Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Directed by Jon Watts

Starring Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, and Marisa Tomei

Backstory
Spider-Man: Far From Home poster

As I remarked before, I will never not get excited for a Spider-Man film. I remember the Dark Times of the 1990s, when the movie rights were stuck in a legal quagmire, and it looked like a Spider-Man film would never be made. Now, here we are, bitching about the third reboot of the franchise! But no bitching here, my friend, as this latest iteration, placing Spider-Man alongside his friends in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has been a delight. But will the latest installment be just as delightful?

Plot

It’s been one whole school year since people were brought back from the Snap, and there’s been some difficulty adjusting. Especially for Peter Parker, who’s still mourning the loss of his mentor Tony Stark. But, he’s looking forward to going on his class trip to Europe, living life as a normal teenager for a few weeks, and opening up to MJ about how he feels. Fate has other plans, however, as Nick Fury drafts Spider-Man for a mission. Seems the Snap tore some holes in the fabric of reality, allowing some creatures called Elementals to escape to our universe. Fortunately, they’re being pursued by a hero: Quentin Beck, whom the press quickly dubs Mysterio. Fury tasks Spider-Man and Mysterio to stop the Elementals. Things go swimmingly at first, but soon, evidence starts mounting up. Is Mysterio all he claims to be? Can Spider-Man save the day and tell MJ how he feels?

What I Liked

Once again, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker captures that teenage awkwardness brilliantly. He’s unsure of himself in all things, but he’s able to pull it together when the chips are down. Probably the best Spider-Man. I love what they’ve done with Mysterio and how they re-imagined him. I also love how they re-imagined <spoiler redacted>, and their cameo was a delightful surprise. Great action sequences. One sequence with Mysterio almost made me regret not seeing it in 3D. Everything about it was just great.

What I Didn’t Like

Really nothing mindblowingly new in the world of Spider-Man. If you’re familiar with the comics and the characters, you see the big plot twists coming, but again, it’s done so entertainingly, you really don’t mind it.

Final Verdict

Spdier-Man’s latest big screen outing was a whole lot of fun. Definitely a tasty desert after the heavy banquet that was Endgame.

3 Nibs

Toy Story 4

Directed by Josh Cooley

Toy Story 4 Poster

Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Pots, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, and Ally Maki

Backstory

This past decade has become one where Pixar became infamous for cranking out sequels. It gave us Cars 2 & 3, Finding Dory, Monsters University, Incredibles 2…and it began with Toy Story 3 and now ends with Toy Story 4. Did we really need another Toy Story? The third one seemed to be such a perfect end to the franchise. Well, let’s find out.

Plot

It’s been two years since Andy went to college and gave all his toys to neighbourhood girl Bonnie. While everyone has settled in, Woody still hasn’t found his role in this new playgroup. Woody sneaks along with Bonnie to her first day of kindergarten, where Bonnie makes a new toy out of a spork, that she dubs Forky. To Woody’s surprise, Forky comes to life, and Woody introduces him to the rest of Bonnie’s toys. This doesn’t sit well with Forky, though, as he’s convinced it’s his destiny to be trash and keeps trying to throw himself away. As Bonnie and her family embark on a summer’s end road trip, Woody and Forky soon find themselves separated from Bonnie in an old antique shop, where they run into Woody’s lost love Bo Peep. Woody and Forky are soon making new friends and reuniting with old ones as they try to escape the antique shop and get back to Bonnie. Will they be successful? Will Woody find new purpose?

What I Liked

There’s such a wealth of rich, new characters introduced. From Forky, to our villainous doll Gabby Gaby, and then there’s Duke Caboon, Canada’s greatest stuntman, voiced by Keanu Reeves giving it so much energy. It’s been 24 years since the first Toy Story, and this film just kind of drips with nostalgia for that first film. And you know me, I don’t mind nostalgia. The voice acting is great. This is probably the funniest Toy Story movie with tons of gags. But, they still manage to inject a lot of heart into it, with an ending that brought me to tears.

What I Didn’t Like

With these films, I often wonder what the point is of getting a celebrity to voice every role when they only get one or two lines. I’m going through the credits as I write this, and marveling at all the talent that was wasted on just two lines.

Final Verdict

A very worthy addition to the franchise, and another very satisfying end for Woody, Buzz, and the gang. If Pixar finally decides to end it, I’ll be very happy.

4 Nibs

Dark Phoenix

Directed by Simon Kinberg

Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Ty Sheridan, and Jessica Chastain

Backstory

X-Men truly is the granddaddy of superhero film franchises. The film historians will tell you that the entire dominance of superhero films began with the first X-Men back in 2000. And 19 years later, we have the end. With Disney’s recent buyout of Fox, the movie rights to X-Men are heading back to Marvel and they’ll soon be re-joining the Avengers. Dark Phoenix truly is the end of a chapter, and what better way to end than with one of X-Men‘s biggest and most famous story lines? Can they pull it off?

Plot

It’s ten years since X-Men: Apocalypse, which now places this in the 1990s. The X-Men have become beloved superheroes worldwide. It appears that Charles Xavier’s goal of using the X-Men to demonstrate that mutants are not to be feared has come true…but some worry that the fame is starting to go to Charles’s head. The X-Men are called in to rescue a doomed space shuttle, and they succeed, but in doing so, Jean Grey is pushed to her limits. She starts exhibiting strange cosmic powers that she can barely control, and before you know it, she’s inadvertently hurting those she loves. No longer trusting herself or Charles Xavier, she goes on the run. But who will get to her first? The X-Men, those who seek to destroy her, or aliens who covet this cosmic power for themselves? And what dark secret is Xavier hiding from Jean? Will it destroy the X-Men?

What I Liked

Well, the opening space rescue sequence certainly is a great scene. McAvoy and Fassbender continue doing top-notch work as Xavier and Magneto.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, with our newer, younger X-Men just being crammed in in the last film, we barely get a chance to know them, so it’s tough to feel for Jean Grey and what she’s going through. The plot seems fairly routine. The entire thing just feels surprisingly…small. It’s a lot like the first X-Men film. If you’ve gone back and watched the first X-Men, and compared it to what we’ve gotten in superhero films, you’ll be amazed at how small it is. Same with Dark Phoenix. Given weighty themes and cosmic entities and invading aliens, it could have been — should have been — much bigger.

Final Verdict

Mild disappointment in the whole affair. For a grand finale to the whole franchise, Dark Phoenix sadly came off rather bland.

2 Nibs

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Directed by Michael Dougherty

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Poster

Starring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Ken Watanabe, and Zhang Ziyi.

Backstory:

It’s been five years since Godzilla and a lot’s changed since then. The producers of the latest American remake also got the rights to King Kong, and with that, decided to get a cinematic universe going. We got 2017’s Kong: Skull Island to re-introduce us to Kong, and now we get our Godzilla sequel, all building up to next year’s Kong vs. Godzilla. But that’s not all! Thanks to the success of the 2014 film, those American producers were able to procure the rights to Godzilla’s best-known foes: particularly Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla’s arch-enemy, the three-headed hydra known as Ghidora. How will all this monster action play out?

Plot

It’s been five years since Godzilla’s first attack, and the world is still wondering how to handle these Titans. Monarch, the shadowy agency that monitors them, isn’t so shadowy any more and wants to study them. And then there’s the military, who wants to hunt them down. Caught in the middle is the Russel family, a pair of Monarch scientists who lost their son in the Godzilla attack. The father, Mark, walked away and started studying wolves. The mother, Emma, stayed with Monarch and has invented a device called the Orca, which will allow communication with these Titans. But, Emma and daughter Madison are kidnapped by eco-terrorists who seek to use the Orca to revive all the Titans. The first one they resurrect: Ghidora, Godzilla’s main rival for apex predator back in prehistoric times. As all the other Titans begin rallying around Ghidora, the humans come to a shocking truth: the only way to survive is to help Godzilla. In the battle between Godzilla and Ghidora, who will be crowned king of the monsters?

What I Liked

Yes! Some truly epic giant monster fights! For those who complained that 2014’s Godzilla didn’t have enough giant monster fighting, you will get more than you share here. The music is wonderful as well, incorporating many of the classic themes from the original Japanese film franchise. In fact, there are lots of great callbacks and references to the original franchise, even embracing some of the crazier aspects. This film loves its monsters

What I Didn’t Like

My common complaint with these kinds of films…giant monster movies seem to struggle at coming up with something interesting for the humans to do, as our human plots kinda drag a little bit. And I understand that it makes the computer animation cheaper and easier, but I do get tired of these giant monster battles taking place at night, in the rain.

Final Verdict

A popcorn film in the best sense of the word…just a very fun film.

3 Nibs

Avengers: Endgame

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

Avengers: Endgame poster

Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, and Josh Brolin

Backstory

Well, here we are. 11 years and 22 films comprising the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it all comes to a close. Last year’s Avengers: Infinity War became a pop culture phenomenon, with one hell of a cliffhanger ending not seen since Han Solo was frozen in carbonite. So the question, as always, is how will our heroes recover from this?

Plot

After Thanos used the power of the Infinity Stones to snap half of all life out of existence, the remaining Avengers regroup at Avengers Headquarters. The newly-arrived Captain Marvel suggests they just take on Thanos head-on, take the Infinity Stones from him, and use them to undo the damage. But, they’re too late, as Thanos has already used the power of the stones to destroy themselves. Five years later, most of the Avengers have gone their separate ways, and are wallowing in various degrees of self-pity. But then, the newly -returned Ant-Man shows up, and the key to his re-appearance may hold the key to undoing what Thanos has done. This begins a new journey for the Avengers as they travel across time and space to re-gather the Infinity Stones. Will they succeed? Or will history repeat itself?

What I Liked

Everything. “Avengers Assemble.” Been waiting the whole franchise to hear that line, and when it’s finally spoken it is a payoff that brought me to tears. The focus comes back to our original six Avengers, and they all have really nice character arcs that bring their stories to an end. And I hope you did some kind of marathon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going into this, because there are a ton of callbacks to the other films.

What I Didn’t Like

Seriously, I can’t think of anything

Final Verdict

Eleven years of filmmaking ends in one of the most satisfying conclusions ever. Truly a fantastic film.

4 Nibs

Shazam!

Directed by David F. Sandberg

Starring Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Granger, and Djimon Hounsou

Backstory

Well, it’s nice to see that Warner Brothers is starting to delve into the DC back catalogue a little more and give Superman and Batman a rest. With the recent massive hits that were Wonder Woman
and Aquaman, Warner Brothers now turns to the Big Red Cheese, their Captain Marvel, Shazam. I’ve always had a soft spot for this Superman clone, and approached his film with mild excitement. Will the movie lead up to the legacy?

Plot

Billy Batson is a 14-year old orphan, ever since his mother mysteriously vanished at a carnival. Constantly running away from his foster families as he searches for his mother, he now finds himself in a group home, and with his new roomie, Freddie Freeman. After helping Freddie fight off some bullies one day, Billy is whisked away by an enchanted subway car to the wizard Shazam. All Billy has to do is speak Shazam’s name to become a superhero…in a grown-up body. With these new powers, and Freddie’s help, Billy becomes a viral sensation. But, there’s trouble a brewing. Dr. Thaddeus Sivana was rejected by the wizard Shazam when he was a boy, and his spent his life trying to get powers of his own. Now allied with Shazam’s greatest enemies — demonic personifications of the seven deadly sins — Dr. Sivana is out to claim Shazam’s powers for his own. Will Billy finally rise to the occasion and defeat Dr. Sivana?

What I Liked

Zachary Levi is delightful as Shazam, the boy trapped in a superhero’s body. He brings such a boundless enthusiasm to the role. In fact, it’s quite a colourful array of characters, given Billy’s foster family. Freddie Freeman, in particular, is quite the scene-stealer. Mark Strong, as always, makes a great villain.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, as I’ve been saying for a while now, I’ve seen one too many of these superhero films, and I can see the big plot twists coming from a mile away. And speaking of colourful characters, would have been nice if we got to know the rest of Billy’s foster family.

Final Verdict

Shazam! is good, but not great. Another satisfying, if run-of-the-mill superhero film.

3 Nibs

Captain Marvel

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, and Jude Law

Captain Marvel Poster
Backstory

This is another film that it feels like I’ve been reading about online for years. Reading up on it, Brie Larson officially signed on three years ago! And here we finally are, as Captain Marvel, easily the most prominent female hero in Marvel Comics these days, gets her own movie. And, with Captain Marvel due to be a major player in Avengers: Endgame, it’s best that we, the audience, get to know her. So how’s Captain Marvel’s big coming-out party?

Plot

On the distant planet Hala, home of the Kree Empire, a Kree warrior named Vers is troubled. She’s still learning to harness her massive power under the tutelage of Yon-Rogg. Their squad of Kree commandos are sent to take down a cel of evil shapeshifting aliens known as Skrulls, but Vers is capture. She eventually escapes, and winds up on the planet designated C-35 by the Kree, but the natives call it Earth. Something about Earth begins triggering memories in Vers, and she begins to learn that she was once a woman named Carol Danvers. But, Skrulls led by Talos have made it to Earth as well. With her new partner, SHIELD agent Nick Fury, can Carol Danvers uncover the secrets of her past and save Earth from a Skrull invasion?

What I Liked

Brie Larson is great as Carol Danvers. She gets to show a lot more humour than we’ve been seeing in the trailers, and that was a great surprise. Samuel L. Jackson is also great as Nick Fury. This Fury is a bit of a rookie, and not yet the embittered badass who brought the Avengers together. There’s some great changes to the Captain Marvel mythology that were really cool. And the film, set in 1995, indulges in nostalgia without getting overbearing. Except for….

What I Didn’t Like

The soundtrack is full of mid-90s grunge classics that do get distracting at times. There’s one particular song choice in one particular scene that just made me roll my eyes. And maybe I’ve seen too many of these superhero films, but one of the big plot twists I saw coming from miles away.

Final Verdict

Captain Marvel is another very satisfying entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a great appetizer for Avengers: Endgame. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

3 Nibs

The Lego Movie 2: the Second Part

Directed by Mike Mitchell

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, and Maya Rudolph

Backstory

The Lego Movie surprised a lot of people when it came out five years ago. What could have been a cynical toy commerical of a movie had a large amount of heart and some unexpected twists. It wound up being a huge hit, and a lot of people were upset that it didn’t score an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film. But, with all that critical acclaim and box office gold, you knew a sequel would be inevitable. First, though, we had to get through two pretty good spinoff films. Now, the sequel is finally here. Was it worth the wait?

Plot

It’s been some years since our last adventure. The Lego metropolis of Bricksburg has become the wasteland of Apocalypseburg, thanks to constant attacks by beings from the Systar System. But, our hero Emmet is still as chipper as ever, trying to make the best of this new life. But then, General Mayhem of the Systar System kidnaps Batman, Unikitty, Benny the Spaceman, Metalbeard, and Emmet’s love Lucy. Emmet panics, as this all resembles his visions of the forthcoming Armomageddon. Emmet decides he must venture to the Systar System to save his friends. Along the way, he gets an ally in the grim and gritty adventurer Rex Dangervest. Meanwhile, Lucy and the rest have become prisoners of the Systar System’s ruler, Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi, as she tries to tempt them over to her kingdom. Can Emmet save his friends? Is Queen Wa’Nabi really the villain? And can they stave off Armomageddon?

What I Liked

Well, the meta humour that made the first film so memorable is back in full force, and it’s good to see it again. The voice acting is still top-notch, and we’ve got some great new characters. We’ve got a great catchy soundtrack again, building on Everything is Awesome, from the first film. This time, though, the sweetness is dialed up by about ten percent, as they try to re-create the emotion that made the first film such an expected treat.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, just the usual problems that tend to plague sequels. The freshness was gone, and a lot of the twists that were unexpected in the first film are now part of the formula this time out.

Final Verdict

A very worthy sequel that expands and builds upon the Lego Cinematic Universe. A very fun film.

3 Nibs

Alita: Battle Angel

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Alita: Battle Angel poster

Starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earl Haley, and Keenan Johnson

Backstory

It seems that Alita: Battle Angel is one of those films I’d been reading about online for years. About 15 years ago, James Cameron, he who gave us The Terminator and Titanic, announced he was developing two films that would rely heavily on the new field of performance capture animation. One was an adaptation of the manga Gunnm (English title Battle Angel), and the other an original project he was working on, Avatar. Avatar got made first, and it was assumed that Battle Angel would be next. However, Cameron got wrapped up in developing four or five sequels to Avatar, so he gave Battle Angel to Robert Rodriguez, he who gave us Spy Kids and Sin City, to carry across the finish line. And now it’s finally here! Was it work the 1.5 decades of waiting?

Plot

In the 26th Century, 300 years after a world war known as the Fall, in a city known as Iron City, which sits beneath the last floating city of Zalem, we meet Dr. Dyson Ito, a doctor and cybernetics expert. While scavenging a scrapyard for parts, he finds the discarded remains of a cyborg. He gives her a new body, and a new name — Alita. Alita has no memories of her past life, but she instinctively knows an ancient martial art known as Panzer Kunst. Intense combat situations seem to trigger memories of her past life, so she soon signs up to be a Hunter-Warrior (this world’s name for bounty hunters), and her new friend Hugo introduces her to the sport of Motorball. And there’s no shortage of intense combat situations, as many people start coming out of the woodwork to kill Alita. Will she regain her memories? Why do people want her dead? Will Hugo achieve his dream of making it to Zalem?

What I Liked

The film is visually stunning. Again, with Cameron on board, you knew it was going to look fantastic, and again, probably the most seamless blend of live-action and performance capture characters in a long time. And Rosa Salazar is absolutely charming as our heroine Alita, as she starts learning who she is and living life for the first time. And it was good seeing Christoph Waltz playing against type, as a kindly father figure rather than the scary German villain he usually plays.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, I had the same problems that I had with John Carter many moons ago. You really get the feeling that, with some plot threads, Cameron and Rodriguez were behind the camera going, “Aw, man! I can’t wait to get into that in the sequel!” And when such threads start piling up, you start feeling a little…unfulfilled.

Final Verdict

But don’t let my above objection turn you off. It does have a pretty satisfying conclusion and remembers to focus on the story at hand. “Leave them wanting more,” is the old showbiz adage, and I truly felt that way with Alita.

3 Nibs

Aquaman

Directed by James Wan

Aquaman Poster

Starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, and Nicole Kidman

Backstory

Who would have thought that we’d live in a world where we get a multi-billion dollar Aquaman movie? Long mocked for his best known superpower — the ability to communicate telepathically with sea life (i.e. talk to fish) — they’ve been working over the years to identify him as a brawler, and lean into the fantasy elements of undersea kingdoms. He’s been re-defined as a warrior king. And after being introduced to the public at large with a great role in Justice League, it was time for Aquaman to be introduced to the public at large. Would they buy it?

Plot

There’s trouble a’ brewin’ under the sea. Orm, the current King of Atlantis, is tired of the oceans being abused by the surface world. He seeks to unite the seven undersea kingdoms and declare war on the surface world. All he needs is the allegiance of four kingdoms to be declared Ocean Master. But, Orm’s vizier Vulko and betrothed, the princess Mera, have a problem with this. Their plan is to get Orm’s half brother, the half-Atlantean/half-surface dweller Arthur Curry, to challenge the throne. Arthur, though, wants none of it, having turned his back on his Atlantian heritage a long time ago. But Arthur soon sees the threat that Orm holds to the entire world, and is forced to go along with it. He’ll need help, though, and soon Arthur and Mera are on a quest to find the fabled Trident of Atlan, the first ruler of Atlantis. Will Arthur and Mera find the trident? Will Arthur be able to claim the throne and stop a war?

What I Liked

Man, this film is lavish. Talk about your world-building, as we’re treated to some truly fantastic designs for undersea kingdoms. And then we have armies of armored sharks and seahorses…it’s just bonkers. And one thing I left out of my plot description is that the Aquaman villain Black Manta gets a pretty meaty subplot that lays out his origin story. And, again, Momoa is great as Aquaman, building what we saw on Justice League and is once again as charming as ever.  Amber Heard is also great as Mera. It’s just great.

What I Didn’t Like

Probably just a little too long, as I found myself glancing at my watch.

Final Verdict

Holy moly. Who would have thought that Aquaman would give us our next great fantasy epic? A fun time at the movies, to be sure.

3.5 Nibs