Culture Review: Justice League

That I didn’t even know that Justice League was set to release upon the masses until about two weeks out should inform you to my “Hot Take™”. Look, I’m a nerdy white guy in my mid-30’s, of course I am compelled to unfurl my Hot Take™! I did not do my due diligence in reading reviews or giving a shit as to when the movie was coming out. I honestly thought it was going to be like next March or something! After Suicide Squad, I swore to the Batman on high that I would only watch movies with him in them. Which meant I still had to see Suicide Squad, which was a very big harbinger of things to come in the…DCEU?

I skipped Wonder Woman earlier this year because I don’t care about Wonder Woman, and was done doing my capitalist duty of “voting with my dollar”. It looked dumb, derivative and devoid of anything that would compel me to see it…and I was right. A recent viewing led to more head scratching as I saw nothing in the film that was being heralded as this giant turn around for the DCEU. Instead, it was just the plot of Captain America: The First Avenger, but with Wonder Woman in it.

This is also compounded by the notion that the DCEU is apparently the whipping boy for critics and their collective derision of superhero movies and Zack Snyder in particular. The same derision is extended to the likes of Michael Bay. It’s not without merit, but I’ve hardly found myself siding with critics any reviewers of any kind recently.

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Far from reviewing a piece of media…criticism these days is just an essay on the personal relationship a critic has with said media. I don’t get a nuance take on the film or why it’s found wanting or worthy of the one-and-a-HALF start review with text that doesn’t really back it up. I read a chunk of text, seen through the prism of whatever bugaboo the writer has and nothing more.

Of course, a feminist social justice flavored critic isn’t going to like the way that Gal Gadot is objectified in the film. Not even bothering to give examples, it’s just in there you guys…believe it! So much so that I humored the reviewer and looked for these nebulous male gaze fountain shots in the film. I guess that scene where Wonder Woman’s ass is framed in the foreground as she waits for Bruce Wayne from above her to deplane is one of the many culprits? I was even on the look out for the obvious camera pan from her ankles all the way up her leg to her ass then her boobs and then her face shotnothing. I mean, I am a man after all so my objectivity glasses aren’t up to par…but that I wasted any of my time trying to suss out said scenes shows just how inept our current critical class is.

Then you have the movie nerds, who with microscopic film vision, can somehow tell which scenes in the film have the weird Superman upper lip nonsense going on. In addition, they can tell with maximum assuredness which scenes were Zack Snyder flavored and which ones where Joss Whedon. No lies! It’s like they’re an insider or something…and were there or something…instead of…reality in which they weren’t and that aside from that pic Superman’s face that has been made a meme couldn’t tell you which Superman lip was CGI-ed or not!

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Moreover, what of the box office floppingness of the whole damn thing! The fact that the movie would need to clear three quarter of a billion dollars to break even is just plain silly. That it only made $90 million in its first weekend…DOOM! Well…DARKSEID!!!!
That speaks more to the absurd stakes of modern movie making…where an average superhero movie clearing the production budget of literally every other non-superhero movie in the calendar year is seen as a flop.

What’s more demoralizing is that Justice League was trying so hard to sprinkle some Marvel magic onto itself and play with the big kids, when what it was doing was just fine.

Yeah, maybe it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but there are more people like me out there that appreciated the darker tone that Zack Snyder was infusing in to the DCEU. Was it an odd fit for Superman…kind of…but what can you do in the 21st century to add wrinkle to a character like that? Really? Even the notion of saving Lois Lane all the time is absurdly dated…but that’s about all she’s good for…as the movies have borne out. Why not give him a little edge?

Most of us knew that Man of Steel was the aperitif of what Snyder really wanted to get up to….The Batman. And what titillated a nerd like me was that he was seemingly fan of the Frank Miller old ass bemuscled refrigerator box with a bat cowl Batman, who gave zero shits and beat the shit out of everyone. What’s not to love?

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Nevertheless, all the doom and gloom of the Snyder DCEU wasn’t palatable…to some? I don’t know why Justice League is such a retread of the Marvel magic I guess we all love apparently? It’s a bummer! While not as cloying or uninteresting as the two Avengers movies…Justice League has a little too much Whedon twee bullshit in it. Everyone has a quip, there’s humanizing “comedy” scenes that are most definitely the accursed reshoots mumbled about on The Internets just sort of jammed in here and there. There’s about as much time with the heroes out of costume as in…and for some reason…a Zack Snyder film is constrained to an under two-hour run time. Yet, it works.

The movie also clearly needed more time in the oven. The CGI, while not as aggressively horrible as it is in most Marvel movies, isn’t up to par. In particular, a scene where Cyborg turns to his right to shout some lines looked super bad. Here’s hoping that patch that up before a home release.

That all being said, if you’re just going to copy The Avenger template you can’t help but not do better the third time round, right? The main villain is vaguely less forgettable than any other Marvel bad guy. The villainous ubiquitous minions of the film can absorb host bodies and double their numbers…or seemingly, there are plenty with which to give our heroes something to do. Hell, there’s an even a small family in the middle of the “showdown area” that you can…root for?…and ultimately saved by the heroes. Mercifully, there aren’t many scenes of the Justice League posed butt-to-butt quipping about some plan of action or other vague bullshit “Hey, let’s wait for Superman to get here and sort this out” scene.

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That’s the true letdown of Justice League: it transcends in to the same vanilla ass cookie cutter nonsense as the Marvel superhero movies. Well, now they at least have discovered neon what with Guardians of the Galaxy allowing them to go a little weird because it focus tested “Okay” with dumdums. At least with Zack Snyder the DCEU had an aesthetic and voice. The films in it were of the same ilk as the ones that came before it: they were films with superheroes in them, not superhero movies. The reason that the Tim Burton and Chris Nolan Batman movies stand the test of time is that they are films primarily. The Marvel movies are going to be the ubiquitous 90’s action movies that become cable filler. You don’t need to have watched any of them to understand them…they make loud noises and flash bright colors at you and end. That’s why you can’t name more than two Marvel movie directors…because they don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. There’s no vision and the only cohesion is the tone and color palette from movie to movie. Socket in superhero, socket in villain, socket in watered down narrative from comic books, socket in vague connective tissue to extended universe. Press print button.

My Hot Take™ is the DCEU’s only problem is executive malfeasance from Warner Bros. It’s what jammed up Suicide Squad last year, kicked in Wonder Woman a little earlier this year and did a bang up of job neutering Justice League. For good…or for ill WB should stand by its creators and let them hash it out. Why try to copy Marvel? They took the time to establish this juggernaut extended universe and they flushed a goodly amount of turds along the way. Making Justice League look and feel like any other Marvel movie isn’t a corrective it’s injurious.

 

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Culture Review: Justice League

Movie Review: Logan

Just how low is the bar for comic book movies when something like Logan comes along and is lauded as some great and wonderful thing, when it’s just as turgid and banal as most of the X-Men movies its pretending not to be?

Logan eschews the Wolverine moniker that’s been stapled to these Hugh Jackman led films about the titular hero and his mutant rage induced deeds across time. I guess this is a nod in the change of “tone”, the hard “R” rating that allows to show all that glorious Wolverine carnage and allow actors to say “Fuck!” or “Shit!”. Yep, pretty much it. Oh, and a lady shows her boobs in a scene. Hooray…and totally worth it.

20th Century Fox looked to give Logan a wide a berth possible by just calling the film Logan. If it fails, then it won’t do much to the stellar X-Men film franchise. But if it does succeed, we can now go on to this heretofore unknown realm of a “R-rated” superhero films? If they are as boring, bland and cliché ridden as this film, then I’ll pass.

Logan has peak and valley pacing that makes itself quickly apparent, on top of it’s trope-addled script and hamfisted nostalgia boner churning you’d come to expect from a comic book movie.

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The cliché train barely pulls out of the station as we’re introduced to Wolverine, now just Logan I guess, visibly older and riddled with movie cancer (coughing up blood every two minutes). Apparently his sweet adamantium covered bones are poisoning him and since he’s older now, can’t quite heal fast enough. But that’s cool, he wants to die anyways.

In the mean time though, he’ll be a chauffer.

It is during one of these driving gigs he is accosted by a woman who wants to enlist Logan’s help. What’s that help you ask? Well, she wants Logan to take a feral little girl named “Laura” (Dafne Keen) to some place called Eden. Meanwhile, a bad guy with a robot arm (Boyd Holbrook) wants Laura returned to the evil scientists or the bigger bad more like. Basically the same old X-Men story we’ve seen again and again, and then Logan adds in clichés and tropes from other movies, cobbling together something different, but not altogether good.

Not that liberally borrowing tone and pacing from other films is necessarily a bad thing. But it becomes tedious when viewing Logan, the quiet moments are there for some sort of resonance that is never earned. Putting a like-minded little girl in a film doesn’t suddenly make Wolverine more relatable. Making them father/daughter less so. Adding some sort of old man wisdom fueled all knowing “familial love is the best” subtext with having Professor X (Patrick Stewart) be some sort of father figure to Logan and also this sheppard of “Logan is actually a good guy” doesn’t cement that notion anymore.

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More damningly is that Logan resides in this meta-universe where X-Men comics are a thing, and that the movie is basically ripping off the classic western Shane. Some would say “quoting” or “referencing”, but I get the idea that the filmmakers thought the comic book nerds and young people would have no real reference so “quote” away! Logan leans heavily on this “last of his type””part of a dying breed” trope so hard, that the notion that an old man and a little girl can “fix him what right” so absurd in the first place.

It’s where I start chaffing with the whole kid and old man element of the film. Perhaps I’ve just grown too cynical and I am beyond tired of comic book movies no matter what they try to stand apart from others in the “genre”. I preferred the direction the last Wolverine film, The Wolverine, over this one.

Director James Mangold mistakes slow and turgid with expansive and engaging. Thinking that if he just holds the camera in tight on an emotional scene with swelling orchestral music that that somehow deepens the film on something it never earned to begin with.

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The “R”-rating allowed visceral elements of Logan get washed away by their utter frequency and sameness. This is doubly so if you’ve been following the X-Men film franchise, wherein Wolverine is wedged in to every one of them to…well…Wolverine his way through a scene. Seeing blood spatter and limbs fly is effective once, but over and over and over…on top of adding a young clone Wolverine and “Laura” a little girl Wolverine type to the mix, just makes it tedious. Then add gun fights and children with super powers being chased by men in black fatigues and body armor, you got yourself a classic, boring ass X-Men movie!

This has been a problem 20th Century Fox has had with it’s comic book movies, they’ve been safe. Even the much lauded Deadpool was mired in telling an origin story and added a lover interest to make the character…more relatable? This “R” rating has done nothing to elevate either Logan or Deadpool. It’s allowed a freedom of sorts, but the most part its been squandered adding more blood and potty mouthed characters.

What’s even more alarming is that the Metacirtic user score for Logan is 9.0.…what the shit? Well, I guess the masses have spoken.

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Logan doesn’t transcend the comic book movie in to real movie excellence, regardless of its efforts to the contrary. The film is well acted, and shot beautifully, but that’s about the extent of it. The films up and down pace grows tiring after the second fight scene in to third quiet driving scene shows up. The grounded film making only works if the character on study is worth investing in. Wolverine as a character in the comic has plenty of that to draw readers in, the film version of him does not. There appears to be a purposeful drawing away from X-Men references to ground the film in realism, so there’s one Jean Grey reference, but no real reference to the last film and the things Logan went through in that one…let alone X:Men Origins and the other twelve times Wolverine showed up some where.

Just giving Wolverine “movie cancer”, lifting plots of classic westerns and tasking him to takecare of an old man and a kid just isn’t enough. Having him learn a life lesson just as he’s about to die isn’t either. That being said, it isn’t the worst of the X-Men film franchise and I wait with breathless anticipation for a new actor to be cast as Wolverine and the eventual relinquishment of rights back to Marvel so they can just reboot the whole damn thing.

Movie Review: Logan

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond


It seems like every couple of years an executive at Paramount Studios looks over the books, sees that they are a few hundred million dollars light of easy money, and then proceeds to green light another Star Trek movie. That is about as passionless all of these modern day Star Trek movies have felt. Top that off with franchise janitor extraordinaire J.J. Abrams and his cadre of Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof, and you are guaranteed some success at the box office.

Nevertheless, it is in that Abramsization that a lot of the soul of the Star Trek series was washed away in lieu of a glossy sheen, vacuous scripts, weak villains and lots and lots and lots of lens flare. Star Trek Beyond attempts to transcend that with a new director Justin Lin and a script by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, and it largely succeeds.

Gone is the egregious lens flare, the extreme close ups of peoples faces for no real reason, the glossiness of the future is toned down, and there’s actual Star Trek in a Star Trek movie instead of a bland action movie dancing around in a skin of stitched together Star Trek tropes and the other (better) movie plots stealing nonsense.

In addition, no Spock ex machina to be found! Hooray!st1Sadly, it all seems a bit too little too late, as aside from what was stated earlier, there’s largely nothing here on display either. Star Trek Beyond is the kind of summer movie that you see and then as you’re walking out of the theater is slowly leaves your brain. Therefore, when you decide to reflect on it, or hell, even try to recommend it to someone, there’s nothing noteworthy to say about it. Which is great for a movie in the summertime, but not so much if you’re a Trek fan?

However, that’s been the issue with this entire crop of modern day Star Trek movies, they’re largely empty affairs that are only meant to keep the Star Trek franchise name relevant and nothing more.

If you’re the kind of Star Trek fan that loves masturbatory shots of the Enterprise, you’ll find much to love about Beyond, as there are several shots lovingly draped around the ship as it docks, and later on, rebuilt. There’s also a fair amount of space action, but it’s largely one-sided affairs with the villain possessing a hive-like swarm of ships at his command that are meant to overwhelm and destroy, not hang out and chit-chat with humans.

The acting continues to be the strongest part of this franchise as by now all the actors have their parts down, and what I suspect a lttle nuance, with Chris Pine affecting a little Shatner in his captain logs. Keith Urban’s accent is still a little all over the map, and I swore I heard him try a little southern in an end scene. Idris Elba falls in to the age’s long Star Trek trap of trying to act around a lot of makeup and mouth prostheses that make his lines indiscernible at times.st2Elba is fairly standard as the movies antagonist, Krall, an entity bent on destroying Starfleet Academy for betraying him long ago. His primary point in the plot is to serve as a duality with Captain Kirk’s own burgeoning dissolution in the idea of his five-year captaining of the mission he is currently on. Days are blurring together, the alien races are unfriendly to the notion of Starfleet’s goal of planetary unity and he decides to apply for a vice admiral opening. This even goes to the hilarious symbolic heights of an end fight between Kirk and Krall who is wearing a yellow uniform top. This would be something worth knocking the film for had the last film not had that ham-handed Kahn scene.

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At a little over two hours, Beyond moves at a good clip, but still maintains its Star Trekyness in a sort of shorthand. Beautiful actresses in alien makeup, some macguffin that will do cataclysmic damage to something important, Captain Kirk self-sacrifice nonsense, Spock wet blanketing, Bones curmudgeon grumbling through scenes, Scotty bungling through cramped spaces, you get the idea. Nevertheless, that it stays compelling and not bog down the film is a credit to Justin Lin’s deft hand at directing.

I do hope that Simon Pegg and Doug Jung have a bigger hand in the scripts going forward, which looks to not be the case currently. Pegg and Jung were able to sprinkle just a little more Star Trek in to the modern day franchise that has been sorely lacking.

The more tired elements of the film are more a modern day movies problem than the films. Too many movie fights are the same tired martial arts laden affairs that are just there to provide “action” or make a character look “badass” or some other nonsense that fits poorly in the Star Trek franchise. Sulu is given more “dimensionality” by being gay now, which is somewhat useless and serves no real plot point. It perhaps giving the film stakes as his family lives on the station that Krall is going to destroy isn’t bothered with or even mentioned by the character. Just a picture of a little girl on the console and a couple of shots of Sulu’s husband running around looking scared as it is beset by Krall’s minions is it.st3In fact, a lot of the drama and deeper plot elements set forth in the first moments of the film are quickly jettisoned in favor of the main thrust of Krall’s plan and the action therein, never to be heard from again. Perhaps the next movie will pick those up for further examination? Probably not.

Star Trek Beyond isn’t nearly as flashy as its predecessors are, but it’s certainly just as entertaining in addition to being much more of a “Star Trek” movie. Justin Lin is proving to be a fantastic director with an ability to bring a clean action movie aesthetic (ridding the modern day Star Trek franchise of it’s glossy extreme close-ups and nausea educing shaky cam action), and still allow quieter moments to resonate in the film. Here’s to another three-year wait for the inevitable sequel.

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

I was never going to like Ghostbusters, but not because of all the reasons stated on social media why a person like me wouldn’t like it: ‘cuz there’s women all up in it, that all four Ghostbusters were women, and on and on. Once I really think about it, who wouldn’t love this movie? Everyone just loves being told how to appreciate or approach a piece of pop culture, be it a movie, piece of music or art. The best ways are always the most linear ways!

I knew I wasn’t going to like Ghostbusters from the moment Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy were attached. That match made in cinema heaven has been tops with the mouth breathing moviegoers for the past five years or so. I didn’t care for The Heat or Spy when I saw their respective trailers, and when the Ghostbusters trailer descended upon my eyeballs earlier this year it played out the same way. I also initially avoided Bridesmaids for the same reason; until enough good word of mouth got out that I watched it very later on.

 

Paul Feig’s movies aren’t just for me, and I acknowledge this. Nevertheless, what about when he comes to Nostalgiatown and starts another mine colony in my childhood? Can I not then voice that I would rather he didn’t and just keep making insipid “White bitch bumps in to shit and falls over” “comedies” without being labeled a misogynistic asshole?

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Yawn.

For me, watching Ghostbusters was more a social experiment than anything else was. How bad could it be? Well…not that bad.

Not because it’s not a mediocre movie, which it is profoundly so, it just hearkens back to the idea that I’ve floated many times in my reviews: there just aren’t all out bad movies being made anymore.

Hollywood isn’t in to experimenting to the hundreds of million dollars level, and there is no way that any movie being made these days is going to be handled ineptly or incompetently. Movie studious aren’t in the habit of just handing a movie over to someone who just “feels like” making a movie. So, movies these days are at least competently made.

As a reviewer, you then have to look at other areas of the film. That’s where the bulk of critique, at least for me, falls on the script, then the flow of the film, and finally the acting. Ghostbusters tries to be clever all coming out in the summer trying to negate its vacuous plot. This goes further in that if it’s indeed a “summer blockbuster” it is certainly lacking in the BIFF! BANG! POW! Of your standard summer fare. However, that’s because Paul Feig notoriously doesn’t direct action well.

Which is the largest problem I have with Ghostbusters: it just hangs around….talking. Which, to the films credit is to Paul Feig’s directing strength. But there’s a lot of static jibber-jabber scenes that clog up the films run time and really do nothing aside from allowing some of the most egregious product placement since the last Michael Bay movie. A pizza break prominently features a couple of gigantic Papa John’s boxes, Kevin’s (Christ Hemsworth) interview where he shows them potential logos houses a 7-Eleven gag, there’s a Twinkie ad later in the film with the caption “That’s a big…”, and so on. Yeah sure, this isn’t some new fangled concept of blatant product placement, but I don’t think I’ve ever beheld it being so loud and in your face before.

Ghostbusters is that kind of broad modern day comedy that spends more time reflecting on how funny it is and the characters making note of it. As if the screenwriters were unsure of a bit and needed to indulge in a script based self high-five. There are a few times were characters literally say, “That’s funny.” to a joke.

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Oh yeah, the ONE scene where the actually bust a ghost!

There’s also this odd thing that the movie does where it will cut to what is apparently going to be an improv scene, typically involving McCarthy and Wiig banally riffing, then it will cut right back in to the scene as if nothing happened. It’s really odd and it feels like something that could’ve been cut out of the film altogether.

For a movie pretending to be a “summer blockbuster” Ghostbusters takes it sweet time about things. Clocking in at nigh on two hours, it feels padded with the aforementioned “improv scenes”, needless cameos (an Ozzy Osbourne cameo…in2016!), and weird little side scenes that really do nothing for the film.

One in particular would be when the “bad guy” Rowan (Neil Casey) possesses Kevin and uses “ghost magic” to make a police force lock itself in to some sort of goofy poses. Why? It serves no real purpose, other than to give Matt Walsh and Michael Kenneth Williams more screen time. On top of this, those officers were surely crushed when Rowan turns in to a giant evil Ghostbusters logo. Nope, they’re fine, even one of the troops on a tank kept position throughout the entire decimation of New York! Ghost magic must be a hell of a thing!

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The bad guy!

Speaking of Rowan, what a turd of a character. Basically a mysoginerd hell-bent on “cleansing” the world because he has been picked on all his life. The film just blatantly tells us he’s creepy. He’s always addressed as being weird, creepy or a freak, but there’s nothing outside of that that would support those claims. If anything, Rowan is just a dick that just so happens to also hate women, but that is also inconclusive, as he apparently hates all humanity with the same passion.

When he turns in to a giant evil Ghostbusters logo, after a sorry nod to the “choose the form of your destroyer” from the original film, the Ghostbusters shoot him in the crotch to get him to let go of a some buildings and get sucked back in to…ghost world? Why? You could just shoot him in the face to get the same effect?! The characters even reference this notion with Patty (Leslie Jones) saying something along the lines of that’s where they were “supposed to aim”. Yet again, this is the type of movie comedy they chose to make.

Ghostbusters could’ve been a better film had it not tread in the ground of all the reboots and remakes before it. It doesn’t try to really stand on its own. The all-female thing is apparently the only true fresh take it had in its arsenal. It falls in to the reboot/remake trap of trying to wink and nod to fans of the original with throwaway gags and references (oh look a bust of Egon in a scene!) instead of trying to stand on its own. The script cannot decide if the characters address each other by their last names, as they did in the original film, or by their first names. There’s a dizzying vacillation in the film, and it seems as though the movie just needed one more pass before filming to make the references fit better.

Ghostbusters isn’t a horrible dogshit social justice pushing agenda film. It’s a Paul Feig movie which if that is what his films mean these days I guess the haters were right. It’s a summer film for the mouth breathers, like the ones in the audience at my viewing, who are eagerly anticipating the cameos, and clapped and cheered at the end credits. There’s a better movie in there somewhere, but we’ll never see it. Hopefully, the inevitable sequel will be able to stand on its own better now that it has done its poor imitation dance of the original.

Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

Movie Review: The Nice Guys

In the last moments of The Nice Guys an antagonist yells to Holland March (Ryan Gosling) “Why’d you have to bring the goddamned girl!” which is exactly what I was thinking as I watched this film!

Writer/Director Shane Black has a penchant for putting know-it-all asshole kids in to his movies, and in that, The Nice Guys doesn’t disappoint. With more than a few showing up to say the darnedest things…for comedy or levity…or something. More often than not, it lands, but with March’s daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) it’s starts to wear thin as you notice that she’s more or less crammed in there to provide unnecessary stakes to the proceedings.

However, that’s not nearly an issue as the movies turgid pacing in between excellent action scenes.

The Nice Guys is a buddy cop movie that Shane Black could do in his sleep, and as such it kind of feels like he was dozing a bit as he pads out action scenes with supremely dry “detective” work and clue sniffing, all in the hopes of it all tying together in the third act.

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“Greetings precocious teen, may you guide us to the next plot point? Oh my, you have such a potty mouth…how cute!”

 

I’m loathe to admit that I bought in to the hype of what The Nice Guys could’ve been. I mean, look at that trailer; it sells a pretty epic movie. But it’s in the watching where the film gets mired in all the puzzle pieces floating around, coming together just so, but in the end, not really meaning much of anything.

In interviews, Shane Black sold what the world of The Nice Guys was to be: a dirty, seedy late 70’s Los Angeles with all its dirty people and filthy smog. A noir of some sort, with two broken men just trying to do right. Moreover, it’s in the movie, but it gets crammed way down to facilitate Holly being mixed up in the shenanigans and “Oh you kids!” nonsense that started to take me out of the movie immediately.

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More often than not Holly felt like more a plot propulsion device rather than a fleshed out character worth caring for. To be cornered by antagonists only for Deus ex machinas coming out of nowhere to reset the plot to focus on two men trying to solve a case. The more I reflect on this film, the more I don’t care for it.

The late 70’s Los Angeles is talked about being a character in the various Shane Black interviews, but you couldn’t tell outside of the obvious overtures the film makes in loudly proclaiming the movies is set in the 70’s. With the cars, garish clothes, television (Hey, The Waltons was huge then!). Nevertheless, outside of that, it doesn’t matter what period this film was set it as it doesn’t take advantage of any of it. It’s feels more like Shane Black thought it would be cool to set a film in the 70’s and that was that.

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“Some lengthy, plot thread tying expository dialogue would go nicely here, thank you.”

Outside of some of the best movie action sequences in a long time, the lone bright spots in the film are Russell Crowe and Ryan Gossling as the leads. Both have great chemistry, which is vital for a buddy cop movie. Nevertheless, they’re stuck with two characters living in a movie that doesn’t quite fit them. The whodunit isn’t nearly as engaging as it tries to be, with the big bad kind of being a no brainer and you’re not really sure why all of this is such a big deal in the first place. The only thing I can think of is that it’s narrative justification to escalate to bigger, meaner action sequences. Which is fine in-and-of-it-self, but it starts unmooring itself from the gritty, grounded world that the writer’s have established.

With his work on Iron Man 3, Shane Black proved that he was and still is the master of action movies. The Nice Guys proves that maybe his lesser tendencies need to be corralled a bit more and he still has a long way to go as a director. His camera hangs preciously on almost every scene, as if they have much more importance than first glance. For a noir type film, that certainly could be used effectively, but in this film it only goes to slow the pace down to a constant watch glancing crawl, where you just want the next action scene to pop up, if only to be punished with more turgid meandering clue work afterwards.

Perhaps The Nice Guys will be better as an edited for time cable movie that cuts a lot of the fat off the films run time. I’d say start with the Holland March family house rebuilding C-story, as it really does nothing for the film. At almost 2 hours the film is just too damn long, and is in desperate need of more editing.

Movie Review: The Nice Guys

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

Let’s get this out up front: I don’t care for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I don’t like the MCU birthed onslaught of the worse mouth breathing, talking-during-the-entire-run-of-the-movie fan boys (and girls) that make watching these movies such a chore. I wish the movies in the MCU could stand on their own. I would really like to be able to get up and exit the theater after the movie without stepping on those same mouth breathers who are glued to their seats in sweaty anticipation of a couple of post-credits scenes that “set up” other MCU bullshit.

That being said, I like the Captain America movies, and am quite fond of Iron Man 1 and 3. I think of all the MCU nonsense those movies stand better on their own than the rest. I made the mistake of reading reviews that asserted that knowing what happened in Avengers: Age of Ultron would go a long way in enjoying what happens in Civil War. Of course, they were wrong, I should’ve boned up by re-watching Winter Solider. And we wonder why no one listens to critics anymore?

Sure, Civil War takes place about a year after the events of Age of Ultron, but the only continuing action from that film is the destruction of Sokovia having dire implications to how the world views the actions of the Avengers. Coupled with a bunch of other cataclysmic events both seen and unseen, it is decided to reign the Avengers in. Iron Man/Tony Stark thinks this is a good idea Captain America doesn’t…CIVIL WAR!!!!

To keep with this faux Avengers sequel notion, I’d like to note that I’m glad the Russo brothers are helming the next Avengers movies. While I respect the effort Joss Whedon went through in helming the previous Avengers movies, he just doesn’t do the superhero movie justice like the Russo brothers have shown with their Captain America movies.
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Ostensibly, Civil War is a mini-Avengers movie set up inside of a Captain America vehicle and the Russo brothers are seemingly dealing with a veritable boatload of characters to service. The previous Avengers movies would always grind to a halt in order to deal with characters and the various underlying issues/plots. Did we really need that protracted Hawkeye’s family bullshit in Age of Ultron? The Hulk and Black Widow nonsense…and on and on. Civil War includes tiny characters moments, especially furthering the Vision/Scarlet Witch romantic subplot…but it doesn’t bog down the film. In fact, a lot of elements that would’ve ground down lesser comic book movies, are more the aperitif of the film instead of a monstrous side dish of distraction.

Unlike Whedon, the Russo brothers are experts in staging fight sequences with too many characters and making it work. The problem I had with both the first Avengers movies and Age of Ultron was that the fight scenes were either too busy, or  more often felt like a calculated “What is Character X up to…let’s see!” checklist, instead of feeling organic and fluid as it does in Civil War. It could be argued that perhaps the vaunted Marvel Studios malfeasance was to blame in that, but one could also argue that Civil War was met with a similar stick and turned out a better product for it.

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After watching Civil War, I’m more prone to fancy the idea that Marvel just starts utilizing a cadre of directors for their films. This committee of directors would “direct” all the MCU movies and they would be much better “products” for it. Even though his action direction is a bit sub par, Whedon does play the smaller more “comic book” elements of the movies better than others do. Get James Gunn to round out all the films in that odd, fantastical element that resides in the comic books as well. Since the fear of any of these movies failing is becoming farcical at this point, why not?

They’re already doing something in Civil War I’ve long been asking for: dispensing with the character origins. They introduce Spider-Man to the MCU; they cover what he’s all about in a little less than ten minutes. They introduce Marisa Tomei as the new Aunt May and throw him in to the mix. This same economy of plot is given to introducing Black Panther, I’m sure they’ll go a bit more in depth with these two characters in their respective movies, but Civil War itself gives these characters just enough motivation to pick a “side” in the conflict, but not grind the film to a halt in doing so.

Contrary to many critics, Civil War is indeed a Captain America sequel. On top of this, it goes a bit farther in filling in the gaps in the past with both Cap and Iron Man with the respective Winter Soldier tying the two together in even further Civil War-ing in the revelation that he killed Stark’s parents.
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If this was indeed an “Avengers-lite” sequel as we are led to believe, I think we would’ve gotten a bit more of Iron Man’s motivations and thoughts to the proceedings, but we are not outside of a broad stroke “Tony Stark feels bad because a woman was all ‘You guys killed my boy!’ to him one time.”.

Speaking of Tony Stark feelings, a lot of praise has been heaped on Robert Downey Jr’s performance in this movie, as if he wasn’t the entire catalyst to the MCU having any respectability?! Being a good actor was the entire point of having him in Iron Man, and thus lending the notion that these Marvel comic book movies were going to be different from past comic book movies. That Marvel Studios was going to do the work in making this MCU thing something great. They have used a philosophy to great success. It’s why these Marvel movies have attracted such a wide variety of mouth breathers to their gates, it simply cannot be ignored.
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All that being said, Downey Jr’s acting is the least important thing in the entire movie. That’s MY biggest problem with all these MCU movies: they’re fine. There’s nothing so great about them, they’re filmed competently, acted competently, but they don’t take risks. Say what you will about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but at least Zack Snyder tried something with the DC characters. It’s biggest problem, critically speaking, was that it wasn’t like the MCU movies or some shit. And to me it was readily apparent critics were just waiting to shit on that movie, regardless of quality.  Parlaying their general feelings of comic book movie fatigue on to a perceived “lesser” movie, moviegoers be damned!

Captain America: Civil War is a good movie and a great way to kick off the summer movie blockbuster season. We can only wait and see if the next Marvel property based movie Dr. Strange can keep the whole MCU ship upright.

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

Movie Review: Deadpool


It seems that in order to get a movie about Deadpool made a Faustian deal occurred: The Marvel Powers That Be (along with apparently all X-Men Universe rights owners Fox) will only deign the right for this movie to exist if it’s couched in the safest of origin stories, sands off all the characters rough edge’s, has no other notable comic book character or actor from myriad other properties, and be saddled with what is comparatively an indie budget compared to other comic book movies especially those based in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (that name is still the stupidest).

Against all odds, Deadpool works! Then the torrent of caveats that always follow any comic book movie. It’s lacking a lot of what makes Deadpool a great comic book character and things should’ve seamlessly transferred to the silver screen nicely.

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The eponymous character in question…being Deadpool

On top of this, there has to be a collective weariness from moviegoers about the half-a-dozen or so comic book movies that they have to endure every year. Deadpool does alleviate quite a bit of that weariness by proving, in parts, that you can produce something original and fun to watch without strapping it to a continuity anchor like MCU and all its unnecessary ties from one movie to another. Since 20th Century Fox apparently owns the X-Men, Deadpool doesn’t get to play with the others, and that’s probably for the best.

The underlying problem with Deadpool, as with most comic book movies, is that in the transition to the big screen it has to lose the elements that make that character stand out. The character is homogenized just enough to be recognizable to comic book nerds, but palatable to the average moviegoer. Which by this point has to be proving fallacious, as all of the comic book movie homogenization has just made more comic book nerds moviegoers and vice-a-versa? Marvel sells more Deadpool merchandise; Fox makes a bunch of money and earns a new franchise to beat mercilessly in to the ground. Everyone wins.

And while the movie pokes fun at it’s severely limited budget, bland bad guy, and lack of A-Team X-Men, it doesn’t mask the fact that Deadpool is a very SAFE comic book compared to what it could’ve been had the studio trusted the creative team behind the movie and let Deadpool rip. Perhaps the sequel, which will have that vastly expanded budget can expound on that and deliver a truer Deadpool experience (whatever that is). And maybe get rid of the whole “fiance origin story” humanizing nonsense?

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See look, he’s actually a GOOD GUY! Drink your cancer slowing juice drink!

The constant need to maintain a “safe” quality of the film is to make Wade Wilson/Deadpool a truly good person that just happens to believe he is an antihero. Early on in the film, Wade Wilson is shown scaring a young pizza delivery boy in to refraining from stalking some girl. Said girl hired Wilson’s “services” in the matter who uses the opportunity to do a little freelance work for a guy that owes some gambling debts. This continues with Wilson’s relationship with Vanessa Carlysle, to the point where the two are engaged before he is dealt a cancer diagnosis.

This seeming terminal diagnosis and need to do “what is best” for Vanessa leads Wilson to undergo nasty treatments to unlock latent mutant powers. Where he just so happens to run in to the boilerplate (and boring) villains of the movie and essentially annoys them in to being his enemies. Classic Deadpool!

Some reviewers have copped to this notion that the lack of Deadpool himself is what makes the film work. Upon watching the film myself, I don’t really buy that. It appears as though the studio bought Ryan Reynolds and was not so keen on keeping him hidden behind a mask. So there are lots and lots of unmasked Ryan Reynolds in this movie, both pre-and-post mutation. The reason why Deadpool fails to return to Vanessa is that he thinks she’ll find his disfigured face abhorrent, lending a certain vanity that I don’t think the comic book character actually possesses.

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British bad guy “Ajax” or Francis Freeman if you prefer (spoilers: he doesn’t like being called Francis)

Deadpool vaguely earns its R rating via mostly cussing and very little else. A boob here, a shadowy shape of a dick there, but nothing that wouldn’t find itself in a comic book these days. It is far less clever than I think the writers thought it was at the time.

This R-rating also belies the notion that this movie is aimed a teen aged boys, and from some reason that is a determent to the film. This had to be patently absurd, is this movie not deriving itself from a comic book? Which are predominantly marketed to pubescent boys and man-children? What, now that comic book’s are transitioning to film they suddenly have to “grow up” to be taken seriously as a medium?

 

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Oh…here’s an X-Men…but it’s Colossus…Boo!!!!

Deadpool, like many comic book movies, just does enough to justify its existence: to entertain “average moviegoers” and not let it “true fans” down. Once again, comic book nerds are falling in line behind this movie because “they didn’t fuck it up”.

Shouldn’t we be demanding more from our comic book movies? Especially now that we’re deep in to this perpetual comic book movie cycle? While not all of the comic book movies are going to be winners, most of them (at the very least) tend to make their money back. This is a genre of film that could use a lot more imagination and creativity, especially if we have umpteen years of this bullshit!

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Movie Review: Deadpool