Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Transformers :The Last Knight ....and God Willing The Last of This Franchise

   Where do I even begin? I was a lot kinder than most to Michael Bay when it comes to his previous attempts at The Transformers. I easily forgave Bumblebee being a Camaro and not a VW Bug. I was cool with Optimus Prime and the red flames. I tolerated Shia Labeouf through the first three movies, but it is really tough to give this one a pass.

   I am NOT a Michael Bay hater. I loved the first one. It made me feel like a kid again. The second was just garbage and the third, despite what so many think, was my favorite in the franchise. I was OK with Age of Extinction, but it just ran too long. We now arrive at The Last Knight and I want to like it so very much, but it just has too many problems to make it a good movie.

In the time of King Arthur, a drunken Merlin discovers a crashed Transformer ship and a weapon of incredible power that bonds to his DNA. The Transformer knights help Arthur and Merlin bring peace to the land and entrust man with the care of the weapon. Meanwhile in the not so distant future, humans and Transformers are at war. Lennox (Josh Duhamel ) is back, but this time not fighting along side of the robots. He is helping another team hunt them down. Cade (Mark Wahlberg) is an outlaw doing his best to protect the few remaining Autobots. Optimus Prime is gone. Megatron is presumed dead and the robots are without a leader. While saving a young girl (Isabela Moner), Cade stumbles across an ancient weapon that could destroy the earth. He is recruited by an English Lord (Anthony Hopkins) with historical knowledge and a professor (Laura Haddock) who is believed to be able to find the ancient weapon. They must form an unlikely alliance to save the world from Optimus Prime and his creator.

  I don't know where to begin. The Last Knight has so many issues. One of which being the reveal of the title character. I don't mind Wahlberg's character, but he suffers from a very convoluted story. The movie has too much going on. The Arthurian stuff is cool, but it could be a stand alone movie rather than being crammed into this one.

 It is clear that they are setting up a Bumblebee solo movie. He gets the most screen time of any of the Transformers. The biggest complaint of this franchise has been the robots taking a backseat. They take more of a backseat in this one than they ever have before. In some places, it feels like they were forced back into the story. That is just one of the glaring problems.

  The film makes nods to characters from the first three and it was just wasted. Simmons (John Tuturro) has what amounts to a glorified cameo. It was just a waste of time. It was cool that they brought back Josh Duhamel, but it too was a waste of his character. We even get a nod to Shia Labeouf and it was slightly amusing.

 Transformers: The Last Knight attempts to borrow from the 1986 animated movie. We get introduced to the creators of the Transformers, but instead of Quintessons we get Quintessa. It just isn't the same. Unicron is also attempted, but it too is a fail. I won't spoil the end plot, but it simply makes no sense. It violates the continuity of the other films. The other films that had the same director.

We are introduced to Hot Rod who was the, "star," of the animated version. He is also wasted. I absolutely hated the French accent. I feel like Bay did it just to give a finger to fan boys. We get no flames, he is mostly black and orange, and doesn't even have the character's personality. A bad redesign and yet another wasted character. I guess Judd Nelson's career is at such a high point that he couldn't be bothered to voice the character again. That is sarcasm. Thick sarcasm.

 We now come to the two things that bothered me the most. Spoilers ahead and I will not hold back. In age of Extinction, Megatron became Galvatron.  He shows up here as Megatron with absolutely no explanation of how or why? We aren't clued into his redesign. We get nothing. He also has a moment where he,"negotiates," with Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and a team of lawyers for the release of his, " crew." A moment that looks like it is blatantly ripped out of Suicide Squad complete with character title cards.

  The star of this franchise is Optimus Prime. I love that Bay gets Peter Cullen to voice him. The problem here is two fold. First his redesign from Age of Extinction is awful. The sword and knight look doesn't play. I like my Prime looking like a semi truck and laying waste to robots with a big cannon. It ain't happening here. The second problem and this is the biggest one, he is barely in the movie! The Prime turning bad is a let down and he only has a couple of good moments. He too is lost in the convoluted story.

 This movie simply tries to do too many things and only does a couple well. The money wasted on CGI for baby dinobots and a robot butler could have been put to better use. Michael Bay has said that this will be his last and that is probably for the best. There is life left in the property, but it needs a fresh approach. This movie goes on forever and never satisfies at the end. It is not as bad as the second one, but it is better served on Netflix or DVD. It isn't the worst movie of the summer, but it is anything but it won't be transforming into a big hit either.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Mummy: Mission Set Up A Sequel

 Universal is bound and determined to create a cinematic universe based around monsters. This was supposed to start a few years ago with Dracula: Untold. It didn't go so well. I never thought Dracula was a bad movie, but we live in a world where money talks. If you don't make enough, your story will not continue on the big screen. Fast forward a few years and they try again. This time with a fresh take on The Mummy. In this one, there is no Brendan Fraser insight. We get Tom Cruise and that should be considered a trade up.

Our movie begins in Iraq, where all Egyptian horror tales get there start. OK not really, but there is a reason for it and it makes sense in the contents of the story.  Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his partner (Jake Johnson) are charged with a long range recon mission, but they are greedy. Cruise comes into a possession of a map that leads to treasure. They come under attack and the battle leads to an ancient tomb being unearthed. Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) shows up to reclaim her stolen map from cruise and explores the tomb. It is determined to be the tomb of ancient Egyptian princess named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). A long with her comes a curse and her promise to destroy the world. Morton and Halsey set out to stop the princess and free himself from her curse. They are aided by a secret organization, led by Dr. Henry Jeckel (Russel Crowe), charged with policing the worlds monsters.

 It is a fresh take on the story. Ahmanet is a different type of mummy and unfortunately gets lost in the story. She does a great job of being scary. She has a cool back story and a much improved look. There are similarities in the powers that we have seen before, but the curse is very much new. The potential for her to be terrifying is there, but it never fully comes to be.

 Russel Crowe's Dr. Jeckel / Mr Hyde plays well, but we don't get enough of him. We never learn if he is on the side of good or bad. The organization is pretty cool. We get lots of nods to a bigger world, but again it is not fully fleshed out. There some great moments, but we just don't get enough depth with them.

   The actions scenes are what you would expect from Cruise. The plane scene from the trailer is well done and so are most of the fight scenes. It is not Cruise's fault, but we just don't get enough character development to determine how we feel about him. The best part of the character arc comes at the end of the film and again sets up future movies.

   Every universe has a starting point. The Mummy happens to be the beginning of this one. It doesn't mean this is a bad movie, but it also isn't enough of a movie. It feel very small for all of the big effects. The story is just OK. It is a fresh attempt and a good start, but it just spends too much time setting up the future. The characters suffer a bit and the story sometimes gets lost. It isn't quite where I wanted it to be, but it is better than I expected.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Wonder Woman: DC Finally Gets a Win!

It's no secret that the DC Comics movie universe is off to a rocky start. Man of Steel was nothing if not polarizing. Suicide Squad was just OK. Batman V. Superman was a huge letdown. The latter did give us two bright spots. Affleck's Batman and it introduced us to Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. There is a lot of pressure on the 75year old character's Amazonian shoulders, but does she deliver. Yes! She delivers on multiple levels.

An island of only women remains hidden from the world. A race of warrior women from the time of Greek mythology prepare for the second coming of Aries, the God of War. The only child on the island, Diana, questions her path and wished nothing more than to be the greatest warrior her people have known. When an American pilot crashes onto her island and leads a squad of pursuing Germans attack her people, Diana's sheltered life changes. Armed with a magic lasso, sword, shield, and armor, she sets out to end the war to end all wars.

 The movie gets so many things right. The cast is spot on. Gal really brings Wonder Woman to life. The romance between her and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) doesn't feel forced. We get plenty of comic references and they did what they failed to do with Superman. They wrote a great character. They made us want to be on the journey with Diana. She wasn't dark and brooding. She didn't need to be. They surrounded her with characters that we like. They gave us a simple but effective origin story and it keeps your interest.

 The intro to the amazons on Themyscira is a incredible. The scene is gorgeous. We get to know that world and it is sad that we only visit for a short time. We are left with a few unanswered questions, but not enough to bring the film down. The fight on the beach is very well done and sets the tone for the films action sequences.

 The overall balance of the film is on point. The story has a great mix of humor, romance, and the action you would expect from a big budget super hero film. The battle on the western front of WW1 is impressive. The trailers don't truly do the scenes justice. They nailed the use of her gauntlets and the magic lasso. The shield will draw Captain America references and while there are similarities to First Avenger, director Patty Jenkins tells a very distinct story.

 The use of World War One gives the film a natural conflict with the German army. If I had to pick a flaw with the movie, it might be Danny Houston. He doesn't turn in a bad performance, but he is a little under used. Don't get me wrong, the film has it's fair share of villains. I won't ruin the Ares twist, but it is well done.

 DC has finally done a character that isn't Batman. The movie tells it's own story and tells it well. It provides a strong female character that easily hold her own. Strong cast, solid story, and the shot in the arm this comic book movie verse needed.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gaurdians of The Galaxy : Volume Nearly As Good As The First.

  Marvel just doesn't miss. The first Guardians was expected by many to be a bomb. It was anything but. Now James Gunn brings his cosmic cast of lovable outlaws back for volume two. Sequels are always tough to do, but this one really doesn't miss the mark. Sure it is some of the same type of jokes and outlandish cosmic fun, but do we really want anything different from Guardians of The Galaxy? Not at all.

  The team is hired to save an alien world from a galactic threat. Upon completing their mission they are given Nebula (Karen Gillan) so that her sister Gamora (Zoe Saldana) can deliver her to prison. After Rocket (Bradley Cooper) decides to do something questionable, they are again on the run. The guardians must find away to make things right, save the universe, and discover the mystery of Peter Quilll's (Chris Pratt) parentage.

  Kurt Russel is fun as Quill's father. I won't spoil the movie, but it is fun to see him interact with the previous cast. His natural sarcasm plays well with not only Pratt, but also Drax (Dave Batista). Drax is definitely a comic element. While he is a lethal warrior, he is also the source of levity in tense situations. Regardless if it is with Rocket, Quill, Gamora, or the newcomer Mantis. Batista has made th role his and deserves more praise than he will most likely seen.  It is great to see Michael Rooker's Yandu get an expanded roll. He and Rocket are fun to watch while they are on their own adventure. We also get to see how he fits into a more expanded cosmic universe.

 The underlying theme in Volume 2 is family. The way all of these character fit together. From baby Groot to Gamora, we get invested and care about their journey. Guardians does a great job of giving us what we expect and have come to love about these characters. It also takes us on a completely new adventure. The CGI can be overwhelming at times and the dialogue is a little cheesy, but it has heart. It is both character and story driven. If I had to choose one flaw, it would be the soundtrack. I prefer Awesome Mix 1 over Awesome Mix 2. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting bigger and the Guardians are taking on us on a tour. Grab a ticket, get some popcorn, forget life for two hours, and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Fate of The Furious...Is there enough gas in this tank?

If ever there was a franchise at a cross roads, it is The Fast and Furious. The untimely death of Paul Walker certainly changed the direction of things and certainly the feel. The Fate of The Furious will be the first time the team we have grown to love will operate without Paul Walker's Brian O'Connor and Jordana Brewster's Mia Toretto. The franchise has lost one of it's biggest stars, it's now eight films deep, and needs to reinvent itself again. So is there still gas in the tank?

Brian and Mia have retired. The rest of the team is doing their thing and living a normal life. Luke Hobbs is coaching his little girl's soccer team and Dom and Letty are honeymooning in Cuba. Things are quiet for our heroes until a dangerous new foe recruits Dom. The team comes together again to not only take down this latest threat, but to take down their leader. In order to make that happen, they unite with past enemies to try and save their friend.

 F. Gary Gray from "Straight Out Of Compton," fame takes over the directing duties. He follows the globe trotting tradition of his predecessors. Fate of the Furious has big movie feel. We go from Cuba to Berlin, New York, and Russia. The stunts are as outlandish as one might expect and it doesn't feel like there is much down time. It's a big cast and none of them feel lost in the story. Action and humor are done well. The most important thing is the story and it completely works. The New York car stuff is incredible.

 Charlize Theron is perfectly cast as "Cipher." She is cold, ruthless, and the perfect villain to advance this arc of the story. She matches well with the team and comes across very lethal. She is more than a match for Dom. Her hold over him is explained and fits extremely well into the dynamic of the previous stories. The twist is unexpected and is the perfect way to go.

 The elephant in the room is of  course, Paul Walker. In some ways, he feels more apart of this movie than the last one. He is acknowledged in the right ways and his presence is clearly felt. Based on the way Fate plays out, his footprint will be there in future films as well.

 Tyrese is always the comic relief, but it is the Rock and Jason Statham who steal the show. The chemistry between them is off the charts. They both balance ass kicking with the perfect amount of comedy.

  Fate of the Furious is one of the best in the franchise. Yes the team is showing their age, some of the jokes are the same, and the stunts are outlandish. It is everything you would expect from a Fast and Furious movie. The movie proves we still love this cast and their globe trotting adventures. The old cast is great and the new additions fit in well. If the franchise is serious about getting to ten films, it seems like there is still plenty of gas in the tank.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Power Rangers: It's Confusion Time!

  The Power Rangers have been morphing and fighting giant monsters since the early 90's. Different themes, different casts, and different villians. The most popular incarnation was still the original. Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zack, and Trini get the big screen reboot. The Power Rangers have seen the big screen before, but with far less flair and attitude. My problem is the fact that I cannot seem to love or hate this.

 Five misguided teenagers stumble across and alien ship buried beneath their small town of Angel Grove. They discover new powers and learn of an old enemy. Under the guidance of the mythical Zordon, they must find away to unleash the power they have inside before the world as we know it is destroyed.

 The good thing, well mostly good thing, is that everything gets an update. The ranger costumes, Rita, the tone, and overall look. The biggest flaw is that we spend so much time getting to know the cast that we really never get to know the cast. The story tries to be darker and that is fine, but it fails to give us any real emotional connection to anyone in the cast. They put the burden of leadership on Jason (Dacre Montgomery) which doesn't work because anyone who knows the original show, knows that he was a space holder for Tommy. Zack (Ludi Lin) gets a bit of a darker back story, but it gets slightly washed over. Billy (RJ Cyler) is the ranger that seems to connect the most. He is by far the most likeable. Kimberly (Naomi Scott) never really gets clearly defined. She is more that the damsel in distress, but we never see the real depth of her character. Trini (Becky G) is the character that bothered me the most. I feel like she was made gay just for the sake of being gay. I understand what the attempt was, but it is unnecessary and fails to really work.

 Rita ( Elizabeth Banks) gets a much cooler back story, but is really lame when it comes to villains. She has moments of true evil, but her time on screen feels rushed. I think part of the reason is spending too much times failing to develop the ranger's stories. Rita feels like and after thought most of the time despite Bank's best efforts to have fun with the role.

 Alpha 5 is one of the most loved yet annoying characters of the series. Bill Hader gives him a voice and the update is a really good one. He is far less annoying and is anything but the "Jar Jar Binks," of the movie.

 Zordon (Bryan Crantson) is given a much greater back story than the original series gave him. It was darker than expected, but fit the tone of the reboot. I like the effects that they used on him in the ship and making him flawed worked well.

 The update that I liked the least was Goldar. He is very far removed from what fans of the 90's incarnation will remember. If  I had to pick one big flaw of the film, it would be this one. I am not sure that this movie's version of Goldar is any better than Ivan Ooze.

 The Zords are cooler, the story is adequate, the rangers look better, and the movie is not bad. I would be lying if I said I hated the film. I did have fun with it at times and while it is not the greatest, I expected much worse. Tommy Oliver fans will be happy with the mid credit scene. We don't get Bulk and Skull, hip hop kido, or Lord Zedd. We do get a Jason David Frank and Amy Jo Johnson cameo and a film that resembles the franchise that millions loved. I guess it was almost morphin time!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Logan: One Epic Last Time

   Seventeen years. Hugh Jackman has brought one of the comic book universe's most popular characters to life. Seventeen years is a long time to play any character. He is a little too tall by the comic's definition, but Hugh is Logan. In every sense of the character. He has been brilliant in things like X2 and X-Men : Days of Future Past. He has shined despite terrible scripts with X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand. He has gotten closer to the version of the character fans wanted with The Wolverine and now we get Hugh #onelasttime. Let me start by saying it is Wolverine like we have always wanted to see. Gritty, violent, raw, and near perfect.

   A lot of time has passed when we meet Logan. Mutants are gone. He spends his days hiding in the desert with Professor X and Caliban. He spends his nights working as a limo driver saving money to buy a boat. He spends both being a drunk and as you can tell by the trailers, he isn't healing very well anymore. A mysterious woman who is on the run with a girl enter his life and he and Xavier are brought back into the world they were hiding from. She is a science experiment gone rogue and being pursued by a cybernetically enhanced army called the reavers.

   Everything in this movie works. It is a little bit Old Man Logan and something else all together. The world is perfect. It is the future and it is a bleak one, but not completely devastated like we saw in Days of Future Past. We get every possible form of Logan you could want to see. He is completely broken, but still ferocious. Right from jump. Fans, myself included, wanted Hugh in the suit. We do get it. In the form of toys and comic books. There are so many great things in this movie that you won't miss it. We get nods to the previous X-Men films, The Wolverine, and it even acknowledged Origins. It also introduces us to X-23.

    Dafne Keen is solid. She does so well and barely speaks a word. She holds her own with Hugh whether it's combat, conversation, or conveying emotion. If you are not familiar, she is essentially Wolverine's daughter. She is cloned from his DNA, but her powers differ slightly. She does have her father's personality.

   Charles Xavier is also one of the best parts of Logan. He is his moral compass and in many ways his father. It is tough to see this broken version of Professor X. His power has become a threat to everyone. He isn't the Charles that we are used to, but it might just be Patrick Stewart's finest version of the character. It is raw, emotional, funny, and at times heartbreaking. It fits perfectly with the world James Mangold has created.

  Logan does what most superhero movies seem to be afraid to do. It takes it's time. It develops the characters to the point that you care about what happens to them. It tells you a very raw gritty story with great characters on both sides of the coin. I really liked Boyd Holbrook's Pierce. It is going to be tough when we see someone else play Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is so good in this. He nails the berserker and the broken man. It is a great end to this version of Logan's story. Deadpool being the R-rated success that it was paved the way for this. The violence, language, and above all else the performances make Logan the epic finale that it is. Thank you Patrick, James, and more than anyone else, Hugh. Seventeen years. It was a hell of a ride and a nearly perfect one last time.