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King of the Seas: Aquaman Movie Review (no spoilers)

I watched Aquaman last night.  I’ve got to say, I haven’t been this hyped up about a DC movie in… well, ever.  Which is pretty amusing considering Aquaman has been sort of a joke for a long, long time.

The movie manages to live up to that hype.  It’s fun, it’s got good action, an understandable plot, and motivations for the characters that actually make sense.  They do a great job showing Aquaman’s character, in little things he does, not just the big dumb hero stuff of saving the world.  Some of it is sort of check the box, (save the nuns, check, save the trapped guy, check), but a lot of that stuff is cliche for a reason: it shows that he actually cares enough about people to risk himself to save people caught in the middle of his battles.

There’s a whole lot of comic book technology/magic.  It’ll make your head hurt if you think about it, so just eat your popcorn and enjoy it.  The other thing that rubbed me raw was the 2-3 minute pause to lecture about environmentalism.  Okay, I got it, it’s going to be a priority for the people (mer-people?  Atlanteans?) involved.  However, maybe instead of pushing issues that we’ve actually fixed in the past fifty years, you could focus on real environmental issues like illegal fishing trawlers that are pushing fish to extinction?  Oh, wait, those are Chinese fishing trawlers and WB doesn’t want to risk the Chinese market for the movie, so that won’t make the screen.

The movie glossed over some of the who’s who,  as well.  We get that the “fishermen” and the “brine” kingdoms don’t want to fight.  They’re also fish people and crabs, apparently, with no mention of how or why they evolved that way, while the Atlanteans somehow stayed as they were.  It didn’t need a ton of exposition, and I’ll admit, it all looked cool, but a bit more about what happened that they all changed so much might have been good.  Same for the Trench, though the sahuaghin-like creatures obviously couldn’t talk for themselves, it would have been nice to know what drove them so crazy (maybe the pressure, maybe they made pacts with cthuluoid entities, who knows?)

But by and large, the movie had good pacing and a plot you could follow.  Mamoa’s Aquaman shows moments of intelligence and compassion (two features sadly lacking in other DC movies).  I found myself on the edge of my seat for some of the movie because they actually made you care about the characters and there were a couple of times that I had no idea how they were going to get out of situations.  The underwater fight scenes are epic, the underwater cities are pretty epic, too.  There’s a bit too much shaky-cam at times, but I could still follow the action.

There’s also a lot of homages to the inspirations of the comic books.  There’s a HP Lovecraft book, Jules Verne references, and enough references and asides to make geeks, well, geek out.  They were little things, but the fact that they were there suggested a lot of thought went into the movie.

All in all, I’ll put it up as the best of the DC movies, hands down better than Wonder Woman and so much better than Batman v Superman and Justice League that it’s almost comical.  This is the sort of movie they should have done from the beginning, with a lead actor who’s given a bit of free reign to make his character his, to own it and add in his own humor.  Make no mistake, this movie succeeded because it embraced the weirdness that is an underwater kingdom and a superhero who swims well and can talk to fish.  They played that up for the ladies with a leading man who was eye-candy, but they also gave him the freedom as an actor to include his humor and swagger, and his performance felt far more human than the walking, talking, statues we had in Batman V Superman.

This was a fun, enjoyable movie.  It was good enough that I plan to see it a second time.  There’s nothing about the movie that startles or amazes, it was just a solid, fun movie.  I very much recommend seeing it in theaters, too, if for no other reason than to really enjoy the special effects.  A step in the right direction by DC, and I hope they’ll continue this with Zach Levi in the upcoming Shazaam.

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Solo Movie Review

As the year has been pretty busy, I didn’t get to see Solo while it was still in theaters.  To be clear, I didn’t approach this movie expecting it to be the best Star Wars movie ever.  I wanted something fun and light-hearted, something to distract and entertain.  And coming away from it, that’s what I got.

It is fun, fast paced, and it’s got enough action and characterization that you come to care about the characters involved.  The movie went through extensive rewrites and reshoots when Ron Howard took over.  You can pretty much identify, scene by scene, where his influence is.  The actors, action, and plot move along comfortably.  Other sections lag behind a bit and there’s a much more campy feel.

The story has plot-holes you could drive a Star Destroyer through and additions to the Star Wars setting that range from interesting to asinine.  But it moves along well, the acting isn’t bad at all, and it passes the bar of being *fun* if a little bit of a stretch at times.  It feels very rushed.  Solo goes from a street rat to an “experienced” smuggler in the course of a movie.  Sections of the ending were clearly in the campier/more humorous tone rather than the grimmer, darker tone of other parts of the movie.  This would have made a better TV series than a standalone movie.

Solo is a movie that didn’t do well not because it wasn’t a decent movie, but because of the disappointment that fans had with The Last Jedi (and that in itself is a can of worms I’m not going to open right now, but you can read my review of TLJ ).  It’s also a movie that didn’t necessarily need to be made and which answers questions most of us don’t have.  We don’t need to know where Han got his blaster or his dice, or why he likes the YT 1300 Corellian Freighter.  There was a perfectly good novel series that covered all that, once upon a time.  It’s not to say the actors or director did a bad job.  They didn’t. There were sections where I was caught up in “young” Han’s story… but again, it’s a story that didn’t need to be told.  It was entertaining and fun along the way, but I wish the focus had been more on the story itself, rather than an origin story for Han.  I wish there’d been more characterization.  More ties to a greater universe, instead of the barrage of homages to the original trilogy.

Not a Hero Movie Review: Venom

I watched Venom this weekend and as it’s SF related (more or less), I thought I’d leave a review.

They spend a lot of time showing that Venom/Eddie Brock isn’t a “hero.”  At the same time, they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make you empathize with him.  It works, it’s not badly done, but as with a certain scene in the movie, “He doth protest too much.”

The action is fast and relatively easy to follow, there’s very little of the shaky-cam that ruined so many action movies.  The humor is good.  The story is… okay.  It’s standard comic-book level.  The science could be worse.

It’s overall a solid movie.  I Iike Venom/Eddie Brock as a character.  There’s lots of potential to move on, and the weakness of hunger is pretty interesting.  There was a moment in the movie where I was really interested by the potential implications of certain things.

My wife and I came away from it with really nothing to talk about, oddly enough.  They didn’t do anything bad.  Everything was good enough that I didn’t really have any real complaints.  The bad guy was solidly evil.  The good guy had enough empathy scenes that you can go along with him doing some horrid things.  There’s a few nonsensical things, like where he brutally beats down some cops (slamming a few through concrete walls and throwing some twenty feet or more), only to hold back Venom from eating one of them (dude, you just killed all of them anyway…)

Those scenes aside, there’s nothing that didn’t really work.  The bad guy was totally creepy.  The good guy was sufficiently fun.  Tom Hardy can’t do a Brooklyn accent.  It’s a good movie for a night out.  I’d recommend it, but it’s a fairly mindless action movie where the good guy is willing to do some really horrid things (but you forget about them, because most happen off scene).  Is it worth seeing in theaters?  That’s for you to decide.

 

A Worthy Evolution: The Predator Movie Review

Hey everyone.  I went and saw The Predator this weekend.  It’s getting rather mixed reviews, so I thought I’d put in my own two cents.

You know the scene in Ant Man, where Luis  is explaining something and it rambles everywhere and doesn’t make a lot of sense, but is probably the best part of the movie?  That’s Shane Black’s The Predator.   It’s fast, it rambles, there’s scenes & dialogue that you think are going somewhere and end up going off on a tangent instead… and it’s a lot of fun on the way.

I’ll note that I didn’t give The Predator a very high bar to success.  It had to be better than the last Alien vs Predator movie (which was about as bad as dousing my eyeballs with lime).  It surpassed that by a wide margin.   In fact, I’ll rate it as one of my favorite movies this year.

There were a ton of 80’s references in the movie, everything from “get to the choppas” to the fact that the movie opened with no previews, it went straight into the movie sort of like movies *used* to do.

The humor was good, the characters were just strong enough that you could root for them without having to worry about a lot of angst as they died.  The Group 2 military folks were… well, very accurate in a lot of ways, from the inter-service rivalries to the fact that they dealt with horrible situations with dark humor and an unwillingness to give up.

The action was over-the-top and in some ways, just totally unbelievable.  But it worked with the overall story.  The Stargazer project boss was sufficiently crazy and evil that after a first couple scenes with him, you know he’s going to die horribly and you’re actually rooting for a predator as he dismantles his henchmen.

There’s some story and plot elements that either weren’t made clear enough or that they could have spent some time on… but I’ll accept the hand-wave in a combination of (very) unreliable narrator and the limits of the movie.  There’s details that we don’t need to know and that Shane Black streamlined the movie is obvious.  The couple of scenes where we get a break from the relentless pace are used to establish characterization and to add depth to the movie.

I’ve got a couple of complaints as far as the use of actors.  Yvonne Stahovoski’s character was almost criminally underused.  She’s a fantastic actress and I would have like to see more of her.  Olivia Munn’s scientist was a bit too much of a bad-ass for her background, but she pulled it off well enough.

Story wise, I felt like it was a combination of Lethal Weapon and Predator, with the gritty buddy-cop feel to the two lead military characters.  Which worked very well for me, especially with the blend of humor.  The references to 80’s and 90’s action movies were great.  I feel like it needed a scene with Danny Glover sitting on a toilet saying “I’m getting too old for this shit,” but other than that, I think it was far more “predator” than the last few movies in that vein.

The ending, too, sets the stage for a sequel I’d actually like to see, with humans using and adapting alien tech.  I don’t want to spoil anything here, but I definitely think it’s a great ending (even if they jump ahead missing some key details on how they got there).

The movie is surprisingly pro-military and at the same time, very anti-authority.  The ‘authorities’ have private mercenaries and conduct experiments and authorize murders and false-imprisonment of innocent people.  The actual military members we see are trustworthy, work hard, and sacrifice everything to do what’s right, even when they know they’re going up against something they can’t defeat.  There was a lot of the Aliens vibe from the “military” characters in this one, and I really liked that.

So don’t believe all the internet rage and certainly don’t judge the movie based on the critic reviews.  It’s crazy, it’s messy, but man is this movie a whole lot of fun.  So loosen your tie, sit back, and just enjoy the ride.

Movie Review: Ant Man and the Wasp

As things go, Ant Man and the Wasp was exactly the movie I needed to see.   If you’re a fan of the Marvel movies, or even if you aren’t, it’s fun, fast paced, and humorous.  The risks are dire and personal, this isn’t a movie where they’re fighting an alien of ridiculous power and strength.  These are people dealing with problems that make sense (even if some of those problems involve quantum mechanics).

It’s a movie that doesn’t hesitate to use humor to diffuse a tense situation and where the nonsensical is an acceptable route for problem-solving.  It rewards the audience for paying attention.  It also does a great job of showing that super-powers don’t necessarily solve problems and often times makes things more complicated.  It does all that without being preachy or boring, while still giving you enough time to process everything that’s happened.

And yeah, it ties into the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Captain America Civil War and Infinity War.  At this point, I’m having a difficult time thinking of a movie they haven’t done well enough to be entertaining.  Ant Man and the Wasp is fun, engaging, and there’s enough interesting emotional and “real” world problems that I really found myself on the edge of my seat.  So if you haven’t already seen it, go watch it already.

Too Incredible: Incredibles 2 movie review.

There’s an opening section of the movie where the actors and writers apologize for the movie taking so long.  They say it was worth the wait.  You know, they actually were right.  The Incredibles 2 really was a fantastic movie and oddly enough, it was worth the wait.

Without going into spoilers, the movie tackles the ideas of good and evil, of what it is to be different, and most importantly, of what it means to be a family.  It does all this through a humorous prismatic lens that keeps things entertaining throughout.

It’s a kid’s movie, but it addresses themes of responsibility and duty without getting preachy.  The cartoonish heroes and villains have to deal with the consequences of their actions.  There’s never a point that bumps you out of it, and as a whole, there’s enough tension and worry about what’s going to happen that the audience can worry but still enjoy themselves.  I thought the release on father’s day was apt, as well.

The humor was fantastic.  It bears repeating… this is probably one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen… even as it addresses some pretty scary thoughts in concept.

I  quite enjoyed it and I plan on seeing this one again.  If you liked the first one, I recommend this movie.  Go see it yourself.  It’s simply incredible.

 

Dick Jokes, Humorous Deaths, Lots of Luck, and Cable: A Deadpool 2 Movie Review (No Spoilers)

There’s a surprising amount of controversy over whether or not Deadpool 2 is worth seeing.  I really liked watching the first one in theaters.  Deadpool as a movie wasn’t without its flaws, but it was a whole lot of fun.  Deadpool 2 is more of the same, plus some actually fun and engaging characters.

If you’ve seen the first one, then you know what you’re getting into with this one.  It has the R rating for a reason.  If you’re not familiar with Deadpool, he’s sort of a cross between Johnny Knoxville and Wolverine.  So lots of dick jokes combined with super-human regeneration.  You might be able to see where some of this is going.

Deadpool 2 brings to the stage X-Force, Deadpool’s version of the X-Men.  They’re like the X-Men in every way, except they kill people for fun and profit.  So not really much like the X Men from the movies, I guess.

The movie has a ton of jokes, easter-eggs, and breaking the fourth wall moments.  What makes the whole thing work and stop from becoming it’s own punch line is that they have a couple of characters playing things straight.  God only knows how, at times, but they manage.  Domino and Cable in particular really stole the show.

The movie isn’t without its flaws.  At times, Ryan Reynolds goes a bit too far chasing a joke.  As my wife said, they don’t just beat the dead horse, they beat the dead horse with another dead horse.  The story has some… interesting issues with time travel and the kid actor is channeling a bit too much Rebel Wilson (Like, seriously, you could have swapped their characters from Pitch Perfect and this and no one would have noticed).  He does a good enough job, but he could have toned it down just a little.

There’s been some internet curfuffle about “ERMAGERD LESBIANS.”  Frankly, it’s far less than I’ve seen in PG-13 movies, so I don’t really give a damn.  The two characters in question didn’t really add much to the movie, you pretty much could have had the entire movie without them, but they put the one in because she was good in the last movie.  I wish they’d given her a bit more screen time or done something more with her, at least.

For the good: Cable and Domino really stole the show.  I mean, seriously.  I want a Cable movie.  Hell, I want a Domino movie!  The actress was spot on, her ability is awesome, and it would be hilarious to have her do her thing with Deadpool occasionally crashing the party.  Cable, same thing, he’s a bad-ass with no-sense of humor and a tragic backstory.  What’s not to like?

All in all, I really enjoyed the movie.  I could have done without as much naked Ryan Reynolds and a few less jokes being rode into the ground, but those issues were balanced by the general humor and the great acting.  Go see it yourself.  Plus, stick around for the mid-credits scene.