Film reviews

I'm just going to add my film review posts here so I can retrieve them more easily.

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Us

Maybe Jordan Peele films are just not for me?

Much like Get Out, it's well-acted, well-shot, well-scored, but nothing more than that. Us makes a little less sense as well, featuring some sizeable plot holes.

There is just nothing really remarkably bad or good about either of these films (other than how they function as reference and easter egg hunts perhaps). They're totally fine.

3/5

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Alita: Battle Angel

Review:

The writing/script is terrible, probably the worst part of the film. On top of that, character motivations suddenly shift without any good reason or foreshadowing. I've seen people criticise some of the actors for being bad but I really think it's more the writing/script letting them down some of those lines... yeesh

It also has the CGI film problem of a decrepit slum/city looking too clean.

Good Robert Rodriguez-style action, a lot of brutality they got away with due to most of the characters being cyborgs. Decapitations, bifurcations, quartering, etc. A lot of remorseless killing by the main character.

They try to cram a lot of the source material into the film but at the same time it's mostly a setup for a sequel.

2/5

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Deadpool 2

Good golly this film is every bit as good as the first one, only real downside is that it doesn't feel quite as fresh the second time around.

I can recommend this to everyone who enjoyed the original without reservations. It's still clear to see that this is a passion project for Reynolds and that passion shines through wonderfully.

This is the first time in years that I've had tears in my eyes from laughing at a theatre. (If you must know, it was during the parachuting sequence.)

Lots of fun references to the source material, other (comic book) films, and more but they never feel out of place because of the kind of character Deadpool is. I was never much of a fan of him in the comics or 4th wall-breaking stuff in general but it all just works in these films.

Notes:

  • I'm happy to confirm that Colossus is still the heart of these films. What a loveable dork. It's quite something that the Deadpool films have been the only truly great adaptations of the comic book character.
  • Zazie Beetz, the actress playing Domino did a good job but luck powers are still terrible unless they have clear limitations (E.g. luck can run out) because otherwise there is never any tension. Luckily this film isn't serious enough for it to harm the final product too much.
  • Josh Brolin does a fine job portraying a character I never liked. Kudos! Perhaps because they kept it simple and cut out most of the bullshit in terms of his background and powers.
  • Some mediocre CGI but then an R-rated film like this does have a lower budget and it was definitely not as bothersome as in, let's say, Black Panther. (A film with twice the budget.)
  • Weird Matt Damon cameo!
  • X-Men hiding in the mansion to pretend it's empty when Deadpool is around is great.
  • The dubstep jokes are a bit meh, especially combining it with Skrillex' Bangarang, it's a shame they couldn't get Junkie XL to do the soundtrack again. Juggernaut's theme is good though.

4/5

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Avengers Infinity War

This film has no real ending since it's part 1 of 2 so it's hard to properly grade it.

There is also no dramatic impact or stakes since you know characters like Spider-Man, Black Panther, etc. are not staying dead so any them fading out of existence doesn't mean much of anything.

Other than that there were few real missteps, but nothing memorable either. It's just kind of there. It's just a well-trodden formula at this point and Disney has its execution down to near (soulless) perfection. I think it's telling that for all the film's length (2.5 hours) I have barely anything to say about it nor any standout memories of it.

In terms of Avengers films I would place this below the original one but above the awful second one and Avengers-film-in-disguise Captain America: Civil War.

Notes:

  • Drax thinking he can turn invisible was the best bit of the film, and I'm not even that much of a Bautista/Drax fan.
  • Have a big female villain? Better have your female protagonist(s) fight them! Stop putting the females up against the females. Such a lame clichéd thing to do.
  • Speaking of villains, importing Thanos' shitty cronies from that terrible "Infinity" Thanos/Inhumans comics event was pretty awful. At least they mostly just functioned as punching bags anyway.
  • The star forge re-activation seemed to have bits of it missing, maybe some cuts for length?
  • Trying to give Thanos emotional depth by suddenly going hard for the angle that his daughter is the only thing he loves just didn't work.
  • Speaking of Thanos, his face was wonderfully animated but the rest not so much. Nothing bad or anything, but for Disney/Marvel's flagship title I expect nothing but the best in terms of CGI.
  • At the end it also felt they were putting a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Captain Marvel. This seems risky, considering there hasn't even been a (good) Captain Marvel film yet.

3/5

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Black Panther

Maaaaaaan, this hurts. I feel like I wanted to like this more than I actually did.

Sadly, it is very standard MCU fare. Nothing about it is particularly bad, just really average.

  • First of all, the costumes in this film are grrreat! Some of the battle suits are typical MCU plastic looking but the actual clothes, make-up, jewellery, etc. are just so damn cool.
  • Andy Serkis is great as Klaw.
  • The action scenes are let down by the camera work and lighting, making them harder to follow than they should be.
  • The cgi/sfx are not up to par with some of the MCU's better films.
  • The humour is skates the edge of eye-rolling a few too many times E.g. The car crash with Nakia sliding on the asphalt in her car seat while still holding the steering wheel. Shuri's very hit-and-miss "young & hip Q" character.
  • The end battle is disappointing and outdated. The general sequence of it and the action choreography is rather uninspired. The cgi rhinoceroses really don't help either. The Martin Freeman plane chase stuff is weak as well.
  • The plot is simple but fine. There are some pretty big logical/character leaps (W'Kabi's quick turn against T'Chala, just how devastating it is that T'Chala's father hid his brother's treason and subsequent killing, the interventionist vs seclusionist arguments.) but nothing too out of the ordinary for a superhero film.
  • Martin Freeman's character feels needlessly fleshed out. Maybe they plan to do more with him in the future but at times I was getting the weird feeling he was just there for the white people to relate to.

I'm happy to see this film is a commercial success since it helps prove that films directed by and mostly starring people of colour can rake in the big bucks but it reminded me a lot of the latest Wonder Woman film in a negative way. There is a decent basis here for a far superior film down the line. Sadly they'll have to wade through the whole Infinity War morass first.

All in all, Black Panther is a culturally significant, decidedly average film that should probably get an academy award nomination for costume design.

3/5

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The Shape of Water

Very much a Guillermo del Toro film.

A standard but well-told story enriched by fantastical elements and intermittent sharp edges that prevent it from getting bland, boring, or cloying.

All this is supported by utterly gorgeous production design with a wonderfully tactile look. (The film stumbles just once in this regard in a throwaway scene: When Elisa and Zelda are dusting off the giant engine, it looks very CGI.)

4/5

Additional notes:

  • I can see why this film would do well with the Academy voters. del Toro's love for cinema and references to/bits of classic cinema in general feature prominently throughout The Shape of Water. Perfect non-biopic Oscar bait!
  • Michael Shannon oh so very good at portraying the kind of character he portrays in this film, to the point where I am starting to feel like he should actively avoid being typecast too often in these types of roles.

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sharply written, dry, funny and tragic. Martin McDonagh has not made a bad film yet and it doesn't look like he will anytime soon. Highly skilled actors acting together in a sharply written film.

It's kind of acting exchanges people come to Tarantino films for, only not as self-indulgent/wink wink nudge nudge as those films have become in recent years.

4/5

That deer looked fake.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

A few niggles here and there but mostly a good experience I'd say!

The biggest plot hole was probably the hyperlight jump destroying the enemy fleet.

  • Why didn't you just do that sooner? Could have sure saved a lot of Rebel lives.
  • It sure neatly destroyed every single enemy ship!
  • Why not build a fleet of remote controlled hyperjump suicide vessels? It seems to work really well! Probably cheaper than all those Death Stars too.

I'm happy they wasted that lame ass Snoke. Hux/Kylo is a great antagonist duo. I just hope Hux gets more good stuff and isn't just going to continue to be the whipping boy/butt of the jokes. He has the potential to be a far more menacing villain than Kylo Ren.

I'm also very thankful that they didn't go with Rey being of some Skywalker(-like) lineage. I remember the fanboys being all about that at the time of TFA and I really didn't want that to happen. It narrows the universe far too much and Star Wars is already a very small universe as it is.

I was warned beforehand about the quips/humour of the film and while it probably uses a bit too many of them I thought it was fine for the most part. It felt pretty close to the tone of the original trilogy.

The film was a bit overlong and the casino scenes were pretty uninteresting. It didn't help that the casino was far too close to our real life casinos.

I also wonder how much they have to rewrite the next film since Leia mostly survives against all odds in this one unlike everyone else. Even using the force to escape from being spaced. It feels like they had more material lined up for her.

This film was a lot of The Force usage we've never seen any also almost none of the type we have seen. Yoda's ghost summoning thunder/lightning, projecting yourself across the galaxy, memory/face time sharing, etc. That reminds me, Yoda nukes the tree with the jedi booksbut at the end you just see them again in a box. Implying Rey took them before the tree burning and Yoda was just pranking Luke.

Luke also clearly touches Leia and gives her Han Solo's pimp dice but then he turns out to be projecting himself across the galacxy and when Kylo later finds the pimp dice they disappear in his hand.

P.S. Seeing Adrian Edmonson in this film caused some serious whiplash. I've seen people talking about cameo castings left and right but this one was the real surprise for me.

All in all I am quite pleased with the film. Rian Johnson did what Abrams could not: Actually make a film about a new beginning instead of poorly rehashing an old one. The fact that Abrams is at the helm of the next one (and I assume last one in the trilogy?) does not fill me with confidence at all.

4/5

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Spider-Man: Homecoming

I enjoyed this one quite a bit! Top 5 MCU film so far. Maybe even top 3.

The casting is great, the tone is fitting and the story and writing are more than decent. There are numerous references that should please the more dedicated fans. It also manages to set up future films in a non-hamfisted way which is uncommon in this genre.

Criticisms include the messy, hard-to-follow end fight and the perhaps a little too "focus-group-tested-to-death-and-checking-all-the-boxes" school environment. The CGI isn't top of the line but adequate enough and, aside from a few odd cuts, there is very little else to really complain about visually or cinematographically.

A quality effort from relatively inexperienced director Jon Watts. May the sequels be at least this good!

4/5

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Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman is... OK.

Nothing remarkable. But compared to the other DC films of recent years I guess "OK" is a huge step up.

Gal Gadot still isn't a very good actor but director Patty Jenkins manages to mostly work around that and surround her with good actors who can help shoulder the load. The classic "fish out of water" setup and the humour that it brings can also only be used once so I wonder where they'll go from there. The plot itself isn't the most sensical but my expectations were sufficiently low to not really care.

The quality of the CGI lags behind its contemporaries, giving the scenes which make heavy use of it a look that reminds me of Zack Snyder's early work and not in a good way. The action choreography is serviceable. Nothing really standout or impressive but nothing really terrible either except for the "final battle" which is pretty poor and really shouldn't have been there at all, although the studio execs would probably not allow that.

All in all, a step up for the DC movie franchise but not exactly a big one. Let's hope it's the first step towards something good or even great.

3/5

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La La Land

Very well-made and overall solid film. The song and dance routines weren't on the level of some of the greats but other than that I have no complaints. It also has one of my favourite scenes I've seen in quite a while. Without too obvious of a spoiler: "I Ran".

4/5

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In a fit of what was apparently self-hate, I watched Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman a few days ago. Both in their extended versions of course!

... Batman v superman might be the worst superhero film I've ever seen.

I mean, Suicide Squad is a weird collection of ill-fitting strangely cut scenes strung together with an aggressively stupid plot and its lame attempts at copying Guardians of the Galaxy are painfully transparent.

But holy hell.

Batman v Superman! 0 redeeming qualities!

  • Terrible dark, murky and bland look
  • Awful pacing
  • Aneurysm-inducing plot
  • Absymal action choreography

Suicide Squad extended edition: 2/5

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice extended edition: 1/5

And to think people paid money for this burning trash pile. It made $873,260,194

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John Wick: Chapter 2

[In-depth spoiler review first, then a non-spoiler general thoughts bit at the end.]

Hmmm, they definitely went much more regular action flick with this one. It's a lot less tacticool professional assassin stuff and a lot more "Arnold Schwarzenegger singlehandedly shooting hundreds of people without needing to take cover". They kind of explain it away by introducing a slimline armour macguffin but it was still a bit much. I prefferd the more professional assassin antics from the first film. Just running around while getting shot in your magical (plot) armour while you pop 3 dudes with every salvo you loose does not make for a good action sequence.

A second problem with it is the intro, boy they should not have put that part in the film or at least not in that way. Getting Peter Stormare to wax poetical about how awesome John Wick is to an audience which I presume they think didn't see the first film was not a good idea. They should have gone straight to retired John Wick with the mob visiting him and maybe do something shorter/different with the car or a car chase. As a side note, the audio mix during the car scenes was also far too loud.

A third problem is the length of the sommelier scene with Peter Serafinowicz, did they just include that for gun-porn enthusiasts? In that case it wasn't porny/technical enough. Or was it because they needed some footage for the trailers?

Thankfully, there is still a lot to like here. The way they expanded the "world of assassins" is good. I especially liked Laurence Fishburne's whole operation and the "High Table" is interesting, althouh they will have to be careful with it because at times it seems there are more assassins than regular people in the world. Wouldn't want to create a Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions scenario.

The action locations were neat as well, from the subway station to the Colosseum and the Enter the Dragon-like mirror hallways. Great places for shootouts and fisticuffs.

The music and audio are good. (Other than the aforementioned audio mix being too loud at the start.)

Finally, the action choreography was pretty good on the whole despite the less tactical and more action flick vibe. They still use that same sacrificial throw a little too much but there were some fun action scenes for sure. Cassian and Ares were interesting characters and the fact that neither dies on screen could mean future appearances. A special shoutout to the scene where John Wick and Cassian are taking pot shots at each other in a crowd without anyone around them noticing. (One small niggle about the Ares fight is that at the end of it John seems to fish a fresh mag from her jacket. If she had ammo for her gun why on earth did she need to go with the push dagger? And maybe they should have gone with something more elaborate to show off her skills.)

All in all, John Wick 2 has some lesser spots but I liked it quite a bit on the whole. It definitely didn't peak too early and then petered out in an uninteresting way like the first film. And while there isn't a scene that reaches the same level of choreography as the JW1 night club there is still a lot to love.

4/5

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Logan

[In-depth spoiler review first, then a non-spoiler general thoughts bit at the end.]

The biggest criticism I can level against the film can probably be attributed to its limited budget. (I hear that to make it R-rated they had to work with a reduced budget.) Basically the whole more accurate "X-24" clone of Wolverine part wasn't interesting at all. It didn't help they foreshadowed how they would get rid of him way in advance with the adamantium bullet. Some of the abilities/mutations of the children also seemed rather tame or useless considering they were raised as weapons but that's a very minor complaint.

The action itself is good. I was told beforehand that the violence was particularly gruesome but it's not that bad. It's just what it always should have been when you are slashing and stabbing people with indestructible claws. After watching the trailer I was also worried they would use too much wire-fu for the X-23 character but I was pleasantly surprised with her fight choreography. It's fast and vicious and while her foot claws are not used much they are definitely used well the 2ish times they do come into play.

The acting is good to great throughout. Jackman shines in his role as an old, worn down Wolverine who mostly just wants life to be over but sticks around out of obligation for Charles Xavier. Dafne Keen turns in a solid performance as (an at times near-feral) X-23/Laura. Child actors are always a risk but this 11 or 12 year-old didn't disappoint. The rest of the cast performs admirably as well. Patrick Stewart is great as always, Boyd Holbrook does a good job portraying Donald Pierce, Richard E. Grant puts in a solid performance as Zander Rice (although pretty far from his comic book inspiration) and you even get Stephen Merchant as well!

Audiovisually the film is fine as well. Borrowing from the western genre for its style and feel was a solid choice. The action scenes were filmed in a way to make them feel viceral without going to (comical) extremes.

Ultimately, the film really seems to be about two things:

  1. The relationship between Wolverine and Professor X
  2. Wolverine finding a worthy cause to die for

Which can then be further condensed into one:

  1. Family

I'm happy to report that the film achieves these goals quite well.

A well-acted and reasonably solid film that doesn't aim extremely high but in return nails most of what it's going for. A worthy send-off for Huge Jackedman.

4/5

I hope it does well so other serious R-rated superhero films get another shot at life in a world of extremely sanitized, edgeless, never bad but also rarely (if ever) remarkable factory-assembly-line-produced Disney flicks and whatever garbage WB and the others are producing.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

[Not really a review, just assorted notes and responses]

  • Overall the film looks quite good although some of the sets and gear felt plasticy and weightless at times. Not that there is anything wrong with plastics and maybe that's how that future works but it's still something I noticed. That being said I am very happy with how many actual sets and props they used compared to the green screen nightmares that were the prequels.
  • The acting is far better than the prequels and they managed to remove or avoid most of the cringe.
  • The humour was surprisingly OK as well. My personal highlight was Finn and BB-8 giving each other the "thumbs up".
  • At first it seemed like they were going to go too far in trying to show how Rey was "a strong independent woman who don't need no man". I feared they would lean into that too much but thankfully they let that go pretty quickly after her first few scenes with Finn, allowing her to be an interesting, fleshed-out character and not a statement.
  • There are are few things worse than stories/universes where talent alone rules everything. People being better at something with little to no training at all than others who have years of hard work and experience under their belt is one of the most annoying things in all of fiction. Having someone be incredibly powerful just because he or she is a descendant of someone powerful is also terrible. It also leaves a character nowhere else to evolve to because why actually train or study or learn when you're already the best without it?
  • Before watching it I feared it was going to be very cloying and referential but I have to say that most of the callbacks were OK and they managed to keep the schmaltz down to a minimum. I'm impressed at the amount of restraint Abrams managed to bring to the table.
  • Speaking of cloying and schmaltz, while BB-8 most likely designed in an executive room with the aid focus groups to get the highest possible attachment rate from the widest possible audience, eliciting the highest amount of "awww"s and "how cuuuuute"s per minute and and sell the highest amount of merchandise I think that, ultimately, they managed hide that pretty well and make the droid feel like a valuable an interesting member of the cast.
  • I was kind of weirded out by just how much "Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva" Adam Driver was channelling in his performance as Kylo Ren. Especially during the Rey interrogation scene.
  • Kylo Ren's voice while wearing the mask was annoying in a bad way. I hope they drop it in future films.
  • Snoke is extremely uninteresting and lame so far. It could change in future films but I'm already thinking that CGI was definitely not the way to go with that character. (His name is really dumb as well but then it's Star Wars.)
  • The new Death Star (yes that's what I'm going to call it) was really lame. "Oh hey it's bigger and this one can blow up multiple planets at once!" *Yawn* They did manage to salvage it somewhat by adding the explanation of how it was powered but overall it was pretty goddamn stupid and boring. Not in the least because of just how simple and easy it apparently was to destroy this one as well. Maybe it indicates a pacing issue towards the end of the film but I suppose I'm glad it's gone now at least. DON'T MAKE ANOTHER ONE OF THESE.
  • This brings me to my final point and biggest gripe with the film: It's extremely formulaic and predictable. Kudos to them for not even bothering to keep Ben/Kylo Ren's lineage and Rey's force sensitivity a secret for long but even disregarding that you can see pretty much everything coming from a parsec (sorry) away. It just mirrors what's been done before so much. It's like the script was a checklist or something. And with Snoke being extremely unimpressive so far I really hope they have some big twists up their sleeves because if they want this series to go on for a few more films they're going to have their work cut out for them in terms of keeping it fresh and interesting.
Mike said:
  • The destruction of Starkiller Base felt far too easy. Even easier than either Death Star. The Resistance knew essentially nothing about the base, then a defected stormtrooper essentially guesses at the base's weak spot and a small wing of fighters coupled with a few people on the ground blow it up? This is AFTER the Empire suffered the losses of both the Death Star and the Death Star II. One would think that the First Order would have beefed up security a little bit.
  • Regarding the destruction of the Death Star reboot, I also found it hard to believe that Captain Phasma would have lowered the shields, even under threat of death. The First Order would have probably executed her anyway after finding out that she was the reason the super weapon was lost...and she was supposed to be this fanatical super soldier who was completely loyal to The Order. Disabling the shields seemed out of character, I thought that she would rather die than betray the First Order. Oh well.

I still think the extreme ease of destroying Death Star 3 might have been due to a pacing issue. Phasma being little more than a joke character was pretty disappointing. You're absolutely right about how casually she gave in and disabled the Death Star's shields. Maybe they will give her some character in future films where she's more like a Boba Fett type of mercenary character who places her own survival above all else but right now it's pretty disappointing.

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