Archives for posts with tag: action

Spoilers, obviously.

As a pretty severe Star Wars nerd, I disliked this movie. I resent the toxic combination of fan service to the original series and spiteful defiance of the existing Extended Universe. This was a crappy riff on The Empire Strikes Back and I wish it had been Dark Force Rising. You could even cast Oscar Isaac as Grand Admiral Thrawn. He’s been painted blue before.

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As a person who has seen a film before, I hated this movie. Somehow, at two and a half hours long, it managed to be both frenetic and boring. Even the laughs were telegraphed and rather joyless. Most of the emotional beats relied on the real death of Carrie Fisher, which is cheap and lazy.

Look. A Star Wars movie does not require six acts, especially if nothing really happens in most of them, and it would be easier to care about some of these people if they weren’t stupid. If a single errant TIE fighter will destroy your entire squadron of bombers, perhaps your formation needs reconsidering. If you’re infiltrating a fancy casino, don’t break everything, and don’t trust the first guy you meet in jail. You met him in jail. If your mutiny only lasts for thirty seconds because you didn’t do some very basic forward planning, maybe every insulting thing Laura Dern has said to you is true.

Oscar Isaac is still ludicrously handsome (and in case you were forgetting, both Carrie Fisher and Laura Dern are there, slightly creepily, to remind you). The lightsaber battle of Kylo Ren and Rey against the red people was visually striking and the final battle on the mineral planet was visually stunning, with its trails of blood-red salts. Porgs are cute. But this patchwork preachy nonsense is not a movie.

Stray observations (VERY SPOILERY):

  • Astral projection is asinine and if Luke was just going to die anyway he could have just shown up. And the bait-and-switch with Leia’s death was not only cheap but actually offensive.
  • Laura Dern is cool and all, but why do women in the military command structure of the Resistance wear drapey and impractical clothes? Mon Mothma wasn’t a general, and Carlist Rieekan never showed up anywhere in his goddamn pajamas.
  • Hey, Poe? I know you love your droid, but a lot of people just died. Read the room.
  • “I’m with the Resistance.” Cool, Rose. He’s eight, and doesn’t look especially politically aware.

Director: Rian Johnson
Rating: PG-13
Length: a way, way too long 152 minutes
Score: 2/5

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MV5BMTcyNzk5NDg1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTM5MDQxNDM@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Not your mother’s buddy-cop comedy,” we are told. I wish it had been. I would have liked it a lot more. Instead it was tonally inconsistent and gory.

LA, some time, some universe. Lots of different species live there: the Elves are all rich, the Orcs get the crap beaten out of them by the LAPD in front of their wives, the humans seem pretty standard. Ward (Will Smith) is a human cop, and he’s been shot in the chest by an Orc robber. Now his new partner, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), is an Orc. No one is thrilled about this, and Ward’s police friends (Margaret Cho, Ike Barinholtz, some others) are impressively gross about it.

I expected this to be a parable about racial difference, and if the jokes had been as good as the first ten minutes promised, that would have been a solid film. But no, there’s a bunch of supernatural nonsense instead. There are (gasp!) evil Elves, led by Noomi Rapace, and a crazy Elf lady with a magic wand that drips glowing blue goo and kills people (Lucy Fry), and gangs of mean Orcs and gangs of mean humans, and a lot of not making sense. Oh, and a prophecy!

It may have been better as a series, à la “Almost Human.” Then the world-building would have been less rushed, and the magical Feds (Edgar Ramírez and Happy Anderson) might have been more than vestigial, which probably I would have enjoyed. Or at least understood.

Director: David Ayer
Rating: TV-MA
Length: 117 minutes
Score: 2/5

MV5BMjMyNDkzMzI1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODcxODg5MjI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Or, Thor: Ragnarok.

So. The Thor movies might be my favorite, as an oeuvre, because the Iron Man movies start out over-written and the Captain America movies become tedious. The Thor movies are just kind of joyously bad.

Except this one, which is joyously rather good.

Odin (Anthony Hopkins) dies, which depresses his sons and releases his daughter, Hela (Cate Blanchett), from imprisonment. She is the goddess of death, and she wants to take over Asgard. She manages to banish both Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to a garbage planet on which Thor becomes an enslaved gladiator and Loki becomes a member of the local dirtbag elite, because of course. This planet is managed by Jeff Goldblum (Jeff Goldblum), who runs the fights and has a hilarious and bloodthirsty assistant, Topaz (Rachel House). Also there is Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), an angry drunk lady (Tessa Thompson), and a sentient walking rock called Korg, who is voiced by Taika Waititi and exists solely for comic relief. He is terrific.

Naturally much of the film is the attempt to get back to Asgard and deal with Hela, but, unlike other Marvel movies which would take the “dead dad” and “goddess of death” and “fraternal friction” tropes and go to a miserable place of tiresome angst, Ragnarok keeps it light. That is not to say that this film does not take things seriously–it does, but with Waititi’s deft touch it does not get bogged down in the gravity. The movie is a little too long, but the pacing is sufficiently frenetic that this rarely grates.

And the soundtrack is great. It’s not trying too hard to motivate a specific kind of nostalgia (Guardians of the Galaxy, I’m looking at you), but is instead humorously on-the-nose: Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” for Thor’s theme or “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka during what seems like an acid trip.

Stray observations:

  • “I’m not a witch.” “Then why are you dressed like one?”
  • Is Loki ever going to get a real person haircut? Also: this was a return to the original Thor‘s endless string of squirrelly Loki faces and I am at home for that.
  • I’m glad that Idris Elba isn’t too proud to continue being in these movies. A soupçon of Heimdall is very welcome.

Director: Taika Waititi
Rating: PG-13
Length: 130 minutes
Score: 4/5

It’s not clear how I managed to avoid seeing this for nearly a decade and a half. It’s dreadful, but in a rather pleasing way (unlike Van Helsing, for instance, of a similar vintage and genre). Underworld seems to act as a bridge between Anne Rice (rock and roll, way too much attention paid to clothes, a rather teenage stab at eroticism) and Stephenie Meyer (war with the werewolves, a blue filter, no personalities whatsoever). Also there’s Michael Sheen!

MV5BMjIxNDExNDEyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODY1OTkxMw@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_In a heavily blue-filtered city in eastern Europe (?) populated by American doctors but policemen in Mercedes Benzes, a woman starts a voice-over. There’s been a war between Vampyres and Lycans for at least six? fourteen? centuries. For some centuries, since the death of Lucian (Michael Sheen) at the hands of Kraven (Shane Brolly), the Vampyres have been ascendant. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a Vampyre assassin or “death-dealer,” and fears they may have done too good a job exterminating the Lycans. Then she will be bored, because she enjoys killing Lycans, because they killed her family. Duh.

But there’s a wrinkle! Lucian is OBVIOUSLY NOT DEAD. And the Lycans are chasing a human called Michael (Scott Speedman) for nefarious purposes of their own! So Selene is not bored. Instead she wakes up a fancy elder Vampyre, Viktor (Bill Nighy), and shenanigans, they ensue.

Sure, Selene is discount Trinity, black vinyl, trenchcoat, and all. One wonders what Scott Speedman is even doing here. But Michael Sheen looks less embarrassed than he did in Twilight, and Bill Nighy is welcome here, or as Davey Jones, or wherever he feels like showing up.

Does the mythology make sense? No, not at all. Is that the problem with the movie? Not even a little bit.

There are four more of these. Hooray!

Stray observations:

  • There are a lot of guns for a monster movie. But! the Vampyres use silver bullets and the Lycans use UV bullets, so it’s cool.
  • Bill Nighy’s Vampyre make-up is apparently water-soluble, which is a problem.
  • Wentworth Miller has hair. It’s weird.

Director: Len Wiseman
Rating: R
Length: 121 minutes
Score: 2/5

MV5BZDRiOGE5ZTctOWIxOS00MWQwLThlMDYtNWIwMDQwNzBjZDY1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjU0OTQ0OTY@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Into Darkness was so uninspiring that Beyond didn’t prompt me to go to the cinema. And while perhaps it was better on a big screen, I’m glad its cost was only the marginal one of a Hulu membership rather than whatever crazy amount the kids are asking at the movies these days.

Jim Kirk’s (Chris Pine) birthday is coming up. You may recall that this is also the day on which his father died, and, if you don’t, this movie is going to have some daddy issues come out of nowhere to remind you. That’s right, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, all of like twenty-eight years old, and in command of the nicest fanciest fastest awesomest starship ever to grace the galaxy, is moping into his stolen scotch about how he’ll never achieve anything.

And then he acts like a dumbass.

Some lady alien (I think Lydia Wilson?) comes hurtling out of a nebula towards a space station bleating a distress call. So the Enterprise goes into the nebula after her crew that is obviously a trap. And some other alien, Krall (Idris Elba), cuts the Enterprise apart with swarms of tiny spaceships and she crashlands on a planet and the crew is dispersed and/or enslaved until Krall can unleash a weapon to destroy the Federation.

It’s basically The Rock, but in space and worse.

Because (spoiler alert, and I don’t even care) of course Krall is actually some Starfleet captain who disappeared centuries ago and then felt abandoned by the Federation and now he’s hanging out on space-Alcatraz until he can destroy space-San Francisco with his weird space-nerve gas. Somehow he has also developed some sort of magic-adjacent skill whereby he can suck the life out of people and prolong his life. All he has to do is touch them and then he starts looking increasingly weird and unlike Idris Elba and seriously why hire Idris Elba if you’re going to put him in nineteen tons of make-up.

It’s really dumb, and it doesn’t hang together, and it’s not even that much fun, even though Simon Pegg helped write it. Sulu’s happy home life is maybe the best part, and that’s fifteen seconds.

Director: Justin Lin
Rating: PG-13
Length: 122 minutes
Score: 2/5

This movie came out 20 years ago, and I had almost no idea what happened in it. That is to say, I thought it was Air Force One, but with Nic Cage as Gary Oldman. It’s not.

Cameron Poe (Cage) is an Army Ranger from Alabama. We are told. His accent is from nowhere on Earth and presumably from nowhere else either. Some guys are unpleasant to his wife, Tricia (Monica Potter), in a bar, and then try to beat him up too. He accidentally kills one of them, and goes to prison. Eight years later, a parolee, he is put on a prison transport plane home. It’s his daughter’s birthday, and he’s never seen her.

MV5BMGZmNGIxMTYtMmVjMy00YzhkLWIyOTktNTExZGFiYjNiNzdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Here is our second infusion of characters. There’s a young, by-the-book US Marshal Larkin (John Cusack), and an older swashbuckler who drives a convertible with the plate “AZZ KIKR” (Colm Meaney) on the good side. For the villains, a litany of goofy nicknames and surprisingly major actors: Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich), Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames), a serial rapist called Johnny 23 (Danny Trejo), and total weirdo who apparently once wore a victim’s face as a hat (Steve Buscemi), among others. They hijack the plane. Nic Cage tries to stop them from escaping.

Aside from the accent, and the terrible hair, and the outfit, Cage is mostly fine. Malkovich and the rest of them are convincingly off-putting in various stations on the train line to Psychotown. John Cusack is a weenie, Colm Meaney is a jackass. Dave Chappelle is Dave Chappelle.

It’s bad. But it commits, so I’ll allow it.

Director: Simon West
Rating: R
Length: 115 minutes
Score: 2/5

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So this was always going to be refried Captain America. And to a certain extent they tried to make it not that, but not so much that they could avoid a guy, named Steve, leaving his lady love, in a plane, with a horrible weapon on board, and not planning to make it back. So not very hard.

Which is a shame, because a lot of the other stuff was quite good. It’s the first DC Comics movie in a while that didn’t make me fall asleep or want to die, for starters (Between this and “Powerless,” there’s rather a charm offensive going on, isn’t there?). Lucy Davis as a harried secretary was delightful. And Diana’s advance across No Man’s Land was visually stunning and emotionally affecting.

Quick capsule of the plot, for those of you currently living under rocks: Diana (Gal Gadot) is raised on the island of Amazons, who are biding their time until Ares is released back into the world and they must defeat him. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is an American spy and pilot who stumbles upon them. Diana decides that she must help him rescue the Germans from the influence of Ares. Imperial Germany is represented by General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya), who are developing a still more terrible gas to release in the trenches. With their ragtag bunch of not-heroes–a vaguely shell-shocked Scottish sniper, Charlie (Ewen Bremner), a womanizing would-be actor, Samir (Saïd Taghmaoui), and a First Nations smuggler whose name I didn’t catch and who is billed as Chief (Eugene Brave Rock)–they go into Belgium in search of the plant that produces this weapon.

Diana’s childhood and origin story are well done, and her relationships with her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and her mentor Antiope (Robin Wright) are largely charming if, you know, pretty exposition-heavy. The introduction of Steve and their mutual lack of comprehension is played for perhaps not enough laughs, and Diana’s failure to understand Edwardian fashion would be unbearable if not for Lucy Davis’s tremendous side-eye. The action stuff is not half-assed, although I suspect the effects will age rather badly. The film utterly fails to give the audience a sense of the scope of the war.

And this might be where it lost me. Diana–despite being a superweapon and speaking however many languages–was painfully dense. She never figured out how big the war was, partly because she interrupted everyone who tried to explain, and her constant lecturing just made her look self-righteous and naïve. Which, pardon me, is not a great look. I get that we’re trying to say something deep about humanity and evil or whatever, and something feminist about how women something or other, but if your paladin is too dumb to understand metaphors or numbers larger than four, it’s rough.

She was gorgeous and noble and athletic and her trench salon blowout was truly remarkable, but complete the goddamn thought.

Stray observations:

  • I would have thought that, in an equestrian society without the male gaze, there might be more trousers.
  • It was nice to see some downtrodden Belgian soldiers with their tasseled caps; they always get skipped. In fact, there is a refreshing variety generally of Allied forces.
  • She knows the difference between hydrogen- and sulfur-based weaponized gases, but not what the “front” is? Okay.

Director: Patty Jenkins
Rating: PG-13
Length: 141 minutes
Score: 4/5

To be honest, I enjoyed the hell out of this. Does that mean it’s any good? Yes and no. Look, it’s not my fault if you expected this to be either the happy-go-lucky nonsense of the Brendan Fraser original or an actual proper film. Would either option have been better? Probably.

You know the plot. An Egyptian princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), nearly manages to summon Ultimate Evil into the world, but she’s stopped just in time, mummified alive, and buried in the desert. Some time later, an unscrupulous antiquities looter, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), his dimwitted sidekick (Nick from “New Girl”), and a beautiful archaeologist, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), find the mummy, free the mummy, and must defeat the mummy. Since this one is set in the present, there’s more ISIS and science-adjacent goofiness. Neither of these is an improvement.

MV5BMjM5NzM5NTgxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDEyNTk4MTI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Among the film’s strengths are its energy, Cruise’s commitment, and, occasionally, Nick from “New Girl”‘s comedic chops. One gets the impression that every pitch meeting Cruise attends now ends with him saying, “Sure, but turn it up to eleven.” Mummy not enough for you? Crusader zombies! Tom Cruise has been on screen for seven whole minutes? Drop a missile on him! Archaeologists in films aren’t wifty enough already? Add Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) into the mix! And Edward Hyde (Russell Crowe with less make-up)!

So, yeah, it’s not half-assed. But it’s not really something worth whole-assing. It doesn’t add anything except unnecessary moralizing and special effects. It’s not quite silly enough–one feels the lack of John Hannah keenly. Boutella, one feels, is wasted in her rôle. We all know she’s athletic and beautiful, but Ahmanet could have slightly more personality. And whatever, Jenny. I get that we don’t want to have Evelyn’s cutesy incompetence, but you’re a cipher. And no woman archaeologist wears her hair down in the field.

Everyone told me this was awful, and it wasn’t awful. It was mindless and full of explosions, which is what I expected and wanted. Get a great big bag of popcorn.

Director: Alex Kurtzman
Rating: PG-13
Length: 110 minutes
Score: 3/5

To be fair to this movie, I didn’t see all of it, couldn’t hear it at all, and I may have been napping while I got a mani-pedi for large swaths of it. That may be the reason it got a one rather than a nil out of five. I’m definitely sure I don’t want to know more about it.

A Chinese general raises a long-dead emperor for purposes I’m not aware of. This long-dead emperor is played by Jet Li because I guess Jet Li also must pay the bills. Rick (Brendan Fraser) and his wife (not played by Rachel Weisz this time but instead Maria Bello) are trying to find Shangri-La, I think. They do, anyhow. They bring their son, named something other (Luke Ford), and, of course, John Hannah.

The son meets a girl, Lin (Isabella Leong), and eventually we find out that she is the immortal daughter of Michelle Yeoh, who guards the fountain of youth(?) in Shangri-La. Naturally Jet Li needs to find the fountain to be brought fully back to life and regain his ability to turn into a three-headed dragon. Which he does, and also raises the famous army of terra cotta soldiers to fight….something. It looks pretty cool, I won’t lie.

But Michelle Yeoh’s long-dead husband then also raises a zombie army to fight the terra cotta soldiers so we’re back at square one? But I think Rick’s kid finds out how to love or something, after a long series of mildly to moderately gross firearm/genital jokes.

Also, there are yetis, but they’re on our side.

Director: Rob Cohen
Rating: PG-13
Length: 112 minutes
Score: 1/5

mv5bmtc5otk4mtm3m15bml5banbnxkftztgwodcxnjg3mde-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_In the near-ish future, aliens invade. They seem to be octopus-whirlwinds of metal and energy, and they are unstoppable. It turns out that part of why they are unstoppable is that they can manipulate time, and therefore can restart battles every time they lose. In an unsubtle touch, they landed first in Hamburg, and we see their shadow spread across Europe.

As the film begins, the united armed forces of the rest of the world are preparing for an all-out assault, a landing on the Normandy beaches from flying troop-carriers. A single victory, at Verdun (of course), has given them new confidence. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the Angel of Verdun, is their new hero. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) arrives in London, thinking he will continue his job in military PR. And he will, but while embedded in a unit that storms the beaches. He is…not sold on this.

This is the glory of the film. Cage is handsome, smooth, amoral, and needs a swift kick in the ass. When he wakes up in Dover and Bill Paxton yells at him to join his comrades and not wimp out of something for the first time in his life, you are on Bill Paxton’s side. You’re a little bit sorry for him as he lands in the shallows and struggles onto land, because no one even bothered to tell him how to take the safety off. And then he dies! Both he and Rita have managed to acquire the aliens’ time-shifting ability, and so Cage must figure out how to use this to win the war. Progress is incremental, and painful. Rita trains him painstakingly–his pains. Since time resets when he dies, it makes sense to put him out of his misery any time he is even slightly injured. You get to watch Tom Cruise bite it so many times.

And a lot of those times, Emily Blunt shoots him in the goddamn face. She, too, is amazing in this movie. Rita’s absolutely tough as nails, but there’s never the feeling that the rôle was written for a man, as is often the case in such situations. Since they do not share memories (time-jumping will do that), they both get hideously frustrated and sad about their inability, sometimes, to communicate. It’s surprisingly affecting.

This movie is funny, clever, different, and unexpectedly deep. You should watch it.

(Also, it has a billion minor British actors–Jonas Armstrong, Lara Pulver, Charlotte Riley, Noah Taylor–who are a delight.)

Director: Doug Liman
Rating: PG-13
Length: 113 minutes
Score: 5/5