Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Steven Spielberg has earned his place as one of history's greatest directors. E.T., Indiana Jones, Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, and I could go on and on. He now is tasked with developing the popular Ernest Cline Novel, Ready Player One. Video games are a tough sell for the adult audience, but this time around could be different. Ready Player One is pure nostalgic yet futuristic fun! I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning.
2045 and the world is a different place. Especially in an over crowded trailer park in Columbus,OH. The world's population spends the majority of its time in virtual reality. Everyone has an avatar. A video game version of themselves that usually looks vastly different. They all occupy a world called The Oasis. Wade Watts ( Tye Sheridan) discovers clues to a hidden game within the program that promises the winner full ownership of the OASIS. He joins several allies to try to complete the game before indentured players working for a large company, run by Nolan Sorrento ( Ben Mendelsohn), can do so.
It has been awhile since I have had this much fun in a movie. Yes it is a lot of CGI. It has very cheesy moments and conveys a message. It was just fun. The video game world is filled with pop culture characters and references. The sound track is amazing. The best since the first Guardians of the Galaxy.
I was on sensory overload trying to see all the characters and references packed into this thing! Street Fighter, Ninja Turtles, Thundercats, and the list goes on and on. The plot is fairly simple and easy to follow. It is a throwback to a time when the story was simple.
Ben Mendelsohn does it again. He was great in Rogue One as the bad guy and is perfectly cast here. I love villains that have the right blend of likeability and sinister. You never root for him, but you want him to get what he deserves.
Overall, the cast is solid. I am not a fan of Tye Sheridan, but he is surrounded by the right people. There is a twist to one of the characters that I won't spoil, but it was fun. It plays well with the tone of the story and isn't forced at all. T.J. Miller is great as the henchman. We never see the reveal of his human character and I wonder if that was intentional given the bad accusations that surround him.
Ready Player One does what it is supposed to do. It makes you forget about life for a couple of hours. It doesn't try to hard. It is beautiful to look at and most of all, it is fun! You might not catch all of the references on the first watch, but it is fun trying. Suspend belief, enjoy the nostalgia, and play this game. Well, watch this movie.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Movies based on video games have a rough go of it at the box office. We are a few weeks away from the Rock trying to break that curse with Rampage, but first we get a new Tomb Raider. This franchise had a go in the early 2000's with Angelina Jolie. Needless to say, those films met mixed reviews at best. This time, there is no Angelina. It is largely a cast of actors that we have seen before, but are not exactly household names. Alicia Vikander takes on the title role in this complete reboot.
At a time when girl power is at an all time high, we get a new Lara Croft. Can the reboot break the curse and capitalize on the success of Wonder Woman? Let's see.
A younger Lara Croft has not claimed the wealth that her father left behind. She trains in mixed martial arts and is employed as a bike messenger. Refusing to sign the paperwork declaring her father dead, she struggles to make ends meet. She soon learns that her father was more than a buisness man. She begins to question his death and sets out to solve the mystery of his whereabouts. After finding a map and his journal, she sets off on an adventure. Young Lara must push herself beyond her limits to save the world from an ancient evil.
Alicia Vikander shines. She is smaller in build than the video game character, but you do believe her as Lara Croft. The girl definitely has an it factor. The problem with Tomb Raider is pacing. The action scenes are great, but they are clumped together. You go from all, to nothing, and then back to all. It just feels rushed at times and then long slow periods between action. The rest of the cast is also kind of wasted.
Walton Goggins is terrific actor. He can do comedy like in Vice Principals, drama like Justified, and can be the villain like he is here. I just felt like he wasn't over the top enough. You never really care about him. He comes across more as a background henchman then the big bad of the film. It's a shame because with a little better writing, he could have been a great casting choice.
If you have ever seen an episode of Into The Badlands, then you know exactly how bad ass Daniel Wu is. He is completely wasted here. I realize you don't want him to save the day. You can't take that away from Lara Croft, but he never gets a true moment to shine. That is a true shame.
The visuals are cool. The scene on the boat is done very well and so is the waterfall. The movie also makes some faithful nods to the video game. The problem is that it just doesn't feel big enough. I like the casting of Vikander and hope we get to see her as Lara Croft again. I am just not sure that we will. I think Tomb Raider is a step in the right direction where video game adaptions. I just don't feel that it is good enough to break that curse or the box office. Fun to watch, better than I expected, but only slightly above average.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Marvel is about to gain more praise, break ground, and deliver yet another hit. Black Panther will finally be released and while he might be the first black hero, he's not Marvel's attempt at bringing a black hero to the screen. For that, we need to go back to the late 90s and revisit Blade. What Marvel does do is take an old black hero and bring him to the forefront for a new generation. It is a very welcome change and Black Panther definitely has the Marvel/ Disney machine behind it.
It is very good. It pushes all the right buttons. It delivers what was promised, but it does have a few large flaws. We will get to those, but first let's talk about the movie. Mild spoilers at best will follow. you have been warned.
We first met Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa in Captain America: Civil War. After the death of his father, he returns to his native Wakanda to claim the throne and lead his people to a new age. Technologically advance, but isolated. Wakanda has survived for thousands of years by staying hidden and creating an amazing world centered around vibranium. The strongest metal in the world and the source material behind Captain America's shield. While attempting to apprehend Klaw ( Andy Serkis) for murder and stealing vibranium, he uncovers a secret that he didn't know his father had kept. He also faces a new threat that not only puts his throne at risk, but the outside world too.
The first thing the movie gets right is the cast. Top to bottom it is great. Forrest Whitaker, and Angela Basset are solid, but I really liked Sterling K Brown in his brief role. What separates Black Panther from the rest of the Marvel movies is pattern. It follows it's own more so than repeat the same formula. Granted, that formula is a proven winner, but this movie definitely stands on it's own. My favorite part of this film is the fact that nothing feels forced. It is very much it's own story and it stays within that. The action gets a bit CGI heavy at times, but it is a super hero movie.
What I loved about Black Panther is it's diversity. The film has very strong, intelligent, and capable females and the best part, they are in no way forced. They fit naturally. They are real and written to appease anyone. They work. We live in a world of what are called Social Justice Warriors. They need to realize that great female characters and strong ethnic leads are better when they are not shoe horned in to fit agendas. Lupita Nyongo, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright are incredible in this movie. They are so well defined as characters and are truly a highlight of the film.
Black Panther also has one of the best villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Andy Serkis is fun as Ulysses Klaue, but he isn't the big bad. That task falls on Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger. He looks incredible. He is magnetic on screen, but the best part is the fact that he is good at being bad. He is bad guy with clear motives. He wants to rule the world. He isn't afraid to kill and he doesn't want to be redeemed. He is one of the better villains that Marvel has put on film. It is also really good to see Michael B. Jordan get another run in the Marvel Universe. No one should have to be remembered for that horrific Fantastic Four from a few years back.
The star of the show is Chadwick Boseman. He was one of the many highlights of Civil War. He is bad ass in the suit and as a hero, but he goes well beyond that. He conveys the honor of T'Challa with flat out charisma and likability. I think he is another in a long line of successful casting choices by Marvel. He is a great hero and a solid role model.
I only really had two problems with the film. Chronologically, I feel like this movie should have come after Civil War and before Thor Ragnarok. It is a great world builder where Wakanda is concerned and an even better character introducer. It does very little to set up Avengers: Infinity War. The other issue that I had were the not so subtle political messages in Black Panther. I understand that it is a huge platform. I am also a firm believer that things need to change in this country. I just prefer that my popcorn friendly super hero films leave that stuff out. I watch these to forget the state of the world for a couple of hours.
All of that being said, Black Panther is a really strong film. It is another smash for Marvel. Not as good as Civil War, but way above average.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
The Star Wars franchise is a piece of American Culture at this point. It has stood the test of time and is loved by many. Even as divisive as they are, the prequels are still respected as being part of the franchise. J.J. Abrams and Disney continued the story with The Force Awakens and now the franchise is as popular as ever. After time has passed, I don't think that film is as good as the money it made. I like some of the new characters, but it is pretty much a carbon copy of A New Hope.
In every one's defense, the hype around Star Wars is more than any director can truly overcome. Rian Johnson is now tasked with continuing the story in The Last Jedi. The trailers are intense and misleading. The look and tone appear very different and they are. It is the most anticipated film of the last two years and now we see if it lives up to the hype.
The film begins with General (Princess) Leia and her small group of Resistance on the run from the First Order. Hoping to draw others to her cause, she sends Rey to find her lost brother Luke. It is her hope that the last of the Jedi can restore balance to the galaxy and rally others to their cause. Rey is tasked with not only bringing Luke back, but also with training her to understand the power that has woken inside of her. In the meantime, Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren also have plans for her and Skywalker.
Those are the basics and I am still trying to come to grips with how I feel about the film. Carrie Fisher is great and there are some great emotional moments. There are so many questions that were asked in The Force Awakens. Rey's parentage and who Snoke really is being two of the biggest ones. There have been two years worth of fan theories floating around. All of them wrong and most of them better than what the film delivered. It feels different than your previous Star Wars films did. I need to see it again, but until then here we go....
Snoke does demonstrate his power, but his story doesn't go at all the way it is expected to. I expected so much more and this film does not carbon copy Empire Strikes Back in the way The Force Awakens copied A New Hope. Part of me wishes this film did.
We do get introduced to new characters. I like Rose, who becomes Finn's new companion. Her brief story has heart, but her and Finn's mission is a useless story point. It is through them that we meet DJ (Benecio Del Toro) on the casino planet. His character is useless and isn't tied to any characters in the past. At least the film doesn't lead us to believe that. Laura Dern has a solid role. The movie does a great job hiding her allegiance where Poe is concerned.
Kylo Ren comes across better in this movie than the last. His duel with Rey left him scarred more than just physically. He is still dealing with killing his father and it has certainly changed him in several ways. The conflict with him, Rey, and Snoke is good. I did like the dynamic between Kylo and the villains. He and Hux are both power mongers. Watching them play against each other is fun. Sadly, Captain Phasma is again wasted.
Luke Skywalker is the man! Mark Hamill is the star of this movie. He is Luke. He gives a great performance and we do get a very different Luke. He is clearly tortured, but there are moments of the farm boy that we remember. We are given a sense of his vulnerability and how powerful he actually is. While I loved seeing Luke, the movie toyed with me a lot where he is concerned. There is a great Leia moment. I like where they went with him, but then I am TRULY disappointed with the end arc of the character. We have some great Luke moments, but I feel liked they missed the mark with him.
I like the new characters. I like the fact that Star Wars is back on the big screen. I don't like that it feels like Disney is more concerned with profitability than doing justice to the characters that built the franchise. It has more humor than I expected. Most of it works, but there is some that becomes tedious. The over all story has some issues. I like the cast, but not the direction. I wish some of the spoilers and theories were real. I think some of them would have played better than the film that we got. People will love this I'm sure. It will make money, but to me this movie suffers in the story arc department. I am not crazy about the overall path, but I don't make those calls.
People who say it is the best Star Wars since Empire, need to take a hard look at that statement. I didn't hate it. I certainly didn't love it. I left disappointed, but I would recommend people see it and draw their own conclusions. The Force is strong with this one, but not nearly as strong as it should have been.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Justice Leagues is a film that has been under pressure since it was announced. It is a movie that cannot escape controversy. Depending on the day, Ben Affleck is or isn't staying on as Batman. Zack Snyder has lost all creative control. Jos Whedon was brought in for re shoots. All of this stuff is not fake news. The problem starts with Batman V Superman being so bad and Wonder Woman being so good. Warner/ DC cannot afford another failure. While I cannot say that Justice League is not on the same level as The Avengers, it is a definite step in the right direction.
The world is mourning Superman. Crime and chaos are on the rise. Batman is discovering that something bad is on the horizon and is working on putting a team together to stop it. He gets help from Wonder Woman, who has some inside knowledge of threat, and the two of them set out to recruit Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg. The team has to work together and hope that they can defeat the world conquering Steppenwolf without the help of Superman.
Let's talk about what worked. The team and their chemistry. When the team is together, it is fun to watch! The interactions between the characters is really good. They all have their moments to shine and we get an idea of who they are. Sure we'd like more back story of each of them, but much like Wonder Woman it will come in another movie. We get a glimpse of Atlantis and it comes across better than I thought it would. The pace is good in comparison to Batman V Superman and it does leave you wanting more.
There are some things that do not work. The beginning has it's cool moments, but it is also very choppy. I feel like an extra 20-30 min would really have helped out the story and eliminated this. It also heavily swallowed in C.G.I. The character C.G.I. is OK, especially with Batman. The elimination of the, "super 'stache," is awkward. The film underwent heavy re shoots and it took time. Henry Cavil is filming the latest Mission Impossible and is contractually obligated to keep his mustache. Meaning they had to digitally remove it from the film. It leaves Clark looking a little awkward. Steppenwolf is another C.G.I. throw away villain, but is serviceable for the story. I would rather have seen more practical effects used.
Stay for the two post credit scenes. One of which is golden the other I struggled with. They had opportunities to erase a mistake and they didn't. Justice League isn't perfect. It is not garbage either. It suffers from the fact that it's predecessor was so bad and it is forced to build on those bad decisions. It gets more right than it does wrong. I enjoyed this two hour trip through the DC Universe. If left me wanting more and it's good moments are enough to overcome its mistakes. Fun, but flawed and worth the watch.
Monday, October 30, 2017
Marvel has done it again! There are some that say their films are boring and follow the same pattern. Thor: Ragnarok is unlike anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has characters you love and some new ones that will do nothing short of entertain. It is by far the best movie in the Thor trilogy. It will leave you wanting Avengers: Infinity War more than you already do. When it comes to Thor: Ragnarok, believe the good word of mouth you hear.
Thor begins with our hammer wielding hero searching for his father and trying to make sense of the destructive visions he saw in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. He returns to Asgard, discovers his brother is alive, and heads to earth. With a little help from Dr. Strange he finds Odin and something far worse.
Hela The Goddess of Death has returned to enslave Asgard and the Universe. His hammer destroyed, his father gone, and his world overtaken. He finds himself marooned on a strange world searching for a way to save his world.
Thor gets a new look and a new attitude. Everything about this movie works. They explain things that were left unexplained. The entire situation is dire, but the comedy plays and plays well. Thor is funny. It is light hearted for having such a serious set of circumstances looming. We also find out if the hammer truly makes the man. We get Easter eggs to some comic favorites, meet new characters, and get a Thor that is elevated to a higher level. His chemistry with Loki ( Tom Hiddelston) is on point and great to watch again.
It was good to see Dr. Strange again and we get just enough to remind us how much we liked him. It is Thor's movie, but we definitely feel the scope of the Marvel Universe. We get a refresher of the past and a reminder that there are very bad things on the horizon.
Kate Blancett is the best Thor villain since Loki. She is a threat and doesn't have any redeeming qualities. She is bad just to be bad and that works. She is the primary antagonist in the film. Jeff Golblum's Grand Master is the other bad in the film and is a lot of fun. He and Kate both make the most of their roles and it shows. Goldblum's campiness and Blancett's seriousness fit nicely in this one.
We finally find out where the Hulk has been. The trailer doesn't even scratch the surface of how good the arena fight is. Hulk is a lot of fun and was the perfect addition. It is still Thor's movie, but we get enough Hulk to make it worth while. They incorporate a little Planet Hulk from the comics and it fits perfectly. The gladiator world of Sakaar introduces us to some fun characters . One who might have stole the show.
Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie is fantastic! The biggest complain was her looking nothing like her comic counterpart. You won't even notice. There is a nod to the comic version, but Tessa owns this. She is a great example of a casting change for the better. She is a strong female character who can hold her own with Thor.
Thor and his, "revengers," have a pretty epic adventure. It's packed with a couple of moral lessons. It takes Thor in brand new direction and opens the door to the bigger universe. It is by far Hemsworth's best run as the character. His new friends are great and fitting in the Hulk is a win. Two end of credit scenes. One of which sets up the future and the other was kind of a waste of time. Thor: Ragnarok is anything but. It is a little Guardians of The Galaxy, a little Flash Gordon, and a lot of fun! Believe the hype!
Monday, September 25, 2017
I thought long and hard about what to say and certainly whether or not I post this. I feel like it's going to drive me crazy if I don't. I have said this before at least a dozen or more times, I do not understand why racism is still such a problem in 2017 America? I cannot fathom that the color of skin is still such an issue. It is. As someone working in the media, I see some of this from a lot of different perspectives. It is at the heart of what has caused professional football players to #takeaknee.
In the last year, a large portion of the media has been hard on our government's current administration. There are times when the current administration has not done any favors for itself. There are more than a few instances where the media has looked to find a negative issue. Make no mistake, I tried to be optimistic, but I would be lying if I said I was a fan of the current president. The problem goes back to an election that provided two very unlikeable candidates. Sorry Katy Perry and three quarters of Hollywood, but it is the truth. All of the people who thought it would be a funny if Trump actually got elected, are we all laughing? It sure doesn't seem very funny. The "Trump Train," is the most divisive thing this country has seen in awhile. Make no mistake, President Obama had his haters. They just were not on this level. Unfortunately, Trump has done little to mend the hate.
Puerto Rico and parts of the continental U.S. are recovering from natural disasters. Those issues combined with the volatile leader of North Korea being a threat and another attempt at health care repeal about to fail, the NFL is under attack by a president that has the temperament of a 12 year old boy. Calling them S.O.Bs? He continued to tweet about it this morning! You would think that job would provide better things to do. I would be lying if I said that I didn't mind the kneel during the anthem. I completely understand the reasons behind it and appreciate the peaceful protest aspect of it. One of my problems comes from the fact that I feel like it is the wrong method. It is isolating a large chunk of the audience that it is trying to make aware of the issue. It has also become the issue of focus as opposed to what the protest is about. I have heard some people in the military say that they don't mind. I have heard others say that they are offended. I think it is unfortunate that people threaten to boycott the NFL because the message has turned from one of equality to kneeling at the anthem. Again, not the best choice of methods. Make no mistake, there is racism in this country. There is police brutality and it all needs to go away.
The President of The United States used to be a title that commanded respect. This president has done very little to earn the respect of the people. Yes with the title comes a certain level of it, but his actions have done little to warrant it. The leader of the free world shouldn't be wasting time on Steph Curry, the NFL, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or the media. I go back to my twelve year old boy statement. This president and both sides of the media have caused our nation to be more divided than I ever thought I would see.
It's time to piss some people off.
It seems like this all started with Trayvon Martin. Sure it has been going on for longer, but that seems to have been the catalyst for a lot of it. Looking at just the facts of the case, Trayvon wasn't the angel he was made out to be and picked a fight with the wrong person. That person turned out to be galactic piece of human garbage. Trayvon didn't have to physically get involved with Zimmerman.He chose to do so and paid the ultimate price. It is unfortunate that a 17 year old kid had to die, but there are lessons to be learned from this.
On the other side of the coin, Eric Garner didn't deserve to die. Daniel Pantaleo is an even bigger piece of human garbage than Zimmerman is. I don't believe all police are bad, but I do believe that there are cops who shouldn't have a badge. That scumbag was one of them. Police are supposed to serve and protect. They shouldn't abuse. Eric Garner was clearly the victim of a horrible cop that gave a bad name to the blue.
There are countless incidents like the two I mentioned. We need to accept the fact that not all black people are criminals. We also need to accept that not all police are bad. I wouldn't want to be a cop in today's America. I can only imagine the fear that must come with being a young black male. It doesn't get better until both sides stop expecting the other to be or do something bad.
I don't think people are looking at the bigger picture. In some ways, we are causing things to be come more divided. As someone who works in the media, we are doing a terrible job of uniting and a fantastic job of dividing with the things we post and the words we choose. What happened to character mattering more than skin color?
I am really over ESPN. I am not going to go into the context of Jemele Hill's latest incident. I personally don't like her work for the same reason I don't like Teddy Bruski's. They both seem to have a giant chip on their shoulder for different reasons. I get that ESPN is trying to show more diversity, but I don't think it's working. Unless you want to change your name to the, "Urban Sports Network," you might want to rethink the current strategy. Bomani Jones, Jemele, and Michael Smith don't carry mass appeal. They isolate large portions of your audience. Bomani paired with someone like a Ryen Russillo is probably a great show. You get two different perspectives and can learn from both. It also would make a statement by having two people of different color and backgrounds discussing issues in the sports world. Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless didn't count. They are just as polarizing as the personalities I mentioned above. Although they won't admit it, older white males learned more about black culture from the late Stuart Scott than they will ever admit. He and Rich Eisen were a solid paring. Two points of views, from likable personalities, that are equally represented on the same show. Something the current afternoon show completely lacks.
I am getting sidetracked from the message.
My biggest problem is,"different rules for different people." That needs to change! We are all striving for equal treatment regardless of skin color. So start making it equal. If I, as a white person, would have called Barrack Obama, who I liked as President, a Black Supremacist or Muslim Terrorist, I would lose my job no questions asked. Anyone would. Yet somehow, Jemelle is still very much employed. I get that it's tough for her being a woman. I can only imagine the struggle as an African American woman. I hate to censor people, but don't be part of the problem. She has been in the media long enough to know what you can or can't say. Know your audience. She has a position that would allow for her to help unite people yet she causes more division. From here, she and the president have something in common. It seems all of free speech is making a bad issue worse. For the record, I have agreed with less than 3% of what our current president has said about pretty much anyone or thing.
As white people, we have to stop letting the portion of our community feel they have superiority based on color. We need to be accepting of all people and their beliefs. Black people need to stop the black on black violent crime. You don't paint the best picture of yourselves as a community. It also makes police nervous. It might not be a fair assessment, but it is a real one. Perception is reality to a large amount of people. Change the perception. Change the reality. It doesn't happen overnight. The countless protests that have turned violent don't help. The anthem kneel is peaceful, but found to be disrespectful to some. I know, can't win them all.
We need to separate ourselves from the personal beliefs when it comes to certain things. The protesting to get Kapernick a job! Are you kidding me?! The NFL is a business. They consist of 32 owners who don't want the distraction that comes with Colin. If one of them did, he would have a job. End of discussion. End of protest. Bullying is wrong. Even if you use it to get someone work. The work should come on merit and character.
Let's try and wrap this up.
The kneel at the anthem is a peaceful protest, but it is becoming the issue and the message is getting lost. I don't like it, but I accept and respect that an issue is being brought to the table. These players are trying to make people realize that social injustice is an issue. They might be overpaid millionaires, but they are not trying to disrespect the flag. To some it is coming across that way. Again, peaceful or not, I wish there were a different method. The country has some real problems. The problem starts with us. The Charlottesville incident was disgusting. It doesn't, however, represent all of this country. Seeing the #AMERIKKKA being used is shameful. That doesn't help either! It certainly doesn't speak for the majority. Remember when I said to stop making things worse by what we say or text? We only get one chance to live in this world. We can be part of the problem or the solution. This president doesn't appear to be the one to help so maybe it's time to start with yourself. Think about what you text or tweet. Be open to what others have to say even if you disagree. Take the chip off your shoulders. Be better human beings to each other. Have conversations with people. You don't need to know their life story, but a few words and you figure a few things out. Fix your own yard before you tell your neighbor how to fix theirs. At the end of the day, we all laugh, cry, dream, and hurt. Regardless of the color of our skin, we are all human.