Monday, October 2, 2017

Allegiant

The story drags itself onward, but doesn't quite reach the end with this third installment to the Divergent movie series. The biggest surprise for me is how this film is actually better than Insurgent in many ways. It's worse in some ways too, but I thought it would be all terrible.

Um. Did Tris just become Jeanine??? She looks exactly like her, and is about as relevant as her too -- and Jeanine is dead.

I actually gave a positive review to Insurgent after seeing it in theaters, and then promptly forgot it existed, which made me rethink that score. Insurgent somehow did a better job assimilating the appearance a decent quality movie while showing us nothing interesting or memorable. Maybe it reminds us of Divergent, which, whatever its flaws, was at least entertaining and a clean, straightforward adaptation of its source material.

But Allegiant strays even further from both the source, and the story's original starting place. It does away with the Factions -- the highlight of interest for the series -- and starts feeding us things about "pure" and "damaged" like that's what the story had been about the whole time. Then it takes us out of the dystopian walls of the crumbled Chicago into an otherworldly orange and red landscape and shiny floating futuristic cities. The only thing that connects this film with Divergent is that middle movie, which I've seen twice now and I still can't remember what the actual heck happened in that film.

The movie started with the same group on the run who were on the run at the beginning of Insurgent. With a handful changes they could have skipped that movie altogether!

In that way Allegiant feels even less like a Divergent Series movie, but in straying so far away, it stumbled on something that the last movie lacked in spades: memorability. A handful of things stick out as memorable, and, granted, some are not positive, but giving the movie some unique points made it more enjoyable than expected -- in spite of decidedly worse scripting and acting, and a random plot that goes nowhere. Of course I said Insurgent was memorable too at some point, so maybe a couple days from now I'll have forgotten about this one too. Here are a few reasons why I think I'll remember:

Bad special effects. With recalling the striking red landscape outside the wall comes the image of our heroes (and anti-hero Peter!) floating around in those transport bubbles. That was hilariously, awfully, painfully bad. The futuristic city had cool design elements to it, but most of the time when it was being shown along with characters, green screens and CGI was obvious and cheap. It was weird, like a cool scifi world had been created somewhere, and then all the characters from Divergent jumped over from a different universe and began to populate it, but don't fit there because they're worn out and dry. That feeling was enhanced by the city residents knowing who they are -- like they were movie characters brought into reality.

This is concept art. Someone obviously worked hard to make this place different and interesting. Then they tried to populate it with dead characters for cheap.

And like they would in reality, these characters begin to crumble in front of their new backdrop. Like in the book, Tris' character fades away, while Four finds himself the main character in every actually compelling scene. Hardly anyone is trying at this point, but isn't even pretending. She stares, she delivers her lines, and she's forgotten. manages to keep whatever interest he had from before, and could have carried the whole film decently on his own if he had been allowed, but half the movie still focused on stale Tris. Poor yet again makes the most of what he has, and all I can say is congrats dude on surviving these movies with your career intact. I can hardly believe how bad is, especially after being so enjoyable and capable in Baby Driver. Every scene Caleb is in is physically painful to watch.

I'm glad I waited until after I saw IT to watch this though, because is in this, and he amused me to no end by making subtle faces in the background that reminded me of Pennywise. And maybe I only noticed because I was paying attention to him, but his character Matthew was a decently interesting character. I know he was in the book, but I swear I don't remember a thing he did, so the mystery of whether he was good or bad worked on me. Plus the bit he's a part of where Four tells him to tell David () that Four left him behind so that Tris would know he was lying and find out the truth -- well, if I forget the rest of the movie I think I'll at least remember that bit.

Also the bit when he smiles at Tris while disappearing behind elevator doors. Made me laugh.

I just remembered that there's a whole plotline with a memory-erasing serum. I keep talking about forgetting and remembering, but didn't remember that element until right now. The serum is used for the movie's climax where it works terribly and makes no impression. And when it ends, there's no real conclusion in sight, because the final film has been abandoned. Yep, not even cool art design, rabid fans, or a freaking Skarsgård can save this directionless rust-bucket. Now my spirit is with Peter, jumping around and waving in front of the invisible gate, begging to please please pretty please be let back into the super cool futuristic city -- where characters resemble real people instead of dead horses.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Upcoming Movie Roundup - October

In September I wound up going to see only one movie, and I was surprised that I did, and even more surprised at how much I loved it -- IT. My brother who loves horror movies and my friend who I obsess over Stranger Things with (ST and IT have similar feels, parallel plot elements, and share an actor) helped me overcome my fear and dive into this quite disturbing, but ultimately incredibly rewarding film. It is very similar to Stranger Things as I mentioned, seemingly taking inspiration from the TV show just as the TV took inspiration from it. Read my review of IT here.

This month, there's a few things to keep an eye on, but the only current must-watches for me are down at the bottom -- TV shows! Stranger Things makes it's long-awaited return this month, and also another scifi show of a very different kind: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (review), which was the only other thing I managed to review this past month.

What are you looking forward to seeing this October? Let me know in the comments!


Blade Runner 2049
Oct 6th; R
It's got a visually magnificent trailer and early reviews are leaning almost completely positive, but due to the hardness of the R-rating I probably won't see this one until it releases on DVD. I love the scifi/noir genre more than anything, and that was my favorite thing about the original Blade Runner, so the style appeals to me a lot, but I'm not big on it continuing the story of Deckard. Maybe it turns out fine and I have no problem with it, maybe not. I would be completely on board if it were set in the same universe without referring to old characters, but if the risk of including them pays off, it might turn out better than it could have otherwise. At this point the only question is how good it'll be!




The Mountain Between Us
Oct 6th; PG-13
I'm sure that the talents of Idris Elba and Kate Winslet lend this movie a set amount of entertainment and quality that can't be undone, but otherwise this is the kind of plot that stresses me out more than it entertains me. It's the sort of movie I wouldn't even consider seeing in theaters, but would happily watch at home on a lazy afternoon. I just hope the dog gets a good death scene...
(BTW, if the potentially romantic strangers team up isn't appealing to you but the "survival on a snowy mountain" plot is, you could always see Walking Out which features a father and son in a similar situation, or 6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain, with a lone snowboarder. Yep, there's three of these movies this month!)




The Osiris Child
Oct 6th(limited); NR
This month on neat-looking small-time sci-fi! This one was made in Australia, and has a western feel on the side as a result. The effects look great and the world looks real and gritty. Who knows how the plot will turn out as it's pretty typical on the surface. It could succumb to the typicalness or it could manage to be more on the classic, never-gets-old side. I'd definitely like to find out, but who knows when that will happen.




Happy Death Day
Oct 13th; PG-13
Not exactly my cup of tea -- this is a prime example of the type of horror movie that I don't care for. This one has one gimmick to make it more interesting though: the Groundhog Day effect! To my knowledge it's never been used for a horror movie before, (Supernatural did it, but that's a TV show) so that's pretty original. Otherwise the movie looks maybe even worse than similar movies of the genre. I am a bit curious though, because I have a guess as to who the killer is already. If I'm right it'll be a terrible movie, but worth seeing anyway for the satisfaction. And if I'm wrong, then maybe it would be decent. Maybe.




Goodbye Christopher Robin
Oct 13th; PG
But but but, why Goodbye Christopher Robin? Make me think the little kid is going to die or something. This movie looks super sweet and I don't want that to happen. Domhnall Gleeson and sweet dramas are a perfect combination; I'd probably want to watch this even if it didn't also throwback to my childhood with Winnie the Pooh. Margot Robbie is the wife which is neat because she was the girl who turned him down in About Time. And Kelly Macdonald who's great at everything she does.




Geostorm
Oct 20th; PG-13
Geostorm! Yay! I'm so excited for this movie! BECAUSE THEN I WON'T HAVE TO WATCH THAT INCREDIBLY IRRITATING TRAILER ANYMORE. I'm probably going to end up watching it when it come to DVD, because my brother is obsessed with terrible disaster films, and this one is the most disaster-y of them all. I'm sure it was be both awful and a very enjoyable watch. It's got a classic top-tier doomed movie cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Andy Garcia, and Ed Harris (impressively). Also Jeremy Ray Taylor, who was Ben in IT last month, but it looks like a small part so hopefully he'll be able to get past it.




The Snowman
Oct 20th; R
HAHAHAHAHAhaha. Haha. Ha. Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J.K. Simmons. Sounds nice, but then you get this plot. I seriously don't get this. This is dime-a-dozen serial killer story line, except it looks like it's just embracing all the cliches of the genre instead of trying to subvert them with originally. And we're still supposed to take it seriously? Whatever, this isn't the kind of thing I'd be interested in in any form.




The Gifted
Oct 2nd; FOX
I doubt I'll love it as much as I did Legion, but The Gifted looks so much like Legion made for teens that I get the feeling it'll be at least worth watching. Yeah, it's probably going to have lots of teenager-angst drama, but it looks like a decent production, and even in the trailer the characters are set up to be interesting. Also the length of six episodes is promising -- promising that they won't be draining the life out of the story, but giving us a concise story line that hopefully more or less wraps up at the end, whether a second season is done or not. Actually looking to checking this out.




Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Oct 14th; BBC America (season 2)
I just discovered this show, and with perfect timing to be ready for the second season! This show is like what would happen if The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Doctor Who were merged, but confined to Earth, and features a "detective" who follows fate around to solves cases. Everything's connected, nothing's a coincidence, and it's 50% goofy and hilarious, 25% neatly dramatic, 20% mind-blowing, and 5% awkward. I love it. And I'm excited to see the next wacky adventure!




Stranger Things
Oct 27th; Netflix (season 2)
I haven't watched any trailers for this second season, and I don't think I will. I went into season 1 completely unaware and unprepared, and, I think I'm still reeling from it. Recreating the season 1 experience is probably impossible, but I'm just going for knowing the least amount of spoilers that's reasonably possible. This is hands down my most anticipated entertainment event of the month, and if all goes as planned, it will be launched up the the level of Baby Driver and Dunkirk as the best of the year. I'm terrified that this season won't live up to the first, but only because I love it and am so invested in it's success and the standards are so high -- not because there's any kind of evidence that it won't be absolutely magnificent. I. Can't. Wait!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Season 1

Spoiler free!

I haven't even finished watching season one at this moment, but I'm eager to describe this show because it's not what you might expect. It's not at all what I expected, and if I had expected what I got, I would have watched it a long time ago.

Well -- not a long time ago, since it only first aired in 2016, but you get the drift.

First of all, forget the title, because Dirk Gently is not a detective show. Yes, there is a character who describes himself as and aspires to be a detective, and yes, there is an element of mystery, but it's decidedly not that kind of a detective show. What you need to know is that it's based on books by Douglas Adams. If you know who that is you're a huge step closer to understand what the show is about. If not: he wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Now we're all on the same page. *glances up at my page banner*

Another thing I wasn't expecting was something I love to see happen with TV shows, and doesn't happen enough in my opinion: that the plot runs its course neatly over the whole season instead of being blocked off into episodic adventures that only loosely connect. It's basically an 8-hour movie, utilizing one of the best unique aspects television has going for it today. The new frontier for television! I assume there will be a definite end, but as I said I'm two episodes from finding out. If I'm wrong I'll come back and correct myself. (I was right, it wraps up cleanly. And then it gives a cliffhanger for the next season! Sneaky.)

Kitten!

I've never read Adams' Dirk Gently books, so I can't say as to how accurate this is to them, but the tone is in the right place. Maybe a bit modernized. And even though only one character is British, it has a British feel overall, (and it comes on BBCAmerica) with the same kind of wacky British comedy that comes out of nowhere that everyone loves about Hitchhiker's Guide. It's the kind of comedy where the punch line is so unexpected that you are compelled to repeat it in a high-pitched voice before you laugh -- or more accurately, guffaw -- at it. Also, I found, a lot of short bursts of shriek-laughter. I call it as I see it guys.

Probably the main reason I never gave the show a second glance until now (until my dad convinced me to give it a go -- thanks Dad!) is because it has in it -- as the main character no less. And no, he isn't Dirk Gently. Dirk is the title character but arguably not the main character. I have a history of not particularly caring for Elijah Wood. His being in things has always tended toward being a negative rather than a positive. But he's in this, and it took about to episode 4 for me to admit to myself that he belongs in the role, and he handles both the comedy and the drama well, and is enjoyable, and after all not terribly like Frodo Baggins.

I don't like to say I dislike Frodo. He's the lead character in my all-time favorite films after all. I'm just too familiar with his face. Here, the fur coat helps.

I keep wanting to call him Arthur because he comes across so similar to Arthur Dent, being all disbelieving and on the verge of mental collapse at every moment, yet still manages to be entertainingly casual about it all at the same time. But no, his name is... hang on... Todd! Yes, it's Todd. But no, in my head it's still Arthur. Dirk's name is easy enough to remember, and I have no baggage with the actor, , who I've only seen make appearances on British crime shows. He takes a minute to get used to since the character is super strange and campy and happy and we don't get to see his more human side immediately, but he grows on you eventually and reminds a little of Matt Smith's early days as The Doctor.

If the show where just those two doing their shenanigans I'd be happy, but it's not, and if it was, I wouldn't know what I was missing. (Much like I didn't know what I was missing before I watched the show!) Because the side and supporting characters are all such gems, and there's so many of them! There's a sister (), and an awesome bodyguard lady (). Then there's two cops spoofing crime dramas, a crazy woman hanging out with a random guy she kidnapped, shady military agents (one of which is hilariously dumb), four crazy dudes who go by "The Rowdy 3," and a whole lot of super strange and sinister people (led brilliantly by ) and they all run around in their own plot lines as the plots lines wind together in ways that only a show of this particular brand of meta could handle so humorously.

This is the awesome bodyguard lady. I love her so much.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency fills a hole in my entertainment soul that has been vacant for a while, since Doctor Who decided to be terrible. A pure-bred kind of sci-fi comedy that cranks up the enjoyment levels and is worth geeking out over. At least, I'm pretty sure. I have two episodes to go still, so I'll let you know when I'm done: Yep, geek away -- this one's a keeper!

Season 2 is coming in October!

Monday, September 11, 2017

IT

A bunch of kids in the 80s learn to face their fears as they fight an evil supernatural clown-monster who lives in the sewer and wants to eat them. It's the simple things that make the best stories.

I say that sarcastically, but honestly it's true -- even in this case.

Like with sci-fi, horror -- especially supernatural horror like this -- creates an impossible and heightened situation to put characters into, where they thrive. I like that side of the genre. Others prefer the side that puts weight on whether or not the movie is scary, sometimes to the detriment of plot and characters. In the balancing act, there's going to be disappointment on either side: the hardcore horror fans, who like the kids in Monsters Inc., are increasingly harder to scare, and the side I tend to, where the scares feel worthless if in the wake of unsatisfying character and plot. It's a hard thing to blend, and IT manages to be impressively balanced over a remarkably wide tonal range. Though personally, I was much gladder of the character development than I was the freaky bits.

On the character side IT is my cup of tea: the Pack of Boys™ character lineup is a classic. The quiet leader is Bill, , who keeps getting more impressive with each movie he does. Here, though there's plenty of interesting characters and crazy things happening around him, he doesn't let himself be overshadowed, and puts in the film's best and most enigmatic performance. The off-the-wall boy is Richie -- of Stranger Things (where he was the quiet leader of his own pack) -- and he impressed by comparison with his Mike Wheeler by being shockingly different from him. In spite of his potty mouth he wound up being a favorite, and was involved in many excellent moments.

Those two stood out to me, but even tiny moments of questionable acting from any of the kids were few and far between.

is Ben, the fat but incredibly lovable one. At his introduction I thought he was going to be a cliche, but from there he kept growing in endearment at an alarming rate. The rest stand out mostly because of their quirk: the Jewish kid Stanley ( (baby Star-Lord!)) the kid who's becoming his worry-wart mother, Eddie () and the outsider, homeschooled kid, Mike () -- represent! Then there's the girl, Beverly (). Her performance is up there with the best of them, and the character adds a ton to the dynamic of the story. She's exceptional -- but they all are. Each kid stands out in their own way, and each gets a solo scene of seeing Pennywise for the first time; that does make one section of the film repetitive, but worth it to get solid basic development in for everyone.

I found the character of Henry () extremely interesting too, but the character didn't have a real conclusion which mildly disappointing -- unless he comes back in Chapter 2. as Pennywise was of course excellent, ranging from disturbing to creepy to outright terrifying without coming across as too inhuman. And no, he's certainly not human, but he should still have character of some kind, and that he does. The makeup was top-notch, and his being naturally slightly wall-eyed was a fantastic detail. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention as Georgie, because my goodness. He was so young, and wasn't for a single moment unconvincing -- in any capacity.

The kids handle this dark fare excellently. It's amazing.

Plot draws the short straw -- such as it is. Individual scenes do a fine job blending horror with character development, but often do little to drive the story forward. You have the basic premise, and it moves along a straight path to the end with no twist or turns. Honestly twists and turns could have easily over-complicated things, and if only two were possible, complex characters and attention to horror thrills are the two most important, since plot can effectively work as a backdrop. The plot probably suffers from being compressed from that giant book into a two-hour-fifteen-minute runtime (even though only half the book was adapted!). You get the impression things are simplified and trimmed down to the bone, but the story does stay comprehensive, mainly held afloat by the solid characters.

IT dabbles in many types of horror which was a good idea. There's disturbing violence, edgy creepiness, suspense, gore, and jump-scares, but mainly it's good old-fashioned supernatural menace. The film's level of scariness depends on what scares you -- I felt scared only in the suspense, but many moments disturbed or surprised me, and overall the movie was tense, and yes, as scary as anything can objectively be. There's also a wonderful amount of effective comic relief, which I was monstrously glad to enjoy. And there were more than one or two moments that deftly pulled on the heartstrings.

Still not a horror fan, but I'll watch anything for something worthwhile -- and the heart here is definitely worthwhile.

To be completely honest, that's what I was there for. I understand that to make a good horror film you need certain elements, and to be effective in certain ways, while also creating a compelling story line, and sometimes the goals can conflict. This movie melds all its extreme elements as well as I've seen, and props to it for that, but I wasn't there for the horror and from my perspective the film succeeds almost in spite of the horror. Because the moments and elements that I loved about this story existed because of the horror-style premise, but were far, far superior to the thrill of a jump-scare. I loved watching the journey, struggle, and triumph of these characters, and I'm glad that's what mattered most to the filmmakers as well. IT is violent, dark, disturbing, and terrifying; effectively enhancing all the more the meager light that shines through.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Upcoming Movie Roundup - September

I didn't see a single movie in theaters in August, so I guess that means the summer season is over. I still want to see the indies I mentioned, but will have to wait for them. I did watch The Defenders on Netflix, and it was worse than my low expectations were expecting; absolutely pathetic, and the worst thing Netflix's Marvel has done, which is pretty incredible to me considering the long build-up the show had. Check out my review here.

As it stands, there's no big releases of September I'll definitely be seeing in theaters either, though there's plenty of interesting releases to keep an eye on, and hopefully at least watch at home. What looks good to y'all this month? I hope you all had a fantastic summer!


It
Sept 8th; R
For some reason I feel like this movie is capitalizing on the success of Stranger Things. Maybe because Finn Wolfhard is in it, maybe because it really does have that flavor. Of course, IT existed first. So I always say I'm not a horror movie person, but whenever something like this comes along I find myself interested. This isn't your average cheap scary movie, but the scarier something is the more "worth it" it needs to be. And this looks like the absolute most terrifying thing I've ever had even an inclining to watch! If I had to venture a guess about the quality right now I'd say it's going to be high -- really high. But it also look pretty freaking scary, so. It stars the talented Jaeden Lieberher, and Bill Skarsgard of the Skarsgard acting family as Pennywise.




Anti Matter
Sept 8th; NR
This one claims to be a scifi noir which immediately grabbed my attention, but the trailer is just... odd. It does have a strong mystery element to it, and there's definitely scifi too, but the style could be more appealing. The visual style seems to lean more scifi than noir, which is all too often the case I find, but it does have style at least, so that's already ahead of the curve. Anyway this is the sort of movie you watch because of the genre and premise regardless of what the trailer looks like. This is the sort of thing I'd love to watch at home out of pure curiosity if I ever see it streaming, with not a whole lot of expectation, either low or high.




The Limehouse Golem
Sept 8th(limited); NR
British period mystery yes please. A "before Jack the Ripper" tale in the 1800s, with Bill Nighy as the detective, with Olivia Cooke, Douglas Booth, and ever-fantastic Eddie Marsan who supports the heck out of everything he supports. This looks like a classic British mystery in a borderline typical way, but even if it is, I think I'd prefer it that way, especially if it's done well. Will keep an eye out!




Rebel in the Rye
Sept 15th; PG-13
Nicholas Hoult looks pretty strange with brown eyes. This is a biopic about J.D. Salinger, who wrote The Catcher in the Rye, and I haven't read The Catcher in the Rye. It looks like the sort of thing I'd enjoy as a writer, but based on the few reviews around, it's not worth much. A case of wasted potential, it appears. At any rate, I wouldn't let myself watch it before reading the guy's book, but it does have Kevin Spacey and Sarah Paulson besides Hoult, and looks like a good drama on the surface.




Mother!
Sept 15th; NR
Well this one's already been making waves ever since the trailer first dropped, but it's also one of those cases where I'm not in on the joke. Even if it turned out appropriate enough that I want to bother with it, which is unlikely, I still have no obsession with Darren Aronofsky, having never seen a single movie of his, and my like of Jennifer Lawrence is dwindling at best. It's a psychological thriller, which produces idle curiosity over what the twist is, but otherwise doesn't seem to promise anything worthwhile beyond an extremely memorable style. I expect the day I watch this is the day I had nothing better to do. Javier Bardem co-stars.




American Assassin
Sept 15th(limited); R
So I guess Dylan O'Brien wants to be an action star. Good -- because he's really good at it. The energy he brings to his action is extremely unique and entertaining. I'm not a fangirl, but I'd watch this guy play in action flicks all day long. And that's the main appeal of this film, though it does have Michael Keaton in it, and what looks like a fun-while-being-super-serious kind of plot.




Brad's Status
Sept 15th(limited); R
Ben Stiller's back. For some reason I like Ben Stiller, especially when he's in dramedies and indies. The appeal of this one really is just him and the rest of the cast. Austin Abrams of Paper Towns is his son, Jenna Fischer is his wife, and Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson and Jemaine Clement are his more "successful" friends. Sounds nice. Sounds like I don't even care what the plot is.




Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Sept 22nd; R
I gave a favorable review to the first one, but the last half bothered me. I re-watched it recently and now firmly believe that while stylish, and charming on the surface, it isn't nearly as smart as it thinks it is, and has little going on under the surface. That's not to say this one won't be good, or even that I won't see it. I'm not sure. It's just to say that I'm not head-over-heels, and won't be holding out much hope that this sequel will be any improvement. The success of the first implies this will be more of the same, which is hardly ever an improvement, and almost always a relative let-down. But Taron Egerton is still here and being charming so it can only sink so far. Mark Strong is back too. Colin Firth returning is far-fetched, but I suppose that's the whole point!




The Lego Ninjago Movie
Sept 22nd; PG
I'd be very surprised if this ends up being even in the same ballpark of quality as The Lego Movie or even The Lego Batman Movie, but it exists, so hey, you might as well watch it! That's maybe not the best thing to say. It is important that movies try to have good quality after all, and this one is probably mostly just banking on the success of the previously mentioned, but the trailer does provide a few giggles, so that's not nothing. Voice talents of Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, and Jackie Chan will be heard.




American Made
Sept 29th; R
This is the sort of movie that looks good, but I just don't care. Tom Cruise is making up for The Mummy apparently; the story is light and full of comedy but is also based on a true story so that different and fun; and it's got a unique style to it, maybe coming from the era. It looks like a worthwhile watch, but is the sort of thing I wouldn't ever see unless it was convenient. In short, it looks great, and forgettable. Dohmnall Gleeson is also in it though.




Realive
Sept 29th; NR
Pronounced "re-alive" not "real-ive" I assume. Overlooking the kinda bad title, this is an interesting scifi movie to me, because it takes an idea that is very popular -- cryogenically freezing yourself when you're dying until the science is invented to save you -- and applies it in the most realistic way I've ever seen in a movie premise. Like, why has no one thought of making a movie from this perspective before? From the trailer it looks like it's told from a realistic perspective, though who knows how it plays out. Tom Hughes stars, and the movie promises a bit of romance as well. Gotta watch those scifi movies!




Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Defenders

Spoilers!

Well this turned out a lot worse than expected. And my expectations were halfway based on the quality of Iron Fist, which was spectacularly bad. Read my review of it here in order to get the full impact of my opinion when I compare them and say The Defenders is actually the worse of the two, trading in accidental laughs for apparent intentional boredom. This is what we've been building towards for two years? Color me stupefied at the absolute lack of anything worthwhile.

"Gonna go save this city.... I guess..."

My problem was that 50% of my expectations came from Iron Fist, but the other 50% came from Daredevil Season 1. If the 50% had been based on Daredevil's second season I would have only been marginally disappointed, but for some reason the one exceptional thing Netflix's Marvel has done out of five sneaked in there and got my hopes up. I also thought Iron Fist was rushed and cheapened to get this heavy hitter out faster and better, but now I'm scratching my head; if the brilliant plots and great production quality was being saved up, where did it all go? It isn't here, that's for sure.

This series is 8 episodes long, and it takes until episode three for all four Defenders to finally accumulate into the same room. Slow like molasses. But not smooth like molasses, because every scene change feels like switching channels between a cheapened versions of the solo shows for whichever character is on screen. They're even color-coordinated! Daredevil is shown in red, then Jessica Jones is blue, Luke Cage gets yellow, and Iron Fist is green. So cute right? Except every scene is colored that way. Think back on Daredevil season one: what was the prominent color? It was actually green, and the green actually set Daredevil's tone better than red. And it wasn't nearly as oppressive, with many highlight colors going on too. Even Iron Fist had a varying color palate; I don't know about Jessica Jones or Luke Cage but I can only suppose they weren't limited either.

Defenders assemble! ... in a minute. Hang on, let's talk about this first (and wait didn't I leave wet clothes in the wash?) Almost ready... oh darn the show's over!

It was obviously done here on purpose, especially since once they team up, specific colors are thrown out the window and everything just looks muddy. I cannot understand why though, because while it occasionally made memorable shots, the main effect it had was to emphasize how separate the characters were, which made their slow pace toward collaboration all the more maddening. And even once they "team up" they are constantly in-fighting, and never click like a team; lone-wolfing in close proximity. At the end of each episode I was thinking to myself, "Well, it seems like it might be about to get started..." And then the season ended and would you look at that -- nothing happened!

They didn't even defeat The Hand. Instead four brand spanking new additional leaders of The Hand were added and promptly killed off. Hand oldie Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) is still puttering around. The only permanent damage this show did was killing off Stick (Scott Glenn) (cue collective sigh of relief, though honestly he was one of the better characters) and removing Luke's cop friend's arm. Though I expect with Danny's "connections" she'll have a nice mechanical one soon. I was shocked they killed Sigourney Weaver's character in episode 6. She was being geared up to be the main villain; we had to watch her go to doctor visits, and take medication, and put on weird dresses, and stare at herself in the mirror -- and then there was no pay off? She pushes Electra (Elodie Yung) in the right direction and then dies? All the time wasted, and Madam Gao could have done the same thing.

HOW-w can you seeeeeeee into my-e-eyes, like open doOORS?

I'm now wondering what would've happened if this show had been combined with Iron Fist, subtracting the multiple Hand leaders shtick and maybe even cutting out the team-up aspect. The root problem with The Defenders and Iron Fist was intolerably little content stretched thin over too many episodes, so double the content could only be an improvement. Of course that would still leave the Danny Rand (Finn Jones) character problem, because oh my goodness gracious sakes alive that kid is hard to like. Yet as irritating as he is, he was a central part of nearly all the most entertaining parts of the show. And honestly no one is particularly likeable. Even if their characters had been done successfully before, the lack of meaningful content in the show effectively keeps characters from having meaningful existences.

Daredevil's (Charlie Cox) abilities aren't as solid as they should be and have been. His drama with Foggy and Karen is boring, and his drama with Electra is forced and painful. Jessica Jones' (Krysten Ritter) investigating scenes are like actually watching people do real internet research, which is to say, boring; even by this show's standards. She pops off one-liners that occasionally warrant a chuckle but sometimes I could swear you can hear crickets. It doesn't help that no characters laugh, or even smile as far as I can remember. They're deadpan and deadbeat, and in some cases, literally dead. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) I found mildly interesting, but since I hadn't seen his show, I was expecting him to stand out more than he did. Maybe this show pulls him down like it does Daredevil. The fight between Luke and Danny was arguably the best scene altogether -- and certainly the most genuinely humorous.

Like, Danny is the most irritating character... but... at least he makes you feel something.

The Defenders is completely devoid of joy and feeling, moves like a glacier, and gets nothing done. It takes even fewer risks than Iron Fist did, if that's possible. They couldn't even manage the risk of leaving us in suspense of Matt's well-being. Conversations have no spark, and chemistry between characters is non-existent. Yet most of the show is characters talking; explaining what's happened and discussing what will happen. Fight scenes lack the originality we've come to expect and take no risks either. Violent things happen, but nothing feels violent. It feels... insignificant; boring; dead. There's nothing to surprise, nothing to impress, and at the end there's a Return of the King-style multiple endings going on, each one more dead and depressing than the last.

When did being a superhero and saving the city you love become such a downer? And when did watching downright boring superhero fodder become so inanely acceptable? I think it's time someone defends the superhero genre from this kind of inept lifelessness. Alas, none of these guys are up to the task.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Passengers

Some spoilers.

Thirty years into a hundred and twenty-year voyage into deep space, a cryogenic pod malfunction wakes up to the biggest bummer of his entire life: he's gonna have to spend the rest of his life alone. Starving for company, he wakes up to join him.

Romance blossoms! Oh but wait -- that was actually a super mean thing to do...

For such a straightforward movie, my thoughts on it are annoyingly complicated. I wish I could just say, "It's pretty, its characters are pretty, there's science fiction, there's romance, it's not great, but it's decent." That would be true enough, but not the full truth. The full truth is that this movie bugged me creatively and caused me to think about what I would have wanted to be different, which opened up a whole lot of possibilities -- potential alternate timelines if you will -- against which to judge the version we got stuck with.

It is pretty though. Oh boy. I can't even say that and leave it alone, because I think the movie's dedication to being beautiful actually hindered its storytelling. It's pristine, and when things go wrong, it's still pristine, just in red and black, instead of blue and white, and with a bit of glossy sweat. If it had committed, and stuck its hands in the mud, it might have pulled out something valuable.

See???

I wanted to see Pratt's character be darker -- like as dark as you can go while still clinging to a sliver of sympathy. As dark as only scifi can support so eloquently. But he's Chris Pratt, so no; he has to be a good guy who makes an extremely dark mistake. What if he didn't see waking Jen up as a mistake until near the end? That would have been dark, and honestly more believable, but Pratt is so much more enjoyable as a good guy. Also, he does some fine acting in this movie. Very fine. Like, Jen does her exploding-anger-mental-breakdown-serious-acting and I was still more impressed with Pratt and his subtlety.

I just couldn't buy that good-guy-Chris-Pratt would ever fall so low as to actually wake someone else up. He's hyper aware of how terrible a thing it is, and even immediately seems to regret his actions. The movie's inability to commit to its premise was irritating. I'd like to see a version play out where he doesn't hide that he woke her up, so the anger can be immediate, and then he can spend the rest of the movie returning to sanity and understanding his error, while Jen slowly falls in love.

Check out how creepy he looks here.

Or, as my family and I were discussing during the movie, there could be a horror twist where he goes completely crazy, and has woken up several people before Jen. They all get angry with him so he kills them. Jen finds out, and has to fight for her life. That, in all honesty, seems like the least contrived direction this movie could have taken -- the honest progression of a character who is so desperately alone that they ruin another person's life to help themselves. I would hate to see Chris Pratt do horror-villain, but at the same time, his innate niceness and charm would make the twist all the more disturbing.

As it is, the plotting is as straightforward as they come, and incredibly, hopelessly predictable, in spite of the forced direction it takes. If only they had hidden something from us. I saw a video suggesting that the film begin with Lawrence waking up, and filling in Pratt's character slowly. That would have been tremendously better. Or even if we aren't told that he woke her up -- if were allowed to believe maybe it was an incredible coincidence; be suspicious of him; any kind of intrigue or mystery at all!

This movie focused way too much on looking good. (Note in the background. He's the android bartender. The reveal of him being an android was spoiled by the trailer. My fault for watching it, I suppose.)

There is mystery involving why the original malfunction happened, and that's the most intriguing aspect of the movie. Until the mystery is solved of course, (by deus ex machina ) and then it becomes the film's most trite aspect. But since this movie is a character piece, it needs more character intrigue than plot intrigue. It desperately needed character intrigue, and was sadly, sadly lacking. You would think there would be a lot, considering the fantastic situation these characters are put in, but the bulk of the meager character interest is due to performances that are better than their material.

It's unfortunate. A great number of things could have been done to change this movie into something, if not great, at least better. As it is, it isn't terrible. It has two fine leads, and a memorable premise -- the things that attracted me in the first place. It's visually unique, and should get credit for being an original story in this age of remakes. It has plenty of small flaws, but nothing huge or glaring.

Probably works best if you're looking for a romance rather than a scifi.

If you can turn off your mind, suspend your disbelief, and be ready for a disproportionate amount of romance, you might get something out of Passengers. And if that something is being entertained for two hours by Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence roaming through a pretty scifi world... well, it could be better, sure, but it certainly could be worse.