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!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Movie Review: John Wick Chapter 3 Parabellum.

John Wick debuted in 2014 and proved that a simple story, executed well, can create an exceptional movie. In that chapter, we met John Wick, retired hit man, shortly after the death of his wife due to an extended illness. Knowing he would be alone, she arranged to have a beautiful puppy delivered to him after her funeral.  John randomly encountered some thugs who stole his car and killed his puppy – he spends the rest of the movie hunting them down and killing them.   Directed by Chad Stahelski, who has been Keanu’s stunt double since 1999’s The Matrix, the movie was fast and fresh, and who doesn’t want to see puppy murderers get what’s coming to them?  By the end of that movie, he had found a new dog, and killed enough people that the High Table started to wonder if he was un-retired.
The second chapter in 2017 delved more into John’s hitman world, and the Continental, the hotel where they can seek refuge, but where they cannot conduct business.  After a movie’s worth of folks trying to get John back into business, John breaks the rules and kills a guy on Continental grounds.  That movie ends with John getting excommunicated, and a bounty getting taken out on his head with notice going to all the bounty hunters and assassins everywhere.

Chapter 3 picks up immediately thereafter. John has one hour to prep before his excommunicated status goes active and everyone begins coming after him. He gets his wounds tended as best he can as the time runs out.  He then spends the rest of the movie attempting to find allies and backup while going to meet ‘the elder’ who operates above ‘the table’.  The High Table is the organizing body of the association of hitmen, or at least, that’s what it seems.  The Elder agrees to waive John’s sentence, if he comes back into service, and does a job for him.  Things go awry from there, but we’ve already been guaranteed chapter 4.  Eventually, hopefully, he will get back to his quiet life of retirement with his new dog.
This chapter is also directed by Chad Stahelski, and again features action sequences second to none. The hand to hand combat sequences are exceptional, and John does get to battle hordes of ninjas here. The gunplay is a bit excessive for me, but Keanu does it very well.  Halle Berry’s character has two dogs she has trained to essentially function as extensions of her weapons and they are amazing, I have never seen anything quite like that before.  The dogs and their interaction with her is one of the most exciting things in this movie.  Neither of them get hurt – also, John’s dog is fine.
  • Keanu Reeves is perfect as John Wick. He’s a man of few words, definitive actions, and a desire to get back to his retirement.  But he also is not going to let anybody get away with pushing him around.

  • Halle Berry plays Sofia, a woman who is running the Continental in Morocco and is less than thrilled to see John.  She does what she can to help, and gets just a couple of scenes, but what incredible actions sequences they are.

  • Ian McShane plays Winston, the manager of the Continental in New York. He’s either John’s closest friend or greatest enemy, and that seems to change from scene to scene, which makes him one of the most interesting characters in the movie.

  • Lance Reddick plays Charon, the concierge of the New York Continental. He’s happy to dog-sit for John, and also not afraid to get his hands dirty when things get questionable.

  • Laurence Fishburne plays the Bowery King who has a network of ‘homeless’ undercover assassins and information gatherers. He helps John, but ends up pissing off the Table with that action, which in turn, pisses him off.

  • Mark Dacascos plays Zero, and I have been a fan of his for so long, since Only the Strong in 1993.  It’s so wonderful to see him in this, and he really seems to be having the best time of anyone in the movie. He is obviously enjoying every scene as he chases down and admires John Wick.

  • Asia Kate Dillon plays the Ajudicator, who shows up to bring the Table’s ruling to various characters who have interacted with John, helping him along his way.  Dillon is cold as ice, and perfect in the role.

  • Anjelica Huston plays the Director of some sort of Russian organization while also cruelly coaching ballerinas and wrestlers – she has a lot going on.  John goes to her for help, to call in a favor from long ago.

  • Said Taghmaoui plays the Elder, despite being younger than almost everyone else in the movie. He’s just wandering the Moroccan desert waiting for folks to try to come find him so that he can remind everyone he’s above the Table.

  • Jerome Flynn, most recently seen as Bronn in Game of Thrones plays Berrada, someone only Halle Berry can get John an audience with, and he’s less than helpful. Although he provides some random history on the word ‘assassin’.

  • Jason Mantzoukas plays the Tick Tock man, one of The Bowery King’s assets who seems to be there just to remind John Wick he’s running out of time. It’s a thrill to see Mantzoukas there, especially if, like me, you’re a fan of the How Did This Get Made podcast. If you aren’t, you should be, it’s fantastic.

  • Also – there’s a random non-penguin Robin Lord Taylor appearance!

Overall, if you liked the others, you will love this. There are so many action sequences that are crafted to include bits I have never seen before – which is tough these days. The action is incredible, the story is fine, but in reality, it is second tier to the action. This movie is the perfect example of how a simple story executed perfectly can be far superior to a complicated story executed poorly.  I am looking forward to seeing what John gets up to in Chapter 4, and if he can ever get back to his retirement.
8 out of 10 – same score as the other two chapters, exceptional action and really entertaining.

Movie Review: The Hustle (PG13 – 93 minutes)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was made in 1988 and was actually a remake of the 1964 movie, Bedtime Story. It starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin and was directed by Frank Oz.  In it, Michael Caine played a very posh con man living in the seaside town of Beaumont-sur-Mer, making an incredible living conning mostly women, heiresses, with the help of a few assistants.  His pleasant world is rocked by the arrival of a crass American sub-par con man played by Steve Martin.  Caine agrees to help train Martin in return for his assistance. They have a falling out, and compete for the territory by attempting to get the fortune of a wealthy woman.

This new version, produced by Rebel Wilson and starring Anne Hathaway and Wilson is almost exactly the same story.  Wilson plays Penny, a crass con-woman who runs into Hathaway’s Josephine Chesterfield, a very posh and polished con-woman.  Josephine trains Penny, but after a falling out, they compete to steal the fortune from an American tech giant in town for a conference.

The movie had potential and really should have been so much funnier than it is.  Wilson is game, and goes full-out for the comedy. Hathaway seems an odd choice for this movie, and really I can’t help but wonder if the movie would have been better with someone more comedy-capable in the role.  The movie is directed by Chris Addison, who has previously directed mostly TV shows, and this movie is well put together, just not as funny as I wanted it to be.
  • Anne Hathaway plays Josephine Chesterfield with a questionable British accent that may have been a choice since we do not really know if the character is British, or if that’s a con as well. She seems disinterested and aloof, but again – perhaps those are character choices and she’s doing a great job?

  • Rebel Wilson plays Penny Rust, and it’s very similar to other characters she has played. It’s interesting to see her progress through the training with Josephine, but I would have liked to see that result in more of a character shift.

  • Alex Sharp plays Thomas Westerburg, the tech genius whose fortune they are after. He’s one-note until the end, which is not a surprise if you’ve seen the original.
  • Ingrid Oliver plays Brigitte Desjardins, a police officer helping Josephine.
  • Dean Norris has a very brief role as a mark for the two women.

Overall the movie is fine, and there’s a chuckle here and there, but I really wanted laughs from this movie and it did not deliver that level of hijinks. Of course, I remember having the same feeling from the original. It made me feel uncomfortable more than it made me laugh, and this one is right along those lines.  I would have liked to see the women targeting some terrible men so that you could get on board with them taking their fortunes.  That felt like another missed opportunity.  Honestly, I didn’t like either of the characters, and that would have been a way to get the audience on their side. The potential was there, and it’s a perfectly serviceable comedy, but it could have been much funnier.

6 out of 10 – it’s fine, but it’s not great.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Movie Review: Avengers Endgame (PG13 – 181 minutes)

It has happened – we reached the twenty-second movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!  At this point in the MCU, we are still reeling from the end of last year’s Infinity War where Thanos (the Mad Titan) collected all six of the infinity stones (space, power, time, soul, mind, and reality), inserted them into his Infinity Gauntlet, and snapped his fingers to eliminate half the living beings in the universe.  It’s his way of solving overpopulation and a lack of resources.  I guess he didn’t think about just snapping more resources into existence while he was working on this plan for his entire life.  That movie ended with the shocking disintegration of most of our heroes, and this movie picks up with the remaining heroes stunned and confused. 

Slight spoilers from here down – it’s tough to say anything else about this movie without discussing at least a little bit of plot!

The post credits scene from Captain Marvel was Danvers showing up on earth as War Machine, Banner (not Hulk), Black Widow, and Captain America had found and were using Fury’s Marvel pager.  She demands to know where Fury is, and we can assume they ask her to go get Tony.  This movie begins with a quick flashback to Hawkeye on his farm as his entire family gets dusted (Thanos’s ‘half’ can unfairly affect some folks disproportionately).  We jump to Tony and Nebula in the remains of the Milano in space, killing time while their air runs out.  Danvers rescues them, and brings them back to earth, after 21 days up there.  Tony is frustrated, guilty, and takes it all out on Cap as anger.  Rocket has noticed a power surge on a distant planet similar to the one that caused the dusting, so they head out after Thanos to get the stones and undo the snap.  The issues is that when they get to him, he has just used the stones to destroy the stones, and there is nothing left: no plan, no options, and no hope.  This is literally only the first ten to fifteen minutes of a three hour movie. 

Major spoilers from here down

From that point on, there’s a five year time jump, and the characters are attempting to move on.  Ant-Man gets pulled from the quantum realm, and from there, they plan a time heist.  I won’t say anything else - just that you really do need to see this.  Similarly to Infinity War, this movie rewards fans. If you have seen and loved the others in the MCU, you will love this.  If you go into this cold, there are parts you will enjoy, but you will mostly be confused and overwhelmed.  Each character gets some love, but the stars here are the original six Avengers. It’s a beautiful sign-off for them as they shift into semi-retirement, and let new heroes set up for the future.

Directed once again by the Russo Brothers (Joe and Anthony) and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the movie is exceptional. It manages to honor all the movies that came before it – especially the Avengers team-ups.  Yes, it has a definite ending, and it is perfect and satisfying – in my opinion.  Yes, I cried multiple times, but I needed a handful of tissues, not the entire box.  Mostly I was cheering with absolute joy.  The cast seems to love and appreciate this opportunity, doing their best for the fans. Every Avenger is there (apparently there’s a Howard the Duck appearance, but I missed it), but again, the six originals really get to shine.

  • Jeremy Renner as Clint “Hawkeye” Barton gets to do some emotional heavy lifting all the way through this. He starts with the dusting of his family, and then shifts into Ronin anger-killing, then has to go after the Soul Stone with a friend, and you know how that goes, because you know what it takes to get the Soul Stone.

  • Scarlet Johansson plays Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff.  She’s keeping it together, running what’s left of the Avengers in the post-snap world.  When an opportunity arises, she doesn’t hesitate to do what needs to be done.  Black Widow has never been one of my favorite characters, but Johansson shines here, and I am definitely looking forward to her rumored stand-alone origin movie.

  • Mark Ruffalo plays Bruce Banner and the Hulk, and in this movie, they are closer than ever before.  Ruffalo is just so charming and fun, he really makes Banner relatable and genuine.  Thank goodness for his big brain when Scott comes back out of the quantum realm.

  • Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, and while I thought he was at his lowest in the last movie, he somehow goes even lower here. After Thanos told him he should have gone for the head, he is undone by guilt and a level of trauma where he seems to be blaming himself for everything that went wrong. He gets some absolutely hilarious scenes, and some even more appreciated lovely scenes as he attempts to prove his own worth to himself.

  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers – Captain America – is once again the heart and soul of the team and the movie.  He is doing what he can post-snap, helping others attempt to move on, and checking in with his friends, trying to make sure everyone is okay.  His pep talk when they head out on mission is just so Cap, to the point that Scott and Rocket mention it.  There is a scene where he goes out alone to face Thanos, the Black Order, and their entire army without any hesitation.  It’s epically beautiful.  And yes, the scene I have wanted for a year is in this movie - *sniffle*.

  • Robert Downey Jr., who at this point is indistinguishable from Tony Stark, is exceptional in this movie.  He starts off angry, then settled and resolved, and then hopeful and determined.  His performance is fantastic, and his support of the team is epic.  His interaction with Pepper is beautiful and lovely.  And yes, I thought this movie was a fitting ‘retirement’ for his character.

Everyone does an amazing job, and the giant action battle set piece at the end is everything you want it to be.  Yes, it’s moving and sad in parts, but it is also really hilarious and fun in parts.  There are plenty of moments that elicited loud cheering from my audience – definitely see it in a full theater if possible.  For a three hour movie, I didn’t feel the length, and I can’t really think of anything I would have removed. 

12 out of 10 – yes, I know that’s not how math works. I don’t care. I really loved it.  
There’s a moment where all the female heroes lined up to help Captain Marvel, and I ugly cried in the theater.  I never thought I would ever see an entire movie screen filled with female superheroes.  It’s a bit of an acknowledgement that they dropped the ball slightly on that front in the beginning, that they are taking steps to rectify it, and a promise that the future will be fantastic.

What a close to the first few phases of the MCU - I can’t wait for what’s next.