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, December 31, 2018

Movie Review: Spider-Man – Into the SpiderVerse (PG – 117 minutes)

I rarely go see animated movies at this point.  I have to really be interested to make the effort, mainly because the theater is usually filled with children – as it should be. However, some of them are not really old enough to sit through an entire movie.  This is one I was looking forward to for some time and was very excited to check out.

Into the SpiderVerse begins with a version of Peter Parker - I say a version, because it’s not really ours, it’s one from a different universe. If that already confuses you, you may have trouble with this movie.  Peter is fighting the Kingpin and his cronies as the Kingpin attempts to breach the multi-verse to bring back the wife and child he lost. He knows they exist at this same point in another universe and is determined to bring them to ours.  Meanwhile, young Miles Morales gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and develops spider powers.  He finds himself at the site while Peter loses to Kingpin and the universes are breached, even though Kingpin is unsuccessful in his quest and decides to try again.  Miles joins the rest of his New York in mourning Spider-Man. 

Surprising Miles, the breach actually brought several other Spider-People through to his universe from their own.  An older Peter Parker, a Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham, and Peni Parker all come through.  With their guidance, Miles learns to control his own powers, and step into the role of a hero.

If that sounds fairly straightforward, it is, but it is the lovely animation and exceptional action that elevate this movie far beyond standard animated kids fare. Directed by Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey, it is an absolutely magical story with an incredible look and is well worth seeing in the theater multiple times.  The movie looks like a comic book come to life and the cast makes every character more layered than you are expecting.
  • Shameik Moore stars as Miles Morales, a kid who wants nothing more than to be normal. He had been excelling at his previous school, and is now just another genius at his gifted school. He spends time with his uncle who understands him and encourages him in his art.

  • Jake Johnson plays the older Peter Parker whose own life is a bit of a shambles, but does his very best to help Miles become the hero he can be.  He also spends some hilarious time in sweatpants.

  • Hailee Steinfeld plays Gwen Stacy, an accomplished Spider-Woman in her own universe, and hopeful to help Miles and get home to her own place and time.

  • Mahershala Ali plays Miles’s Uncle Aaron, a character played by Donald Glover in the last Spider-Man movie, who may or may not show up in the next one. Ali gives Aaron depth and substance when he could have been very one-note or cliché. He wants the best for his nephew, even though he has made his own poor choices.

  • Brian Tyree Henry wraps up the year of Brian Tyree Henry by playing Jefferson Davis, Miles’s father and police officer. He is focused on helping his son excel, and saving the city without the help of vigilantes. Again, his layered performance is heartwarming, touching, and at times, funny.

  • Lily Tomlin plays Aunt May Parker, feisty and Spider-Supporting as ever.  She’s ready to help all the Spider-folk when they show up at her door.
  • John Mulaney plays Spider-Ham, and interjects some really funny bits into some serious parts, who knew he was perfect as an animated crime-fighting pig?

  • Kimiko Glenn plays Peni Parker, a spider version I was completely unfamiliar with, but one who adds some really interesting bits.

  • In what is perhaps one of the most perfect casting choices ever, Nicolas Cage plays Spider-Man Noir, a hero from a black and white universe who is a bit mystified by the color in the other universes.

  • Kathryn Hahn plays Dr. Olivia Octavious, easily one of the best incarnations of Doc Ock that I have ever seen. She’s intelligent and terrifying, and just about perfect.
  • Live Schrieber plays Wilson Fisk – the Kingpin.  In a year where Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk on Daredevil season three is exceptional, Schrieber’s version is still amazing – determined to get his wife and child back no matter the cost to everyone else in the city.

  • Chris Pine plays the original blond Peter Parker who starts off the story.  He's popular and capitalizing on it - yes, that's him singing the Spider-Bells holiday song. He’s doing his best, but at one moment in the fight with Kingpin and co., he pauses and says, “I’m so tired.”  For whatever reason, that moment really hit me. It brings a level of humanity to this animated hero that I was unprepared for.
  • Also, there is a Stan Lee cameo, which brought me to tears, because it’s the first one we have without him actually here.  I would imagine there will be a couple more of those in both Captain Marvel, and Endgame, but that might be it, and I definitely had a hard time when it finally hit me that there won’t be more Stan Lee cameos.

Overall, this movie is exceptional. It’s beautiful, it’s funny, it’s action-packed, and it’s inspiring.  Miles is a fantastic Spider-Man.

9 out of 10 – near flawless.

Yes, stay tuned after the credits for a bit of hilarity with a popular meme.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Movie Review: Robin Hood (2018) (PG13 – 116 minutes)

110 years after the first Robin Hood movie was released in 1908 (Robin Hood and his Merry Men), we get yet another version of the classic tale. 

There are just about a countless number of versions of the story, and just about everyone has their favorite.  I have always been partial to the Disney version with the foxes, and I particularly enjoyed the cameo in the TV version of Ivanhoe from 1982.  Big time bonus points if you remember that one.
I will say that I love Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves from 1991.  The soundtrack is pure magic, the look of the movie is beautiful.  It added a super-awesome Morgan Freeman as the Azeem the Moor, who insists on returning to England with Robin after he saved his life during the Crusades.  Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s Marian is no-nonsense and capable (to a point), Michael McShane’s Friar Tuck is loud and hilarious, Michael Wincott’s Guy of Gisborne is pure evil, Brian Blessed shows up briefly as Robin’s father, Christian Slater is fun as a very 90s Will Scarlett, Nick Brimble is a large and powerful Little John.  Kevin Costner is just fine as Robin - okay, from time to time, less than fine, but I’ll let it slide because everyone else is so damn good.  And of course, the definitive portrayal of The Sheriff of Nottingham by the exceptional Alan Rickman.  If you haven’t seen it in a while, re-watch it to see how perfectly over-the-top he is. No one has ever been more convincing about cutting out hearts with spoons and canceling Christmas.

Since I love that version so much, it would take something really special for me to enjoy a new version.  The Russell Crowe 2010 version was not, and neither is this new one.
Taron Edgerton plays Robin of Loxley this time around.  He was a young rich noble, having a great time hooking up with Marian in his large manor. He then gets conscripted by the Sheriff of Nottingham and heads off to the Crusades to “free the holy land”.  He does fairly well with his crew, which seems to be led by Guy of Gisborne, but starts to get sick about the war when his countrymen start killing the locals for little to no reason.  He attempts to save the life of a boy, earning the respect of his father.  After being injured and heading back home, the father of the slain boy joins him, and together they hatch a plot to try to stop the Sheriff from continuing his evil plan to keep the war going to make a profit while in cahoots with the church.  I’m not entirely clear on the sheriff’s plan. 

Robin and John (as he tells Robin his name translates to) begin by robbing the rich and giving the money to the common people who are working in the mines…you know, the famous mines of Nottingham.  He starts a bit of a rebellion because he’s playing at being the nobleman Robin back from the war, but “The Hood” after-hours, the thief. The cardinal comes to visit the sheriff, and Robin, John, and not-merry men stage a big coup, and then have to retreat to the forest.

Directed by Otto Bathurst, who is known for Peaky Blinders and Black Mirror, the movie has some interesting action sequences, but an overly-complicated plot. It also suffers a bit from trying too hard to be cool.  The story of Robin Hood is not one that is clamoring for a “flashy” update, so the entire thing feels un-asked for and unnecessary.  The cast is interesting, but are not given much to do.

  • Taron Egerton is certainly charismatic and action-capable. He certainly tries his best, and seems to be having a good time with the daytime noble and nighttime thief versions of his character. He’s better than this material and needs something else.

  • Jamie Foxx as little John seems to be doing a version of Morgan Freeman’s Azeem, which is not really a problem, and Foxx is always watchable.  He does have the most to do emotionally in this story, but that seems to only last one scene.

  • Villain-of-the-moment Ben Mendelsohn plays the Sheriff, and the reality is that it’s not fair to compare his performance to Rickman’s, but honestly, I can’t help it. He seems to just be Orson Krennic in a different location – even the outfit is similar.

  • Eve Hewson plays Marian this time around, and since she believed Robin to be killed in war, she’s remarried and helping organize the folks in the mines.

  • Jamie Dornan plays Marian’s new husband, Will Scarlet, who starts off wanting to represent the common people of the mine at the ‘big table’, and then things get more complicated.

  • Tim Minchin plays Friar Tuck, and, knowing how entertaining he is, I actually wanted a little more for him to do, and for what he was doing to be less restrained.

  • Paul Anderson plays this version of Guy of Gisbourne, he’s basically a military thug who, once done killing folks in Jerusalem, comes back and gets hired to kill folks in England.

  • F. Murray Abraham shows up as the ‘Cardinal’ who is in league with the sheriff to make money off the war.

Overall, the movie is not terrible, but it just feels forced in most places. It tries really hard to update the story and modernize the feel of the characters, but I don’t think anyone was asking for that – I know I wasn’t.
4 out of 10

Bonus, just watch this one again.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Movie Review: Widows (R – 129 minutes)

Let me start out by telling you that the dog is fine.  The dog makes it all the way through the movie just fine – and I really wish someone had told me that prior to seeing this movie. I spent a lot of unnecessary time worrying if the dog was going to make it.  She does.

Widows was originally a British TV series in 1983. Steve McQueen has wanted to remake it into a movie for some time.  He partnered with Gillian Flynn, the writer of Gone Girl, to polish up the screenplay.
The story begins with Veronica, who is married to Harry.  Veronica and Harry lost a son, but we don’t really know how long ago.  Harry is a criminal, but we don’t really know how much Veronica knows about that.  For some reason, Harry steals a bunch of money from Alderman-in-the-running Jamal Manning.  In the process, Harry and his three partners, Florek, Carlos, and Jimmy, all end up dead – caught by the cops as they were trying to escape with the money, which burns up in the subsequent explosion.  Well, burned up money does Jamal and his brother, Jatemme, no good, so Jamal promptly threatens Veronica.  He tells her to get him $2 million in four weeks. 

Veronica finds a key in Harry’s possessions that leads her to a notebook, which then leads her to Harry’s hideout and his next plan.  A plan to steal $5 million from Jamal’s opponent in the Adelman race, Jack Mulligan, ironically a previous friend of Harry’s.  Veronica gets together with the other widows left behind by the explosion – correction, she gets together with Florek’s widow (Alice), Carlos’s widow (Linda), and then Linda’s babysitter Belle.  Jimmy’s widow, Amanda, has some other stuff going on.  The four women set about taking on Harry’s next target in order to get the money to give to Jamal so he can use it to defeat Jack and hopefully leave them alone.

It’s a little difficult to describe this movie, or tell you which genre it best fits.  It’s not an action movie, despite what the trailers depicted.  There’s really only one and a half action sequences in the movie. It’s not quite a drama, because there are a lot of twists and turns.  I think ‘thriller’ comes closest, but it’s a little slow-moving for that description.  McQueen has done a wonderful job assembling some quality pieces and a really interesting story with multiple intertwining characters.  It feels slow at some points, but only to build the drama and the tension.  It is a complicated, layered story that is elevated by some excellent performances.

  • It is absolutely Viola Davis’s movie and she owns the entire thing top to bottom. She’s incredible watchable, even when Veronica is at her weakest.  Pulling herself up, learning more about her husband than she bargained for, and begrudgingly stepping into his shoes even if she is not completely prepared gives this role a huge range of emotions and qualities, and I don’t know if any other actress could have pulled it off as well.  Because she is such a standout, the other three women didn’t get as much to do as I wanted.

  • Elizabeth Debicki’s Alice gets some key scenes that define her relationship with Florek, and her complete unpreparedness for a life without a domineering husband.  In a way, Alice is the most interesting character because she changes the most throughout the story. 

  • Michelle Rodriguez plays Linda Perelli, and she was running a quinceanera store which her husband seemed to take all the money from, so once he dies, she’s left with nothing. She does a good job of playing a woman who is focused on her kids, but also determined to ensure their comfort.  It’s a little one-note, and I wanted a little more for her to do, having been a fan of hers for so long.

  • Cynthia Erivo plays Belle, who starts out as Linda’s babysitter, but then becomes the group’s driver and runner. She’s build like a 100 meter sprint specialist and spends a good deal of time running in the movie.  I particularly liked her introduction to Davis’s character and how they quickly went toe to toe.

  • Carrie Coon plays Amanda, Jimmy’s widow who doesn’t get the first round of widow messages, and doesn’t join in on the escapades.  She has some other stuff happening.

  • Bryan Tyree Henry continues his run of showing up in everything by playing Jamal Manning. He is both crime boss and aspiring politician, and seems to be not great at either. He is suitably terrifying when he shows up to ‘request’ the money from Veronica.

  • Daniel Kaluuya plays Jatemme Manning, Jamal’s enforcer and is absolutely and completely terrifying.  He shoots a couple of dudes in the early part of the movie just to establish how violent he is, and then threatens some other folks all the way through. 

  • Collin Farrell plays Jack Mulligan, a different crime boss and politician who doesn’t seem to want to be alderman but is running because his father and grandfather were both in the position before him. His father seems to be demanding he run. Farrell seeps into the role, creepy and racist.

  • Liam Neeson plays Harry Rawlings, who at first glance seems like a loving husband and father. Until he gets blown up and Veronica keeps discovering things he had hidden.

  • Jon Bernthal plays Florek Gunner, a scumbag sidekick to Harry who beats his wife and gets shot.

  • Manuel Garcia-Rulfo plays Carlos Perelli, a scumbag who steals from his wife and works with Harry.
  • Coburn Goss plays Jimmy Nunn, Harry’s other scumbag partner.
  • Garret Dillahunt briefly shows up as Bash, Harry and Veronica’s former chauffeur. He’s there to give her some clues, and help establish how horrible Jatemme is.
  • Jacki Weaver plays Alice’s horrible mother. She’s there to help explain why Alice is so damaged.
  • Robert Duvall plays Tom Mulligan, the former alderman who had a heart attack in the position, forcing him to step down – which he clearly did not want to do – so he is forcing his son to run.

  • Lukas Haas shows up as a real estate developer named David who Alice encounters after the death of her husband.  How did I get so old that 80s “it” kid Lukas Haas is now a grown man?  Time to watch Solarbabies again.

  • Kevin J. O’Connor plays a former associate of Harry’s, who is there to just continue to establish how crappy Harry was, and how horrible Jatemme is

  • The dog, Olivia, is played by the same dog from Game Night earlier this year. That dog is getting a lot of work.

Overall, the movie is excellent, but quieter than I expected, and slower than I expected.  I think I was counting on an action thriller – a sort of higher-level Set It Off - and instead it’s a drama thriller.  Still, very good and well worth a viewing. 

8 out of 10.

Bonus – in case you forgot about Set It Off.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Movie Review: Creed II (PG13 – 130 minutes)

We all have our favorite Rocky movie. Mine has always been Rocky IV from 1985.  Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, it’s the one that featured the death of the very American Apollo Creed at the hands of Russian Ivan Drago, leading to Rocky having to go over to Moscow and face Drago behind the Iron Curtain. 

I really enjoyed the first Creed, directed by Ryan Coogler, capitalizing on his fantastic partnership with Michael B. Jordan. Jordan played Adonis Johnson (Creed) as he headed to Philadelphia to follow in his father’s footsteps by training with Rocky. Along the way he wooed music artist with hearing loss Bianca. 

In this second outing, Creed has won the heavyweight championship, and is contemplating his next move as he and now-fiancee Bianca move out to Los Angeles and learn she is pregnant.  Meanwhile, Ivan Drago seems to be working construction in the Ukraine, raising his son in anger and hate, and training him to box. Apparently his wife left him years ago, and he seems to be taking that out on his son, Viktor, who is a monster in the boxing ring.  After gaining some notoriety, and catching the eye of a promotor, Viktor starts calling out Creed, and the public gets all over the match of the sons, after one of the fathers killed the other (side note - there's no way these guys are in the same weight class). 

It’s no surprise that Creed heads off into the fight, ill-prepared and against the wishes of Rocky.  He loses, badly, and then has to go back to basics to regain his drive.  Finding a new desire and push after the birth of his daughter, he heads to Moscow to face off with Drago in a second battle. 

If you’re at all familiar with the plot of Rocky IV, nothing that happens in this movie is a surprise, but it is still really well crafted.  Directed by Steven Caple Jr., Creed II is predictable, in a good way, and well-acted.  There is just enough here and there to flesh out a straightforward story, and the performances pull you in.  I wanted a little bit more about what happened to Ivan Drago after he lost in 1985, and then the Soviet Union fell apart.  However, the story is not really about him, and enough is shown for the audience to infer that things have not gone well for him.  
  • Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Creed, now fully accepting of his role as his father’s son, and embracing his skill as a boxer. He does a great job in this movie as a young man, full of confidence, who then has to come back from having that confidence brutally ripped away. 

  • Tessa Thompson plays Bianca, and her hearing loss is getting worse in this movie, but her music career is starting to pick up. She and Jordan have fantastic chemistry, and their reactions once their daughter is born are wonderful. Thompson manages to give Bianca more to do than the stereotypical ‘boxer’s girlfriend’ role.

  • Sylvester Stallone plays Rocky Balboa, aging, lonely, and hopeful for Adonis. He wants what is best for him, but is also struggling to reach out to his own son.  His reaction to seeing Ivan Drago unexpectedly walk back into his life was underplayed, and completely believable.

  • Phylicia Rashad plays Mary Anne Creed, Adonis’s mother, who is supportive of her son, and seems surprisingly supportive when he wants to step into the ring with the son of the man who killed his father.

  • Dolph Lundgren returns as Ivan Drago, older and angrier. He seems to have lost everything since the last time we saw him. His wife left him when his son was very little, and he no longer has all the support and fancy equipment from the government.  His struggle as he begins to realize that he has forced his son to become a weapon to serve his own vengeance is apparent, but subtle, and very well done.

  • Boxer Florian Munteanu plays Viktor Drago as an absolute mountain, built by his father to box and nothing else. As he starts to gain success, he begins to get noticed by the government, and finally by the mother who left him when he was very little. Munteanu does a wonderful job getting more and more perplexed as that goes on.

  • Wood Harris plays Tony Burton, the son of Apollo's trainer, who steps in to help train Creed when Rocky refuses.  He has a calm supportive nature that works well in that role.

Overall, the movie is enjoyable, and definitely benefits from being seen in a full theater.  My theater was absolutely packed, and the audience reacted as if they were at a real boxing match, which is a testament to how well the fight scenes are filmed. 

8 out of 10, check it out with a crowd if possible. Also, I really enjoyed the score, which during training montages found a way to work in the iconic themes from the original – impressive.'

Bonus, what Tessa Thompson rose above -