Tag Archives: action

Bright

When I was in LA in mid-December, I saw posters everywhere for a Netflix movie called Bright, starring Will Smith. It was to be released in like a week, but I had never heard of it before that weekend. No idea why, really. I mean, I suppose the fact that 90% of LA billboards are advertising for the screen instead of like 20% here in Dallas could account for part of the reason?

Anyway, it looked interesting. See, it’s the modern world as we know it, except orcs are the stand-in for the downtrodden classes, elves are the stand-in for the wealthy and powerful classes who don’t want to be bothered with having to acknowledge that there even is an underclass who got a raw deal, and humans are the stand-in for, y’know, whoever fits in between the two extremes I just detailed. Oh, also, there was a Dark Lord a long time ago, and people hate orcs because they were on his side then. Institutionalized racism at its finest, folks!

And, frankly, that’s the problem with the movie in a nutshell. Someone decided that, oh, cool, we can highlight the massive race and class problems in America by using fantasy race stand-ins! …and then they didn’t really do anything else with the idea except point at it over and over again. For example: at one point, cop Will Smith and his orc partner (who is the first ever orc policeman, and if you guessed that both every orc and every cop hates him, then you already see my point here) are interviewing some hispanic folks in a house, and they’re speaking Spanish, which Will Smith knows and the orc does not. But it’s okay, because Will Smith doesn’t speak orcish when they’re in the orc gang hideout, and, oh, wait, why do elves speak elvish and orcs speak orcish, but humans have all the same languages we’re already used to since it’s regular earth? It’s possible this shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it’s just so damned shoddy!

Anyway, yeah. Buddy cop movie with high tension between the nominal buddies, and there’s a lot of magic floating around via all-powerful wands that most people can’t touch without just exploding to death, and of the people who can, mostly they’re only elves, but also the world is so shitty that people would go ahead and grab a wand anyway if they were just laying around because hey, if you don’t explode, cosmic power is yours for the wishing. And I’m pretty okay with that as a setting, but man, the clumsily (and, worse) lazily-handled race stuff ruins the whole thing for me.

But I hear it did well and there’s a sequel, so maybe they can focus on Dark Lords and magic next time, or at least have someone set them straight on how to not build ridiculous caricatures that we’ve all seen before. (I should say: the opening credits of the movie highlight the tensions and problems of both their world and ours extremely well, so much better than the plot or dialogue ever came close to.)

Minty: The Assassin

While at my folks’ for the weekend, I ended up diving into the free streaming service Dish Network has to offer, in search of the Maze Runner movies. Unsuccessfully, as it happened, but while plumbing the depths of the “action movies from 2010s” section (since they don’t seem to have a search function), I stumbled across Minty: The Assassin, which probably was a mistake.

Minty (and the other characters) are comic book characters who exist in real life in the world that writes comics about them. This is not really a new idea; it pretty much lines up exactly with how Marvel has always run its comics division, for example. Anyway, after a series of really inexplicable vignettes in which we are introduced to Minty (her power is like Popeye, except she eats chocolate), her vampire potential girlfriend, and her mentor Big Boss, the meat of the movie begins when Big Boss is kidnapped by a psychic surgeon and used as bait to lure Minty to his tower. She fights her way up the tower past various colorful level bosses, losing bits of clothing as she goes, only to discover (okay, spoiler alert I guess, but seriously, don’t watch this) that it was all a set-up. The point of the kidnapping was to get her naked to the top of the tower, because Dr. Brain Bender is actually a creepazoid fan of her comic, and he wanted to see her with her clothes off.

Leaving aside the inherent contradiction of stripping her down in pursuit of an anti-sexism plot, the movie nevertheless had the germ of a good idea there. He’s clearly a bad guy, and he’s clearly a crazy loser, and you can at least imagine someone taking the message to heart. ….except that the final 15 minutes is exploitative in the extreme, of the characters and the audience alike. The fact that the bad guy gets assassined in the end really doesn’t make up for how sleazy the path to his death was.

Avoid.

Thor: Ragnarok

The problem with reviewing a new Marvel movie is the same as the problem with reviewing a new Dresden Files or Vlad Taltos book: too much accumulated past knowledge is required.That is, the only way to come close to getting a coherent thought out of me is if I assume you are aware of everything that has come before. Otherwise, I’m bound to spoil for previous movies.

For example, Thor: Ragnarok, which is not only the third Thor movie, it’s in the high teens for total Marvel Cinematic Universe movies overall. And okay, they don’t all of them interweave so tightly that you would need all the movies under your belt, but it’s still something like five or six, just to cover all the returning characters.

So, screw it, I’m doing that spoil for previous movies thing. See, the first Thor movie was about learning how to be worthy. Thor starts off as a bro, and needs to be a hero instead. Cool. The second one was about family (and also a little bit about the eventual Infinity War that we’re not quite to, yet, but that’s plot, and I’m talking theme here). Like, Loki is still a bad guy, or at least a mischief guy, but the brothers are brothers again and don’t have to spend so much energy on hating each other. It was nice!

This third movie is about becoming an adult. Training wheels are off, the end of the world Asgard is at hand, and Thor (and whoever else is willing to side with him; telling you in advance would be, well, telling) has to figure everything out for himself. Which, not bad for a dude who was a bro like six years ago. I mean, assuming he succeeds. But trying is also pretty cool. Bro Thor from 2011 would not have even tried to do anything except maybe tug on Odin’s arm, unless it was to charge forward blindly and get himself killed in the first thirty seconds.

So, that’s what the movie is. Remaining things to know are that it was almost more comedy  than action movie; that it has my personal favorite use of a Led Zeppelin song; that of course it was good, although at the same time it’s hard to know how to trust my opinion here anymore[1]; and that… no, I take it back, anything else I could possibly say would definitely be spoilers. Go see it!

[1] I mean, I didn’t like the Inhumans series, so at least I know there’s a bottom to this well of good faith.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

I saw the MCU[1] version of Spider-Man nearly a week ago, which is becoming an uncomfortably common trend. I kind of have my job to blame, but maybe the ability to write and post from work (thanks, wifi hotspot!) will put a kibosh on all this. Then again, considering the degree to which my workload is about to increase, maybe it won’t.

Almost everything I want to say about it is along the lines of “How cool was it when…” or “Did you notice the easter egg about…”, which is problematic mainly because all of those things are spoilers. What’s not bad is that it means the movie was extremely cool and fun for me, and probably would be for you as well.

In any event, this borrowed as heavily and as obviously from Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man as most of the rest of the MCU has done from respective other branches of the Ultimate Marvel series, which as you will know from years of my reviews of Bendis’ work, I strongly approve of. Peter is a good kid who’s in over his head but who has the potential to be forged into the moral center of the superheroing world. Not yet, though; for now he really is a kid, and it will be fun letting him do that for a little while.

Also: Michael Keaton hit it out of the park.

Also also: the title is kind of… like, yes there was a Homecoming Dance, and I suppose it featured heavily in the high school life of one Peter Parker and his various friends, but seriously, they named a movie after the fact that they finally negotiated the rights to bring Spider-Man back under the Marvel umbrella instead of where it has languished in Sonyland for decades. And that’s just silly insider baseball stuff. Come on, guys, give me a real title for the next one.

Also also also: Spider-Man is straight up my favorite superhero, so it’s possible I’m biased on the praise I have provided today. Do with this knowledge what you will.

[1] Marvel Cinematic Universe, ie all the stuff under the Marvel Studios brand, ie Iron Man, The Avengers, Agents of SHIELD, etc.

Wonder Woman (2017)

I finally saw Wonder Woman on Father’s Day. Which I suppose is a little weird[1]? But we hadn’t seen it yet, and my dad was down (even though he had seen it, which is its own kind of cool), so, like that. I cannot decide if it fulfills its hype. I mean, obviously it’s very good. It’s better, probably, than its current series of DC movies deserves for it to be.  That’s not what I’m saying at all.

But like, is it uniquely good? It’s on track to have the biggest box office of the summer[2]. And it’s the first superhero movie with a female lead. Those are both big deals, although obviously the latter is the bigger. Anyway, there are these immortal Amazon women, sworn to defend mankind from the depredations of the god of war. And once they learn of a new war outside their realm, Diana goes forth to fulfill that destiny. Or, I think more accurately, she goes forth to decide whether mankind deserves her intended defense. Also, there’s a lot of cool comic book action in which a person who will one day probably be called Wonder Woman kicks some serious ass.

Is that a thing we’ve never seen before? A hero, on her journey to greatness? In a way, obviously we have. Some heroes journey from a state of selfishness, others from a state of innocence, and still others are just born that way, but they all start somewhere and face a first challenge, whether of the physical, spiritual, or moral variety. Or, let’s be honest, usually more than one of these. In another way, that’s probably me being a bit broad of scope, or just finding a way to not give any more spoilers than I already have done. But my real point is one I already made.

It literally is a thing we’ve never seen before. Although there have been female superheroes, none of them have scored a cinematic lead before, and that’s a big deal. It doesn’t make the movie uniquely good, but it makes the movie unique; the good news is, it was in fact also really good! Because what we need is a theatrical landscape in which it doesn’t strike me as weird, even for the few seconds it took me to decide to go with that instinct instead of immediately quelling it as was my initial reaction to myself, that both my father and I would want to celebrate his day by seeing a movie about a lady superhero. I mean, that’s dumb, right? It’s a comic book action movie, what about this is even the slightest bit strange?

(I still think I’d rather not have had the thought and had to figure out a different way to come at this, all things considered.)

[1] Bear with me, I’ll get back to it.
[2] Final outcome subject to change, but that’s the trend I’m seeing right now.

Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad was a clusterfuck.

I should clarify, lest I be misunderstood. It was a magnificent clusterfuck, exactly as it was meant to be. See, there’s this military lady, and she is trying to gather power and prestige to herself (like you do), to which end she has this idea to recruit a bunch of imprisoned supervillains to form a last line of defense team in case of unexpected threats to America and maybe the world. Especially in these uncertain times.

Which, fine, whatever, that’s just a convoluted premise. The clusterfuck comes along when the unexpected threat does, because it turns out that being a supervillain means not subsuming your needs to the needs of the many. Instead, every single person has an angle, and okay, yes, they don’t want the world to end any more than you or I or (let’s say) a Batman or a Superman would. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want something for themselves out of the deal.

The thing that makes this not a grimdark movie is that the whole thing is played for comedy (nearly for slapstick) instead of evil chess (like I imagine No Country for Old Men to have been). It was definitely better than the last two movies, which is the kind of trend line I like to see

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

If they had not made a Wonder Woman movie, I probably could have happily lived out my days not watching Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I mean, the name alone makes me cringe, and the turning point at the end of the second act is the kind of thing you come up with smoking weed with your friends in the basement, and then say whoa at each other a lot. (To be fair, maybe it would have played better if I hadn’t been spoiled for it? This is a thing I doubt.)

Anyway, that is an extremely poor degree of preconception, and it is my pleasure to say that, going in with that opinion, the movie was not too bad. Like, yes it was unrelentingly grim, and yes the stuff I already said above, and also Lois and Clark are goddamn terrible at “secret identity”. But there were things to like, as well.

1) I’ve heard people hating on Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex, but I had no real complaints. I haven’t seen a gleefully sociopathic version of the character that I recall, and it definitely worked. Plus, his plans were legit.
2) This is the first time I’ve ever geographically understood the relationship between Metropolis and Gotham. I would literally never have thought of it that way, yet it is 100% the best explanation I’ve ever seen. Maybe it was always like this and I just never knew?
3) Wonder Woman is a bad-ass by any measure. I am looking forward to that movie more than before.
4) The spoiler at the end of the movie, although in keeping with Snyder’s dark vision, actually earned the destination this series of movies has been aiming for, and if I believed for a second it would become the new status quo, I would grudgingly respect the film in retrospect.

But that is not how things will be by the end of the summer, and I can resume being benignly annoyed by the whole prospect.

The Fate of the Furious

A lot of things happened between the first movie in the series and and the eighth. Apparently what used to be a racer’s hijacking crew is now a racer’s international superspy organization? Or something like that. But six intervening movies is room for a lot of things to change, so, fair enough.

The Fate of the Furious pits Vin Diesel against everyone he’s ever known, because of reasons plus Charlize Theron. It is basically identical to the first movie at its core, with family and friendships pitted against outside forces (first time, the law; this last time, crazy world-threatening espionage), but the stakes and stunts have been escalated beyond all thought of realism. Which is cool! I mean, not if you’re looking for realism. Basically, you will either think this movie is incredibly dumb, or full of over the top hilarity.

The movies in between (which I still plan to watch) will be a lot harder to review now, I bet.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

Fun fact: I saw the last 5 minutes of this movie probably half a dozen times while I was working overnights for a cable company in the early 2000s. No idea how or why I never saw any earlier part of it. Later, it turned into a big movie series, and I still never saw any of them. But apparently my parents have, because today is Mother’s Day, and the eighth entry of said series is what she wants to see. So I decided to catch up, which means watch the first one and fail to see anything else due to time constraints.

The point of my opening anecdote is that it turns out the last 5 minutes of The Fast and the Furious do shockingly little to spoil anything that has gone before. Well enough so that I feel bad doing it my own self, though I suppose I’m the last person in North America to have seen it. Basically, Vin Diesel is the big cheese of the LA street racing scene, and Paul Walker (who as far as I know built his entire career around these flicks) is the ingenue trying to break into said scene. So Vin takes him under his wing eventually, and they race a lot of cars and have chases and things. Also, there’s a subplot about a truck hijacking ring that keeps trying to distract from the chasing and whatnot.

If you like cool stunts and fast cars, or if you’ve ever played Grand Theft Auto games, you should check it out. (Because this movie, and maybe the whole series based on previews I’ve seen, is a series of GTA side missions come to life. (To be clear, this is praise.))

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.