Tag Archives: 3D

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Thing that is awesome: I saw a Guardians of the Galaxy double feature on Thursday! Thing that is less awesome: it always takes me forever to review premiere style movies. Like, to even have time to start. I am typing this Sunday, and I will post it Sunday, but I didn’t start until Sunday, which as you know is three days after Thursday. I don’t know why this always happens, but it always does. I might as well not even go to premieres, for all the good it does anyone else! …although I still get to see it early, so that’s nice.

In a nutshell: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the platonic ideal of a comics movie. It requires you to have seen the original, yes, but since the original was full of origin stories that people didn’t already know by heart, that’s not so bad. And then it’s off to the races, with… basically a lot of cool and hilarious stuff that I can say nearly nothing about, because it would all be spoilers. Even the thematic discussion is a no go. Except to say, trust me that yes there’s a heaping helping of theme. And lots of cool old characters, and some cool new characters, and a teaser for the future that I don’t see how they can pull off right, but then again, if you’d asked me five years ago (or five days ago!) if they could pull off what they did in this movie, I would have said no, that’s way too stupid to ever work. So I’ve clearly been proven wrong, and I’m once again excited for the next thing!

I should say, the music is not as good as last time.

Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed was a game with an incredible premise. Using an sfnal device called The Animus, you could connect yourself to display monitors and relive the genetic memories of your ancestors, with an audience of observers along for the ride. This was a tool to tell the story of a war down through the ages between the Knights Templar (on the side of order, thoroughly lawful evil) and the Assassins (on the side of freedom, thoroughly chaotic neutral) to determine the fate of humankind. See, there’s this differently sfnal device called the Apple of Eden which nobody seems to exactly know how it works or what it does, but which everyone agrees will allow their side to win once and for all.

It was, unfortunately, an incredibly flawed game in execution, but both the basic premise and the underlying modern and historical parallel stories that premise enabled were not among the problems the game faced. In the meantime, that series has blossomed into some dozen or so games now, the first third of which I’ve played.

Enter last month, in which a movie based on that series was released. Which makes sense! You have a pre-built plot that contains lots of lavish historical sets and an interesting conflict, not to mention all kinds of cool parkour and medieval weapons combat. What’s not to like? Only… I mean, it wasn’t bad. Those things I said about how rich the premise and conflict are, they are true and cannot just be erased unless you made a movie that was actually unrelated to anything the games had done. And they did not, this is definitely an Assassin’s Creed movie.

At the same time, the plot fell apart to such a drastic degree in the final act that I don’t actually know what character decisions were made or how I should feel about them, even though up until then I had liked the two main characters (the Assassin descendant and the Templar scientist) and their developed relationship. Plus, the lush historical settings? Were instead consistently crowded with so much dust and smoke that you couldn’t really sit back and enjoy them. I did not expect anything so immersive as a 60 hour game can provide, but, talk about missing the point. Especially since the historical setting and timeline (1490s Spain) are both unaddressed by the games.

I guess what I expect is that any potential sequel will fix all of the niggling flaws and turn into something brilliant, just like the second game did. The parallels are just too strong to ignore!

Passengers (2016)

It is functionally impossible to really talk about this movie without massive spoilers, because what the movie is actually about requires knowledge of character actions and motivations. This is… problematic, since spoilers suck. So, I’ll fill in the next paragraph with some kind of thumbnail thing, and put in a cut (that doesn’t work everywhere), and after that, you should probably have watched it first to go any further. Or, if you don’t care, that’s your lookout.

Passengers is, at the broadest level, the story of a colony ship headed outbound from Earth to new frontiers. At the next focus inward, it’s a story about hell and impossible choices. The next focus inward will have to go behind the cut.
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Doctor Strange

mv5bnjgwnzaznjk1nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzq2nji1ote-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_I know that Doctor Strange occasionally crosses over with other characters in the Marvel universe. I mean, maybe someday he’ll be at the heart of a big crossover event, but as of 15 years of Ultimate comics and 20 years of mainstream comics, he has only ever been at the fringes. And this is a thing that makes a lot of sense! Except for the artifact of history that Stan Lee decided to build a stable of shared characters in the early 1960s to compete with what DC had been doing, there’s no way anyone would say Strange fits into Marvel. Different genre than anything else they publish, and an entirely different style to boot. The only thing that comes close is Thor, and that’s only because they both share a love of stilted declamations.

Do I have a point, here? Maybe. See, as promised in a blink and you missed it scene in The Winter Soldier, Marvel Studios has dropped a Doctor Strange film onto an unsuspecting[1] public. And sure enough, there is no apparent connection between it and any other movie they’ve made, at first glance[2]. But this is fine, because unlike some Netflix series I could name, Avengers Tower is prominent in the midtown skyline. Even better, both the characters with names and dialogue and the pedestrians in the background are becoming more comfortable with the bizarre turns of events that occur with increasing regularity in their world, just as befits a maturing familiarity with superheroes. I would not have thought to be so appreciative of a touch like that, but I don’t think I would have thought to expect such a touch in advance, and yet here we are. Normalcy. I dig it.

Anyway, all that’s about the world and setting. The actual movie, though? See, Stephen Strange is the best neurosurgeon in the world, but after a series of unfortunate events related (mostly) to his personality, he finds himself seeking alternative answers about his place in the world. It took Stan Lee and Steve Ditko maybe three pages to establish all of this before turning Strange from a doctor into a sorcerer, and it took the movie a good 45 minutes. Now, don’t get me wrong, Lee has never written under the auspices of “show, don’t tell”. Man loves to tell approximately as much (and as floridly) as PT Barnum did. But at the same time, 45 minutes is a lot of celluloid to squeeze out of three pages. Maybe there is some kind of middle ground? Like, I would never say they should have skipped the origin story entirely, because who has heard of Doctor Strange?

The good news is, that’s the only bad thing I have to say about the movie. It is a feast for the eyes, and moreso in 3D (unless that kind of thing makes you ill), and if the plot is a little bit bog-standard good v evil for modern Marvel, to be fair fantasy and spellcraft kind of lends itself to that. And even so, it’s far more nuanced than you might think from what I’ve said. Not-apparently-a-Baron Mordo in particular is fully realized in a way that never would have been predictable based on his turn in that same initial Lee/Ditko comic I mentioned before.

Tl;dr go see it, they’re not out of juice yet.

[1] I mean, if you discount years of announcements and months of previews. Look, nobody asked you.
[2] At second glance, this is completely untrue, but only because the writers made an effort to relevance that I cannot decide if I appreciate or oppose. That is in full on spoiler territory, however, so I shall say no more.

Warcraft

MV5BMTc1MDQ1MDI4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzgxNjg0ODE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_This is good, because, finally being caught up on reviews, I can finish reading the top secret book of awfulness I’ve been slogging through for the past month. (It’s possible, possible that hate-reading is a bad idea. Like, if I were mortal or something, I’d have a lot of regrets eventually.)

Note: what follows appears to have tons of spoilers, but really I’m just describing the premise as established (for the most part) in the first 20 minutes or so. Honest.

Anyway, though, yeah, I saw Warcraft on Friday. And I saw it in the way that a lot of people who get paid to do this see most fantasy movies, which is without the faintest clue of what’s going on. I played Warcraft 3 back in the day, so I know from Lich Kings or whatever, but this is apparently set generations before that. See, there are these orcs[1], composed of multiple tribes banded together into a Horde, and the one with the glowing green eyes has figured out how to open a comically oversized portal into a new world, but only long enough to send out a roving warband. See, the comically oversized portal requires death magic to operate it, and the warband is going to capture enough people on the other side to perform more death magic so the support people, you know, the orc smiths and orc farmers and orc nannies, can come across next time. Mind you, if the portal had been like 12 feet high instead of a thousand, maybe the death magic would have burned through more slowly and they all could have made it in one go? But then again, the orc with the glowing green eyes is kind of a dick, so maybe it was comically oversized on purpose so he could use more death magic.

On the other side of the portal, a bunch of humans, composed of multiple tribes banded into an Alliance (also some dwarves, and a couple of elves with comically oversized breasts who, unlike the dwarves, seem to serve no other purpose in the film) are hanging out congratulating each other on everything being peaceful for the first time in forever. Only, not so much anymore. Then the orcs and the humans (and sort of the dwarves, but decidedly not the elves with the comically oversized breasts) start fighting each other, like you’d expect in a movie named Warcraft, and in the meantime some things that make no sense at all happen, and I was prepared to throw my hands up and sound like one of those reviewers who get paid by saying that this movie was fantasy tripe bullshit, but it turns out that patience is a virtue and all the things that didn’t make sense do make sense after all, I was just missing some information at first.

Long story short, it’s a very pretty and entertaining (if maybe less entertaining than it is pretty) fantasy movie where a whole bunch of people beat up a whole bunch of other people, and several of the characters have fascinating motivations, and the ones who have dialogue without having fascinating motivations at least have a kind of handwavy excuse for why their motivations are cartoonish instead of fascinating, and pretty makes up for a lot. If you don’t believe me, go find a review of Snow Falling on Cedars written by the kind of person who gets paid for this type of thing.

[1] Okay, I lied. I had at least a few clues as to what was going on, in that I know what an orc is, while the kind of people who get paid to write reviews are allowed to pretend they don’t, since it’s been more than 10 years since The Return of the King was released.

Captain America: Civil War

MV5BMjI3ODEwMTA0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDg3MDczNzE@._V1__SX1859_SY891_I saw the latest Captain America movie on Friday morning, with the intention of getting a spoiler-free review up quickly. It was going to reflect on the difficulty of setting up a scenario in which the good guys could get into serious fights over matters of policy and morality without turning some portion of themselves into bad guys, and then acknowledge that I felt like it was done quite well, such that I empathized most strongly with the apparent wrong side of the debate in reality while also admitting that of course in context I would pick the apparent right side. Then it was going to slyly approve of the many characters brought into the conflict, the various ways this was done, and how plausible each such character’s position was. Not to mention how great it is to have a movie series with enough depth as to be able to do that without stretching to 4 or 5 hours, because we know these people from more than what was shown on this particular screen today.

Also, I might have praised the venue, with its history of awesome pre-show perks and (although I missed it) a secret menu whereby you order something they used to serve with a previous Cap movie by whispering “Hail Hydra” to your server.

But right after the movie I had to pick up an engagement ring that I had been waiting on for rather a while, and then later in the afternoon my oldest friend (from the age of 12!) died from complications due to cancer, and then on Saturday I was at a renaissance fair getting engaged, and by now everyone who would read this has seen the thing themselves, so I guess I won’t bother to write a review after all.

If I’m wrong, though, it was really pretty good, and you should go ahead and see it.

Ant-Man

MV5BMTc3NzgxNTM0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMwMDI5MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY847_Saturday was a day of two movies. Hooray! The second one was, finally, Ant-Man. To get it out of the way: it was a) definitely relevant to the overall story progression of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and b) good enough in its own right. Also, to get the other thing out of the way, it’s about a guy who can shrink to the size of about a flea or a bit smaller, and also he can talk to ants, and he uses these powers to be highly stealthy, mobile, and also to be unexpectedly strong[1], and then he has to deal with a supervillain tailor-made for said powers. Like you do.

There. Now to the meat of it. See, in comics, there are two people who have been Ant-Man. (Well, that I know of.) The first of them, Hank Pym, is one of Marvel’s first characters. The second, Scott Lang, I have not actually gotten to yet. The movie is about, well, technically both of them, but the point here is that it’s mostly about the one I don’t know. Which means, virtually no preconceptions! Paul Rudd was damaged and charming, and the character was entirely likeable. The plot was heisty and heroic and if it was often predictable, it made up for it by never being boring.

My complaints about Hank Pym are spoilers, but the fact that I have complaints can be put down to the fact that he’s a known jerk of a character. (Unlike Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, who is objectively as much of a jerk on paper, but people always seem to like him anyway. This has nothing to do with anything, I’m just complaining about it.)

Anyway, pretty good movie. Worth seeing, especially if you’ve been watching the other ones. Spoiler thing about Hank Pym in the comments.

[1] Something something physics: space between atoms is reduced, increasing density and therefore retaining the same strength in a much smaller package; you know, comic book science.

Terminator Genisys

MV5BNjQyMzYxMjI2NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODIwNjA2MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Downside of watching a movie at the start of the weekend: I fall behind. Like, every time. That said, I have a possibly relevant anecdote concerning my personal viewing of the film. See, I made plans to see it with a couple of friends on Thursday afternoon. Due to some failures of brain, one of them ended up at a separate theater at the exact same showtime. We figured it out by the time the movie was over, and he said, who cares? We wouldn’t have talked during the flick anyway, so I basically feel like I did see it with you guys! And you know, that’s completely fair enough.

Except… This is a Terminator movie. After the first two films, three movies and a (tragically underrated) TV series have each been provided as sequels, and unlike the first two movies, no two of them seem to inhabit the same… man, I’m not even sure what word to use. Same timeline misses the point entirely, as none of these movies have ever been entirely in the same timeline. I’d say same universe, but since multiverse is a term of art within time travel theory, that has basically the same problem. My point is, they all feel mutually exclusive in a way that the first two films plus any one of the purported sequels do not.

So, which is the one true sequel? I would still pick the TV version, because it had time to really dig in to plot, character, and philosophy in a way that movies necessarily do not, and also because Summer Glau. (There are more reasons I could name, but these are enough.) But I don’t review TV shows, so it seems only fair to pick a best movie sequel also, and Terminator Genisys is the one. I know you’re shocked.

So, my reasons are as follows. 1) It did time travel plausibly correctly[1], which I’m pretty sure the earliest and worst of the sequels[2] did not even really manage. 2) It understood how and when to throw a curveball. 3) It still cared about predestination, which I think the second sequel[3] did not enough. 4) It for sure cared about where humanity fits into things, which the second sequel certainly did not. Nor really the first one, which was by and large soulless if I’m being honest with myself. James Cameron, famous for creating the first two films which as you can see have been at no point up for debate in this discussion, names this the first sequel he can get behind. I say, well, but did you watch the show? Then, without waiting for an answer that might make me sad, I nod and add, fair enough.

Anyway, though, my anecdote has been left hanging. Which is important, because I believe I indicated it had some partial relevance to this whole topic. Which is to say, at this point, there are so many plausible sequels to T2 that probably there are still more that I don’t know about, leaking into the timeline at various points between 1984 and 2029 (or later!), and really, there’s no way to tell which of them my friend in the wrong theater actually saw. For that matter, he may have ended up in the wrong theater because of one such attempted sequel or other. Time travel, man. It’s a bitch.

[1] Or maybe it did not? There’s definitely one huge question mark floating in front of my brain right now, but I would need to watch all three movies and diagram everything out to be certain. Scotch and other people would be involved.
[2] Terminator 3, I guess? Who can remember.
[3] Terminator Salvation

Guardians of the Galaxy

MV5BMjA3ODU4MDUyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTE2OTkzMTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_The crazy thing about how far behind my reviews have fallen isn’t that the backlog is huge, but that it’s so very, very small. There’s the movie I saw before this, which I have finally accepted won’t be served by a useless review and which will therefore have to wait until dollar theaters pick it up so I can purge expiate my sins, there’s this one, and there’s one book I finished almost at the same time. Nothing else.

I haven’t exactly been avoiding the theater? I have most definitely been avoiding books though. Which is to say, boy howdy have I read a ton of comics over the past month. None of that has anything to do with anything, except oh wait, it totally does, since I just remembered that the movie I am reviewing is Guardians of the Galaxy. If you were to guess I had seen that comic in the mid ’70s, the answer would be, sort of? I did, but just the premiere issue so far, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the characters that populate this movie. I did read a handful of issues of Adam Warlock which introduce Gamora, making her, so far as I can tell, the oldest of these characters in Marveldom. This is not only pretty cool, but it definitely puts a pleasantly ironic spin on a situation I read about a few weeks ago where someone was selling kidshirts of the characters and left her off because she wouldn’t appeal to boys enough. That’s already dumb on the face of it, obviously, but man oh man is it five times as dumb with the added knowledge about their collective history in comics.

None of which has anything to do with how good the movie is, I know, but… it’s been out more than a month. I kind of missed the boat on that one already, y’know? But let’s pretend I haven’t, and someone who can see this hasn’t actually seen the movie yet. It’s like this. A misfit kid with the soundtrack of the ’70s and ’80s as his sole possession in life winds up in space because that’s how comics work sometimes, only now he’s a cool thief[1]. Then he gets caught up in a galactic civil war[2] between the Kree and some other people who are not the Skrulls and who I would probably know more about if I had read comics from the ’80s, meets up with the daughter of the baddest dude in the galaxy[3], not to mention a psychotic raccoon, his pet tree who has a lot to say but only the raccoon can translate, and an angry tattooed giant out for revenge because the second baddest dude in the galaxy killed his entire family one time.[4] Then, they… well, the point is, literally any damn thing could happen, and if you aren’t desperate to know what, we are entirely different people, you and I.

[1] Not the Danny Ocean kind of thief, the Indiana Jones kind, if Indy had ever acknowledged that he’s totally a thief but for museums, which by the way is 100% what he is. I mean, it’s not his fault, it is colonialism’s fault, but think about it.
[2] It’s more complicated than that, but at some point I’m just writing a spoiler-filled summary of the movie instead of a review; plus also, if I break it down, the movie sounds less like Star Wars.
[3] Who we last saw financing the destruction of the earth for unknown reasons.
[4] “For you, the day Bison graced your village with his presence was the single most important moment of your life. For me, it was a Tuesday.” Oh Raul Julia, we miss you still.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

rs_634x939-140324091106-634.jennifer-lawrence-x-men.ls.32414Hard to believe, yet true: over the past fourteen years, there have been seven X-Men movies, all in the same continuity, and all including Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. 20th Century Fox is doing nearly as good of a job as Marvel Studios. That’s really pretty impressive, all in all. (I mean, okay, the actual movies have not been as consistently good, but it’s nearly impossible to credit how much better special effects have gotten in the not quite a generation between then and now.[1])

All of which brings me to the seventh such movie, Days of Future Past, which is named after what I understand will eventually be a really important storyline that I’m still probably more than a decade from reading. That said, I’m not so sure it’s very similar to that storyline? It is, however, extremely cool and handles time travel pretty well, both philosophically and structurally. I don’t want to say much about it, because of spoilers, but the title already gave away time travel and the end of The Wolverine already gave away the Sentinels; so I will only add that I thought the Sentinels were handled at least as well as the time travel was, and probably quite a bit better.

What was handled best of all, though, were the characters. The movie is, more than anything, a sequel to First Class, which was already heavily character driven. All of the dangling conflicts are brought to fruition in satisfying ways, and what more can you really ask? Well, that the characters also be fully realized, but I think they are. (Speaking of which, the scene with “Peter” in the Pentagon? Definitely the best characterization of him I have ever seen, and all without a word of dialogue. Bravo!)

[1] That makes it sound like I’m saying the special effects are the only flaws in early or for that matter middle X-Men movies. I’m not saying that, but having watched the first one a week or so ago, special effects are what stuck out to me as the second biggest flaw, just barely ahead of pacing[2] and way behind upscaled 480p, which it turns out is eye-hurtingly unwatchable in modernity. At least, it is if there are any special effects happening.
[2] Because, seriously, half that film was spent on Liberty Island! Climactic battles should not feel draggy. And don’t even get me started on treating Rogue as a major character in one half of the flick only to leave her as a damsel in distress for the other half. That she was rescued by a mixed team instead of a big strong man helps a bit, but not really enough.[3]
[3] Talk about being in the wrong review, right?