Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017) Review

     From the opening scene I knew I was going to be in for a fun ride. Living in an age where its all about the dark, gritty, painfully serious, tortured superhero film, it’s such a refreshing take when you can laugh and smile at a sentient baby tree dancing his ass off. 

     That’s the kind of joy that you cherish. 

     It’s been only a few months since the last film, when Star Lord (Chris Pratt) finally comes to meet his father Ego (Kurt Russell) and he’s happy as can be. But Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista) suspects something else is afoot while Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) and, somehow, Yondu (Michael Rooker) are being chased down by the Sovereign race for stealing batteries. 

      Yeah, you read that right. 

     I don’t know what surprised me more; the absolute fun I was having, or the unexpected depth there was to a story with a giant living planet. 

      Make no mistake, this is a father/son movie through and through. Here’s that rare sequel that took the foundation of the original film, and actually expanded and built upon what came before it. This felt like more of a continuation than just a straight up sequel. 

     A lot of love has to be given to one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood, Michael Rooker. His Yondu got such an emotional upgrade in this entry, adding more humor, and dare I say,  a warmth that was lacking in the character the first time around. 

     No one other than director James Gunn could have made a film like this one. I just came to accept that the Marvel films have to play it a little safe in order to keep the brand going, but Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 clearly shows that you can take thematic risks, like the perils of fatherhood, the fear of abandonment, to new fucking pop culture heights. 

     I didn’t expect this movie to be on par with the last, and I sure as shit didn’t expect to be wiping tears from my eyes, especially to a movie with a baby tree dancing his ass off to ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky. 

     Well Marvel, you raised the bar again. Now fucking keep it there. 

Power Rangers (2017) Review

     Ah, another property being relaunched as a potential film franchise. The nostalgia kick is too strong to ignore. Growing up, I wasn’t a fan of Power Rangers television show. I knew who everyone was, it was too cheesy for me even in elementary school. 

     Well, we’ve come now to the inevitable film reboot, and I got to say… 

     That it ain’t bad…

     The plot is pretty much what you’d expect from a Power Rangers movie: Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) wakes up from her deep slumber, and starts causing some shit, meanwhile a group of misfit teens acquire some gems and superhuman powers. Lead by Zordon (Bryan Cranston), the Rangers have to work together to defeat Rita, and find themselves in the process. 

     I genuinely feel that this will quite possibly be the best movie that will ever be made with this material. I mean that as high praise. The acting, writing, and even the directing is a lot better than this movie deserves. Let’s not kid ourselves here; its a giant monster/robot movie. Who the fuck is going to see this to get a thoughtful high school drama in the vein of John Hughes? I sure as shit didn’t. 

     Where the movie broke through was the respect that was given to actually develop and respect the characters. Yes, I’m even including the genetic clone of Zac Efron as the Red Ranger (shut up, he is). My God, even Rita Repulsa was given an intriguing backstory as a fallen ranger (a shiny nickel for those that guess what color she was). Even Alpha-5 (Bill Hader) was actually funny, and didn’t make me want to throw a beverage at the screen. I want a Zordon/Alpha-5 spin off where they just bitch to each other for 90 minutes. Just take my money. 

     Like any good pasta dish, Power Rangers does have it’s fair amount of cheese, especially when they fight the monster, because of course it does. Its a god damn Power Rangers movie!! I don’t give a shit how many Oscars the movie might have won in the future, if there wasn’t those cheesy mecha battles, the film would’ve been a complete failure. I even had a joyous grin on my face when the theme song played. 
     Bear in mind, I never thought the series in all of it’s incarnations was really any good. Just wasn’t a fan. It was too cheap and low budget even for my unrefined tastes as a child. But if the show had been anything like this movie, I would’ve been that guy that wouldn’t shut up about the show. 

     Never have a been happier to be proven wrong about the quality of a film. I never thought I would say that I liked a Power Rangers movie. Never. 

The Ridiculous Joys of Mystery Science Theater 3000

On April 14, 2017 something happened. After 18 years, Mystery Science Theater 3000 returned to effectively grace our screens, simultaneously enhancing and ruining the moviegoing experience for all. 

     The series has always followed some poor dude up in space being forced to watch shitty movies, usually of the horror and sci-fi genre, by some crazy scientist in the name of… well science. Said dude is joined by robots Gypsy, Tom Servo, and Croooow. (Its just Crow). The opening song literally sings to you the whole premise of the show, so I don’t know why I just did that. 

     Anyhoo, this show is the definition of cult series, because not everyone will like. Most don’t, but once you experience it and embrace it, so much fun can be had. 

     I had written before about the sheer joy and lunacy of the Midnight Movie, and it’s now available on Netflix. This show, along with Monstervision, were the Midnight Movie shows for me (they never aired at midnight). 

     Watching the first episode of the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I was hit with the realization that my love of unbelievably shitty films steams from this series. With the ungodly amount of bad films I’ve seen over the years, the show gave me a tool that has endured me to survive: the gift of laughter. 

     I had never seen a show where characters talked back to the screen, making witty asides that would make Oscar Wilde green with envy. Nothing can top a well delivered joke in line with the films being watched. There was never a show like this before, and I’ll be damned if there was ever a show like it since. It’s truly a unique creature, built from television and cinema. 

     Even with the show’s move to Netflix, its the same thing as before! Believe me this is such a great thing. Mystery Science Theater 3000 changed the way an entire generation watched and experienced films, the unsightly horrors from the voids of space. I’m just giddy. 

     I’m hoping a new generation will now pick up the series and have its imagination fucked with, much like mine was. And while I’ve been lamenting this whole “Reboot” fever, I’m not gonna say a bad word about this trend. Reboot All in the Family, I don’t give a fuck, I got Mystery Science Theater 3000. 

     The world isn’t such a bad place after all. 

13 Reasons Why (2017) Series Review

When I first heard about Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why I thought I was in for a cry fest. A serious drama, dealing with a serious, complex issue; Man, was I so wrong. 

     The series actually plays out like a “suicide” mystery, instead of a murder mystery. What we get are 13 episodes, or “tapes” where we dives deeper into Hannah Baker’s (Katherine Langford) motivation into why she decided to end her life. 

     As the tapes make their way through a select few students, causing riffs to be sure, it reaches Clay (Dylan Minnette), a boy who had a crush on Hannah, decides to investigate what actually happened to her. But the deeper he gets in, the more he’ll discover answers to questions he shouldn’t even ask. 

     As much as a initially thought this was going to be a dramatic series, I was quite pleasantly surprised that the show plays out like a noir tale. At the heart of this story is a mystery with a needlessly complicated conspiracy at its core. Dirty secrets are aired out, betrayals are a plenty, its everything you could want out of it. 

     I was hooked by the end of the first episode, being reminded of Rian Johnson’s Brick, another high school set noir mystery. I was transfixed on what was at the heart of this girl’s suicide, and what role did our protagonist Clay play in it? When you find out the reasons why, your heart will shatter. 

     The show is melodramatic through and through, but that’s not to say that it’s bad. It’s so highly addicting, but the show does go into somereally fucked up areas that teen shows used to allude to, but can now be seen in all its macabre ugliness. It made me uncomfortable, as it should, but be warned of what you could be entering. 

     The important thing you’re all probably wondering is, does it have a satisfying conclusion? I think it does. I have no clue if there’s going to be a second season, but the way it was left made me happy. There are a shit ton of plot threads left answered, but the most important one, Why did Hannah Baker kill herself? was answered superb enough. 

     Its a show that really does make you think. For all its plot contrivances, overly melodramatic scenes, there is a heart to it, a pain to be had. It gets very ugly by its end, just like any great noir tale. 

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

A tale as old as time… And they’re not kidding. The animated Beauty and the Beast was groundbreaking for its storytelling and more modern take on the fairytale subgenre  (Disney hadn’t made one in decades). 

     As part of Disney’s master plot to monetize our childhoods, we get an actual live action take on the story of Belle (Emma Watson) and… um… Beast (Dan Stevens). Seen the original? Well, your old favorites are here like Gaston (Luke Evans), Maurice (Kevin Kline), Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), Lumière (Ewan McGregor), all those guys. 

     Seriously, its the cartoon. But 40 minutes longer. And its not even a bad 40 minutes, Beast gets a song and man does he power ballad the shit out of it. It’s what stood out the most out of the additional content. 

     While seeing the movie and thinking that it’s just like the cartoon and I should’ve stayed home and watched that instead, something dawned on me: The performances, in particular Emma Watson as Belle, was not only perfect, but magical. She is the embodiment of the character; smart, lovely, and with a quiet dignity. I was captivated by her performance, and it’s worth seeking out. 

     The chemistry with Beast works well enough, but the famous ballroom dance scene didn’t have that majestic push that the animated version had. Maybe I’m just not a child anymore. And while I did enjoy Gaston’s backstory being fleshed out, and the witch’s curse actually being thought out (covering some plot holes along the way), I just grew to appreciate the animated original more because of how streamlined its story was. 

     As entertainment, the movie totally works; the problems, while minor, are my own to bear. This version was made for the adults who were raised on the original, stick to the cartoon for your kids. It worked for you, right?

Ghost in the Shell (2017) Review 

     Ghost in the Shell has been a seminal classic in anime for over 20 years, with its complex themes of humanity’s relationship to technology, it’s questioning of human nature, and the spirituality that comes with it. Sounds really deep and cool right? Well, good luck finding it in this incarnation. 

     The story begins about the same, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is a human robot hybrid working for the authorities to stop cyber crimes from happening. But soon enough she’ll discover her former identity, and the truth if she is really just a ghost in the shell. 

     I know that there are times when you need to separate the film at hand, and the source material but this time its unavoidable. The material doesn’t work for an American audience. All of the nuances, the spirituality, the philosophical aspects are all gone in this version. It’s like a shell of its former self and yes, the irony is not lost on me. 

     Did the director tell the actors not to act, and just stand there and be set dressing? Don’t get me wrong, the film is visually stunning, and does look like an anime come to life, but at what cost? The story’s soul. Trust me, an origin story is a terrible substitute for actual characterization. She even acts the same when she finds out the truth. Its almost hilarious. 

     What it comes down to is that the movie is poorly acted, when they attempt to, excruciatingly written, and just plain boring. The pace is so laborious that I wish I got paid to see this, so I’d have something to show for it. 

T2: Trainspotting (2017) Review

     It’s incredible how 20 years went by in a wink. How we all reach a point in our lives, and wonder where the hell it all went. 

     T2: Trainspotting is a shockingly stunning follow-up to the original, catching up with the core group consisting of Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) twenty years after Renton stole 16,000 pounds from his “so called mates”.

     This leads to not just Renton to confront his past actions, but the others as well, some in jail, some running hustles, others attempting suicide, just the usual stuff. 

     Much like the original film, the film is light on plot, but man is it heavy on the characters. This is a great thing, actually, its downright refreshing. One of the few films in years where I didn’t see the actors on screen but the characters I’ve known and loved for two decades. 

     I finally got to see my friends again. 

     I need to put these doubts to rest, something I lost hope in ever writing; A sequel that actually treats its audience with respect. 

     The first thing I was worried about was that this film was going to negate/undo the growth and catharsis of the original, shitting on the iconography that I held so dear. 

     It didn’t. My God, it actually works as a companion piece to the original. Can you a imagine, a follow-up twenty years later and it’s not a cash grab? It’s actually about something? 

     As someone who grew up watching Trainspotting the themes of regret, anger, and worthlessness hits close to the heart. That you can only run for so long before you have to stop and face it. It resonates so deeply, even I’m not sure I’ve fully processed it. 

     I can’t believe that director Danny Boyle had a film like this in him. He manages to avoid the pratfalls associated with going back to the well and made an original work that isn’t a retread of his glory days. He didn’t make the same movie twice, he gave this entry its own voice with an energy that I was sure wouldn’t even come close to the original. 

     There have been so many films, so many filmmakers who have tried and failed spectacularly to recapture the iconography of their past, or the churning out of retro properties from long ago youth, that I almost wanted to laugh at how Danny Boyle made a movie about the yearning for the past. And how terribly sad such an endeavor is. 

     It’s always about the future, it’s always about having hope. Its about choosing life. 

     

How Logan (2017) is the Unforgiven (1992) of the Comic Book Film Genre

     It truly is the end of an era. Even though there has been a steady flux of superhero movies since 1989, the true boom of the genre kicked off with 2000s X-Men. With that came Hugh Jackman’s instantly iconic performance as Wolverine/Logan, a role so synonymous with the franchise that he gets shoehorned in every chance they get. 

     Its been known for a while that this was to be the man’s final portrayal of the character, and as soon as I saw the opening shot, I knew that to be the case. 

     That this was going to be the comic book film version of Unforgiven. 

     I’ll cut to the chance in saying that what these two movies have in common the most is about eras coming to an end, and old heroes have no place in the world anymore. 

     Both films deal primarily with an ageing protagonist at the end of his “career” both have one close friend, and both are thrown into the last job by a young hothead. Hell, I was astonished that Logan even dealt with the stories of his exploits becoming books, and the stuff of legends. 

     While Logan deals with a specific character as its focal point, Unforgiven had its own original character but with the weight and history of its actor, Clint Eastwood. He made a name for himself playing as The Man with No Name; someone who had no past, no future, no heart. Even though the character has a name, William Munny, deep down fans of the western saw this as what became of the Man with No Name. 

     Unforgiven marked the end of an era where a most popular genre (the western) had long past it’s popularity, and the film acts like a eulogy. Where the lines between good and evil don’t exist anymore (or possibly never did), where morality became an old wives tale. 

     While superhero films are not going to come to an end anytime soon, but they sure are on a decline in terms of quality. A lot of troupes are being rehashed in new window dressing, and people have taken notice. 

     Logan is a film that is predicting its own genre’s future; a barron wasteland of regret amd missed opportunities. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of The Wolverine is at last where it should always have been: a monster filled with rage, and mourning. 

     Thinking back on the film, I recognize that this movie makes the end of an era; the current crop of superhero movies would never have been possible without X-Men. 

     As much as I lament that this is the end, but I do truly hope that this is the beginning of something new. Logan is without a doubt, a drama. Yeah there’s action in the flick, but the movie took its time to reflect, to build, to give its characters personality. It makes sense to have Wolverine be the gruffed hero at the end of his journey. He was the one with the most mysterious past, the one who was always more of an icon than a full blooded character. 

      The Western ascetic is no accident. The parallels between Logan and Unforgiven are undeniable, and both serve as the final word on their icons: One was the Man with No Name. The other was Logan. 

Blumhouse Productions has Lost their Fucking Minds on the New Halloween Movie…

     Alright this isn’t new news; I seriously needed a couple of weeks to process this. I’ll try to articulate this as best as I can. 

     I already wrote about how Miramax lost the rights to the Halloween franchise because it shouldn’t take you over half a fucking decade to release an installment, and they deserved to lose their cash cow. Assholes. 

     Well, it was announced awhile back that John Carpenter was going to return as a producer and maybe composer. Blow me, just make the damn movie. 

     The last idea that was thrown around was having The Shape about to be executed for his rampage back in ’78, with the kid of one of the investigators being trapped in the prison. It’s a good idea that got tossed before I could even get excited. 

     I’m just having Myers withdrawals. 

     It was announced that David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) is going to direct and co-write the script with Danny McBride. 

     Danny McBride. 

     Danny Mc-fucking-Bride.

      Yes. This fucking guy. Kenny Powers himself is going to write the new Halloween movie. 

     Let that sink in. 

     I’m just… What the fuck…? Oh, so we’re clear, I’m not upset that he’s doing the movie. I’m all for actors and writers doing something out of their comfort zone; I’m losing my shit because this needs to happen! This:

     Its fucking crazy! And McBride knows some dark shit, as a lot of comedians do, so I want to see these guys tackle the Shape like they got something to prove. Imagine that: a Halloween flick made by passionate filmmakers? Don’t let me down fuckers, make this shit happen! I don’t give a shit if the movie sucks, I just want to see how this will turn out! Blumhouse has killed it recently with Split and Get Out so make the movie already, Fuck! 

Get Out (2017) Review 

     Ever since I was in my early teens, and I caught a showing of Night of the Living Dead on tv, I was floored. The flick is terrifying, but what stands out the most is that the main character of Ben is black man. In a film made in 1968. Well, to be more accurate, what stands out is that Ben survives the night, only to be shot in the head by a posse with checking if he was undead first. It was sad, and left me in shock. 

     Jordan Peele’s Get Out is evocative of the social commentary that Night of the Living Dead had. Some overt, like the opening, some more subtle, like the attire worn at the party, but its influence is all over the picture. 

     Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is nervous to meet his girlfriend, Rose’s (Allison Williams), parents because they don’t know he’s black. But not to worry, Missy and Dean (Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford) are those cool white liberals that are so understanding. Even if there is something off about them…

     As Ipreviously mentioned, I love a horror film with some social commentary, and a big deal has been made about Get Out’s message on interracial matters, but that shouldn’t be the first thing to look at. Competency, and skill as a horror film should be looked at first, and done well, or no matter how powerful your statement is, it will falter. 

     Jordan Peele knows his horror films, Jesus Christ. 

     Peele knows that a horror film’s success or failure depends entirely on its pacing and editing. John Carpenter’s Halloween being the prime example. Peele is aware of when to hold back, when to drop hints, and to actually have likeable sympathetic characters. It’s like a foreplay before the big climax. 

     Luckily, the performances serve the material so well; Keener and Whitford know exactly the right balance between sweet and creepy. Right out of the gate, you know something is wrong, but they’re so nice (perfect metaphor for race). Kaluuya’s performance as Chris hits his beats perfectly. He is the conduit for us, the audience, and its been such a long time that I felt scared for a character in a horror movie, much less one that I was actually rooting for. Trust me, that’s all too rare. 

     I’m so happy to see a filmmaker make a film that is evocative of the horror films of the 60s and 70s, one’s were filmmakers put their fears on screen for us to experience. And Get Out is one hell of an experience.