Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Movie Review – Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Directed by Jon Watts

Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Marisa Tomei, and Robert Downey Jr.

Backstory

I was getting unnaturally excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming as the release date neared, and then I figured out why.  I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend 10 years ago, when Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer came out the same summer.  My friend pointed out that, in the comics, it was Reed Richards who analyzed Spider-Man’s black suit and deduced it was an alien symbiote.  With both films coming out that summer, why couldn’t they have done a crossover?  Well, look to the trailers for Spider-Man: Homecoming, where Spidey is swinging next to Iron Man.  It’s here.  It’s happening.  The crossovers are happening.

Plot

Many years ago, after the Battle of New York, Adrian Toomes won a lucrative contract to clean up the damage to the city, but was promptly driven out of business by Tony Stark and the new federal department he co-founded, Damage Control, as they took charge of the clean-up.  Rather than surrender, Toomes takes some of the alien tech he’s already salvaged, starts selling it on the black market, and builds his own super-suit, styled after a Vulture.  Present day, after his adventure with the Avengers in Germany, Peter Parker has been returned to Queens, and continues his crimefighting, in the hopes of impressing Tony Stark and joining the Avengers.  But he still struggles in high school, hoping to win the heart of the attractive Liz.  Before long, though, Spider-Man and the Vulture and set to cross paths.  Who will come out on top?  Will Spidey need Iron Man to bail him out?

What I Liked

I really like how the kind of turned the Vulture into an evil Iron Man, with his outfit being more of a suit of armor than just a set of wings.  And of course, Michael Keaton pulls it off wonderfully.  Tom Holland is pitch perfect as Spider-Man.  We haven’t had a Spider-Man movie yet that fully capture those awkward teen years for Peter Parker, and Holland nails it perfectly.  Zendaya is pretty cool as Michelle, a sullen teen who seems to exist to just annoy Peter Parker.  And, of course, no one’s gotten tired yet of seeing Robert Downey Jr pop up as Iron Man.  And I can’t get enough of that Michael Giacchino score.

What I Didn’t Like

Not much really.  It would have been nice to see some of Spidey swinging throughout the chasms of Manhattan, but hey, we got enough of that in the past five films.

Final Verdict

It is just so nice to finally see Spidey in the Marvel Universe.  A worthy addition to both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Spider-Man franchise.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Cars 3

Cars 3Cars 3 Poster

Directed by Brian Fee

Starring the voices of Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Armie Hammer, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Nathan Fillion, Kerry Washington, and Lea DeLaria.

Backstory

I love Pixar, but Cars is their one franchise that always felt kind of phoned in.  The first one was good, but not great.  The second one was the first Pixar film where I saw the TV spots and thought, “Pass.”  I did buy it on Blu-Ray and watch it because I can’t have a gap in my Pixar library, and…yeah.  It’s not good.  But when I started seeing the first trailer for Cars 3 which featured our hero Lightening McQueen being totaled in a race I thought, “OK.  You have my interest again.”  And here we are.

Plot

Lightening McQueen has been king of the racing circuit for a decade now.  But the next generation of racers is nipping at his heels, and Lightening sees his old compatriots retiring one by one.  In the final race of the season, Lightening tries a risky move to overtake a cocky upstart named Jackson Storm, and it leads to the wreck we saw in the trailer.  After an off-season of sulking, Lightening decides that he’ll retire when he wants to, and his sponsor sets him up in a state-of-the-art training facility with one of the toughest trainers in the game, Cruz Ramirez.  But, Lightening soon grows frustrated with his slow progress  under Cruz’s new, high-tech training methods, and goes for a more old-school training regime.  So, Lightening and Cruz hit the road to continue Lightening’s training, with the first race of the season at the end of the road.  Will Lightening get his mojo back and reclaim the top spot from Jackson Storm?  Will Cruz ever achieve her dreams of becoming a racer?

What I Liked

Dude, I swear, this is Pixar’s most photo-realistic film to date.  The animation is drop-dead gorgeous.  It looks like they used real photographs in some places.  The voice acting is also good, with Cristela Alonzo being pitch-perfect as Cruz, and Nathan Fillion using his charm for evil purposes as Sterling, Lightening’s new sponsor.  And if you hate Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater the Tow Truck, you’ll be pleased to know he’s once again reduced to his comedic sidekick role.  In fact, his role is reduced so much, it’s pretty much a glorified cameo.  And you know what?  Turns out Mater’s OK in very small doses.

What I Didn’t Like

Yeah…the plot is formulaic and cliched as hell.  While I did see one of the twists coming from miles away, it was still a pretty good twist.

Final Verdict

Cars 3 finally has some of that trademark Pixar heart that the other films were lacking.  Not much, but they put in the effort.  Like the first film, I put it down as good, but not great.

3 Nibs

 

Movie Review – Wonder Woman

Wonder WomanWonder Woman Poster

Directed by Patty Jenkins

Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, and Lucy Davis.

Backstory

Finally!  Wonder Woman is here!  We’ve had Batman franchises, we’ve had Superman franchises, it was finally time to complete the holy trinity of DC Comics on the big screen!  When Wonder Woman made her first appearance in Batman v Superman, it was truly one of the film’s highlights.  And besides, with all the superhero films starring men, it was high time we had one led by a woman.  (Catwoman and Elektra don’t count because they suck.)  So.  Does Wonder Woman survive her first solo big screen outing?

Plot

Diana.  Princess of the Amazons and daughter of Queen Hippolyta.  She has lived her life in seclusion on the Amazon’s hidden island of Themyscira, and has been told stories of how the last remaining god, Ares, has corrupted the hearts of Men.  And then, one day, a man — Steve Trevor — crash-lands on the island, with an battalion of German soldiers in hot pursuit.  Trevor tells the Amazons that the War to End All Wars (World War I, to you and me) is currently raging, and that the information he has can turn the tide.  Diana feels compelled to join Trevor.  Surely, this war means Ares is up to his old tricks, and if she can kill Ares, she can end the war.  So Diana accompanies Trevor back to Man’s World, and into the trenches of World War I.  Can Diana help Trevor turn the tide?  Is ending the war really as simple as slaying Ares?

What I Liked

So much good in this film.  Gal Gadot is amazing as Wonder Woman.  She is able to switch from being naive over the workings of Man’s World to ass-kicking warrior woman so effortlessly that you can’t help but fall in love with her.  Chris Pine is equally charming as Steve Trevor, and they assemble a ragtag bunch of specialists that each has their own unique charms.  I was leery as to how the World War I setting would work, but it winds up being an amazing place to set Wonder Woman’s origin story.  Themyscira lives up to its original name of Paradise Island, as it looks beautiful.  The fight scenes are amazing.  There’s just so much good in this film.  And for once, a DC film that isn’t overwhelmed by being dark and gritty.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, I’ve seen enough superhero films now and read enough comic books that the big plot twists didn’t really seem that big to me.  It’s almost like there’s a formula to these things….

Final Verdict

I may have gotten a little misty-eyed at finally seeing Wonder Woman take her place among DC’s big three.  Loved it loved it loved it.

4 Nibs

Movie Review – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Directed by James Gunn

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russel, and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.

Backstory

Guardians of the Galaxy was predicted to be the first flop of the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to its obscurity, but wound up knocking everyone’s socks off.  But then, people started asking, “Could they do it again with the sequel?”  The first trailers seemed to imply “Yes,” with the requisite unusual pop songs and adorable baby Groot.  So, of course, I was there opening weekend.

Plot

We catch up with the Guardians of Galaxy doing a guard gig for an alien race known as the Sovereign, so they can collect a bounty of Gamora’s sister Nebula.  But things go sideways and they soon find themselves being hunted by the Sovereign.  While hiding out on a deserted planet, the Guardians are soon approached by the cosmic being Ego, claiming to be Peter’s long lost father.  Peter, Gamora, and Drax head off with Ego to investigate, while Rocket, Baby Groot, and the captured Nebula stay behind.  But soon, Rocket, Groot, and Nebula are captured by Peter’s old crew the Ravagers, led by Yondu, who’ve been contracted by the Sovereign to bring in the Guardians.  Soon, things come to a head as Drax falls for Ego’s consort Mantis, Yondu and Rocket form an uneasy alliance, Gamora and Nebula head towards a sisterly reconciliation, and Peter learns of his true parentage…and Ego’s true plot.  Can the Guardians of the Galaxy save the galaxy a second time?

What I Liked

Like the first movie, the music choices seem unorthodox at first, but man, it works.  The performances, again, are a standout.  Dave Bautista once again steals the show as the brutally honest Drax, and he gets a good foil in Mantis, who has been raised in isolation on Ego’s planet and therefore has no social skills.  I really liked the focus this time is more on the characters and their relationships, and really adds some depth to everyone.  Especially Nebula, who I felt was a little short-changed in the first film.  Great special effects, great sci-fi universe, great everything.

What I Didn’t Like

Not much, really.  Although, I think we may be at the point where the Easter eggs are getting a little too deep-cut.  And there was a sprinkle of sequel-itis, where it just didn’t feel as fresh as the first film.

Final Verdict

Whole lot of fun at the movies, man.  Another winner for Marvel.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the BeastBeauty and the Beast Poster

Directed by Bill Condon

Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson.

Backstory

Well, Disney’s live-action remake train continue.  The latest stop:  Beauty and the Beast.  Not only is this part of Disney’s string of live-action remakes, this is also coming at the dawn of 1990s nostalgia.  Take my sister, for example, who still considers the original animated version to be one of her favourite films.  She couldn’t wait for this live action version…and to take her kids to it.  I mean, it’s record-setting trailer (most viewed trailer on YouTube) was enough proof of that.  And being that I’m a big Disney fan, too, I was just as intrigued by it.

Plot

Really?  I need to tell you the plot?  OK.  Once upon a time, there was this vain and spoiled prince.  For being cruel to a beggar woman, he was cursed and turned into a hideous beast, and his royal court were turned into household objects.  Along with the curse came an enchanted rose.  If the Beast could not learn to love, and in turn, be loved by the time the last petal fell, he would be cursed forever.  Meanwhile, in the nearby village, is a young woman named Belle.  Ostracized by the community for her love of reading and wanting more than a provincial life, Belle is kept busy rebuffing the advances of the town braggart Gaston.  When Belle’s father stumbles upon the Beast’s castle and is imprisoned, Belle makes a deal with the Beast:  her father’s life for her’s.  Now, as the Beast’s prisoner, Belle befriends the various castle items and they all wonder if Belle will be the one to break the spell.  For who could ever learn to love a Beast?

What I Liked

I like some of the expansion and backstories we get for the characters.  For example, we finally learn what happened to Belle’s mother, and we get to see a little bit of extra villainy from Gaston.  We also find out the the household staff did to get cursed as well.  Emma Watson’s Belle is a bit stronger then the animated one.  And, after all these years, that Alan Menken score still gives me goosebumps.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, with some of the new touches, they go a little too far.  Like, we get that Belle’s a little odd because she prefers a good book to the company of others.  But does she really need to be publicly shamed for having the audacity to teach kids to read?  And when the Beast starts warming up to Belle, he gets a little too quippy.  And some scenes are word-for-word, shot-for-shot, exactly the same as the animated version, making you wonder, “Then what was the point of making a new one?”

Final Verdict

Pure nostalgic joy, but really doesn’t offer much new to this tale as old as time.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull IslandKong: Skull Island poster

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jason Mitchell, and John C. Reilly.

Backstory

When they first announced Kong: Skull Island, my interest was only mild.  I mean, with Peter Jackson’s version just 10 years old, did we really need another King Kong reboot so soon?  But then came word that the production company, Legendary Pictures, got permission to mash it up with another of their films, the 2014 reboot of Godzilla, and give us a giant monster cinematic universe, officially dubbed “the MonsterVerse.”  My interest was escalated.  And with enough Scene points to see a movie for free, why not check out Kong: Skull Island?

Plot

The year is 1973.  The Americans are beginning to pull out of Vietnam.  Thanks to new and experimental satellite photographs, they mythical “Skull Island” has been discovered, and an expedition put together to explore it.  On our expedition is James Conrad, an ace tracker, Mason Weaver, a photojournalist who suspects it might be a military operation, Colonel Preston Packard, commander of their military escort, and government official Bill Randa, who has his own motives.  When they arrive on the island and being their aerial survey, their helicopters are smashed out of the sky by Kong, a giant ape.  Now, trapped on this island populated by monsters of all kinds, our heroes must fight to survive.  Some believe Kong to be a threat, and that me must be destroyed.  But others, like castaway Hank Marlow who’s been trapped on the island since World War II, says Kong protects them from the real threat.  Soon, lines are drawn.  Is Kong friend or foe?  And what are these other threats?  Will our heroes ever make it home?

What I Liked

My problem with giant monster movies is they always seem to have trouble coming up with interesting things for the humans to do.  But here, we’ve got some pretty good characters.  The standouts to me were Samuel L. Jackson as Packard, who grows more and more obsessed with bringing down Kong to avenge his dead troops, and John C. Reilly as Marlow, our castaway who has gone just a little bit loopy from his time on the island.  Throw in some great special effects and some wonderful giant monster fights, and it all adds up to a pretty good time.

What I Didn’t Like

Meh.  It follows the same general “lost world” formula that’s been followed ever since the original King Kong in 1933.  So you kind of know where things are going.

Final Verdict

A thoroughly entertaining giant monster outing.  Bring on the MonsterVerse!

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Power Rangers

Power RangersPower Rangers Poster

Directed by Dean Israelite

Starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, and Bill Hader.

Backstory

Yay, childhood nostalgia!  Well, actually, Power Rangers came along in my awkward teen years so…yay, awkward teen years nostalgia!  With superheroes dominating the box office and 1990s nostalgia starting to gear up, I’m not surprised it didn’t take long for the gritty reboot of Power Rangers to hit the big screen.  And the trailers delighted me.  As I’ve been joking on social media, I haven’t seen Power Rangers taken this seriously since the fanfic I wrote in high school.  I was genuinely surprised at how excited I was getting for it as opening day came around.  So, there I was on opening day.  How does the gritty Power Rangers go?

Plot

Jason is the star player on the Angel Grove High School football team.  Until a senior prank goes horribly wrong, he’s in a traffic accident, placed under house arrest, and forced to go to Saturday detention.  There, he meets Billy, an autistic kid who accidentally built a bomb in his lunchbox, and Kimberly, a former star cheerleader who knocked the teeth out of the quarterback.  Sneaking out one night, they run into a couple of kids from the wrong side of the tracks:  Zack and Trini.  During their adventure, they discover some mysterious, glowing coins the imbue them with enhanced strength and stamina.  The coins soon lead them to a buried spaceship and Zordon.  Zordon explains that the coins have chosen them to become the next in a long line of Power Rangers — intergalactic warriors sworn to protect all life.  But they must master their powers quickly, for the ancient evil that is Rita Repulsa has also been awakened.  Will they master their powers in time and defeat Rita?  Will they be able to become the Power Rangers?

What I Liked

Elizabeth Banks as Rita is fantastic.  We don’t get a lot of…deliciously evil villains these days.  And Banks’s Rita is deliciously evil.  And I might have joked about my high school fanfic, but damn it, there is a scene that is straight out of my high school fanfic and it made me giddy to see it on the big screen.  There’s lots of great Power Rangers Easter eggs, but the best one has to be how the entire third act follows the formula of a typical episode.  Which leads me to….

What I Didn’t Like

We really don’t see our heroes suit up until the start of the third act, so a lot of the film is our heroes working through their teen angst so they can fully embrace their powers.  Eventually, you  start looking at your watch just waiting for the colorful suits to show up.  And as superhero films go, it really is a rather cliched and formulaic origin tale.

Final Verdict

All talk talk talk and franchise set-up until it turns into the biggest budgeted episode you’ve ever seen.  As nostalgia-fests go, it left me pretty happy.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Logan

Logan

Directed by James MangoldLogan poster

Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephan Merchant, Richard E. Grant, and introducing Dafne Keen

Backstory

Well, here we are.  After 17 years and 9 films, Hugh Jackman has chosen to hang up the adamantium claws and retire from playing Wolverine.  And what better way to go out on than in a story loosely based on Wolverine’s last ride in the comics, Old Man Logan?  And with Deadpool opening the door for R-rated superhero films, finally we can get all the blood and gore associated with a hero who’s main power is knives coming out of his hands.  Is Jackman’s send-off a great finale?

Plot

It’s many years in the future.  No mutants have been born in years, and it looks like their kind is dying off.  Logan makes a meager living as a limo driver.  His healing factor isn’t what it used to be, as he now takes longer to heal and it can leave nasty scars.  He cares for an ailing Professor Charles Xavier, who is now prone to seizures.  And being the world’s most powerful telepath, his seizures can take out dozens.  And then a mysterious little girl named Laura is thrown into his life.  Laura seems to have powers just like Logan’s…complete with adamantium claws.  Before long, Logan, Laura, and Charles are off on one last road trip, to get Laura to safe haven, and protect her from the dark forces in pursuit.  Will Logan survive this final journey?

What I Liked

There are stellar performances all around.  Jackman gives it his all in his final show as Logan.  This is a Logan who’s very much near the end and is just trying to do right before it’s all over.  Stewart is also good as Xavier, again, as a man who has become very broken by life.  I also like the music and the overall look of the film.  It’s got a very 1970s vibe to it, which is cool.

What I Didn’t Like

We really don’t get to know who the villain is and his plot until the literal final moments of the film, so it would have been  nice if we got to know him better.  And as good as that R-rating is for pushing the violence, it does get somewhat gratuitous at times.

Final Verdict

May have felt my lower lip quiver a little bit as the end, as we said good-bye to Wolverine.  A fitting end for the character.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose

A Dog’s PurposeA Dog's Purpose

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

Starring Dennis Quaid, KJ Apa, Juliet Rylance, Peggy Lipton, Britt Robertson, John Oritz, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Pooch Hall, and the voice of Josh Gad.

Backstory

I know, it’s another one that’s not my typical kind of movie.  Well, it was recently Family Day here in the province of Alberta, and I celebrated with my sister and her family.  My nieces got to pick the movie, so of course they picked the one with the cute puppies.  So I was off to learn what A Dog’s Purpose is.

Plot

Our hero is a dog named Bailey.  Bailey gets reincarnated several times throughout the film, and through it all, ponders the meaning of life.  In his first life, he’s fast friends and companions with a boy named Ethan.  Ethan grows up to be quite the popular young man, a football star with a bright future, but then a twist of fate takes it all away from him.  In his next life, Bailey becomes Ellie, a police dog learning to serve and protect on the streets of Chicago.  From there, Bailey is reborn as Tino, a Corgi who helps his owner find love and happiness.  And then, as Buddy, Bailey is able to use all the skills he’s picked up in his lives to help out those who have helped him, and truly discover what a dog’s purpose is.

What I Liked

Cute dogs!  Pretty good acting all around, too.  Funny in some parts, and actually kind of uplifting.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, “boy and his dog” stories are about as cliched as superhero stories at this point, so the formula gets a good workout.

Final Verdict

Nice family entertainment, but bring a hanky.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Moviethe Lego Batman Movie

Directed by Chris McKay

Starring the voices of Will Arnett, Zack Galifiankis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes and Jenny Slate

Backstory

With Lego Batman being one of the breakout characters of The Lego Movie, and superhero films being all the rage these days, and Lego and Warner Brothers desire to start creating a Lego Cinematic Universe, making a Lego Batman movie just made a whole lot of sense.  And given the sense of humour in The Lego Movie, and the lack of humour in the recent DC Superhero films, we were ready for a more lighthearted take on the Batman mythology.  How does it work when one of the most beloved construction toys in the world meets the Dark Knight?

Plot

We all agree, Batman’s life is pretty sweet.  Beating up bad guys, being a billionaire, and universally beloved.  But if there’s one thing he’s always asserted, it’s that he can do it alone.  It’s an assertion that seems to hurt the Joker most of all, as the Joker always envisioned himself as Batman’s #1 villain and always assumed that Batman was obsessed with him.  But Batman finds his desire to do this on his own put to the test, as the new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon, wants the police department to start working with Batman, instead of relying on him.  And then, he accidentally adopts an orphan named Dick Grayson with designs on becoming Batman’s partner.  Will Batman be able to work with all these new people in his life?  And to what lengths will the Joker go to prove once and for all that he’s Batman’s #1 bad guy?

What I Liked

Dear God, when this film comes out on Blu-ray, I’m going to have to watch it frame-by-frame.  That is the only way to fully take in all the references and Easter eggs to Batman’s long and storied history.  Every scene is filled with some kind of reference.  The 1960s Batman, gets a lot of love, as does the 1989 Tim Burton film.  But it’s more than just non-stop pop culture references.  The whole “I can never let anyone into my life.  I must do this alone,” attitude of superheroes has become a huge superhero trope, and this is perhaps the most in-depth exploration of that trope and why it is.  The voice cast is excellent as well.  As Robin, I’ve never heard Michael Cera sound so happy and excited and chipper.  It was genius casting.

What I Didn’t Like

It’s a superhero movie. The formula is firmly established at this point, and it follows the formula pretty closely.

Final Verdict

We’ve got a new contender for greatest Batman movie.  It`s fast and furious and funny.

3.5 Nibs