Category Archives: Entertainment

What a bunch of a-holes: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Movie Review

(Spoiler Free) Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2, is in some ways even more of a trippy ride than the first one.

There’s the same manic energy, the same ridiculous, over the top humor.  It’s exciting, and epic, and as crazy as a box of ferrets on crack.

Guardians of the Galaxy was unique, fun, and more than a little unhinged.  The characters were interesting, the stakes were high, and it had surprising depth for a movie with a talking racoon.

Flash forward to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.  It turned the crazy to 11,   More characters, more excitement.  It’s an ensemble cast where every character has their moment to shine.

It’s not entirely perfect.  Gamora never quite gets the emotional depth of the other characters, despite several opportunities.  Baby Groot is highly entertaining, but rather limited.  There’s a sort of predictability to the plot, we already know where the characters are going to end up, just from seeing them at the beginning.  This is them finding their groove, seeing how they’ll work together.  It’s a team-building movie.  But it’s just as much fun as the first one and there’s plenty of great jokes.

All in all, it’s a solid movie.  The actors did a fantastic job, the characters were spot on, and the humor and action were both great (if sometimes mind-boggling).  The themes of family run throughout, and the most powerfully emotional scene in the movie was one in which there weren’t any words.

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Guns, Lots of Guns A John Wick Chapter 2 Movie Review

john-wick-2-posterjpg-fe1944_1280wGuns, lots of guns… wait, wrong movie… right?

The first John Wick movie was a dark, gritty, story about revenge, heavy on gun work and with a surprising level of characterization.  To top things off, when the YouTube video of Keanu Reeves doing gun training for the sequel aired, it was straight out awesome.

Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to see the sequel.  And in some ways, it really doesn’t disappoint.  The gunwork and action scenes are phenomenal.  The choreography is fantastic, the method of John Wick’s murder spree is bloody display of art… but there’s very little of the deep motivations from the first movie.

In the first movie, John Wick is a man driven by revenge and hate.  We not only see how much has been taken from him, but we see the pettiness and brutality of the men that took it away.  We root for his vengeance, as an audience, and excuse the mass-murder rampage that results.  It’s very much like Kill Bill, in that regard.

The second movie has none of these motivations.  He’s had his revenge, he’s killed everyone in his path… and (not to spoil things, but you can guess from the fact that there is a sequel) he gets pulled right back into the life of an assassin.  John Wick kills a lot of people.  Most of them are presumably bad.  He doesn’t have the motivation or drive to do it, he has no revenge, no anger, no justification beyond the preservation of his miserable life.  In that, it feels as if the writer just didn’t really know what to do.

Spoiler (highlight to read): He does it for a sort of murky reason in that he doesn’t want to have the entire criminal underworld come after him.  In fact, he kills more people in this movie than in the last, 128 versus 77 in the first one.  He has his marker to justify, but the end result of him fulfilling the marker is the same as if he hadn’t… so why bother, why did all these other people have to die?)

In the end, John Wick Chapter Two fails to do what the first movie did: rise above being gun-porn.  Don’t get me wrong, it does that gun-porn fantastically… but it’s ultimately a shallow movie that doesn’t have the depth of characterization of its predecessor, nor does it have the interesting plot.  The villains are mono-dimensional and the lack of motivations of John Wick reduces his murderous rampage into a mass shooting event where he guns down droves of nameless mooks.

I came hoping for a story of revenge or vengeance and I walked away at the end feeling as if nothing had been resolved.  The action and acting are fantastic… the story and characterization is flat.  I recommend it for a popcorn movie, but it doesn’t achieve the depth of the original movie.

Guns, lots of guns
Guns, lots of guns…

Movie Review: The Space Between Us

the_space_between_us_posterThe Space Between Us is a near-future science fiction romance.  In my opinion, it’s a perfect Valentine’s Day movie to drag your significant other along for a night out.  It’s optimistic, it’s sappy, and it’s fun.  Honestly, I’d put it in the same category of movies as Tomorrowland and Stardust.

The plot isn’t overly complicated.   It’s a story about a young man and woman finding themselves.

That can be pretty difficult when they both live on different planets.  The interactions between the two main characters is fantastic, with great chemistry and they portray their roles very well.

It’s a movie that takes our going to Mars as a matter of course, and for that I could forgive any number of mistakes in the movie.  Fortunately, there’s relatively few, with the most egregious being science stuff (asymmetric-designed ship… groan).   There’s a few minor plot decisions that had me shaking my head, but even those are relatively tiny things.  The movie as a whole is fun, fast-paced, and with some genuinely sweet scenes.

It’s a movie that makes you feel good about being alive in this era of wonders… and that’s a really good thing in my opinion.  They take the time to marvel at human accomplishments and the movie uses Gardener to give an outside perspective on so many things that we take for granted.

I highly recommend seeing this movie.  As I said, it’s fun, it’s romantic, and you walk out of the theater feeling good.

Movie Review: Passengers

passengers-movie-reviewPassengers is a movie that’s seen a lot of grief over the past month.  I think that’s in part because it asks difficult decisions.  In short, one character makes a morally terrible decision early on… and he makes it for a very human reason.

When he makes that decision, the viewer can empathize with him.  In fact, I’d go as far as to say that most people, if they’re honest with themselves, would come to the same decision and they’d chose the same way.

The story doesn’t make light of that decision, but it also doesn’t linger.  From that point on is where much of the story really begins.  There’s a lot to take in, with good humor, romance, and even some tense moments.  It’s a genuinely fun movie with some fantastic chemistry between the characters (human and android included).  The characterization is strong and as a viewer, I was caught up in the little triumphs and big failures that the characters experienced throughout the movie.

Part of that, I’m sure, is that the movie has such a sense of optimism, of humans pushing new barriers and solving problems.  There’s elements of such grand hope, of literally reaching for the stars, that I want to see it again, just to relive that experience.  The characters in Passengers are put in extremely dire straits, but they never question their decision to journey to the stars.  Indeed, the movie itself never questions that.  This isn’t the technology cautionary tale that Hollywood likes to beat people with.

I think the reason that Passengers gets grief is that it forces the viewer to like and appreciate a different perspective… and to consider that other perspective.  It’s not a safe movie, where the ice-bergs in a relationship are tiny things.  Yet, it is a love story, and there’s elements of forgiveness and atonement.   It is a very human movie, where the main characters are flawed in ways that ring true.

This is a movie that I plan to buy.  It’s fun and for those who can handle it, it examines elements of what it is to be human and to make bad decisions.  It’s a movie I want my kids to watch someday and to talk with them about.  I highly recommend seeing it.

passengers-movie-header-image
I can’t help but say that new parents understand these expressions…

The Prodigal Emperor Audiobook

The Prodigal Emperor - Kindle 01c
The Prodigal Emperor, Book III of the Shadow Space Chronicles

The Prodigal Emperor, Book III of The Shadow Space Chronicles, is now available as an audiobook!

You can find it on Amazon or on Audible.

Baron Lucius Giovanni has done the impossible: not only has he held the alien Chxor at bay, he has taken the fight to them and liberated human worlds. Yet humanity’s implacable foe has drawn a line in the sand. They will hold Nova Roma at all costs…or see it a scorched ruin.

Lucius must aid Nova Roma’s Emperor and liberate his homeworld, but along the way he must also deal with old and new adversaries and with a conspiracy that seeks to usurp control of his fleet.

Like The Shattered Empire, the third book of the series is narrated by the talented Eric Dove.  Check out his other stuff, he does a fantastic job.

I am one with the Force- Star Wars: Rogue One Review (No Spoilers)

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6Star Wars is at this point a factor of culture and a defining element of fandom within those who identify as geeks and nerds.  The story, of hope, of good versus evil is something that almost everyone can identify with.

Star Wars: Rogue One (Or is it Rogue One: Star Wars?) is very much a Star Wars Story, as it markets itself.  It is set at the height of the Empire’s power, just before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope.

It’s a story about people in that time.  This isn’t Luke Skywalker’s story, this is the story of a band of rebel misfits who have lost everything to the Empire.  It’s a story about faith and hope and a refusal to give in.

It’s also a dark story.  These are not happy times and the Empire is far too willing to go to any length to seize more and more power.  There are some very subtle things woven into this story, elements of tragedy and ambition that stand starkly against the hope and sacrifice.

The beauty of this movie is not just that it is a good Star Wars movie, but that it could easily be a military movie set anywhere, from Nazi Germany to the fall of China to the Communists.  It’s a story about a handful standing against many because its the right thing to do.

For the military junkies, there’s plenty of it, with space and ground combat that’s both dazzling and has you on the edge of the seat.  Every bit of the combat has a purpose… and you can see the cost in lives in a very real fashion.  People are fighting and dying to stop the Empire, and they’re struggling against insane odds because to do otherwise would be unthinkable.

The movie isn’t perfect, though.  There’s things that they could have tweaked a bit, parts at the beginning could have flowed a bit smoother and parts at the end felt a little too smooth.  But the theme, the overall story, is exactly what Star Wars has always been about.  I’ve seen it once and I plan to see it a second and third time.  There’s a lot of things going on and its a movie I spent several hours mulling over afterwards.

Go see it.  It’s a fantastic movie and no matter your politics or outlook on life, there’s something in it for you.

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

Things get a little strange...
Things get a little strange…

I saw Doctor Strange.  It was awesome.  Go see it.  Review done.

Wait, you want more?  Fine…  Plot-wise, it’s basically Marvel’s standard formula.  Put a lot of arrogance, a lot of talent, and ridiculously good looks into a main character package, stir in some terrible tragedy and a stretch of painful character growth and then add a dark-mirror villain.  Serve warm with chilled drinks.

The writing, though, is fantastic.  The pacing is perfect, there’s never a scene where I looked at my phone or watch to see how long was left.   I drank too much of my caffeinated beverage of choice and you know what? My butt was glued to the seat the entire time.   The lines and delivery are fantastic.  Benedict Wong was the best secondary character, his deadpan deliveries were fantastic.

The humor was varied and didn’t miss a beat.  The graphics were fantastic.  The characters were fun and engaging.  Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One was alien and powerful and highly sympathetic.  Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange was arrogant, abrasive, and utterly charming.

The end-credits scenes, particularly the first one, are fantastic and worth waiting for, even if you really need to use the restroom.  Stick it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Overall, this is a magnificent showing, Marvel Studios does what they do best: creating a massive universe and introducing new characters in fun and engaging ways.  Go see this one.  It doesn’t matter if you know nothing about Doctor Strange, it’s just a fun, entertaining movie where they got everything right.