Author Archives: Andy Wilson

The Avengers: Infinity War Death Pool

Preview screenings of Avengers: Infinity War are happening Tuesday, May 24, so spoilers are going to start seeping out about exactly who lives and dies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But because the only thing we love more than superheroes are lists and betting, here’s a full list of just how likely it is your favorite characters bite the dust in this week’s blockbuster. Start an office pool, impress your friends!

But, have no fear– let’s remember that even if someone dies, these are comic book movies. How many times have these characters died and been later reborn (in the comics, anyway?) Even in these films, several characters have apparently died and then reappeared. Add in the power of some Infinity Stones with the power to reshape reality (or, more likely, to bring back familiar characters recast with new actors in a few years time) means the actual safe money is that no one is dead forever.

Let’s start with the people who are probably safe:

∞ to 1

(get it? An Infinity War joke? I’ll see myself out. . .)

Spider-Man: He’s Marvel’s mascot, they just made the deal with Sony to make more movies together, they’re not going to kill him off now. And, he has announced sequel.
Ant Man: Normally, a guy like Scott Lang is Most Likely to Die in a giant crossover event (see: Avengers: Disassembled) BUT he has an announced sequel coming out in three months. All of Team Ant Man are safe.:
Groot: He already died, came back. Even Thanos can’t stop him. We are Groot.

1000 to 1

T’Challa, Shuri, Okoye, M’Baku: With Black Panther currently #3 in all-time US box office and still in theaters, nipping at the heels of Avatar, with an announced sequel, it’s incredibly unlikely Marvel would kill off their most popular characters. Also, we need Shuri around to take over as Iron Man when Tony Stark shuffles off this mortal coil.

100 to 1

Wong: Here’s where being a supporting character pays off. Dr. Strange is going to be a major target for Thanos since he has the Time Stone, but last we saw, only Wong really knows its background and lore. For being able to provide needed exposition, and as a faithful sidekick, he’s probably equally as safe as Peter Parker’s friend Ned.
Bruce Banner / The Hulk: Can you kill The Hulk? Like, really, can you? Even if Thanos and his army could, why would Marvel do this? If character deaths are a way to up the stakes, you still need some heavy hitters hanging around to eventually give Thanos his comeuppance. The Hulk seems most likely to be able to give him some smackdown.
Rocket Raccoon: If you’re joined at the hip with the aforementioned, nigh-unkillable Groot, and you’re endlessly popular with kids and adults alike, chances are pretty dang high you’ll make it to the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Also, your ability to make bombs and high-powered guns out of pretty much anything will come in handy in a climactic fight against Thanos.

50 to 1

Wanda Maximoff: Speaking of needing heavy hitters, Wanda’s powers are basically limitless, being powered by an Infinity Stone themselves. The Avengers are going to need a next generation, and if anyone is going to make it, this mainstay of the comics Avengers is a good bet. Plus, can you imagine what happens when they try to rip the Mind Stone from Vision’s head? Potentially apocalyptic is how I would characterize Scarlet Witch’s potential. She’s in it.
Mantis: Considering her connection to Ego, (therefore her ability to deal with Celestials) and the announced Guardians sequel, it’s likely she’ll make it through. Same rule as with Wong– it’s good to be a supporting character sometimes.
Sam Wilson / Bucky Barnes: I’m going to deal with these guys as one, because it’s the same reason. (Spoiler Alert!) I’m putting even money on Steve Rogers not making it to the sequel. When that happens, someone will need to take up the mantle of Captain America. Since both of them have done this in the comics, it’s fairly likely they’ll need to make it to the next movie. And with Bucky also being given the moniker “White Wolf,” expect him to maybe cameo in the next Black Panther movie, too.

25 to 1

Peter Quill: As leader of the Guardians and part Celestial, he’s both more hearty than most of our human characters AND the leader of his piece of the franchise. Star Lord will almost certainly make it to Guardians 3, and fans will have to celebrate all the music Tony Stark shares with Peter.  

Dr. Stephen Strange: He’s the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, can wield an Infinity Stone,  and already faced off with Dormammu. Chances are good he’ll survive, but considering he does stand between Thanos and collecting all of the gems, he’s higher on the kill list than most.  

10 to 1

Natasha Romanoff: And here’s where I introduce my “Phase 1” rule. If you starred in a Marvel Phase 1 movie, you are probably dead. And the reason has more to do with capitalism and contracts than comics: Marvel Studios was initially so successful because their model was to sign relatively unknown stars to long-term contracts– stars who now command huge sums to star in your movies. And most of them have run out of runway to tell their stories. So, why is Black Widow not down with the rest of the boys? Well, unlike all of them, Natasha has not had a trilogy of movies about her despite being co-star in many of their sequels. Marvel should have given us a Black Widow movie years ago, but they can correct this now. Still, with no superpowers, going up against The Mad Titan is still a daunting prospect, but I bet she pulls through.

James Rhodes: Similar story to Black Widow– always a sidekick, never a main character. And just like her, there’s untapped potential. Also? Someone’s going to need to take over as Iron Man. While Shuri is my top choice, War Machine already knows his way around the rig. But, having just faced his own mortality recently, he seems likely to buy the farm in a fight with Thanos.

Gamora / Drax: If any of the original Guradians aren’t going to make it to the sequel, it’s these two. They both have serious business with Thanos and won’t rest until he’s dead. No matter how powerful they are, putting themselves in his path is bad news.

5 to 1

Vision: Thanos is coming for that Infinity Stone in his head. And from what was happening in the trailers, it looks like his minions are about to take it. That doesn’t look good for Vision, whose death, as mentioned before, would likely seriously unhinge Scarlet Witch.

Nebula: She’s even more angry at Thanos as her sister Gamora and five times as reckless. Nebula played a huge role in defeating Thanos in the Infinity Gauntlet comics. Let’s see if she can survive long enough to live up to that.

2 to 1

Heimdall: Asgardians are now an endangered species, and I doubt Heimdall would bend the knee to Thanos. Indeed, any aggressive move towards Thor or Loki would likely elicit a very aggressive response. Also, I’m hanging on to that fan theory that his all-seeing eyes tinged with orange are, in fact, powered by the Soul Stone.

Stan Lee: This is painful, but true– our Generalissimo is not going to be with us forever. It might not be bad to give him a proper send-off. Much in the same way Desmond Llewelyn said goodbye to the role of Q in the James Bond movies, it might be good to plan to wrap up Smilin’ Stan’s cameos. If this one doesn’t have some sense of finality to it, let’s hope he has already pre-filmed his parts for the rest of Marvel Phase 3. But if you have to go, it wouldn’t be a bad way to go out– with the culmination of ten years and 18 films.

Even money

(These guys are toast. Sorry.)

Clint Barton: “Why isn’t Hawkeye in any of the movie posters or trailers?” Because Hawkeye is always the guy who gets killed off in these movies. And since we were never going to get the Matt Fraction “My Life as a Weapon” movie with Jeremy Renner in the role, it’s best to say goodbye to him now. Also even money? He’s just plain not in the movie at all. He and his wife and kids moved to another farm and are gone. Either way, we’re not seeing much of Hawkeye in this movie.

The Collector: The only other person we know if actively trying to collect Infinity Stones who knows their value, Thanos will have to go through Tanaleer Tivan to get to The Reality Stone. My money’s on Thanos, and according to footage shown to audiences at Comic Con? The Collector wasn’t looking so hot.

Steve Rogers / Thor / Tony Stark: Sorry, Marvel’s Big Three are probably not appearing in the next movies. Again, blame capitalism and contracts, but I’m stocking up on tissues already, because even as much as I tell myself it’s going to happen, I’m not going to be ready.

Loki: Sorry, friends. He failed Thanos. Even giving him the Space Stone isn’t likely enough to get back in his good graces. If Thanos is smart, he’ll take The Tesseract, extract the Space Stone, and kill Loki where he stands. Leaving him alive will only lead to him eventually betraying you. He’s dead. I’m not going to be ready for this one, either.

There you have it. Disagree? Someone I missed? Let us know in the comments. One thing you can bet on 100% — Marvel is going to make bank at the box office, and you should bring tissues to the theater.

The Ultimate Guide to (Not) Watching the MCU Before Avengers: Infinity War

Over the past several weeks, so many friends have come to me and said, “So, which of the Marvel movies do I need to have seen before watching Avengers: Infinity War?” (which comes out April 24) My answer, invariably, has been “Uhm. . . all of them?”

I then realize most of my friends are nowhere near as obsessive as I am and haven’t been planning this for months. That’s completely fair. And, as was said quite well on Twitter by film writer Jason Bailey:

Well, the root word of “fan” is “fanatic,” right? So, forgive some of us our ridiculous indulgences. I’m the guy who, in preparation for The Last Jedi watched not only all of the Star Wars movies in chronological order, but also almost all of The Clone Wars and Rebels cartoon shows. I started before Thanksgiving.

But this is for everyone else, written with what you should watch, in what order, and what you need to know in Cliff’s Notes form to get ready.  Speaking of, here’s what you need to know, even if you don’t watch any of the movies: The Avengers, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” are in shambles after a devastating difference of opinion split it into two factions led by Iron Man and Captain America. Meanwhile, an alien of phenomenal power named Thanos has been trying to collect six “Infinity Stones” to place into a gauntlet which would give him, basically, unlimited power. Each stone grants power over an element or concept: space, time, reality, power, mind, and soul. So far over the last decade and eighteen movies, five of the six have shown up.

So, first, figure out exactly how many movies you want to watch, and I’ll give you the right order to watch them in. I’ll start with the fewest movies, and end with two different ways to watch all of them.

NOTE: These are NOT judgments on the quality of the individual films. Indeed, the BEST film of the MCU (Captain America: The Winter Soldier — fight me) is only on the list of watching all or almost all of the films, while some of the lesser quality films (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: The Dark World) are featured frequently only because they explain the background of the Infinity Stones.

If you only watch ONE movie

  1. Captain America: Civil War

Wha? But that movie has, like nothing to do with Thanos and the Infinity Stones? Right?

Yes, but the MCU’s saving grace is that it has always been more about characters and less about the other trappings. And in a movie like Infinity War that aims to balance the stories of two dozen protagonists, it’s best that we know where the majority of them ended up. And it’s worth knowing the personal stakes for everyone. It doesn’t hurt that this is one of the best films of the series (I rated it my #1 film of 2015)

So that’s all fine and good, but what else do I need to know?

Remember that Thanos is trying to collect all six of these stones, so we can assume that is central to the plot. At the end of the 18 films, here are the last known confirmed locations of the Infinity Stones (and their colors):
The Space Stone – Blue – “The Tesseract” was in Odin’s Treasure Room, but presumably Loki nicked it before Asgard was destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok
The Reality Stone – Red – “The Aether” was last seen being delivered to Taneleer Tevan aka The Collector at the end of Thor: The Dark World
The Power Stone – Purple – “The Orb” was put in the Nova Corps’ vault on Xandar at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy
The Mind Stone – Yellow – Previously housed in Loki’s Scepter, the Mind Stone is now firmly set in the middle of Vision’s forehead, as last seen in Captain America: Civil War
The Time Stone – Green – Housed in “The Eye of Agamato,” this is presumably either in Stephen Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenich Village, New York City or around his neck, as seen in the end of Doctor Strange 
The Soul Stone 
– Orange – ???

Other characters? There are lots of people who weren’t involved in the Avengers Civil War. Where are they?
The Hulk, Thor, and Loki – Asgard got blowed up in Thor: Ragnarok. Last we saw the surviving Asgardian refugees, they were escaping in a spaceship, and in an after credits scene were confronted by Thanos’s ship. Eep.
The Guardians of the Galaxy – Gamora and Nebula were raised by Thanos. It was an abusive relationship, and they now oppose him. Starlord aka Peter Quill was raised on Earth but his father was an ancient celestial being that tried to murder all of them. This, however, gave him power to (briefly) wield the Power Stone. Drax the Destroyer’s main goal is now to kill Thanos, who ordered the death of his wife and daughter.

 

If you only watch THREE movies

It’s not unreasonable to watch a trilogy of movies. For people with limited time and attention, here are three to watch and why:

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy – This film gives the best explanation of the Infinity Stones, shows us Thanos actively trying to collect them, and introduced the Guardians.
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron – We see the power of the Mind Stone, and Thor explains more about them
  3. Captain America: Civil Warsee above

So what else do I need to know?
Three other Infinity Stones have shown up in various places: The Space Stone (in The Avengers and elsewhere), The Time Stone (in Doctor Strange), and The Reality Stone (in Thor: The Dark World). Also, Thor, Loki, and the Hulk were last seen in a spaceship that had just encountered Thanos’s ship. Eep. Also, in Guardians 2, Nebula and Gamora make up after bonding over the fact that Thanos would make them fight in mortal combat for his amusement and to make them better weapons.

 

If you only watch SIX movies

This is, in my opinion, the sweet spot. It gives you the locations of all of the Infinity Stones and sets up most of what’s going to happen next. Six movies may seem like a lot, but is it really any different than binge watching a favorite show? You may notice #6 is Black Panther rather than Thor: Ragnarok 

  1. The Avengers – The Space Stone, The Mind Stone, The Avengers first assemble, and a post credit teaser of Thanos
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy – The Power Stone, The Guardians. See above for more info
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron – not the best movie, but the most about the Infinity Stones
  4. Captain America: Civil War – the best movie, but no Infinity Stones.
  5. Doctor Strange The Time Stone makes an appearance
  6. Black Panther – YES, go see Black Panther, again if you haven’t seen it yet. With a large portion of the action likely happening in Wakanda, you’d do yourself a big favor to check it out. Why see this instead of Thor: Ragnarok? For the same reason Cap: Civil War is on this list. Character over plot, and because Okoye, Shuri, and Wakanda’s fighting prowess isn’t in any other movie. We have several other movies with Thor and Hulk.

What are you missing? “The Aether” aka The Reality Stone was in Thor: The Dark World, and at the end of that movie, Odin decided it wasn’t smart to keep two Infinity Stones in the same place, so he gave it to Taneleer Tevan, The Collector, who you meet in Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s still holding on the Reality Stone as far as we know. Also, Hulk, Thor and Loki (and presumably the Space Stone) and what’s left of Asgard encounter Thanos at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. 

If you only watch ELEVEN movies

This is the most essentially complete you can get without watching all of the movies. This gives us the final locations of all of the Infinity Stones, all of our major characters, all appearances of Thanos, plus adds back in the best movie of the MCU, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (fight me).

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger
  2. The Avengers
  3. Thor: The Dark World
  4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  7. Captain America: Civil War
  8. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
  9. Doctor Strange
  10. Thor: Ragnarok
  11. Black Panther

What am I missing? Iron Man, Spider-Man, Ant Man, Ed Norton as The Hulk. I recognize for a lot of people these are their favorite parts. If so, sprinkle in your favorite bits where they fit, as a commitment to watch 11 movies, welp, you may as well make it a baker’s dozen, amirite? But watching all of these you will know everything you (likely) need before watching Avengers: Infinity War.

If you watch ALL of the MCU

There’s two ways to do this: chronological order by release date, or chronological order by where the majority of the events of the film happen (majority, as in, not counting opening flashbacks like in Ant Man or Guardians of the Galaxy). I prefer release date, just because I think the way things play out is a little more even. Chronologically, you get both of your Guardians of the Galaxy movies and the first two Iron Man movies back to back. A little separation is not a bad thing.

Release date order:

  1. Iron Man (2008)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
  4. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – First appearance of “The Tesseract” aka The Space Stone
  5. Thor (2011)
  6. The Avengers (2012) – Second appearance of The Tesseract, First appearance of The Mind Stone in Loki’s scepter, First appearance of Thanos
  7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
  8. Thor: The Dark World (2013) – First appearance of The Aether aka The Reality Stone, first appearance of Taneleer Tevan aka The Collector, who takes The Aether in an aftercredits scene and remarks “One down.”
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – First appearance of “The Orb” aka The Power Stone, explanation of the origin of The Infinity Stones by Taneleer Tevan, second appearance of Thanos
  11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – Second appearance of The Mind Stone in Loki’s scepter, which provided the powers for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, spawns Ultron and then ends up in Vision’s head, and Thor takes a bath and sees a vision about the Infinity Stones and the destruction of Asgard. Third appearance of Thanos, who, in an after credits scene, announces, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.”
  12. Ant Man (2015)
  13. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  14. Doctor Strange (2016) – First appearance of The Eye of Agamato, which contains The Time Stone.
  15. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 (2017)
  16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  17. Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – Third appearance of The Tesseract, which it is implied Loki steals before Asgard is destroyed. Fourth appearance of Thanos, or at least his ship, as it encounters the refugee Asgardian ship in the after credits scene.
  18. Black Panther (2018)

Chronological order:

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger  – First appearance of “The Tesseract” aka The Space Stone
  2. Iron Man
  3. Iron Man 2 
  4. The Incredible Hulk
  5. Thor 
  6. The Avengers – Second appearance of The Tesseract, First appearance of The Mind Stone in Loki’s scepter, First appearance of Thanos
  7. Iron Man 3 
  8. Thor: The Dark World  – First appearance of The Aether aka The Reality Stone, first appearance of Taneleer Tevan aka The Collector, who takes The Aether in an aftercredits scene and remarks “One down.”
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier 
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy – First appearance of “The Orb” aka The Power Stone, explanation of the origin of The Infinity Stones by Taneleer Tevan, second appearance of Thanos
  11. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 
  12. Avengers: Age of Ultron – Second appearance of The Mind Stone in Loki’s scepter, which provided the powers for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, spawns Ultron and then ends up in Vision’s head, and Thor takes a bath and sees a vision about the Infinity Stones and the destruction of Asgard. Third appearance of Thanos, who, in an after credits scene, announces, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.”
  13. Ant Man 
  14. Captain America: Civil War
  15. Doctor Strange – First appearance of The Eye of Agamato, which contains The Time Stone.
  16. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  17. Thor: Ragnarok – Third appearance of The Tesseract, which it is implied Loki steals before Asgard is destroyed. Fourth appearance of Thanos, or at least his ship, as it encounters the refugee Asgardian ship in the after credits scene.
  18. Black Panther

Movie Review: Rampage

rampageThis movie is so dumb it makes me want to go on a rampage.

This should be a winning formula: giant monsters wreck a city. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Even for a movie based on a video game, this is not good. It makes previous work by The Rock in other middling, more pedestrian fare (San Andreas, for example, which director Brad Peyton also helmed) look downright brilliant by comparison. It’s unfortunate, because the diverse cast members, including Malin Ackerman as a villainous billionaire and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as an irascible government agent, are utterly wasted and given nothing substantive to do.

Our hero Davis Okoye (Johnson) is a primatologist who also just happens to be ex-special forces — because there’s plenty of those, right? When his best friend George, an albino gorilla he has raised since childhood when George’s family were slaughtered by poachers, is exposed to an unknown chemical agent, he starts growing and becoming incredibly aggressive. In walks Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) who developed the “Rampage” formula for evil billionaire brother and sister Claire and Brett Wyden (Ackerman and Jake Lacy) to explain the plot to both us, the audience, and everyone else, as George starts destroying things.

Oh, and there’s also a wolf and some sort of alligator/snapping turtle/dinosaur creature that got exposed, too. But essentially, there’s no reason to care about any of this. Anyway, the evil scientist siblings turn on a device on top of the Chicago skyscraper to bring the creatures to them (like ya do) to force a final urban showdown.

Again, given this film’s arcade beat-em-up mayhem and destruction, it might have been acceptable, if any of the action scenes were in the slightest bit fun. Most of the film, you’re kept waiting, hoping that maybe there’s the tiniest possibility a spectacular ending which makes the previous 90 minutes of tedium barely worthwhile, a la Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

But it just never gets any better, and in the meantime is peppered with “jokes” and dialogue that 11 year old boys might think is funny or cool. As much fun as Ackerman, Morgan, and Johnson are having with these roles, it’s just boring to watch.

The test with all movies based on video games is, simply, “Would I rather have spent my time playing the game?” As repetitive as playing 100 minutes on a Rampage arcade cabinet might be, it would surely be preferable to this film.

At least there you get some fun and satisfaction out of mayhem and destruction.

1.5 out of 5 stars

 

 

 

Editorial: Pruitt vs. Peck – Who’s Worse?

With EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt‘s scandals all over the headlines and him likely the next member of the Trump Admin to get the signature

it seems like a good time to ask the questions no one else is willing to ask: How bad is Scott Pruitt really at his job?

As the head of the EPA, it’s clear. He’s. . . uhm, how do you say?

Literally, the worst. Go ahead. Name one other truly bad EPA Administrator. Can you? (You must be one of my co-workers if you can.) They all look amazing by comparison. Yes, even Anne Gorsuch. Yes, even Stephen Johnson.

So, to really compare Pruitt to someone, we have to go to the world of fiction. And we look no further than fictional EPA apparatchik and classic 80’s villain Walter Peck from Ghostbusters. 

Let’s run down their CV’s:

scott-pruitt-800x430NAME: Scott Pruitt
JOB: EPA Administrator
HOME: Oklahoma, or sometimes a swanky DC condo owned by a lobbyist that he pays $50/night for.
ENEMIES: Clean air, clean water, a stable climate, science, and kittens, probably.
OTHER: Is a dick.

 

 

william-atherton-as-walter-peck-in-ghostbusters

NAME: Walter Peck (played by William Atherton)
JOB: EPA jerk
HOME: New York City
ENEMIES: Ghostbusters, especially Peter Venkman
OTHER: Has no dick. That’s at least what I heard.

 

Ok, so straight off, Pruitt is in the lead. Because, I mean, he’s not fictional. And Peck, while a jerk, was legitimately trying to do a job protecting the environment. Pruitt seems to think his job is to make it easier for big polluters to make big money. Fox, here’s your job guarding the henhouse.

So next let’s look at one trait they both share: Skepticism.

Both Pruitt and Peck are famous skeptics of scientists who actually know what they’re talking about. But while Peck is skeptical of Drs. Venkman, Spengler, and Stantz for saying they see ghosts, we can somewhat understand that position. I mean, it does seem unscientific to believe in ghosts.

Pruitt’s skepticism is about climate change. He has somewhat famously been pushing to do a “Red Team, Blue Team” “debate” about “climate science” but it has mostly been shut down. Why? Because even the worst of Trump’s cronies know that’s an extraordinarily bad idea to give a stage to the 3% of scientists who don’t believe the climate is changing from greenhouse gas pollution (and who all, coincidentally, take millions in cash from the coal, oil, and gas industries) because they’re essentially crackpot conspiracy theorists. Also, that’s not how science works, bro.

Again, advantage Pruitt.

Next? Biggest bombs.

Walter Peck famously shut off the Ghostbusters’ containment unit, equivalent to “dropping a bomb on the city.” Listen to how he fails to listen to not only the expert opinions of the people who understand the technology the best, but also neutral actors (like the ConEd guy) who says he doesn’t understand any of this and maybe they shouldn’t shut it all down? Instead, he seems to take glee in abusing his power, even telling the cop that he can shoot Venkman. Have a watch:

Pruitt’s bomb he’s dropped is similar, but less spectacular. By shutting off Obama’s landmark Clean Power Plan, which limited greenhouse gases from power plants, and rewriting clean car standards to allow for more pollution (and more automaker profits!), Pruitt has dropped a climate bomb on all of us. But it is one which will more affect our children and their children, even while we deal with the shorter terms consequences of more smog, more asthma attacks, more premature deaths.

On the other hand, blowing up the containment unit brought about the coming of Gozer the Destructor. So. . . advantage Peck on this one. But really only slightly.

How corrupt were they?

Well, Peck doesn’t seem to be corrupt other than he’s a guy on a power trip. Meanwhile, Pruitt seems more like a fictional cartoon supervillain for all his corporate stoogery. Here’s an internet challenge: can you name all of Pruitt’s scandals in 30 seconds?

The Washington Post is saying Pruitt’s excuses for his corruption are “crumbling” and even Fox News is dogpiling on as his lavish travel, 24/7 security detail, sweetheart deals with lobbyists, and general mendacity become more and more impossible to defend.

Some of the highlights of Pruitt’s ineptitude? First, his entire reasoning for needing a 24/7 security detail and to fly first class everywhere? Because, apparently, people who care about the environment are mean to him. In his requests for first class travel, he recounts an incident where someone at the airport baggage claim confronted him and told him, “Hey Scott Pruitt, you’re f—ing up the environment.”

Beyond pointing out that flying first class still means you have to stand at the baggage claim with everyone else, this is just a lame excuse from a fragile snowflake who can’t take criticism for his work. An easier solution? Pruitt could maybe not f— up the environment? And then people wouldn’t be mad at him.

But his security detail and security concerns. Whoa. . . there’s so much to unpack here. So, first, Pruitt had them build a soundproof secure booth in his office. Why would the EPA Administrator need this? Sure, head of the CIA or Secretary of Defense or State. . .  but EPA? Lots of state secrets you can’t share with the public, Scott?

Or– OR– this was just a clever way to be able to skirt freedom of information and oversight laws and make it easier to collude with corporate polluters about what kinds of policies they wanted. I can just see it now. . .

“Administrator Pruitt, your landlord is on the line.”
“Great, is he calling about the leaky faucet?”
“No, he says you’re late on your rent, but mostly he’s calling to talk about his clients’ pipelines and the clean car standards on behalf of the auto industry. He also wants to know if you’re going on the swanky Morocco junket to promote natural gas exports for his clients.”
“I REQUEST A CONE OF SILENCE!”

***AND…. SCENE***

But this security detail. . . they’re just the gift that keeps on giving. Apparently Pruitt made EPA pay for a door to the condo he was renting, because they broke it down while their boss was taking a nap.

Then, when Pruitt was late for a dinner at a fancy restaurant, he asked if they could put the sirens on. Taking a page from Ghostbusters, “Hey, let’s run some red lights!”

The icing on the cake of this story is Pruitt’s security told him they could not turn on the sirens unless there was an emergency. Pruitt then fired his security chief like any toddler throwing a tantrum because they can’t turn on the sirens.

Walter Peck? He did none of these things. A million points to Pruitt, none to Peck.

And finally, how’d they end up? Well, we only assume Pruitt is covered with an oily sheen gotten from bathing in the ill-gotten gains from his friends in the fossil fuel industry. He’s also surrounded by a dense cloud of smoke– but one can’t be sure if that’s from the coal stacks or just ethical problems. Peck, however, made it out at least a little better.

While being covered in liquid Stay Puft goo was described as “feel[ing] so funky” and “like the floor of a taxi cab,” at least marshmallow is yummy, and it’s nothing a shower and a trip to the dry cleaner’s can’t fix. Pruitt wins this round, too.

So, who’s worse? Pruitt, Pruitt, Pruitt.

When you lose so badly to a classic 80’s movie villain, you really need to wonder just how bad of a person you are.

Join us in our next round of these articles where I compare Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to Hedley Lamarr from Blazing Saddles or Mark Zuckerberg to famous James Bond villains.

Movie Review: Blockers

blockers posterEven while being a tad predictable, Blockers manages to subvert many of the tropes of the teen sex comedy genre and provide some refreshing social commentary on the sexual politics of 2018.

Parents played by Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz stumble upon their daughters’ group text messages promising to lose their virginity on prom night and decide they have to put a stop to it. And wackiness ensues. Sounds pretty basic, right? Except director Kay Cannon (Pitch Perfect, 30 Rock) brings a sardonic social commentary that sets it apart from its peers.

By focusing on characters and motivations, the film transcends its otherwise formulaic plot and gags. Both Mann and Cena have to confront their own internalized patriarchy, gender roles and sex-negative attitudes, but they’re both coming at this from very different places. Even better, both show depth as actors, not just comedic performers, and provide good ways “in” for the audience.

Mann’s overactive busybody mom is a great feminist — except when it comes to letting her own daughter make her own decisions. So, in reality, she’s a bad feminist.

Cena’s sensitive, supporting dad is a textbook example of alternative, non-toxic masculinity — until he isn’t, and wants to throw his daughter’s prom date through a wall.

In one of the best scenes of the film, Cena’s wife, played by Sarayu Blue, calls them both out for their ridiculous behavior and hypocrisy. They don’t get it, but hopefully we do.

In a surprising turn, Barinholtz provides the most interesting character arc, as his motivations for stopping his daughter are due to (spoiler alert? not exactly) the fact that he knows she is gay, even if she doesn’t yet. As the screw-up in the troika of main adult characters, it’s surprising that he is the one with the clearest and most defensible motivation.

The actual standout performance of the film, however, comes from Geraldine Viswanathan, who plays Kayla, one of the three girls. She is a star in the making, and it’s unfortunate Marvel can’t snatch her up and speed a Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel film into production.

It would also be remiss to not mention amazing appearances by Gary Cole and Gina Gershon. Spoiler alert: nudity. Lots and lots of nude Gary Cole. Good for you, Gary!

While this film has a lot of laughs, it’s also a bit longer than it needs to be. And despite its social message, it really is just a teen sex comedy. But if you’re looking for some cringeworthy laughs and lots and lots of mens’ butts, you might enjoy Blockers.

3 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Ready Player One

We’re awash in nostalgia.

With nearly all of Hollywood’s tentpole films this year devoted to sequels, reboots, and remakes, it can begin to feel like our culture is merely remixing the past, with the internet leading the way as we meme our way into a space somewhere between South Park‘s “member berries” and Star Trek‘s “Darmok.”

That is to say our nostalgia has a currency to it, and some of it is baseless circle-jerking, (‘Member Star Wars? Oh, I ‘member!) or “member berries” for short.

And some of it passes on important meaning, emotion, and lessons that can be best expressed by a cultural metaphor or meme (Darmok and Jilad at Tinagra.) See? some of you probably teared up a little at that reference. Because it conveyed something more than just the nostalgia itself.

So, in steps Steven Spielberg — whose name is basically a meme in itself — to direct the adaptation of Ernest Cline‘s novel about a dystopian near-future where everyone has retreated from a crappy real world to the comforts of The OASIS, a massive virtual reality video game where you can be and do anything. Upon the death of the OASIS’s creator, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), he reveals he has hidden an “Easter Egg” within the game, and whoever finds it first by completing three challenges and collecting three keys, will inherit sole control over The OASIS.

Our hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is an easter egg hunter, or Gunter, who has devoted his life to studying Halliday and all of the pop culture and video games he loved, especially from the 1980’s. He and his friends end up on the trail of the egg, battling along their way evil corporation IOI, their limitless virtual resources, and its ruthless CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).

pooh piglet darmok

The first question is, how does it compare to the book? Throw away all of your expectations and most of the plot of the book. This is almost wholly different in terms of plot points, but somehow manages to capture the spirit of the book’s challenges better than the source material itself.

A major criticism of Cline’s prose is that it is an almost relentless onslaught of references. It also is hugely problematic in that it is essentially a male power fantasy wish fulfillment engine fueled by our collective nostalgia for the 80’s and 90’s.

Nostalgia is a heady elixir, and one which we should understand if we are to put it in its proper place. The word itself comes from greek roots — “algia” meaning pain (eg, fibromyalgia, nueralgia, etc) and “nostos” meaning to return home.

We ache for a place that we wish we could get back to, but, as the saying goes, you can never go home again. The current wave of 80’s nostalgia seems almost insane to someone who was actually there — social and economic conservatism, economic torpor, the cold war, and, yeah you had cool music and movies, but only as an escape from reality.

And in the 80’s you had a revival of nostalgia for another inexplicable time period: the 1950’s. It’s worth pointing out that to many Boomers entering their cultural heyday in the 80’s would mean a longing look back at their childhoods through films like Back to the Future and Stand By Me. So, seeing our current fascination with the 80’s and 90’s as the exact same phenomenon, but now it’s Gen X and Millenials looking back, helps put it into context.

But the most important thing to remember about all of this is it is never as good as you remember it. Cline’s work was always nostalgia-forward, hoping to plaster over any plot or character problems with warm feelings about Star Wars and John Hughes. And it largely worked, but it was more member berries and less Darmok.

Spielberg, on the other hand, is able to tease out the essence of what made the book great and concoct a new cocktail of kid-friendly adventure (his specialty) and dystopian revolution where the nostalgia bomb works to propel characters and situations forward rather than miring them in cultural onanism. It’s character and theme forward rather than nostalgia forward. And the cultural references play more as Darmok, such as when Wade talks about one of Halliday’s favorite movie quotes from Richard Donner’s Superman, “Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.”

The best example of this is a section in the middle of the film where our heroes have to find a key hidden in a recreation of the Overlook Hotel from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Whereas in the novel, Wade had to “play through” the clunky-and-not-as-good-as-you-remember-it-I-promise War Games as Matthew Broderick’s character (and later through Monty Python and the Holy Grail), the on-screen version was more about elucidating the best pieces of  The Shining, again, as a sort of cultural currency. It’s almost as if it’s Spielberg’s chance to fanboy-out over something– as though he is Halliday leading us through something he loves. The care and beauty in this sequence is unmatched anywhere else in the film as filmmaker and material almost become one.

That’s not to say the rest of the film is bad. But it does seem a little more pedestrian, but perhaps in the way Spielberg is able to use a light touch to bring the best of his back catalog to life. Because that’s ultimately what nostalgia is — a sense of missing or loss or want of something that never actually was. It’s not that Spielberg’s work as director or executive producer was always so perfect or important, but that time has imbued it with meaning. Exhibit A is a movie like Hook, which was savaged by critics and not a huge success, but which holds a special place in the heart of so many people today.

Perhaps the best departure from the book is the film’s treatment of its female protagonists. Elite (l337) video gamer Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) is shown to be just as much a hero in her own right as Wade’s “Parzival” and given much more to do in the film than the book, where she was somewhat relegated to a “digital manic pixie dream girl” and “girlfriend as reward” trope in the finale. Instead, she figures out the key that ties all of Halliday’s clues together to provide an incredibly refreshing message at the end: we should all sometimes put down our video games and spend some time outside in the real world.

And it is in the real world where real girl Samantha (nee Art3mis) saves both the film and the world. She also has a real-life grudge against megacorp IOI that helps tease out the film’s dystopian themes, hopefully making us think of current problems with net neutrality, income inequality, payday lenders, etc, etc. She grounds the film. She’s the real hero, even if we’re focusing on Wade a little too much.

And what film would work without a great villain? Mendelsohn’s Sorrento is a delight in how evil he is. And yet, like all great villains, he truly believes that what he’s doing is right. Much like another film that mashed together references and universes, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,  Nolan Sorrento is very much like Judge Doom. Doom wants his freeway full of billboards and suburban sprawl to replace the simplicity of public transportation on the redcar. Sorrento wants to replace a largely free-to-play experience with tiered service and advertising — and it’s worth noting through the film that almost any time you see an advertisement in the real world, it’s for IOI.

Ready Player One isn’t a perfect film, but it’s a lot of fun. Its technical wizardry is unsurpassed. And at its heart is a filmmaker in a perfect zen state able to balance nostalgia and fun without overplaying his hand. In thirty years, kids who were born in the 2000s will be talking about Ready Player One in the same hushed, reverential tones 80’s and 90’s kids talk about The Goonies or Jurassic Park.  And hopefully we take the film’s message to heart — of living in the real world and putting aside our escapism to try to confront real world dystopian nightmares — and make sure our actual 2045 has the fun and imagination of Halliday’s OASIS and none of the real world nightmares of Wade Watts’ existence. Just don’t fill up on member berries.

3.75 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Midnight Sun

midnight sun posterIn the subgenre of “tragic teen romances where someone has a fatal disease,” Midnight Sun sets itself apart as one of the absolute worst. It makes saccharine treacle like The Fault in Our Stars look like masterpieces by comparison. It is trite, manipulative, boring, and stupid. People who complain about movies like The Last Jedi having “plot holes” should be forced to watch Midnight Sun as punishment so they can see what actual plot holes look like.

Our girl with a disease is Katie (Bella Thorne) and her disease is XP, or Xeroderma pigmentosum, a severe reaction to UV light which prevents her from going outside in the daytime. Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger) is the boy next door who she has been watching through her window every day. They finally meet one night and a whirlwind romance ensues. Her protective father (Rob Riggle) chides her for not telling her new boyfriend about her XP, but she doesn’t want to be “just a disease” to him, fearing he will treat her differently.

It’s just awful, and it’s a mess. The cast is charming enough, and Rob Riggle even shows off that he can do serious roles– just not this movie. He has to swallow lines where a doctor tells him that XP affects less than one in a million people, and he says, no joke, “Well that’s appropriate, because Katie is one in a million.” Nobody could’ve played these roles well, because they’re terrible.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, it’s a musical. Katie is a guitar player and singer and songwriter, so we are frequently barraged by her songs. This wouldn’t be bad if this was Sing Street, Begin Again, or even Jem and the Holograms. Yes, this made me wistful for that trainwreck. At least the songs were decent, and the girls were actually good musicians. Bella Thorne here looks like she got exactly three guitar lessons, maybe only a half hour before shooting.

Now, I’m going to spoil the entire movie in order to explain just how awful this was. SPOILER ALERT — STOP READING HERE IF YOU CARE ABOUT SPOILERS.

So, you know her disease? So it’s supposedly so severe she can’t be exposed to any sunlight, right? (First, that’s not true– the movie is vastly overstating the effects of the disease) But we get the impression that she basically never leaves the house, even at night. First, how messed up is that? There’s being protective, and then there’s being irrational.

So she accidentally stays out all night with her new boyfriend, then realizes it’s almost sunrise, breathlessly tries to run home to escape the oncoming sunlight, and is hit with the briefest of rays!! And it ends up causing her brain to develop lesions and shrink and she’s going to die. From 2 seconds of sun at sunrise, which, technically, is some of the lowest UV light of the entire day.

Well, I guess if 2 seconds of sunrise can kill you, it makes sense how overprotective dad is, right? To not let you leave the house, like ever? And now, you’re cool with her staying out all night with her new boyfriend? Even after having a talk with them about curfew before they leave? So, you send a bunch of text messages and keep calling your daughter’s phone when she doesn’t come home, because you’re a super protective dad … and you don’t have “Find My Phone” enabled? And you live in this tiny town that is walkable in five minutes and can’t find her at the beach?

Also, let’s talk about your town. So many films work because they have such a perfect sense of their place and time. Midnight Sun? I don’t know where this town is, but it’s like straight out of Narnia or something.

The Pacific Northwest’s hottest small town is. . .  whatever the name of this town is that they never say. It has everything:
An old timey train station where Seattle is only a short ride away
A ticket booth man named Frank that everyone knows
A beach
A harbor where 18 year olds can get a summer job taking care of boats
Only one black person
A super modern hospital with doctors who just happen to specialize in the super rare disease your daughter has who make house calls to deliver bad news
A high school that lets seniors who have already graduated participate in swim meets
A bitchy cheerleader mean girl sterotype
An old timey ice cream shop managed by 18 year olds on a boardwalk with a carnival
Crying Rob Riggle
Multiple teenage parties happening every night
Every house in town probably costs at least half a million dollars
The ability to walk anywhere in the town in 5 minutes but everyone still drives anyway
Complete anonymity for people who don’t leave their houses
Amazing Chinese food delivery
No apparent jobs or sources of income for any adults

It’s truly a magical place.

And in the final ridiculous act of this film, with Katie dying from minimal sunlight exposure, she asks if she can go sailing with her boyfriend and watch the sunset with him. Apparently, we’re ok with her just committing suicide by sun, and, yeah, ok, because she’s gotta go sometime, amirite?

Then Rob Riggle gives an unforgivably bad speech after her funeral where he says he doesn’t blame the boyfriend, because all he ever wanted to do was make Katie happy, and he made her happier than she had ever been. EXCEPT HE KEPT YOUR DAUGHTER OUT ALL NIGHT AND SHE WAS KILLED BY 2 SECONDS OF SUNLIGHT EXPOSURE. But, yeah, sure, forgiveness and all that stuff. How very zen.

To believe this movie, you have to believe that Rob Riggle is simultaneously the most overprotective parent ever and also the most lackadaisical. You have to believe Katie’s XP is so serious 2 seconds of sunrise can kill her, but she should be able to watch the sunset with her boyfriend because her life isn’t really that precious anyway. You have to believe that a town like this exists anywhere but in fiction.

There’s suspending your disbelief, and then there’s Midnight Sun. 

With so many better movies out right now, including the charming Love, Simon aimed at a similar audience, there’s no reason to waste your time on this.

1/2 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Pacific Rim: Uprising

Pacific-Rim-Uprising-posterThe original Pacific Rim felt so much like lightning in a bottle, and its lackluster sequel does nothing to dissuade us of that notion.

On one hand, how hard could it be to deliver on a simple winning formula? Giant robots fighting monsters? And while Pacific Rim: Uprising has plenty of that (and it is, at times, spectacular) it is weighed down by all of its exposition and human characters and some especially clunky performances.

In this sequel, John Boyega stars as Stacker Pentecost’s son Jake. Set ten years after the last film, and with no sign of kaiju invasion in a decade, Jake is far removed from the Jaeger program but is reluctantly recruited back in to help train a new team of pilots. However, they’re on the verge of being replaced by a new generation of remotely piloted Jaeger drones which don’t require drift-compatible two person pilot teams. What could go wrong with semi-autonomous giant robot drones in every major city? And this, of course, ends in the return of the kaiju and an apocalyptic showdown in Tokyo.

The original worked largely because screenwriter Travis Beacham and director Guillermo Del Toro were so in sync creatively. Despite the film being somewhat formulaic, it delivered a fun, exciting take on “robots fighting monsters” by having interesting human characters. For Uprising, writer and director Steven DeKnight, a veteran of Netflix’s Daredevil, the CW’s Smallville, and numerous Joss Whedon Buffyverse projects, just doesn’t seem to quite mesh with the material.

The script, while serviceable, telegraphs its giant robot punches miles away. If you had stopped the film after ten minutes and asked, “How is this going to end?” it’s easy to predict… and so then the film plays out in a paint-by-numbers fashion. And while the original gives us some great scenes outside the jaegers, including one of my favorite fight scenes of the movie (right), Uprising is a snoozefest when it isn’t being cringeworthily bad.

Chief culprit here is Charlie Day, who provided a lot of comic relief and exposition in the original (especially in his Odd Couple science buddy pairing with Burn Gorman) but who is just the absolute worst in this film. It doesn’t help that Scott Eastwood could be replaced by a cord of firewood and would be more interesting to watch. Also gone is any real character building for the supporting cast, who mostly end up unmemorable. Boyega is the only real standout star, but as much as he tries to carry this movie by himself, it’s just not possible, especially when he is saddled with this sometimes inexplicably bad script.

But the fight scenes? Those are pretty fun. Again, it doesn’t have anywhere near the charm and innovative feel of the first one. But, we were never really expecting it would, right? And when it sets us up for the inevitable sequel, we can only hope that someone is willing to lure Del Toro and Beacham back to work their magic.

If you’re a devoted fan of robots and kaiju, they already have your money. You bought your tickets ages ago and no mediocre review is going to keep you from seeing this. But for general audiences? Save your money for Ready Player One, or go see Black Panther again.

2 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: The Death of Stalin

the-death-of-stalin-posterThis is a film the Russian government doesn’t want you to see. Literally.

Banned by Putin’s government and labelled as “extremist” and “propaganda,” really this is little more than a continuation of director Armando Iannucci‘s continued skewering of government apparatchiks set against the backdrop of Soviet Russia. If you loved his previous work (In the Loop, The Thick of It, and Veep), this is more of that same brand of humor– all it’s missing is Peter Capaldi swearing very loudly.

Instead, you have an all-star cast that includes Steve Buscemi as Nikita Krushchev, Jeffrey Tambor as Georgi Malenkov, and Michael Palin as Vyacheslav Molotov. Simon Russell Beale also plays the head of the NKVD (Stalin’s secret police) and Jason Isaacs tries to steal the movie when he shows up halfway through as Zhukov, head of the Red Army. And if you know those names and institutions and who they are, you will probably also love this movie. (Yes! That Russian Studies degree finally pays off!)

Based on a comic book of the same name (which we reviewed here), it’s the same sort of bureaucratic pissing contest between insecure men which Iannucci has made a career out of skewering. The basic tension is over succession following Stalin’s (spoiler alert!) eponymous passing. At the height of Stalin’s terror and paranoia, the various apparatchiks go about plotting against one another. . .  and wackiness ensues.

A darkly hilarious early scene involves an ailing Stalin unconscious on the floor, and he has soiled himself. The Soviet leadership gathers in the room and must decide by committee vote what to do. All of the good doctors have been sent to the gulags. So do we call a bad doctor? What if Stalin recovers and blames us for calling a bad doctor? And when they finally go to pick him up to take him to a bed, no one wants to kneel in the spot where Stalin peed. That’s basically the movie– and also lots of people being shot in the head for treason.

Death of Stalin US posterThe biggest problem in the film is its failure in its lack of representation. Two women have very minor roles in this, and it in no way approaches passing Bechdel or any other test. This seems to be something people noticed about the film, as the US poster released features Andrea Riseborough as Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter. But she is barely in the film. It is also as white as a Leningrad blizzard.

If I’m going to call out films like Dunkirk and Darkest Hour for choosing to tell stories only about and involving white men, I feel the need for consistency to do so here as well. Yes, yes, yes, historical accuracy and all that, but any time you choose to tell a story only involving white men — even if it viciously satirizes them as this film does — you have to ask why we chose to make this movie and not something else.

Despite that problem, it’s still a really funny movie and something that is incredibly enjoyable– and disturbing. If any of this sounds interesting to you, you’re going to love this film and its dark humor. If not, well, there’s always Tomb Raider, A Wrinkle in Time, and Black Panther out there if you want to see an adaptation that’s a little lighter. The Death of Stalin opens in limited release March 16, expanding March 23.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Tomb Raider

Tomb-Raider-posterIt’s a good video game movie! Will wonders never cease?!?

Don’t set your expectations too high, but Alicia Vikander fully brings to life the character of Lara Croft. Taking its cues from the recent successful game of Rise of the Tomb Raider, it suffers from some of the tropes inherent in any hero origin story and from the source games themselves. But mostly it plays out like an updated Indiana Jones with the trappings of Tomb Raider added in, which is both a good and a bad thing.

Our story follows a young Croft, orphaned when her father disappeared on a hunt for an ancient tomb of the “Death Queen” Himiko. When Lara inherits puzzles that her father left behind, she finds his research and takes up the search for herself, convinced that her father may still be alive.

It’s this grounding in humanity, grief and sorrow Lara feels that makes this so relatable to us as an audience, even if the plot is somewhat predictable.

Vikander is also joined by Walton Goggins as the story’s antagonist. Goggins always brings a gleeful sociopathic vibe to whenever he inhabits a villain, and he does this incredibly well here as well. There’s also a brief cameo from Nick Frost, who gives the film one of its funnier moments– even in a movie with lots of humor used to cut the tension.

On top of all of that, the film is action-packed. We barely go ten minutes ever without something happening. Even more impressive is Vikander’s commitment to the role and doing her own stunts, which director Roar Uthaug uses to give us crystal clear close ups of her face during some of the film’s most harrowing moments.

So, yes, it does feel like it treads a lot of the same ground as the Indiana Jones movies. But coming from a video game franchise that has been doing that for decades, that’s not entirely unpredictable — or even a bad thing. It’s sort of like complaining a band ripped off The Beatles. Yeah, so does everybody. It still sounds good.

In a genre which includes Assassin’s Creed, Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, Double Dragon, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Hitman, Warcraft, and the other two Tomb Raider movies starring Angelina Jolie, the question you always ask yourself is “Would I have rather spent those two hours playing the video game?” In literally every other video game movie, the answer is a profound yes, making them failures as films. This film made me want to go play Rise of the Tomb Raider. Congrats to everyone involved.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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