Category Archives: Movie Reviews

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

Bumblebee

Directed by Travis Knight

Bumblebee Poster

Starring Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, John Oritz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, and the voices of Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, Dylan O’Brien, and Peter Cullen

Backstory

I love Transformers.  Grew up with them. I enjoyed the first Michael Bay movie…then they rapidly declined in quality. I gave the last one, The Last Knight, a complete pass. (Although I finally watched it on Netflix. Didn’t miss much.) So when they announced that they were giving the Autobot Bumblebee his own film, I greeted the news with disinterest. But then the first trailer dropped, and my interest was renewed. Gone were the explosions and dumb humour that became Bay’s hallmarks. Instead, it looked like a quiet, gentler film, with more heart. Was my renewed interest in the franchise justified?

Plot

The year is 1987. Charlie Watson has just turned 18, and hates her life. She’s still mourning the loss of her father, and is almost horrified at how well her family is getting along with her new stepdad. But, she’s managed to get her hands on her first car: an old yellow Volkswagon Beetle. But, to her surprise, the Beetle comes to life and transforms into a robot. For you see, this is the Autobot scout Bumblebee, who was sent to Earth by Optimus Prime during the fall of Cybertron to establish a new base on Earth. But, Bumblebee is not safe. He’s being pursued by two Decipticon triple-changers, Shatter and Dropkick, and their new human allies led by Agent Jack Burns of Sector 7. Will Bumblebee complete his mission? Will Charlie’s new friend help her find her smile?

What I Liked

The opening 10 minutes had me crying tears of nostalgic joy. Watching the fall of Cyberton is probably the closest we’ll get to a computer animated remake of The Transformers: The Movie. That, and it seems that director Travis Knight is better-versed in Transformers
lore, as the Easter eggs come fast and furious. But that’s not all. For the first time in a long time in a Transformers movies, we have human characters that we actually care about. Hailee Steinfeld is wonderful as Charlie, as she takes the stock angst-ridden teen and is able to inject it with such warmth. And we’ve got some great homages to other classic films, like E.T.

What I Didn’t Like

Honestly, not much.

Final Verdict

Bumblebee is a much-needed breath of fresh air for the Transformers franchise, finally injecting some much-needed heart and soul into the characters. Loved it.

3.5 Nibs

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rotham

Starring the voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, John Mulaney, Nicholas Cage, Lily Tomlin, and Liev Schreiber

Backstory

I love Spider-Man!  I love Spider-Man movies!  I also love animated movies.  And since I think that animation and superheroes are a medium and a genre made for each other, I was so there for a Spider-Man animated movie!  Choosing to focus on an alternate universe Spider-Man like Miles Morales was definitely a way to go, so as not to distract from the growing Marvel Cinematic Universe.  So how fares a Spidey in his latest big-screen outing? 

Plot

Miles Morales is having trouble fitting in.  He just won a scholarship to prestigious private school, and still hasn’t made many friends.  He’s being driving away by his strict, police officer father, and finding a surrogate father in his Uncle Aaron.  One day, while his uncle is letting him indulge in his art skills, young Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider, and begins developing powers.  Trying to figure out what’s happening to him, Miles stumbles into the final battle between Kingpin and Spider-Man…and watches Spider-Man die.  Promising Spider-Man to follow in his footsteps, Miles sets out to stop Kingpin.  But, Miles has some help.  Kingpin’s been dabbling in trans-dimensional technology, and brought some other Spider-People to this universe.  Can Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Ham all help Miles to carry the burdens that come with being Spider-Man?

What I Liked

Needless to say, seeing all the different Spider-People is a sheer delight.  While John Mulaney is getting the laughs in the TV spots as Spider-Ham, Nicholas Cage as the grim and gritty Spider-Man Noir is far more entertaining.  And, much like The Lego Batman Movie, this is the kind of film that you’re going to have to watch frame-by-frame to catch all the Easter eggs.  That being said, this still is firmly rooted as Miles Morales’s story, as he’s thrust into a very extraordinary situation, and even he himself is wondering if he’s up to the task.  It’s that hero’s journey at the core that makes the film worthwhile.  Oh, and that art style.  It’s amazing how this film really plays with style and isn’t afraid to get incredibly stylized when it needs to. 

What I Didn’t Like

I’ve seen far too many animated films and superhero films now to know the formula, so I was able to see a lot of the big plot twists coming.

Final Verdict

Love this new spin on a Spider-Man film.  I look forward to seeing the saga of Miles Morales continue in many films to come!

3 Nibs

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Directed by Rich Moore and Phil JohnstonRalph Breaks the Internet

Starring the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, and Taraji P. Henson

Backstory

I was pleasantly surprised by the first Wreck-It Ralph.  Not being much of a gamer, I originally dismissed it as “Video Game Nostalgia: The Movie.”  But, exceedingly positive reviews won me over, I went to see it, and I genuinely liked it.  So when it’s sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet, came along, I was mildly optimistic that it would be more than “Internet Company Product Placement: The Movie.”  And besides, I’m still a sucker for Disney animation.

Plot

At the outset, things are lookin’ pretty sweet for Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz.  While Ralph loves the day-to-day routine in the arcade, in true Disney princess fashion, Vanellope is starting to yearn for something more.  But then, disaster strikes, when Vanellope’s game Sugar Rush is damaged, and it looks like it’ll be scrapped, leaving Vanellope and the rest of the Sugar Rush residents homeless.  But Ralph and Vanellope learn that they might be able to get a replacement part from some place on the Internet called “eBay,” and wouldn’t you know it, the arcade just got WiFi!  So Ralph and Vanellope head to the Internet.  Their quest soon leads them to an online game called Slaughter Race, and to a racer like Vanellope, it’s heaven.  But as Vanellope begins striking up a friendship with Slaughter Race‘s star racer Shank, Ralph starts feeling threatened.  Will Ralph be able to let go of Vanellope so she can find what she’s yearning for on the Internet?

What I Liked

Once again, what seems like a shameless tie-in turns out to be a pretty solid story about how friendships grow and evolve.  And, just like the first film, it’s all sold through some great performance by Reilly and Silverman.  It’s also funny as hell.  The Disney Princess scene, which we have now seen all over the trailers, borders on a Riverdale-level of cringe, so of course, I liked it.  It all eventually leads to a wonderfully weird musical number.  And I’m still wondering exactly how brilliant that mid-credits stinger is.

What I Didn’t Like

Felt like it was just a little too long.  I mean, as much as I loved the Disney Princess scene, it was pretty gratuitous.  And I felt like it had just one too many endings.

Final Verdict

Loved it.  Easily as good as the first film, providing just the same amount of feels.

3 Nibs

Venom

Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Starring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, and Melora Walters

Backstory

Venom is one of Spider-Man’s more popular modern-era villains…so much so, that he switched sides and became a hero.  So when we heard that a solo Venom film was in development, the question immediately was, “How are they going to do it without Spider-Man?”  Well, they found a way.  And as Sony still owns the bulk of Spider-Man‘s characters, they’re planning their own whole Marvel Cinematic Universe of Spidey’s second-stringers.  Venom is the first one out of the gate.  So, how’s our first Spider-Man-less Spider-Man film?

Plot

Eddie Brock is on top of the world.  He’s a much-beloved investigative reporter, engaged to a beautiful lawyer, but then he loses it all when he goes too far in an interview with tech billionaire Carlton Drake.  Six months later, Brock is at rock bottom when he’s approached by one of Drake’s top scientists.  Seems that one of Drake’s space probes captured alien life.  These aliens, called “symbiots,” need a human host to survive, and it seems that Drake is racking up quite the body count looking for suitable hosts.  Brock breaks in to Drake’s lab to investigate, and finds himself bonded with one of the symbiots.  Calling itself Venom, the symbiot strikes a deal with Brock:  use of Brock’s body to free the other symbiots and uncover Drake’s plot.  Will these two unlikely partners succeed in their mission?

What I Liked

The film is much more lighthearted than I expected.  Eddie Brock and the symbiot form a kind of “buddy cop” relationship, and their banter is truly the highlight of the film.  There’s also some great physical comedy as Brock adjusts to his new situation.  Yeah…just a lot funnier than expected.

What I Didn’t Like

The plot is pretty cookie-cutter.  It offers very little new in the genre of superhero films.  And when your hero and villain are CGI blobs, the climactic battle is just one big blobby mess that’s tough to follow.

Final Verdict

I was pleasantly surprised.  A rather enjoyable, if basic, superhero flick.

3 Nibs

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Directed by Peyton ReedAnt-Man and the Wasp Movie Poster

Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Randall Park, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Michael Douglas.

Backstory

Despite a very troubled production, the first Ant-Man turned out to be a bit of a sleeper hit for Marvel, so much though that a sequel was quickly added to Marvel’s Phase III.  When the title was revealed to be Ant-Man and the Wasp, people agreed with Hope van Dyne in Ant-Man‘s post-credits stinger:  “About damn time.”  But, would the sequel be as fun as the first film?

Plot

Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, is under house arrest, as part of a plea bargain for being on Team Cap in Captain America: Civil War.  He’s no longer on speaking terms with Hank Pym and his daughter Hope for swiping their tech and going off to fight alongside Captain America.  But then, one night, he has a vision of Hank’s wife Janet trapped in that subatomic world known as the Quantum Realm.  This brings him back together with Hank and Hope, who’ve been trying to get to the Quantum Realm to find Janet.  But it turns out their are lots of people after Hank’s tech, including corrupt FBI agents, crime lords, and a new villain known as the Ghost, who can phase through solid objects.  It’s now up to Ant-Man and the Wasp to fight off these villains while Hank frantically works to rescue Janet.  Will they be able to pull it off?

What I Liked

They get very creative this time out with the shrinking and growing effects and how it can be used for combat…especially when you start applying it to car chases.  The actors all seem to be having fun, and Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are a delightful duo as Ant-Man and the Wasp.  And it’s nice to see a villain that doesn’t have the same powers as the heroes, which is a trap a lot of Marvel Studios films fall into.

What I Didn’t Like

Can’t say there was much I didn’t like.  Maybe there were one too many villains, and they could have cut out a few characters and sub-plots.

Final Verdict

It’s nice to get superhero films that are fun and breezy, instead of always being about the end of the world.

3 Nibs

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Directed by J.A. Bayona

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Jurassic World:  Fallen KingdomDaniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, B.D. Wong, and Jeff Goldbum

Backstory

I love the Jurassic Park films, ever since I saw the first one on my 16th birthday.  Sadly, though, most of the sequels have just been OK.  With the exception of Jurassic World.  I thought Jurassic World was a tasty slice of nostalgia pie.  “Now THAT’S the sequel I wanted in 1993!” I exclaimed.  I guess lots of others thought so, as Jurassic World was a monster hit and spawned a sequel.  Now, I greeted the first trailer with a shrug, as it looked like they would just be remaking the first sequel, The Lost World.  But the second trailer, featuring dinosaurs creeping around a mansion, got me hooked.  Did they finally find something better to do than “People go to an island full of dinosaurs and get attacked by said dinosaurs?”

Plot

Claire Dearing, the former manager of Jurassic World, now heads up a charity dedicated to preserving the surviving dinosaurs and letting them live in peace.  But, it’s kind of tough, because the volcano on Isla Nublar is about to erupt and kill the remaining dinosaurs, and the government shows no interest in relocating them.  But, Claire soon gets some help in the form of Eli Mills, who represents Benjamin Lockwood.  Lockwood was one of the original investors in Jurassic Park, and wants to save the dinosaurs.  But, for mysterious reasons, they need Blue, the last surviving velociraptor.  Which means Claire needs to bring in Owen Grady, the raptor trainer, to help find Blue.  But, as soon as they arrive on the island, Mills’ men turn on Owen and Claire.  Turns out Mills has his own sinister agenda for the surviving dinosaurs.  Will and Owen and Claire escape to the mainland and stop Mills before he unleashes horror on the world?

What I Liked

Yay, more dinosaur action!  There’s one particularly poignant scene involving a dinosaur’s death that was very emotional.  Any worries that they were going to just redo The Lost World was scrubbed away, as most of that stuff is saved for the first act of the film.  Probably the most horror-oriented of the Jurassic films, as I sure fell for a lot of jump-scares.  Owen and Claire, again played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, are a delightful pair of heroes.  And the ending.  SPOILER WARNING.  If they stick to the ending, looks like the next film will be the “dinosaurs lose on the mainland” film they’ve been teasing since Spielberg turned the T-rex lose on downtown San Diego in The Lost World.

What I Didn’t Like

Don’t know if it was just this particular screening, but holy crap was it loud.  Lots of jump scares makes for lots of screaming characters, and big booming explosions from the volcano.

Final Verdict

A fun new entry in the Jurassic franchise, but dude, you think after all this time, they would have learned their lesson, and stopped going to the island full of dinosaurs.

3 Nibs

Incredibles 2

Directed by Brad BirdIncredibles 2 Poster

Starring the voices of Craig T. Nelson,  Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Sophia Bush, and Brad Bird

Backstory

When this decade began, and Pixar began cranking out sequels left and right, right at the top of everyone’s wish list was a sequel to The Incredibles.  When Monsters University and Finding Dory all came along, people would always go, “Yeah, but what about Incredibles 2?”  Which is why it’s cute that a certain amount of Incredibles 2 marketing has an apologetic tone, as they apologize for taking so long.  Besides, writer/director Brad Bird had his dalliances with live-action films and gave us Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland.  Well, now that it’s finally here, the question is, was it worth the wait?

Plot

Picking up immediately where the first film left of, the film opens with the Parr family (aka the Incredibles) being…promptly detained by the authorities for their heroics, because superheroes are still outlawed in this universe.  The Parr family seems up the creek, until they get an invitation from billionaire brother and sister Winston and Evelyn Deavor.  Turns out they’re big superhero fans, and they want to start lobbying to legalize superheroes again.  Their strategy:  mount a massive PR campaign, and send Elastigirl (aka Helen Parr) back out doing heroics.  Our heroes readily accept, with Elastigirl back on the streets, and Mr. Incredible (aka Bob Parr) becoming a stay-at-home dad to look after the kids.  While Elastigirl begins contending with a new supervillain called the Screenslaver, who can hypnotize people through any TV screen, Mr. Incredible faces his greatest challenges  yet:  battling his daughter Violet’s teen angst, tutoring his son Dash in math, and helping infant Jack-Jack learn his emerging superpowers.  Will they come together to fight as the Incredibles once again?

What I Liked

Wow, Brad Bird really ramps up the action with some truly amazing action set pieces, proving once again that animation is the perfect medium for superhero films.  Michael Giacchino once again brings it with another spectacular score, owing much to the classic James Bond scores of the 1960s.  But at the end of the day, it’s all about the characters, and once again, Bird nails the family dynamics that made the first film so appealing.  Voice acting, again, is top notch.  Really, high marks across the board.

What I Didn’t Like

As I’ve lamented with the last crop of animated films I’ve seen, can we please retire the big plot twist of, “Trusted ally is the REAL villain!”  because it’s really starting to wear out its welcome.  And Winston Deavor is voiced by Bob Odenkirk, and they decided to make the character design a caricature of Odenkirk.  I hate it when they make the characters a caricature of the voice actor…I find it distracting and it pulls me out of the film.

Final Verdict

Incredibles 2 is a very worthy sequel and a wonderful expanding of the Pixar superhero universe.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.

3.5 Nibs

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Directed by Ron HowardSolo: A Star Wars Story

Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo and Paul Bettany.

Backstory

So, when Disney/Lucasfilm announced all these universe-expanding Star Wars Stories, a film delving into the secret origins of Han Solo was not high on my list of Star Wars stories that I wanted to see.  But still, as it has that Star Wars name on it, I was curious.  And then, throw in its now-legendary troubled production, and I was kinda nervous.  But still, I’ve been there on opening day for every Star Wars film since The Phantom Menace.  We gotta support this thing or else it will never take off.  So, I was ready to see Han Solo: Secret Origins.

Plot

On the ship-building planet of Corellia, a street rat named Han is living a life of indentured servitude to the crime lord Lady Proxima.  But, he has dreams of making it out of there and finding his own way in the galaxy.  He eventually escapes by enlisting in the Imperial Forces, but still dreams of being his own man and not answering to anyone.  He eventually finds a smuggler and thief named Tobias Beckett has infiltrated his unit, and joins Beckett’s crew.  Their first job doesn’t go so well, leaving them indebted to crime lord Dryden Vos.  In order to repay their debts, Han proposes a risky heist on the mines of Kessel.  In order to pull this off, though, they need a crew:  Chewbacca, a prisoner Han rescued and has become good friends with; Lando Calrissian, a scoundrel and gambler who can provide them with a ship; and Qi’ra, the girl Han left being on Corellia, who found her own way off the planet, rising through Vos’s criminal organization and become one of his Vos’s top lieutenants.  Will Han be able to pull of this heist and become the greatest rogue the galaxy has ever seen?

What I Liked

Man, Donald Glover absolutely nails it as young Lando, just oozing charm and charisma.  His navigation droid, L3-37, is also hilarious as she fights for droids’ rights.  Lots of great space battles and action scenes.  I mean, whoever thought we’d see a train heist in a Star Wars film?  And some great cameos and Easter Eggs from other corners of Star Wars lore.

What I Didn’t Like

I’m sorry, but I didn’t quite buy Alden Ehrenreich as young Han Solo.  I found him to be just a little too…chipper to be the young version of the rogue we all came to love.  And maybe it was the 3D, but I found the look of the film to be rather murky, making it tough to follow some of the action scenes.

Final Verdict

I thought it was fun, and delivered Rogue One‘s initial promise of being a heist film with no Jedi Knights coming into save your butt.  Not the best Star Wars, but still enjoyable.

3 Nibs

Deadpool 2

Directed by David LeitchDeadpool 2 poster

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, and Brianna Hildebrand

Backstory

With the way superhero films dominated the box office these days, we were primed for a superhero spoof.  The first Deadpool filled that bill quite nicely.  With Deadpool’s wisecracks and fourth-wall-breaking commentary, it was perfect.  And it was a gigantic hit, so of course, a sequel was greenlit, bringing along some of Deadpool’s pals from the comics, like Cable.  But, as is the trend with comedies, can the sequel be as funny as the first film?  Well, time to head down to the box office and find out.

Plot

After the events of the first film, Deadpool has become a globe-trotting superhero, taking down the worst of the worst, and always coming home to his beloved Vanessa.  But, tragedy strikes, as some vengeance-seeking villains manage to kill Vanessa.  His heart broken, Deadpool goes on a quest to find new meaning in his life.  It appears as though he finds it in Russell, a young mutant with the ability to control fire.  When the time-travelling mutant Cable comes to the present to kill young Russell, Deadpool makes it his mission to protect Russell.  In order to do so, Deadpool forms his own team, X-Force, consisting of the very lucky Domino, the alien warrior Shatterstar, the acid-spitting Zeitgeist, and the powerless Peter.  Will X-Force be able to save Russell from Cable?  What’s Cable’s deal, anyway?

What I Liked

Ryan Reynolds, once again, just nails it as Deadpool.  He captures the character’s quips so perfectly.  There’s some absolutely hilarious set pieces, with X-Force’s first disastrous battle being a standout.  Everyone in the cast is good, with Zazie Beetz being a wonderfully charming Domino, and Josh Brolin an appropriately gruff Cable.  Some great joke cameos as well, and I’m pretty sure that’s the first R-rated film score.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, there are some moments that aren’t as funny as the others, and they tend to drag a bit.

Final Verdict

Probably as funny as the first, and truly a very entertaining outing for Deadpool and gang.  I liked it.

3 Nibs