Friday, January 31, 2020

Terminator: Dark Fate

***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.  The best part about this film:  No Sam Worthington.  That was a rough sequel.

Terminator:  Dark Fate – 4 out of 5

The Terminator franchise is a bit of a mixed bag of quality.  The initial film is, in my opinion, okay and does a great job of establishing the whole series but it’s honestly not one of my favorite films.  Terminator 2:  Judgment Day, on the other hand, is awesome-sauce to the max!  Killer film from beginning to end with exciting action, a fantastic antagonist, and endless memorable moments.  Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines is not great.  It has its moments but it is definitely a weak follow-up (but maybe I should do a “It’s Not All Bad…” to that one).  Terminator:  Salvation was pretty much unwatchable and Genisys is serviceable.  Terminator:  Dark Fate is here to fix those issues by retconning Salvation, Genisys and the television show Terminator:  The Sarah Connor Chronicles.  This film is a direct sequel to Judgment Day and it is the best Terminator film to come out in the last twenty years!

Red eyes again?!?  Get out of your comfort zone, Killer Robots, and try something new!

It was thought Judgment Day was stopped by the future was only changed and machines still wipe out mankind.  In an effort to protect a very important young woman named Dani (Natalia Reyes), the human resistance sends back a cybernetically enhanced soldier named Grace (Mackenzie Davies) to protect her.  However, the machines have sent back their own killing machine, the dangerous Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) to kill Dani.  The fight seems hopeless until they are met with a tough-as-nails woman who is no stranger to the Terminators; Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), and a rogue T-800 model that found itself lost in the present after Skynet ceased to exist (Arnold Schwarzenegger).  Now, together, they will destroy the Rev-9 and make sure that the future is once again safe for humanity.

If action movies have taught me anything it's that rebar is only used for impaling enemies
and is not used at all for construction.

After a lot of disappointments with the Terminator franchise, I was a touch hesitant about Dark Fate.  After watching the trailer, I was cautiously optimistic about the film (and I heard some great reviews about it too) but I couldn’t bring myself to pay to see it in the theater.  It was too big of a risk (also, with James Cameron’s involvement I didn’t want to support his work because the dude is a bit of an egomaniac and a shade-throwing asshole and I have little respect for him).  I decided I would check this one out when it hit the Home Media market and, to be honest, I should have gambled on this one and saw it in the theater because it was a pretty damn good flick!

"Do I really have to save all of humanity?  I mean, there are some shittier aspects
of it I'd love to let the machines kill.  Like Nazis, for one.  Can we let the machines
just kill them and then take out the machines?"

This film is hitting all the right elements for a great Terminator film.  It has an antagonist that is relentless and seemingly unstoppable, you have heroes that are tough-as-nails, exciting action and even some decent humor thrown into the mix.  Director Tim Miller is really capturing the spirit and what made Judgment Day such a memorable and amazing feature.  Finally, the film’s story is branching out in a new direction and isn’t relying on the same notes that we saw before.  Skynet is gone, Cyberdyne Systems is no more, and the film opens with a very shocking and completely gutsy move that shakes up the whole franchise.  These changes allowed the story to take a new direction but still have the familiarity that is synonymous with the franchise.  The future is still in trouble from robots wanting to kill humans but those that are responsible for fighting back are new, completely fresh faces.  While it could be argued that the franchise is still doing the same thing all over again, the new paintjob and slight adjustments to the mechanisms were enough to get me invested and make this a very memorable movie.

"Do you get my *ERROR 404:  VILLAIN QUIP NOT FOUND*"

Dark Fate does a great job of balancing the old and the new as we have new heroes mixing with the old and a new villain.  Gabriel Luna has that same intensity that Robert Patrick had with the T-1000.  It’s completely unstoppable and won’t let anything stand in its way in order to complete its mission and Luna sells this terrifically.  I also really enjoyed what a badass Mackenzie Davies is as Grace.  She brings her own intensity to the role where, like the Rev-9, she will stop at nothing to complete her mission but her mission is protection.  Davies does a great job of making Grace a pure badass who will sacrifice herself in order to protect Dani but there’s also the human side to her that is doing this for reasons other than orders from her commanding officer.  The returning players of Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger are continuing the excellence they brought prior.  Hamilton is super badass and has an utterly epic intro into this story.  Hamilton is fantastic to watch as she once again balances the emotion her character is going through (and this one she has some real shit she is going through) with the all-around kickass composition of her character.  Finally, Arnold is once again a great machine who knows how to bring the destruction and mayhem and can highlight it with some dry wit.

I have nothing to say here.  Just enjoy how epic she looks!

One aspect I really enjoyed was Arnold’s character.  There’s a key element to the story that I’ve been carefully trying to avoid speaking about but his character is a leftover Terminator from this element.  The character is essentially lost in time since Judgment Day was ended and, in that time, it evolved and learned what it is to be a human.  It even started a family (well, married into one), started a successful curtain business and renamed itself “Carl.”  It’s an amusing new direction to take the T-800 that we’ve seen so often but it was a cool new wrinkle to the story as the character is from a future that no longer exists.  This ends up playing an important role as this new version of the character allowed for an interesting (but, at the same time, familiar) antagonistic dynamic with the character of Sarah Connor and for a unique way for him to still be connected to the other Terminator.  It was a refreshing way to bring back Arnold without feeling like another T-800 was sent back and befriended by the good guys.

Just like T2, Arnold nails the mixture of being fun, funny, and tough.

 One major downside this film has is Dani isn’t developed very well.  One great aspect to Judgment Day was the time given to developing John Connor—especially concerning his relationship with the T-800.  There is a connection between Grace and Dani and the story does a serviceable job of exploring it but it didn’t feel as deep as it could have gone.  Dani’s introduction and who she ultimately is and why she is important isn’t done poorly, it just isn’t done extensively.  There’s very few quiet moments in the film that allow her character to show her depths.  The few times the film does slowdown is for Sarah Connor and Carl the T-800.  When these two get to show off who they are and what they are going through it is great.  It’s just a bummer than Dani didn’t get the same amount of attention.

On the surface, you understand Dani's importance but, on a deeper level, I would have like
to have felt how she important she was.

Terminator:  Dark Fate proved to be a pleasant surprise for me.  The cast is great, I liked the new characters, the story feels like the perfect continuation of Judgment Day and the action is exciting and plentiful.  It definitely has me excited to see new potential stories as the humans fight this new threat from the future.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

***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.  Kevin Smith is a geek icon that has a hardcore fanbase.  If my blog was actually popular, I would probably get death threats for this review.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot – 1 out of 5

I wouldn’t go as far to call myself a Kevin Smith fan but I definitely wouldn’t say I dislike the guy either.  He has his charms and he has his drawbacks.  I will openly say that Red State is the best and most impressive film he’s ever made and I wear my Secret Stash hoodie proudly!  That being said, a lot of his films—mainly the View Askewniverse ones—don’t age well with me.  Sure, the first couple times I watched Clerks, Mallrats, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back I dug them and found them fun (I wasn’t a fan of Clerks II or Chasing Amy from the get-go).  However, I hold Smith’s films don’t age well due to problematic humor—whether it be some sexist gags or humor that is just too sophomoric in nature.  I honestly can’t watch the ones I used to enjoy anymore because I grew up.  Sadly, after watching Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, I realized that Kevin Smith hasn’t grown up and these characters are not only of the small serving variety but ones that definitely have gone past their expiration date.

Those are the exact faces I had the entire time I watched this one.

Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) land themselves in some hot water with the law after they are busting for growing marijuana.  While in court, they are bamboozled by their lawyer (Justin Long) and sign a document that gives Saban Films, who are rebooting the Bluntman and Chronic franchise (loosely inspired by the duo), the rights to their names and stops them from referring to themselves as “Jay and Silent Bob.”  Thanks to some info from their buddy Brodie (Jason Lee), the two learn the reboot is being directed by Kevin Smith and he will be at the Bluntman and Chronic fan convention “Chronic-Con” in Hollywood.  Now Jay and Silent Bob are on their way to stop the film and get their names back—and, along the way, Jay learns he has a daughter (Harley Quinn Smith) and she’s along for the ride with a group of her friends in order to get a cameo in the reboot.

I'd say that's what Hell probably looks like.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot was a hard, cringe-y watch.  The film is a slapped together pile of recycled jokes and references to other films in the View Askewniverse, an obnoxious amount of cameos, and performances that range from way too over-the-top to “Are they even trying?”  I found this movie to be bad.  Usually I find myself getting to the moment of Smith’s stuff being utterly unwatchable after 2 or 3 viewings but I found this one horrible from the moment it started.  Right off the bat you get the tired and beaten like a dead horse gag of Dante saying he isn’t even supposed to be here today and from there it just turns into fan service to epic, eye-rolling proportions and Kevin Smith firmly implanting his head straight up his own ass.  At best, this movie is just giving Smith fans the same old stuff they’ve already seen while berating an industry for doing the same thing without irony and, at worst, it is just Smith worshipping himself like a golden calf.  I really didn’t enjoy this movie.

This movie felt like it was Kevin Smith buying into his own hype but shitting on himself
in an effort to portray humility.  Which makes me wonder if he's always just been
this egotistical and he's always been putting on an act.

As I stated before, the big reason Smith’s films don’t age well with me is that I grew up and his writing didn’t.  Smith is writing exactly the same now as he did in the 90s.  However, I’m not going to argue that this man must write to cater to me as a viewer.  The problem with his writing not evolving isn’t the fact that every single second of this film is fill with jokes that feel like they were made by a 14 year old—air-humping, the word “come” only written as “cum,” smoking pot somehow being a punchline, and more—but the fact is all these jokes have already been done and done by Smith in his previous movies.  There is a fine line between callbacks and just dusting off old jokes and this movie quickly crossing the line and stops feeling like fun nostalgia and just comes off as lazy.  And the lazy feel to the writing just doesn’t stop with jokes that we’ve already seen in every single other View Askewniverse feature, the very core of the film, central point of conflict, and the plot itself feels farted out.

Yes, we know.  You're not even supposed to be here today.  Are you ever supposed to be there?

The plot of this film is basically a road trip as we watch Jay and Silent Bob go from coast to coast in order to stop the reboot.  On paper, it’s supposed to be a “wacky” adventure where the two try to rideshare their way there and then meet Jay’s daughter and end up running afoul of the Klan and other sequences where Smith can shoehorn in tired gags about merkins and forced pop culture references like the man’s geek status is constantly in question. In execution, it feels like one mind-numbing sketch after mind-numbing sketch that is very loosely tied together by the stakes of stopping the reboot—and the whole thing put together feels like an excuse to jam in as many cameos as possible.  Cameos can be fun but they are a treat that can lose their novelty very quickly when done to an obnoxious extent and that’s exactly what this film does.

Diedrich Bader showing up was one of the rare fun moments this film had.

The world needs more Hemsworth holograms telling us
basic information.
Sometimes the cameos in the film are fun—like when Chris Hemsworth shows up as a hologram at Chronic-Con—but, for the most part, the cameos started to feel like there were a distraction for the lazy writing and tired old jokes.  Sometimes they just felt like exceptionally sad fan service as the kids who bought weed of Jay and Silent Bob in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back show up in the end credits (the moment that led to Jay singing Morris Day and the Time, remember that?  Smith desperately wants you to).  At that point, it started to feel like a vanity project for Smith and he was desperately trying to show that this share universe has as many memorable characters as the MCU or Star Wars.  Sure, it is fan service seeing Wedge Antilles show up for a hot second in The Rise of Skywalker and it is fun but seeing two extras reprise roles that existent so Jay could rap and sing Morris Day and the Time doesn’t pack the same punch and just feels kinda sad. 

Really?  Did Smith really have to force a scene that connected to Dogma?
He could have just leaned in and said, "Remember this movie I made?"
It would have be the same result and would have been as equally unnecessary and unfunny.

Finally, the performances in this film are wildly all over the map.  You have the scenery chewing Mewes and Smith who are mugging to the point their faces are going to crack and it doesn’t take long before it just started to feel grating.  Then, on the other side of things, you have Harley Quinn Smith who is insanely flat and provides a wooden delivery for all her lines.  I don’t want to shit on Smith’s daughter but she was so robotic when giving lines.  I don’t want to argue that all the performances are bad because Fred Armisen plays the driver for the rideshare Jay and Silent Bob take and he’s genuinely great—but he’s usually great so that wasn’t a surprise.  Overall, however, the performances are all over the place and it just adds to the messy appearance of the feature.

In case you are wondering, she is a Jay and that is her Silent Bob.

Fred Armisen is really great at doing small, very memorable
I know I am being very hard on the film and if you are a superfan of Smith you’ve probably already made your plans to murder me but the film does have some bright and shining moments—and that was enough to save it from giving it my very rare Zero Rating…and it was very close to getting that.  I already mentioned how great Fred Armisen and Chris Hemsworth is in the film but there’s a great sequence with Stan Lee in the credits and a decent moment with Ben Affleck at Chronic-Con.  Sadly, the scene with Affleck ends up feel more like Smith’s self-worship that plagues this film but it does take a fun shot at the dumbest moment to ever grace a superhero movie as it makes fun of the “Martha” scene from Batman v Superman.  That alone was worth the torture it was to sit through this film…well, almost.

Are there any people who actually think the "Martha Scene" was actually decent
or even emotionally powerful?

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, among many things, showed me that the characters not only prove the adage that “less is more” as their brief parts in past films showcased that a smaller serving size is what is best for them but also that their expiration date was in the 90s and I just don’t find them funny and entertaining anymore.  Add in the fact the film is just repeating jokes that have already been done in an effort to give the fans what they want (meanwhile, Smith’s writing is shitting on the industry that does this very thing—it would be almost witty but the film doesn’t feel self-aware enough to make this commentary), along with uneven performances, and a ridiculous amount of cameos that turn long lengths of the film into “Who is Going to Show Up Next?” and it resulted in a movie that was very hard to watch. 

Eighth Grade

***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.  Real Talk:  The only good part about being a kid was not paying bills.

Eighth Grade – 5 out of 5

Bo Burnham is a tremendously talented comedian.  His stuff is satirical and has the right dose of goofiness to it as it delivers its commentary.  So I was a little surprised when he wrote and directed a drama about the social awkwardness of a tween girl called Eighth Grade.  It’s foolish of me to ever second-guess a creator when they deliver something that feels “off-brand” because we are multi-faceted beings and there’s no reason to think Burnham couldn’t have delivered a special feature but I was still a touch taken aback at this concept from the man.  I had faith he could make something incredible but I just wasn’t prepared for how amazing it ended up being.

That's exactly how I spend my mornings as I try to find the will to get out of bed
and to continue living.

Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is finishing up her last week of eighth grade.  She spends her time making YouTube videos about being a better person as she breaks down confidence and putting oneself out there but her time as school is marked by her social awkwardness and being incredibly shy.  She struggles to make friends with kids in her grade, spends her free time browsing social media and overall dealing with her overprotective and slightly dorky father (Josh Hamilton).  As it gets closer to graduating from middle school, the question of if high school will be better and allow Kayla to find herself starts to come into focus.

Ah, awkward family dinners!  I remember them well.

It's been many years since I’ve seen eighth grade and times were very different then.  There wasn’t any social media and cell phones were big and cumbersome.  Don’t worry, I won’t argue that times were better back then because, no matter what era you find your tween/teen/formative years in, it will always stink being that age.  It’s a confusing time where social interaction can be a huge buzzkill as schools have the worst examples (and meanest) of social hierarchy.  There’s also the changes in your body and the fact adults are expecting you to be an adult but still treat you like a kid.  It’s a shitty, strange time to say the least and that’s what Bo Burnham really captured with this film.

He's definitely the dad who tries to use hip slang but always uses it or says it incorrectly.
Also, I really did just use the word "hip" to describe modern slang.

The film does an amazing job of showcasing just how confusing, isolating, and frustrating this time of life can be.  Additionally, I liked how the movie shows that social media is a big part of Kayla’s life (and the lives of her classmates) but it isn’t given the Boomer Boogieman treatment by making it the root of all problems.  Burnham explores how this element impacts them and can assist in creating confusion, loss of innocence and even add to one’s anxiety but it never comes off preachy and like the product was pointing the finger solely at social media because we watch Kayla go through a lot of different pressures and issues one faces at that age—issues that can and do exist without social media.

That's the same look I have when I see someone post from their phone on social media
about how people are slaves to their phones and social media.

The performance from Elsie Fisher is absolutely stellar.  It’s already great to see an kid in a film that actually looks like a kid—I had to grow up in an era where 20-40 year olds were attempted to be passed off as teens.  Fisher nails the shy nature of the character and really makes you understand the depth of her social awkwardness and desire to want to feel like she matters in the social hierarchy of her age bracket.  Add in a supporting cast of kids who were all age-appropriate for their roles and the overwhelming natural-feeling acting that permeated the feature and it made for a very grounded and legit-feeling feature that ultimately made the experience feel like you were watching real-life unfold before you rather than just seeing a scripted drama play out.  Finally, Josh Hamilton was pretty fun and adorable as the dorky dad who is a touch overprotective of his daughter—but not like in a creepy way.  He didn’t come off as the overprotective type who would wear a shirt that had rules about how to date his daughter and do that creepy policing of his kid’s sexuality.  Nope, just a dorky dad who wants to make his daughter smile with his innocent, goofy humor and see her be happy and safe.

This kid nailed it!  Her performance really made the film and made her character
incredibly sympathetic.

Eighth Grade is a simple, character-driven film that focuses on the trials of youth through a “fly on the wall” perspective.  We watch Kayla run through the hurdles of her age and the moments range from fun and amusing as we see her triumph and make a friend with a high school student or stick up for herself against a snobby classmate to scary moments when she’s face with a creepy older kid making sexual advances upon her.  There’s an unfiltered lens this story is showcased through that will show you all the great and not-so-great things and, when combined with the performances and Burnham’s visual eye and storytelling style, it makes for a feature that was memorable, emotionally impactful and very engaging and entertaining.

Friday, January 24, 2020

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

***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.  El Camino:  A Star Wars Story.

El Camino:  A Breaking Bad Movie – 4 out of 5

There’s no denying what a show Breaking Bad was.  It was just an incredibly written, terrifically acted and insanely addicting television show that was filled with interesting characters.  I was pretty consumed with watching the rise and fall of Walter White and, despite some minor complaints, I felt the show ended fairly well.  However, the world still had stories to tell and it delivered them in a spin-off series; Better Call Saul (which I love!), and, most recently, a Netflix film.  Despite enjoying the series, I dragged my feet on this one because Netflix film’s don’t have the best track record with me but I recently sat down with El Camino:  A Breaking Bad Movie and really enjoyed it!

Trauma, bitch!

After the events of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) freeing Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) from his captors, Jesse flees in a stolen El Camino to the home of his friends; Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker).  His friends agree to help him get rid of the hot vehicle while Jesse goes on to find people from his past that can help him start a new life, all the while he is having flashes of the horrors his life has been since he came in contact with Walter White.

He's the one who knocks...because he really hates doorbells.

El Camino made me realize how unfulfilling Jesse’s conclusion was in the finale of Breaking Bad.  At the time when I watched it, I thought it was an okay sendoff to the character and didn’t get too worked up about his conclusion.  This film shows how much potential there was still in the character and how I didn’t fully realize how satisfying of a conclusion I needed for Jesse.  This story gives the character the happy ending that he deserved and it tells the story in the same engaging and captivating way the series was.  In fact, that is one of the best parts about this film.

To be fair, he had to supplement his income with relocating people because why
on earth would vacuum stores still exist?

I was incredibly impressed with how the film looked and felt exactly like the series.  This dynamic not only made it feel like no time had passed since the finale but also helped suck me in because it felt like I was right there back with the series.  The overall tone and atmosphere mixed with the story structure of series creator (and writer and director of the film) Vince Gilligan made the entire experience feel like an extension of the series finale.  Hell, even seeing the familiar supporting faces that came and went in Jesse’s life just adds to this and the overall feel of a return to form of the show.  Sure, it probably could be argued that the film is leaning towards the nostalgia of the show and throwing on some fan service as it doesn’t really bring in new characters but this felt less like this tactic and more towards keeping with the spirit of the show.

Explosion, bitch!

Just like the show, the performances are great.  Everyone feels exactly like they did in the series and there’s no wonkiness as they get back into character.  While every performance is great, ultimately it all came down to Aaron Paul.  The whole movie is about Jesse and Paul really nailed this chapter of Jesse’s life.  Jesse has and always will be the breakout star of Breaking Bad and he was definitely always one of the more sympathetic characters on the show (probably the most would be Skylar—the nightmare that woman went through) and he continues this as we watch Jesse try to escape the past and the hell he’s been through.  His pain, frustration and even fear over what has happened to him is palpable and watching Paul bring this to life was incredibly interesting and engaging.

Jesse gets super badass in this one, too!

El Camino:  A Breaking Bad Movie continues the show in the best way possible.  It has great acting, a terrific story and, most importantly, it offers up the conclusion to Jesse’s story that he deserves.  Overall, I was very impressed with this one and is one of those rare Netflix film’s that ends up working out.  Without a doubt, that is completely due to the property and the fact the series creator was involved but, still, it’s one of those seldom great Netflix feature films.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

It's Not All Bad...Spider-Man 3

It’s Not All Bad…Spider-Man 3

Hey!  It’s been a little while since my last edition of "It’s Not All Bad…," the segment here on my blog where I take a look at films that are either critically hated or thoroughly pissed on by the court of public opinion and then I make the argument that they are not entirely bad.

You should see the other guy...not a mark on him.

In this post, I am focusing my attention on 2007's Spider-Man 3, Sam Raimi’s third in his franchise from Sony.  Full disclosure, I’m not a big fan of Raimi’s Spidey films.  I felt like, tonally, Raimi wasn’t the right director for the property and Tobey Maguire just never felt like the wall-crawling hero.  Plus, the movies have a lot of bad acting, the way Raimi writes the women in the films feels very sexist, and they are prone to get real silly real fast.  However, I will argue that the one thing these franchise has done immensely well is the casting of its villains.  Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin and Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus were just perfect in their portrayal of the comic counterparts.  These (and those in this third film, but I’ll get to that in a minute) were, in my opinion, the highlights of this trilogy and the elements that I found to be practically flawless. 

I didn't realize the symbiote is into choking.  Play safe, you alien from another planet!

In this third film, a meteorite lands in central park with an alien entity called a symbiote.  The creature attaches itself to Peter Parker (Maguire) and gifts him with a new suit and his powers enhanced.  Meanwhile, a science experiment goes wrong and transforms escaped convict Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) into “living sand.”  When Peter realizes the suit is making him a danger, he tries to get rid of it but only ends up passing it on to Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), a disgraced photographer from the Daily Bugle who lost his job and blames it on Parker.  The symbiote merges with Brock and they become Venom.  And while all this is going on, Harry Osborn (James Franco) is seeking vengeance against Spider-Man for the death of his father and uses his dad’s tech to become a new Green Goblin.  So, needless to say, the old Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man has his hands full.

"This suit is so slimming!"

After Spider-Man 3 came out in 2007 (Has it really been that long?), fans were not happy.  There was the “Emo Peter Parker,” the infamous jazz dance sequence, too many villains, and the way Venom was portrayed--just to name a few of the complaints.  To this day, 13 years later as I write this, people still endlessly complain about the film.  Hell, I used to be a guy that constantly talked about how it is a bad movie (but also argued that it is fun in how bad it is) but, over the last decade, kinda stopped talking about it because still complaining about it isn’t going to change it.  Plus, Spider-Man is now in the MCU and Tom Holland has gone on to be the best Spider-Man I’ve ever seen on film—but that’s just my opinion.  As I’ve stopped complaining about the film I’ve also started praising the things I felt worked, all in an effort to be more positive towards entertainment and attempting to not add to the toxicity of fandom—Hell, that’s the reason I created this segment.  So now let’s take a dive into Spider-Man 3 and list off the things I like about the film and why I would argue that it’s not all bad.

It's truly astounding that the property was able to recover from this.
Granted, it took a decade and Marvel Studios help but it recovered.

I know the fans were very, VERY upset with not only the portrayal of Venom but they were also furious with the casting.  Venom and even Eddie Brock are shown as very big and very muscular in the comics and casting noticeably smaller and thinner Topher Grace was taken as an insult.  While I will grant that this onscreen look of Venom doesn’t look like how he does on the page, I won’t say that Grace’s performance isn’t good.  In fact, I think he’s doing an amazing job.  For example, when Brock is in the church right before the symbiote merges with him and he is praying to God to kill Peter Parker is a truly impressive scene and an absolutely astounding performance.  Sure, it’s not the Venom from the comic but Grace sure did a great job of being this new version.

Can we get Grace into the MCU?  He's a great actor and I would love to see him in
my favorite cinematic universe that I am completely obsessed with.

Like the other films, I think this one really nailed the casting of its villains.  I already mentioned I liked Grace’s performance but I really enjoyed seeing Thomas Haden Church as Sandman.  If you were mad that Venom didn’t look like the comics, surely you must have been pleased to see such a comic accurate appearing Sandman because Church really looked like he was lifted off the pages.  And if the appearance isn't enough, his performance is sure incredible.  Finally, there is James Franco as the new Goblin.  Sure, Franco is very, VERY problematic currently but, at the time, he was just this powerhouse young actor who could really steal the show and seeing him as the Goblin might have overfilled the film’s quota for villains but he sure didn’t phone it in either.  I guess you can also count J. Jonah Jameson as a somewhat villain (a diet antagonist, if you will) due to his hatred of Spider-Man—and we can all agree that J.K. Simmons is absolute perfection as J.J. and it made me so happy to see him reprise the role and be a part of the MCU.

You're the real MVP!

Finally, the special effects to bring Sandman to life is awesome-sauce!  I remember when I first saw this in the theater and was blown away with the scene after Marko is victimized by the experiment.  Watching the sand try to reform, I could see within the animation the struggle the character was going through.  You could see and feel his pain and frustration as his world is completely obliterated and he is now this completely new thing that is destined to be rejected by society.  That scene alone is damn impressive but the additional sequences like Spidey punching out pieces of sand from him or the way Sandman commands and controls the sand was brought to life exceptionally well and I was damn impressed with what the effects team created.  And the best part, the effects hold up and still look good today!

"No, my sand spleen!"

Spider-Man 3 is definitely a holdover from a time where comic book features were haphazard at best.  It is bogged down by a lot of things that make many of its criticisms warranted and justified.  However, I don’t believe that every movie ever made is either one thing or another and rarely do I not find worth in a feature (but it does happen occasionally).  Sure, this third adventure has its problems and ended up killing the franchise and forcing Sony to reboot the character (and then that one also failed—and for a lot of the same reasons) but it also has some worthwhile elements to it that makes it not all bad.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Ad Astra

***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.  It's only 25 cents extra to add astra!

Ad Astra – 4 out of 5

The ads for Ad Astra looked fairly interesting and the trailer definitely made it look intriguing but there was something about it that just didn’t grab me and convince me that I had to see it immediately.  While it definitely had me curious, I decided I would wait to see it when it arrived in the home release department.  Recently, I checked it out and found it both captivating and kinda boring at the same time.

They got their asses to Mars.  Good for them.

Oops, someone plugged in someone's straight fire mixtape
on the space station's aux cord.
After a mysterious power surge starts hitting the planet and nearly kills Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), the U.S. Space Command informs the major that the incidents have been traced back to a project from two decades ago called the “Lima Project.”  Led by Roy’s father H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), the project was intended to be used to see if there was intelligent life in the solar system but after the project reached Neptune nothing had been heard from them.  Believing that he is still alive, Space Command sends out Major McBride to Mars in order to try and contact him but after a reply seems to have returned and kept from the Major, McBride is ordered to return to Earth.  Believing that this is proof his father is still alive, McBride decides to disobey orders and head to Neptune to find his father and stop the power surges.

At least he didn't have to travel to Uranus.
I promise that will be the ONLY Uranus joke.

Ad Astra was a bit of a back and forth type of film for me.  It comes roaring out of the gate as it sets up its central conflict and wastes no time in establishing the reality and the stakes…and then it hits the brakes—HARD.  The story starts to slow down before suddenly everything kicks up again and it gets interesting…and then the brakes hit again.  Basically, the film felt like constantly revving the engine up and blasting down the straight away before being stopped by the traffic light turning red.  The story would go from exciting to interesting and compelling to dragging and boring.  As an overall product, the film is very engaging and entertaining but there were definitely times when the story slowed down to a crawl for me and it was hard to remain invested.

Looks like Fury Road goes all the way to the Moon.

The Subway in the background offers up moon cheese
as an option for the subs.
One thing I really enjoyed about the film was the world building it provides.  Ad Astra is presenting a not-so-distant future in a grounded, pretty believable way.  The commercial flights and overt commercialism that is seen on the Moon as Roy arrives (there’s a Subway on the Moon!) is partially amusing and pretty accurate for how our real future will probably end up as.  There are some elements that may not feel as authentic as the Moon has pirates who are scavenging.  Yes, this results in a cool action scene but if you think about it too long and compare it to other world building elements it all starts to seem a bit silly.  Although, I can't see the future so maybe the Moon will one day have pirates, I don't know.  Something that is also silly, the space baboons but I won’t get into that and, instead, just briefly mention them so anyone who hasn’t seen the movie will say, “WTF?”

Damn, dirty space baboons!

The look of a man who has been to Uranus.
HA!  I lied.  The previous Uranus joke wasn't the only
Uranus joke!
The performances in the film are terrific but, honestly, not wholly memorable.  While the story does explore a lot of what is going on internally with Roy McBride—his feelings of abandonment from his father and his own similar feelings concerning his estranged wife Eve (played by Liv Tyler)—we only really see this through some quick flashes of memory and through narration of McBride’s thoughts…and a whole lot of Pitt staring off into the distance.  While this does showcase what he is going through emotionally it doesn’t really utilize a performance to really convey this.  I will add, however, that the character is intended to be slightly aloof and not one to reveal his emotions so there is this part coldness to him and part cool calculating nature that Pitt does pull off well.  Additionally, the supporting cast are all doing great jobs with their characters.  All in all, everyone is doing fantastic from a performance standpoint but the story and the presentation of the film didn’t really feel like it was suited to illustrate commanding, attention-grabbing performances.  So, from one perspective the performances work for the product that Ad Astra is but, on the other hand, I didn’t come away from it with any scenes that were made unforgettable due to a halting performance.

That smoldering stare, however, is halting AF.

Ad Astra is a visually stunning, extremely interesting sci-fi drama that also has the habit of being kinda boring at times.  In the film’s defense, it isn’t intended to be an exciting space adventure and is more leaning towards a dry drama with some science fiction thriller sprinkles.  It’s an engaging film that is telling a fascinating story and has a tremendous cast.  It just, unfortunately, had a problem with dragging very noticeably for me during the more character development moments.  As an overall product, I really enjoyed it but I don’t see this being a feature that I will ever watch again.  It’s a great, incredibly well-made movie but one this is a feature that is a “one and done” kinda event.