Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Movie Review: The Meg (PG13 – 113 minutes)

First off, I love sharks.  Sharks are key to ocean ecosystems and most are very endangered, due to climate change and poaching.  They are beautiful, amazing, fantastic creatures, and if you want to learn more, or help in conservation efforts, go to Sharks.org to visit the Shark Research Institute to see how you can help.

Now, there have been countless shark movies over the years, starting with Jaws, and continuing all the way through Sharknado and Deep Blue Sea (“deepest, bluest, my hat is like a shark fin!”).  In fact, Sharknado 6 will be on the SyFy network this coming Sunday night so they are running all kinds of crazy-shark nonsense movies all week (I haven’t watched Santa Jaws yet, but it is on my DVR). 
Side note - A megalodon (“big tooth”) is a prehistoric shark, currently extinct (or are they?!?).  Living 23 to 2.6 million years ago, Megs looked like a great white with a slightly blunter and wider jaw, but were much larger, getting near 60 feet long (double side note, the one in the movie is listed at 75 feet).

The Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, was published in July 1997. I promptly bought it and read it, and have also read several others in the series (yes, there are seven books in the series).  In the book, paleontologist and marine biologist Jonas Taylor is working in the Mariana Trench with the navy, when he believes he sees a Meglalodon attack and kill a compatriot.  See, there’s a warm water layer way down in the depths of the trench, heated by volcanic vents where the Megs and other previously believed-to-be-extinct creatures can stay.  No one believes Jonas, and years later he teams with Masao Tanaka to go back, resulting in a Meg getting killed and dragged upwards, as a large pregnant female follows it up through the gap in the warm layer, protected by the blood streaming from the dead Meg.  Chaos ensues – including the Meg destroying a helicopter.

In this movie version, Jonas Taylor is a rescue diver, and opens the movie trying to save a group of scientists in a submarine.  He’s pulling out one of the men, while two of his crew are still trapped, something attacks the sub.  He makes the decision to save the 11 men he has, and leave behind the two others. Haunted by that decision, and branded a crazy man, he retires to drinking in Thailand.
Years later, billionaire Jack Morris goes to research stating Mana One so that Dr. Minway Zhang, his daughter Suyin, and their crew can show him their discovery that there is a gas cloud at the bottom of the Mariana Trench protecting a warm water layer and ecosystem at the bottom.  Sure enough, a sub with three of their researchers gets attacked and goes down.  Conveniently, the sub’s pilot is Jonas’s ex, so they are able to convince him to come go after them. He does rescue them, but not before everyone can confirm that there is, in fact, a Meg down there.  As they swiftly ascend, they burst through the barrier, allowing time for the shark to follow them through.  This allows for that shot you’ve seen in the trailer of the Meg sneaking up on the little girl in the station. Even though that was in every trailer, it was still thrilling in the movie. 

Chaos ensues, including the Meg not destroying a helicopter (how is there a helicopter in this movie and the Meg does not destroy it?), chasing beachgoers, Statham tagging it and narrowly getting eaten, and a tiny dog surviving (bonus points for the dog not getting eaten).

The movie is directed by Jon Turteltaub, who also did The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and both National Treasure movies, so I am a little surprised that Nicholas Cage is not in this movie, imagine if he had played the Jack Morris role! The movie is well-aware of what it is, and most of the cast is completely on-board for the type of movie they are making. Turteltaub is great at making action flicks, and the joint Chinese/American production benefits in terms of location and budget.  The shots along the beach and of boats racing through the ocean are beautiful. The cast is large and diverse.

  • Jason Statham is wonderful in this, well aware of his role here. Personally, I love a Bacony-Jason Statham, and he’s at almost full Bacon here. He finally gets to use some of that Olympic-level diving skill as he is constantly diving into the water to save someone or get aggressive with the Meg.  Statham is exceptional at comedy-action (go watch Spy again), so he is perfect in this with the partial wink to the camera.  Also – bonus points for the gratuitous shirtless scene.

  • Li Bingbing plays Suyin, and she was also great as the head scientist on Mana One. She knows a lot about sharks, and her first instinct is to find a non-lethal option for dealing with the Meg. Until, of course, the Meg starts eliminating her friends. Her chemistry with Statham was fantastic and their flirting scenes were fun. 

  • Shuya Sophia Cai plays Suyin’s daughter Meiying, and she was surprisingly charming for a kid actor!  Her scenes with Statham were particularly entertaining.

  • Rainn Wilson plays billionaire Morris, and while he was very annoying, he was effective. He’s there to make money by whatever means necessary.

  • Cliff Curtis is underused in this, but at least he gets to use his own New Zealand accent, and seeing him joking around with Statham is so much better than watching him mope around on FearTWD.  He’s there to convince Statham to help, and to coordinate the team.  He gets to do a lot of looking at screens and yelling both orders and questions into headsets.

  • Winston Chao plays Zhang the elder, happily running the station with both his daughter and granddaughter on board (why is your granddaughter on a station in the middle of the ocean? Surely that violates some safety rule).  He seems to be the one taking the movie a little too seriously.

  • From that point on, the other crew members are less well-defined, and just work together to do various tasks.  Batwoman-to-be Ruby Rose plays Jaxx, who designed the station.  Page Kennedy plays DJ, Robert Taylor (Longmire) plays Doctor Heller (who has a past with Jonas), Olafur Darri Olafsson plays The Wall, Jessica McNamee plays Lori, and Masi Oka briefly shows up to save the cheerleader – I mean, the Wall and Lori.  They are a really wonderful, international group, so I do wish there was a little more character definition as to what each of them do.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie, it delivered exactly what it promised – but I wish it had actually gone a little further into the silly realm.  There was a scene that briefly commented on the brutality of shark finning and poaching – and that the Meg evened the score.  I wouldn’t have minded that message getting hammered home a little harder.  Shark conservation is getting more and more important, plus nothing makes me happier than seeing poachers get what they deserve.  The final sequence with all the swimmers on a very popular beach was just hilarious, and all the Chinese extras were amazing. Plus, the fact that various regular sized sharks got a hero moment was lovely.

7 out of 10 – perfectly acceptable summer fare, taking a big bite out of the weekend.  Lost a point for using “Fin” as the closing credit – very funny and a cute nod, but Sharknado already did that 6 years ago.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Movie Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me (R – 117 minutes)

It’s late summer, and that means a little bit of filler before you head into the October horror flicks, then the ‘holiday’ movies, then the year-end Oscar-bait. 

The Spy Who Dumped Me is a forgettable action comedy that begins with Audrey turning 30 having just been dumped via text message by her boyfriend Drew.  She is not thrilled with the current status of her life, aside from her amazing best friend, Morgan.  While at work one day, a handsome british dude gets her to walk him to his car, and swiftly abducts her, telling her that Drew is actually a spy for the CIA, and that he hid something everyone is now after.  Audrey and Morgan inexplicably end up on an international cross-department mission to find the package, deliver it to the buyer, figure out who is double-crossing who, and save the world. 

There’s not much else to say about the plot, the comedy comes from the situations of two regular L.A. type ladies thrust into insane spy sequences. This is director Susanna Fogel’s first major film as a director, and she does a fine job, the action scenes are pretty good, and the cast is good.  Perhaps my issue is with the writing? It’s just not as funny as it could be with a cast this talented.  
  • Mila Kunis plays Audrey, and does a good job as a woman who feels stuck in life, and is not sure what to do next. An accidental superspy seems right up her alley.

  • Kate McKinnon plays Morgan, and most of the actual laughs I had during the movie were because of her offhanded reactions or one-liners.

  • Sam Heughan and his new haircut play Sebastian, the handsome MI6 agent who steps in to try to save Audrey and get her to do the right thing.

  • Hasan Minhaj plays Agent Duffer, Sebastian’s CIA partner who is there to annoy everyone by constantly reminding everyone he went to Harvard.

  • Justin Theroux plays Drew, and I don’t know what it is about him that I don’t like, but I can’t think of anything I’ve seen him in that I liked him in.

  •  Ivanna Sakhno plays the hitwoman Nadedja, who seems to be questionable at her job. She definitely has an intimidating look.

  • Gillian Anderson has a brief role as the MI6 boss who starts by being disappointed by Sebastian, then won over.

Overall, the movie isn’t terrible, and it has some laughs – but it is really uneven.  It seems to want to be both a crass comedy and an over-the-top action flick. I think it would have been better served to just focus on the buddy action beats and let the comedy come from the two leads, who are exceptional at it.  Kunis and McKinnon are really good together.
5 out of 10, don’t bother with it in the theater, but if it comes on TV, give it a watch.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Movie Review: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (PG13 – 147 minutes)

The first Mission: Impossible movie, based on the TV series of the same name, was released in 1996, and featured Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise – but referred to as Ethan Hunt - as he and his IMF team hunted down Jon Voigt.  It was directed by Brian De Palma, and featured the impressive stunt sequence of Tom hanging from the ceiling by a wire as well as doing a lot of running.  MI2 followed in 2000, directed by John Woo, and featured some impressive rock climbing by Mr. Cruise, some running, and some trademark Woo double gun/dove work as he hunted down Dougray Scott.  MI3 in 2006 was directed by J.J. Abrams, and featured Mr. Cruise running for an extended time through Shanghai and breaking into the Vatican as he chased down Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

In 2011, Brad Bird stepped in as director, and we received Mission: Impossible, Ghost Protocol (MI4).  In this one, Mr. Cruise does some running, climbs the Burj Khalifa, as well as an extended underwater thieving sequence as he chases down Michael Nyqvist.   In 2015, Christopher McQuarrie directed Mr. Cruise as he did some extended running versus Rebecca Ferguson, rode the outside of a plane, and chased down Sean Harris.

In this new version, we get the first repeat director as Christopher McQuarrie directs Mission: Impossible Fallout.  Here, Cruise/Hunt reteams with Benji Dunn and Luther Stickell to try to find some plutonium that they had but lost.  The CIA is more than a bit upset that they lost the plutonium in the first place and hard-as-nails CIA boss Erica Sloan attaches agent August Walker (no seriously, August Walker), to team up with the IMF team as they go to Paris to attempt to broker with the White Widow, an arms dealer and international broker of sorts. Her contact’s price for the plutonium is to break Solomon Lane out of prison.  This proves awkward as Hunt is the one who captured him previously, but since he’s pretending to be ‘John Lark’, he can’t tell her that, so the team has to come up with a plan to break out Lane, but also prevent him from re-connecting to his disciples who just want to use the plutonium to create three bombs that they can set off at the same time in undisclosed locations, all while evading the real Lark who may or may not have other plans in place.  This will involve a H.A.L.O. (high-altitude, low-opening) jump from a plane, a motorcycle chase through Paris, an incredible helicopter chase, and because it’s Mr. Cruise – some extending running through London.

I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie.  To be fair, I should not be surprised. They seem to just be getting better as they progress, and keeping the same director from the previous movie paid off in this case. McQuarrie now has the perfect sense of how to work with Cruise to craft a decent story around incredible action and fantastic stunts.  The movie is too long, but there’s not much I would have recommended to cut.  The stunts are phenomenal, as you would expect, and the cast has finally reached a point where they are not rotating in and out as much, allowing for some real ‘gelling’ between teammates.
  • Tom Cruise plays Tom Cruise as he jumps, rides, runs, and fights his way through the movie. Whatever your feelings on his personal life and craziness, he is a man who will give all he has to the audience. He continues to up the ante on the stunts.  While they are set pieces, they do help to enhance the story, so I will keep watching these as long as he keeps making them.

  • Ving Rhames continues his record as the only other actor to be in all six of the MF movies to date. Luther is Ethan’s rock, and is there to make sure Ethan stays on path.  Luther actually gets some of the more heavy duty acting in this movie has he conveys to Julia how much Ethan blames himself for her situation.

  • Simon Pegg plays Benji Dunn, and between he, Rhames, and Cruise – they have really started to form a tight-knit heart to these movies. Where Luther is Hunt’s grounding force, Benji is there to amp him up and push him forward. 

  • Rebecca Ferguson returns as MI6 agent Ilsa Faust. She’s still after Lane, having been directed by her bosses to take him out. Since Hunt needs him to get the plutonium, this puts them at odds. Ferguson is fantastic in these movies, stunt capable and action ready – I really hope she officially joins the team for the next one.

  • Alec Baldwin is back as Alan Hunley, the new director of the IMF team. He does what he can to help the team even as suspicious things come to light about Hunt’s actions.

  • Angela Bassett plays CIA boss Erica Sloan. She has no time for any IMF nonsense, and is there just to get the plutonium.  Sending in Walker is her way to keep tabs on the situation. She’s fantastic, and is another one I hope returns in the next installment.

  • Henry Cavill joins the fray as Walker, the CIA inserted assassin.  If Man from U.N.C.L.E. suggested he should be Bond, this convinced me. It seems that Idris Elba is focused on his music career now, so lets shift Cavill into position. Cavill spends most of the movie blending into the background, allowing the other, more charismatic, actors to shine, until he gets his moments to go toe-to-toe with Cruise.

  • Sean Harris returns as Solomon Lane, and he’s equally as creepy, weird, and devious here as he was in the previous movie. He’s a worthy villain for the team to face.

  • Vanessa Kirby steps in as the White Widow, who seems to be not all bad, and not all good – just there to facilitate whatever is needed.

  • Michelle Monaghan returns as Julia, Ethan’s ex-wife. She’s currently working as an off-the-grid doctor, but not so off the grid that the bad guys can’t find her.  Wes Bentley briefly shows up as her new husband.

Overall, the movie really blew me away. The stunts are just great – that helicopter sequence is amazing, even more so because we know Cruise learned to fly for it. The practical shooting locations make a huge difference in grounding this fantastical international spy flick in some aspect of reality.  In particular, that motorcycle chase sequence in Paris had me out of breath. He rides the wrong way around the Arc de Triomphe – how is that even possible!?!  

The H.A.L.O. jump was cool, but unnecessary – so if I had to cut anything, it would have been that sequence.  Even with all those stunts, my favorite action sequence was the fight scene in the bathroom that you’ve seen in the trailers where Cavill reloads his ‘arm guns’.  The sequence was so well choreographed, brutal, big and small at the same time, and really exciting. 

9 out of 10 – Go see it. See it on the big screen, it’s absolutely worth it.  Also, the best Wolf Blitzer cameo ever.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Movie Review: Sorry to Bother You (R – 105 minutes)

Boots Riley has worked in the film world for a while, but mainly doing soundtracks and music.  This is the first movie he has written and directed. I had first heard about the movie very late last year and early this year when it started hitting the festival circuit looking for a distributor. It’s a very unique story, told in a very unique way.  Honestly, I struggle to sum it up, or begin to tell you what genre it is.

The story revolves around Cassius “Cash” Green, who is unemployed in Oakland and living in his uncle’s garage-apartment, fighting to keep the garage door down when his girlfriend Detroit comes over.  Cassius heads to a telemarketing company, RegalView, where his friend Salvador works so that he can get a job.  Swiftly hired, Cassius at first struggles with attempting to sell what I think was encyclopedias over the phone, but then gets some advice from co-worker ‘Langston’.  Langston tells him to use his “white voice”.  The white voice is not just speaking properly, but a voice that conveys the idea of wealth.  Cash starts speaking in a David Cross voice, and immediately becomes hugely successful at selling, finding he has a gift for it.

Meanwhile, Detroit also begins working at the company, and a coworker named Squeeze starts to organize the employees to demanding fair wages and union opportunities.  Before Cash can even get too confused as to where he stands on the issue, he is promoted ‘upstairs’, to be a “power caller”.  He goes upstairs, and is briefly trained by Mr. _______ to make the big calls for RegalView’s parent firm, WorryFree.  During the first half of the movie, WorryFree ads and billboards show up in the background, advertising a life free of bill-paying.  You just have to move into one of their ‘buildings’ that look suspiciously like prisons, eat what and when they tell you, and work as they tell you.  A radical group called “the Left Eye” is opposed to this WorryFree lifestyle, and is fighting against them.  Cash stops wondering how he feels about WorryFree when he gets his first paycheck. 

Cassius proves to be as good a power caller as he was a regular caller, but as the employee riots grow larger outside of RegalView, he is hit in the head with a soda can as he enters the building to work – which gets caught on video and goes viral.  Cash makes it to Detroit’s art show opening with his head bleeding, where she does a piece of performance art. Cash then heads to a WorryFree company party to  meet the owner/CEO, Steve Lift.  Lift lets Cash know he’s been watching him, and wants him to take a special assignment in the company, that sort of involves overseeing a new workforce for the WorryFree endeavors.

From this point on, things get weird.  And, they were weird before this point.  I would attempt to describe the movie as a surrealist comedy, but with layered social overtones about money, wealth, employment, and corporate treatment of black Americans. Riley has done something completely unique, with some genuine laughs as well as some moments that really make you think, and some moments that will make you cringe.  The movie is directed well, it’s a little choppy here and there, but honestly, I think that is a style choice rather than a mistake.  Riley has an incredible eye and the movie is visually very slick. The cast is wonderful, and embraces the absurdity.
  • Lakeith Stanfield plays Cassius Green, a guy who just wants to get paid so that he can advance his situation.  Stanfield plays the character just right as Cash is trying not to get overly invested in anything, existing just on the edge of constant frustration and lack of engagement.  Cash is instantly relatable, and the perfect center for this storm of crazy.

  • Tessa Thompson plays Detroit, a character that felt very similar to her characters from Dear White People and Creed, but she is good at that particular character.

  • Terry Crews plays Sergio, Cash’s uncle, who is trying his best to maintain his house, but with Cash four months behind on the rent, he is starting to consider WorryFree living.

  • Jermaine Fowler plays Salvador, who helps Cash get the job.  He’s over the top and hilarious, providing the right counter to Cash’s low-key frustration.

  • Steven Yeun plays Squeeze, who is bound and determined to unionize the RegalView employees and has some surprising sign spinning skills – or at least his stunt double does.

  • Michael X. Sommers plays Johnny, Cash’s immediate supervisor, he’s creepy, weird, but also seems very supportive of Cash as he progresses.
  • Danny Glover plays Langston, and he absolutely says that he’s too old for this sh*t in this movie.

  • Kate Berlant plays Diana DeBauchery, a new manager brought in at RegalView to help motivate the employees.
  • Omari Hardwick plays Mr. ________, and I am not typing it that way because I forgot his name – his name is never revealed in the movie.  For the majority of the movie, his voice is Patton Oswalt.

  • Armie Hammer plays the obnoxious Steve Lift, so again, perfect fit.  He absolutely values profits over ethics and gets to play this character completely ego-maniacal corporate villain!

Overall, the movie is so strange – it is funny, but it can also make you feel really uncomfortable. It’s worth a viewing because it’s completely new and unique, but the back half of the movie almost feels like a different movie than the front half. It's interesting enough to make me look forward to the next thing Boots Riley does. 

6 out of 10: points given for being so interesting, different, and out-of-the-box. Points off for the somewhat shocking appearance of equisapians.  Spoiler alert, there are equisapians in this movie.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Movie Review: Skyscraper (PG13 – 102 minutes)

When watching trailers and commercials for this movie, I realized how much of my trust the Rock has earned.  Had there been any other star in the lead, I probably would not have seen this movie.

I appreciate when a movie is straightforward about what it is.  At no point did this movie attempt to be any more or less that what it is: action movie set in a giant building starring the Rock. Period. Will Sawyer is a former S.W.A.T. team (?) member who lost a leg in an attempt to take down a domestic abuse/hostage taker situation 10 years ago.  The doctor who saves him is Sarah, a naval doctor who eventually becomes his wife.  Together they have two children as he moves into the field of private security.

In present day, Will, Sarah, and the kids are the first to stay in one of the residential apartments in the top half of a new tower in Hong Kong called ‘the Pearl’.  At 3,500 feet and 225 stories tall, it is the new “World’s Tallest Building”.  The owner/designer, Zhao Long Ji, has hired Will to come in and check the security and safety measures before he opens the top residential half of the building (apparently the bottom, all stores and business, has been open for some time).  

As Will heads up to the penthouse to give his final report to the execs, Sarah is taking the kids to see some pandas because they were given special tickets to a ‘night-feeding’ by Will’s buddy Ben.
Will approves the opening of the top floors and is given in return a tablet that controls all the security for the building that only his face can access and is run from an offsite location, which makes little to no sense.  Their son gets sick, so Sarah brings the kids back early, accidentally running into a ‘maintenance’ crew run by Kores Botha.  He’s there to burn the building to get something he needs from Zhao.  Apparently Botha works for several powerful crime organizations, all of which demanded protection money from Zhao when he was building. However, he tracked all the payments on a special drive, and now Botha needs that drive or he will be in big trouble with his employers. So his answer is to burn the building by turning off the safety measures, which he can only do with the tablet cued to Will’s face at the off-site location.  I’m not entirely sure it’s a great plan, but hey – you have to get the story started somehow.  

Since Will was checking in at the off-site location, but Sarah and the kids are back inside, he has to get back into the building. His solution is to climb then jump from a super crane next to the building.  Once inside, some standard action hijinks ensue as Will does some climbing, fighting, searching, duct-taping, and out-smarting to get to Zhao and Botha and save his family.

Writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber is better known for outlandish comedies (We’re the Millers and Dodgeball), but he also did Central Intelligence with the Rock, and that chemistry translates here. The action is entertaining, and the layout of the building is really fascinating, especially the giant park in the middle and the wind turbines that help it generate its own power. The cast is good, and does enough to fill in the holes between action pieces.

  • Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson plays Will Sawyer, and makes him believable as a man who is still coping with the mental aspects of the loss of his leg, and more than a little self-doubt about his private security business finally getting a giant client. He would do anything for his family.

  • Neve Campbell plays Sarah, and she was pretty great. She surprises the local law enforcement by being fluent in Mandarin, and due to being a naval doctor, can hold her own against a terrorist or two.  Honestly, I wanted even more of those moments – she was pretty kick-ass, and got some fight scenes, but I wanted her to beat up more bad guys!

  • Pablo Schreiber plays Will’s former teammate and current business hookup.  He’s fine, but at no point did I not think he was involved with the plot.  Tickets to a panda “night-feeding”?  Very suspicious!

  • Noah Taylor plays the very shady insurance agent Mr. Pierce, who is also at no point trustworthy.  Stop being so obvious about being villains, bad guys!

  • Hannah Quinlivan lays Xia, Botha’s number one henchwoman on the ground, who is there to get the tablet unlocked and to the off-site location.

  • Roland Moller plays Kores Botha – he’s big and scary, and does a fine job of menacing everything that everyone loves while trying to get what he needs.

  • Byron Mann plays Inspector Wu, and I feel like I have complained with several other Rock movies (San Andreas and Rampage) about the underusage of Will Yun Lee – well, here I’m complaining about the underuseage of Byron Mann. He’s wonderful and capable of so much – and unfortunately spends most of this movie staring at computer monitors and TV screens watching whatever Will is up to.  He does listen to Sarah once she’s out of the building, but that takes a while.

  • Chin Han continues to perfect playing “smug Asian businessman” in this movie as Zhao.  He really does love his building, and seems to want to get out from underneath the terrorist thumb he accidentally got under, but something about his performance kept making me think he might be in with the bad guys – all the way to the end.

Overall, the movie was plenty entertaining, and the Rock continues to use his charm to elevate otherwise average materials. And as for the Die Hard comparisons – yes, it’s a building that gets overtaken by terrorists, but really the comparisons are unfair.  Die Hard is the best action movie made and excels for many reasons, but primarily because of the out-of-placeness of John McClane. He’s a regular dude in the wrong place at the right time.  Here, Will is a security expert, he knows the building in and out, and is the perfect person to get in get his family. Skyscraper is not nearly as good, and you’re better off going in without attempting to compare it. Don’t expect too much from it, and it won’t let you down.

6 out of 10, a serviceable action flick.
Cast interview;