Summer Movie Swing Part 2

Independence Day: Resurgence

Available on BluRay and DVD Oct. 18

The movie has garnered a lot of negative attention from critics but it is a pretty good action movie and the ending magnifies the movie in tone and scope

This summer both Hemsworth brother get the spotlight (Chris steals the show while Liam is the new generation of leading men). Liam is the handsome face of the new American generations (with the required darkness of course). He joins a team of returning cast (including Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman) and newbies (Sela Ward, Jesse T. Usher) that are awesome combination of past and present (but be prepared to say goodbye to some beloved characters)independence-day-resurgence when the next threat hits. Earth has been planning for the aliens return and has used the alien’s technology to benefit the entire planet. As the movie opens they are working one a new weapon while an elite team of pilots are getting ready for just about anything. Their patience is rewarded when the mother ship comes home. But what we haven’t anticipated? Earth wasn’t to the first to be attacked by these monsters.

Many critics have killed Resurgence which surprises me. It’s pure Hollywood Action Movie Recipe and manages to produce a capable action flick. I must agree that it doesn’t live up to the original but it has all the same pieces: great action, characters you like, and a final outlandish attack (there’s even a pretty moving speech). I enjoyed the action and was interested in where the alien’s history will take us.

Resurgence is notable because it is the perfect sequel/reboot. There is the passing of the crown to the younger generation while honoring those that came before. Integrating characters from the first movie and having several of them survive is a key in keeping the franchise consistent but their rolls make it easier for the new characters to become center stage. Viewers get to say goodbye and hello without feeling cheated (unlike other recent reboots).

I was unhappy with the forced franchise set up. As the plot develops there is no doubt that the franchise could continue so it was rather tacky and cliché as the ending is set up for an ensured sequel. I guess, at this point, Hollywood hasn’t had time to learn from Divergent. I’ll see the sequel (if the producers decided this one made enough money), but don’t expect it to be as good as the first or even as good as this one.

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Suicide Squad

Available on BluRay and DVD Dec. 13

Suicide Squad gets a few things right and a few wrong. It’s nowhere near the best comic based movie this year and it is not the worst.

Suicide Squad follows a group of villains who have been put together to fight the new growing supernatural threat in the world. In the wake of Superman the government is scared and somehow letting lunatics out to fight those like him is a great idea. When Enchantress (one of the squad’s own) goes berserk, the team is called out for their trail one. The team proves they can battle the forces of evil while being (mostly) evil themselves.suicidesquad

Suicide Squad is the best when it’s using its sound track to personify the characters and getting viewers into the mood for a good ass kicking. The music gives death to the many one dimensional characters. That’s not to say they are all one demission. Diablo is the most compelling of the stories and we do get flashbacks into what Harley Quinn once was and a small look into what actually motivates her.

The writing of the characters isn’t the only problem; casting cripples character like Deadshot and Flag. No matter what Will Smith thinks, this was an ensemble movie and his desire to push his leading man status down our throats harms the movie. Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag is the poor man’s Tom Hardy, literally. After Hardy left the project (I knew there would be problems with this movie when he walked out), the production set out to find someone who could be Hardy and since that’s impossible, ___ is slammed between a rock and a hard place. Outside of the Human Flame, the best characters are regulated to a just a few lines; Boomerang and Croc get to make a few wisecracks and stand around taking up space instead of being integrated into a cohesive team. I would have rather have seen more of them and less of characters like the Joker.

Ah, Jared Leto, the most controversial of all of this. He was a horrible Joker playing him as a strung out meth head who paraded around as a mob boss. It was painful to watch and you just waited for his over-the-top scenes to be over. Everyone involved wanted Joker to be different and he is, in fact, very different but no one bothered to ask if it was any good.

Suicide Squad is an entertaining romp that needs a lot of fine tuning before its next foray.

 

Ghostbusters

Now available on BluRay and DVD

Ghostbuster also reboots an old story. The Ghostbusters crew dedicated the movie to original writer and star Harold Ramiz but the movie doesn’t live up to the Ramis’ reputation.

A team of estranged researcher reunite when a local historic location has shown evidence of haunting. While the team easily sees through the gimmicks, they suddenly find themselves face to face with real ghosts. The two must expand their team (including their research assistant, an outspoken subway work, and a model of receptionist) to get to the bottom of the disturbance. And they quickly find that it’s not isolated. New York City has a ghost problem!

The movie had some great parts but the biggest issue is that it isn’t Ghostbusters. The tone is not the ghostbusters2016image004same, the movie is super CGed and the only real connection is some icon images and gear. The movie would have been better standing on its own as a Ghostbusters inspired movie; the four ladies get together to bring back the old idea and gear and set up their own movie with tone and vision. The overly CGed world of this Ghostbuster isn’t scary at all and is just another C level reboot.

But there are some fabulous parts to the movie and those are the two characters that get the most laugh. Leslie Jones starts out as stereotypical hysterical black women but quickly she starts saying and doing what we as normal people think. The prime example is the “room of nightmares”; she refuses to go in a room of mannequins because she knows how it will end. But the move is propelled by Chris Hemsworth who gives his best performance ever as the dumb secretary that throws gender roles on its head. He is hilarious but turns on the gravitas in a heartbeat (it also helps he was allowed to use his own accent).

I’m not a Trump supporter (screw you Apatow), but I still believe the quality wasn’t very good. Hollywood stuck with a gimmick but lacked substance. Women are funny, especially when you let them be.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Available on BluRay and DVD Nov. 29

It is interesting that Hollywood is finally getting behind female centric comedies when other countries have been doing it for years. It’s hard to look at BBC comedy without noting the plethora of female comedians. AbFab’s returns continue to prove that women are funny and can pull the big screen attendants.

Edina Monsoon is desperate not it sink into oblivion and continues to struggle with her PR firm. She is always on the edge of the next big get or the next big trend but never fully lands. Eddie has finally lands something and it’s not good. When it is revealed Kate Moss is looking for a new PR director, Eddie accidently kills Moss in her scramble to get the position. Eddie and Patsy must escape before she can be crucified for the fashion world’s biggest death ever. But Eddie and Patsy don’t know how to do low key and their situation continues to sink and sink and get funnier and funnier.

English movies based on TV show like to recycle old materials from their shows (see Are You Being Served and Bean for examples) but AbFab is more subtle about how it does this. Instead of pulling whole gags from the series, running gags appear at every corner. Mother is still being verbally trashed; her nurse still thinks Eddie’s fat and Eddie has finally added a second verse to her “walking down the road” song! This is wonderful treats for long time fans without trying their patience. And as always, the movie is star studded with a variety of cameos from Game of Thrones Gwendoline Christie to the “really hot right absolutely-fabulous-the-movieartnow” Rebel Wilson. And, of course, there’s Lulu!

The movie largely secedes because Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley become Eddie and Patsy and they give it their all. They don’t inject anything PC into this character taking women’s issues as basis and then exaggerates them to the point of being funny. A movie about woman insecure about her weight is usually a Lifetime movie with a sad sound track. Instead Saunders takes Edina and makes her larger than life, and it is at that point we can connect to Eddie; while some of us may have done dumb stuff, none of us are as dumb as Eddie.

Many of today’s comedians such as Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham need to take note. It’s ok to be honest, foul mouthed and talk about our vagina without sinking to likes of their male counter parts. (I mean, I don’t want another Sausage Party from men let alone something like that from women. Ick. That genre of comedy should just die out.) Saunders and Lumley do it right, they do it real, and they do it with a lot more class.

 

Action Movie Throw Down

A beloved franchise goes up against the remake of a ‘80s classic. Which comes out on top?

Skyfall Falls Flat

Skyfall has all the hallmarks of a James Bond film: insane stunts, impossible missions, familiar characters, and an epic theme song. But the movie tries to become too self aware and muddles past and future.

The third installment staring a boring and uncharming Daniel Craig as James Bond has more faults more than just the main character casting. Like most Bond movies, there are plot holes and story lines that don’t quite add up. But in this installment, there are many moments where the audience puzzles at the actions of the characters.  It seems no one in the movie knows the simple answers. Plus, it seems they also like to shoot at things they can’t see. Everyone just starts shooting blindly.

Skyfall delights fans by brining in Q and Moneypenny. But the time spent with these characters is minimal.  The movie spends too much time with Bond and his John Malkovich knock-off villain. The sibling rivalry/ homoerotic scenes are painful to watch.

The movie is at its best when Bond is chasing or being chased. As always, the action is suspenseful with mind boggling stunts. But the action is slowed with tepid romances and enemy soliloquy. The best performances come from Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw as Q.

The biggest issue isn’t with the cast or the story line; it is the overt self awareness that drags it down. The movie constantly states in its characters’ dialogue how old is not good, and we cannot move forward while being stuck in the old. An occasional line mentions the merits of the old, but with so much time spent on bashing the past, the movie takes a lot from the old franchise. If old is so bad why is Q finally introduced? Why borrow plots from two other Bond movies? It’s this contradiction that confuses me the most, and the preachiness of “out with the old” is overdone.

Faught with flaws, Skyfall pales in comparison with an underdog, the Red Dawn remake.

Red Dawn Rising

I didn’t have big expectations for the remake of the 1980’s communist ass kicking movie, but was pleasantly surprised by the action flick. It stars a pre-Avengers Chris Hemsworth and a pre-Hunger Games Josh Hutcherson. This Hemsworth vehicle is probably the best movie he has done to date.

For those of you who haven’t seen the original, a foreign government takes over pockets of the United States leaving a group of teens to act as a resistance. Hemsworth does a magnificent job as the Marine leading the gang of rag tag high school kids in a rebellion in Spokane, Washington. Hutcherson is once again fabulous as a scared kid who turns into a warrior. Only Josh Peck’s performance leaves something to be desired. I image Liam Hemsworth playing the role; the chemistry between the two would be awesome.

The great thing about Red Dawn is that it doesn’t take long to get to the action started and it very rarely stops. There is small lag in the middle for character development but you are moved by these kids’s journey into adulthood. I shed a tear on several occasions including the shocking ending. It is amazing to see what theses teens accomplish against the North Koreans.

The movie has had difficulty after difficulty. First, was getting it into the theaters, and the second was recasting the villains. Originally it was Chinese that overtook the United States, but with CG and voice over work, the North Koreans are now behind this siege. In today’s political climate it is a wonder that North Korea was not the original choice. But it seems they wanted to make sure the “red” of Red Dawn apparent.

A Red Dawn fun fact: the original staring Patrick Swayze and Lea Thompson was the first movie to be rated PG-13. The 2012 version makes efforts to keep this rating.

Full of thrills, patriotism, and spirit, Red Dawn excels at thrills while Skyfall entertains momentarily. Maybe 007 should stick to some of its old tricks.

Whedon’s Talent Pales on the Big Screen

Joss Whedon is best known for his TV projects: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin off Angel, Firefly and the ill-fated Dollhouse. Each TV show pushed the limits of reality as well as told moral stories in new and intriguing ways. His big screen work has been minimal with his best work in the screenplays of Toy Story and Atlantis and culminating in his last two big screen productions Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers. Neither of these lives up to the Whedon reputation.

Vacation, I’ve got to Get Away

Cabin in the Woods, Blu-ray & DVD

Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

This is possibly one of the worst horror movies I have ever seen. I was hoping that the Whedon half not responsible for Cloverfield would balance out the movie. But I was very wrong. The problem with this movie starts with the trailers.

From watching the trailer, I had a very different movie in mind. The trailer portrayed people being psychologically tested at their vacation cabin. The movie itself even hints at this with people in lab coats at a testing center and the two way mirror in the cabin. The movie abruptly curves away from that idea. Suddenly, the vacationers are being attacked by monster so they can be sacrificed to a god. The people in the test chamber are releasing the beings as the victims unknowingly call them out and take bets on what monsters they will choose. The sacrifice only counts if the victims choose their method of slaughter of their own free will. This begs the questions: What the hell are all the people there for? Just to house the beasts?

The movie becomes a more bizarre version of The Hunger Games as those in the control chamber cause an avalanche so the victims can’t escape. (It seems that that their free will can only go so far.) Zombies, mermaids, slashers, and a variety of mythological monster are released on the victims as well as the center itself leading to a blood bath that knows neither end nor reality. The twist? The people we are rooting for escaping can only save the world if they are killed.

In what is supposed to be poking fun at stock horror characters, each character is based on a movie stereotype: the jock, the slut, and the stoner. But any humor or sarcasm that was written in the screenplay was lost when portrayed by the actors. Chris Hemsworth does a horrible job, and I wonder how he went on to play Thor. Whedon alumni Amy Acker, Fran Kranz and Tom Lenk are the only actors that really put in a good performance. And it seems Kristin Connolly thinks she is Felicia Day but does a horrible job imitating the actresses.

The film does not know how to contain itself. It knows no limits to what is believable or what people want to see. Stealing evil creatures from other movies seems less like homage than a lazy stealing of other people’s ideas. Like Cloverfield, Cabin lacks a focus that keeps the viewer intrigued.

After watching the film, I totally understand why it took two years for the film to get a distributor. Sloppily thrown together, the characters never develop and the plot never makes much sense. Instead it seemed like I was watching Mystery Science Theater with out Mike, Servo or Crowe.

How Many Superheroes Does it Take to Save the World?

The Avengers, Blu-Ray & DVD

Written & Directed by Joss Whedon

I can hear you now, “What? You don’t like The Avengers? Are you crazy?” It’s possible that I am, but this movie was not a great move, superhero or otherwise. The characters are one sided and stereotyped, the plot is stilted, and the writing is weak.

The plot is easily divided into three sections: putting the team together, the team fights with each other, and the team beats up the bad guys. It’s this final third of the movie that finally has good kicking evil’s butt. I had no fun watching the team squabble with each other and try to beat each other up. You’re all superheroes; no one’s going to win. It seems they forgot they had to work together to beat up the bad guy. But when this happens, the movie is everything it could be: gorgeous fight sequences, teamwork, and defeating evil. Each team member comes alive as they use their unique talents to win and the movie should have focused more on this.

It also suffers from one dimensional characters. The characters are stereotyped to a fault because there is no time for character development in this mess. Hawkeye and Black Widow have the most depth out of all the characters.  But if Hawkeye hadn’t been hijacked by Loki, the two would have been reduced to stereotypes. The Hulk is a giant nerd, Iron Man shows nothing but sarcasm, and Captain America is so anal I wanted someone to remove the stick from his butt. I have seen the movies that focus on these characters alone: the characters are all well developed with a variety of emotions and desires. But Whedon has pared them down to one note characters that you don’t even like. (I loved Captain the America the best out all the movies but hated his character in The Avengers).

Whedon, the king of witty comebacks (see any episode of Buffy) looses his magic here. Dialogue is childish and very rarely funny, even when it was meant to be. For such simple character and plot delineation, the movie was often time confusing. Why are the characters where they are? What is the point to this other than looking cool? That is the movie’s fatal flaw: looking cool without substance.

I think that is overall my issue with the movie. Whedon has written for Marvel and can write good comic book issues. But a movie is not a comic book, and this translation into live action leaves me wanting more.  With this current reincarnation of Batman and the X-Men franchise, I have become accustomed to much more depth in my comic based movies. I expect characters I care about, deep storyline, and real life parallels; Avenger falls short on all of that.

It looks good, there is a lot of butt kicking, but the story is at a loss.

“You’re a Thundering Loonie!”

From badly accented demi-gods to pot heads, the latest of Whedon’s work is sub par. When not writing for Disney, his work on the big screen falters, and he cannot recapture that magic from Buffy. Many of his big screen works are simplified ideas of characters and themes. Long live the Whedon TV show!