Tag Archives: HBOGo

Justice League

You may recall that Wonder Woman was a solid movie, and that it gave me the impetus to watch the other DC movies I had skipped in the meantime, which, I mean, they were not abominations upon the face of the earth, but neither did they exactly inspire any more confidence in the DC train than the previews upon the basis of which I had originally decided not to bother.

Still, now that I’ve watched the whole series, might as well watch Justice League, right? And it was fine. Better than anything besides Wonder Woman, and it had some pretty sweet musical cues at key heroic moments, but… well, it’s like this. You know how DC missed the whole point of what Marvel was doing when they decided that one movie was enough of a lead in to their team-up movie?[1] By the same token, they missed the point exponentially moreso when their existential threat to the planet from space was introduced as the plot of an entire movie without ever having mentioned him before.

Plus, I mean, Steppenwolf? That’s a band.

But I still like the Flash, and like I said, it was mostly pretty good. It would just be better if I didn’t have ten years of Marvel to compare against, and if I weren’t snickering every time they mentioned the guy who is here to destroy Earth without also pointing out that he was born to be wild.

[1] And okay, technically that’s not how it went, they made like four movies total before Justice League. But Man of Steel[2] was just another Superman remake when it came out, and I honestly think it’s more coincidence than design that allowed Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad[3] to fall between Dawn of Justice and this one. Which ultimately means I’m shaping the facts to suit my narrative, but I’m not lying when I say it felt this way.
[2] Somehow, I didn’t review Man of Steel. That was an oversight.
[3] Also, let’s be honest, even though Suicide Squad is in the same continuity, it does not build toward anything here. It’s like a spin-off.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Did you know that they are still making Harry Potter movies? It’s true! But I got distracted and never actually saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them until now. (Not Black Panther like you’d think. I tried, but all the theaters with assigned seating were sold out down to the front rows today, so I still don’t get to go until Monday. That’s like five days of avoiding spoilers, you guys. Then again, I managed to go more than a year with functionally no spoilers on this Harry Potter thing I’m nominally reviewing, and that includes steadfastly ignoring the newest third of the Harry Potter exhibit on the Warner Bros. studio tour.)

So, a thing worth mentioning is that this technically was not a Harry Potter movie, seeing as how it was set in 1927, some 50 odd years before the boy who lived was even born. There’s this guy Newt Scamander, who wrote a book called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and this is a story of him hanging out in America with a suitcase full of fantastic beasts, back when nobody really liked them (the beasts, not suitcases) and they were illegal to have instead of worthy of being studied and written about, and also there was a pre-Voldemort wizard bad guy that everyone is nervous about.

So if you care about cool magical creatures (you should) or how American wizardry differs from British wizardry in time as well as space (maybe you should?) or about characters who all share a sense of wonder about this whole magic thing even though they were born to it instead of being thrust into it as a cipher stand-in for the reader, and also they all care about each other and have genuine undeniable chemistry, both as actors and as characters (you definitely should, as this kind of thing honestly doesn’t happen that often), this is the movie for you. In a way, it’s better than its source material.

Not that I don’t like Harry Potter, but chosen ones who learn about the universe as the reader or watcher does with constantly ratcheting stakes are kind of a dime a dozen these days, whereas successful post facto world-building is a rare gem indeed.

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 Purge

MV5BMTU0OTE1Nzk2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjE5NDY0OQ@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_The number of things I have to review since this time on Thursday of last week is frankly astonishing. First up, The Purge, which I was reminded of when advertisements for the first of what I presume will be half a dozen sequels starting airing on, I don’t know, the radio? Somewhere, anyway. Then, for a wonder, the first movie of whatever series you happen to be thinking of[1] was actually available for free on my Roku search during the timeframe in which its sequel was dominating the media. Thanks, HBOGo!

Anyway, it’s the near future. Like, ten years from now. And the “new founding fathers” have instituted an annual 12 hour purge, in which all crime, up to murder[2], is legal, with the exceptions that you cannot use “class 4 and above weaponry” and that there are some small number of government officials who are immune. Of course, the hammer falls hardest on those without the monetary wherewithal to hide themselves behind gates and walls, but this is all good because between the shrinking indigent population and the annual catharsis, crime is way down and people feel safe all the rest of the year. Pretty much everyone digs it! Except for people who have been negatively affected, of course, and they hardly count.

Into this morality play is dropped Ethan Hawke, his inexplicably raven-tressed Lannister wife, his needlessly over-sexualized schoolgirl daughter[3], and his moral son, who drops the lot of them in a kettle of boiling fish, or some such metaphor, when he lets a nameless, terrified, and conspicuously black young man into the house after hearing the latter pleading for someone, anyone, to help him. The stage set, about 15 simultaneous games of cat-and-mouse begin. Can the injured young man be trusted? Is it suspicious that the schoolgirl’s boyfriend has picked tonight of all nights to have a man-to-man discussion with Ethan Hawke about his relationship with Hawke’s daughter? What about the people who injured that other guy in the first place? How far with Hawke go to defend his family? Will it be too far? Will it be far enough? Isn’t Lena Headey usually tougher than this? Will the neighbors band together against the external threat? If so, which one(s)? Pretty much the whole movie is Choose Your Own Adventure: Bloody Morality with Racist Overtones edition.

It seems heavy-handed on paper, but I honestly thought it was pretty effective. 1) Because like it or not, there’s no way to tell what anyone’s motives truly are, especially on a night when there are no legal consequences. 2) Because, even if you do want to take a moral stand, or at least a stand geared toward trust rather than betrayal, there’s no guarantee that circumstances will allow you that luxury. Nobody should be put in the position of valuing one life over another, but “should” is also a luxury that we aren’t always allowed.

[1] In this case, it should probably be The Purge, though.
[2] Except rape, right? Right? RIGHT? Because what possible good would that serve, even if you can come to a truce in your mind that the rest of the plan has some kind of upside? The movie did not really address this question at all, which was probably better news for my peace of mind than if it had.
[3] If she had not stayed in the schoolgirl uniform the whole movie, it would not have been even a third as blatant, I don’t think.