Arrival Is Really Good. Yup.

Arrival 4.7/5

Fun fact: The Arrival is the name I gave my finishing move in wrestling – a corkscrew elbow drop from the top rope.

This movie is good.

It was properly disoreintating when it needed to be. Really great camera work and shot composition. Its very a tight story that never loses focus, mostly likely because its tight and personal. You never really leave your main characters, and its mainly told from Amy Adams direct perspective.

Denis Villeneuve strikes me as a very deliberate film maker. Every shot has a purpose. I’ve seen a few of his movies now (Sicario, Arrival, Prisoners) and you should be hopeful that the Bladerunner remake-sequel-reboot will turn out excellently. There’s no fat in his films.

The sort of undersaturated look isn’t distracting like it can be in other films. Its just enough to set the atmosphere without something in your brain saying “its grey and brown” the whole time like two films in particular from this year.

I liked how the team that was put together made sense. Amy Adam is a language expert. Jeremy Renner is a scientist physicist man! That makes sense! Not like Armageddon or other movies where they take shlubs and use them to help with aliens/space stuff.

I liked how it wasn’t like other “Aliens are here” movies where they show up over top of Washington or New York or Los Angeles or London. They’re randomly placed. The main one is just in… Montana? And they aren’t just blowing stuff up so that the protagonists can rally because “AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The aliens are more a plot element than a character. You do meet the aliens and get to learn about them. But because the aliens are here, you get to see how persons and society and countries react. You have your “JUST BLOW THEM UP” crowd, and your militarized vs more intuitive governments. Your TV people yelling because they’re on opposite sides of the split screen.

Honestly, this is probably the most Star Trek a movie has been in ages. Slow and political and think-first. Problem solving! With words and thinking and talking!

Its probably right at the top of my movies of the year with Captain America: Civil War and Hell Or Highwater. Star Trek: Beyond was pretty good too. I still need to see Hacksaw Ridge.

Space is neat.


Star Wars: A Rogue One Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 4/5

The movie started off a little choppy and rough. There isn’t an opening crawl so you get right into it and learn the exposition as you go. Not necessarily a bad thing, but Star Wars is usually pretty spoon fed. You start off this film kinda not knowing what’s up exactly and who is who and why is what.

Then as it goes you start to pick up steam and things start to fall in place better. Works through a couple lulls and I even had an eye-roll at one point.

But once it gets to the end it goes and goes and goes great. Its fabulous. Radical. LIT AF FAM!!!1!!

Its a very WW2 style story for chunks and is shot in a similar manner to classic war films. The classic WW2 style shots and battles that are less fantastical than your usual Star Wars fare. There is some excellent cinematography for scene transitions that really add to the pacing.

I was a bit of a curmudgeon sitting down in the theater before the movie. I’d been making the joke about “We know how it ends” since the couple TV spots and trailers I saw had them saying things like “We need to stop The Empire” and “We can’t let them build the Death Star!” Pretty sure Episode IV happened. But the way it got there and the way the story was told works.

In a The Hobbit-ish way, it shows you some things you’d always heard about in Lord of the Rings, but never seen. So seeing those things is great, and its even better when it handles the tone so well.

The characters aren’t terribly fleshed out, but that’s pretty well a norm for Star Wars. As much as people laud the original trilogy, I don’t think George Lucas is a skilled enough writer to really have done everything character wise that the last 30-40 years have claimed. I think a lot of fandom and nostalgia gets in the way and has added to the mythos. (Like, Darth Vader wasn’t space Satan. He was an asshole general who wore a cool suit. He was the Witch King, not Sauron. But pop culture sure treats him like he’s the greatest thing since electricity.)

Back to Rogue One… They’re archetypes of your misfit gang of heroes. They’re not your usual Star Wars characters. They’re… dirtier(?). Also, I don’t really think much of the cast is terribly charismatic or really brought anything extra to the roles, and maybe they appear shallower and less interesting for it. There is perfectly fine and good acting, but that extra layer of spice or chemistry or whatever just wasn’t quite there.

There is a bit of a test I have for movie characters which falls into a “How willing am I to buy a Funko Pop or SH Figuarts or other such figure of these characters?” and while I enjoyed the movie, no one stuck with me.

Mads Mikkelson is radical. He just has a great face. I’m so excited for Death Stranding.

There’s gonna be stuff you don’t want to think too hard about. There’s nostalgia and some fan service. The story isn’t much and its kind of a moving target as they go. I feel like Gareth Edwards, director, knew how he wanted to end the movie and kinda filled in the rest with Good Enough Stuff.

Star Wars as a property has a thing where once you get too far from Storm Troopers and TIE fighters and X-Wings and the Empire and the Rebels there hasn’t been enough to establish what else makes up Star Wars. So while this is “new” its also familiar. Mileage may vary on viewers craving new-ness.

Whether I like this more than Episode VII is yet to be determined. I want to say yes, but a lot of that is recency bias. Also, its fair to question how much of Star Wars this got right versus Star Wars fandom.

I can’t say enough good things about once you get to the end of the movie. Well executed action all through the final act whether its from the ground or the space. It has been so long since one of these big CGI, action franchise movies made the decisions this movie made.  It does things totally different than any of the other seven films in the series. I like that.

And seriously, the ending of the movie was excellent.

Paging Doctor Mister Strange. Your Origin Story Is Here

Doctor Strange 4.4/5

I’m not sure how often I’ve mentioned it in a review here, but I really hate that all movies now have to be a minimum of two hours. When movies drag out it is super lame. What ever happened to the 90 minute movie?

What does this have to do with anything? Well, Marvel went and made themselves a two hour movie that felt like a 90 minute fast paced, tripping balls, action movie and it rocked. I’m positive that the 1h55m run time listed on IMDB is a lie.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent was not distracting. He was also good at being Doctor Strange because Doctor Strange is an asshole, self-centered, boastful, and a bit of a dickbag. He nailed it.

The supporting cast was interesting too.

  • Mordo was more interesting here than any time I’ve read him in the comics. He isn’t just the foil to Doctor Strange in the traditional mirror villain way most comic villains are
  • Wong taking more from the recent Way of the Weird inspiration as an army general was well served and executed. It sets up well for the future films if they continue down the WotW comic story.
  • The Ancient One and her monologues never took too long or felt too… “I’m so ancient and wise” which is so easy to do with the Grandmaster character. I liked how she wouldn’t take more than two or three sentences to ever make her point.

Was the villain a little underdeveloped? I suppose. But he was what he was and they didn’t try to do more. If I was more into spoilers I would go into more here. It’s hard to kinda get into what I want to say without letting it all hang out.

The tie-ins to the greater MCU? Fine. A shot of Avengers Tower with downtown New York? Good, in fact I would have loved to have seen the Oscorp tower too. Off hand mention of the Avengers? Cool. Blah blah Infinity Stones? Yeah duh.

I also liked things that were designed to be more character moments too. Complications around The Oath. The roller coaster of his status. Utilitarian vs Individualism was especially fun. I like to thing about the “What Ifs?” in a movie a lot. Like what if the character took the right path and not the left one. Make the renegade choice and and not be a paragon.

The action was well shot and smart. It was “magical” and manipulative. Creative and the use of the environment sets this apart from shoot-bang-kick-smash that most of the Marvel movies do.

The climax was great, smart and interesting on a few levels. I would have liked a little more fire, though (and you’ll understand that once you see it).

The trippy kaleidoscope effects were worth the price of admission. Same with the bright colours and tints and blurs and whatever else. I’m not one who does, but people who partake in certain psychedelics would have a blast about 30 minutes in.

The mid-credits scene was nice. I’m always of two minds on these. Part of me likes when these things are kept almost entirely to their self, but then the part of me who wants to see a 5 hour film of nothing but comic book crossover porn just loves it.

The end-credits scene plays into what we’ve seen from the character and sets up the sequel and maybe a small portion of Infinity War (if you make great leaps of imagination with fan theory that I do).

Would I like to have seen a little more doctor-ing? Sure enough. More Rachel McAdams being a Canadian sweetheart? Yeah. Some more cult time? Sure!

But at the same time, I really enjoy a movie that doesn’t bugger about too much and just keeps things going.

I will see this again. And probably again. Then once more. At least.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

TMNT2: Out Of The Shadows and Into The Cheese

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows 3/5

It starred the Turtles. They did fun stuff. Gags and one liners. Some heist scenes. They’re decent characters in their own right. Megan Fox, Stephen Amell and will Arnett all get enough screen time to put a smile on your face.

It wasn’t revolutionary film making. The plot wasn’t amazing. But if you grew up a TMNT fan then this is more likely to appeal to you and put a smile on your face than the previous TMNT film.

It is a lot more fantastical and goofy. It embraces that side versus trying to make ninja crime fighting teenage turtles all serious and gritty.

I love the inverse law of ninjas, where “one ninja is an elite and powerful adversary, but multiple ninjas make a group of faceless and incompetent pawns?” The foot clan are as hilariously inept as they were in the cartoon. Shredder is there too, with a way better costume. Bebop and Rocksteady were a lot of fun and Krang was fun too.

I’ve really grown to like the turtle designs. And every time I see Raph I can see Alan Ritchson’s handsome face in there somehow.

It’s hard to call it a “good” movie. There is nothing worthy of an Oscar. Nothing ground breaking.

But it was fun. It was cheesy and fun and unapologetic in being cheesy and fun.

I caught it on a plane so if you’re flying and need to kill under two hours, go for it. If you have kids or were a TMNT fan growing up then its worth a stream on VOD or Netflix.

Lazer TeamBlue Mountain State: Rise of ThadlandDeadpoolGods of EgyptBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeHardcore HenryJungle BookCaptain America: Civil WarX-Men: ApocalypseMike And Dave Need Wedding DatesGhostbusters, The Legend of TarzanWarcraftPopstar: Never Stop Never Stoppin’Star Trek: BeyondJason Bourne, Suicide SquadLights OutSausage PartyDon’t BreatheKeanuCentral IntelligenceBatman: The Killing Joke

To Come (at some point):
Hell Or Highwater, XOXO (Netflix), Flock of Dudes (September), The Masterpiece (TBA 2016), The Accountant (October), Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (October), Doctor Strange (November), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December), Assassins Creed (December)

Review Medley: Keanu at Central Intelligence was Killing the Joke

Keanu 3/5

I enjoyed it. It was perfectly good. More jokes hit than missed which is always good in a comedy film.

If you enjoyed their sketches then you’ll probably get a lot out of this. There were a few good gut busters and some good set-ups early that pay off later in the film. There is enough plot to keep you going and keep it fresh.

The kitten is truly remarkable in how adorable it is.

I feel like I should have more to say but I don’t really.

Central Intelligence 3.5/5

I’m hit or miss with Kevin Hart films. I liked this one. He was a similar character to what you’re used to seeing from him but its a little more… “mature” in like a depressing adult, toned down way. But he’s still funny and dials it up and down as the film goes.

The Rock isn’t just the big macho guy either. He’s a bit quirky and weird and its a nice change of pace from mountain man action man you’re used to. His comedic timing is better than I expected. Plus he wears a fanny pack.

The movie follows some tropes you expect and then swerves at others so it doesn’t feel played out. Sometimes it swerves and then swerves back so you still end up where you thought you were going but you get there a bit differently than the generic way you’d expect.

There is a fun level of cheese to it as well. The movie never takes itself too seriously.

It isn’t a long movie which is great. Each scene just moves at the right speed and you’re never bored or waiting too long for a gag.

A lot of the minor characters have great scenes and moments which helps keep things fresh.

If you got 90 minutes for a comedy and a bowl of snacks I’d recommend it.

Batman: The Killing Joke 2/5


I really like the DC animated films. They’re kickass, you get more characters than just Batman usually, more interesting stories are explored, they have coherent stories (generally) and characters are more sensational versus “gritty”.

Not all of that happened here.

Going for the R rating felt cheap here and awkward. There are lines of dialogue that sound so shoehorned in so they could hit enough swear words for R.

The story and character choices that were adjusted in the adaptation process are bad. The Batman-Batgirl thing feels like incest or at least awkward like when you see the pictures of a 54 yr old dude dating a 16 yr old girl because he’s rich and the parents signed a permission slip.

The voice cast is still excellent. It still looks great in terms of art style, direction, and the way shots are framed. Attention to detail in how it looks is great.

Also, and this is just me, when I read the comic I never once thought of the stuff that happened to Barbara Gordon as rape. I thought they just beat the crap out of her like she was Jason Todd. So that was a learning experience!

The pacing and the changes just make it not very good. I wouldn’t seek it out, but if you’re curious then give it a go.

Available on DVD


To Come (at some point):

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows
  • XOXO (Netflix)
  • Flock of Dudes (September)
  • The Masterpiece (TBA 2016)
  • The Accountant (October)
  • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (October)
  • Doctor Strange (November)
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December)
  • Assassins Creed (December)

Mabes To Come:

  • Sully
  • Magnificent Seven
  • Snowden
  • Blair Witch
  • Keeping Up With The Joneses