Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Movie Review – Coco

CocoCoco Poster

Directed by Lee Unkrich; Co-directed by Adrian Molina

Starring the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Renee Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguia, Alanna Ubach, and Jaime Camil

Backstory

Coco is a film that feels like we’ve been waiting for for a long time.  Pixar originally announced it at the start of the decade, at the same press conference where they announced Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur.  Things were quiet for a while, but development finally began in earnest about three years ago.  All we really knew was that it was about the Mexican festival of Dia de Muertos — the Day of the Dead.  When trailers started dropping earlier this year, it looked visually sumptuous.  But, would the story live up to the visuals?

Plot

Young Miguel craves to be a musician.  He feels a certain kinship with Ernesto de la Cruz, one of the greatest singers in all of Mexico, as de la Cruz hails from his hometown.  There’s one snag in Miguel’s ambitions, though.  His great, great grandfather walked out on his great, great grandmother to pursue his musical ambitions, and because of that, his family has banned music to this very day.  Undeterred, Miguel tries to enter his town’s Dia de Muertos music festival, but in order to do so, swipes a guitar from de la Cruz’s tomb.  This places a curse on Miguel, turning him into a ghost-like being, where he gets to meet his deceased relatives in the Land of the Dead.  Miguel can return if he gets his deceased relatives blessing…but they’ll only grant it if he abandons his plans to be a musician.  Refusing to accept this, Miguel heads out into the Land of the Dead to find the one relative who will bless him and allow him to be a musician…his great, great grandfather.  Will Miguel be reunited with his great, great grandfather and find his way home?

What I Liked

As always with Pixar, it’s visually spectacular.  And in a film where music plays such a prominent role, the music is equally spellbinding.  The characters are great, too, as we really feel with Miguel’s struggles.  We also feel for Hector, a man who fears he’ll be forgotten and becomes Miguel’s guide through the Land of the Dead.  And you’ve also gotta love Dante, Miguel’s dog who follows him to the Land of the Dead, as he lives up to the great Disney tradition of animal sidekicks.

What I Didn’t Like

I may have seen too many of these, but man did the plot seem formulaic.  And I’ve said this in my reviews of other Disney and Pixar animated films to date, but can we please abandon the “shocking twist” of “obviously evil guy” being a red herring and “kindly old mentor” being the true villain?

Final Verdict

While the plot may be formulaic, there’s a lot of that trademark Pixar heart on display.  Just a beautiful film.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Justice League

Justice LeagueJustice League Poster

Directed by Zack Snyder

Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, and Jeremy Irons.

Backstory

Here we’ve got the latest chapter in the DC Cinematic Universe.  I like DC, but let’s be honest, their cinematic universe does seem rather slapped together at the last minute.  So rather than Justice League feeling like the triumphant uniting of heroes that it should be, the hype leading up to its release feels more like, “Well, here’s the next one.”  But still, I’m rooting for them.  I mean, who doesn’t like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman?  So, how does the Justice League fare in their big screen outing?

Plot

The world is still mourning the death of Superman.  But Batman still fights the war on crime, trying to get to the bottom of the strange creatures he saw in his dreams in Batman v Superman.  It appears it’s the first wave of an alien invasion, led by Steppenwolf, the minion of Darkseid.  Once Steppenwolf gets his hands on the Mother Boxes, there’ll be no stopping him.  To combat this threat, Batman begins seeking out other heroes:  reuniting with Wonder Woman, seeking out the Flash in Central City, the rumoured Aquaman who helps out coastal communities, and a whispers of a Cyborg from STAR Labs.  They put up a valiant fight, but it’s not enough, so Batman comes up with a desperate ploy to resurrect Superman.  Can they bring back the Man of Steel?  Will this league of heroes be able to take down Steppenwolf and save the world?

What I Liked

The Flash is great.  He’s still very much a rookie, out of his element, and doing his best.  He injects some much needed humour into this.  And speaking of, this film is a lot lighter than Batman v Superman.  It’s nice to see Superman cracking a smile and finally acting like Superman.  Aquaman comes off as cool, too, as they try to make the Wolverine of the group…the badass loner.  But it works.  Loved the music.  Every time Danny Elfman slips in his old Batman theme of John Williams’ Superman theme, it’s like a hug from an old friend.

What I Didn’t Like

Fairly standard villain.  No depth to him whatsoever.  It’s pretty obvious which scenes are the Joss Whedon re-shoots, because the mood suddenly shifts to very light and the characters are much more quippy.

Final Verdict

I like it a lot more than I expected to.  It was really fun seeing these beloved heroes together on the big screen, the plot was just a little too routine.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: RagnarokThor: Ragnarok poster

Directed by Taiki Waititi

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins

Backstory

It’s generally agreed that the Thor films have been the lesser of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  “Good, but not great,” is how I’d put it.  So, when the first trailers for Thor: Ragnarok came about, and it looked like they were trying something different, it was welcome.  Chris Hemsworth has been trying really hard to break into comedy over the past few years, so this latest Thor film was being treated with a lighter touch.  But, the question is, does the new approach pay off?

Plot

When last we left Thor at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, he was journeying across the universe to learn more about the Infinity Stones.  But, he got sidetracked along the way, as he found the Nine Realms of Asgard in chaos and whispers of a pretender on the throne.  Returning home, he finds that his father Odin is missing, and Loki, disguised as Odin, now rules.  It turns out that Odin’s absence has weakened the defenses against Hela, the goddess of death.  Now, with Hela ruling Asgard, and threatening to bring about Ragnarok, the end of all things, Thor is stranded on the distant planet of Sakaar.  Here, fighting in gladiatorial games to survive, Thor must make allies both old and new, and fight his way back to Asgard to prevent Ragnarok.  Can Thor do it?

What I Liked

The lighter tone works for the film.  This is definitely more in line with Guardians of the Galaxy than the other Thor films.  And we’re far enough along now in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have some great in-jokes and callbacks to the previous films.  A lot of the new characters are great.  Cate Blanchett is spectacular as Hela.  She definitely relishes in being evil.  Jeff Goldblum is very Goldblum as the Grandmaster, the ruler of the Sakaar.  There’s some good brotherly love between Thor and Loki, and it looks like Loki actually sets out on the road to redemption.  And we start getting to know the Hulk as a character, as he actually speaks this time out.   Totally dig the prog-rock inspired, synthesizer-heavy score.  As we saw in the post-credits stinger of Doctor Strange, Doctor Strange shows up and….

What I Didn’t Like

…it’s exactly as gratuitous and pointless as Falcon’s appearance in Ant-Man.  Not that I’m complaining, it just felt like I had to find something to complain about.

Final Verdict

Hands down, Thor: Ragnarok is the best of the Thor films.  Marvel had a great year, and they’re three-for-three in my books.

4 Nibs

Movie Review – The Lego Ninjago Movie

The Lego Ninjago MovieThe Lego Ninjago Movie

Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan

Starring the voices of Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Fred Armisen, Abbi Jacobson, Olivia Munn, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Pena, Zack Woods, and Jackie Chan.

Backstory

Ninjago is one of Lego’s more popular in-house franchises.  It’s a mash-up of kung fu films, anime, and pretty much every Asian fantasy trope.  Even has a very popular Saturday morning cartoon.  In fact, The Lego Ninjago Movie was in development long before The Lego Movie came along.  But when The Lego Movie won hearts and the box office, the creators got their marching orders:  make The Lego Ninjago Movie more like The Lego Movie.  And now, here it is, as the next chapter in the Lego Cinematic Universe.  I was ready to give it a pass, but then there was a gag in the trailer that I thought was the best “Lego world meets real world” gag since the climax of The Lego Movie.  So, I gave it a shot.

Plot

Lloyd has to have one of the most complicated backstories in these kinds of films.  First, he leads a double life as the Green Ninja, leader of Ninjago and protectors of Ninjago City.  But, in his civilian guise, he’s the most hated kid in town.  For you see, his estranged father is Lord Garmadon, the warlord bent on conquering Ninjago City.  So Lloyd is constantly blamed for his father’s attacks.  One day, absolutely fed up with his father, Lloyd uses the Ultimate Weapon to destroy Garmadon once and for all.  But doing so unleashes the great beast Meowthra, who begins laying waste to all the land.  To stop Meowthra, Lloyd, his Ninjago Master Wu and the rest of the Ninjago ninjas, must team up with Garmadon to find the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon.  On their long, perilous quest, will Lloyd and Garmadon finally reconnect as father and son?  Can they find the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon and stop Meowthra?

What I Liked

OK, the gag in the trailer is that Meowthra is just a regular house cat who wanders around knocking over the Lego buildings.  It’s hilarious.  And a lot of the father/son stuff between Lloyd and Garmadon does have a lot of genuine heart behind it.  And it’s nice to hear Jackie Chan cracking wise and wisecracking as Master Wu.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, this is a lot more plot and character based than the other Lego movies, and therefore, not as many jokes.  It would have been nice to have gotten to know the other Ninjago ninjas (one is apparently an android…what’s that about?), but they’re just kinda there.  And it probably breaks Rogue One‘s record for “most cool stuff in the trailers that didn’t make it to the final film.”

Final Verdict

An OK action/adventure film, but just not as satisfying as the other two Lego movies.

2.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Kingsman: The Golden CircleKingsman: The Golden Circle

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and Elton John

Backstory

I really got a kick out of 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service.  I enjoyed Kick-Ass and loved the hell out of what that creative team did with cliches and conventions of James Bondian superspies.  Audiences seemed to enjoy it, too, so a sequel was stuck, and franchise was formed.  Can the second outing live up to the awesomeness of the first?

Plot

Our hero Eggsy has fully integrated himself as the new Agent Galahad in Kingsman, and is kicking butt and saving the world.  His fling with the princess of Sweden at the end of the last film has actually evolved into a pretty serious relationship.  But then, a shadowy organization takes down the entire Kingsman organization in a serious of surgical strikes.  All that remain are Eggsy and the Kingsman tactician Merlin.  Invoking the Kingsman doomsday protocol, Eggsy and Merlin head to Kentucky and join forces with their American counterparts, Statesman.  Together, they find that the organization responsible is the Golden Circle, the world’s most powerful drug cartel, headed up by Poppy Adams.  Turns out Poppy has been contaminating her product, as part of a much grander plot.  Can the combined forces of Kingsman and Statesman stop the Golden Circle?

What I Liked

As with the first film, this has a spectacular soundtrack with some great music choices.  Particularly loved the usage of Take Me Home, Country Road.  It’s always great to see those James Bond style gadgets in play.  Eggsy is still a likable hero, and it’s nice to see Mark Strong show us a little more of Merlin’s vulnerable side.  And Elton John actually kind of steals the show playing himself.

What I Didn’t Like

There’s not one, not two, but three action sequences that try to match the amazing Free Bird sequence of the original film, and it really does come across as trying too hard.  The callbacks and references to the first film seem a little forced.  And there’s just a few too many forced plot twists.  Oh, and despite what you see in the ads, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges amount to glorified cameos.

Final Verdict

I still liked it, but it tried a little too hard to match the coolness of the first film.

2.5 Nibs

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