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, November 8, 2019

Movie Review: Terminator Dark Fate (R – 128 minutes)

If you’d like to hear me and some other fantastic LAMB members discussion Terminator: Dark Fate in great detail, check out the LAMBCast review - https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/lambcast/episodes/2019-11-07T14_51_42-08_00

The original Terminator was released in 1984 and is one of my favorite movies. The story is interesting, the action is great, and the effects by Stan Winston were mesmerizing.  I am one of the rare folks who prefers The Terminator to the slick updated T2: Judgement Day, even though I really enjoy both.  The first movie had a scary and claustrophic feel as the Terminator pursued Sarah Conner through Los Angeles.  He was a cybernetic killing machine T800 model 101 created by Cyberdine systems in the future.  Skynet, a large AI created to help with military defense, went online in 1997 and promptly decided human beings were the issue and launched nuclear weapons to eliminate all of us.  The few remaining humans formed a resistance lead by one John Conner to fight the machines.  Irritated, Skynet created time travel and infiltration units called Terminators covered in skin, since nothing inorganic can travel through time.  They sent one back to kill Sarah Conner in 1984 before she gave birth to John – essentially Skynet was ensuring its safety before it even came into being.  Luckily, future John got ahold of the time travel equipment and sent back a single protector named Kyle to find Sarah and keep her safe. In the process, Kyle and Sarah fell in love which resulted in John.  Kyle died saving Sarah from the Terminator, but not before the entire situation put enough mental strife on Sarah to cause a mental breakdown.

T2 was bigger and louder and featured Robert Patrick’s incredibly polite T-1000 as he came back after John Conner as a rebellious teen in 1991.  Patrick’s version was liquid metal and even more difficult to destroy.  The resistance again sent a protector, this time a repurposed T800 meant to protect John.  Together, the T800 and John broke Sarah out of a mental institution and then head after Miles Dyson, the man who would create Skynet. Sarah figured if she killed him, there’s no way he would create Skynet, thus – the future is saved.

There are three other movies, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines from 2003, Terminator Salvation from 2009, and Terminator Genisys from 2015.  This movie ignores all of them, so for the purposes of this review, I will too!

Terminator: Dark Fate begins with a flashback to 1992-ish where Sarah and John are on the run. Skynet apparently sent another T800 unit when the T1000 failed, and this one succeeds. Distraught, Sarah shuts down again.  We fast forward to 2020 and meet Daniella, a young woman in Mexico taking care of her father and working at a local car factory with her brother.  One day they get to work, and a robot has taken their jobs - see what they did there?  A new type of Terminator comes to get her at the factory.  This one is liquid metal over a solid metal endoskeleton, but both bits seem to be able to work independently – two terminators for the price of one!  A protector shows up who is named Grace and instead of being a regular human from the future, she’s an enhanced super soldier from the future.  Unfortunately, those enhancements are only good for short bursts of incredible strength and speed, so Grace crashes pretty hard, just in time for Sarah to show up and save her and Dani from the two-part Terminator.  Action hijinks ensue from there on.

This version is directed by Tim Miller, who did the first Deadpool movie. It’s fairly well-paced and the action set-pieces are great and include the factory fight, a car chase on a bridge, a chase through the desert that involves a drone, and a battle on an airplane that shifts to Humvees that fall to a dam then into a river then the fight goes into the hydroelectric power plant.  That last one is overwhelming but entertaining.  James Cameron is back as the producer of this one. He directed 1 and 2, but had nothing to do with the others, which may be why this movie disregards all of them.  Overall, the new cast was pretty good, but it was the returning cast that stole the movie for me.
  • Linda Hamilton gets top billing and it is about damn time. She owned Terminator 2 when she shifted Sarah Conner into the human version of a terminator and she adds years of pain to that aspect in this version. She’s a complete badass and deserves all the credit she is getting for this. 

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as another T800 – don’t ask which one, it doesn’t make sense. He’s been undercover since 1991 as a drape salesman, no I am not kidding.  Honestly, I could have used another hour of him explaining his theories on which drapes for which rooms.

  • Mackenzie Davis plays Grace, who is the protector this time around. She’s a standard human from 2042, but enhanced with all kinds of advancements, including what seems to be Kevlar under her skin and some sort of power source making her stronger and faster. She does a decent job of maintaining the singular focus that the protectors traditionally have in these movies, I just didn’t find her character engaging enough to really care about her story.

  • Natalia Reyes plays Dani Ramos, the object of the new Terminator’s mission. She is just a regular girl from Mexico, so she doesn’t understand why all this is happening until its revealed how important she is in the future.  She did a great job and had established herself as a powerhouse before Grace showed up to tell her she would become one.

  • Gabriel Luna plays the Rev-9, the new bi-functional terminator. He looks similar to others, and certainly has the T1000’s ability to pleasantly do his infiltrating – to the point of mimicking the accent of whoever he is talking to at the time.  The reason he’s not exactly like the previous terminators is that he’s not a Cyberdine model, he’s from something called Legion, not Skynet.

Overall, the movie is certainly entertaining enough and the action is great. It’s a fun way to kill a couple of hours. If you have deep emotional connections to the original or the sequel, it may be tough to deal with some of the story alterations here – it was for me.  I did like the idea that yes, even though Sarah had stopped Miles Dyson and Cyberdine from creating Skynet, someone else somewhere else created another military defense AI that came to the same conclusions – just later on.  Inevitably, someone is going to make that mistake.  Excuse me while I ask my Alexa to warn me about AI induced judgement days.
6 out of 10
Also – spoiler alert – I did love that Dani became the powerful future leader the machines feared, instead of – as the movie puts it – some man that hasn’t even been born yet.  Awesome.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Movie Review: Dolemite Is My Name (R – 117 minutes)

I first learned of Dolemite when Rudy Ray Moore brought the character to a Big Daddy Kane song in 1990. I eventually saw the movie, but it has been years and I think I may need to give it a rewatch.  Rudy Ray Moore was an entertainer who created the character of Dolemite in his stand up routines and then rolled him into a few blaxploitation films in the 1970s.  The genre had already been established with Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song by Melvin Van Peebles in 1971 and went on to includes Shaft, Super Fly, Hammer, Trouble Man, Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, Foxy Brown, and Black Belt Jones.  
Eddie Murphy had met Rudy Ray Moore several times prior to his death in 2008 and had mentioned wanting to make a biopic about his life.  Here, Murphy has worked with writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski to bring a piece of Moore’s life to screen during the years he developed Dolemite and brought him to the screen.

Rudy Ray Moore is working in a record store in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, trying to get the in-store radio station to play his songs while working as a stand-up comedian introducing bands in the evening.  Disappointed at his lack of progress, he develops the character Dolemite based on the rhymes of Rico, a bum who comes into the store one day. He spends time with Rico and his homeless friends, collecting their stories and jokes.  Moore gets a wig, an outfit, and a pimp cane to bring Dolemite to the stage as a rhyming over-the-top bragging pimp character.  Audiences love it, so Moore and his friends work together to release an album of his raunchy comedy.  And I mean raunchy.  It becomes a hit and he tours to support it.  To celebrate, they go to see a movie, but are befuddled by the ‘comedy’ the majority white audience is laughing at.  Moore decides its time to make a Dolemite movie to bring the character to the world.

After meeting with a studio head that has made other blaxploitation movies and being turned down, Moore accepts funding from a company that agrees to start him, but warns him he will be in debt for the rest of his life if he fails.  He and his friends convert an abandoned hotel in L.A. to a makeshift soundstage, get help from some film school students, and work to bring Dolemite to life.
Craig Brewer directed Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan, and multiple episodes of Empire. He is currently working on Coming 2 America and brings a lighthearted touch to this biopic.  It is fast-paced and hilarious while managing to have some truly touching moments as well.  The costumes and music are fantastic but the true genius of this movie is the cast.

  • Eddie Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore as a dreamer with the will to work to achieve those dreams. The movie perfectly illustrates the message that you can accomplish anything if you are willing to put in the work and believe in yourself.  Murphy’s performance is nothing short of excellent and absolutely should be Oscar nominated this coming spring.  He gives Moore the self confidence to lead a group of friends towards a goal with the well-honed comedy chops I sometimes forget he has, while adding just a touch of doubt when things begin to fail around him. It’s wonderful on every level.

  • Keegan-Michael Key plays Jerry Jones, the writer that Moore finds in a local playhouse and recruits to write the Dolemite movie. Key gives Jones just the right since of artistic integrity as he is swiftly won over by Moore’s enthusiasm to provide something entertaining for the people.

  • Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, and Tituss Burgess play Jimmy, Ben, and Toney, Moore’s main crew, who help get the movie off the ground and support Moore’s dreams while also having an absolute blast making a movie.

  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph plays Lady Reed, who Moore meets while touring the south. He brings her on board to sing with him and help provide fashion sense for the movie.  She has a brilliant moment when Moore confesses to her that he’s worried about the sex scene in the movie because he knows he not as handsome as other movie stars. She reminds him it doesn’t have to be sexy, it can be funny, and that’s his strong suit.  I loved the true friendship depicted between the two of them.

  • Kodi Smit-McPhee shows up not blue as Nick, one of the film school students who comes in to be the director of photography for the movie.
  • Snoop Dogg plays the record store DJ and Tip T.I. Harris plays the studio head who turns down Dolemite at first.  Chris Rock plays an Indiana radio DJ who helps Moore get the movie to theaters.  They’re all basically cameos, but they are really fun and you can tell they had a good time being there – especially T.I., who seems to love his office, costume, and his lines.

  • Luenell plays Moore’s Aunt who funds some of his early projects and gives him the motivation to keep going.
  • Wesley Snipes plays D’Urville Martin and steals every single scene he is in.  Martin had done several movies prior to 1975.  Moore and his crew spot him in a strip club and talk him into acting in and directing their movie. He’s never convinced of the project, and leaves it in epic fashion when completed.  Snipes gives D’Urville a pompous-jerk with piles of eye-rolling attitude.  It’s horrifically campy and absolutely perfection in this movie.

Overall, I loved it – watch this movie.  It’s currently playing on Netflix and because it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, should be Oscar-eligible. I really hope that it gets some nominations, it’s beautifully done.

9 out of 10 – Side note, while the main theme is believing in yourself and working for your dreams, despite your naysayers – there is a side theme I was even more drawn to, perhaps due to the comments recently from certain directors that certain mainstream movies aren’t true cinema.  The part I loved most about Dolemite Is My Name is the idea of making a movie that people want to see - the core goal is entertaining the audience.  Moore literally runs down a list of things people love and wants them in the movie.  Once they finish the movie, the remind each other that they love it, and critics opinions don’t matter.   They make a movie for the joy of making movies, for an audience that loves movies. I love that message, and wholeheartedly support it.  Moore would have loved it. 
"Was it as good as Shaft?"  Hell yes it was. 

Original Trailer so you can see how accurate this version is!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Movie Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (PG – 118 minutes)

The live-action reimagining of the Disney Sleeping Beauty story from Maleficent’s point of view was released in 2014.  It explained Maleficent as a fairy queen of the Moors who loved then battled with King Stefan of the local kingdom.  She cursed his daughter to prick her finger on a spinning wheel when she turned 16 after he had betrayed her and cut off her wings.  As Maleficient watched the child grow up, she grew to care for her as a daughter and after finally defeating her terrible father, named her Queen of the Moors and all the fairy-folk that lived there. 

This sequel picks up five years after, Aurora is still Queen of the Moors and Maleficient their fairy protector.  Some poachers stealing fairy folk are killed in the Moors and Prince Phillip’s father and mother, the King and Queen of Ulstead name Maleficent a villain.  Despite that, Phillip proposes to Aurora, and The Queen tells him to invite Aurora and Maleficent to dinner.  That goes about as well as you would expect as the Queen reveals herself to be the villain in this version, constantly belittling Maleficent and her kind.  The King seems to want peace between the two kingdoms and knows that the wedding is the key.  After being verbal assaulted for most of the meal, Maleficent gets all angrily-glowy and the King mysteriously passes out.  The Queen accuses Maleficent and she leaves, demanding Aurora come with her.  Aurora, of course, decides to stay with her ‘new’ family.  As Maleficent flies away, she is shot with an iron weapon the Queen has been designing.  Fairies are basically allergic to iron.  She plunges into the river, but just before drowning, she is rescued. 

Spoiler alert from here down, only because I didn’t see any of this bit in the trailers…

She’s rescued by another dark fairy, just like her with wings and horns, who takes her to a special cave where their people are living.  There’s a whole bunch of them who have been chased away from their lands by the encroachments of humans and the one who rescued her, Conall, wants her help brokering a peace.  Their second in command, Borra, is thinking it would be better to wipe out the humans.  Plots, battles, a wedding, and an attempted genocide ensue.

The movie is directed by Joachim Ronning and is absolutely stunning visually.  The world of the moors and the fairy life in them is just gorgeous and well worth a look in 3D.  The costumes are amazing, and the action sequences are pretty fantastic too.  The story is fine, but gets a little more complicated than necessary. There’s a lot of people with grudges that are huge and barely explained.  The cast is wonderful and seems to really enjoy playing in this world.

  • Angelina Jolie really embodies Maleficent perfectly.  She seems to completely revel in this character.  The look is incredible, the horns and wings are perfect, and the irritation with humans is just perfection.  She’s even better when pushed towards the hatred and evil that Maleficent is remembered for in the animated classic.  Also, she turns into a giant dark phoenix in this movie for…reasons?  To symbolize transformation? 

  • Elle Fanning returns as Aurora and gets a little more to do here. She’s blindly suckered into the Queens machinations, even though she’s dripping evil villain vibes at dinner.  Once she realizes she’s been had, Aurora does her best to help remedy the situation and Fanning gives her a sense of justice.

  • Harris Dickinson is now Prince Phillip as opposed to Brenton Thwaites who is filming Titans.  He’s a little boring, but that’s what he’s given. His whole motivation is his love for Aurora, which does put him at odds with his mother. By the end he’s found a way to unite the two kingdoms.

  • Sam Riley returns as Diaval, Maleficent’s right hand raven.  He’s there to provide exposition and request to be turned into a bear instead of a raven at some point. 

  • Jenn Murray plays Gerda, the Queen’s right hand woman who is viciously cold and cruel – and surprising passionate about playing the organ, especially when it’s filled with fairy-killing powder.

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Connall. I had no idea he was in this and was shocked when he showed up.  He seems to be leading the fairies in their cave and is concerned they will go extinct without forming peace with the humans so that they can co-habit. 

  • Ed Skrein plays Borra, who spends his time flexing, growing vines as a weapon, and telling everybody that the fairies will go extinct if they don’t go to war with the humans and eliminate them.  Also, he spends a lot of time looking at Maleficent all sexy, which she seemed to be into.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer plays Queen Ingrith, and steals most of the scenes that she is in. She hate the fairy-folk, and I mean, hates them.  She has developed a weapon that will wipe them all out and then develops a plan to lock them all in the church and simply kill them.  She’s evil on a whole new level and the scene between she and Jolie are just fantastic.

Overall, the movie is very enjoyable and lovely to look at.  I feel like inside it there is the possibility for an R-rated version where Maleficient discovers this hidden cave of other sexy fairies and ends up in a love triangle with Borra and Conell.  Or maybe that’s just what Ed Skrein was selling – I was buying it. As I mentioned, the story is a little weak.  It is too complicated in some places and also too simple in others, but the visuals really save the movie.  I will say that for something aimed at kids, the scene with all the fairy folk trapped in the church and slowly being killed with the red powder the Queen had created is a bit much. It is a little scary and more than a little disturbing, so be forewarned if you’re planning on taking little ones. Eventually they get rescued, but it took way too long.

6 out of 10 – would have been higher if it had been the movie Skrein seemed to think he was in.  

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Movie Review: The Kitchen (R – 112 minutes)

The Kitchen is based on the Vertigo comic by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle. The movie is sure to bring some comparisons to last year’s Widows, because the subject matter is similar.

Kathy, Ruby, and Claire all have husbands in the Irish mob in Hell’s Kitchen in 1978.  Kathy’s husband Jimmy is the most decent of the three, but that’s not saying much. Ruby’s husband Kevin is awful, constantly cheating on her and letting his mother bad mouth her.  Claire’s husband Rob beats her.  The three husbands head out one night to rob a place and get busted by the FBI.  They get sent away for three years and despite the new head of the gang promising to take care of them financially, they are given next to nothing. 

The ladies come up with the idea to step in where the gang has been lacking. They take up the ‘collections’ from the neighborhood.  They take money and offer protection, which the gang had not been doing. This gets them fans in the community, but anger from the gang.  Eventually, they partner up with the local Italian mobsters and set about eliminating their competition and rivals.

The movie is directed by Andrea Berloff who had mainly been a writer up to this point. This is her directorial debut, and she does a decent job but the movie is very choppy and the tone is uneven.  There are quite a few storylines that interconnect in complicated ways and everything feels a bit rushed.  Honestly, this may have been better served as a Netflix series where the story could have been slowed down and fleshed out a little bit more.  The cast is good, but not everyone seems to be on the same page about what type of movie this is. Some are playing it as a gritty crime drama and some are playing up the silliness as if it's an over-the-top crime noir graphic novel (which is where everyone should have been, in my opinion).  
  • Melissa McCarthy gives a grim determination to Kathy Brennan. She didn’t want to become a mobster, but she is going to protect her kids and her turf no matter what. She’s quite good in this and seems to have the best grip on what it was trying to be.

  • Tiffany Haddish does an interesting job as Ruby shifting from comedy to this intense drama. She’s a little over the top complete with raised eyebrow and lip-sneer, but that actually works well for the character.  She’s determined to use what she has to get what she wants, no matter the cost.

  • Elisabeth Moss plays Claire as a woman tired of everyone taking advantage of her. Once she decides she’s had enough, she has truly had enough and fully steps into being a gangster and murderer.

  • Domhnall Gleeson shows up suddenly halfway through this movie almost out of nowhere as a Vietnam veteran returning from time ‘out west’ in hiding.  He comes back once he hears that Claire’s husband has been sent away, and he’s looking to put his skills as a psycho to use for her.

  • James Badge Dale (who was in everything like three years ago, but I haven’t seen since then) plays Kevin. He’s a guy more invested in his mother than his wife and doesn’t really care who knows.  Brian D’Arcy James as Jimmy spends most of his time complaining that his wife left nothing for him to do and it’s not fair!  Jeremy Bobb plays Rob who has zero redeeming qualities.

  • Margo Martindale plays Kevin’s mother who is there to badmouth the ladies while getting in good with the Irish mob. She seems to be playing this like it’s all an over-the-top gangster cartoon, which may have been the right take if everyone had been on that same page.
  • Common and E.J. Bonilla appear briefly as the FBI agents that takes down the husbands.

Overall, the movie is interesting, but poorly executed. It’s a shame, because it could have been really well done. It wants the women to feel strong and empowered.  While it gets close to that, it never really achieves it because the characters are not especially likeable.  It's hard to root for them when they keep making questionable decisions.  And now that I’ve mentioned it, I really do believe it would have been better suited as a series on Netflix or Amazon.  What an age we are living in with so many options for entertainment, and for storytellers to find the best medium to tell their story – this one was a misfire.  Hang on for the inevitable reboot in several years.
5 out of 10 – uneven, but had potential. Fine for watching on a plane!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Movie Review: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (PG13 – 137 minutes)

The Fast & Furious franchise began in 2001 with a story about an undercover cop getting in with some street racers to determine who was stealing DVD players.  Seriously.  By the last movie, the F8te of the Furious, the squad was international espionage agents helping to bring down global cyber terrorists all while protecting their family and their Coronas.  Seriously.  The point of these movies is not the plot, it’s the action sequences, over-the-top nonsense, and yes, family. 

This spin off features two characters who showed up in the last couple of F&F movies.  Hobbs is a cop of some sort who was after Torreto & Co. but then switched to being on their side.  Shaw was the brother of one of their villains who killed one of their friends, but also switched to their side.  The chemistry between the Rock and Jason Statham in the last movie was so entertaining, it was inevitable that they would get a spin-off. This despite the fact that Vin Diesel seemed to be against the idea. 

This movie picks up as Hattie Shaw, an MI6 agent, is on mission to pick up a deadly virus.  Cybernetically enhanced members of the shady international villainous organization Spectre… I mean Etreon, are also after the virus.  Hattie’s only choice (her only choice?) is to inject herself with the virus and go on the run.  The lead Etreon baddie, Brixton, immediately pins the whole incident on her.  This leads the CIA (in the form of some Deadpool 2 actors) to recruit Hobbs & Shaw to go after Hattie, get the virus, and stop Shaw, because apparently only they can do it.  Hijinks, car chases, incredible actions scenes, and a trip to Samoa ensue.
I was very excited when I found out this movie was going to be directed by David Leitch. I was definitely one of the people who, after the last movie, was all on board for a Hobbs & Shaw spin off. I was not disappointed.  That does not mean this is a good movie – but it is carefully crafted nonsense that stays well within its wheelhouse and delivers exactly what it promises.  Leitch is a former stuntman who directed John Wick and Deadpool 2 – thus the aforementioned cast members.  The cast seems to be having as much fun as humanly possible shooting a movie.
  • Dwayne Johnson – look, I’m still calling him the Rock – plays Hobbs, who is basically the Rock.  He saunters through this movie snapping at Statham and being large and grumbly.  He’s there to throw around bad guys and reconcile with his family. Because its in the F&F franchise, so there will be family.

  • Shaw is my favorite Jason Statham character in some time, mainly because it’s similar to some of his early Guy Ritchie style comedy-action bits.  He spends most of the movie insulting the Rock and beating up bad guys.  At no point in this one does he use his Olympic-level diving ability.  You’ll have to rewatch the Meg for that.

  • Idris Elba seems to be the one having the most fun as self described ‘black superman’ Brixton.  He’s got all kinds of enhancements and tears through this movie being a stereotypical a bad guy as you can be.  His charm and charisma carry him through. If they won’t let him be Bond, then by all means, let him continue to be great bad guys.

  • Vanessa Kirby plays Hattie, and I loved her fight sequences. She got a few of them early on and they were all pretty fantastic. Of course, once she injects herself with the virus and hooks up with Hobbs & Shaw, she gets a bit damsel-in-distress-y, which is too bad, because she was an agent equal to both the guys.

  • Helen Mirren is back as the Shaw matriarch, looking forward to the All-Shaws all-star special spin off where she leads Kirby and Statham on some epic heist-style adventures.

  • Eliza Gonzalez plays Madame M, and I honestly cannot for the life of me explain her character.  She seems to be a mercenary that Shaw knows who runs an all-female lingerie-based team of government-overthrowers? Maybe? In any case, Hobbs & Shaw head to her for weaponry once in Russia.
  • Eddie Marsan plays Professor Andreiko who created the virus that is inside Hattie.
  • Apparently, the Rock tried to get Jason Momoa to play his brother who lives back home in Samoa.  Momoa was not available, so they did the next best thing and got Cliff Curtis.  Curtis, while Maori, can and will play any and every ethnicity out there.  I love him, but (and I hate to say this) Momoa would have been a better fit for the high-level of nonsense in this piece. Curtis’s max nonsense level is mid-range, Momoa goes all the way up.

  • Lori Pelenise Tuisano plays the Hobbs clan mom, and she’s incredible. She’s eliminated all their guns and threatens people with her flip flop.
  • John Tui, Joshua Mauga, and Joe Anoa’I (Roman Reigns) play assorted Hobbs brothers and cousins. 

Again, I loved it – it’s not great, but I did love it.  There was one thing I was disappointed by, and that’s the cuts in the fight sequences. As a stuntman, Leitch should have known to shoot the fight sequences in masters, from a distance, and have no cuts.  They would have been so much more impactful that way. For example, think about that hallway sequence in the Daredevil tv show, the opening to Blade 2, or the fights in Mortal Kombat.  The folks in this movie are capable of fantastic fight choreography, back up the camera, stop cutting, and let me see it.  The initial Hobbs & Shaw character introductions in this movie are side by side split screen action sequences. In my opinion, both of those should have been single shot action bits.  Also – the giant Samoan battle sequence begins with a Siva Tau war dance, would have been amazing with no cuts from that dance through the first explosions!  Now, I know that’s realistic, but it would have been amazing, and a set piece that stuck with the audiences.

8 out of 10 – it’s fun, it’s loud, it’s nonsense action. Enjoy the popcorn and turn off your brain. Be sure to bring the family. 
Blade 2 beginning – there’s still cuts in this sequence, but look at how the camera is placed so that you can see all the movement…

Another example – Statham in the Transporter.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Movie Review: Stuber (R – 93 minutes)

The ‘buddy cop’ sub-genre of 80s and 90s action movies found a way to incorporate comedy into a action flick.  There are countless examples of this like Tango and Cash, and 48 Hours.  I was always partial to Showdown in Little Tokyo. 

In either case, you take two folks who are nearly complete opposites and throw them together to solve a crime.  The standard format is that these two opposites each establish their skill, make some progress, suffer a loss while fighting with each other and swearing they’ll never work together again, but then come together for the final battle and forge a friendship of sorts. It’s tested and true and it works. It works especially well if you have two actors who enjoy each other’s company and can play off one another in swift comedic beats. 

Stuber feels like a throwback to those movies.  Police officer Vic Manning is chasing down drug dealer Tedjo when his partner gets killed in the line of duty and he gets injured.  He swears he will get Tedjo.  He then has lasik surgery and gets a lead while recovering.  Because his eyes are injured, he gets an Uber to take him to his investigation, leading for an unlikely partnership with his Uber driver, Stu, as they follow leads, fight, work together, go to Vic’s daughter’s art opening, and tell off Stu’s boss at his day job.

Director Michael Dowse has mainly done TV but also directed the movie Goon and Take Me Home Tonight.  This story is formulaic, and nothing you haven’t seen before – it’s sort of a comedic Collateral.  What elevates this one is the cast and how well they do with the roles they are given.
  • Dave Bautista plays Vic Manning and is perfection as the almost over the hill, broken, and exceptionally bitter cop who is out for revenge for the death of his partner.  Dave is adding to his skillset, and this action comedy is the perfect showcase for him.

  • Kumail Nanjiani plays Stu, a guy who is a bit of a doormat while working in a sporting goods store and driving Uber to help his platonic female friend (that he’s in love with) open her spin-gym.  Kumail is one of the funniest dude’s working, and he gives Stu such a sad sack existence that it is pure joy when he finally steps up to the plate.

  • Natalie Morales plays Vic’s daughter Nicole and her dry sarcasm is perfect here as someone who wants her father to be there, but knows he probably won’t show up…because work.

  • Mira Sorvino was a huge surprise for me here playing McHenry, Vic’s boss. She’s great in this in what could have been a throwaway role, but she gives it some layers.
  • Iko Uwais continues to slowly take over everything by playing Okay Tedjo. He’s got great screen presence even when saying nothing, and of course his fight scenes are epic.

  • Betty Gilpin plays Stu’s ‘friend’ Becca who is really taking advantage of him even without realizing it.
  • Karen Gillan shows up very briefly as Vic’s partner who does not make it through the beginning in order to set up his vengeance for the rest of the movie.
  • Jimmy Tatro plays Stu’s boss, and he’s basically every typically terrible dude you know rolled into one.

Overall, the movie is short, fun, and action packed.  The stars seem to genuinely get along and play really well off one another. It’s more violent and swear-y than necessary, but again, that feels like a throwback to the 80s buddy action movies I loved.  I really hope we get a sequel.

8 out of 10 – very enjoyable, also – let’s be real that a big-time summer action comedy opening with two Asian leads is huge.  I can’t wait until we get to the point where it’s no big deal because it happens all the time. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home (PG13 – 129 minutes)

This movie functions as the first MCU follow-up to the very much ‘end’ feeling of Avengers Endgame. And how does it do? Well, if you think about all the existing MCU movies as if they were one MCU movie, then this movie feels a little like the humorous post-credits sequence.
It picks up a few months after the events of Endgame.  Folks are all attempting to recover from the snap and the resulting ‘blip’ where certain folks were gone for five years and then suddenly blipped back.  At Peter Parker’s high school, he and most of his classmates that we met in the first movie blipped out and are now back, picking up school where they left.  Other classmates that were five years behind them are now in their grade. This includes Brad – a guy who is now all charming and handsome but was a tiny child when they left.

Peter is feeling overwhelmed because he’s trying to live up to the legacy left behind by Tony Stark. Everyone seems to keep pushing him to be the “next Iron Man” when he’s just trying to be the best friendly neighborhood spider-man he can.  He is heading out on a class trip through Europe and is bound and determined not to bring his spidey-suit, hoping to just have a vacation.  However, as soon as they get to Venice, a giant water monster attacks, Nick Fury shows up to hijack the vacation and give him a mission, and Spidey meets Mysterio.  Quentin Beck claims to be a man from another universe chasing these ‘elemental’ monsters and hoping to save our world from the destruction his suffered.  Now, if you are familiar with Mysterio at all from any of the animated series or from the comics, that description confused you, but have patience.

Director Jon Watts, who also did Spider-Man Homecoming, keeps the same tone here.  He explains Peter’s general feeling of not-being-good-enough through interactions with others and exposition.  The comedy is fast and funny. The action is wonderful, and while giant and mostly CG, works really well in the context of the movie. The interaction between the cast is fantastic, and they definitely feel like classmates.
  • Tom Holland continues to be the best Spider-Man we have had to date. He’s earnest in how much he wants to help, but also just be a kid on a trip with the girl he likes. He’s just so perfect in the role and I cannot wait to see where he goes from here

  • Zendaya plays M.J., who still does not refer to Peter as ‘tiger’ at any point – maybe the next one?   Her take on the character is interesting, sarcastic, and overall very entertaining.

  • Jacob Batalon plays Ned, Peter’s guy-in-the-chair.  He’s there to be the best friend, comic relief, and emotional counsel and does all of it with charm and grace.

  • Angourie Rice place Betty Brant who does the reporting for the school TV channel?  She also begins and ends a whirlwind romance with Ned while on vacation.
  • Tony Revolori plays Flash Thompson with the perfect level of adoration of Spider-Man and simultaneous hate of Peter Parker. He’s fantastic at this role and I love him in it.

  • Remy Hill plays Brad who is suddenly in class with all these folks. He provides some great comedy.
  • Martin Starr plays Mr. Harrington and J.B. Smoove plays Mr. Dell, the two adult chaperones on the trip with the kids. They are basically there to provide even more comedy relief, as neither of them seems to be all that great at chaperoning.  I feel like there are piles and piles of outtakes of the two of them riffing and I want to see them!

  • Marisa Tomei plays May (she’s dropped the aunt for this younger Peter).  What I enjoyed most is that this version is working at a homeless shelter, feeling like a tie-in from the PS4 Spider-Man game. She’s mainly concerned about protecting Peter, but also with making sure Spider-Man is ready to help anywhere at any time.

  • Jon Favreau plays Happy Hogan who may or may not be starting a relationship with May. He’s still struggling with how to deal with the loss of his best friend and keeping tabs on the kid Stark chose to mentor.

  • Cobie Smulders plays agent Maria Hill who is on assignment with Fury throughout Europe.
  • Samuel L. Jackson plays Nick Fury who seems to be a bit more sassy then he has been in the past. Of course, he’s missing five years, and he’s not at all happy about that.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal plays Quentin Beck or Mysterio.  He’s perfect for this role as Stark-surrogate when Peter first meets him.  

Overall, the movie is super fun with great action. It’s smaller than Endgame, but it is supposed to be. If you liked Spider-Man Homecoming, you will definitely enjoy this one.  
9 out of 10 – so fun, so wonderful, also – love that returning cameo at the end.

I cannot wait to see what happens in the next one. I used to want a D'onofrio Kingpin appearance, but his Kingpin is pretty R rated for this very PG13 Spider-Man.  But, we could still get a Sinister Six!