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!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Movie review: Bohemian Rhapsody (PG13 – 134 minutes)

I first became aware of Queen when I fell in love with the 1986 movie Highlander. It has always been one of my favorites, and a lot of that is because of the music.  That carried over into the Highlander TV show.  

There have been a lot of rumors of a Queen or Freddie Mercury biopic for many years. Supposedly Sacha Baron Cohen was close to portraying Freddie Mercury, but left the project after clashing with the remaining members of the band about how certain aspects of his life should be depicted.  Cohen wanted to delve deep into Freddie’s sexual ambiguity, and the band wanted to focus on the music.  Ben Whishaw was also mentioned as a possibility, but finally Rami Malek took on the project, and Bryan Singer began the direction (he did not finish), and the movie approached the finish line.

Bohemian Rhapsody follows the story of Queen as they form in 1970 when Farrokh Bulsara joins the former members of Smile, Brian May and Roger Taylor to form a new group.  Together, they pick up bassist John Deacon, and start touring as Queen.  Forrokh changes his name to Freddie Mercury, and the band begins to pick up steam as tour and record, gaining popularity through their energetic live performances.  They create a lot of different sounds, making a point to try everything.  Eventually, Freddie develops some standard ‘front-man’ syndrome symptoms and they have a falling out.  Freddie gets caught up in his solo career, drugs and alcohol and a shady business manager.  Eventually, Bob Geldof wants Queen to come perform at Live Aid in 1985, Freddie gets a visit from his best friend Mary, and realizes it’s time to turn everything around.  He reconciles with the band, looks up his love Jim Hutton, comes out to and reconciles with his family – all just in time to perform an incredible set at Live Aid. 

Now, if you are a fan of Queen, there is no new information in this movie.  I did not have a problem with that, honestly, I was mostly there for the music.  Yes, it is definitely a bio-pic and not a documentary.  Certain timeline things are shifted around to provide for the most cinematic drama possible.  Freddie had already known the guys prior to joining the band, there was no meet-cute in the parking lot after one of their shows.  While the band bickered, they never fell apart like in the movie – in fact, they had been touring together up to two months prior to Live Aid.  And, apparently Freddie received his AIDS diagnosis years after Live Aid, not just before as the movie depicts.  I don’t really have an issue with those shifts, it is a movie, after all, and they help the flow. 

The movie is listed as being directed by Bryan Singer, however, he did not finish the movie. Apparently, he was late several times, sometimes not showing up at all.  He stated it was family health issues, but when Rami Malek took exception to it, they had several fights. Dexter Fletcher came in to finish the picture. Even with that, the movie is perfectly serviceable with a decent cast.
  • Rami Malek does an incredible job of portraying Freddie Mercury. The swagger and stage presence is incredible, but even more incredible is the self-doubt and loneliness once he was off-stage. Malek is impressive, and while the fake teeth are a little difficult to deal with at first, you get used to them.

  • Lucy Boynton plays the love of Freddie’s life, Mary Austin. While Freddie was far from straight, he genuinely loved Mary, and she stayed his close friend and confidant until the end of his life - apparently she is the only one who knows the location of his ashes.. Boynton does a good job of being enthralled, then supportive, then frustrated, and finally accepting.

  • Gwilym Lee plays Dr. Brian May, (he does have his doctorate in astrophysics), the flip side to Freddie’s coin.  I loved his portrayal as mostly on board with Freddie’s crazy, sometimes perplexed, but mostly grateful.

  • Ben Hardy plays drummer Roger Taylor. He is also wonderful as another member sometimes perplexed by Freddie.
  • Joseph Mazzello (yes, the kid from the original Jurassic Park) plays bassist John Deacon. As with the other band members, he doesn’t get as much to do, but I really enjoyed the scene where he first plays the bassline to Another One Bites The Dust.

  • Aidan Gillen shows up as John Reid, the band’s manager for a very long time. He does what he can to ensure their success until Freddie fires him.
  • Allen Leech plays Paul Prenter, Freddie’s personal manager.  The movie portrays him as a man who fell in love with Freddie early on, and then resorted to various levels of villainy to keep him to himself.
  • Tom Hollander plays Jim Beach, the band’s lawyer who steps in after Reid is fired.
  • Mike Myers has a lovely cameo as a fictionalized record executive. He’s there to tell you that kids will never be able to bang their head while listening to Bohemian Rhapsody in their car.  Oh, the irony.

Some of the criticism of the movie is that it is a very ‘sanitized’ version of the story. Yes, Freddie’s rampant sexual history is touched on, but not deeply. The movie hints that he was into drugs, but that is never really shown.  Freddie died in 1991 of AIDS-related complications, and was the first major celebrity to die of the disease.  He kept his diagnosis secret for years, in fact only admitting publically the day before he died.  He never wanted to be ‘poster-child’ for the disease, he just wanted to keep making music.  I know the remaining members of the band are very careful to preserve Freddie’s legacy, and make it more about the music than the various levels of debauchery that were present. I did not have a problem with that, and did not mind this PG13 version of the story - also, I personally enjoyed the amount of attention paid to Freddie's cats.  Framing it around the performance at Live Aid was a good choice, and makes sense in the context of the story. 

If you like Queen, check it out. If you know nothing about Queen, know that this is a movie, not a documentary, but it is definitely enjoyable.

7 out of 10 – The music is fantastic. Also – keep an eye out for Adam Lambert’s cameo in the front as the flirty truck driver.

Curious how well Malek did?  Check it out - 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Movie Review: Venom (PG13 – 112 minutes)

Venom first appeared in Marvel comics in 1984, but he became one of my favorite characters during his appearance on the 90s animated Spider-Man cartoon.

In that version, astronauts accidentally dug up a gooey life form. Hitching a ride back to earth, the life form gets attached to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, literally. The alien symbiote gives Peter some added strength, making Spider-Man stronger, but also encouraging some of his darker urges. After almost throwing a bad-guy off a roof, Spider-Man realizes the suit is dangerous, and figuring out that sonic vibrations harm it – uses sound to remove it.  At the same time, Peter Parker was going through some issues with rival reporter Eddie Brock. Because Peter helped expose Brock as a fraud, Brock loses his job and career.  He ends up trailing Spider-Man, and happens to be in the right place at the right time to pick up the symbiote.  Instantly bonding over the shared hatred – Eddie hates Peter because of losing his job, and the symbiote hates Spider-Man for rejecting it, the two become Venom, bonded and an enemy of everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  Eventually, Venom helps Spider-Man defeat Carnage and moves to San Francisco, becoming a bit of a dark, anti-hero type protector of the city.

This movie encountered some fan criticism early by stating there would be no Spider-Man. It’s really difficult to have a character like Venom who exists because of Spider-Man in a movie that has no Spider-Man.  Once you get past that issue (it’s a tough thing to get past for any fan), the movie is pretty entertaining!

This movie picks up with the genius billionaire Carlton Drake as he and his team watch their shuttle crash on its way back to earth with some “samples”.  One of the samples, which are symbiotes, gets loose and wanders around Malaysia for a bit, biting off eel heads. The others are collected by Drake’s Life Foundation.  Meanwhile, reporter Eddie Brock is enjoying doing his reporting TV show, or perhaps web-series? It’s not really clear. He’s living with his finance Ann Weying, a lawyer who is working with the Life Foundation to defend against some wrongful death suits. Eddie gets an assignment to go interview Drake and mentions the wrongful death suit that he found out about by breaking into Anne’s email, and promptly gets kicked out, and then fired, and then dumped, as Ann also lost her job.

Six months later, Drake has secretly started to try to bond symbiotes with homeless human ‘volunteers’, which is not going well.  Eddie has nothing going for him, but Ann has moved on with generically handsome doctor Dan.  One of Drake’s associates, Dr. Skirth, reaches out to Eddie for assistance when the ‘volunteers’ start dying.  When Eddie joins her on a midnight trip to the lab, he breaks out one of the ‘volunteers’ and promptly gets symbiote-d. 

Drake sends all sorts of disposable henchmen after Eddie to get back his symbiote, but Eddie starts talking with the symbiote, which introduces itself as Venom. They begin to bond to become a pretty good fighter. While Venom is bouncing around San Francisco eating heads and driving Eddie nuts, the wandering symbiote, Riot, arrives and bonds with Drake in an effort to finalize their mission of getting back on the rocket/shuttle, going to collect more of them, and coming back to invade earth.  After some initial difficulties, Eddie and Venom work together to stop Riot. 

The movie is directed by Rueben Fleischer, who previously did Zombieland and Gangster Squad.  The movie is a little choppy, but honestly, I enjoyed it so much more than I was expecting.  Again, getting past the lack of Spider-Man is a huge hurdle, but once done, the back and forth between Eddie and the symbiote is really what sucked me in. It’s much funnier than I was expecting, and I think the choice to go PG13 instead of R was actually a good move. They also reworked scenes so that the word symbiote is pronounced correctly according to Marvel.  Early trailers had it pronounced symb-eye-ote, as opposed to symb-ee-ote, which is the way it had traditionally been said. Kudos to the producers to listening to their focus groups and making that change. It’s small, but it matters to listen to the fans. There is a motorcycle chase sequence that goes on a bit too long, but aside from that, I really enjoyed the action – I particularly enjoyed seeing Venom in full-out Venom mode, gleefully jumping through the city and biting off heads.  Yes, the final battle is symbiote on symbiote, and is a bit of a giant CGI mess, but that’s to be expected, and didn’t bother me too much.  The cast was really enjoyable.

  • I was prepared to not care for Tom Hardy in this role, but he really won me over. The addition of more humor than I was prepared for is what sold me. He also did well with conveying that Eddie was not the best guy before bonding. It’s hard to take a dude who is a bit of a jerk and sell a movie on him being the hero.

  • Michelle Williams does a good job as Anne, not taking any of Eddie’s crap, and moving on without him. I also enjoy that she was there was he was clearly in pain, and how she kept trying to reason with the symbiote when it was harming him.  Again – surprised by how much I enjoyed her in this.

  • Riz Ahmed plays Carlton Drake as completely and horrifically evil.  He thinks nothing of advancing his science at the expense of the humans around him. Once bonded with Riot, he’s even worse. He’s great as a villain, but honestly, could have chewed the scenery a little bit more.

  • Reid Scott plays Dr. Dan, who is charming and pleasant as Anne’s new boyfriend. He does the best he can to help out Eddie, even though he accidentally pisses off Venom by giving him an MRI
  • Jenny Slate plays Dr. Dora Skirth whose crisis of conscious brings Eddie into contact with the symbiote.
  • Spoiler Alert from here down!

  • While my fantasy casting for Cletus Kasady has always been Cillian Murphy, I have to admit, Woody Harrelson is a really interesting choice.  He doesn’t change into anything else in this and only shows up post credits – so slight spoiler that I am really looking forward to what he could do in a potential sequel.  I had no idea he was in this, and so was blown away by this post-credits bit, which is done almost exactly the way I would have done it.

Overall, I really was shocked by how much I enjoyed the movie.  I have always loved Venom, and the Spider-Man bits were a lot of what I loved. Honestly though, that storyline warrants an entire movie to tell correctly – so I much prefer that they simply omitted it, rather than half-assing it. 

8 out of 10 – I love the shots of Venom venoming: Bouncing around the city, climbing up buildings, biting off heads, and the hilarious back and forth between the symbiote and Eddie.  It’s definitely worth checking out for yourself.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Movie Review: Night School (PG13 – 111 minutes)

Kevin Hart has earned my loyalty.  What I mean by that is that I have found him hilarious in enough things that I will go see just about anything he’s in, regardless if it looks good.  Tiffany Haddish is also reliable, so I was definitely in for this movie.

Night School follows the story of Teddy Walker, who struggled through high school and walked out during a standardized test.  We catch up with him in present day, working as a salesman in a barbeque grill store, driving a car he can barely afford, living in an apartment he can barely afford, and about to propose to his girlfriend. He is basically broke because despite earning a decent living (he is a great salesman), he keeps living above his means, and insists on paying for everything with his girlfriend, even though she has a much better job and her own money.  A gas grill incident during his proposal results in the store being exploded and Teddy out of a job.  As a result, he gets offered a job by his buddy Marvin at his sales firm, but he needs to have a GED to get hired.

This leads to Teddy going back to his old high school to start taking night school courses in order to get his GED.  He runs into a little bit of difficulty with the principal, who is his old nemesis from high school.  During the course of the process, he bounds with his new classmates and teacher, who helps him realize he has some learning disabilities, and how to work with them.  Eventually, he gets the GED, and there’s a happy ending.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, who also did The Best Man, Undercover Brother, Roll Bounce, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Soul Men, The Best Man Holiday, and Girls Trip, Night School tries to be a zany comedy with some heart, and but mostly ends up falling flat.  The cast is charming, and some of the bits are funny, but overall it feels like not quite enough.
  • Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart – listen, there’s no problem with being one note if that one note is great, and if you like Kevin Hart – you’ll like him as Teddy in this movie.  He’s a guy who is trying his best because he never knew why he couldn’t succeed in school, just that he couldn’t do it.  Yes, things would have been better for him had he just been honest with his girlfriend, but it’s a comedy, what do you want?

  • Tiffany Haddish is also one note, but again, if you like Tiffany Haddish – you’ll like her in this. She’s very entertaining as the overwhelmed night school teacher, Carrie. She is doing her best to really help the students and make sure they pass the test.

  • Taran Killam plays Stewart, Teddy’s old nemesis and current principal. He’s mean and twisted for very little reason, but it is a space Killam fills well.

  • Romany Malco plays a little against type as a very strange conspiracy-nut night school student named Jaylen. 

  • Ben Schwartz plays Teddy’s buddy Marvin, who is there to help give him advice that is never taken.
  • Mary Lynn Rajskub plays Theresa, a woman who wants to get her GED to improve her life, because she is completely overwhelmed – even though she keeps ending statements with how blessed she is.
  • Vixen number one from the Arrow-verse, Megalyn Echikunwoke plays Teddy’s girlfriend Lisa. She doesn’t have very much to do aside from being disappointed that Teddy felt he had to pay for everything (because she wouldn’t judge him for that, or need it, or expect it), and then shift to proud when he finally graduates.
  • Keith David very briefly plays Teddy’s Dad.
  • Rob Riggle plays night school classmate Mackenzie who wants to get his GED to convince his son to also graduate. He’s there to be big and dumb, something Riggle excels at.

  • Fat Joe plays one of the night school students who Skypes in from prison.
  • Al Madrigal plays one of the night school students who wants to further his career as a singer-songwriter.  He affects a ‘comical’ Hispanic accent that was played for laughs and therefore a little insulting.

Overall, the cast is good, and the premise had potential, but the material was not as strong as it should have been. It just should have been funnier. Everyone did what they could with what they were handed.  Also – why in the world did this not have outtakes over the end credits? This is a movie that really needed it.
5 out of 10 – it’s middle of the road, not terrible, but not great.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Movie Review: A Simple Favor (R – 117 minutes)

I have really enjoyed the majority of Paul Feig movies that I have seen, so I was really looking forward to this one.  While not in his usual vein of zany comedy (Spy is fantastic, and so is Bridesmaids), I still really enjoyed this movie and found it difficult to categorize.

Stephanie is a single mom who helps out at her son’s school, organizing and chasing down other moms while also maintaining her vlog of crafting and cooking mommy tips.  Her son Miles, befriends another child at school named Nicky, leading Stephanie to encounter Nicky’s mom, Emily. 
Emily is nothing like Stephanie; she’s both crass and elegant, she drinks in the morning and works at a high fashion line as the PR rep.  She curses at her boss on the phone and wildly makes out with her husband in front of strangers.  She’s so intriguing to Stephanie and the two quickly bond.  One day, Emily calls Stephanie saying something has come up at work – her husband Sean is in London with his mother.  She needs a simple favor from Stephanie – to pick up Nicky from school and hang on to him for a few hours.  The hours turn into overnight, then a day, then a couple of days, and Stephanie starts to worry.  She calls Sean in London – he comes home, and together they contact the police.  From there, Stephanie does what she can to learn what happened to Emily, while stepping in to help out Nicky and Sean. 

I can’t really say anything else without ruining it for you, and you really should check this one out. The movie is funny and serious, and pulls off the balance of a comedic thriller more than anything else I have seen. Feig somehow manages to make a fairly dark comedy that is incredibly watchable and entertaining.  The music is amazing, the way the movie is shot is just stunning, and the cast is absolutely fantastic.
  • Anna Kendrick is perfection as the uptight Stephanie. She goes from concerned to her friend to shocked at what she learns, then determined when chasing down the truth.

  • Blake Lively shines as Emily. She is so chic and fashionable, while also being really nasty – it was easy to see why Stephanie was so enamored with her so quickly!

  • Henry Golding (my new pick for James Bond) plays Sean, Emily’s husband.  This is really the year of Henry Golding – he shone in Crazy Rich Asians and does what he can here to steal some scenes, referring to his wife as a ‘beautiful ghost’.

  • Glenda Braganza, Andrew Rannells, Kelly McCormack and Aparna Nancherla play some of the other mothers at school who are mystified by the friendship between Stephanie and Emily.
  • Linda Cardellini plalys Diana Hyland, someone from Emily’s past.
  • Jean Smart plays Margaret McLanden, an old recluse.
  • Rupert Friend as Dennis Nylon, the fashion designer that Emily works for who gets several hilarious scenes.

  • Bashir Salahuddin as Detective Summerville, a jovial police detective who is on the case, and is so friendly about being suspicious of you!

Overall, the movie is really wonderful and one of my biggest surprises of the year. Definitely go see it. 

9 out of 10, losing a little bit for the one cheesy thing at the end, but honestly that was really funny too.
Cast Interviews;

Friday, September 21, 2018

Movie Review: The Predator (R – 107 Minutes)

I love the original Predator movie, and most of the other movies in the series – for a concise summation, check my review here: http://jwardadventures.blogspot.com/2015/03/retro-movie-review-predator-r-107.html .

This new version, which is a sequel/reboot type thing is from Shane Black, who was one of the cast members of the original Predator in 1987.  The story begins with one Predator (v1) barely escaping capture from another Predator (v2) and then crashing on earth.  He happens to crash right in the middle of American military sniper Quinn McKenna’s assignment.  McKenna seems to get his target, but immediately after, he has a run in with Predator v1 and steals his mask and wrist gauntlet, mailing them home, thinking he’ll need evidence.  The Predator, other crash evidence, and eventually McKenna are all collected by a suspicious paramilitary dude named Traeger, even though they miss the ship.

Traeger and company interrogate McKenna to find out what he saw while they also collect Dr. Casey Bracket, who seems to be on the short list of doctors to call if an alien crash lands.  They bring her back to their lab so that she can examine the creature and it’s biomedical-ness. Meanwhile, McKenna gets loaded on a bus full of “Loonies” (their description, not mine) of military prisoners who are in psychological lock down and group therapy.  The bus head back to the lab, because Traeger and co. realize that they are missing pieces of gear (they have gear they’ve collected from other Predators from other movies, so they realize the mask is missing) and they want to ask Traeger about it.  Well, the Predator wakes up, gets angry – and promptly escapes, but not before getting furious about the fact that his mask and gauntlet are not in the lab with him.

The loonies finally believe McKenna’s alien story when they see the Predator escape, and help him escape – collect Bracket, and head to McKenna’s ex-wife’s house to pick up the mask and gauntlet.  At this point, McKenna’s autistic son has taken the mask and gauntlet to wear as a Halloween costume, so he’s out and about with them. And, because he’s autistic, he seems to have figured out some of the technology.  McKenna and co. find the kid, get the stuff, but then get found by Predator v1, who insists on getting his stuff back.  Of course, he then gets attacked by Predator v2, who is 11 feet tall, and all kinds of bioengineered bigger and better. And yes, brought two space dogs with him to hunt.

From that point on, McKenna and co. have to evade Traeger and co. as well as Predator v2, who actually just wants to find the ship from Predator v1 so he can destroy it because….sigh…. they are apparently waiting for our planet to heat up so they can have it, and Predator v1 wanted to give us a weapon to help fight back against the rest of the Predators.
Shane Black has not directed many movies, he’s actually more of a writer, but I loved Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Iron Man 3 was not bad.  However, this is not great. It’s not as bad as I was fearing, and there is the framework present of what could have been a great movie, but several missteps lead to it being a struggle. 
Let’s start with the positives. 
  • ·         I really enjoyed the first few minutes. Seeing McKenna square off with Predator v1 in the jungle was great, really cool. 
  • ·         I liked the idea of the lab, and the fact that Traeger’s crew (including Jake Busey – who was awesome) has been collecting items left behind and studying them for some time. 
  • ·         I also liked the Predator lab-escape sequence, and how clearly upset the Predator was that his mask and gauntlet were missing.  One of the major strengths of Predator movies is casting a great creature actor who can make it perfectly clear what the Predator is thinking without dialogue. This species is more advanced than us in just about every way, we should be able to tell what they are thinking. Also – this is the first time we’ve seen a Predator use that crazy-ass mouth to bite somebody. 
  • ·         I liked the ‘she’s-weaponless-so-I-won’t-kill-her-bit’, but found it frustrating that Bracket had to be naked for that. 
  • ·         I enjoyed Sterling K. Brown’s performance as Traeger, he was a great scene-chewing villain. 
  • ·         I enjoyed the “loonies” – to a point. I did not like that the mental illnesses were played for jokes.  It’s 2018, we’re well beyond that, but I did like all the actors, I thought they did what they could with what they had.  They were a fun group, and I like how they eventually fell into helping McKenna. 
  • ·         At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the Predator v2, once finding the ship, using Traeger’s translation software to communicate with the humans, but then I remembered they are way more intelligent than us, and of course he was arrogant enough to take the opportunity to tell the humans he was going to eliminate the ship and then eliminate them.  Not sure this counts as a positive – maybe a neutral?

Okay – let’s talk about what I didn’t like. 
  • ·         McKenna’s son is immediately introduced with autism as some school bullies pull a fire alarm and he sits rocking and holding his ears. Then the bullies dump a bunch of chess boards and he puts them all back perfectly.  All we needed was the chess bit – we don’t need bullies picking on a autistic kid – again, it’s 2018, that was unnecessary. I could have done without the kid entirely, but his autism is explained as the way he can work the Predator technology, which leads to them finding the ship, etc. When the kid wears the mask out for Halloween he straight up kills a random dude because the mask blows him up while the kid is again attempting to evade the bullies. And that is never mentioned again – he did murder a guy. 
  • ·         While I enjoyed the stuff in the lab, I really hated that Bracket had to be naked for the ‘decontamination’ sequence, she could have been in underclothes – one more time, it is 2018 – get with it. 
  • ·         And, as much as I enjoyed the ‘loonies’, they were together because they all had mental health issues that were played for laughs – which is not just unnecessary at this point, it’s inexcusable. Baxley has Tourette’s in a way that is played exclusively for laughs – it was insulting.  These are fine actors, let them just be a group of vets in a military prison bus – the added mental issues was ridiculous, painful, insulting, and shortsighted.
  • ·         I am not sure how I felt about Predator v2 – it’s 11 feet tall and all CGI. I love the real prosthetics of the Predator v1 outfit and the creature acting inside them. There’s still a disconnect with a CGI character, no matter how well done. 
  • ·         Also, the story point that the Predators are collecting spinal fluid from whatever they hunt and using it to bioengineer themselves better…what?!?  And that they now want our planet? And that one is going to rebel and help us?  Nonsense. 
  • ·         On that point, the fact that the thing the Predator v1 left for us in the ship was a suit called a “Predator Killer”? Stupid. I wanted it to be a xenomorph egg, but I’m not sure that would have fit in this particular story. 
  • ·         Again, huge misfire to not end the movie with Bracket walking her space dog and her regular dog.  That space dog made it through the whole movie and was obviously not leaving her side, so give us some closure on that. 

Honestly, it felt like there were a lot of loose ends that did not get tied up correctly or well.  I expected more from Shane Black, and while I did like parts of this, there were more parts I didn’t like.  I did enjoy the cast:
  • Boyd Holbrook, who I had previously seen in Logan (this might be his character’s prequel to Logan, it’s almost the same character), is not bad at all as McKenna.  Gruff and determined, not particularly thrilled about his sniper duties, he’s quick to get his new buddies to follow him and form a new ‘unit’. 

  • Trevante Rhodes plays Nebraska Williams and was very good in this. Following up Moonlight with this movie is a bold move. He’s smooth and charming, and easy to buy as a natural leader.  His character’s mental illness seemed to be depression, and while unnecessary, he played it as well as he could.

  • Keegan-Michael Key plays Coyle, and is just fantastic. Again, didn’t need the mental illness bit, but loved his friendship with Thomas Jane’s character. He did manage to work some comedy in here and there, and was very entertaining.

  • Thomas Jane plays Baxley, and if the other mental illnesses were unnecessary, his Tourette’s was insulting. We’ve made a lot of progress in ensuring those with Tourette’s are treated as normal folks with an issue, and this set it way back in terms of making fun of their outbursts.  The character was interesting without that added bit. Jane is better than that, and I thought Shane Black was too.

  • Augusto Aguilera plays Nettles, and he does a fine job with what he’s given, I particularly enjoyed the fact that he got upset after everyone saw the Predator for the first time, because he wanted to see it too.

  • Alfie Allen is in this as Lynch, but there’s no explanation as to why this random Irish dude is part of their group.

  • Sterling K. Brown plays Traeger, and I really did enjoy his part. He’s creepy, weird, and definitely is the villain. He chews all the scenery and seems to have a great time doing it.

  • Olivia Munn plays Dr. Casey Bracket, and honestly she did a good job with what she was given. She has plenty of action sequences, and for the most part, attempted to evade the ‘damsel in distress’ trope, even when the movie kept trying to put her in it.

  • Jacob Tremblay plays Rory Mckenna, the autistic child, and I just kept thinking how unnecessary that was, he did a decent job with what he was given, but why not just make him a smart kid who is good with gadgets.

  • Jake Busey plays the Keyes, the son of the character played by Gary Busey in Predator 2, which is never mentioned, but fun nonetheless. He basically gets to give Bracket a tour of the lab, but I enjoyed it.  I should watch Starship Troopers again. Everybody needs a friend like him.

  • Yvonne Strahovski plays Emily, the estranged Mrs. McKenna. She also has nothing to do, but give one speech extolling her ex’s character when his new crew questions if they should follow him.
  • Brian A. Prince plays the Predator.  He’s just shy of 6’10” and a parkour expert.  He really did a great job, especially in the escape sequence, and then again when chasing our hero and demanding he drops his weapons.  A skilled creature actor can really help you understand what the character is thinking, and he did an amazing job.

  • Here he is taking direction in costume, which is pretty hilarious.

  • Apparently Edward James Olmos was edited out. What the hell?!? Who edits out Eddie Olmos?

Overall, the movie is not as terrible as I feared based on the reviews I read before going. But it’s also not nearly as good as I hoped it would be. I actually suggest reading a bunch of reviews, and then going to see it.  Lower that expectation bar all the way to the floor, and you may find some parts you enjoy!
5 out of 10. 
Go back and watch AVP again – I bet now you appreciate it!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Movie Review: Peppermint (R – 102 minutes)

If you’re not familiar with the TV show Alias, it aired from 2001 to 2006, was by J.J. Abrams, and starred Jennifer Garner as CIA Double Agent Sydney Bristow. The show was really fun, action packed, and proved Garner was a capable action hero. Since then, she stepped down from action, doing more rom-coms and other styles (Thirteen Going On Thirty is excellent and you should see it if you haven’t).  Peppermint marks a return to her action-based roots.

Peppermint follows the story of Riley North, a woman struggling to make ends meet with her husband, Chris, so that they can take care of their little girl, Carly. One day, Riley pisses off the wrong mom in Carly’s scout troop, and that mom calls every other kid in the school to invite them over for a holiday party, knowing Carly’s birthday party is that same day.  Because this causes no one to come to Carly’s birthday party, the family heads out to the winter carnival together. Unbeknownst to Riley, earlier in the day, Chris had briefly considered taking a ‘job’ from a friend of his who was planning to rob the head of the local arm of a drug cartel. Chris backs out, stating he has too much to live for. Unfortunately, the cartel found out about it and because they hate when people even think about robbing them, they drive-by kill Chris and Carly, while gravely wounding Riley.  Riley is able to pick the three hitmen out of a lineup, but things get worse when the corrupt judge and lawyers allow them to get off with zero punishment.  Distraught, Riley takes off, heading off the grid and disappearing.

Five years later, Riley comes back – with a vengeance. Having spent the last five years training and preparing, she step by step works her way through cartel members and associates.  The three guys who fired on her husband and daughter? Killed and strung up.  The corrupt judge who released them? Blown up in his own house. A random drunk on a bus who is mean to his own kid? Beaten, chastised, and intimidated. The Cartel members who were part of the same group? Some are murdered in a piƱata factory, and some are murdered at their house. She keeps running through bad guys as the cops try to keep up with her and stop her.

It’s a really simple story, and it’s executed well. French Director Pierre Morel, who also did Taken and Banlieue B13 (which is really great), drives this very straightforward tale well. Garner is definitely capable, and man – it’s always great to see the bad guys get it.

  • Jennifer Garner plays Riley North. She is really fantastic at all Riley’s multiple levels. Once she is left with nothing, she builds herself into a weapon of justice or revenge, depending on your point of view. It’s probably a bit of both. She makes the stunts believable, not to mention the full-out rage.

  • John Gallagher Jr. plays Detective Stan Carmichael, the cop who tries to help Riley in the beginning, then catches up with her again in five years.

  • John Ortiz plays Detective Moises Beltran, Carmichael’s partner, who spends a suspicious amount of time warning him to avoid going after the cartel.

  • Juan Pablo Raba plays Diego Garcia, local head of the cartel – who seems to answer to someone else based in Mexico who we never really get to see.  So if Riley were to get away in the end of this, perhaps she and the mystery man would meet up in a sequel.

  • Annie Ilonzeh plays FBI Agent Lisa Inman. She and her partner have been keeping loose tabs on Riley in the five missing years, and now that she’s back, they are determined to bring her in before she goes too far.

  • Jeff Hephner plays Chris North, who really is only guilty of maybe sort of just thinking about robbing the cartel before he backs out. That was enough to royally piss them off.

  • Eddie Shin plays FBI Agent Li, Inman’s partner who has very little to do.
  • Method Man plays Narcotics Detective Barker who shows up near the end to help the cops step in and try to stop Riley from killing Garcia so that they can actually arrest him.

Overall, it’s not an original idea, you’ve seen this type of story hundreds of times before. But I don’t ever remember seeing it with a woman in the lead. She does a great job, and it’s hard not to cheer on her brutality as she gets her revenge. I particularly enjoyed her visit to the house of the woman who was so cruel to her and her daughter, “Now I’m going to burn down your house with you in it.”

8 out of 10 – clean, simple, short. Delivers exactly what it promises, and leaves it just open-ended enough.
Bonus – I really do love Thirteen Going on Thirty, it's Big, just with Garner instead of Hanks.