Category Archives: Entertainment

Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok

I finally had the time to watch Thor: Ragnarok.  Short version: it’s a crazy, fast-paced, often ADHD, humorous, adventure.  Go see it for yourself.

Long version: the movie is funny, the action scenes are over the top and Cate Blanchet is a fantastic villain.  The interactions between Thor and Loki are witty and charming and there’s even a couple of moments of endearing emotion, as you sense they are two brothers who have gone their (very) separate ways but still care for one another (even as they try to kill one another).

The constant humor is great, though I wonder how well it will hold up over time.  Thor, normally the straight man, is making witty quips and throwing out cheesy one-liners almost constantly.  At times, it feels like a series of 80’s one-liners tied together with a bunch of action scenes.  Still, the jokes are funny and the situations are dark enough that without this level of humor, it would be a pretty depressing movie.

There are no major plot twists (or at least, nothing that’s not hinted at from the beginning).  This is a movie about Thor beating down those who get in his path (and occasionally being electrocuted, I mean, what’s up with that, he’s the God of Thunder, how is electricity his weakness?).   It has something of a Blues Brother vibe, “We’re putting the band back together!”  But that campy humor works… because the situations are so ridiculous and desperate that sometimes unleashing a Hulk on your home planet is preferable to the alternative.

It’s not a movie without flaws.   The director definitely went with humor as a way to diffuse the very dark overall plot line.  That’s fine, but I do think they could have spent a bit more time exploring the sacrifices and efforts of all the non-Thor Asgardians.  They had some terrific actors like Idris Elba who were basically in cameo roles.  The plot was fairly predictable, the villain(ess) was bad, even charmingly so, much like Loki, but without as much background or motivation.

I really enjoyed the movie, I may go see it again, but  I didn’t love the movie, not the way I was hoping.  There were no deeper themes, other than the occasional bit about family.  This was an action movie, first and foremost.  Which is fine, but it left me wanting just that little bit more.

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Movie Review: Kingsmen: The Golden Circle

Kingsmen: The Golden Circle is a movie that I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to see.  I enjoyed the first movie, which surprised me as I had expected it to be another generic action movie.  The first movie was witty and had some surprisingly insightful moments of introspection.  Eggsy was a fun character who we could genuinely like as a decent human being.

I didn’t want to see that ruined with a throw-away sequel… and that’s generally what I expect when a movie like that gets a sequel.  But I was wrong.  If anything, The Golden Circle is an improvement on the first movie.  Eggsy isn’t just the low-class version of James Bond… he’s a better version.   One scene in particular stamped him and also transformed the way you see him from the first movie, where they had some throw-away humor that has now come full circle.

As far as the action, it’s just as over-the-top as the first movie.  The CGI can get a bit old, especially when the baddies are firing fully automatic weapons in downtown London without seeming to cause any secondary damage, but I’ll let that slide, because they make you care about the characters.  They put the extra effort in so that you can understand their motivations.  The good guys are human, and they are put into circumstances that can require them to do things they don’t want to do.  The main villain is absolutely psychotic, with an introductory scene that, if anything, is a bit too far.

The story has personal touches, it’s not just about the end of the world scenario, it’s also about the people who are important to Eggsy, and they do a great job making the audience care about those people, too.  I have two minor complaints about the movie, and both of them are so closely tied into the plot that they’re major spoilers that I can’t go into them.  Neither of them were deal-breaking, I came away from the movie satisfied, entertained, and importantly, wanting more.  I want there to be a sequel, I want to see what happens next with Eggsy.

If you haven’t seen it, go out and make time.  It’s fun, engaging, and it has plenty of stuff for you to think about afterwards.

 

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.

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.