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!

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.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Movie Review: The Happytime Murders (R – 91 minutes)

This is the first movie directed by Brian Henson since Muppet Treasure Island, and the first under his “HA” or “Henson Alternative” brand. It’s absolutely an R-rated comedy, a spoof on the gritty crime noir dramas.

The Happytime Murders posits a world in which puppets are real and walk around on their own, but are still puppets.  As such, they are often looked down upon by humans, and seen only for entertainment purposes.  P.I. Phil Phillips used to be a detective, but then missed a shot while trying to save his human partner, Detective Connie Edwards who had been taken hostage by a puppet.  He missed shooting the puppet, and instead shot an innocent puppet bystander in the background.  Because of this, Detective Edwards pushed to get him kicked off the force, claiming that puppets could not be cops, because they wouldn’t go after other puppets who had committed crimes.

Then, just as Phil gets hired by a puppet named Sandra to find out who is blackmailing her, Phil’s brother and his castmates from the show Happy Time start getting murdered, and it’s up to Edwards and Phillips to put their past behind them to work together to solve the case.

If that sounds a bit sketchy to you, you’re right. The movie uncomfortably starts with the “puppets as a minority” narrative and pushes way too hard to enforce the R rating. There are some funny moments here and there, but really – the movie is just not nearly as hilarious as it should be. Watching McCarthy beat up a room full of puppet thugs after snorting a line of pure sugar was entertaining, as well as some of the side-jokes that came as a result of the puppets being puppets – after one of them washes up on the beach, cops have to wring him out.  Overall, it was just too uneven and had way too much ‘gross’ humor, which I found unnecessary.  You can certainly earn your R rating without attempting to make everybody nauseous (the sugar as puppet-heroin joke went too far; the puppet porn shop went too far; the puppets getting torn up by dogs went too far; the puppet sex scene - yes, there's a puppet sex scene - went too far). What I enjoyed was watching the outtakes over the end credits – clearly the Muppeteers had a great time making this movie, and cracked each other up.
  • Melissa McCarthy plays Detective Connie Edwards, who thanks to Phil’s missed shot ends up with a puppet liver and a bad addiction to sugar. She did what she could with what she was given.

  • Elizabeth Banks plays Jenny, who may or may not be in on it?

  • Maya Rudolph plays Bubbles, Phil’s assistant who is more capable than she seems at first.

  • Leslie David Baker plays Lt. Banning, the cop in charge who has had enough of your crap.

  • Joel McHale plays Agent Campbell, the FBI agent who tries to step in and take over the investigation, but is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

  • Notable muppet performers were Bill Barretta as Phil Phillips, Dorien Davies as Sandra, Kevin Clash as Lyle, and Drew Massey as Goffer. Also, Brian Henson himself plays a crab in a garbage can.

Overall, the potential was there for this to be a live-action Roger Rabbit style flick, and it fell short.  I hope it doesn’t eliminate their chances of trying again.

5 out of 10 – just not nearly funny enough. Watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit again to see this done better.

Do not watch Cool World.