Thursday, June 29, 2017

Spider-Man: A Pretty Good Homecoming

  After a long wait, Marvel cut a deal with Sony and it's flagship character is finally under the Marvel Cinematic Universe banner. Spider-Man has come home. A new actor, s ton of trailers featuring Iron Man, and enough hype for 10 franchises. The expectations and pressure are there, but does the film live up? Yes and no.

   Shortly after his return from Germany and the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker has to figure out life. The balance between school, his social life, and his blossoming career as the crime fighting super hero, Spider- Man. The Avenger's battle with alien invaders has left it's mark on the city. Peter discovers a new villain who is selling alien weapons and putting the city in danger. In order to prove that he is ready to be an Avenger, Spider-Man sets out to save the city.

 I will be in the minority, but I wasn't blown away by Marvel's take on Spider-Man. I loved Tom Holland. I felt like he really nails Peter Parker. He was great in Civil War and he really follows through here. His interactions with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Happy Hogan (John Favreau) are some of the best moments in the film. I was a fan of Andrew Garfield in the last couple of films, but Holland gets better material to work with and delivers.

 Michael Keaton is quite possibly the best Spider-Man villain yet. I love the way he becomes the Vulture. It fits with the universe Marvel has created and makes complete sense. Toomes is a really well rounded character. I love that Keaton has the ability to make you like him even when he is bad and borderline crazy. I wish the actually called him Vulture in the film, but oh well.

 One of my problems with the movie is the, "Breakfast Club." Peter's friends in school. I understand that it was meant to have the tone of teen melodrama, but I wish the characters were less annoying. Zendaya's, "Michele," is never likable. She gives a bit of a nod to a character that I HOPE she doesn't become. Liz (Laura Harrier) feels like she is there so they didn't have to go the Gwen Stacy route again.  Ned ( Jacob Batalon) was mildly entertaining at first, but gets old pretty quickly.

 The part of the cast that bothered me the most was Tony Revolori. The actor does nothing wrong, but he is almost as badly miss cast as Flash Thompson, as Jessie Eisenberg was Lex Luthor. Flash is a jock. Flash is bully. Yes they get the bully right, but Flash is not a short alternate for an Academic Decathlon team. He is a full blown jock! I applaud the racially diverse cast, but come on! Get the core of the character correct. I expected more from Marvel.

 There is a large group of people dubbing this Iron Man 4, but I am happy to say that it isn't. Iron Man is great and fits into the movie well. Stark is a central plot point, but he doesn't over power the film. He is in the movie just enough to not upstage Spidey in his own film.

     Peter Parker is learning to be Spider-Man. I feel like the Stark suit is actually too much. I am not a fan of the new suit the comics have shifted too either. Spidey is smart, but he doesn't need 584 possible web shooter combinations. I really like him in the sweat suit version of the costume. There are definite plot points that I won't spoil for him wearing it. It is clearly a nod to the Scarlett Spider and that is just cool.

   My biggest problem with the movie is the same in most of the Spider- Man movies. SPOILER ALERT .......LAST CHANCE TO STOP READING................OK YOU WERE WARNED .....

I am sick of Spidey's enemies figuring out who he is. The character can keep his secret identity for years in the comics, but can't go two hours in a movie without them being figured out. I know eventually some of his enemies know, but it took a little longer than the first conflict. I know that I am nit-picking, but COME ON MAN!!!!

All in all, I like Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was fun. I love the way it fits into the bigger universe. I am glad that they didn't tell another origin story, but I did miss Uncle Ben and the quote. Marissa Tomei as Aunt May takes some getting used too also. There is a lot to love about the film, but I feel like there are some places that it misses the boat. Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spidey. You will fit right in. I hope you next outing gets better because this one was good, but just not epic.

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.