Category Archives: Reviews

Movie Review: Logan is a Brutal and Emotional Send Off

logan-posterLogan is everything fans of the popular X-Man have been waiting for in an unflinching, brutally violent, send off that’s easily the best Wolverine film and one of the best in the “X” franchise. Taking place in the year 2029, the layered, and at times meta, film features a riff on the “Old Man Logan” comic character made popular by writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven and currently starring in numerous comic series from Marvel.

Set in the near future, the film presents a hero no longer wanting that role, instead, he’s trying to retire and run away while not fully coming to grips with his past and deeds. The opening of the film lays out everything you need to know about this Wolverine, played for a possible final time by Hugh Jackman. He has a slight limp, he’s covered in scars, he’s drinking, he just wants to make enough money to run away with his “family,” and he’s going by the name James Howlett. This is a not quite dystopian world where the X-Men are no more and an event has decimated the mutant population.

Directed by James Mangold with a screenplay by Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green, this is the western that The Wolverine thought it was, a genre that fits this lone character like a spandex costume. It’s clear Mangold and the team were going for exactly that with numerous references to Shane the classic novel turned Oscar-winning film then tv series.

Like the weary gunfighter Shane, Howlett wants to settle down, caring for an ailing Professor X (played brilliantly by Patrick Stewart) with the help of fellow mutant Caliban (played by Stephen Merchant). All three have sins in their past and the film is an exploration of that. There’s a focus on character and accepting, or at least coping, with those sins while trying to forge an unknown future. And just like in that classic western, these warriors are forced to act and get involved in a conflict after a mysterious girl Laura (played by newcomer Dafne Keen) comes into their lives. From there the film becomes part road trip, part western, part horror, but what it’s not is a superhero film.

logan-posterFrom the first moments of the film it’s clear that this isn’t your typical X-Men or Wolverine film with swear words thrown around, limbs flying (at times literally), and blood splattering. The bodies, and body parts, pile up in a finale that doesn’t hold back and is let loose with an “R” rating.

It’s a departure from what we’ve previously seen and that departure becomes meta at times where the film debates X-Men comics, their fantasy aspects, their disconnect from the reality of violence, but also recognizing the comics represent hope to many of those who read them. As seen in trailers and ads, X-Men comics are brandished around becoming a discussion within the larger film. Logan having “lived it” sees them as fantasy that glosses over the real violence and death that happened, while some (in this case Laura) latch on to them representing freedom from oppression. That debate rages in the real world today. Some embrace the comic series’ “political” core that’s been present since the characters debuted in 1963 and its not so veiled parallels to the Civil Rights to today’s allegories on LGBTQ+ rights. Others want an escapist fantasy without the message and even others who celebrate the violence. It’s a debate that plays out within the film by its lead characters. That debate is about as “X-Men” as the film gets though there’s plenty of winks and nods for longtime fans. There are numerous references to previous films and comics.

At its core, the movie is a Western, where our hero takes a stand against the evil corporation looking to roll over the average person. This is manifested in a few instances such as a defense of a family farm (with no more mutants, the X-Man takes a stand for an average human family) from corporate farming (with some commentary about corn syrup) to the main plot concerning Laura.

The film is a chase/road trip as Logan attempts to get Laura to safety as she’s pursued by a government-backed genetics corporation called Transigen who is attempting to make Mutants of their own and wield them as weapons. Laura, who comic fans will know as X-23, is one of those experiments broken free with a goal of escaping to freedom. That aspect of the film is interesting in itself as the chase takes place from Mexico to Canada, a cross-country trip that you can’t help but think of today’s debates on immigration and border security (and also something about Wolverine heading back to Canada, the land where he was birthed for what is Jackman’s final film as the character). Other real world issues are touched upon such as copyright and intellectual property over genetics, a topic that ties into corporate farming as well. This helps flesh out the film to be more than fantastical characters.

loganWhile the story has action and flash in the various action sequences, mostly involving Transigen’s bounty hunters the Reavers (classic X-villains and includes Pierce, Bone Breaker, Pretty Boy, and more), there’s so much to it under the surface and the film challenges viewers to piece some of it together. We learn what’s wrong with Professor X over time and his sins, in particular the “Westchester Incident.” But, even that isn’t fully laid out leaving the imaginations of the audience to fill in the gaps and by doing so creating horrors that the director and writers couldn’t begin to come up with.

Even with that layered meta and meaning some things are a bit looser. Transigen’s motivations evolve from capturing Laura to capturing Professor X and/or Wolverine giving viewers a bad guy with loose goals. This could be explained by the overreaching evil corporation who wants nothing but profit and how to obtain that changes over time. But, this isn’t as clear cut as bad guys we’ve seen in the past. And it’s not as black and white either when it comes to good and evil. No Mutants have been born for 25 years at this point and Professor X ailing has been labeled a weapon of mass destruction by the United States government and is a wanted man. Even in Transigen’s evil, there’s still some good intentions masked by their clearly evil goals.

As a chapter ends a new one begins with the introduction of Laura/X-23 played by Dafne Keen a newcomer whose only other work was The Refugees. Her introduction is a punch in the gut and gives viewers no doubt about the character. Mostly mute for the film much of her acting is through body language and grunts. And that’s not easy to do. Due to that Keen is a bit mixed in her role. At times she’s excellent and other moments just so-so. That’s also due to who she’s acting against.

professorxPatrick Stewart delivers a performance we have not seen in an X film. As an ailing Professor X his mind is failing him and through the power of make-up he’s aged to a level I haven’t seen. You believe this is a man seeing his last few years with his mind wandering and not working as it once was. Having witnessed people in this condition first hand, the performance is damn near perfect and full of emotion not just for him, but the audience too. The simplest needs such as his needing help to use a restroom are noted and beautifully shot for the audience to absorb. This is also no longer the loving teacher, but age has given him an edge that comes out over the years. Take note, this is supporting actor level territory.

Hugh Jackman gives us a Wolverine we haven’t seen and his aging is more than some gray hair and scars. A limp, some drinking, squinting, Jackman’s performance is grizzled, worn, and weary. It’s been 17 years since he stepped into the role and this is easily his best performance. He’s able to let loose emotionally and physically. Through his interactions with Laura, even just simple looks, Jackman makes us believe this is a man who is struggling with the concept of family no matter how strange this one is. It’s a trope we’ve seen before in many films, but this is the first time we’ve seen it on the screen for Wolverine to this extent and in a way that makes it believable.

Logan is a finale to Jackman’s take on the character that has spanned 17 years, 9 films, and two video games. To the last moments of the film, this is a movie that reflects on the character’s actions, history, violence, and what that all means. But, the film itself is a departure from the preceding films, until those final moments where we’re reminded of it all. I went into the film with some expectations as to what to what I’d be watching, but from the beginning moments, those expectations were shattered. Logan defies it all and delivered a layered modern western that’s a worthy finale.

Overall Rating: 9.15

Graphic Policy was provided a FREE screening

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Movie Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

the-lego-batman-movieSpinning out of The LEGO Movie is The LEGO Batman Movie putting the full focus on the Brick Crusader in his quest to keep Gotham safe. In The LEGO Batman Movie, Bruce Wayne must not only deal with the criminals of Gotham City, but also the responsibility of raising a boy he adopted. Directed by Chris McKay, the film is a visual assault filling the screen with hyperkinetic scenes that challenge you to not be overwhelmed by the sheer craziness on the screen. There’s a lot to take in and you won’t catch it all inviting fans to enjoy multiple viewings to catch every joke.

And there’s a lot of them.

With The LEGO Batman Movie, nothing is sacred in the history of Batman and everything is on the table to mock going back to his debut in 1939 in Detective Comics. And that’s the big thing about the film, if you’re a Batman fan, you’ll love it as it’s an homage and spoof of everything that has come before. If you have enough knowledge about Batman’s history and previous experiences on the big and small screen, the movie lands with a barrage of jokes that keep on coming. If you don’t appreciate a “Kapow” your enjoyment may vary.

The film itself is interesting in that it throws it in your face, Batman is really a dick, at least this version is voiced by Will Arnett. A disconnected self-centered manchild who’s all work, Batman/Bruce is focused on making Gotham free from all crime and everything else comes second. Batman is the center of the joke, the film spends an ample amount of time making fun of him and the “character” be exagerating the staples we’ve seen in so many itterations of the 75+ years since his creation. But, it’s not just Batman that’s mocked, there’s ongoing jokes involing Bane and his voice from The Dark Knight Rises, D-list villains, Michael Jackson, and the very concept of it all. I found myself laughing more during the film’s 1 hour and 44 minutes than I have in many comedies and where I wasn’t laughing, I had a smile on my face.

The lessons you’d expect in a film aimed at kids are all there, learning to work as a team, not being mean, trusting others, believing in one’s self, it’s pretty much the same basic formula as The LEGO Movie and that’s not a bad thing. It generally works being there for the kids while the adults can focus on nostalgia.

Where that underlying theme of the film fails is the pacing. As I said, the film can only be described as kinetic and a visual assault at times (not negative things) which makes the quieter moments drag on a bit too much. When the film attempts to “get serious” it drags and that adds up to a movie that’s about 20 minutes too long (the kids were getting a little restless by the end in my screening). The end solution presented to save the day is a bit cheesy as well, as if the writers weren’t sure what to do to resolve the problem.

The thing I love about the film is clearly the injokes about Batman and his history, but there’s so many more nods and winks throughout the movie, it was hard to keep track of everything. Ferris Air, Lex Corp, the background is as packed with jokes and nods to comics fans as what’s right in front of you. At times it’s hard to know where exactly I should be paying attention and focusing, there’s so much thrown out there at once. And it’s that willing to have fun and throw things in that really makes the film work. While it has “Batman” in the title, everything Warner Bros. is on the table, and the less said the better about that. The twist leading to the final showdown is part of the fun so avoid spoilers!

The voice work is pretty solid with a who’s who of talent including Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Siri, Zach Galifanakis, Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Conan O’Brien, Doug Benson, Billy Dee Williams, Zoë Kravitz, Kate Micucci, Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, Jermaine Clement, Ellie Kemper, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Adam Devine, Hector Elizonda, Maruah Carey, Ralp Garman, Chris Hardwick, and so many more. The film is packed with talent and you don’t even realize it until the credits role at the end. The voices don’t stand out in a negative way, they all blend and work for their characters seemlesly.

The LEGO Batman Movie had a high hurdle to get over after the success of The LEGO Movie and the film clearly knows this. It doesn’t attempt to recreate the magic of that first film instead focusing on its own thing and formula. And with that, The LEGO Batman Movie beats its greatest villain, high expectations. I saw it once already and can’t wait to go again to see what I missed and laugh all over again.

Overall Rating: 8.65

Warner Bros. provided Graphic Policy with a FREE screening of the film

Movie Review: Justice League Dark

justice-league-darkWhen innocent civilians begin committing unthinkable crimes across Metropolis, Gotham City and beyond, Batman must call upon mystical counterparts to eradicate this demonic threat to the planet. Enter Justice League Dark, reluctantly led by the Hellblazer himself, John Constantine. Like Batman, Constantine is a cunning, often cynical loner who is the best at his chosen profession – but quickly realizes the sinister forces plaguing the planet will require help from other supernatural alliances. Forming a new “league” with sorceress Zatanna, otherworldly Deadman, and Jason Blood and his powerful alter ego Etrigan the Demon, this team of Dark Arts specialists must unravel the mystery of Earth’s supernatural plague and contend with the rising, powerful villainous forces behind the siege – before it’s too late for all of mankind.

Constantine. Zatanna. Deadman. Swamp Thing. When I heard these characters were making their debut in the animated DC Comics movie universe, I was excited for the possibilities. After seeing Justice League Dark, that excitement has worn off.

jldark046974For those who haven’t seen the animated DC Universe, the interconnected movies have loosely followed the world created with DC’s New 52 with adapted stories that are pretty entertaining with each sporting good and bad aspects. This entry feels like it falls flat on its face with a story that never quite clicks and doesn’t quite work as set out.

Innocent individuals are committing crimes and it’s clear there’s something unnatural about how it’s all playing out. Batman is pointed towards an individual to help eventually bringing together a team of his own featuring Zatanna, Constantine, and Deadman. Batman is the focal point of this story, acting as the everyman observer for this strange world of magic and demons. He’s somewhat of a skeptic, playing the loner role in multiple ways. While we’re supposed to see this new world through Batman’s eyes, the fact the character isn’t personable to begin with is an issue. He’s distant, even to a point that the trio of new characters comment on it. And the serious Batman just doesn’t gel well with the full of personality Constantine, fast talking Deadman, and full of style Zatanna.

jldark032115There is a strong film within this, but that would jettison the OG Justice League and Batman instead focusing on the trio of Constantine, Deadman, and Zatanna, and going full horror with a much more mature style.

Instead of that strong film we get this group running around before it’s clear exactly who is behind what’s going on. We get glimpses of other characters like a woefully underused Swamp Thing and a distraction with Felix Faust, before the eventual reveal and big bad sitting behind everything. But that too isn’t much of a shock with the backstory thrown into the movie at the beginning. Add in Etrigan who’s treated more like a weapon than the interesting character he is.

Even with the muddled story, it’s not all bad. The characterization of Constantine is solid creating a cocky, womanizing, jackass, who spends as much time hitting on Zatanna as he does fighting demons. That’s helped by Matt Ryan who physically embodied John Constantine in the live action television show. Ryan sounds a bit different, but his reading of the lines is solidly entertaining. Camilla Luddington as Zatanna, Jason O’Mara as Batman, and Nicholas Turturro as Deadman all deliver solid performances with the script they’re given.

While I’m normally a big fan of the animated DC films, this one just didn’t work for me. The script feels like the “Justice League” aspect is a bit forced in. The use of Wonder Woman, Superman, etc., indicates that, like there was a struggle in how to bring together these two worlds. Instead, we get a movie that glimpses what could have been, but is filled with too much of what shouldn’t have. Potential is there and hopefully we get a stand alone sequel, but as presented this one is a pass.

Overall Rating: 6.75

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Movie Review: The Image Revolution

the-image-revolution-largeTwenty-five years ago, seven superstar artists left Marvel Comics to create their own company, Image Comics, a company that continues to influence mainstream comics and pop culture to this day.

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of Image Comics, a comic publishing company that has left its mark on the comic book world. Directed by Patrick Meaney and released by Respect Films, The Image Revolution is a documentary that examines the founding of the publisher.

In 1992 Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, and Rob Liefeld quit working for the big two publishers forging their own path an independent publishing company that has undoubtedly shaped comics after, for good and bad.

There’s a lot that’s good about the documentary itself. It gives a warts and all accounting of why this mattered and what happened over the years. It doesn’t go too much in depth, mostly relying on interviews and first-hand accounts of the situations and history. With that, there isn’t much pushback and evidence presented as a true accounting of what happened, it’s what these big comic personalities say is history.

Interspersed with interviews of the founders is others talking about their time within the studio and excess that went with being on top of the world. And that’s where the documentary really shines. It presents a lot of negative and a lot of the folks presented do not come off well, like at all. Egos abound with an almost bragging aspect to it, humility is not on display here. All it missed was scenes of individuals doing lines of coke and dollar bills flying around. That’s the type of excess is presented and talked about.

But beyond the excess, the personalities of the founders, and the clashes that caused, are on full display. It’s amazing this group got done what they did after seeing this documentary and you get some might feel the same way. It also does a solid job of taking us through the comic industry of the time, giving viewers just enough information to understand why what’s going on is important.

There’s some bad about the documentary, though it’s a fascinating watch. There isn’t much push back on stories or some of the juicier things that are out there. These individuals control what they want out there, clearly, and the documentary team seem to be ok with that. Lessons learned also aren’t present. Mistakes are admitted, but there’s no real reflection upon all of that. So, it’s an oral history that’s just not too deep and presents some of the facts, not much more.One of the biggest issues is the documentary itself

One of the biggest issues is the documentary’s presentation itself. It relies a lot on archive video from the time and that quality is just not good. Even the filmed interviews for the documentary feel like they’re low budget and compared to other documentaries, it just doesn’t compare, there’s much higher quality out there.

For those that want the basics, this is a solid view. For those that are looking for a bit more, you’ll be disappointed. Basically, if you’re looking to learn the history of Image Comics, this is a good start, but should not be your only stop.

You can watch The Image Revolution now on Amazon Prime.

Overall Rating: 7.4

Movie Review: Accidental Courtesy

accidental-courtesyDaryl Davis has an unusual hobby. Though primarily known as an accomplished musician who has performed all over the world with legends like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, in his spare time he likes to meet and befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan. Daryl has built his relationships person by person and his campaign has proved remarkably effective. Many members of the KKK he has connected with have been forced to reconsider their beliefs, with some even leaving the organization as a result.

Davis has collected hoods, robes and other artifacts from friends who have left the Klan, building a collection piece by piece, story by story, person by person in hopes of eventually opening a “Museum of the Klan.”

Accidental Courtesy is a rare and powerful portrait of a man who has truly embodied the idea that real and profound change happens one person at a time. He also shows that grassroots movements work when they embrace in person one-on-one interactions. It is a controversial concept that not everyone agrees with, but one that seems particularly important in the wake of the recent election.

Directed by Matt Ornstein, Accidental Courtesy is a fascinating documentary focusing on one man’s interesting life as he wins over one racist at a time. While Daryl Davis is the main focus on the film it also is a bigger look at race relations through the years and especially today. Davis is followed as he seeks out old friends he inspired to leave the Klan and those still active in the organization today, as well as academics, civil rights activists, and neo-Nazis as he attempts to answer his lifelong question: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”

That final question is a theme of the film and it asks that question not to racists but also to Black Lives Matter activists who Davis meets. And that sit down is one of the most interesting of the film and really pivots it in many ways. Where was Davis during recent rallies and protests? Is he a traitor to his own race? Is his work really having an impact? There’s no clear answers and the viewer is left to make up their own mind but Ornstein examines Davis’ world much like Davis examines the world around him.

Davis explores his mission with a sort of anthropological glee as an outsider and the film explains what in his history led to this. Agree or disagree with Davis, his mission and interactions comes off as either really brave or really naive. But, what’s clear is that Davis has changed hearts and minds in his work. We see it on the screen. We meet some of the people.

I have no idea how long this film has been in the works but with the veil lifted in America and racism and racists out and proud, the documentary is timely and provides one route by which we can make the world better and a person who’s doing it. Davis shows it’s possible to change the world one person at a time.

Overall Rating: 9.5

Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE screener for review

Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Star Wars Rogue OneI went into Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with high expectations, especially after a high bar was set with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and while the film succeeds in many ways, it also fails too creating an end result that’s rather mixed in its quality.

While previous Star Wars films featured war as a setting (and a battle here and there), this is the first film to really dive into the battle, especially for a final quarter of the film that’s a mix of the Dirty Dozen, Saving Private Ryan, and numerous other “classic” war films.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a prequel in many ways directly tied into Star Wars: A New Hope, the film that started it all. The main focus is dealing with the man behind the construction of the Death Star and then stealing the plans for the Death Star. And while that happens the cast expands as a rag tag group forms for the final act of the film and all out assault against the Empire that shifts from a guerilla incursion to a massive battle and that really sums up the film in many ways, a slow build until that final battle.

Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) is initially joined by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and K-2SO (Alan Tydyk) to find a defecting Empire pilot who has a message from Erso’s father about a new super weapon. This sets them on their adventure where they are eventually joined by Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) two individuals who have a Solo/Chewbacca buddy buddy thing about them. And there lies an issue. Other than Erso, I couldn’t tell you anyone’s names, I had to look all of that up. They’re somehow both memorable and forgettable.

The characters feel very unique for the Star Wars universe (other than Luna’s Andor) they’re also cookie cutter types we see in other films of this nature. You have the sneaky person in Andor, reluctant leader in Erso, muscle with K-2SO, mystic kung-fu person in Îmwe, and heavy gunner with Malbus. It’s not unique in the big picture of cinema, but each character’s look and style has character and stands out from the previous seven films. That extends to many of other notables who they come across like the underused Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera.

But, while the characters of the Alliance/Rebels feel full of life, that’s in contrast to the Empire’s paint by numbers bureaucrats and generic soldiers. The villains aren’t too memorable in this instance, there’s nothing that stands out other than some new Storm Troopers clad in black and some other ships we haven’t seen before. And that blandness extends to the mission itself, sneak in and steal the plans of the Death Star… eventually. That’s the last quarter of the film with the previous 3/4’s build up being emotionally bland but visually impressive.

The film does put forth an interesting discussion about war itself as we see the destructive power of the Death Star in a visual awe that mimics the setting off of an atomic bomb. The film itself seems to tread the line of that discussion, whether you can put the genie back in the bottle and what should be done once it’s loose. There’s also a focus on sacrifice due to one’s belief with those standing up within the Rebels willing to give their lives for the mission. When battling tyranny should one play it safe and cautious? Or should one fight every step of the way. There’s a debate at the core of the film about that… but that’s a debate saved for much later after sitting through a long set-up.

The film saves itself in that last quarter when the assault begins with an ending that will make you forget everything you just watched in a perfectly executed finale that shows exactly how to tie-in a film as a prequel. The flow from Rogue One to A New Hope is seamless but also creates a situation where the film doesn’t really stand up on its own. It’s a prequel. If that last 10 minutes is taken away the film wouldn’t nearly have been as entertaining.

There’s a lot of good with Rogue One. It presents a visual feast and it’s a film that shows Star Wars can work in more genre types than what we’ve seen. I had just hoped as a film it’d stand up a bit more on its own and be a ride from beginning to end. Instead, it’s a slow star that builds up to a climactic battle that’s worth the price of admission.

Overall Rating: 7.85

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange PosterLike a good magician Doctor Strange focuses on the spectacle rather than the substance giving us a visual feast that lacks much depth. follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilizing a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Based on the classic Marvel character, Doctor Strange was created by Steve Ditko in 1963 first appearing in Strange Tales #110. Known for its trippy visuals, the movie is a basic adaptation of the character focused on special FX as opposed to the story itself.

After having watched the film, it struck me that the movie and character is very much a mystical Iron Man sharing a lot with that character’s first movie and its main character Tony Stark. Both characters are narcissistic womanizers who live fast and play hard, each with their own god complex and only accepting perfection. Each character is injured and seek help to heal themselves eventually getting a suit of armor to help them survive and fight their battles. In Iron Man’s case it’s a literal suit of armor and with Strange it’s an armor of spells… and a cloak. So, Iron Man, but with Christopher Nolan’s aesthetic from Inception.

Directed by Scott Derrickson the film bends reality literally as buildings shift and characters jump around space as if it’s a game of Portal on acid. All of that is impressive and the strongest part of the movie. It distracts you from a main character that doesn’t grow a whole lot and generally unlikeable as a person and a supporting cast that doesn’t have a ton to do.

The content of the film remains pretty faithful for the character hitting the right moments and keeping the basics. Magic is given a bit more of a scientific explanation, and characters and locations are changed a bit as well (which is a whole other issue).

Benedict Cumberbatch does a fine job in the lead role. Lets face it a lot of the film is him being a dick and the rest is his waving his hands and arms in the air casting spells. But, we see a little growth for the character, but there’s still issues that make him generally unlikeable. An example is his inability to take responsibility for the results of his actions. He’s right and do what he wants, then maybe apologize later. It’s a similar role Tony Stark plays, but Stark has a deeper back story and has absolutely grown through his films (and that is a difference, one film from a half dozen).

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, and a wasted Benjamin Bratt are all in supporting roles and generally their talent isn’t used enough. Ejofor is used the best and his Baron Mordo will be a character that should be very entertaining in films to come. Swinton’s role is the mystical guru and her line readings are like a child telling you there is no spoon. McAdams plays flustered or confused for most of the film while Benedict Wong stands out among the bunch. Mikkelsen’s villain is rather boring and he’s a step up and change from the usual evil businessmen that populate previous Marvel Cinematic films. There’s line readings, but the acting isn’t there. I rarely felt realy emotion.

The story itself we could debate if there’s a bigger meaning involing religious extermists, but maybe that’s a discussion for another time.

The movie is amazing visually as the world shifts and turns and 3D is a must. This is the first film I think I’ve seen where the 3D is an absolute and you should skip the 2D. And it’s the visuals you’re going for. They are the draw of a film that feels like it suffers from Marvel’s usual first movie blues. It’s entertaining, but we’ve seen so much better.

Overall Rating: 7.65

Movie Review: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

batman-return-of-the-caped-crusaders-2016-movie-posterIt’s back to the 1960s as Batman and Robin spring into action when Gotham City is threatened by a quartet of Batman’s most fiendish foes – Penguin, The Joker, Riddler and Catwoman. The four Super-Villains have combined their wicked talents to hatch a plot so nefarious that the Dynamic Duo will need to go to outer space (and back) to foil their arch enemies and restore order in Gotham City. It’s a truly fantastic adventure that will pit good against evil, good against good, evil against evil … and feature two words that exponentially raise the stakes for both sides: Replicator Ray. Holy Multiplication Tables!

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is the newest animated film based on DC Comic characters, but this one has a twist,, we’re back in the world of Batman ’66. Yes, the classic television show has a movie! It’s not just the characters that are returning, it’s some of the actors too. Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin) and Julie Newmar (Catwoman) are all involved providing their voices to the roles they helped defined and are celebrated all these years later.

The animated film captures the vibe created by the live action series with the “biff” “pow” and more in a psychedelic story that you just need to go with. It’s campy. It’s really campy, which is exactly what you’d expect in a Batman story. And that’s a lot of the fun of the movie as it really nails everything the classic series is loved and/or hated for. The movie is as much as an homage to the old series as it is a send-up of it as well. Scenes are taken over the top with winks and nods all throughout.

The story is out there involving duplicator rays and Batman turning evil, but that seriously doesn’t matter. If you don’t laugh at the concept of a “Batman AntiAntidote” you won’t appreciate the film at all.

It’s fantastic to hear the voices of West, Ward, and Newmar in their classic roles. There’s a weird disconnect for some as the voices sound a bit aged, but the characters obviously haven’t. Still, their readings are beyond fantastic. And those who are bringing other older characters to life are solid as well. The Joker, Penguin, Riddler, all reminded me of the classic television characters and blended seamlessly.

The movie as a whole is a solid blend of old and new and you’ll likely get excited as soon as the classic television theme starts playing. The power of animation has captured what made the show special and also allowed it to do things it’d never be able to due to the restrictions of live action. From Gotham to space and back, the movie is goofy fun that’ll put a smile on your face when it finally wraps up.

Here’s looking to more adventures to come.

Overall Rating: 8.6

Warner Bros. provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Movie Review: Shin Godzilla

shin-godzilla-11x17-poster_300-dpi_rgbShin Godzilla opens strong and never loses momentum. As the first Japanese Godzilla film after the franchise went on hiatus in 2004, fan expectations were higher than they’d been since Godzilla: Final Wars twelve years prior. Toho made the wise decision to return with as strong an entry as possible, tapping Hideaki Anno of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame to write the franchise reboot. With Shinji Higuchi co-directing, Anno crafted a Godzilla film unlike any other in the franchise. If you are a longtime Godzilla fan, how well you react to changes in the classic Godzilla formula will determine whether this movie works for you or fails. Speaking as a fan for over 20 years, it worked almost flawlessly.

Most of the time, when reviewing a Godzilla film, you can fill a couple paragraphs rehashing details about the franchise. You spend some time waxing poetic about the gravitas and somber tone of the original Gojira , you shift to the later films and work the phrase “b-movie shlock” in somewhere, and you make a condescending remark about rubber suits or cardboard buildings. The review at that point is almost halfway done and you can glide through the rest without a lot of extra work. I’ve seen it argued that the movies themselves occasionally show a similar lack of originality, with writers returning to standbys like Mechagodzilla or Mothra as Godzilla’s foes in the years before the hiatus.

Shin Godzilla is exactly the kind of film the franchise needed: it’s unique and original and takes serious risks with its changes to the classic formula. In this film, Godzilla is more a creature than a character – he is eerily silent through most of the film, attacks reactively when the military strikes him first and displays none of the intelligence and personality that previous incarnations have. This Godzilla is a natural disaster in the purest sense, his motivations unknown and the devastation he causes completely merciless. This shift in focus serves as a way to get to the film’s primary concern: social and political commentary about Japan itself. This is a film where kaiju action is interspersed with board meetings by committees and government officials.shingodzilla_jpn_1998x1080p24_dnxhrlb_1-52-40-18_rgb

While that might sound boring, the film doesn’t drag. The numerous meetings, where characters are introduced with job titles displayed on the screen (a running gag as characters’ titles get longer as they are promoted or other characters are written out of the film), all serve a purpose: showing how in the wake of a disaster nobody could predict or prepare for, the biggest threat to Japan is the inability of its government to act swiftly. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Shin Godzilla examines not only how Japan as a nation responds to disaster but how the United States and the UN treat Japan during a crisis. Shin Godzilla doesn’t overdo these ideas, thankfully – there’s no monologue from the Prime Minister about whether he should bow to pressure from the UN. Instead, we watch outsiders in the Japanese government as a group of scientists, assistants, and novice politicians comes together as a special committee that ignores honorific titles and openly shares information with businesses and other countries. It’s this group of people who eschew traditional bureaucracy that make real progress and move the plot forward.

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Anno and Higuchi don’t just show their human characters discarding traditions, of course: it can’t be stressed enough how unique this interpretation of Godzilla is. In other movies it’s easy to read motivation and intent into his actions – Godzilla is a character in the films, usually the star. Here, calling him a villain feels misleading since aside from destroying buildings as he walks Godzilla’s attacks are all retaliation toward the Japanese and US military. This incarnation of Godzilla changes form multiple times in the movie, each time displaying new abilities to defend himself. The film uses Godzilla’s screen time to great effect, establishing him as a serious threat early on and upping the stakes every time he’s onscreen. This Godzilla has the most raw destructive power the franchise has ever seen, and when Shin Godzilla shows us what he can really do even his classic atomic breath is taken in a new direction that left my theater awestruck.

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Shin Godzilla is in many ways emblematic of the Godzilla franchise as a whole. Switching from humorous political commentary to kaiju destruction and back with ease, the movie is a lens through which Anno and Higuchi examine Japan’s future and past. In the west we tend to view the Godzilla franchise as having somehow fallen from grace – critics breathlessly praise the original Gojira and then talk about how campy and silly later film installments are – but to me the point of Shin Godzilla is that the franchise can’t be boiled down to one single idea. One individual Godzilla movie can’t convey every idea the franchise has had or every message it’s tried to send, and that’s why Shin Godzilla works. Shin Godzilla focuses on one specific idea: new ideas. New ideas are what save Japan from destruction, new ideas are what set this film apart from the rest of the franchise, and new ideas are what Toho Studios needs to make Shin Godzilla the first film in a revitalized and inspired new era of kaiju film. If Toho sticks to the ideas that Shin Godzilla stresses most, this movie is a sign of great things to come.

Movie Review: Suicide Squad

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As one of my most anticipated films of 2016, it’s safe to say Suicide Squad had a lot to live up to! It seemed like it would be the stepping stone for DCEU, after the abomination of a movie that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was. The teaser trailer was spectacular. The first trailer was very good as well. Then, for some reason, Warner Bros. went in a completely different direction with the second trailer. Even though I found it alright, it wasn’t as captivating as the other two; as it seemed like the generic blockbuster. Suicide Squad was supposed to be unusual, distinctive and crazy. Unfortunately, it was none of these.

The movie follows Amanda Waller as she assembles a team of extremely dangerous prisoners because she feels the world needs to have a contingency plan if the bad version of Superman comes down to Earth. Followed by a million intros for the characters, coupled with a most obvious choice of music for each of them.Subsequently, they are sent to fight the belly-dancing Enchantress trying to destroy humanity by building ‘a machine’. That is the entire plot: a bunch of crazy, self-absorbed individuals without superpowers (most of them anyways) have to fight this extremely powerful witch and her plain-obvious CGI brother. There’s no second act or plot development.

Harley Quinn, Diablo and Deadshot are the only characters with some barely perceptible character development. Everyone else was either pointless (Boomerang, Slipknot, Katana), or contradicting in their beliefs (Waller). With Harley Quinn we get some flashbacks about how she became the way she is; but even those are equivocal and scarce, as they are too short to figure out exactly what’s happening.

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The main problem with this film is that we are supposed to believe these characters are the most dangerous people on the planet! However, throughout the film we never really get a sense of this – save for, possibly, Harley. On a number of occasions, we are told they are ominous – although we are never actually shown how.

It’s not all gloom and doom though! There are moments when the humour works, and these scenes are wonderful – if not far too negligible . The actors do their best with the lines they have. Most of the so-called villains throw one-liners, and just a few of them land. The music score (not the soundtrack) also has some curious cues, which work when put into practice. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is awful in its usage! Whenever on, it is overbearing, distracting and even unpleasant. It serves only to prevent one from becoming entirely acquainted with the characters and tells you how to feel too insistently.

The action is as memorable as the editing is abhorrent! Half the time you are lost, due to the bad geography and constant cuts. In addition, the film doesn’t flow – the chronology is all over the place and there is no consistency.

The Joker was heavily featured in the ad campaign, however, we only see fleeting glimpses of him during the film itself. Turns out it wasn’t so that we are amazed by the end result, but because there isn’t much of him in the film. He pops up every once in a while for 30 seconds in either a flashback or as a deux ex machina. On that front alone, I was truly disappointed!

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Suicide Squad is non-refutably a box-office success, for now at least. Nevertheless, due to rushed decisions, it feels like two films have collided into one; just like Fantastic Four. It is not as bad but has more flaws than strengths.

In conclusion, it’s entertaining enough that you won’t fall asleep, but do not come with high expectations, otherwise you will be let down. I am sure Warner Brother will try to fix the film for the Blu-Ray release, by including a lot of the missing scenes shown in the trailer; however, as this is the second time this year they have done so, isn’t it becoming a pattern?

Overall Rating: 4

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