Category Archives: Movies

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Gets a New Red Band Trailer

When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the Kingsman’s journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US. These two elite secret organizations must band together to defeat a common enemy.

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Movie Review: Dunkirk

Dunkirk-IMAX-posterThe battle and evacuation at Dunkirk set the tone and narrative for much of the Allied response to the Nazi advances. Christopher Nolan‘s new ensemble war drama distills that heroism into a set of interweaving narratives, telling a powerful story with all of the technical prowess he is known for. While not the masterpiece some are claiming it is, Dunkirk is a great war film– and emphasis on film.

For those who missed that day in history class, (spoiler alert?) Dunkirk was the time the French and English armies found themselves surrounded and trying to evacuate from the Northern coast of France. Only 50 or so miles across the English Channel, almost half a million soldiers waited to be rescued– and British citizens took to their small boats to help bring everyone back.

Nolan tells us three main stories, focusing on a single person on the beach, a fighter pilot (Tom Hardy), and a British man help with the rescue (Mark Rylance). With typical Nolan panache, he mixes up the timelines and weaves them together thematically rather than by time, so Hardy’s heroic sky antics (in reality stretching across several hours) seems to stretch for the days that the soldiers waited on the beaches.

Beautifully filmed in wide-screen format, if you are going to see this in theaters, it deserves to be seen in a theater with the biggest, best screen and best sound system possible. While this highlights Nolan’s skills as a filmmaker, this timeline is also something that was incredibly distracting. When a scene changes from night to day to night again and then to day, it’s jarring, and not in a good way. This seems almost like Nolan trying to show us how clever he is rather than just focusing on telling a story. While this sort of temporal tomfoolery works in a story like Memento or Inception, it just seems out of place in a grounded war movie like this about actual events that transpired. I’d like to see a cut of the film with the story simply told in linear fashion– it would be better sans Nolan trying to show us how clever he is.

Speaking of jarring, (but this time in a good way)there’s also Nolan’s sound design. Every bullet, every bomb hits with an intensity that you feel. As they cross the channel on his boat, Rylance’s Mr. Dawson teaches his son and his friend George to tell the differences in engine sounds between the Luftwaffe and RAF fighters, and soon we as the audience can listen for the differences as well– and feel the dread that comes with the sound of an incoming German plane diving towards stranded soldiers on a pier or on the beach. A line of bombs explode on the sand in spectacular fashion, the final one hitting mere meters from one of our protagonists. It’s raw, it’s visceral, and shows just how good Nolan can be in delivering cinematic greatness– when he’s not busy trying to show off.

Nolan also chooses an intentionally bleak color palatte, helping to reinforce the dire situation. In fact, the only brief bright colors we get are some brief sunsets at the end of the film, as if to imply that their darkest hours were over. He also manages to use all of the real estate available to him on screen. Again, see this on the largest screen possible with the best sound system possible.

On top of its technical achievements, you also have some excellent performances. Mark Rylance delivers a perfect self-effacing Englishman charm, complete with stiff upper lip. On his way to Dunkirk, he picks up a stranded, shell-shocked sailor played by Cillian Murphy, whose performance is also one of the highlights of the film. But the best part here is Hardy– a major complaint with this is that his story is so strong and the stories of the people on the beach are far less compelling. It almost would have been better to just do a Tom Hardy RAF movie. (Although, there is always the possibility for a sequel. . . )

Nolan makes some interesting choices here, not the least of which is to ever mention “Germans,” “Nazis,” “Fritz,” “Jerry,” or any other name. They were simply “the enemy.” This is an interesting choice, as it begs the question why it’s necessary? When you have literally the most universally hated and recognizable modern manifestation of pure evil, why shy away from it? If there was a point, it was lost in the film, but it has the air of apologism.

In isolation, this wouldn’t be so disconcerting. But then you recognize that there is not a single woman or non-white male given any sort of speaking role in this film. It’s a historical fact, yes, that most of the soldiers on the beach at Dunkirk would have been white men. But when Michael Bay manages to make Pearl Harbor,  one of the most universally reviled war films of all time, more diverse and inclusive than your film. . .  well, that’s strike two. For an example of other types of stories that could be told about the heroism at Dunkirk, you can check out Their Finest from earlier this year.

Luckily Nolan never gets to strike three, but given his comments earlier this week about Netflix, and responses from directors like Ava DuVernay and Bong Joon-ho (who have released films through Netflix that otherwise wouldn’t get distribution) it’s clear Nolan is perhaps the least “woke” major director working today.

That is all incredibly sad, as the film on its own is quite good. But, with great filmmaking power comes great filmmaking responsibility. Doing another white man’s heroism war film seems really superfluous in 2017.

But if you do go see this (repeated for the third time because, yes, it’s the most important thing to know) go see it on the biggest screen with the best sound system you have access to.

4 out of 5 stars

That Time Archer Met Kingsman

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” introduced the world to Kingsman – an independent, international intelligence agency operating at the highest level of discretion, whose ultimate goal is to keep the world safe. In “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” our heroes face a new challenge. When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, their journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US called Statesman, dating back to the day they were both founded. In a new adventure that tests their agents’ strength and wits to the limit, these two elite secret organizations band together to defeat a ruthless common enemy, in order to save the world, something that’s becoming a bit of a habit for Eggsy…

In Theaters – September 22, 2017

Movie Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

valerian french posterDon’t discount Luc Besson‘s newest film because it seems derivative: it’s based on classic French comics that inspired everyone from George Lucas to Besson himself. But, you should discount it because its characters are flimsy, script is weak and the film, while interesting to look at, is terminally boring.

Our story centers around Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), federal agents from the space station Alpha, a giant city of millions of inhabitants from thousands of worlds. When sent on a mission to retrieve a valuable item from an inter-dimensional crime lord, they find themselves at the heart of a conspiracy to cover up something rotten at the heart of Alpha.

It’s gorgeous to look at. The inter-dimensional crime boss? He’s played by John Goodman, and literally is in an alternate dimension. Tourists show up to this barren wasteland and by putting on goggles and going through a special scanner, can see and interact with a giant open bazaar dozens of stories tall and miles across that exists in an alternate reality. It’s like Space Mall of America times 1000. It is the most amazing concept and pulled off brilliantly, as is a gag involving Valerian literally having one hand (and his gun) in one universe and the rest of him in ours.

And then there’s Alpha itself, which you can directly see as an inspiration on Besson’s vision of future New York in The Fifth Element as well as George Lucas’s visions of Coruscant as a giant city-planet in the Star Wars prequels. It’s breathtaking, and a chase through multiple levels is one of the best realized action sequences in the film.

But that’s where the good parts of the film end. If you turned the sound down and made up your own script, it might be more enjoyable. If Besson had spent anywhere near as much attention to writing good dialogue that illuminated his characters as he did to his visual design and effects, this would have been a stellar movie.

Instead, characters are left spouting drivel that sounds more like a middle schooler trying to ape pithy, pulpy verbal patter reminiscent of 1940s classics or noir. Unfortunately, Dane Dehaan is not Humphrey Bogart or Cary Grant. And Cara Delevingne is not Ingrid Bergman or either Hepburn.

Their characterizations are strained as well. The film starts with a proposal on a beach, but Dehane and Delevigne don’t act like longtime work partners or seem to have romantic interest in one another. They try to create a sort of Sam and Dianne bickering sexual tension, but it just never works. You don’t get that either of them actually cares for one another except that they’re expected to because. . .  movie trope.

There are other dubious character choices. Remember the inter-dimensional crime lord? Sounds like a cool character to have throughout the movie, right? Yeah, no. He’s inexplicably gone after the first act. Rihanna and Ethan Hawke show up as a shape-shifting alien named Bubble making her way as an exotic dancer(/hooker? it never gets that far) and her pimp, but they come and go far too soon. We’re also expected to feel for the death of a character who had only been introduced fifteen minutes earlier. Spoiler alert: we don’t.

However, the film ends with a nice rumination on colonialism and how we treat civilizations who we feel are inferior. It’s too bad this wasn’t a stronger theme throughout, or it might have made the wooden acting and hollow script more palatable.

No, this is not as good as The Fifth Element. Somehow just because Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich make it look effortless to make their way through their film, we think it is. But that script looks like Shakespeare compared to this. And missing is Gary Oldman and his Mangalore cohorts– this film has no discernible villain and the absence is noticeable. Both Fifth Element and the Star Wars prequels, despite their flaws, look so much more impressive when compared to this.

There’s certainly an audience for this film, but your tolerance for style over substance will have to be incredibly high. That said, it’s visually stunning and should be lauded for bringing the fantastic vision of the future from these classic comics.

2 out of 5 stars

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women Gets Its First Trailer

The unconventional life of Dr. William Marston, the Harvard psychologist and inventor who helped invent the modern lie detector test and created Wonder Woman in 1941. Marston was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth, a psychologist and inventor in her own right, and Olive Byrne, a former student who became an academic. This relationship was key to the creation of Wonder Woman, as Elizabeth and Olive’s feminist ideals were ingrained in the character from her creation. Marston died of skin cancer in 1947, but Elizabeth and Olive remained a couple and raised their and Marston’s children together. The film is said to focus on how Marston dealt with the controversy surrounding Wonder Woman’s creation.

Movie Review: Wish Upon

wish_upon_posterIf you had a magic Chinese wishing box to give you seven wishes, what would you use it for? Smart theatergoers will wish for a better movie– one that doesn’t so hamfistedly telegraph its next moves and bungle its attempt at social commentary, especially by reinforcing some damaging Asian stereotypes.

Our main character is Clare, who despite being friends with Barb from Stranger Things and a sassy, video game obsessed black best friend, is a target of bullying from the resident mean girl queen bee of their high school. One of the reasons for her lower social caste is her father Ryan Phillipe‘s main vocation as a junk picker– and not the kind who has his own reality tv show.

When one day he finds a strange box with Chinese writing on it, he gives it to Clare, who conveniently happens to be taking Chinese in high school. While most of the writing is indecipherable, she can read two words: “Seven Wishes.” When she later inadvertently wishes for said Regina George wannabe to “just rot or something,” it turns out her tormentor wakes up the next day with necrotizing fasciitis— yup, flesh-eating bacteria.

But because this is some crazy Chinese monkey paw folk magic type stuff, of course each wish comes with a “blood price,” first taking her dog for the  price of smiting her bully. And, of course, every time Clare makes a wish, we get to see karmic retribution take its toll. These get incredibly more ridiculous as the film goes along.

This is the main problem with the film. Although sometimes the film tries to trick you with where it’s going by presenting multiple death options, it’s just not really fun, satisfying, or entertaining in, say, the way a Final Destination or Saw movie is. And in a year where you’re competing in the low budget horror genre with Get Outthis just does not stack up well. But, at least it’s better than Split

Speaking of its social message, the film really tries hard to tackle modern high school, bullying, and social media. But none of it really lands, or even adds much to the film. And in a somewhat tonedeaf manner it casts Ki Hong Lee (Dong from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Minho from The Maze Runner movies) as Ryan, aka “Exposition Boy” who just happens to have a scholarly cousin who can decipher ancient Chinese writing.

[Minor spoilers ahead] But while Clare uses her wishes to gain the affections of Paul, a blonde white dude, Ryan is relegated to backup status, with a conversation that maybe somewhere there’s an alternate universe where they’re dating. This is an incredibly damaging trope for the Asian community, sending subconscious messages that Asian men are never fit to be romantic leads or boyfriend material, but are merely sexless confidantes and sources of information. Seriously, Ryan’s ability to do internet research and explain the backstory of our Chinese wishing box is the most scary supernatural element in this entire film. And while some may argue that the film’s denouemont “fixes” this, five minutes of conclusion doesn’t make up for the previous 85 minutes of borderline white supremacy. For a film which otherwise has such a diverse cast, it’s unfortunate it made this problematic blunder.

Perhaps the scariest thing about this movie is that Ryan Phillipe is now old enough to convincingly play the father of a teenager. But otherwise this is a fairly bland and predictable teen horror film.

1.5 stars out of 5

Where the Data Ranks 2017’s Comic Book Films.

Spider-Man: Homecoming in its second weekend fizzled a bit with a 61% drop from the previous week. It was dethroned to come in second for the weekend but despite a mixed two weeks the film has earned $469.4 million worldwide.

Wonder Woman continues to impress and will likely pass Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in domestic earnings in the next week or two. It also is challenging Logan for the best gross to budget for the year.

Wonder Woman is also driving the gap between earning averages for the Marvel and DC adaptations and helping it catch up in a way. On average DC films earn $331.8 million domestically while Marvel earns $308.1 million. Internationally, Marvel rules with $476.9 million and DC lags behind with $431.2 million.

Already, the year is an interesting one with three clear successes and a whole lot of mixed otherwise. Wonder Woman, Logan and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have done well this year, The LEGO Batman Movie and Smurfs: The Lost Village are in that debatable area, and Wilson and Ghost in the Shell are generally disappointments. Spider-Man: Homecoming, we’ll wait and see.

Here’s where this year’s movie crop stands as far as the actual numbers (numbers have dipped due to a new film opening):

Total Domestic Gross: $1.464 billion
Total International Gross: $1.923 billion
Worldwide Gross: $3.387 billion
Total Reported Budgets: $876 million
Total “Profit”: $2.511 billion

Average Domestic Gross: $182.9 million
Average International Gross: $274.8 million
Average: Worldwide Gross: $423.4 million
Average Budget: $109.5 million
Average Profit: $313.9 million

Below is where the films released stand when it comes to being compared to this year’s averages. Those in green are above average while those below are red.

War for the Planet of the Apes Wins the Weekend. Spider-Man Swings and Misses.

I had predicted it’d be a close weekend at the box office based on good word of mouth over Spider-Man: Homecoming but looks like I was off on that one. By a wide margine, War for the Planet of the Apes won the weekend with an estimated $56.5 million. The film also earned $46 million at the foreign box office for a total of $102.5 million worldwide. That’s not bad for a first weekend with a budget of $150 million. War‘s opening was a million more than Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011 and $16 less than 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Luckily War is about $20 million cheaper than Dawn as far as budget.

The film was 57% male and 63% were 25 years or older as well as 48% Caucasian, 20% African American, 18% Hispanic, and 10% Asian. The opening day audience gave the film an “A-” CinemaScore.

Spider-Man: Homecoming in its second week dropped 61% to bring in $45.2 million. It also brought in $72.3 million at the foreign box office. The film stands at $208.3 million domestically and $261.1 million at the foreign box office for a total of $469.4 million.

Despicable Me 3 added $18.9 million to its domestic total to bring it to $188 million but the foreign box office is where it’s at. The film has earned $431.4 million for a total of $619.4 million.

In fourth place was Baby Driver which earned $8.8 million at the domestic box office. Domestically the film has earned $73.2 million and worldwide the film has earned $96.3 million. That’s a win with just a $34 million budget.

Rounding out the top five was The Big Stick which earned $7.6 million domestically and sits at $16.1 million.

In comic movie earnings…

Wonder Woman moved to sixth adding $6.9 million to its domestic total. The film has earned $380.6 million domestically and $384.2 million at the foreign box office for a total of $764.9 million.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was #13 adding $512,000 to its total. The film has earned $386.6 million domestically and $472.5 million at the foreign box office for a total of $859.1 million.

Logan added about $30,000 to its total during the week.

Smurfs: The Lost Village added $400,000 to its total over the past week.

We’ll be back in an hour for a deeper dive into this year’s comic adaptations.

Spider-Man: Homecoming: On Diverse NYC, Public Schools and Teen Movies. Listen on Demand

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloud ¦ Stitcher ¦ BlogTalkRadio ¦ Listed on podcastdirectory.com

Graphic Policy discusses Spider-Man: Homecoming with two perfect experts for the job: Brandon Wilson and the Blerdgurl Karama Horne!

Brandon Wilson is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and educator. He’s been a classroom teacher since 2005. He has directed numerous short films and two feature films, most recently “Sepulveda” http://www.sepulvedathemovie.com which he co-directed with his wife Jena English. “Sepulveda” has won awards at local festivals and is currently available for rent or purchase on Vimeo On Demand. He writes essays on film and culture at http://geniusbastard.com. He also tweets @Genius_Bastard.

and

Karama Horne (a.k.a. – “the blerdgurl”) is a freelance commercial video editor by day and comic book reading, anime watching, TV live tweeting, K-Pop listening, blog writing, superhero geek gurl by night. On a mission to shine a light on both characters and sequential artists of color, she provides commentary, reviews and interviews on her popular tumblr and official website theblerdgurl.com. Karama is busy fixing up her century old brownstone in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

Underrated: The Amazing Spider-Man

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: The Amazing Spiderman


amazing-spider-man-movie-posterToday I wanted to talk about the first reboot of the Spider-Man movie franchise from waaaaaaaay back in 2012. After the Sam Raimi trilogy which, lets be honest, didn’t exactly end on a high note, Sony would eventually decide to relaunch the Spider-Man movie franchise, and it’s the result of that reboot that I wanted to talk about today.

If you’re surprised that this is the movie we’re focusing on today, then you may have missed that the Marvel Studios/Sony collaboration Spider-Man Homecoming is in theaters  (and the MCU!) now; and you may also have been unaware of the amount of people who are now complaining about this movie (or maybe that’s just the people I hang out with?) – or you may have never really enjoyed this movie. But regardless of where you sit, I’ve always really enjoyed this movie, and feel that it’s stronger than a lot of people give it credit.

Why? To the bullet points!

The chemistry between the leads
One of the strongest aspects of the Amazing franchise is the relationship between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. Their interactions on screen approach poetry in some scenes, and without a doubt these two actors elevate the film beyond what a typical pair of romantic leads can do.

 Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man
Garfield may have been to cool to genuinely pull off a nerdy Peter Parker, but his Spider-Man was top notch; his boundless energy and fast mouth was unlike anything we had seen before in live action, and Garfield pulled it off spectacularly. This was a Spider-Man whose failures were a palpable weight on his spandex clad shoulders, and in the quiet moments throughout the movie you can genuinely sense that through Garfield’s body language.

 The webswinging
The effects team did a wonderful job guiding Spider-Man’s journey through the skies in what is, for my money, the most realistic depiction of a man flying through the air on super strong glue to date.

 The costume
I’m kidding. I wasn’t exactly fond of this movie’s Spider-Man look.

 The lack of the actual words “With great power there must also come great responsibility”
I know this is probably a contentious point to make, but loved that Peter learned this lesson throughout the film without having the quote used just for the audience who feel they must hear those words in the movie. It was far more powerful for Peter to learn it through his actions and reactions than have the lesson spelled out in what could have been an awkward and stilted scene. Plus, it lent a much heavier weight to Uncle Ben’s voice message at the end.

There are quite a few aspects of The Amazing Spider-Man that I thoroughly enjoyed, more than I should probably talk about in this article, but I’m aware that this isn’t a flawless movie – it’s not even the best Spider-Man movie- that honour is reserved for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. Yes, The Amazing Spider-Man  did have its issues; the Lizard wasn’t the most compelling villain, and his design was somewhat weak, but he isn’t the weakest in any of the Spider-Man movies (Topher Grace a Venom will hold that title for quite some time). His rationale is still just understandable enough when you break it down for yourself, but you do need to be aware of his misguided, yet deeply hidden altruistic thought process. And only a few years removed from Spider-Man 3, did we really need to see Uncle Ben die again? Not really.

I’m aware that it had it’s problems, but I don’t care; I love it anyway.

 


There we have it. Are there other comic book related stuff out there that is, for whatever reason, underrated and under-appreciated?

Absolutely.

Because of that, Underrated will return to highlight more comic book related stuff  that either gets ignored despite it’s high quality, or maybe isn’t quite as bad as we tend to think it is. In the meantime, though, if you do get a chance check out the characters in thisUnderrated, then you may need to hunt through the back issue bins for some, but others do have some stories collected in trades.

Until next time!

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