Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Wrikle in Time

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I wanna make a joke about ironing out wrinkles but, meh.



A Wrinkle in Time – 4 out of 5

I’ve never read the book this film was based on so I don’t have a deep, nostalgic connection to the source material.  However, when I saw the trailer, I was blown away with the potential beauty this film seemed capable of.  I didn’t get a chance to see it in the theater and the savage reviews of it had me a tad concerned.  A few close friends raved about it and, while on a Disney cruise recently (that’s why there hasn’t been any new reviews lately—Sorry, legion of readers that don’t exist), I got a chance to see it on the ship’s theater.  There are times I agree with the critics and times I don’t and this is one where I don’t agree with them because I found A Wrinkle in Time to be something magical.

                                                                                                     Walt Disney Pictures
"Welcome to this alien planet.  We forgot to check before we left but thankfully
the environment is habitable for your human bodies."

Meg Murray (Storm Reid) struggles hard at school and is considered a social outcast after her father (Chris Pines) mysteriously disappears.  Her mother (Guyu Mbatha) tries to control her and get her to fly straight while her little brother; Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) starts to act strangely as he concocts reasons for Meg’s fellow schoolmate; Calvin (Levi Miller), to be around them and introduces them to a strange lady named Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling).  One day, the kids are greeted by a woman calling herself Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and she introduces them to Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey).  Which turns out to be a powerful being from beyond the stars and she has come to the children to let them know that their father is alive and has learn how to travel through space instantaneously but her good news comes with an ominous threat about a dark power gathering on the horizon.  Now the kids must gather their wits and travel across the cosmos to save the man before a powerful dark entity called The It takes over the universe.

                                                                                                    Walt Disney Pictures
"And you get to save the universe!  And you get to save the universe!"

                                                                          Walt Disney Pictures
Who wouldn't want to travel across the universe to
save a bearded Chris Pine?
I won’t try and deny that this film doesn’t have some issues that hold it back but I won’t pretend either that I didn’t enjoy it.  First off, the film is visually stunning.  From the moment it starts to the end and to all of the gorgeous locales and scenery in-between, the film looks beautiful.  Add in amazing costumes and makeup and it makes for a feature that was a visual feast and one that was so amazing to look at that it was hard to not tear up and be in awe of the designs that were unfolded in front of you.  Secondly, the performances are terrific.  There are some really great performers in the cast and they are doing a tremendous job.  I was incredibly impressed with Storm Reid and Deric McCabe as Meg and Charles Wallace.  Both were able to express the characters in a very dynamic way and watching Meg’s journey and seeing how Reid was able to deliver the pain and struggle that she went through was impressive beyond words.

                                                                                                     Walt Disney Pictures
Reid was damn impressive in this feature.

The one element that struck me the hardest about the film was its heart and sentiment.  While the mileage on this portion definitely varies from viewer to viewer, I found this movie very emotional and I openly wept like crazy.  Too many of the themes and story points hit too close to home and when that was combined with the excellent performances from the likes of Reid, McCabe, Pine and Oprah, it made me cry like there was no tomorrow.  In all honesty, the film sorta wrecked me emotionally while I watched it and this visceral reaction definitely painted my entire feelings for the film, making it easier to overlook some very noticeable shortcomings it contains.

                                                                                                     Walt Disney Pictures
Anytime I get to see Galifianakis in something is a good thing.

The big problem this movie has is the form that it might be too ambitious and tries to tell too large of a story in too small of a time frame.  This leads to a lot of development issues as the world-building and character introductions never feel organic and natural but rather forced.  The plot also seems to be moving at a feverish pace and makes the whole experience feel like you are watching two films that were hastily concentrated into a single feature.  This is the most distracting at the beginning but ends up feeling less noticeable as the movie progresses.

                                                                                                     Walt Disney Pictures
The flying lettuce monster felt a little strange too.

A Wrinkle in Time isn’t flawless (I’m not making a wrinkle joke).  It has some problems but, for me, the heart of it won me over more than the technical aspects of its storytelling.  The content of the characters and the performances that highlighted this made it easy for me to be invested and, while I acknowledge its problems, this dynamic made it possible for me to forget about it and get sucked in.

Avengers: Infinity War

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! This review would have been out sooner but...eh, I don't have any readers so my excuses are pointless.




Avengers:  Infinity War – 5 out of 5


The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building and growing for a decade now.  A decade!  That’s incredible.  I know jaded fanboys like to diminish this achievement and endlessly complain about minuscule details not fitting how they want things but the world building and universe construction that they’ve accomplished with the MCU at Marvel Studios is outright impressive.  I’ve been an unapologetic fan since the debut of Iron Man and have been obsessed with every film, show and moment that has been supplied.  Avengers:  Infinity War is the culmination of all this work and, subsequently, has a lot riding on it.  This one could have easily been nothing but hype and failed to deliver but that wasn’t the case.  Infinity War is everything I wanted it to be and more!

                                                    Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
That's a lot of awesome in one photo...


Deep in the cosmos, the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) sets out on a quest for power.  Littered throughout the universe is the Infinity Stones; objects of great power than can grant control over time, space, reality and even death.  After having a gauntlet forged for him, Thanos sets out to collect all the stones and sends his henchmen; Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary) and Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw) to Earth to collect the stones held there.  On the planet, it’s up to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and the entire Wakanda nation to hold off the Thano’s forces.  Meanwhile, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) teams with Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) to gather up a powerful new weapon while Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) aligns himself with Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Nebula (Karen Gillan) in order to take the fight directly to Thanos.

                                                    Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
I know people are mad that there wasn't any Sherlock Holmes references but,
from a writer's perspective, I can see the desire to steer clear of that
low hanging fruit.


Infinity War is an incredibly ambitious and amazingly busy film.  The biggest risk this film had working against it is that it might have been too big and, with the enormous amounts of characters, it would have been easy for certain people to be left behind or lost in the shuffle.  However, directors Anthony and Joe Russo, no strangers to huge Marvel storylines, did something astounding and made a feature that flows really well and captures the Marvel Cinematic Universe tone while, at the same time, forging a heavy tone that has clear repercussions on the universe.  

                                                    Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Star-Lord and Iron Man, a collision of snark and sass.


                          Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Thano's weakness is having his finger pulled.
The Russo brothers took this absolutely gigantic story and were still able to balance the incredible action, sense of humor and the drama and heart that all things MCU holds.  Even more amazing is how none of the characters lost any of their uniqueness and it was just an utter joy to see many of them interact for the first time.  Finally, I was just blown away with how they made the story flow.  There are a lot of teams all doing their own thing in this large scale fight against Thanos and the tale moves fluidly from one to the next.  Never does one group feel overlooked nor does any group feel like they are the obvious center of attention.  Each journey is told and explored at the right pace and perfect increments. 

                                                    Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Add in the Guardians and that makes for a happy Ron.


At this point in the MCU, everyone has their characters nailed down and, after 10 years, you either love them or hate them.  For me, I love them and think everyone is doing such a great job; however, one performer I was absolutely enthralled with was Josh Brolin as Thanos.  The Mad Titan is one of my favorite Marvel villains because he’s so powerful and I absolutely love how he is motivated by a distorted feeling of love (a love of the physical manifestation of Death).  We get to see and, thanks to Brolin’s performance, feel Thanos’ insane devotion and drive to bring his own definition of balance to the universe.  Marvel has had problems with their villains feeling very generic (a complaint pretty consistent with many comic book properties and from all publishers) but Thanos feels very deep and defined.  You get a sense of the many facets that are working with him and this arrives in great part due to Brolin’s performance.  Plus, the dude just has an intimidating voice that worked perfectly for the character.

                                                    Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Thanos has always been one of my favorite comic book villains, it's awesome to
see him done justice on the screen.


The only downsides I found in Infinity War came in the form of some very slow moving scenes involving Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany).  While their scenes do play a pivotal role in both their development and overall importance to the story, there was no denying that these moments felt significantly slowly than the rest of the film—even during other sequences that were also methodically paced.  Another part that I was a little bummed out with was how Thanos’ minions (they are called the Children of Thanos in the film but are The Black Order in the comics) are handled.  While the action moments with Proxima Midnight, Cull Obsidian, Ebony Maw and Corvus Glaive are very cool and exciting, you don’t really get much of a sense of who they are as characters and end up suffering the stereotypical fate of a lot of comic book film villains—being terribly generic.  Hell, we barely even got to know their names in the film.

                                                     Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
When your headache feels like you are an Asgardian having their head squeezed
by Thanos.


Avengers:  Infinity War is a grandiose story and it is very ambitious.  It’s attempting to adapt one of Marvel’s most iconic stories and do justice to one of their most notorious villains.  While the movie isn’t just like the comic, it’s adapted incredibly well and Thanos is done terrifically.  Even with my very minor complaints, from the moment it starts to the post-credit sequence (which made me squeal with delight), the film is exciting, hilarious, fun, emotional and full of heart. It’s a rollercoaster of awesome and I absolutely loved it!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Downsizing

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! If downsizing could help me achieve my dream of being a shut-in and never having to work again, I'd do it in a heartbeat.



Downsizing – 2 out of 5

Who doesn’t want to be tiny?  Like a Smurf or some tiny mythical creature that doesn’t exist like a gnome, pixie or Flat Earther with a brain?  Actually, to be honest, I don’t want to be tiny or anything remotely close to the creatures I just described.  My life is filled with enough anxiety; I can’t imagine being small and having to live with the ever present fear of being stepped on.  Well, Downsizing explores the idea of people taking a leap and willingly become small.  I liked the concept of it and had some high hopes thanks to an entertaining trailer but was incredibly disappointed with the final product.

I wanna hang out with Christoph Waltz.  I bet he has a lot of great stories.

The world is suffering from a lot of man-made problems and some scientists think they have developed the solution:  shrinking people so they have a less impactful existence on the planet.  Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to take the plunge and become small.  This change promises a rich existence but, after Audrey backs out, Paul finds his new life in a rut.   Eventually, he meets his neighbor, rich party man Dušan Mirković (Christoph Waltz), and a cleaning woman/former activist who was shrunk by her government; Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau).  Together, they open up Paul’s eyes and show him the world for the first time.

She helped open Paul's eyes to how big the world is and how easy it is to feel small and
insignifi--oh, I get the film's metaphor now.  Well, one of the dozens it brings
in but I'll get to that in a bit.

Downsizing has an interesting concept that builds on a foundation of science fiction and teases at the idea of delivering heart, humor and some commentary on things like society and environmental issues (stuff sci-fi likes to comment on).  Additionally, it has strong performances from its lead actors and has some fun cameos bits from the likes of Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis, and more.  However, the film seems to be trying to do too much and feels like it is mishandling all the elements and themes it is attempting to explore.  The film is definitely ambitious and I really wanted to like it but ultimately the whole product felt like it bit off more than it could chew.

NPH, baby!

We got so much Laura Dern in 2017 and the world is better for it.


"Just bring the essentials..."
For a film that is literally about simplifying one’s life by making themselves small, this film really is really trying to accomplish too much with its commentary.  At points it’s making statements about how humanity impacts the environment, a different times it’s talking about social and economic barriers and the gaps between the rich and the poor, and there is even times where it is making points about living life to the fullest and talking about human drama.  This is all well and good and could have worked but the film can never manage to blend these ideas together so they feel seamless.  Instead, it feels like it is jumping from idea to idea and almost like the writers and the production just came up with new concepts to explore on the spot and decided to course correct the feature to cover them.  The whole journey feels meandering and aimless and this made it very difficult to become invested in.

The desk lamp is a pretty amusing touch.

The film does have some merits in various departments.  The entire first act of the film is incredibly well constructed.  It sets everything up very well and this solid construction is followed nicely into the first half of the second act.  It’s not until the latter half of the feature that everything starts to break down and become messy and muddled.  I really enjoyed and sympathized with the plight that Paul was going through and I way too easily saw my own existential dread that I feel toward the drudgery of life in him.  Additionally, I absolutely loved the performances.  Damon, Waltz, Chau and all the supporting players were great to watch and were doing a fantastic job.  Sadly, their strengths alone weren't enough to save this product.

Man, I have that look on my face 24/7.

I really wanted to like Downsizing.  It has some great things working in its favor.  The cast is fantasic, it’s build up and conflict establishment is done effectively well and there is some great humor and drama woven into it all.  However, the film is still a mess of commentary and tones that can’t quite mesh together.  The story is so all over the place that it feels so chaotic and unfocused.  This lack of direction ended up making most of the backend of the product feel boring and it was all too easy to lose interest.