Category Archives: science fiction movie

Captain Marvel vs. The League of Evil Whining Man-babies– oh, and a review

Wherein there are minor spoilers.  Really, I don’t know how you can do it otherwise….

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In the toxic fever-swamp that is sci-fi/comic book fandom these days, it only takes one innocent remark to set off a tsunami of stupid.  So it was with Brie Larson, star of Captain Marvel, when she expressed a wish for more diversity in movie reviews.  This rather innocuous remark triggered a host of crying man-babies, mostly from the right of fandom, talking about how Larson was against men and how the film should be boycotted and how it was going to tank at the box-office and take the MCU and Marvel and Disney and maybe the planet with it.  To a large extent these are the same trolls that then intentionally set out to sabotage the Rotten Tomatoes ratings for the film as a way to poison the well, long before any of them had ever seen the movie.

Ha, ha, ha.

Even with an anticipated drop-off for the second weekend, Captain Marvel should easily make its money back in the very near future, considering that, as of today, Box Office Mojo shows it with a world-wide total earnings of about $550 million.   So much for that.

The sad thing is that this sort of whining political stupidity has become something of the new normal in fandom.  Between the Sad Puppies and Gamergate and the wholly unhinged reaction in some quarters to the The Last Jedi, blah, blah, blah, fans who just want to connect with good, enjoyable content have to negotiate a festering landscape populated by entirely unreasonable trolls who see left-wing, anti-man conspiracies everywhere.  These goombahs, of course, are merely a specific thread of the greater alt-right narrative distorting our public discourse and popular culture at the moment.  You wish you could just ignore them, but that’s rather like trying to ignore someone flicking a cigarette lighter in a room filled with flammable gas.  At some point you need to yell, “Knock it off!”, if only for your personal survival.

Whew– enough of that.  I would like to say a few words about the movie itself.  Somewhat at the risk of setting off more swamp-gas flares, but you can’t let the trolls silence you, either.

So, the 4-1-1, the bottom line, the skinny– Captain Marvel is a good movie.  Not a great movie, not Infinity War, or War and Peace, or Citizen Kane.  It’s a good, mid-rank Marvel movie that accomplishes the main thing it sets out to do– establish the character of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and help us understand why she’s going to be very, very important in Avengers: End Game  (yeah, new trailer, yippee! Ahem.).

It does so by starting out pretty much in media res, with Carol (called ‘Vers’) already on the Kree homeworld of Hala, already a part of the the Kree Starforce, but troubled by dreams of a possible former life she doesn’t remember.  From there she ends up the captive of a group of Skrulls, perpetual enemies of the Kree, and is taken to Earth, where she attempts to track down the Skrull infiltrators, while connecting with early editions of Nick Fury and Shield, who help her begin to piece together her past.  This leads her to a rather startling discovery that causes her to question what she has been told, and who she can trust.

On the whole, this story line works, but the first time I saw the film I thought its first half was off in terms of tone.  Danvers is not nearly as much a fish out of water on the primitive Earth of 1995 as I thought she should have been, and her relationship with Fury is a little too easygoing for a pair of people, one of whom is a spy and the other an ‘alien’ warrior, who have just met.  I was a little concerned that the movie wasn’t going to fulfill the minimum necessary requirements to make Carol the hero she needs to be for the final confrontation with Thanos in End Game.

But then there came a rather nifty mid-film twist, Carol gets her lost history filled in, and she realizes that she has been lied to and manipulated for the six years she has been gone from Earth.  This sets up a really satisfying climactic confrontation  in which Carol realizes her full power, and makes her the hero she needs to be.  By the way, do not skip out on the mid and post-credit scenes.  The mid-credit snippet is almost worth the price of admission by itself.

So, a slow start, but the film picks up and finishes pretty strong.  It doesn’t hit every note I would have preferred, and I would have handled the first half differently, but they aren’t paying little old (emphasis on the ‘old’) me to direct these films.  Which is, admittedly, probably a good thing.  Captain Marvel is not Infinity War, but neither is it Thor: The Dark World.  Which I still liked, but it did have issues.  Not all MCU movies are created equal, and I’m just fine with that.

There is one aspect of the film, however, that positively disappointed me– the way Fury loses his eye.  Lame.  Sorry, I was expecting more.

But, on the whole, go see the film.  It’s good, and it’s really about as solid a prologue for End Game as we could hope for.  I am really looking forward to seeing Brie Larson as Captain Marvel in that film, in ensemble with all the other great characters of the MCU, as they bring this story line to a thundering conclusion.  We live in glorious times, despite the trolls.

Later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom– a review, or who left all this dino-poo on my front porch?

I went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom today–

I have been generally a fan of the Jurassic Park/World franchise since its inception– loved the first movie, enjoyed the second and third films, even though they were not nearly at the same level, and really liked the first Jurassic World film, despite having to give my suspension of disbelief an extra lube job just to keep up.

This time around, though– well, my poor suspension may have busted its torsion bars.  To put it succinctly, this is a stupid movie.

Not that Chris Pratt, who I generally love in everything I see him in, didn’t do his best.  Ditto for Bryce Dallas Howard.  I lay none of the blame for this eyesore at their feet.  No, in this instance I can only suppose the director (J.A. Bayona) and the writers (Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow) bear the heavy responsibility for hatching this turkey (or turkey buzzard).

Oh, where do I start?

Oops, almost forgot…..

SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****

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Put simply, what with the exploding volcano (which was seen in the trailer) and the standard corporate villain planning to market rescued dinos to international scumbags, the movie exhibits the standard sequel weaknesses of amping up the action to ridiculous heights while recycling the core conflict.  I particularly have a pet-peeve about the volcano, which, like the one in Dante’s Peak, exhibits traits that do not usually go together, i.e., free-flowing magma and peak-destroying magmatic explosions.  It makes me grind my teeth–

  1. Owen (Chris Pratt) outruns (almost) a pyroclastic flow.  And lives to tell about it.  Without even getting singed.  SPUNG!
  2. The characters (or the writers) think they can survive a pyroclastic flow by diving into the sea.  Wrong– pyroclastic flows can cross extensive bodies of water, on a layer of super-heated steam.  Parbroiled, anyone?

Okay, enough about the volcano– as irritating as I found it, it’s not even the core problem with the movie.  Moving on–

  1. The idea that you could weaponize dinosaurs in some useful manner for modern warfare is a major motivator for the bad guy (Eli Mills/Rafe Spall).  Please.  A mechanized infantry platoon would chop any dinosaur you care to name, including the vicious hybrid who’s the main dino baddie in this flick, into little quivering dino cubes.  It’s just silly (and, yes, it was silly in the first Jurassic World, too, they just didn’t play it up as much).
  2. There are vague references to “pharmaceutical uses” for the dinosaurs as an additional motivation for the bad guys, but its never elaborated on.
  3. Claire’s evolution (or is it devolution?) from corporate hotshot all about exploiting the dinosaurs to a save-the-dinosaurs activist just hit me wrong.  Granted, the events of the first film would have jarred anybody, but I’m not sure I’m buying this.
  4. Blue, the surviving velociraptor from Jurassic World, is now a leading character and so smart I expected her to start doing arithmetic, like a latter-day Trigger the Wonder Horse.  It got really irritating.
  5. Why in hell, when you’re trying to escape a vicious predator with better senses than you, would you turn off the lights?  Oh, yeah, to heighten the tension.  Screw that, leave the lights on, I want to see where the bastard is.
  6. Why, why, why would a girl (Maisie Lockwood/Isabella Sermon) smart and resourceful enough to elude the main villain for good portion of the film, run to her room and jump in bed to hide from the hybrid dinosaur?  If she were five, maybe, but this kid is a pretty sharp ten-year old, or thereabouts.  It was another example of dumb things being added to the film to artificially pump up the tension.
  7. About that kid– there is a revelation about her that made me suddenly sit up, all interested– and then they do nothing with it.  I mean, at that point I would have watched a film just about the kid.  And no, I’m not going to tell you what it was, although I bet a lot of people guessed it ahead of time.  A missed opportunity.
  8. The final fight against the hybrid, which takes place in and around and on top (?) of the mansion/laboratory of Benjamin Lockwood, a partner of John Hammond (who, btw, I don’t remember ever being mentioned in any of the previous films).  How does a dinosaur weighing probably two or three tons get on the roof of a mansion, anyway?
  9. And then a final bit where Claire seems to target Owen with a laser-guided dart gun, only it’s to trick the hybrid, but Owen has to get past the hybrid to make it step on to a glass roof so it would fall through, only it doesn’t, and then Blue saves the day by jumping on the hybrid, which falls and gets impaled on a triceratops horn, and I didn’t really understand how all of that fit together.  It was so confusing I had a passing thought that Claire was about to betray Owen.  Bleh.
  10. What is with the screaming tech nerd?  Shit….
  11. The number of people doing positively stupid things just so they can end up as dino chow is stunning.  Granted, in general the Jurassic movies depend on the humans being seriously mentally impaired in the presence of dinosaurs, but it was really bad in this film.  Really bad.  It made me wonder which was the intelligent species

In short, and in general, a disappointment.  Not that I had particularly high expectations going in, given the reviews beforehand, but the actuality fell short of even those.  Artificially pumped-up danger, nonsensical character actions, and same-old, been-there bad guys– all of it mashed together and not particularly well-seasoned, it was a dish for which I lost my appetite about halfway through.  Too bad, because it had two of my favorite things– dinosaurs and exploding volcanoes.  How do you mess that up?

Later.

 

 

Another reaction to Avengers: Infinity War– but with SPOILERS!! YEE-HAW!!

Because I am the obsessive fan-boy that I am, I just had to go see Avengers: Infinity War again this evening.  That’s twice in twenty-four hours, children, and it may end up being three times in forty-eight hours, assuming that tomorrow I can do my morning exercise, pay my rent and do my laundry in a timely manner– you know, all the real-life check-off items that exist merely to allow nut-jobs like me to spend inordinate amounts of money and time re-watching Marvel movies.  What was once merely entertainment is now a way of life.  I am nerd, hear me roar.

(On the other hand, I wonder if seeing the same movie over and over again in a short amount of time is like doing too many wormhole jumps at once?  Hmm.  I’ll let you know, assuming my eyeballs don’t fall out)

Suffice to say, I enjoyed the movie even more the second time around, in part because I was prepared for the repartee going past at Warp Six.  I caught more nuances (especially one that is the core of this post– more about that in a minute), and the audience tonight was especially receptive and engaged.  Also, I didn’t have a distraction this time around that detracted a bit from my first viewing, i.e., tonight’s show was not 3-D.  I didn’t mention it in my post last night, but the 3-D yesterday, for some reason, seemed kinda muddy and dark.  Maybe it was my aging eyes, maybe it was the glasses.  All I know is that I liked the regular format better.

Now, about that nuance I mentioned–

SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***

Proceed no further if you don’t want to know some details about the film.  There, I have said it.  Don’t blame me if you keep reading and have your illusions shattered.

 

 

Okay, late in the film, Thanos has kicked everyone’s butt who came against him on his own ruined homeworld of Titan– Iron Man, Spider-man, Nebula, Drax, Mantis, Peter Quill/Starlord.  He has stabbed Tony right through his advanced armor and it looks like curtains for our playboy/philanthropist/genius (probably didn’t get the order right, but you get the point).  Dr. Strange, injured and collapsed nearby, tells Thanos he will surrender the Eye of Agamotto (aka, the Stone of Time) if Thanos will spare Tony.

Two critical points here– this well after the point in the film where Strange tells Tony that he, Strange, would let Tony and Peter Parker (Spider-man) both die before he would give up the Time Stone.  It is also after Strange, using the Time Stone, has examined 14 million-plus possible futures and found only one in which the Avengers were able to defeat Thanos.  That’s the setup.

(By the way, Tony and Strange do not like each other.  It’s almost worth the price of admission just to hear Strange call Tony a “douche-bag”.  Oh, yeah….)

Then Strange, strangely, reverses course and hands over the Time Stone to Thanos, ostensibly to save Iron Man’s life.  When Tony asks him why he did it, Strange says something to the effect that “this is the only way it could play out”, right before he dissolves (yes, Thanos wins the battle to reset the universe.  That’s part of why the cliffhanger ending is such a pisser).

Uh-huh.  I had funny feeling last night about Strange surrendering the Time Stone so meekly, and tonight I paid particularly close attention to Strange’s expression as Thanos takes the Time Stone.  By doing so I think I caught a piece of subtle business, about on the same level as the look Obi-Wan gives Han Solo when Han makes his ‘parsecs’ crack in Star Wars.  Strange is particularly intent as Thanos takes the Time Stone and puts it into his gauntlet– as if he wanted to make sure Thanos took it and added it to the gauntlet’s array of stones.

Bingo.  I am certain that Doctor Strange, that tricksy smarty-pants, has put some sort of mystical whammy on the Time Stone.  One that Thanos is not going to like.  At all.  One that is going to tick away like a time-bomb and play a big part in the Avengers’ ultimate victory.

The thought makes me grin maniacally and rub my hands in glee.  It makes the cliffhanger easier to deal with.  It is the sort of smart plotting that has made these movies, in general, a joy to watch (okay, not all equally.  Can you people just get over hating The Dark World, please?).

Last night I begged the movie’s producers to speed up the release of the next Avengers film.  I know, realistically, that’s not going to happen, if only because the next film is undoubtedly tied to the release of the Captain Marvel movie (oh, and there’s a sweet tidbit teasing that flick in Infinity War, too).  But I am a-quiver with anticipation.  The next year’s going to pass sooo slowly….

Meanwhile, the only solution is to go see Infinity War again.  I’ll just try not to cackle when Strange hands over the Time Stone.  You’re riding high now, Thanos, but just you wait, bitch– you are going down.

Later.

 

 

 

An immediate reaction to “Avengers: Infinity War”– assuming I can form complete sentences….

This is not a review of Avengers: Infinity Warwhich I just saw on an early showing.  It is more of a quick and emotionally-laden reaction, with just a few observations on a few points in the movie.  Above all, in opposition to my usual habit, I am going to avoid any spoilers, as it would almost certainly make me the subject of mob violence.

Okay, here  we go–

Holy shit.

Holy wild-jungle-spawned bouncing off the wall pull the eject cord and tumble end-over-end through an exploding volcano shit.  With sprinkles on top.

Character deaths.  In the first five minutes.  Before the freaking opening credits.  OMG….

Lots of repartee, much of which goes by really fast, which demands a second viewing, assuming I can find a spare ticket for this movie over the weekend in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.  Frankly, not quite all of it worked– a couple of scenes between the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor (that’s no spoiler, their meeting was in the trailers) were a little weak, in my opinion.  But those were minor blips in this tsunami of a movie.

Speaking of trailers, be aware that there was a lot of stuff in the trailers that was not in the movie, and some of the stuff that was didn’t play out quite the same way.  It’s all part of Marvel’s master-plan to keep the fans guessing.

Note:  there is no mid-credits scene, but there is a comparatively long one at the end, and you want to wait for it.  Definitely.  For sure.  I’m not joking.

Huge cliffhanger at the end.  Freaking huge.  If the cliffhanger at the end of The Empire Strikes Back was Mount St. Helens, then this one is fracking Mount Tambora, the reason 1816 was known as the “year without a summer”.  You are warned.

Precisely because of that cliffhanger, they cannot get the next Avengers movie into theaters soon enough.  All we know at the moment is that it is due to be released sometime next year.  We don’t even know the title.  Marvel and Disney, you cruel bastards, make the next movie a Christmas release.  You can do it….

I don’t think there was a weak performance by anyone in this picture, although some of the mid-rank characters go by pretty quick.  Somehow the filmmakers pretty much pulled off the feat of giving all the main characters enough to do so that none of them are slighted, which was something I was seriously worried about.  It’s doubly impressive that the action takes place in several locations at once, and even more impressive that they still found time give Thanos some depth and feeling– not like another super-villain I could name from a certain recent movie.  Yech.  Really, there is no comparison.

Be prepared for a movie that moves really fast, and bounces between a lot of different locales.  Personally I didn’t find the pace too hard to keep up with, but you definitely don’t want to go out for popcorn during the middle of the picture.  Very bad idea.

See this movie, but hold on tight and brace yourself for that cliffhanger.  Anybody who expects this movie to end tied up with a neat little ribbon is delusional.  But it is a tremendous setup for the next film.

Christmas, you guys!!

 

Justice League- a review. Sort of.

SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***

Really, if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t even go one word further if you want to remain unspoiled.  My usual review style is to talk about plot points in details, and this will be no exception.

So– Justice League — I’d almost say you’d have to have been living under a rock for the last year to not know about this film, but it does occur to me that superhero films are just not on some people’s radar, so the quickest of recaps– Justice League is DC’s latest entry in their Extended Cinematic Universe, their attempt to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  League is the fifth film in the series, recounting the origin of the team uniting Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, the Flash and Aquaman.  Ok, ’nuff said.

In the run up to the film’s debut critical opinion began to be increasingly negative.  Just before it opened, Rotten Tomatoes came out with a rating of 40%, a dismal consensus.  Some reviewers said positive things about the movie, but many more were negative and deprecatory.  Suffice to say that I had very low expectations going into the theater yesterday.

On the whole, however, I am pleased to report that on the whole the movie is not quite the absolute disaster that 40% rating would lead you to believe.  It is not a great film; it is a film with issues; but it is not the muddled shit-pile of Suicide Squad or the even more muddled Batman v. Superman.  On some levels it was pretty good, while on others it leaves you scratching your head wondering why the hell did they do that?, and on yet others feeling like they should just get on with it.

First, the pros–

  1. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince.  I wish they had just come out with the next Wonder Woman movie.  Gadot commands the screen in any scene she’s in; at her first appearance in League, where she foils a bombing by right-wing fanatics (led, in a dangerous bit of typecasting, by Roose Bolton), my impulse was to stand up and cheer.  My admiration goes beyond the fact that she is stunningly beautiful; Gadot gets the character, and brings her to life.
  2. Ezra Miller as the Flash.  He brings a fresh approach to the character, as a nerdy youngster none to sure of his own capabilities, with fears to overcome and enough pain in his own history on which to lay the foundations of a hero.
  3. Jeremy Irons as Alfred.  He’s not on screen much, but when he is brings dry wit to some otherwise rather absurd goings-on.

Well, that was over quick.  Now, the cons–

  1. Jason Momoa is irritating as Aquaman/Arthur Curry.  His underwater biker routine gets tiresome real quick.
  2. Someone else has said that Ben Affleck (Batman) looks as if he would like to be somewhere other than in this film, and that seems a fair assessment.  He gives perhaps the flattest performance of the ensemble.
  3. Yeah, I know, the villain was named “Steppenwolf” in the comic, but for someone of my generation the name really conjures up a way different image.  Threw me out of the picture every time.
  4. Not only that, but Steppenwolf is just not that threatening a villain.  Not sure what it is, but we have had a glut lately of villains with horns (Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, etc.), so maybe the headgear was too cliche (?).  Whatever the reason, I didn’t get a sense of visceral danger from the guy, despite how many Amazons and Atlanteans he smashes.
  5. On top of that, I thought this was supposed to be a build-up to a confrontation between the League and Darkseid, paralleling the coming confrontation between the Avengers and Thanos in the MCU.  As best I can recall, however, Steppenwolf makes one passing reference to Darkseid, and then, nothing.  This is one area where I still had expectations to be disappointed.
  6. I miss Hal Jordan.  Maybe they just couldn’t squeeze him into the ensemble this time around.
  7. For the most part, the action sequences are kinda, well, meh.  Formulaic maybe too generous.  Once or twice, I had the sense that I was watching a Michael Bay film.  That’s so not a good thing.
  8. Superman’s resurrection sequence is, well, creepy, a quality that was even called out by the Flash in the film itself.
  9. Clark’s reunion with Lois Lane is half sweet and half schmaltz, and I’m not entirely which is which in the scene.  Plus, after he flies her to Smallville for private time, where did they get his clothes?  Ma Kent had moved out and everything….
  10. Oh, and while you’re resurrecting Clark, you leave the mother box that resurrected him, and which the villain has been frantically seeking, out in the open where he can grab it? That’s one for CinemaSins.

If I were to sum up the negative aspects of the film, I’d say that League is a film with far too many color-by-the-numbers elements, some uninspired or even repulsive performances, and which is dragged down even further by the fact that its basic premises were established for it by Batman v. Superman.  It has to try to reconcile some really dumb and incoherent plot points that BvS perpetrated, chief among which, in my opinion, was killing off Superman so early in the franchise.  To League’s credit, it almost pulls it off here and there, but then it commits its own acts of incoherence (e.g., see # 10 above).  It feels as if the people who created the overall story arc really, really didn’t think everything through beforehand and are now stuck in various thematic corners.  And, while I have a high tolerance for grim and gritty, the way the DC films have been going about it just drags your soul down and leaves you gasping for some Guardians of the Galaxy humor.

On the whole, I give League a middling, 2.5 out of 5 Mother Boxes rating.  Considering that I would give BvS one and Suicide Squad one and a half, that’s some improvement, but not much.  It would be nice if the guys running the DCECU could have an opportunity to really, really rethink their approach to their material, but by now, five films in, with more in the pipeline, it’s probably too late.

Well, in any case, here’s to the next Wonder Woman film.  We have to wait until November, 2019, though.  A reason to live.

Later.

Rogue One– A review

Let’s get this out of the way first–

***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***

So, I held off seeing Rogue One for two whole weeks for several reasons– I hate opening night crowds, I’ve spent the last two weeks helping support a family member who’s been in the hospital, and because, being the spoiler-whore I am, I knew it ended on what might possibly be a real downer, and I knew that I didn’t need any extra downers in my life at the moment.

At least regarding the last item I needn’t have worried.  Rogue One does end with all the good guys, including leads Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), dying in a terminal shootout/holocaust with the Empire on the planet Scarif, but it’s the sort of massacre that appeals to me, where the heroes have won although they give their lives in the attempt.  In this instance, they have secured the plans to the Death Star of Episode IV- A New Hope and transmitted them to the rebels, which means that the end of Rogue One is meant to segue directly into the opening of Episode IV, with perhaps the lapse of only a few minutes story time.

The film, in my quite biased opinion, does most everything pretty well.  It has a darker, grittier tone than most of the other Star Wars films; the Empire has the galaxy by the throat and is about to permanently tighten its grip.  The rebel Alliance is on the run, fractured and riven by divisions and conflicting counsels.  You’re not entirely sure who the good guys are; Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera is the paranoid leader of a splinter group too radical for the other rebels, and some Alliance members are willing do things in the name of the Rebellion that are morally dodgy, at best; Cassian, for example, summarily kills an informant in the first moments of the film to keep him out of Imperial hands.

The story bounces from world to world, shifting between Rebel and Imperial viewpoints, as the rebels get wind of the Death Star and desperately try to find clues as to its weaknesses.  Rook, defecting, delivers a message from Jyn’s father, Galen Erso, an engineer the Empire has forced to work on the Death Star, who has built a vulnerability into its structure.  In the end, Jyn and Cassian lead a desperate group of volunteers to the planet Scarif, where the plans for the Death Star are kept.  There ensues one hellacious ground and space battle, as the Rebel fleet joins in and Jyn, Cassian and the droid K2SO try to get the plans.  In the end, the plans are secured and transmitted to the rebels just before the Death Star nukes the Empire’s own base in a vain attempt to keep the information safe.

All the flim’s performances are good, but it’s some of the supporting characters who are the best.  Jyn and Cassian are not quite as engaging or sympathetic as we might want; on the other hand, you find yourself rooting pretty hard for the blind Force monk Chirrut Îmwe (Donny Yen) and his buddy Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang); the defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) is someone we watch become a hero in his own right as he overcomes his fear.  The reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk, is fun, light-years away from the obsequious C3PO, and has his own hero moment toward the end of the film.

All-in-all, the film captures the desperate struggle of the rebels against the overwhelming power of the Empire.  ‘Rag-tag’ is pretty apt for these guys, who only agree on a united course of action when it is forced on them.  The battles are solid action pieces, and the power of the Death Star, even when only employed on low power against individual targets on planet surfaces, is jaw-dropping.

There are problems.  The connection the end of the film makes with the beginning of A New Hope is less than perfect in terms of continuity.  In Episode IV  when Leia confronts Vader for the first time she pretends that her ship is on a diplomatic mission; Rogue One’s ending makes that pretense unsustainable (or even nonsensical), as her ship is shown detaching from the crippled rebel flagship and fleeing, as Vader watches.  Episode IV’s screen-crawl states the rebels have won their first victory against the Empire; if the battle over Scarif is a rebel victory it sure looks Pyrrhic;  all of the ground forces were lost, and what looked to be a good portion of the space fleet– not a good way to start a civil war.

And then there are the CGI images for the Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia.  Personally I think I was able to suspend my disbelief enough that they didn’t throw me, but they were odd, particularly Leia’s; for the brief moment we see her face, she kinda looks like an anime Kewpie Doll.  It’s strange how the images turned out, especially as a lot of effort was expended to get them right, particularly Tarkin’s (Peter Cushing).

On the whole, though, the film works, and works well.  This may be the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back.  Certainly it leaves the prequels and The Force Awakens in the dust.  This is the first of a projected set of “anthology” films about different characters and situations in the extended cinematic Star Wars universe that are not part of the main trilogies.  As this expansion proceeds, we are liable to get both good and bad films .  Rogue One, thankfully, starts the anthology off right.

 

 

Carrie Fisher, 1956 – 2016

leia-armed
© Lucasfilm Ltd.

This just sucks.

I’m with Anna….

John Scalzi said it best.

She and I were not far apart in age, and I am feeling my mortality now.  The great thing about Carrie, though, was how much she accomplished while she was here.  We should all do half as much.

RIP, Carrie.

Two films looming huge on my horizon, I mean, HUGE!….

Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy—

I mean, holy frack, just this little peek left me alternately giggling and gibbering with delight.  If all else fails, I have at least one reason to live until May next year.

On a completely different note–

This movie wasn’t even on my radar until I spotted its trailer on IMDB.  Oh, my God, what a grim looking tale, perhaps worse, on a personal scale,than the imagined alternate future in Days of Future Past.  Here’s the premise from Wikipedia

Set in 2024, Logan and Professor Charles Xavier must cope with the loss of the X-Men at the hands of a corporation led by Nathaniel Essex. With Logan’s healing abilities slowly fading and Xavier’s Alzheimer’s hampering his memory, Logan must defeat Essex with the help of a young girl named Laura Kinney, a female clone of Wolverine.

There could be some weeping involved here.  Just saying.  Oh, and whoever put this trailer to Johnny Cash’s Hurt— genius.

According to the Wikipedia article this should be Hugh Jackman’s last outing as Wolverine, not surprising as he’s been playing the character for about fifteen years.  Not sure anybody can take over after Jackman, but then I said the same thing about the Joker after Heath Ledger, and then Jared Leto came along.

All the same, it looks as if Marvel/Disney is ringing down the curtain on this incarnation of the X-Men, and Wolverine.  An era is passing.  I have no idea what comes after this, particularly as there are so many different alternate versions of the team in the comics, and, of course, Disney has shown it is not bound by previously established canon with the new Star Wars movies.  However, at the very least, they have my attention.

 

Five awesome movie scenes

My personal taste in film runs largely, although not exclusively, to the epic and the heroic, with largely dollops of the tragic and the sort of romance in which true loves die happy because they’re together. After I see films like Les Miserables they generally have to carry me out on a stretcher (it’s not just the film, of course– the stage production does the same thing to me, and I’ve seen it live three times. My daughter finds it soo embarrassing that her father has to bring a full box of kleenex with him to the theater).

Individual movie scenes that kill me with epicness have certain common attributes– a desperate struggle against long odds, someone you want to see succeed (or at least survive) and the ticking clock of looming disaster. Usually for maximum effect you need some really effective music. For extra points, throw in children in jeopardy.

Here’s five scenes from five very different films I find really riveting. NOTE: inevitably each of these scenes involve spoilers. Be warned.

1. From the 2009 J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek, the opening scene in which James Kirk’s father sacrifices himself to save his wife and soon-to-be-born son–

This is a wonderfully effective scene, scoring high because it’s basically a father defending his family and sacrificing himself to save them.  Does me in every time.

2. From Captain America: The First Avenger, here is the climactic scene where Cap (Chris Evans) has to intentionally crash the Hydra flying wing into the Arctic ice-cap to save New York City, while talking on the radio with his true love, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).

Cap must not only sacrifice his own life in this scene, but also his chance for happiness with Peggy, which brings a poignancy to the interchange between them, and which has continued to resonant through the subsequent Captain America and Avenger films.

3. From the 1993 film Gettysburg, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s downhill bayonet charge at Little Round Top, which by itself just might have saved the Union–

Whether Chamberlain actually saved the Union is a matter of debate, but he knew his position was vital (the utter left flank of the Union Army), and he and his men held the position with incredible courage and endurance.

4. From the 1964 film Zulu, the famous ‘Men of Harlech’ scene–

Unfortunately, unlike Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s charge at Little Round Top, this scene never happened, at least as far the singing is concerned.  But the film captures the spirit of the true story of a tiny force who held off an overwhelming enemy through grit and good tactics.

5. From Return of the Jedi— a fan edit/compilation of the climactic confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader, with the Emperor egging them on. Most particularly, watch the section from 3:17 to 3:53 and listen to the soundtrack .  Those thirty-six seconds have more tragic drama in them than many movies have in their entire running time.

The interesting aspect of this scene is that Luke is trying to save not only Anakin Skywalker from the dark side, but also his sister, and, ultimately, himself– and, in the end, he does it by not fighting.  A nice twist on the classic climactic confrontation between the hero and the villain.

Each of these scenes contain attributes I hope my own writing at least occasionally captures.  I like stories and films in which something genuine is at stake, and the protagonists have to give of themselves to protect or rescue it.  In one way or another, I’m not sure why you would make a movie that did not have this sort of tension at its core, but they get made (e.g., in my biased opinion, American Hustle).  But I try not to dwell on such creations– there are plenty of films out there that spark my imagination and touch my heart.  I focus on them.

Later.

 

Three upcoming movies that have my attention

Now that we’re past the hysteria and hoopla around Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I thought I would share some thoughts on three upcoming movies that have grabbed my attention.  In no particular order–

Suicide Squad

Okay, I am at least interested–

Harley Quinn and Deadshot and the Joker (in what may be an even more freakish interpretation, by Jared Leto, than Heath Ledger’s) all in one film– and with Batman (Ben Affleck), too.  It looks like a full house of crazies.

Of course, it is entirely possible that for me Bohemian Rhapsody and Freddie Mercury are affecting my emotional reaction to this trailer.  You could put Bohemian Rhapsody on a video of a dripping faucet and I’d watch it.

Interestingly, the Comic-con trailer for this same movie has a completely different feel, taking a much more serious and dramatic– maybe even tragic– tone.  The producers might want to figure out their marketing approach to this product.  Remember what happened to John Carter.  Just saying.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

If this film maintains the serious tone of Man of Steel, it will hit the ground– or the screen– with an excellent head-start, as far as I’m concerned.  That approach was one of the best things about Man of Steel, lifting me up and over some irritating flaws in the story logic.  I’ve never been a big fan of the Justice League, but the trio of Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman is intrinsically interesting.  I will be interested in seeing how the film handles the initial conflict between Superman and Batman (rather a traditional element in their respective origin stories) and how their friendship then grows to form the League’s foundation.  And, I have to admit, Wonder Woman’s reveal in this trailer is pretty fun.

Captain America: Civil War

Of these three movies, this is the one I am the most jazzed about.  I have become a serious fan of Captain America as portrayed by Chris Evans in Marvel’s Captain America and Avengers movies.  The whole series of interconnected films that comprise the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a creative stroke of genius, in my biased opinion, the brainchild of fans in positions of power, such as Kevin Feige (and now DC is playing serious catch-up with Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad).  It is a great storytelling gimmick and should pay dividends for Marvel and Disney for years to come, even if the quality of the individual films varies (Age of Ultron, for example).

I was never a great fan of Captain America in the comics (for years I was obsessed with the X-Men), but Chris Evans’ portrayal of Cap as a decent regular guy who acquires extraordinary powers and then must cope with being displaced in time is one of the best and most consistent character arcs in the whole MCU.  As long as Evans plays the role I will be watching with interest.

On the flip-side, there are upcoming movies that are not particularly on my must-see list–

X-Men: Apocalypse– Despite my deep and long-lasting affection for the X-Men, I’ve found the last several movies disappointing, despite the presence of great actors like Jennifer Lawrence.  After Days of Future Past apparently rebooted the series I have some hope, but I’m going to approach Apocalypse with caution.

Deadpool– hmm…no.  Not a fan, despite the presence of certain X-Men.  Sorry. (Oh, and the trailer’s kinda gory, fyi).

Warcraft– really uncertain about this one, and rather severely disappointed by the look of the trailer.  The live action and the CGI characters do not look as if they were matched up very well. I’ve been waiting for a World of Warcraft movie, and now that it’s here it looks…kinda lame, actually.  Dang.

Gods of Egypt– please.  Overwrought CGI and some sort of battle of the gods that looks like a cheap video-game. No, thank you.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows– oh, hell no.