hoping to have a wonderful end product after all of that is a big ask. I was happy to see it was a solid, enjoyable movie.

I think it was also marketed fairly poorly. All the dollars went to Infinity War, and then it was like Disney figured it would be able to build up steam in about two weeks, just because Star Wars. This proves them wrong, and hopefully they avoid this in the future.

But if you’re looking for a fun popcorn movie, there are much worse movies to see. My kids both loved it. DC especially. I think it did a good job earning its spot in the canon, and I will happily rewatch it again in the future. For what it was intended to be (Star Wars heist movie that fills in Solo’s backstory), it does a solid job.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review Roundup: Dunkirk, Get Out, Logan, and Split

I’ve been sick the last few days. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on movies. I’m on the mend, but still in bed today. Maybe I’ll get in one or two more. Who knows? In the meantime, here are short reviews to 4 films I’ve had on my To Be Watched list for quite a while.

Dunkirk. Nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture and Director. Won three, all in the editing categories. I’d heard mixed reviews. The biggest criticism I’d heard repeated is that it was hard to care about any of the characters, since no back story was given to any of them. It was all centered right in the middle of the action around Dunkirk.

I actually didn’t mind the no back story bit. If Nolan had gone the traditional route, this movie would have been at least an hour longer. Adding back stories for each of the characters means you need to add denouements for each of them as well. And a whole lot of that just writes itself. Do we really need to see the scene where we find out the pilot is engaged and supposed to be married in two days? Or where we find out the stowaway soldier is a rogue who loves to gamble? Perhaps, for some movies. I’m thinking of Saving Private Ryan, where a lot of the meat of the movie comes from the quieter moments, where we get to know the characters and understand their motivations.

Then again, I don’t think that’s what this movie was about. It was about Dunkirk. Says so right in the title. And so Nolan focused on the actions of that event, dramatizing them through three different storylines that intersect. It’s telling the movie was nominated for all sorts of Oscars, but no acting ones. The acting could have been done by anyone, really. They were pieces to show the game being played.

All that said, I enjoyed the film, but didn’t adore it. It was riveting stuff, and it made me want to find out more about the historical event, but I also discovered that not really caring about the characters does peel away a layer necessary for me to invest myself in the outcome. Still a great war movie, and an interesting approach. 8/10

 

Get Out. Keeping in the Oscar Nominated movies vein, I had a chance to see Get Out in its entirety. Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Original Screenplay (for which it won its only Oscar), I knew a fair bit less about this movie going into it. I knew it was in a strange mix of genres: horror, comedy, social commentary. I knew it was about race.

What a crazy, awesome mix of a movie. I’m glad I didn’t know more, since so much of it revolves around reveals. It was thought provoking and unpredictable. The sort of movie you really want to discuss with people after the fact. Here’s the storyline from IMDB:

Chris and his girlfriend Rose go upstate to visit her parents for the weekend. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.

Gary Oldman better have been insanely good in The Darkest Hour, because the performance by Daniel Kaluuya in this movie was incredible. Very worthy of an Oscar nomination, and I’m surprised he didn’t win. (Have to think the horror genre somehow counted against him.)

As far as horror movies goes, it’s more for suspense than gore (though there is a fair bit of blood in the movie). Lots of language earned the R rating, which I kind of wish they had scaled back from. I feel like there are a lot of people who would benefit from watching the movie who won’t watch it because it’s R, and I feel like the movie would have easily had the same impact without a bit of the blood and all of the language.  9/10

 

Logan. I’d heard many people say it was the best X-Men movie. It’s currently the 208th best movie on IMDB. Nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. (And directed by James Mangold, who was just announced as the director for the Boba Fett movie . . .)

I’ll say one thing: “Best X-Men movie” is a bar that isn’t too hard to get over. I’ve liked some of the entries in the series well enough, but none of them have stood out to be as Completely Awesome. Logan, frankly, was also not Complete Awesome for me, but that was more from the fact that it’s quite dark, and I prefer my superhero movies to be more super. Matter of taste.

That said, I really enjoyed the movie. Ultra violent, which I know a lot of fans have been clamoring for. And when your main character is a guy with foot long adamantium claws on both hands . . . you’re kind of obligated to find out how many creative ways you can have him use those claws to kill people. I get it.

The premise is simple: years in the future, Wolverine is living a broken life. He’s borderline suicidal. Mutants are pretty much hunted out of existence. No new ones are appearing. Life is terrible. And then a new mutant girl is discovered, and it’s up to him to protect her, despite the fact that he’s the least fatherly figure you could imagine.

It’s not a movie you’re going to come out chipper from. It’s quite the downer, but it’s a good downer, so there’s that. Honestly, this is a pretty easy film to decide whether you’ll want to watch it or not. If “R-Rated dark Wolverine movie” is something you’re in the market for, here’s your huckleberry. 8/10

 

Split. I do not, as a rule, enjoy horror movies. (And yet here I am reviewing two of them at once sitting.) That said, I really liked The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable and (to an extent) The Village and Signs. M. Night Shyamalan has directed some stinkers, sure, but he’s got a number of movies I enjoy. Split wasn’t one I was planning on seeing, however. The main reason I watched it was because I heard it might intersect with Unbreakable somehow, and my fond memories of that movie made me want to check this one out.

I generally really dislike movies where the villain is a “crazy person.” I feel like it does a real disservice to people with mental health issues. James McAvoy plays a man with something like 23 different personalities. And of course some of them want to abduct three girls and keep them hostage for unknown reasons.

McAvoy did a fine job acting the different personalities, but I still found the whole concept kind of scummy, and I could never really invest myself in his character because of that. Additionally, my general distaste of horror made me gun shy of lots of the movie. In the end, it wasn’t a very enjoyable experience, and the intersection with Unbreakable wasn’t enough to make me happy I’d invested 2 hours of sick-in-bed time with the movie.

Though I would really love an Unbreakable sequel. Just sayin’. 5/10. I didn’t hate it, but was generally neutral on it, which is what a 5 is for me. All movies start out as a 5. They move up and down based on my response to them.

 

Seen any of these yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: Infinity War [SPOILERS]

I took Tomas and DC to the movies on Saturday, off to see the latest Avengers movie. And there’s no way for me to review this movie without talking about massive SPOILERS, so if you haven’t seen it yet and plan on it, then don’t read this review. Got it? On the other hand, if you’ve already seen the movie and want to chat about it, you’ve come to the right place.

In the end, I have really mixed feelings about the movie. Not because it was poorly done. The effects were awesome, and I was certainly entertained throughout. But it’s all build up and no release. The ending? Half of everybody dying? All it really did was remind me that there are no endings in these movies. It’s a franchise that just keeps on churning.

For a story to be complete, you need to have an ending of some sort. I don’t review books and movies that I don’t finish, so how in the world can I review Infinity War, an unfinished movie?

Sure, you can argue that the movie ended. The lengthy credits rolled, and we got to see Nick Fury die at the end (a final stab of the knife in case fans weren’t low enough already). But simply rolling credits doesn’t mean its over. You could also argue that it’s a “dark” movie, and that the ending is an ending, but that’s just a bunch of garbage. It’s a complete, 100% cliffhanger of an ending. Except instead of leaving the protagonists on a cliff, it drops them off the cliff and focuses on their dead, bleeding corpses.

I don’t for a moment believe Starlord, Black Panther, Spiderman, et al are actually, really dead. These are comic book movies, and characters come back from the dead all the time. Already there are tons of theories about what will happen. Maybe an alternate timeline. Captain Marvel’s movie takes place in the 90s and comes out soon, and Fury was paging Captain Marvel right at the end there. So perhaps we get some timeline shenanigans ala X-Men to iron things out.

The best example of a “dark ending” I can think of is Empire Strikes Back. But that movie has an actual ending. Luke fights Darth, Darth wins, Luke escapes. It would be very different if Luke fought Darth and the film ended with a shot of Luke falling into the depths of Cloud City.

Roll credits.

The more I think about this, the more it becomes clear that Marvel films aren’t really films at all anymore. They’ve morphed into this strange hybrid of films and television series. I don’t mean Agents of SHIELD or Daredevil. I mean the movies themselves. A cliffhanger like Infinity War leaves us with is much more in line with something we might see out of Game of Thrones or Lost.

Or comic books themselves, for that matter.

Which, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Marvel has simply finally gotten to the point where it can adapt its comics to the screen completely. We have all the characters’ back stories. We can see a veritable cornucopia of heroes and villains on the screen, and we know all about each of them. They can die, be reborn, be recast, and have everything happen to them that happen in the comics.

But just because you can do something on film doesn’t mean you should. I think my biggest objection to the end of the movie was the way it was done. There’s the big finale fight scene. The heroes lose, and snap, everything changes. And I wonder why exactly I just watched 2.5 hours of struggle to have nothing really fixed.

It felt like I got too good of a look at the inner workings of Marvel. How we’ll see these movies come out one after another, and none of them will really matter. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Marvel will decide Black Panther 2 is a bad idea, and leave the character dead. But since the movies exist to make money . . . I seriously doubt that will happen. Too much moola is at stake.

So Marvel pushed the boundaries too far for me. Character deaths stop really having an impact when you start doubting any of them will ever really be permanent. Imagine a Lion King where Mufasa shows up alive and kicking in the sequel. Or what it would feel like if Boromir shows up out of nowhere in Two Towers. Sure, you can get away with a bit of it now and then, but so many characters all at once?

I felt like I wanted my money back. Might as well skip the whole first movie and just watch the inevitable sequel to find out what really happens.

But that’s too harsh, because I really was entertained for those 2.5 hours. The movie was funny, explosive, and engaging. But it also was a big ol’ sucker punch, and it’s hard to say “thanks” when a film does that. Especially when it isn’t earned.

I’ll watch the sequel, of course. But a large part of whether or not I’ll ever want to rewatch Infinity War rests on how that sequel goes. I watch superhero movies to escape. To see the good guys win.

What did you all think of the movie?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: A Quiet Place

To celebrate our anniversary yesterday, Denisa and I went out to the movies. And nothing says “romantic celebration” like watching people try to stay as quiet as possible to avoid getting eaten by monsters, right? That’s what we thought, at least. (Hey. It was between that and Chappaquiddick. So it’s not like we had great options.)

I’d heard good things about the movie, though, so better to watch a good, scary movie than a bad romantic one, right? That’s what we figured. And all in all, it was a good movie, as advertised. But perhaps because I’d heard such good things about it, I ended up disappointed. (So often it comes down to expectations, you know?)

The plot is straightforward: monsters have invaded the earth. They hunt by sound, and are blind other than that. So if you don’t want to get eaten, don’t make a sound. We follow the course of a family struggling to stay alive. They’ve got things down to a science: sand on paths to soften their footfalls, padded rooms to muffle noise, sign language to communicate, etc. But the mom is pregnant, and as soon as you see that, you know there’s going to come a point in time when making no noise is going to be . . . difficult at best.

The film plays out from there. There are a lot of very tense scenes, and it definitely doesn’t shy away from employing cheap scares, with jump cuts and “gotcha!” music cues aplenty. Which I found a bit disappointing, honestly. I feel like that’s a sort of commodity that works best when used with a light touch. This movie did it often enough you just came to expect it.

The way the plot unfurled also left a good bit to desire. Too often things happened because of coincidence. Again, that’s something you can get away with now and then, but when the plot is one thing after another, with each one unlikelier than the next, at some point you just doubt it would all happen that way. And doubt, in a scary movie (or any movie), is killer. There was a key sequence that I didn’t buy at all, because the noise of the scene would have given it away in real life. I have to imagine that was due to a sloppy edit. Something got cut from the film that would have explained it better, but we were left with the plot hole.

The ultimate resolution also left a fair bit desired, for me. I pretty much guessed it from early on, and I was proven right.

So all in all, a fine way to spend an evening, but nothing much more than that. I will say I thought the acting was quite good, particularly on the part of the deaf girl, Millicent Simmonds. I also was impressed Krasinski wrote the movie and directed it. Not bad for Jim from the Office. Still, I gave it a 6.5/10.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Ready Player One Movie Review

Last week was a busy week, so to blow some steam, I took a long lunch break and headed out to the theaters to go see Ready Player One by myself. Because adult.

I was a big fan of the book, which makes sense, as it was a science fiction book chock full of 80s pop culture references, so it was pretty much tailor made for me. And that’s exactly the kind of adaptation that might end up going very wrong. If you love an original, seeing someone else do something to that original is a risk. They might have gotten something else out of it, and so you could end up hating their adaptation.

That said, if anyone could do a Ready Player One adaptation, it would be Steven Spielberg. The man’s responsible for a ton of 80s nostalgia, after all. Why not return to his roots?

So how was it? Mixed. There were parts of the movie that I loved. There were other parts that just didn’t work for me.

Even basic things like the nostalgia bits were hit and miss. On the one hand, it was a blast to see all the references peppered throughout the movie. My favorite sequence was the recreation of The Shining, which isn’t in the novel but made total sense for the movie. (For me, at least. I could see some people really disliking how much they changed the novel.) But at the same time, when a lot of the interest of the movie is driven by referring to other movies you loved, there are times when you start wishing you were watching those other movies, instead. In some ways, it started to feel kind of like those musicals where they’ve pieced together all the greatest hits of an artist or band. The connections between the songs begin to be a stretch.

The pop culture references seemed just too much at times. In the book, a great deal is made out of how niche a lot of this stuff is. How only some people really understood all the references. But in the movie, it came across as much more mainstream. As if all the people in 2046 know all about the 1980s. But think for a second. That’s like me knowing all about the pop culture of the 1950s right now. I know general things, but the ins and outs? Forget it.

Plus, you’ve got the issue of VR in the movie. Everyone’s supposedly using it, and that’s easy enough to handle in a book. You just describe it. But for the film, Spielberg made it a sort of fusion between AR and VR, with people having full on battles in VR on real life city streets. And that makes . . . not a whole lot of sense. I kept trying to figure out how it would all function, and it never became clear. That’s a problem.

But when the movie was working well, it was working really well. The action scenes were a lot of fun. The concept itself (a worldwide treasure hunt for an insanely valuable fortune) is one that can hold up any number of plots. The acting was fine. The effects were great. The music was a series of references, as you’d expect.

In the end, I had a good time. It’s a film I would recommend seeing in theaters, on a big screen. But will I remember it years from now? Probably not. I’ll remember the movies it referred to, but this amalgamation will just blend together, mainly because it didn’t actually do that much with it all. It’s a generic plot wrapped up in pop culture, with a sci-fi finish that doesn’t really make sense when you try to think about it more than a little.

And that’s not a recipe for a smashing success.

I gave it a 6.5/10. What did you think?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. Plus, did I mention the sweet perks like exclusive access to unpublished books, works in progress, and Skype visits? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

%d bloggers like this: